Pythonaro blog

25 January 2010

How the Nokia N900 is improving my life

(Small things, but...)

Today I had to took my car to the garage, so had to tell my manager I'd likely be late (public transport is not terrible in our area, but it still takes me about twice the time to get to the office than it would with the car). I'm also down with a laryngitis and I can barely whisper.

I could have booted my home laptop to send an email or IM, but meanwhile the bus would have come and gone. So I hit the road anyway, and thought I would somehow email from the phone.

But then, the Nokia N900 is no Blackberry; it's a full-fledged linux desktop in your pockets. When I enabled the 3G data connection, the button nearby was the one to set your IM status(es) to Online; so I fired that up, looked up my manager in the wonderfully integrated address book, and she was online, so while I sit on the bus, we had a friendly chat about things to do, without having to share them with other commuters or strain my poor throat.

All the while, I was listening to the latest Python 411 podcast about the (apparently terrific and currently-slashdotted) Sikuli project, updating expenses on the little program I've developed (which I'll upload to the Ovi Store in a few weeks, I promise), and browsing Google Reader. The 30-mins commute was over in what seemed like seconds, and the experience was basically the same I could have had while sitting at my desk with a regular laptop.

This little thing is simply outstanding. Apple's new "iWhatever" better have a SIM slot, or they can kiss goodbye to their iPhone marketshare.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 11:18 AM   1 comments links to this post

25 November 2009

Passaporto obbligatorio per i bambini da oggi?!? Classico caso di cattivo giornalismo

(Apologies, this post is only in Italian)

Questa mattina il Corriere della Sera ha fatto risparmiare qualche litro di caffe' ai poveri genitori di bambini italiani all'estero. Il pezzo "Anche i bimbi avranno il loro passaporto", infatti, conteneva abbastanza allarmismo da provocare diversi casi di tachicardia acuta in adulti con prole, quasi tutti in fase di preparazione per l'inevitabile rientro natalizio sul Suolo Patrio.

Tutto grazie alla seguente affermazione (screenshot per i posteri):

"Dal 25 novembre, tutti i bambini in viaggio all'estero avranno in mano il loro documento con nome e foto, così come prevede la nuova disciplina comunitaria."

Panico. Fino a ieri per i minori bastava essere presenti sul passaporto dei genitori. Per avere un nuovo passaporto ci vuole piu' di un mese! Natale e' il 25 dicembre e il nostro aereo e' fra X giorni! Possibile che il Ministero degli Esteri si sia creato dal nulla una montagna di lavoro proprio sotto Natale?

La risposta e' no. Peccato che il giornalista/scribacchino/redattore che si e' preso la briga di riportare la notizia (probabilmente di agenzia) non abbia nemmeno provato a fare un minimo di verifica o integrazione, magari sul sito della Polizia di Stato (organismo preposto al rilascio dei passaporti), magari leggendo un aggiornamento dal titolo "Nuova disciplina in materia di passaporti":

"I passaporti contenenti l'iscrizione di minori rilasciati fino ad oggi rimangono comunque validi fino alla scadenza e tutte le richieste di iscrizione del figlio minore sul proprio passaporto pervenute fino a ieri saranno evase fino al 15 dicembre."

Ergo, l'affermazione che "dal 25 novembre, tutti i bambini in viaggio [...] avranno in mano il loro documento" e' palesemente falsa. E il preoccupato genitore puo' finalmente rilassarsi con una bella tazza di caffe' fumante, magari (per oggi) decaffeinato.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 8:32 AM   1 comments links to this post

20 November 2009

How to demotivate your workforce

  • tell them they are "high cost" compared to Egyptian, Indian or Rumanian counterparts.
  • tell them that, despite the company being afloat in cash, there's no money for pay increases for the N-th year running.
  • tell them that the money is "reserved to the mergers&acquisitions strategy". We don't reward our workforce, we reward our competitors; as soon as you can, please go and become one.
  • tell them that "promotions with no pay increase" are perfectly normal. Same for workload increases. Imply that you should count yourself lucky to still have a job. The beatings will continue until morale improves.
  • tell them that, if you don't like it, they have a choice (i.e. walking). But at the same time, "we have to get better at sharing knowledge". Sure, I'll get to that right away (not).
  • give them new internal systems that don't work. When workers complain, dismiss them as whiners. Make sure there is no plan-B after The Big Go-Live. Once TBGL results in complete customer-affecting disaster, panic.
Time to work on personal projects. Big time. Dear SUN employees in Europe, you really really should cheer for the EU. May you be spared a terrible fate.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 3:26 PM   1 comments links to this post

22 October 2009

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi Is The Perfect Example Of Why The BNP Can Win

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the current Tory Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion, exemplifies why we will always have racist and intolerant fringes in any civilized country.

Her Pakistani parents were allowed to settle in Britain and prosper, so much so that she could go to university in Leeds (when tuition fees were capped, by the way, thanks to public subsidies), then attend the York "Collage" [sic] of Law and rise among the ranks of a Tory party desperately looking for credibility with previously-shunned Asian communities. She's one of the sharpest careerists in the country, and was recently nominated as the most powerful Muslim woman in Britain by a magazine poll.

So you have this fantastic example of positive immigration/integration/equality story, a first-generation Pakistani-English woman (!) making waves in a traditionally white/male-dominated right-wing party.

Then she goes on TV, in a debate with the leader of the Inbred Party, and she says "we need to have a cap on immigration numbers, we need to drastically reduce the amount of immigrants". In other words, she wants to stop other people from enjoying the sort of opportunities that her parents (and herself) enjoyed.

The astonishing short-sightedness of her statements would be ironic, if it weren't so incredibly sad. It fits very well in a certain stereotypical profile: the American Bush-supporting hardcore Republican with an unmistakably Italian or Irish surname; the Italian member of the Northern League with a Southern face and lots of money from Northern businesses; the Israeli farmer with a Russian accent that won't let Palestinians work his land... Even my Italian-Japanese wife, who studied and settled in Britain thanks to EU subsidies, constantly falls in this sort of rhetorical trap, this idea that there is an emergency (there isn't), social services are collapsing (they aren't), and the country is too full of people (it isn't), so we have to "defend" our hard-earned wealth by kicking out a few poor souls who are slightly different from "us". We "made it", and we have to stop people from competing with us on an equal foot. Jesus and his thing about casting stones has to be "temporarily" put aside.

All this clearly illustrates the age-old concept that the last minority to be oppressed is often the first to oppress another, when given the opportunity. Baroness Warsi, in her political brinkmanship, is playing the inbreds' own game. The inbreds' leader Nick Griffin lost the personality battle tonight (he was clearly shaking and twitching throughout the entire programme, and was forced to admit his dabbling in racist and fascist ideologies), but he won the political battle: a tired Jack Straw was at pains to point out that Labour did not start any policy of migration and inclusion, Baroness Warsi clearly illustrated Tory policy as "inbreeding light" (on the much-exalted -- and highly discriminatory -- Australian model, also recently introduced in the UK by the Labour government), and the very intelligent LibDem guy kept as silent as he could on the subject. No one dared to defend the right of future generations to enjoy the same (very few) opportunities as previous ones, the right to fairness. They all waxed lyrical on the rights of current minorities not to be gassed and deported, but not one word was spent on the minorities of tomorrow. This was a political Dunkerque.

Mainstream parties, if they really want to tackle the inbreds, cannot linger in their trenches; they must get to the offensive. The real problem is how to stop people fighting across racial lines what it's always been (and will always be) first and foremost an economic battle for wealth, a war among the poor. This concept has been lost when traditional Socialism was banished from politics in the 90s, but it's the only way to keep tribalist tendencies at bay. Unless we get back to it, the inbreds will keep winning, because people like Baroness Warsi will always be happy to act as the inbreds' own tool.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 11:46 PM   0 comments links to this post

22 September 2009


Every once in a while, we get an ironic reminder of how mass-literature is fundamentally formulaic. Cartoonists are especially (but not exclusively) fond of this sort of joke, probably because the nature of their work is often dismissed as "repetitive" and they have to get back at (mostly disingenuous) critics. Or maybe they just like playing the smartass.

It is then customary, on my part, to faithfully print the cartoons in question and then point it out to whoever gets around my desk. Some leave in a troubled state of mind, suddenly faced by the emptiness of a universe they hitherto happily inhabited. A few laugh at the old joke. Some think I'm just weird.

Last May, Aaron Diaz's Dresden Codak gave us the already-legendary 42 essential 3rd-act twists by Harvet Ismuths. Today, David Maliki's Wondermark built the phantasmagoric Electro-Plasmic HydroCephalic Genre-Fiction Generator 2000. They sit perfectly among the other stuff I hang around my pseudo-cubicle, like words by Carlos Williams, Borges and Piñero. Why keeping beauty out of the office, when there is so much of it?

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posted by GiacomoL @ 10:08 AM   0 comments links to this post

14 September 2009

On Secrecy

It's been almost a month since my last blogpost. Many, many things happened, but unfortunately I can't talk about them here, as much as I wish that wasn't the case. Hopefully circumstances will get better in 2010. Meanwhile, check out this classic movie, completely unrelated to my situation (oh yeah).


posted by GiacomoL @ 11:42 PM   0 comments links to this post

10 August 2009

Apparently, US bureaucrats hate bilingual kids

Bilingual children surely must be stupid. The reasoning behind the process is typical of laws promoted by George W. Bush: if you are not a white man from a privileged "amurrican" background, you surely must be stupid. In this case, it's the "No Child Left Behind" act, which results in "subtle" discriminatory practices towards children of immigrants regardless of their actual skills.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 11:31 AM   0 comments links to this post

08 June 2009

My new meme

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posted by GiacomoL @ 12:50 PM   0 comments links to this post

30 May 2009

"Sigh. I really wish I could vote Labour, but..."

"...then they go and put Arlene McCarthy top of the ticket in the North West".
"Do you mean that Arlene McCarthy? The one who pushed so hard for software patents?"
"Yes, that Arlene McCarthy."
"Man, that must hurt."
"Indeed. And the other ones in the list look more of the same: people concerned mostly with the welfare of big business."
"But at least the campaign message will surely be about your 'sweet spots': fair opportunities, workers' rights, social Europe..."
"Er, no, actually. It's a riff on protectionist themes: fight for the UK, defend the country, etc. You would easily confuse them for BNP or UKIP material."
"I see."
"So it's gonna be Green again, I guess."
"F*ck me, the tree-huggers! Man, you even hate recycling schemes! Are you all right? Let me check your temperature..."
"Actually, their policies are quite sensible these days. They really get it on technology issues. They even have people in the Open Rigths Group."
"Well, ain't you a single-issue voter."
"Single-issue? Labour got it wrong on ALL the issues in the last few years: DRM, net filtering, open source, software patents... they even fought to be exempted from directives on workers' rights!"
"Yeah, but I mean, the enviro-nazi are full-on plane-haters..."
"I don't agree with their shenanigans on Heathrow either, but I think they started to understand that being anti-planes is a lost cause. And we do need more anti-nuclear activists, the original generation basically sold out to Blair."
"What about the Lib-Dems? Apart from Nick 'David Cameron wannabe' Clegg, they do have good people on."
"Yeah, I'm checking them out, but they always leave me underwhelmed. The best one they have, Chris Davies, is top of the ticket and is going to get a seat anyway."
"What about the Tories? David Cameron looks like a nice fellow."
"I'm actually worried by how much I agreed with the Conservative spokesperson on the last BBC Question Time, very intelligent man. But I'm still convinced they'll pull a GWB-style U-turn as soon as they are in government."
"And I guess you wouldn't consider UKIP..."
"Are you serious? Their motto is 'we're just xenophobes, not full-on racists like the BNP'. If they had free reign, I probably couldn't live here."
"That settles it, then. Not that I care, I'll campaign for the one with the bigger tits and beat your silly people anyway."
"Eh. Gotta run now, that's enough politics on the blog for at least another year. It's always so nice talking to you, Mr.Murdoch."

[UPDATE: If you still don't know who to vote for in UK constituencies, have a look at the Open Rights' Group page listing candidate positions on technology issues. It's fantastically simple and well-designed.]

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posted by GiacomoL @ 9:45 AM   1 comments links to this post

29 May 2009

BNP: the inbred party

I try not to worry about political issues too much these days, but this post is not really about politics. Comedy, rather.

David Ottewell, aggravated by people doubting the veracity of reports depicting BNP members as full-on racists, reposted part of their constitution.

  1. The British National Party represents the collective National, Environmental, Political, Racial, Folkish, Social, Cultural, Religious and Economic interests of the indigenous Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Norse folk communities of Britain and those we regard as closely related and ethnically assimilated or assimilable aboriginal members of the European race also resident in Britain. Membership of the BNP is strictly defined within the terms of, and our members also self define themselves within, the legal ambit of a defined ‘racial group’ this being ‘Indigenous Caucasian’ and defined ‘ethnic groups’ emanating from that Race as specified in law in the House of Lords case of Mandla V Dowell Lee (1983) 1 ALL ER 1062, HL.
  2. The indigenous British ethnic groups deriving from the class of ‘Indigenous Caucasian’ consist of members of:
    1. The Anglo-Saxon Folk Community;
    2. The Celtic Scottish Folk Community;
    3. The Scots-Northern Irish Folk Community;
    4. The Celtic Welsh Folk Community;
    5. The Celtic Irish Folk Community;
    6. The Celtic Cornish Folk Community;
    7. The Anglo-Saxon-Celtic Folk Community;
    8. The Celtic-Norse Folk Community;
    9. The Anglo-Saxon-Norse Folk Community;
    10. The Anglo-Saxon-Indigenous European Folk Community;
    11. Members of these ethnic groups who reside either within or outside Europe but ethnically derive from them.
  3. Membership of the party shall be open only to those who are 16 years of age or over and whose ethnic origin is listed within Sub-section 2

The Anglo-Saxon-Norse Welsh-Scottish and Norse-Irish Celtic "Folk Communities" didn't make the list; was it an oversight, or is it because everyone knows they're a bunch of lazy asylum seekers? I'd also be curious to understand how they can check these prerequisites before admission, but I guess this is an implementation detail.

What really matters, though, is the typical trademark of nazi paranoia: the obsession to precisely classify races on the basis of imaginary concepts. The classic result is this exact sort of documents, produced by people who fail to see the absurdity of their own statements and the self-offensive message they really communicate. What this document really says is that "BNP members are all inbred". I wonder if that is appealing to their target demographic.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 2:50 PM   0 comments links to this post

21 April 2009

On Toggl

I started tracking my activities using Toggl. The concept is very simple: the site gives you a timer that you can "toggle" to signal when you are starting a certain task. You define different tasks and group them into projects, and you can mark "billable" hours as such (clearly a feature for consultants / freelancers). It features reports (obviously) and other workgroup-related options, a dotNet-based offline tracker, and premium options for paid subscribers.

The first day I used it, it was enlightening: it turns out that I only spent about 3 hours doing actual "core" work. Most of the remaining time was wasted being sidetracked by other internal projects, plus random chitchat. Ok, it was the day Oracle bought Sun, and we were pretty psyched about it (especially me, as the first thought I had when news emerged about the botched IBM/SUN deal was "well, [Oracle] would be a much better fit than IBM; db appliances would be very sexy, and most of [Oracle]'s stack is Java-based already", and the others were all "yeah, keep dreaming!"... then Larry vindicated me), I expect the numbers to get better. If they don't, it means my routine needs improving and I'll work on that, but I feel that without Toggl I probably wouldn't have the sort of hindsight that gives a sense of achieving, which is necessary to maintain continuous efforts.

All in all, Toggl feels cool. Other project-management sites should take note.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 6:43 AM   0 comments links to this post

13 April 2009

One of the (many) problems of modern education... that logic and rhetoric are not taught well, or (like in my experience) not taught at all.

This is reflected in the political debate, which is getting dumbed-down to the point where rational arguments can be completely absent; and it can be seen all over "teh intarwebs", where multitudes of well-intentioned individuals routinely end up acting like trolls.

One should be able to understand when he is losing the rational argument, and either retreat, reformulate, move the subject onto a different field, or try to bluff his way through. By banging on about the same, lost point over and over again, one doesn't do himself any favour; he might be able to appeal to the basest instincts of some individuals, but he won't be able to win intelligent men to his cause.

I have to admit, I have been guilty of this behaviour several times during the years. I put it down to my lack of knowledge of the abovementioned fields. At school, they taught us how to analyse sentences for syntactical structure, but rarely for meaning, and never for logic. They told us how to write in a readable style, but didn't really ask us to understand where we are in a debate, how to interact strategically during a verbal confrontation, how to step back from the heat and think hard about your next rhetorical move.

Is it a form of large conspiracy, where upper classes try to maintain old privileges by "forgetting" to properly teach these subjects to the uninitiated? Or could it be that these are considered too dangerous a weapon, too prone to abuse, to be widely taught? Or is it simply that education topics are constantly squeezed by the furious pace of technological advancement, to the point where you need to teach kids how to work with newer and newer devices which are fundamental to the current way of life (computer, tv, ipods etc etc)?

In any case, it feels like some of the oldest fields of study ever taught ended up being victims of accomplished mass-scholarisation. I don't think this is helping the masses or anyone else, though.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 6:58 PM   0 comments links to this post

02 April 2009

Come on Bosnia!

    P W D L F A GD PTS
1 Spain 6 6 0 0 13 2 11 18
2 Bosnia-Herzegovina 6 4 0 2 18 7 11 12
3 Turkey 6 2 2 2 6 5 1 8
4 Belgium 6 2 1 3 10 11 -1 7
5 Estonia 6 1 2 3 5 15 -10 5
6 Armenia 6 0 1 5 3 15 -12 1

Only Germany and Poland managed to score 18 goals. After champagne-football, will we have cevapcici-football ?

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posted by GiacomoL @ 11:37 AM   0 comments links to this post

06 February 2009

I hate you, Sam Mendes

Dear Sam,
I have to say, I really hate you. You keep shattering my little dreams of suburban happiness, my little delusions of American Dream; you keep poking your nosey finger at my fears, my neuroses, my false hopes... and for what? For a few bucks more? A few awards more? Didn't you get enough of those with American Beauty and whatnot? No, you had to come back here, you clever bastard, ruining our little and insignificant lives just so that you can keep happy your coke dealer. And this time even with good actors! You really have some gall, I tell you.

Well, I have to say your Revolutionary Road really is "working the magic" (even though the plot is slightly predictable, but we got to expect that from you). I hope you are happy.

Now take those big bags of money and get the f**k off my lawn. I'm still paying for it, y'know.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 11:41 PM   1 comments links to this post

15 January 2009

"See the market and then die"

From medical journal TheLancet:

"Mass privatisation programmes were associated with an increase in short-term adult male mortality rates of 12·8%"

(via Astrit Dakli, who translates that percentage to real numbers: 1 million dead.)

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posted by GiacomoL @ 6:17 PM   0 comments links to this post

31 December 2008

2009 "Year of the Aquarius"

Planet Jupiter moves to the Aquarius sector in 2009, and this is supposed to be a good thing for people born (like me) between 21th January and 19th February. Or so my mother says, in her crazy Italian way where "everybody knows" these things are b*llocks but they still believe them "just in case" (exactly like they do with Catholicism and Hell, by the way).

It certainly won't be an easy year for me, with the new "cryware/nappieware" scheduled for release around July. Things will get pretty hectic, I guess.

On a less personal note, lots of people said 2008 was "The Year of Obama", "The Year of the Crisis" or even "The Year of YouTube". They are Wrong. Sorry Barack, 2008 was "The Year of ABBA".

See you in 2009, perverts.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 3:22 PM   1 comments links to this post

19 December 2008

La mia Italia

Libertà e giustizia sociale, che sono poi le mete del socialismo, costituiscono un binomio inscindibile. Se a me socialista offrissero la riforma più radicale sul piano sociale, ma privandomi della libertà, io la rifiuterei. [...] Ma la libertà senza giustiza sociale può anche essere una conquista vana. Lei può considerare veramente libero un uomo che ha fame, che è nella miseria, che non ha lavoro, che è umiliato perché non sa come mantenere i suoi figli e educarli? Questo non è un uomo libero; sarà libero di bestemmiare e di imprecare, ma questa non è la libertà che intendo io. -- Alessandro Pertini

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posted by GiacomoL @ 7:35 AM   0 comments links to this post

09 November 2008

Crunching Numbers

During the last couple of day, I spent my free time trying to sort out the family finances; big (good) changes are on the horizon, we need to plan a bit better from now on, and it's amazing how "bad" expenses stick out straight away when you aggregate them, instead of relying just on rough day-by-day cash-flow estimates ("how much money is still in my account?").

I tried to use KMyMoney for this sort of thing several times in the past, but I was always inevitably thwarted by the effort required to copy records one-by-one from online bank statements, because the sort of bank accounts I use don't allow any desktop clients to automatically pull data. So this time I thought I'd fix it once and for all, and set down to write a few scripts to do that, albeit in a somehow indirect way.

KMyMoney can natively import transactions in the legacy (and wildly non-standard) QIF format, while OFX requires a plugin (why? No idea). Unfortunately, on my Debian Etch, the bloody plugin somehow never gets installed correctly, but hey, maybe one day it will, and OFX is the way of the future anyway (it's XML-based and much more exactly specified than the old plaintext-based, informal QIF). So I wrote a Python script to convert the HTML or CSV produced by my online accounts to OFX, then passed the output to ofx2qif, a handy script included in the libofx-dev package (at least in the 0.8.2 version I'm using). The result is ready to be imported in KMyMoney. Slightly cumbersome, but it does the trick. I need to add a bit more intelligence to the scripts, to speed up the categorisation effort that follows (which is the whole point of the exercise), e.g. "LINK xxxxxx" payees should all be set to "cash machine" etc, but it's already working fairly well.

The effect was startling; finally, all my expenses are tracked and I can properly budget and forecast. (...How the hell I'm spending so much on mobile-phone calls??)

I'm actually slightly pissed off that cash transactions are now so opaque; I've no idea why £50 were withdrawn from an ATM on that January day (even though I'm sure it made sense when I first checked the statement 6+ months ago), but I know for a fact that those £37.68 from last December were for a delicious Japanese dinner, as I paid for it with my debit-card.
In a way, this goes against the "classic" principle that "by using plastic, you never really know how much money you don't have" (so you tend to spend more). I still believe in that principle, and I'm slightly baffled by the evidence.

I'd strongly recommend this sort of exercise to everyone, anyway. You don't need to use a dedicated program like KMyMoney (even though it helps), Excel might be enough, as long as you can easily add transactions from your online account (via CSV or cut&paste).

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posted by GiacomoL @ 12:17 PM   2 comments links to this post

05 November 2008

The American Dream is back

I left the office at the beginning of October saying "When I'm back, Obama will be the President Elect!"; people laughed and said it was too early to call. Well, I called the Democratic primaries for Obama in February; that was difficult.

Note: I'm slightly pissed off that the BBC is giving space to John Bolton.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 3:09 AM   0 comments links to this post

Back to the cold shores of England...

... and jet-lagged enough to follow yet another USA presidential show. After two episodes with villains winning, it's about time for the good guys to score one, or it will become a cliché.

Someone is liveblogging on dailykos, if you can't stand the usual round of useless TV pundits.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 12:53 AM   0 comments links to this post

24 October 2008

Kanazawa blues

Weather yesterday turned to a very Mancunian-style rain, so our days in Kanazawa feel a bit sad.

I love tatami rooms, I want one in my next house.

(oh, and the japanese keyboard is hell.)

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posted by GiacomoL @ 8:45 AM   2 comments links to this post

18 October 2008

in Kyoto


We've been in Japan for just five days but it feels like we've packed in a lot, mainly thanks to my wife's perfect organization, I mainly stroll around carrying bags and saying "Oishi-ne", "lovely food"!

We spent the first few days in Tokyo, breathing in modern Japan, with skyscraping malls "bolted on" the immense train stations. People in every directions, but everything flows so smoothly, and it's so incredibly clean everywhere, I have no idea how they do it. It's "organized delirium" to a level Europeans cannot really comprehend, I think.

We are now in Kyoto, the "old capital", ready for a smorgasbord of "classical Japanese style" (temples, castles, Zen gardens etc), then we'll hit the road to see some rural areas in the northern mountains before going back to Tokyo for the final souvenir-shopping experience.

"Unfortunately", the food here is so good that I won't be able to lose any weight during this trip. Well, too bad, eh ;)

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posted by GiacomoL @ 5:35 AM   0 comments links to this post

04 October 2008


A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. -- George Moore

Apologies for not posting much recently. It so happens that I was posted to Egypt for a few weeks (what a crazy place), and in a few days I'll be on a plane to Tokyo (purely for pleasure, this time). Despite the lovely Egyptian hospitality, I came back from Cairo with a tonsillitis (ouch), let's hope Japan will be less troublesome.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 9:39 AM   0 comments links to this post

01 September 2008

a question of Snopes

Somebody you love (or in your family) forwards one of those email-chains. It's not even too bad, the content is not racist or virulently conservative, even though it might be interpreted as a veiled anti-Muslim piece. Quite a few people are CCed in the email. What do you do?

  1. You just ignore the email. Nobody "on the net" pays attention to those anyway.
  2. You reply only to the sender, pointing to the relevant Snopes link, and admonishing on the perils of forwarding this sort of chain.
  3. You hit "reply to all", pointing to the Snopes link. The level of "flamin' & shamin'" in the reply will depend on your willingness to maintain a friendship with the original person.

This just happened to me, and the sender was... my mother, who increasingly uses email (without being particularly techno-inclined).

After careful consideration, I went for option 3, keeping the tone as soft as possible. I have to say I've done it because it explicitly mentioned "UK schools" in a negative tone for something they are not, in fact, doing at all. I also thought this might teach my mom never to forward this sort of things, no matter how good they seem, in a stronger way than just admonishing "behind the scenes". However, I now feel a bit guilty.

What would you have done in my situation?

(This is clearly material for a comedy sketch...)

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posted by GiacomoL @ 2:42 PM   1 comments links to this post

30 August 2008


I'm the top UK-based GoodReads librarian in August 2008:

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posted by GiacomoL @ 9:58 PM   1 comments links to this post

28 August 2008

Nigella's Caramel Croissant Pudding

This is good, I made it last night. A bit heavy, but quick and easy. I think you could probably add raisins to have a bit more flavour.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 10:59 AM   0 comments links to this post

23 August 2008

The aNobii API is just a joke.

With the aNobii API, you can't retrieve the ISBN of a book. Seriously. This means there is no chance to use it to develop any serious mashup, so I'm abandoning the service.

I feel for my Italian friends, locked in such a hacked-together platform.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 4:03 PM   2 comments links to this post

19 August 2008

My favourite books...

... are now listed here. I generated the list while playing around with the GoodReads API and the Python Imaging Library. I'm trying to think of something else to build with the GR API... any suggestions?

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posted by GiacomoL @ 4:26 PM   0 comments links to this post

17 August 2008

Pythonaro, oh-oh-oh

As you might have noticed I've moved this blog under, and to celebrate the event I'm abandoning the blogger-supplied template. Things will break for a few weeks, bear with me.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 5:36 AM   4 comments links to this post

16 August 2008

Tag your f***ing books!

After a few days wandering around "literary" social-networking sites, I'm feeling a bit frustrated by how people interpret their participation in a very solipsistic way. Listing your own books is half the fun, I get it, but certainly the other half is hooking up with other like-minded bookworm geeks; you should put in a little effort to make your shelf accessible to them. Why then few can be bothered to tag their books? Without tags, I'm left to dig through hundreds of items I don't care about, whereas even a little classification (like separating novels and non-fiction, or fantasy and contemporary) would go a long way to help me define that you like the same sort of harrypotterish works I (might or might not) enjoy.

So please, if you are serious about this sort of sites, try to tag your books, even a little bit. Splitting your shelf in groups containing less than 100 items would already be enough, especially if your collection contains 200+ editions of books blatantly plagiarizing JRR Tolkien.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 5:54 PM   0 comments links to this post

The uncommon reader

The Uncommon Reader One of the best short stories I've read in the last few years, The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett is an entertaining parable on the pros and cons of being a citizen of the "republic of letters", explored through the eyes of the modern monarch by definition, Elizabeth II, the Queen of England. What is "the act of reading"? Is it purely selfish? Does it really improve one's life? How would it affect a person, especially one who is the very embodiment of life and action of an entire country? Is the act of writing a necessary consequence? This little page-turner will entertain and engage even the casual reader, and would be perfectly suited for a couple of hours to spare between opening a swimming-bath and having luncheon with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 5:38 PM   0 comments links to this post

15 August 2008

django on jython

You can now run Django on Jython, as announced by Leonardo Muñoz. Lovely. I really should go back hacking django a bit.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 4:27 PM   0 comments links to this post

10 August 2008

aNobii vs GoodReads

I've recently signed up to two book-listing, social-networking, web-2.0 sites, aNobii and GoodReads. The fundamental idea is shared by the two: you list and rate your books, then hook up with friends and fellow readers. Thoughts:

  • GoodReads is quite English-oriented; despite being able to distinguish between languages, the amount of non-English books is quite small. aNobii's catalogue is much better, possibly because it's the biggest player and so it attracts a larger crowd. This is more or less why I switched from GR to aN: several books that I had to manually add to GR were already in aN, and my friends were also there already. As it turns out, this is just due to the specific audience: aNobii's population is overwhelmingly Italian, so Italian books are easier to find there because they have already been added.
  • Adding a book to your list is fairly easy in both systems, but aN has several different interfaces so it feels somehow more adaptable to your own style. However, if the book is not listed or you want to edit details for an existing book, it's a pain in the neck to do it in aN, whereas it's much more easy to do in GR.
  • Annoyingly, if you mass-import lists of books, both sites aNobii won't tell you which ones failed to be added, so finding them becomes a game of patience. I know there are at least 5 books which are now in my GR account but aN failed to identify. aN also has a webpage-scraping feature that fails miserably on GR's pages. GR will report the failed books, as long as you supply the books' titles in the uploaded file -- if you only send ISBNs, it will not tell you which ones failed.
  • Consistency in metadata is clearly a challenge for both. aN annoyingly differentiates between title and "subtitle", so "serial" books end up all over the place. For example, "Batman: The Killing Joke" (which is a self-contained graphic novel) could (and does) end up as "Batman"/"The Killing Joke", "The Killing Joke"/"Batman vol.XYZ", or "Batman: The Killing Joke"/"vol. XYZ" (and obviously "Vol.X", "vol. X", "Volume X"...). Since in several UI screens only the title is displayed, it can become difficult to differentiate (I have several "Batman" listed, but which is "The Killing Joke" and which is "The Dark Knight Returns"?). GR doesn't feature this split, so it's easier for users to self-enforce consistency, somehow. This said, GR encourages you to add random details in parentheses appended to the end of the title, for example the particular imprint (e.g. "Il Fu Mattia Pascal (Classici Moderni)"), or version, or what you feel like mentioning, so it also adds an unnecessary random element.
  • GR's metadata includes binding, but it's an arbitrary and case-sensitive field, so you can have "hardcover", "Hardcover" and "Hard Cover" as three different modes. It would be much more useful to have a pre-populated listbox with the most common values, plus an "Other" option that will allow you to enter an arbitrary value.
  • GR's rating is 6-levels deep (from 0 stars to 5), aN's is only 4-levels (from 1 to 4 stars).
  • They both allow you to tag books with arbitrary words. In GR, tagging (or "shelving") is everything: it's what you do to distinguish "read" from "unread", for example; there is no mass-tagging feature yet, which is annoying, but it's faster to tag a single book from the master ("your shelf") view than it is in aN. Vice-versa, aN is much better when you want to tag several books at once, but a bit laborious if you want to tag a book from the master view (you have to go in "book view" first). Also, you can see aN was not built on tags like GR, it's clearly a feature which was added later in the application life.
  • aN has loads of features to define how you got hold of the book (even listing shops and libraries), and has an in-built lending/trading exchange, whereas GR only has a generic checkbox to mark the book as "I'd be willing to send/swap".
  • Both allow you to review books. Somehow it feels a more central concept in GR, whereas in aN you are pushed to define when/how you read the book rather than reviewing it.
  • The "social" features are a bit different. In both you have groups and friends, but aN also has (presumably American) "Neighbors", which is an euphemism for "stalked": people you don't know but you want to track anyway. The social aspect seems really more "inbuilt" in aN, which will show your "compatibility level" with friends and try to match you with people with similar shelves.
  • GR gives more relevance to authors, who can have their own page (and presumably some extra features). Just to name one, Neil Gaiman uses GoodReads.
  • Both have some sort of facility for bloggers. aNobii lets you use your Amazon associate ID, which is nice; however it's up to you to do all the CSS magic to integrate the widget with the look&feel of the blog.
  • aNobii is broken in Konqueror. GoodReads doesn't officially support Konqueror, but it works nonetheless (probably because they tested it in Safari, which is very similar).
  • aNobii's API is ridiculously useless, it doesn't even return ISBNs. GoodReads' API is much better, easier to work with and more complete.
  • All in all, GR seems to be more about listing and tagging your books, whereas aN is more about matching you with people with similar books/tastes/favourite bookshop.
So hum, there is no clear winner. aN looks slightly more feature-rich than GR, but GR feels more "open" than aN. Currently, my profile on GoodReads is less complete than my page on aNobii, but I'll try to keep them synchronized as much as possible. I've abandoned aNobii, mainly because it's a dead-end: it's very difficult to get any info out of it, the API is just a joke, and feeds are incomplete.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 5:07 AM   5 comments links to this post

01 August 2008

It Only Works Because You're Here

New MJ Hibbett! And "GRATE" as usual!

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posted by GiacomoL @ 3:27 AM   0 comments links to this post

14 July 2008

I'm a sucker for geeky t-shirts

Best t-shirt of the year:

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posted by GiacomoL @ 8:28 PM   0 comments links to this post

13 July 2008

Being a better typist

I confess: I am a "hunt'n'peck" typist. Like many, I didn't get lessons in typing, but thanks to my obsession for computers I developed my own particular form of "memory-touch-typing"; basically I'm fairly fast, but I only use 4-to-6 fingers, and I often have to stop and see where my hands ended up, which slows me down a lot and makes me lose concentration in what I was typing.

This means that periodically I get out a "learn to type" program and try to improve my typing skills. At the moment I'm working with KTouch, a nice GPL application belonging to the KDE Edutainment project. And I'm trying hard not to look at the keyboard while writing this!

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posted by GiacomoL @ 2:56 PM   1 comments links to this post

17 June 2008

Fun with FIFA and the Home Nations

The FIFA Statutes and the accompanying regulations governing their implementation form the Constitution of football's international governing body.

I was just going through the FIFA Statutes, while debating why Britain should really get a unified team to have any real chance of regaining the World Cup (which they won't do: their loss!).

The "special status" granted to the Home Nations is huge:

  • they get to have 4 different leagues at the national level, a privilege that no other nation can have;
  • they get to appoint 4 of the 8 members of IFAB, the institution that makes (and changes) the rules. So basically no rule can be changed without British approval!
  • they get to appoint one of the 8 vice-presidents on the Executive Committee, at the same level as UEFA, CONMEBOL etc. So they are basically considered at the same level of the biggest football organisations when there's anything to be decided.

This said, they are hopeless at diplomacy, pretty much like Italy, with the result that for decades UEFA has been dominated by a French/German/northern countries block, and FIFA by south-American alliances with marginal federations.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 5:18 PM   0 comments links to this post

Alan Moore for Wizard of England!

The Prime Minister recognises the achievements of Alan Moore and the widespread regard in which he is held.

Victory! What next? As Neil Gaiman suggested:

[...]but frankly I'm not interested unless they make him Official Wizard of England. Now that would be an honour. An MBE, on the other hand doesn't seem the sort of thing that Alan needs. He'd just put it down somewhere and it would wind up under the sofa. But if they made him Official Wizard he would wear a hat.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 2:07 AM   0 comments links to this post

15 June 2008

Italian Football Folklore: "il biscotto"

The "Biscotto" (literally "biscuit") is a central concept in Italian football. It's a sum of Italian attitudes towards football institutions, honesty, fair play, and "dietrologia" (the study of what might be hidden -- from "dietro", behind -- another very Italian concept). The term comes from an ice-cream brand, as you would expect from such a food-obsessed culture; specifically, an ice-cream surrounded by two biscuits. The biscuits don't touch each other, but squeeze the ice-cream between them -- exactly like two contenders that won't hit each other, but will manage to squeeze out a third party standing in their way.

For example, say that two teams have to play a match in a tournament, and there is only one possible result that will qualify both them to the next phase of the competition and eliminate a third party. They could make an agreement to make sure the "right" result comes out; that would be a classic "biscotto". Or say that two teams have to play at the end of a season, and one club hasn't got anything to play for, while the other needs the points to avoid relegation (hence condemning another team)... you get the idea. It's basically a combine where a third-party gets hurt.

The Italian football team has been (or it was perceived as being) on the wrong side of a "biscotto" several times in recent history, most infamously at Euro 2004 when Denmark and Sweden produced a 2-2 draw which qualified both Scandinavian nations and kicked out the "Azzurri". If you then consider the 2002 incident (when South-Korean hosts kicked out Italy in a match plagued by a terrible referee), and the penalty awarded in the first minutes of the 2006 World Cup final (on a dive by French player Malouda), you should be able to understand why the Italian press is currently running wild with suggestions of an upcoming "biscotto" between Romania and the Netherlands. The Oranje are already mathematically certain to be the group-winner, whereas Romania needs a victory to stay in second place and kick out France and Italy... something that Holland might like, considering as these two (currently troubled) teams usually become tough competitors in the final stages of a major competition.

The Italian people experienced a long history of political intrigue, stretching back all the way to Imperial Rome; we tend to see daggers hidden in every dark corner, secret agreements struck in the most worthless situations, puppeteers pulling strings in the smallest of everyday occasions. For centuries our political landscape was defined elsewhere, with Italian city-states acting as proxy for various European powers, all the way up to the Cold War. As a result, we tend to be a little too suspicious, and assign to others responsibilities that should really be ours.

If we really wanted to qualify, we should have won (or drawn) against the Netherlands, and won fair and square against Romania. Instead, our men played badly (especially in the first game), and our "lethal" strikers couldn't score even given massive amounts of chances (a defender had to step up and do it). They shouldn't have put themselves in that position in the first place. Once you get to depend on the whims of somebody who doesn't own anything to you, you can't complain about anything that might happen. Life is tough.

(This said, my money is on Romania to win. It's hard to kick old habits, I guess. And the actual ice-cream is fantastic, and so difficult to find in Manchester -- anybody that can send a box over here?)

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posted by GiacomoL @ 1:27 PM   1 comments links to this post

11 June 2008

Co-Operative Bank Defending Human Rights

Just a quick note to point any UK-based reader to the last campaign from The Co-Operative Bank: you can vote for a human-rights charity that will get money from the bank. The program is developed with Amnesty International, so all charities are very worthy; my vote this year went to The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, quite a topical subject in times of televised indoctrination on the "benefits of torturing people" (oh yes, I hate 24). There are only a few charities worldwide that do this sort of work (as far as I know, the other one is in Denmark).

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posted by GiacomoL @ 11:51 PM   0 comments links to this post

05 June 2008

Early pythons get the bird -- book PyConUK now!

I just reserved my place at PyCon UK 2008, which will again be held at the Birmingham Conservatoire on the second weekend of September (12/13/14). If you like Python and you can make it, you should: the vibe last year was great, the talks interesting, and the organisers a nice bunch of geeks. The extra-early-bird offer expires on June 9, so be quick and you could save a few pounds!
If you come, take a minute to RSVP on the official PyConUK 2008 Facebook event page; the more people there, the better visibility (and credibility) we get. Also, if you are on other social networks, you can do something similar to aggregate interested people.

Unfortunately I can't make the Friday tutorials (I'm saving days for a big trip to Japan in October), but I'm sure Saturday and Sunday won't be disappointing. See you there!

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posted by GiacomoL @ 8:43 PM   0 comments links to this post

29 May 2008

Don't worry, darlin'...

Reviewing a Springsteen gig is something no honest man can do.

How can you describe a three-hours-long rock'n'roll session delivered by 50-year-olds jumping around like they're 15? How can you write about the spirit, the energy, the *faith*? 50.000 people swarmed on Old Trafford under the gray Manchester rain, jumping and singing and clapping and crying until the weather didn't matter anymore, BRUCE AND THE E-STREET-BAND were there, everything would be alright.

The mix of old and new songs was unbelievable. I had never heard "Living in the future" before, and I was singing along after the first chorus. I had never heard "Long Walk Home" before, but I was crying while shouting it, a song so simple and so politically deep, a new "Born In The U.S.A.".

Not even a bad soundcheck could compromise this gig, because this was not a gig. This was a mass to the God of Rock'n'Roll. This was an American Celebration broadcast on Radio Nowhere. This was the Messiah of Rock announcing the Rising of November, when The Dream (battered and killed by eight years of fascism) will be reborn.

If you have the Faith, meet the Lord at Bruce's Place, you're gonna have a party.

P.S. Poor Dan Federici is gone, Patti Scialfa probably won't come to Europe anymore and "Big Man" Clemons clearly had trouble walking; go meet the Apostles of Soul while you can.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 3:52 PM   2 comments links to this post

28 May 2008

tonight, the old man is in town...

I honestly can't listen too much to Springsteen, it usually ends up with me crying and smiling, people think I'm weird and I can't really explain.

But fuck rain and storms, tonight we're at Old Trafford to LISTEN. TO. THE. MAN. RISING.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 12:33 PM   0 comments links to this post

Weezer Wins Teh Internet Tubes

Weezer just produced a tribute to the warholizer (aka YouTube) that is just fantastic, killer tune, spectacular video... even lightsabers!

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posted by GiacomoL @ 12:23 PM   0 comments links to this post

07 April 2008

Do The Indie Kid

I love MJ Hibbett & The Validators, and you should too. So here's his latest video.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 4:31 PM   0 comments links to this post

15 March 2008

Notes from BubbleCity

Last day in California, blogging from a little cafe in the Fillmore area of San Francisco.

Silicon Valley is dead boring, I ran away from it on Friday afternoon, but I like the big city up here. Went to Berkeley (slightly disappointing), done the sightseeing thing downtown (Fisherman's Wharf, Russian Hill, Alamo Square, Chinatown, built-in-Milan cablecars, etc) which wasn't fantastic, much better just to walk around up&down the hills, Lower Haight, Octavia, Fulton, to get a feeling for the lovely (upscale) 'hoods.

Got lucky and landed in JapanTown on the first saturday of Cherry-Blossom Festival, so the entire district was all tarted up and in full swing (including long queues for the International Asian Film Festival), I really enjoyed it (but the hyashi-chuka was average).

It can be as seductive as NYC at times, even though the character is very different; NYC feels like the place where you go "to be the best", while you come to SF "to be yourself" or "to find what's next". It looks like a fundamentally mexican/asian city, rather than white, and this is fantastic. Whereas Santa Clara/Silicon Valley is such a whitey, middle-class, boring place, it's no wonder that waves of geeks are escaping to SF-SOMA (South-Of-MArket-street) and commute from there.

Been to the scenic SF Giants stadium (ahh, one day I have to see a live match) which was recently built on reclaimed land facing the bay and it's gorgeous. I still didn't see the western area, Golden Gate Park etc, but hey, you have to keep something for the next visit!

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posted by GiacomoL @ 10:34 PM   2 comments links to this post

07 March 2008

And now Frisco...

Just a few weeks after our fantastic trip to NYC, tomorrow my company puts me on a plane for San Francisco. I don't know anything about the place and I only have a day or so to spend there... I have to say, it's going to be hard to top what NYC gave me: walking on the bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan, in a clear night of full moon, was so fantastic...

But hey Frisco, give us your best shot ;)

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posted by GiacomoL @ 3:47 PM   0 comments links to this post

01 March 2008

Some Good News, For Once

Amnesty International has a list of Good News (with a feed). That's nice, newspapers should have this sort of thing on their front-pages every day, it would give us back some faith in humanity... but I forget that the papers' job is to keep you distracted, dispirited and depressed, so that their backers (investors and advertisers) will keep screwing you.

There's also a Call To Action page (again with feed). Some things you might find silly ("demonstration" is such a XIX century concept), but you can choose your preferred way to help. For example, I have a credit card that will donate 0.25% of every transaction to Amnesty. It seems such a little thing, but it raised £1.5million in the last 15 years; that's an average of £100.000 donated each year, just by shopping! I've had this card since I opened a current account here in the UK, six years ago -- which was (by the way) with an ethical bank, Cooperative, so I know that my money will not be invested in producing or dealing weapons (among other things). Oh, and did I say that my ADSL provider's profit help developing Free Software?

There are ways to make a difference, day by day, voting with your wallet. I'm no hippie (fuck, do I hate vegans and home-recycling schemes), but in all my laziness I try to help good people, a little bit. I just got a big bonus, and I think it's time to pay back some debts to my parents; i know that they will be happy to hear that I want half the money to be donated to a charity. Eh, I'm a bastard ;)

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posted by GiacomoL @ 3:07 AM   0 comments links to this post

19 February 2008

on Alan Moore and YouTube

First, a must see for everyone that knows Alan Moore, "the Wizard of England" (via Neil Gaiman):

This guy is from MJ Hibbett & the Validators, which is a pretty geeky name already for a band. If you liked this, you probably want to see Payday and the (quite famous) Hey Hey 16K:

Then, a rant on YouTube. How is it possible that a service clearly built on the concept of feed and "web 2.0" makes it so hard to create an RSS/Atom feed to "republish" a compilation of clips? Officially, they only serve "generic" feeds, either by tag (so free for everyone to spam) or by user (as in uploaded-by a specific user). But internally they DO have "playlists" and "favourites" to which you can "subscribe"... they just don't publish the feed for them; you have to sign up, in a facebook-style lock-in. Very disappointing. Luckily, there are unofficial third-party services like this YouTube Favourites RSS republisher, so you can subscribe to my feed of YouTube Favourites anyway. Sad.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 11:56 AM   0 comments links to this post

16 February 2008

Democracy 2

"Democracy 2 is the ultimate political strategy / simulation game. Based on a complex Neural network, the game simulates the motivations, loyalties and desires of everyone in the country. As president or prime minister, it's your job to balance the need for income from taxes against the demands of the voters. Do you want your country to be an eco-friendly green paradise? or a socialist utopia? Will you pander to the patriots, the liberals or the religious pressure groups? Can you keep crime under control without destroying the civil liberties of your citizens?"

I just bought it after playing the demo for a little bit. I'm a sucker for this sort of games.

UPDATE: Well, three hours later and I've won one of the several available scenarios, the "socialist agricultural" state that I led to excellence in technology, environmental bliss and fantastic economic growth... I even legalized cannabis to kill off organized crime! It's a simple but addictive game, really worth the money, and extremely educational. I wish there was an italian version to send to my father.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 7:49 PM   0 comments links to this post

05 February 2008

The Italian Politics Club

  1. The first rule of politics in Italy is that you don't talk about real politics in Italy.
  2. The second rule of politics in Italy is that you DO NOT talk about real politics in Italy. You can talk about "parties" and have endless ideological debates, but absolutely DO NOT try to actually solve problems by enacting policies. People could get angry.
  3. The third rule of politics in Italy is that if someone can't pass a minor law on whatever minor useless subject, the Government is over.
  4. Fourth rule: at least three or four "parties" involved in any trivial discussion or commission. This guarantees instability and respect of the second rule.
  5. Fifth rule: try to fight at the same time with as many people as possible, especially if members of your own government. This will help to apply the second and third rule.
  6. Sixth rule: try to look and act the same as all your colleagues in politics. Otherwise you will be marked as "fesso" (stupid) and you will be ignored.
  7. Seventh rule: governments shouldn't last more than a couple of years at best. Again, this guarantees rule 2 and 3 are respected.
  8. Eighth and final rule: if this is the first time you try to understand Italian politics, you have to get dragged in endless arguments about the role of the Roman Catholic Church and the Mafia and the Big Money People, to conclude 5 hours later that you are absolutely powerless to change anything and the only answer is a south-american-style secular dictatorship that can kill the Pope, burn down the Vatican, put the Mafia in charge of enacting laws in the South, and nationalise all industry.

Note: this is my last post on the subject.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 11:53 AM   4 comments links to this post

04 February 2008

NYC must be going crazy today

NY Giants won the Superbowl! When we were in NYC two weeks ago, they had just won the Conference (the "semifinal") and the local sport people were thrilled; the entire Madison Square Garden went crazy when it was announced that a couple of Giants players had come to see the Knicks. Now I'm waiting for Youtube to come back online just to see the final 32-yard and 83-yard actions, which must have been spectacular.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 7:39 AM   4 comments links to this post

02 February 2008

Mandatory "Lost" Theories for Season 4

Fresh from watching the first new episode, I thought I would post a "you read it here first" list of what I think will be revealed or will happen this season...

  • The "freighter people" will be revealed as sent from the original DHARMA owner, Alvar Hanso, who was a weapon dealer and probably not the type of person that accepts to lose property (especially when it's such a property) just like that.
  • Hence, their original objective, of course, was to kill everyone on the island, as they are all deemed to be part of "the Hostiles" by now (and the island must be kept secret anyway). This is why Ben fears them.
  • For some reason (possibly the cover-up already in place, which was that Oceanic815 had been "found" near Bali and all people on board were dead; possibly because they'll end up in a "one helicopter only" scenario where only a few people can board) they will agree to rescue only 6 "losties" -- the confirmed Jack, Kate and Hurley, possibly the two "with-baby" ladies, and a third one who'll eventually die alone as seen in the Season3 finale.
    I would put money on Sawyer, who is smart enough to save his skin in all circumstances, or on Locke, who would probably have died alone in the Real World anyway.
    If Harold Perrineau really has come back not just to shoot flashbacks, then Michael is also an option (him and Walt come back to the island to save the others, Walt again gets trapped there while Michael is forced to escape); Jack tells Kate in S3 finale that they have some sort of debt with the dead man, this would be the one.
    (post-episode4: we now know Sayid is one of the six, which probably eliminates the two "family girls", no matter what Desmond said; as of now, the survivors are all involved in a big coverup-with-blackmail-cum-secretwar, so I don't see class-B characters as being part of that.)
  • From the mobisodes and this appearance in S4 episode 1, we now know for sure that Jack's father is really strolling around the island... probably as a host for Jacob, who will be revealed as a "Bob from Twin Peaks" kind of ghost.
  • We'll not see much of "Smokey" (the monster made of smoke) this year; since the only thing left to confirm is that it's just an artificial security system originally built by DHARMA, we might finally see how it is activated, but my guess is that the writers will keep this for Season 5.
  • Season 4 will end with the "Oceanic 6" flying away, after a struggle between losties and freighter people (plus the Jacob subplot); Season 5 will all be about them coming back for some sort of showdown. The writers very clearly stated, after the first season, that the original vision was for a 5-years story arc; I hope they're not tempted to backtrack and keep the series running after that, as it would be reduced to an endless war between losties+others and DHARMA/Hanso. (Update: it has since been confirmed that the series will end in season 6, so I guess the last showdown will be very long)
  • There's probably lots of space for a prequel that would tell the DHARMA story in detail (the initial project, the original colonization, the civil war with "the Hostiles", possibly even the post-purge struggle to regain the island); either a regular tv series, a movie, or more realisticly a few books. I guess it will depend on the ratings of Season 5.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 6:44 AM   0 comments links to this post

25 January 2008

What "taking control of the means of production" really means

BBC NEWS | Wales | Miners' proud march from colliery. 13 years ago, 240 miners bought out "their" mine from the incompetent and greedy management (who wanted to shut it down as "unprofitable"). They managed to be profitable just after a few months, and earned their families a comfortable living for 13 years, until the mine was really depleted.

When the workers control the means and ways of production, things will work. This is inspirational.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 5:55 PM   0 comments links to this post

23 January 2008

Il grande Ratzinga

Torno da NYC e che mi trovo, un fantastico post di Simotrone che linka non solo La ballata del Programmatore, ma persino una bellissima versione di Il Grande Ratzinga!!!

Good one, Simo :)

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posted by GiacomoL @ 7:05 PM   0 comments links to this post

14 January 2008

Here we come!


posted by GiacomoL @ 10:14 PM   0 comments links to this post

11 January 2008

I love the smell of releasing in the morning

I am release-addicted.

I really enjoy cleaning up before packaging, and then putting my (ugly) code somewhere on the public web, hoping that it will help somebody. I probably have some sort of syndrome, "DCDD".

This week, after a few days banging on a little java project (that is coming along nicely, btw), I felt a bit dispirited: it looked like the more I did, the more there was to do. Luckily, KDelicious offered a nice alternative, and given its nature (it's a very small program) it's pretty much impossible for the codebase to be horribly far from release-quality at any given time. So I moved my attention to that and lo, there was a release! How nice :)

Now I can go back to the java stuff with more calm, conscious that there's no way I can release anything before the holiday (next week we'll be in NYC!). I love this post-orgasmic Zen feeling.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 12:15 PM   0 comments links to this post

17 November 2007

Google spamming LinkedIn profiles?

I just got a message from somebody on LinkedIn who (apparently) works for Google, saying they have an "engineering opportunity" and to reply with my word or pdf CV. While I'm flattered, I'm not sure I should reply to the message. Call me paranoid, but I don't see how I'd ever be Google-material (no strong academical background, no open-source fame...); maybe I ended up in some strange list (maybe matching LinkedIn profiles with emails on Monster?), maybe something worse.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 10:23 PM   0 comments links to this post

10 November 2007

fixing a toilet flush is not rocket science

if I can do it, everyone can.


posted by GiacomoL @ 7:12 PM   0 comments links to this post

introducing #python-north-west and #pythonaro

Was feeling tired but slightly "hyper" last night, so I set up an IRC bot and registered two channels on One is #python-north-west, for the group, and the other is #pythonaro, for me & friends. Come and say hello :)

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posted by GiacomoL @ 12:45 PM   0 comments links to this post

22 October 2007

New office, old (stale) job


It's so depressing to compare my little home project (codename "BeanCounter"), all the excitement of building apps for mobile phones, and web services, and learning and learning and learning... with the day job, which (even in the new "big red O" building with fancy chairs) is just strolling through customers' complaints for bad software, and a constant flow of regressions, with zero help from developers (or anybody else).

For once, I'd want to do something that makes sense, build something new... and be paid for it.


posted by GiacomoL @ 6:23 PM   1 comments links to this post

20 October 2007

Crazy thoughts (pazza idea)

While going through the periodic find-new-job-which-sucks-slightly-less-than-previous routine, I keep having crazy thoughts about starting my own business.

I don't want to do yet another webdev shop, competing with 18-year-olds undercutting you from their bedrooms. I have a few ideas that I think are marketable; some of them are completely original, some aren't but their market is potentially so big that it doesn't matter.

One falling in the latter category involves mobile phones, and how to use them in companies to streamline certain processes. To do this kind of things, you don't need much on the phone UI; random sync with some sort of networked server is easy to do.

I've looked into Python for S60, but unfortunately, while potentially fantastic, is not really there yet in terms of adoption and ease of deployment. The only realistic choice is J2ME; to my surprise, it looks easy enough to build what I want with it, and pretty much all recent handsets support it well enough for my needs.

So I installed EclipseME and the Sun Java Wireless Toolkit, and I'm already 40% towards having a working protoype. I just need to wire it to a simple django app at the other end, and then I could really sell it, or at least do a round of funding (there are some fantastic government schemes for small new businesses here in England).

What scares me at the moment is setting the right price for it; it's not the kind of thing that will save massive amounts of money to a company, but it will speed up some operations. I need to quantify these improvements in order to have a strong sales pitch to set the right price, and to be able to build a proper business plan which will take into account development time, expenses, etc. I also need to catch up fast with the main player in the market already (a small Portland-based operation) which has a head-start but, I think, not yet the amount of money required to break it big in the European space. As I said, the market itself looks big enough for more than one player, and after you establish relationships with customers you can go and build new things for them.

In the meantime, I'm using friends as focus groups ;) and the feedback is good. A colleague even offered himself as part-time head for development, which is something I'd really want before doing the jump.

In all this, the folks at GeekUp are being really supportive. I wish I'd found that list 3 years ago.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 12:12 PM   0 comments links to this post

11 October 2007

Moving on

I'm officially looking for a new job. Feedback has been good so far, even though all replies are really for java/asp/php roles; I'd rather move straight to Python if possible.

If anyone knows about interesting python roles in the North of England (London doesn't really appeal to me, but I guess I wouldn't say no to boatloads of money), please drop me a line at g dot lacava at gmail dot com.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 1:27 PM   0 comments links to this post

26 September 2007

Alive and (almost) well

Still recovering from a week of bad health, trying to get back to speed at work & at home... BTW, I'm looking for other (popular) social networking sites apart from the Facebook/LinkedIn/Orkut "trimurti"... suggestions?

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posted by GiacomoL @ 7:49 AM   5 comments links to this post

18 September 2007

Back from Oslo

Back after a 3-days "city break" in Oslo. It was ok, I guess. Smooth experience: everyone will speak English and nobody will ever judge you from appearances (they kept trying to talk to us in Norwegian first). Lots of smiles, lots of new buildings, lots of money (it's freakingly expensive, even for people coming from "rip-off Britain"), lots of tech, lots of water, lots of people trying to make the world a better place... We packed quite a few activities thanks to the Oslo Pass, which you certainly want to buy if you are in town for one or two days; it looks expensive at first, but check the museum entrance fees and you'll see that it's extremely easy to break even in a couple of hours, plus it gives you free travel on all the (ubiquitous, clean and well-run) public transport.

To be honest though, I left with an "underwhelming" feeling that there was nothing to discover, nothing that wasn't perfectly organized, nothing terribly unique apart from the unique efficiency. Even bakeries all looked like classy joints straight out of the IKEA catalogue. Also, I expected more "Nordic specificity" but the city looks astonishingly like your average central-European town (plus the fantastic fjord). It looks like a very nice city to live in, but not the most appealing to tourists. If I ever go back to Norway, I'll probably skip Oslo and go straight to the northern fjords to enjoy the wilderness, which is the best thing in the country (as the fantastic panoramic movie at the Maritime Museum clearly demonstrates).

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posted by GiacomoL @ 2:08 PM   3 comments links to this post

07 September 2007

Those funny Italians...



posted by GiacomoL @ 9:39 AM   0 comments links to this post

31 August 2007

In which my life gets rock&roll for 5 minutes

Several glasses of Champagne at 4PM, having had only a cake in the entire day, are probably not good. Can't remember passwords. Can't read pop-ups. Life is tough for a drunken geek.


posted by GiacomoL @ 3:34 PM   0 comments links to this post

28 August 2007

Unfocused + unsolicited reviews of popcult items

That's what I feel right now. Spent three days pretty much doing fuck all, fixing the odd thing on the new home server and that's it. I have a horrible queue of books to read, but didn't feel really compelled to touch any of that. I have at least two projects to work on, but I wasted much of the time allocated to those.

We watched a couple of weird movies (which were the only ones mildly interesting at our local Blockbuster). Probably the weirdest was "Frozen Land", a Finnish flick on chaos theory, human depression, and the "interconnectedness of it all". Finnish movies are always so bare, they probably get it from their climate... Or maybe these movies are the only ones sold abroad, and as such they reinforce stereotypical images of "cool Helsinki", this "frozen land" of desperation, drugs, technology and strange sunlight. Suomi is extremely weird to hear, very odd in the European landscape, only vaguely Slavic... Should I ever need a language for talking whales, I'd use that.

Also seen "The Darwin Awards", a quick-buck-job for everyone involved (including Winona Ryder and Joseph Fiennes). "Inspired" by, the plot is an excuse to link together some of the freakiest (real) accidents described on the site. Production is TV-like and direction is simply bad. You can really see the Hollywood team, meeting over a (vegetarian) meal, banging together the movie... "ok, this one is basically like Jackass, but we wanna sell it to the Ryder crowd too which is a bunch of Gen-Xers with degrees... we need a "higher" subplot here, what about... a serial killer? maybe a literate serial killer?" "Yeah, that's clever! He could quote poets... like, beat poets!" "But we also wanna make it like this stuff if really real, or we lose the Jackass crowd... what if all was kind-of-filmed-on-super-8-sorta-thing?" "Yeah, cool!"... So Winona can pay the rent and Ferlinghetti can pay for the drugs (or the other way round), and you can have the odd laugh here and there while waiting for Joe Fiennes to get laid (which he'll invariably do, I guess his agent put it in the contract as usual) and go away. Did I say this caters to the Jackass crowd? It even has the unavoidable Metallica guest appearance, full of shit as they usually are.

I'm currently in the middle of The Third Policeman, surreal book recently rediscovered thanks to random product placement on Lost. Better books than BMWs, I guess. Review when I'm done.
( And since we are on product placement, the last Bond movie was a very stylish 20-minute-long film followed by an hour of adverts. What a waste. )

The Third Policeman
by Flann O'Brien

Read more about this title...

I've finished the first book from the Earthsea tetralogy (or "quartet", as they put it). I hadn't read fantasy for a looooong time, and this book reminded me why. The careful use of epic language never falls in common traps and avoids boring down the reader in useless world-building details... but it left me with a sense of "so what" which didn't really push me to read the following books. Enjoyable distraction, probably very good for teenagers (no disrespect intended here).

The Earthsea Quartet
by Ursula K. Le Guin

Read more about this title...

So many other books on the shelf... "From the Gracchi to Nero" is a lovely introduction to Roman history; it reminds me at every page of how similar they were to us, how they really built the foundations on which every "democracy" (i.e. "extended oligarchy") now runs. We went from daggers in the dark to sex scandals, but the concepts are the same, the political questions are still the same (who is a citizen? What is Law? Who executes the Law?). You could probably write "The Emperor's West Wing" in five minutes; now that i think of it, HBO's "Rome" is more or less that, plus the customary brawls and orgies.

From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 BC to AD 68
by H. H. Scullard

Read more about this title...

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posted by GiacomoL @ 4:00 PM   0 comments links to this post

27 August 2007

For people tired of technical (or personal) posts...

You can subscribe to only the "personal" part of my blog. You need to use this feed (right-click, copy link): Subclassed (only "personal" posts) (if your news aggregator doesn't like it, try adding "?alt=rss" at the end). I should probably put this on the sidebar... Added to the sidebar (broken in IE, fantastic).

UPDATE: if you'd rather have only the tech posts, you can use this other feed: Subclassed (only "GeekDiary" posts).

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posted by GiacomoL @ 12:30 PM   0 comments links to this post

26 August 2007

It's 4.52 AM (GMT +0)

This, folks, is why I stopped drinking coffee. Also, this is why they call 5 PM "tea-time". Tea-time, not "latte-time" or "espresso-time". I wonder how long I'd stay awake with amphetamines. Better not to try.

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posted by GiacomoL @ 4:45 AM   2 comments links to this post

08 May 2007

Now married (and with 50% more milk chocolate!)

So, I got married, as you can see here. Pics to follow as soon as we get back from the honeymoon at the end of May. My friend (and witness) Simone posted some "unofficial" ones at on his blog. Yes, the cravat was all over the place after 5 minutes :) It's amazing how many people showed their love for us in the last month. I really don't know how to thank my parents and all our friends that helped them make that day absolutely memorable. Closing my eyes, I can still see all of them talking to me, one by one, and I wish I could have spent more time with each and every one of them. It was amazing and I'm really, really happy that everyone "got" what I wanted to communicate with this. I honestly don't know what to say now. It will take some time to "rationalise" all this. Emotion is a bitch ;.-)


posted by GiacomoL @ 3:14 PM   1 comments links to this post

20 August 2006

Property Wars IV - A New House

So, I now officially own a house.

To be 100% honest, the house still belongs to my mortgage lenders, and it will probably stay that way for another 25 years. But these are just details.

Now it will take a while to "decorate" it (we have to buy all the furniture and appliances, and stripping wallpaper will probably have to be my main hobby for the next 2 months ), but it's a nice feeling to know that all the work you invariably put in "property maintenance" is to your own benefit, and not your landlord's. The plan is to move out in 3-4 years, when kids will probably enter the equation, and I hope that, for that time, we'll have added quite a bit of "european" value to our little red-brick terrace.

The only downside is that it will take time, and lots of visits to DIY stores, and discussions about colours and shapes and positions, silly things that invariably become bigger than they are when two stubborn geeks have to debate them. Middle-ageness, here I come!


posted by GiacomoL @ 9:33 AM   1 comments links to this post