From the BBC website:
“What we are in the process of discovering is disturbing, and that is that Telecom Italia sheltered one of the biggest private spying organizations this country has ever known,” said Pino Sgobio, parliamentary whip of the Communist Party, part of Romano Prodi’s ruling coalition.
Well, compared to what Telecom Italia does, I think this blog is the least of the problems for my own privacy….
A friend of mine recently closed his blog because he fears his privacy would be violated. This makes me think. Should I do the same? Blogs are a wonderful and exciting media and can be a lot of fun, but sadly in today’s society they can scare people. This is probably because laws are not protecting our privacy enough, and all sorts of governments, agencies and private companies are scanning the web collecting personal information. In Italy there is a law that theoretically is very strict about privacy, but unfortunately it is very hard to enforce.
I found this article on EFF website very interesting, with lots of suggestions about how to blog safely. I’m not scared, but I’m adopting some of this measures anyway. Better safe than sorry.
My mother is a self-employed artisan 56 years old and happy Linux user. She pays taxes in multiple tranches every year and so far never had problems, but this year is different.
Italian Minister Bersani recently issued a decree mandating use of on line tools to pay social security taxes (F24 form). This means, starting from Oct 1st you either go to very expensive authorized 3rd party tax professional accountants, or you buy a very expensive on line bank account from one a few authorized banks, or you go to the ministry web site and download an application they provide for free.
She asked to her bank, but they said they’re not authorized. Of course nobody wants to waste lots of money in accountants (their services cost typically around €1000/yr) or in additional bank accounts (€200/yr), therefore she tried to download the on-line software. Problem is, the ministry web site says this application is only available for Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac. What if you run Linux or any other operating system of your choice? Well, you are on your own, you moron, just waste your money buying a copy of Windows and shut up. At this point, my mother was desperate and asked for my help.
Federico Aldrovandi was an 18 years old guy from the same town where I was born. One year ago, the early morning of Sep 24th, Federico died in the hands of the police. They initially tried to hide what happened and the body was left alone 5 hours dead on the ground while his mother was looking for him. Then, their version has been that he collapsed by drug overdose when they tried to arrest him.
Pictures and independent analysis show that he he was beaten hard with a wound ruptured on his head, violet colored stripes on his pulses of the handcuffs, his scrotum smashed, lots of blood under his body. This story was almost unknown outside of the town, until Federico’s mother opened a blog. That eventually brought the case to national attention.
After one year, the truth still struggles to emerge as no trial in court took place yet but, no matter what really happened, we must make sure people won’t forget Federico’s story. I know, this post is mostly useless and won’t change anything, but then again…
This a second movie, I mean after The curse of the black pearl, and you always expect second movies to be at least as good as their first. Unfortunately most of the time you get deluded, but I’d say Dead man’s chest is an exception to the rule. Here things become harder, more complex, more violent.
Underneath exciting action sequences with well used special effects, you can see the good and the bad sentiments compete on each character, often exchanging roles. Life is tough and often we have to pick our poison, the least bad among all bad choices, even if this means we have to do horrible things and become bad as well. Nobody would whip his son, but what if that’s the only way to avoid someone else do it with even more violence?
But hey, this not a drama, this is an action movie where each scene is a new surprise, with fantastic characters, cannibal tribes, fishmen, the horrible kraken monster, the flying dutch and dozens more shocks. It’s so fast you can hardly breathe.
You basically feel the same atmosphere that Stevenson can create in his books (there are even clear quotations), but amplified by spectacular images. Johnny Depp is so great he alone could fill the 150 minutes, but Orlando Bloom and Keira Knigthley are good as well.
The biggest defect: this movie is just a bridge to the third episode (At worlds end), and you will leave the theater disappointed by the huge suspense they put you in.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead man’s chest
USA 2006, by Gore Verbinski, Action
with Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley
Althougth not very known, Henri Abelé is one of the best champagne houses in Reims, France. This champagne, made with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, has a beautiful golden color, with hints green, and a great perlage. You can feel elegant scents of flowers and crisp, and a dry pleasant taste, particularly appropriate as aperitif.
I had a chance to taste it in Reims, chez Lousie, a greate crêperie in the city centre. Champagne and crêpes work very well together.
Unfortunately, finding this bottle in Italy is quite hard.
Former Italian Welfare Minister Roberto Maroni joyfully declared he illegally downloads copyrighted music from the Internet. Of course this shaked the parliament and the music industry. Several Members of Parliament declared music should be sold at lower prices and taxation. A few of them even admitted they download illegally as well. It’s ironic our severe legislation against p2p has been approved by the former government, the same where Maroni was Minister, but then again…
I think it was quite some time this topic needed a serious discussion. There are sovereign states where privately exchanging copyrighted material without profit is considered legal (fair use) and legislations (e.g. in US) where copyright is just an temporary monopoly granted by the State for the sake of the public good, not a human right. I agree we need to remunerate artists to guarantee healthy culture production environment, but in the Internet era do we still need the music industry? For the sake of our society, don’t we have any better way of producing culture and entertainment?
Recently I’ve had the possibility to buy music directly from the artist (Mayday) and paid just €5 for a good quality CD (btw: thanks guys, your music is great!). How come an independent artist can produce a few hundreds CDs and sell them at €5 while record labels produce same quality in zillion of pieces (at much lower costs) and sell it at €20? Do they waste most of that money in advertising? Or do they make unreasonable margins?
Anyway the most interesting comment came from Bobo Craxy, son of former prime minister Bettino. He said downloading music from the Internet is stealing. Well, his family certainly knows what qualifies as stealing and what not.
Eastern of Amsterdam used to be the Zuiderzee, a shallow inlet of the North Sea, like a gigantic bay 50 Km wide and 100 Km long. This used to be a danger for The Netherlands and in fact flooded several time in the past centuries. After the last flood in 1916, the Dutch decided to build a huge dike and close the Zuiderzee. In 1932 thirty kilometers of dike running through the water were completed, closing off the North Sea and forming the IJsselmeer lake, that then turned into fresh water. During the 20th century wide chunks of IJsselmeer were transformed in polders and reclaimed to the sea, transformed in land. Moreover the IJsselmeer has been split by an additional dike, forming the Markermeer.
There is a popular saying that God created the world but the Dutch created the Netherlands, and when you traverse IJsselmeer on the dike and drive through Flevoland you really understand what this means. Reclaiming land from the sea, fighting to keep water out of the land, is an impressive endevour and makes you think about the never ending challenge between mankind and the forces of nature. There, where land, water and sky merge in a total whole, you finally feel that Planet Earth is a very big place to live.
While driving you can see people a lot of cyclers (by the way: even dikes and roads lost in the middle of nowhere have at least one lane reserved to bicycles), birds, gigantic wind power farms, fisher villages, windmills. Did you know windmills are pumps? They were used to pump water out of the polders and pushing to the sea, to reclaim land. Weren’t for the strong constant wind flowing in this place, bug chunks of Netherland would be under water. This in another impressive engineering achievement, especially if you think they began to use windmills six centuries ago. Of course nowadays they use electrical pumps.
This is one of the most famous movies by Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki and dates back to 1997, but I had the chance to watch a it just a few days ago. The plot is complex and deep, depicting an ancient world covered with forests where spirits and gods live, guarded by huge beasts. In their quest to progress, humans destroy forests to reclaim land use and extract iron to build shotguns, ending up in cruel fights with animals. There’s an ecological message underneath, but this movies is far from a good-bad simplification.
Violence and war pervade both humans and animals, and both are selfish and willing to exclude others, including members of their race. When somebody gets infected by the anger there’s no escape to damnation and they are condemned to slow and suffering death. Even the most wise of the animals, just can’t escape his violent fate and becomes a raging and unreasonable daemon when hit.
There’s no hero and no simply bad character in this story. Can’t we just live together? Maybe not, surely hard, the movie seems to suggest. In all this tension, even love struggles to emerge.
Princess Mononoke (Mononoke-hime)
Japan 1997, by Hayao Miyazaki, Animation
When you tell your friends you’ve been to Amsterdam they immediately start jokes about hemp and prostitutes in the red light district. It is unfortunate this city built up such a bad reputation, because actually there are better reasons to visit it. Nowadays the red light district is more a tourist attraction than a dangerous place. At night you can see families walk there with babies and strollers, as well as crowds of Japanese elders following the guide with the flag in her hand while looking at the ladies behind windows. You immediately lose any lust or transgression will.
Amsterdam is built on canals, not so different than Venice, except that bridges in Amsterdam have no staircases and houses always have a little street between the canal and their facade. This allows Amsterdammers to easily move on a bicycle. The whole city has been developed as a series of concentric semicircular canals. While Manhattan is a Cartesian city (you identify places by street, avenue pairs, that actually work the same as x,y coordinates), Amsterdam uses a polar system (ρ,θ). You know, I’m a geek so be patient Put in easier words you have to think in terms of which angle you have to rotate around the Dam, and how far you are from there. By the way, New York used to be a Dutch colony and was called New Amsterdam, before being sold to the English. And moreover Harlem and Brooklyn both inherited their name from cities in The Netherlands.