Friday, December 18, 2009

The climate of hate

Here my personal comments to the attack to Berlusconi happened during a public speach in Milan.

Double language

This blog was born in double language. But after years i came to the conclusion that there is not a real interest in it. So, from now on, in the English version i will put only the title and a short description for each post. If anybody is interested i will link the Italian version. Please anybody feel free to ask me, any translation.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Where the hell is that wooden stairway?


Buco del Piombo
October 11th, 2009
We leave the dogs at home and head out for nice excursion. We found some informations on the net to reach the "scala di legno" [wooden stairway] from Capanna Mara (a refuge), but we decide to hike the path backwards. We park the car at Albavilla, next to a strange building, the "Alpe del vicerè". This building was built infact by the vicerè [the viceroy], as a rest station for his horses. The building then was transformed to a hotel and now it is just a ruin falling apart. Here there is a huge parking lot, closed by a barrier (it looks like when it is open there is a fee to pay). Anyway, there is enough space at the side of the white road.
From here the path starts on a carriage road downhill, in the chestnut forest. A lot of people hike this path, maybe for the easiness of the hike, and for the attractive of the destination. The path, infact, ends up at a rocky stairway with 200 steps that takes you to the Buco del Piombo museum. It is a cave where they provide guided visits. To enter you have to pay five euros, but our destination is another. We ask the

View of the path coming from Erba
directions to the guide, who is waiting at the ticket shop, for the path to go to the Scala di Legno and Scala di Ferro [iron stairway]. They are connections between two paths at different altitude. I already was imagining myself with shaking legs due to my dislike to extreme heights, although the guide reassures us about its safety. After the stairways there should be a terrific view of the "Orrido di Caino".

Following the directions of the guide, we go back on our steps and take from the main carriage road a detour that takes us to a stone bridge ("ponte Romano"). Over here the path divides in three directions. The first one, just before the bridge, looks like going back to the Alpe del Vicerè, along an alternative path. We see coming from a second path some people that tell us they are coming from the city of Erba. Next to the bridge there is a trail marker pointing to a third path, but unfortunately it doesn't indicate any "Scala di Legno". We follow anyway this alternative, but after a while, coasting the river, the path arrives to a dead end just after a ford.
A little disappointed we decide to go back, with the intention to try again another time, maybe following better the directions from the web.
Round trip:
  • Time: 3:47
  • Distance: 17.1km [10.63mi]
  • Difference of level: 666m [2185']
  • Altitude: between 442m [1450'] and 864m [2835']
  • GPS track of the excursion.
    A: Alpe del Vicerè; B: Buco del Piombo; C: ponte 'Romano'; D: ford
    Statistics of all the excursions during year 2009:
  • Total time: 30:20
  • Distance: 118.39km [73.56mi]
  • Difference of level: 6188m [20302']
  • Minimum altitude: 343m [1125']
  • Maximum altitude: 1550m [5085']
  • Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    The Wizard Language and the haphazard words

    The Wizard Language and the haphazard words

    Once upon a time there was a planet called Earth. Its name was so, although to tell the truth, there was more sea than earth.
    The inhabitants of the Earth, in fact, used the words in an odd way. For example, consider the fishes. When they all swim together they call it school. But fishes don't go to school like kids. Wouldn't it be more logical to call it swimming-team?
    Also the important things were often very confusing. They always spoke about "rights": the right of education, for example, meant that all the children could (and should!) go to school.
    The right of health, then, should have meant that everybody, hurt, or sick, should have had the possibility to go to the hospital.
    But who lived in a country without any school, or that, because of the war, could not leave home, or who didn't have enough money to pay the hospital (and this, in the poor countries, is more a rule than an exception), these rights were actually some lefts: they didn't worth a flying fig.
    Since they were not true for everybody but only for who could afford it, those things were not rights: they become privileges, or special benefits reserved to few people...
    Some times, even, the powerful of the Earth used to call "peace operation" the one that, in reality, was an operation of war: they used to say exactly the opposite of what they actually meant.
    And then, on the Earth, there wasn't agreement between men about the meanings anymore: for some people wealth meant having ten thousand billion, for others it meant having at least one potato to eat.
    What a mess! So much confusion that one day the Wizard Language could not stand it anymore.
    Language was a very powerful wizard, that a long time ago had invented the words and had given them to man.
    At first there had been some confusion because people did not know how to use them, and if one said artichoke, the other thought of a kangaroo, and if one said spaghetti the other meant gorilla, and at the restaurant they did never understand each other.
    Then the Wizard Language stuck to every word a precise meaning, so that the words always meant the same thing, and for everybody.
    Then the artichoke has always been a vegetable and the gorilla a furry animal, and there was no more the risk to find for a mistake a big furry animal in the dish, with its large head covered with tomato sauce.
    This job to give a precise meaning to words, had cost a lot of effort to the Wizard Language.
    Now, seeing that men did not care about his work, and that they continued to use the words haphazardly, he decided to teach them a lesson.
    "Words are important - he liked to say - if you change the words you also change the world, and then you do not understand anything anymore."
    One night, therefore, he started to mess things up a little, moving a syllable here, one there, combining vowels and consonants, making anagrams with nouns. In the morning, in fact, nobody could understand each other anymore.
    To all of the hotels in a big town he attached the letter B to the rooms, which became brooms. The people lodging in those hotels woke up the next morning, and instead of laying in their beds, they were riding brooms like a bunch of witches.
    He changed the c of car with an f, and it became far, and who was looking for his car he could find it only very far away.
    To the cakes, instead, he changed the c to l, and they became all... lakes, so that the kids couldn't eat them anymore. And they were not good to be thrown in somebody's face either.
    In the schools he had fun, at the time of the roll call, to make an anagram with the word present, and if before a student was present now he was serpent, and the teacher ran away terrified.
    Then satisfied a personal whim: he completely removed the word war, which he invented by accident, and didn't like it.
    So a great leader of the Earth, which at that time was about to declare war, had to stop in mid-sentence, and they didn't do anything about it.
    He had also turned the cannons into cannolos, Sicilian cannolos, of course, and who was fighting found himself all covered with ricotta cheese and candied fruit.
    This went on for several days, with dishes that became fishes and swam away, bricks that became cricks and buildings start complaining for the pain, rice that became mice and the cat wanted to chase them.
    What a mess! Too much confusion and the men could not stand it anymore.
    Then they sent a delegation to ask him to reset the words, and with them the world.
    "All right - said Language - but only on one condition: that you begin to use the words with their correct meaning.
    The rights of men must be for all men, really all of them, otherwise just call
    them privileges. Equality must mean that everyone is truly equal, and not that someone is more equal than someone else. And about the war...".
    "About the war - interrupted the men - we've thought... you keep it, it's a word we can do without."

    Cecilia Strada

    English translation of mine, with help by Rowena.

    Cecilia Strada is the daughter of Gino Strada and Teresa Sarti, founders of the organization Emergency that has the main task of giving medical assistance in the countries mangled by wars.
    You can find the original story, in Italian, over here. As you can imagine the translation was a difficult task, because the puns cannot be literally given in English. I hope Cecilia doesn't mind if i had to make significant changes to try to preserve the general meaning.

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    Primaries of PD

    This coming sunday there will be the primaries for the election of PD's leader. I will vote for Ignazio Marino, for the reasons i described some times ago in this post.
    I share all the points listed by Artemisia on on her blog.

    Good election day to everybody.

    Saturday, October 10, 2009

    Two!


    10/10/2007

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    Take that, Berlusconi!


    I stole this photo from my friend Silvano's blog.
    The rejection of the law "lodo Alfano" [the judical immunity for the four highest offices of State - Berlusconi included], deserves deep and complex political discussion.
    In the mean time this panda bear, endangered animal just like endangered is democracy in Italy, enjoys a good fart in spite of Berlusconi.

    Friday, September 25, 2009

    Valle d'Aosta and the cow


    Teteun
    The cow is almost a symbol of the mountain region Valle d'Aosta. Over there, in fact, cow breeding is a good business, and bovine products are particularily valuable. Cow milk, cheeses, bovine meat are very good.
    In that region we tasted for the first time a particular product obtained by bovine udder: the "Teteun" [pronounced teh-TEHN, where the 'eh' sounds like the vowels in the english word "bird" or the french "beuf" or the german "Köln"].
    During the past August holidays we attended a festival of that product in the little town of Gignod, "la Fëta di Teteun" and we ate it in three different recipes: plain boiled, stewed with tomato sauce and sliced thin as a cooked ham. I expected to taste something tough. Instead the meat is very tender, a little spongey, very similar to cooked ham. As it often happens with Italian traditional cooking, this kind of food was originated by the need not to waste any edible part of the animal.


    Bataille des Reines
    Speaking of cows, we also attended to another traditional event. The "Batailles de Reines" [the battles of the queens]. As the host of our bed and breakfast explained to us, the cows of a herd, lacking a dominant bull, naturally fight each other to establish a hierarchy, at the top of which there is the Queen. Those fight usually are symbolic and don't involve any blood. They terminate when one of the two contenders submits to the other, escaping from the push of her head.
    The "Batailles de Reines" event is the fights between queens of different herds and they are organized like a knockout competition. We went to one of the preliminary where about 100 cows of different producers were divided in pairs. Three fights taking place contemporarily in a big rounded space. A lot of spectators were intensely involved. The strange thing was the language spoken by the speaker: the local dialect, which sounds like a mixture of italian and french. Obviously the show is played for the locals.
    Unfortunately we couldn't attend to the final match that was going to be fought October 11th in Aosta. We were told that this annual appointment is usually a big event that is faithfully attended to by Aosta citizens.

    More informations about these events on Rubbah Slippahs in Italy, here and here.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    San Marco - Valcava


    View
    This excursion was quite obvious to find - for us. In fact it is enough to go out from the house and start walking uphill.
    To reach the small village of Valcava at the top of the mountain, you can walk on the asphalted road, but this way is not that beautiful in the weekends because it is invaded by hordes of Milanesi cars.
    There are several other hiking paths that reach the same destination, cutting across the hairpin bends or ascending next to them.

    The first time we tried (August 17th), after a long time without any exercise, we and the dogs decided to turn back half way, tired for the lack of exercise and for the heat of the day. We walked on the paved road and it was easy enough, apart from the last kilometer where the slope is very steep (18%).

    After a couple of weeks (September 5), back from the holidays, we tried the second part, parking the car exactly at the end of the previous time. This time we tried to avoid the paved road, in fact we found a nice hiking trail. This part was much more interesting, walking in the fields and the woods and

    Stone wash-tub
    checking out some views impossible to see driving a car. At a certain point, we found a crossing connecting some different paths where there is a stone wash-tub still in use.
    At the top of this excursion we arrived to Valcava village, without reconnecting to the main road.

    Last sunday (September 13) we tried the whole distance. To climb the mountain we walked exactly the same paths of both the previous excursions. To return back we tried to stay on the hiking trail. If the middle section is really steep on the road, it is even more on the path, and that, actually, is the only hard part of the whole excursion.
    Unfortunately during the descent the battery of my GPS died. That's why we took a lot of time to notice that at a certain point we took the wrong way. The detour was about a couple of kilometers, but fortunately it was enough flat.

    First hike
    Outward:
  • Time: 1:03
  • Distance: 3.95km [2.45mi]
  • Difference of level: 285m [935'] (302m [991'] uphill and 17m [56'] downhill)
  • Altitude: between 681m [2234'] and 1008m [3307']
  • Backward (on the same path)
  • Time: 1:01

  • Second hike
    Outward:
  • Time: 0:52
  • Distance: 2.73km [1.7mi]
  • Difference of level: 256m [840'] (266m [873'] uphill and 10m [33'] downhill)
  • Altitude: between 1000m [3281'] and 1266m [4154']
  • Backward (on the same path)
  • Time: 0:42

  • Third hike
    Outward:
  • Time: 1:59
  • Distance: 7.14km [4.44mi]
  • Difference of level: 585m [1919'] (612m [2008'] uphill and 27m [89'] downhill)
  • Altitude: between 681m [2234'] and 1266m [4154']
  • Backward (on the alternative path, about the same length and altitude)
  • Time: 2:00
  • GPS track of the excursions.
    A: start at San Marco; B: stone wash-tub; Z: end at Valcava
    In red the first excursion, in green the second. In blue the shortcuts on the hiking paths we made during the descent of the third excursion. In yellow the unwanted detour (the yellow and blue tracks were not recorded by the GPS but built on GoogleMap)
    Cumulative statistics from the beginning of this year
  • Total time: 26:33
  • Distance: 101.29km [62.94mi]
  • Difference of level: 5522m [18117']
  • Minimum altitude: 343m [1125']
  • Maximum altitude: 1550m [5085']
  • Friday, September 11, 2009

    Why to vote for Ignazio Marino at the primary elections of Partito Democratico

    I consider myself "leftish" from since when i was old enough to understand, but i am also very critical towards the Partito Democratico since its foundation a few years ago.
    My aversion to PD is in its roots. Its founding fathers, through Veltroni's "Corro da solo" ["i run by myself" - a tactic in which he refused any alliance with other minor parties], have managed to build a big party plundering the votes of the Left. They did it riding an electoral system considered by everyone a terribly unjust thing (so much that its creator Roberto Calderoli himself named it "Porcellum" ["pig thing"]). And they took advantage of the "voto utile" ["useful vote"], that is, the leftists realization of the need to stem the fascist tendency towards which the country was already going. The leftists, therefore, preferred to address the strength of their votes to PD instead of wasting them on a minor party. In fact, votes to parties that obtained less than 4%, for the perverse mechanism of the "Porcellum", ended up enforcing the most voted party (the Berlusconi's and his fascist mates' one).
    To tell the truth, for PD, the use of this perverted mechanism would neither be such a bad thing if, other than taking advantage of the votes of those electors, it would also take in charge the task to represent their values.
    But no. PD did never assume the responsability to give a voice to the values of the Left. To most people, like me, PD became more like a big set of seats that allowed a soft support to the fat butts of who was already well seated in the parties that originated it. PD has never taken any firm position against Berlusconi's extra-power, just when the Country really needed it and waited till now, in the guilty incapability of giving any alternative to Berlusconi's fascism.

    So, it's clear for everyone that the old leadership doesn't represent the Left anymore, and for this reason, even without considering the reasonable suspicion of collusion with the "enemy", it should resign allowing new entries to take their place. But it looks like for those old leaders it is more important to preserve their warm ass on the soft throne than the good for Italians.

    Ignazio Marino
    In the beloved American democracy, anyway, they do exactly that: respectful goodbyes to the losers. Personally, i liked Al Gore a lot. He lost by a few votes in some elections which results were suspicious. But if he didnt give up America wouldn't ever had Obama - and i doubt that Gore, in his pants, running as a loser, would ever been able to win against McCain.

    Ignazio Marino is running for the leadership of PD. I'm not comparing him to Barack Obama here, but it is clear that, while Franceschini and Bersani [the other candidates of PD leadership] have already clearly lost against Berlusconi (which suggests that they will loose again), Marino is the New Way. And this statement is valid without even giving a look to his program.
    Reading the program one will be astonished by the strength of his positions, an absolute novelty in the context of PD, even before evaluating the contents, which, incidentally, looks to me reasonable and agreeable for anyone naming himself "leftist".

    In fact, the Italian media, totally subservient to Berlusconi, publicizes the PD primary elections as a duel between Franceschini and Bersani, giving no visibility to Marino. Obviously because Berlusconi would prefer an opponent who agrees not to contradict him, in exchange for a peaceful coexistence in the puppet theater.

    In short, I believe that the staunch Democrats should support Marino, hoping that upon winning the primary elections, he will be able to defeat Berlusconi at the Political Elections, where the rest of the leadership of PD always failed in the past.
    Those like me who flow into PD for the "useful vote", should prefer Marino in the hope that finally some conditions will be created to reconcile the values of the whole Left in one only political force. In this way PD could represent their values, the very same values that the old leadership had failed.
    I would also say that the supporters of Italia del Valori [another political party, allied to PD] should like Marino leading PD. This party, in fact, can hardly aspire to govern Italy alone or to find allies other than PD. And it is certainly better to relate to a force that has clear goals rather than a rabble of selfish people like Berlusconi's flunkies.

    Dario Franceschini and
    Pier Luigi Bersani
    Obviously, the leadership of the Right would prefer a "subservient" opposition as the one leaded by Franceschini or Bersani: the weakness of the opposition goes hand in hand with the strength of the majority.
    But if I were an elector of the Right, I think i would prefer a minority but viable opposition, which tends to make the Good for the citizens, although with different methods. And pressing the Right to always do the best for the Italians (after all this is the proper task of the opposition, isn't it?).

    In short, shouldn't it be in the interest of any voter to have loyal and honest opponents?
    At the end I think that Marino, as leader of the new PD, would be good for all Italians, except for some politicians and any kind of corrupted persons.

    My contribution to this will be to vote for him at the primary elections October the 25th. Also non-members are allowed to vote, at a cost of 2 euros as a contribution for the expenses.
    The mechanism for the election of the Secretary, however, is rather complicated. Here are the rules.
    What I understand is that voting is permitted to any Italian citizen, EU or with a valid residence permit. But it looks like these elections are decisive only if one candidate obtains more than 50% of the votes, a result that is not realistic for Marino. Otherwise, the secretary shall be chosen among most voted via secret ballot restricted to the National Assembly. So Marino will likely lose, in which case I think PD will have to manage without my vote.

    But a relative majority or even a good success of Marino may be a sign of change and an indication of the will of the electorate - that this time, the usual dinosaurs can not ignore.

    I believe that the corrupt and fascist regime in which Italy is falling into is primarily a serious responsibility of the Left, which was unable or unwilling to offer a decent alternative. I think Ignazio Marino is an opportunity to fix the problem.

    Wednesday, September 9, 2009

    Daniele Bonfanti: L'Eterno Sogno

    At first sight it looks like a good book.
    Minimalist cover, i would say. All black, with an irregular patterned gradient in the lower half and, in gray, the title "L'eterno Sogno" at the top, written with a simple font.
    On the side there is the title, again, with the name of the author, Daniele Bonfanti as well as the logo of the editor Lulu.
    On the back the white square with the barcode clashes a little, but it's not that bad. As it often happens some notes describe the author and the story, and it looks like those notes are written by the author himself, and not, as it usually is, quoted from reviews.
    And what a self-congratulation!
    The first note, in italic, pretends to be a reply in the context of an interview:
    "Qualcuno dice che il fantasy e' 'letteratura di serie B'... Credo che Omero si stia rivoltando nella tomba." ["Somebody says that Fantasy is 'second-rate literature'... i believe that it would be enough to turn Homer in his grave."]
    If with the word "fantasy" we mean a genre whose characters are elves, dwarves and similar, i think i have never heard anyone dare to define... say... Tolkien's trilogy as "second-rate literature". It would be like reducing The Betrothed (Manzoni novel) to a romantic novelette, or the Divine Comedy to Don Camillo's homily [Don Camillo is a funny character of a popular italian comic show in the 60s, playing the role of a priest].
    Maybe Bonfanti refers to some detractors of a "lighter" literary current.
    I don't know if it makes big sense to throw things like L'Eterno Sogno, Lord of the Rings, brothers Grimm's tales, the saga of Shrek, the Smurfs and the Odyssey in the same literary boat, but of course, all these works tell of fantasy characters (therefore they are Fantasy Literature?!?), and I think this is just a little pretentious.

    Okay... one cannot judge a book from the back cover! Especially after my positive earlier judgement of the front and side.

    One of the "reader's rights" established by Daniel Pennac ["Comme un roman" (1992), published in English as "The Rights of the Reader"] speaks of the freedom to stop reading a book at any time.
    I don't like anyway to take advantage of this right. To tell the truth, there are some books i quit reading well before the end. For example, I gave up with "Thus Spake Zarathustra" by Nietzsche in the preface, or, with "Kant and the Platypus" by Eco, I was not able to overcome chapter 1. But in these and other similar cases, I beat a retreat admitting my incapability (or recognizing excess of pride when i started reading). Those books were too difficult for me, and their understanding would have required more energy than I could spend, without being sure to be able to go on.
    It has never happened, instead, to leave a book because i didn't like it.
    In fact, if i am passionate about a book, there is no reason to stop. Even if I do not like it, there is always the curiosity, or at least a hope, that reading it would eventually become more interesting further on.

    This one is a book that i didn't like, but i continued till the end, hoping to find something worthy in all of it.
    In vain.

    Language is heavy, style is boring, even the vocabulary is limited and fastidious. It's surprising to note, for example, the massive and unjustified use of the verbs "emergere" and "riemergere" ["to emerge" and "to emerge again"] (also considering that they end up in water in only one episode three or four pages long!). In Daniele Bonfanti's world, the characters emerge from the grass, from the sleep, from the battle, from the cave. Elves' ears emerge from their hair and the Moon emerges from the mountains!
    The characters are described only approximately, and you feel this lack of knowing them fully until the end of the book. For example, I couldn't imagine the protagonist dragon much different than Hanna-Barbera's Wally Gator. Which, actually, in a dramatic context like the story of this book, it comes out totally inconsistent. Especially when he flirts with the all-tender pussicat with her beautiful green eyes.
    And what about the story! An amount of adventures unrelated to each other, absolutely without any metaphoric meaning and useless for the developement of the main plot. It looks like their role is just to give some action.

    The heroes of the novel are four dragons, two elves, two kennins (a sort of cat), a dwarf, a lerlet (a biped horned reptile) and a... mmmh... a hooded guy. During their trip on the Via, following the blow of the Western Wind, they massacre a bounch of bogolids and goblins (evil and disgusting creatures). At the end they arrive to the Gray Town, where they form an alliance with other bogolids and goblins in order to fight against elves and dwarves who, surprisingly, form the army of the bad magician. Inverted parts, then. Why? No idea!
    Everything is resolved by the final duel between the dragon Xaas and the magician. Among spells and charms, this last cannot cope with the brutal strength and he dies in the most concrete way: decapitated by a bite with an ax in his chest. I wonder if atleast this fact does have a symbolism that I can not understand!

    At the end the dragon manages to close the magic door, from which the Element of Water could come out flooding the world. But he doesn't destroy it, as he was supposed to. Which suggests the future publication of a second part of the story.
    Aenasyan forbid!

    Here is a sample from the book, where Bonfanti honors us with his fastfood-style theology.
    Characters: the elf Aelorn; the girl-kennin Aina; the dragons Dhrek, Xaas and Kab; the dwarf Ghrun.
    (...)
    Aelorn chiese a Aina: "Ma come un solo dio? Io credo che quello che tu chiami Leone di Fiamma potrebbe essere il vostro Spirito Guida. Ma non puo' essere che esista soltanto il vostro, e' assurdo."
    Aina sorrise. "Forse quello che tu chiami Aenasyan e quello che io chiamo Leone di Fiamma sono la stessa cosa, che si mostra con volti diversi."
    Aelorn riflette'. "Potrebbe essere come dici. Ma gli altri Spiriti? Ce ne sono centinaia, quanti sono i fiumi e le montagne e le foreste."
    Aina scosse la testa. "Noi crediamo che soltanto il dio Sole sia il creatore, e che abbia schiere di demoni a proteggere la sua creazione."
    Aelorn annui', ragionando febbrilmente. "Forse questi 'demoni' sono gli Spiriti..."
    Dherk chiese, visibilmente incuriosito, rivolto a Aina: "Da quanto dici, questo 'Leone di Fiamma' puo' fare quello che gli pare. E' cosi'?"
    "Tutto cio' che vuole, e cioe' cio' che e' bene e cio' che e' giusto."
    Xaas scosse la testa. "E perche' non lo fa?"
    "Cosa intendi?"
    "Ti sembra 'bene' tutto questo?"
    "Forse vuole metterci alla prova."
    "Complimenti. Bel dio buono. Si diverte a metterci alla prova e per farlo ha proprio bisogno di far morire Kab e Ghrun. Per vedere cosa?"
    "Chi puo' dirlo... Lui e' talmente grande che il suo volere per noi e' incomprensibile, a volte..."
    "E allora, se non lo capisci, come fai a dire che e' buono, giusto, e tutte quelle cose?"
    Aina non ebbe esitazioni. "Per fede."
    "Fede? Uno la fiducia dovrebbe meritarsela. Non do fiducia a uno che fa morire i miei amici per mettermi alla prova. Comunque il tuo ragionamento non ha senso. Dici che questo dio vuole il bene. Ma il bene di chi?"
    "Di tutti."
    "Ma non ha nessun senso. Cio' che e' bene per me sara' il male per un altro. Per noi e' bene uccidere il mago, ma certamente lui non e' d'accordo. Non trovi?"
    "Ma c'e' un bene assoluto. E un giusto assoluto."
    "E chi le stabilirebbe queste belle cose?"
    "Il dio Sole, naturalmente"
    "Naturalmente. Allora che le stabilisca per se'. Io preferisco scegliere da solo, senza che mi dicano cosa devo fare, e cosa non devo fare."
    (...)

    (...)
    Aelorn asked Aina: "How come one only god? I believe that who you call Lion of Flame could be your Spirit Guide. But it cannot be that it exists only yours. It's absurd."
    Aina smiled. "Maybe what you call Aenasyan and what I call the Lion of Flame are the same thing, which shows itself with different faces."
    Aelorn thought. "It could be like that. But what about the other Spirits? There are hundreds of them, as many as rivers and mountains and forests."
    Aina shook her head. "We believe that only the god Sun is the creator, and He has legions of demons to protect his creation."
    Aelorn nodded, thinking feverishly. "Perhaps these 'demons' are the Spirits..."
    Dherk, clearly intrigued, addresses Aina: "From what you say, this 'Lion of Flame' can do what he wants, right?"
    "Whatever he wants, which is what is good and what is right."
    Xaas shook his head. "So why doesn't He do it?"
    "What do you mean?"
    "Do you think it's 'good' all this?"
    "Maybe he wants to test us."
    "Congratulations. What a good god. He enjoys himself testing us and, to do that, he really needs to let Kab and Ghrun die. To see what?"
    "Who can say... He is so great that his will is not understandable to us, sometimes..."
    "So, if you don't understand, how can you say he is good, right and all those things?"
    Aina had no hesitations. "For faith"
    "Faith? One has to deserve trust. I don't trust somebody that let my friends die to test me. Anyway your argument doesn't make any sense. You say that this god wants the good. But whose good?"
    "Everybody's"
    "But it doesn't make any sense. What is good for me would be the evil for somebody else. For us good is to kill the magician, but for sure he doesn't agree. Don't you think?"
    "But there is an absolute good. And an absolute just."
    "And who is the one that decide these nice things?"
    "The god Sun, of course"
    "Of course. So, let him decide for himself. I prefer to choose by myself, without others tell me what i have to do, and what i don't have to do."
    (...)

    English translation of mine.
    To be honest, i don't very much like to speak badly about what i don't enjoy. I much prefer to say good about the things i do like.
    But in this case, really, irritation for having wasted my precious time is enough to induce me to reconsider my personal interpretation of the rights of the reader. The hope that a book would eventually become more interesting is not a good reason to continue reading.

    Monday, September 7, 2009

    La Clusaz


    View from the path
    The Via Francigena is a route marked by the pilgrims from all over Europe in the heroic enterprise of reaching Rome all the way from Canterbury in England.
    Once crossed into France, to overcome the Alps, the path forks. A variant reaches the current Piedmont, Val Susa precisely, the Montgenèvre pass beyond. The high road instead, via Switzerland, reaches the Valle d'Aosta crossing over the pass of the Great St. Bernard. From here, after declining further downstream, it climbs up back to run along the highway, heading to Aosta.
    The Via Francigena can be reached by parking the car on the highway.


    Mr.B e Maddie and me
    We joined it on a path leading from the parking lot of the restaurant La Clusaz, in the homonymous village of Gignod. After a short climb we reach the Via. A stream runs alongside and refreshes the excursion. The walk is flat and without any difficulty, parallel to the highway. At a certain point you cross a paved road on a hairpin bend.

    From here the excursion deviates slightly from the path of highway and goes into the countryside, in the forest and cultivated fields. We then reached a bridge over a stream next to a shrine. Getting closer back to the highway we met another paved road. Here we decided to turn back, also not to overstress Maddie, on her first excursion after the operation of the crossed ligament.

    The path is really very easy and covering it gives a sense of peace, in lush woods beside the little brook.

    Outward:
  • Time: 1:16
  • Distance: 7.63km [4.74mi]
  • Difference of level: 28m [92'] (335m [1099'] uphill e 307m [1007'] downhill)
  • Altitude: between 1184m [3885'] and 1301m [4268']
  • Backward (on the same path)
  • Time: 1:09
  • GPS track of the excursion.
    A: start; B: bridge and shrine; Z: end
    Cumulative statistics from the beginning of this year:
  • Total time: 18:56
  • Distance: 73.65km [45.76mi]
  • Difference of level: 4288m [14068']
  • Minimum altitude: 343m [1125']
  • Maximum altitude: 1550m [5085']
  • Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    Teresa Sarti


    (thanks to devex for the photo)
    Teresa Sarti passed away.

    She was in the "top-ten" of a list that i wanted to write on this blog.
    A list of silent heroes, whose passage in the world digs a track. A deep one, although just whispered in the general noise of that circus which is our society.

    The quiet echo of her life will never die.
    Teresa Sarti is still in the top-ten of my list.

    Teresa founded, in 1994, together with her husband Gino Strada, the association Emergency, and since then she's its president.

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    La Maison du Fromage


    Fontina

    Bleu d'Aoste

    Capriolo

    Grotta
    When one enters in a cheese chop what is the most striking thing is the smell.
    I love cheese, and i will never understand those people that define "stink" as that wonderful aroma from cheese.
    It can be said that from smell, even before sight, one can distinguish a french cheese shop from an italian one. In fact, the french prefer smooth goat cheese, while Italians prefer those hard or half-hard ones made out of sheep or cow milk. In France the fragrance is more sweet and hints more of milk. In Italy a scent of a cellar, mold and hay prevails.

    But here at La Maison du Fromage at La Thuile (Ao) there is a different perfume. Most part of proposed cheeses is locally produced, but they also have something coming from France and other parts of Italy. Also some longer-aged cheeses are displayed. The final result, therefore, is a right mixture of scents from different cultures.

    Obviously Fontina cheese from this area lords over it.
    The fontina cheese i used to know before was the product that usually is commonly sold in stores, and i judged it a cheese a little "banal". Elastic, a little spicy but without a remarkable personality.
    Here at La Maison, instead, they proposed an aged Fontina that didn't look at all like the one i used to know, neither for the color (yellowish to browinsh, with irregular crust covered with dark molds), nor for the texture (half-hard, buttery and not elastic at all), or for the smell (bitter, strong and pungent), and for the taste (direct, bitter and spicy hot, with a note of almonds). After a small taste i was convinced to get a good slice.
    We also bought a slice of Bleu d'Aoste (with wonderful veins of blue molds, consistent, buttery and spicey), and a couple of cheeses that i didn't know: the Grotta (harder and more aged, crumbly, strong taste), and the Capriolo (fresh smooth cheese made out of goat and cow milk, intense and spicey flavor).

    At La Maison there are also other food products. We bought some Arnad lard and some fresh milk. A free white chocolate bar was offered.

    La Maison du Fromage
    via Collomb, 10
    11016 - La Thuile (Ao)

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    Saint Leonard


    Saint Leonard

    La Vieille Cloche
    Here i am, back from a short (only four days!) but intense vacation in the Valle d'Aosta region.

    We lodged at the wonderful Bed and Breakfast La Vieille Cloche, at Saint Leonard, a small outlying neighborhood in the municipality of Saint Rhémy en Bosses.
    The Bnb offers different solutions: we chose the apartment because it also allows the use of a small kitchen although breakfast, in this case, was not included. For the four days the cost was 330€ (80 each night plus 10 for the final cleaning). Dogs allowed. The price doesn't include bed sheets nor bath towels, items that we brought with us, but they are available for rent.
    At Saint Leonard, besides the Bnb, there is a bar (the cappuccino is good but the brioches are the prepacked commercial ones), a post office, a church, the small castle and some private houses. It's a little before the Gran San Bernardo tunnel, just after the fork with the road that climbs up to the pass (border with Switzerland).
    At the highway junction there is also a restaurant-pizzeria, a little supermarket and a prosciutteria [ham shop] (this is the area of the famous jambon de Bosses). The little village and the surrounding country sides are very quiet and silent, despite the nearby highway.
    Saint Rhemy, a little above, along the road of the pass, is a little bigger and typical, and there is the Hotel-Restaurant Suisse, listed on the SlowFood guide, where we lodged (and had dinner!) some years ago.

    During this holiday we have seen some interesting things, which i will write about in the next posts. We also made a wonderful hike, short and easy enough also for Maddie, still recovering from the operation of the crossed ligament.

    Wednesday, August 5, 2009

    Terracing

    In our small home in the chestnut forest there are two little (unfortunately not communicating) gardens, about 35 square meters [377 square feet] each.

    The CAD project
    One is situated in the front of the house, and it is enough level. Most of it is cultivated with grass , flowers and a few fruit trees, but we also planted some vegetables and herbs.
    We grow most of our vegetables in the other garden in the back, which is kind of difficult because since we live in a mountainous area, the ground yields to a steep slope. Therefore we decided to make some works to be able to make better use of it.
    We started to fix this piece of land two years ago, cleaning it from monstrous nettle bushes and other weeds, a thing which revealed also the base of a big chestnut tree still sprouting new branches that we had to cut back.
    Then we built a little path with steps and a hairpin bend that allows easy access to the whole garden. We planted some fruit trees (a pear, fig, cherry and a mediar). In the lower part, limited by a wall with reinforced concrete, we leveled an area, cleaned it from the stones and filled it in with good fertile dirt. Last year, besides this flat area, we planted a lot of tomatoes and other vegetables also on the slopes. That gave us a good harvest, even if, there, the work was kind of difficult. For this reason we decided to build some terraces (this year we built the first). Terraces, besides making work much easier in the garden, helps to prevent landslides caused by heavy rains.


    Me, building the terrace
    Given the success of this first terrace, in the fall i will start to build another one, but a little bigger.

    The original idea, copied by some solutions i saw in other gardens, was to secure one or two tree trunks in the dirt, perpendicularily to the direction of the slope, obtaining a kind of step were a flat amount of dirt could accumulate. The project has then evolved in building a real "wall" made of trunks laid upon each other, about 50cm [1.6'] tall, 2meters [6.6'] large, bordered by two other sides about 1 meter [3.3'] long. The result looks like a big box in wood 2 m2 [21.5 ft2] wide, clinging to the slope, perfectly flat.

    The supporting poles you can see in the photos are four steel pipes 1 meter long, unused material i already had. They stuck out about half a meter from the dirt, so they are buried half a meter. The trunks are sectioned in half. They were obtained from nine pieces two meters long (six for the front part and three, cut in the right sizes, for the sides). Their diameter is 8cm, so the total height is a little less than 50cm. I bought them for 3.50€ each at Leroy Merlin. They were already treated with a chemical protection with a high pressure system, but i preferred to paint them one layer of waterproof paint. The trunks are attached to the poles with some screws. The corners are kept together with some angular metal strap. The total expense was, so, 31.50€ for the wood plus about 10€ for other materials.

    The final result, with some veggies already planted and covered with hail-protection netting.

    Friday, July 31, 2009

    Trattoria Lamarta


    Map of the drive made (click here to enlarge)
    I have a deep enough knowledge of Lake Como, especially, since i live there, on the side of Lecco (the setting of the famous novel by Alessandro Manzoni).
    In my childhood i spent a lot of summers at Lake Maggiore, and so, somehow, i know that too.
    Lake Garda, instead, was still partially unknown. Yes, i had been near to there, i visited some villages in the southern coast like Sirmione, Desenzano, Peschiera. But, although partially in my region, i have never done a thorough visit.
    And so, during the weekend 24th to 26th july, R, myself, Maddie and Mr. Bentley begun to remedy this serious gap with a short holiday at Gargnano.
    Of course, two days is not enough to explore the subject, but enough to have an idea about how to plan a longer holiday, not only at the lake, but also in the surrounding mountains.
    During those days that area was really hot, so, in order to escape from the heat, and also for the curiosity of exploring the surrounding mountains and finding destinations for any interesting hiking paths for future excursions, on saturday evening we decided to drive into an internal road we found on the map.
    We were pleasantly surprised by the truly spectacular scenery on a deserted road (looks so far from the busy tourist destinations of lake Garda!). We drove on hairpin bends rolled around canyons and gorges, coasting also the beautiful little artificial lake Valvestino and crossing it on breathtaking bridges.

    The road reaches Lake Idro. To avoid also the touristic crowd of this last one, we went a little over, at Treviso Bresciano. That day we decided not to have dinner because a few hours earlier we had a very big lunch. But at that late hour in the night we were beginning to feel the need of a snack. Then the talented fingers of R began to thumb through the pages of the SlowFood guide, finding a good restaurant just right there, in the hamlet Vico. Trattoria Lamarta.
    Here we were warmly welcomed, even though they were almost closing (after nine in the evening, there was no longer anybody). We ordered half a liter of red wine and a plate of cured meat of their production, really delicious. Particularly good were their lardo and prosciutto. The latter, then, I was informed that that was not prosciutto, but cured pork rib.
    We chatted for a long time with the nice lady. In particular I was amazed how such a nice restaurant could survive in a place so isolated that it was empty already at nine on Saturday night.
    The lady told us how, after three generations, the restaurant is still run. Nothing much has changed. Meals are all prepared from their own produced ingredients (and if they are all like those cured meats, it's worth another visit!). In particular they grow pigs and vegetables, but they also have other animals. The menu can differ from day to day but goes according to season, with no choice allowed. One can eat what is cooked that day, which in fact depends upon the butchered animals and the harvested seasonal vegetables. The lady suggests to call before if one wants to know what will be served for dinner or lunch.

    We paid 15 euros. Obviously without any receipt. Given the familiar welcome we received from the lady and her kindness keeping open only for us, i didn't feel like demanding it, so it's disappointing to include also this business in my list of tax evaders.

    Trattoria Lamarta
    via Tito Speri, 56
    Localita' Vico
    25070, Treviso Bresciano (BS)
    Small pets welcome only in the porch outside.

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    This blog is against tax dodging

    I am a subordinate employee.
    And so, regarding income taxes, i pay them.
    I have a headache to fill out the modello 730 (the italian tax form) because I want the deductions allowed for having a home loan, and not lose them by having my taxes automatically computed. This operation is not that difficult but, as usual clumsy in bureaucratic stuff, i end up making some errors, that are regularly corrected by the kind girls at the CAAF office (the syndacate section charged to check validity of official documents).
    I swear that any error is absolutely unintentional. It wouldn't make any sense in fact to try to be sneaky: the document to attach as a proof of its accuracy is the CUD (a document issued by the employer), and the numbers written on the two forms must be the same.

    To tell the truth the accuracy of the data written on the 730 is immediately verifiable only for the incomes for subordinate employment. For instance, i could give private lessons of ancient Greek language, arrange small electricity works, canary petsitting, or teach hang gliding, with regular remuneration, and then i could avoid to declare it as an income. But i don't do any of those activities, believe me.

    For sure i don't have the same solidarity feeling as Artemisia, who would like to pay more taxes. Instead i would prefer to pay less. But i am proud to be able to say that i never evade taxes and i am happy to pay till the last penny what is owed, to give my contribution to the community.
    I'd only like that also the other members of the same community do the same.
    First of all for a social reason. Since the social services are financed by the State through tax revenue, tax evasion means that services are not paid enough (and so performed with worse quality) or, otherwise, that the pressure of taxation increases (obviously for non-evaders).
    Moreover, I cannot find a valid reason why, for the same income, whoever is honest will have less money, since he must provide for a part to be paid in taxes.

    Italian tax system doesn't allow subordinate employees to evade taxes, while it makes it easy and lightly punished for self-employers and enterpreneurs, for the simple reason that for this last ones it's more difficult to evaluate the income.
    Which, of course, doesn't mean that subordinate employees are more honest than the self employers. In fact i know some enterpreneurs that pay till the last cent, while a lot of subordinate employees do not evade only because they don't have the opportunity to, which it's far from a moral acquittal.

    The ricevuta fiscale.
    The taxation for a commercial business is computed on the base of the sales proceeds, or, in other words, the sum of the money coming from the sale of the products or services commercialized, in the period of one year.
    The ricevuta fiscale [receipt for fiscal purposes] is an official document that is issued by the business that contains the total amount paid by the customer, the detail of all the products or services bought, the particulars of the business itself along with a progressive number and the date that unequivocally identify that receipt.
    It is double-copied and written (by hand or automatically, in the form of a scontrino fiscale, by the registratore di cassa [a particular calculator/printer]). One copy is given to the customer and the other is kept by the dealer. The set of all the ricevute fiscali issued in one year is so a good enough documentation for computing the sales proceeds.

    The most obvious way to evade the taxes, so, is not to issue the receipt at all, after a sale.

    I don't believe that the customer should play the role of the inspector. But the receipt, that is a proof of the purchase, is the warranty that the taxes due for that good are paid, and it is a right of the consumer to control that it actually happens.
    It's obvious that when a dealer does not give the receipt, in that moment he is evading his taxes. And that is a crime.
    After a sale, it's normal that a dealer actually gives the good that was paid by the customer ("I'm not a cheater!"). On the other side, the customer for sure pays the good he bought ("I'm not a thief!"). I cannot understand why they feel it is allowed to pass over the receipt.

    I don't know about you, but so often it happens to me that the shopkeeper "forgets" to issue the receipt.
    Being that i pay my taxes, this "forgetting" irritates me so much, and when it happens, i expressly ask for a receipt. At that point they issue it, some times with an arrogant reaction. Rarely it happened that they kept refusing.
    I believe that, unfortunately, the main part of consumers do not have the same "ball-breaking" nature, and at the end, for each demanded receipt, a lot of others are lost in the guilty oblivion.

    I don't believe that there is a particular category of business to point the finger towards. As Maurice in his post notices, if the statistics say that the restaurants are the most impudent tax evaders, that doesn't mean that one can accuse each restaurateur to evade taxes. For example, the only one time we had dinner at Maurice's, the receipt was regularily issued. To say that the restaurant dealers are dishonest is injust towards the honest ones.

    And it's just for this reason that, in my opinion, the dishonest ones should be identified. As Maurice says, "Tirate fuori i nomi e non sparate a casaccio sul mucchio" ["Quote the names and don't shoot on the mass"]. No sooner said than done. Today i start a new survey on this blog that reports the commercial business that evade the taxes. Or, atleast, that try to, when it's my turn to pay the bill. The list will appear on a proper section in the right column.

    Disclaimer: I'd like to make clear that this report has nothing to do with the quality of the products.

    One has to start from somewhere, and so, incidentally, it happens that the first tax evader of the list is the famous Pasticceria Vassalli, Via S. Carlo 84/86 - 25087 Salò (Brescia). R. and i entered last friday morning in the shop. We had a slice of ricotta pie, a "fruit basket" (almond-chocolate wafer filled with fruit and custard), two shakerati, two glasses of mineral water and a small pack of lemon cookies. The lady (i think she's the owner), using the registratore di cassa as a support to write on the notepad, performed the sum by hand and accepted our payment of the bill with credit card. Only after the transaction, when she was already greeting us, i demanded and obtained the receipt.