Monday, August 29, 2016

Olympics (in)equality...

It's not September yet, and this basically means that we are still able to discuss about sports without being totally focussed on the game that drags most money (yup, that's association football, you can have a look at it here, and add up the four foremost leagues).
Quick recap: we are going to use the same boring index of inequality we have already used in the past (see e.g. here).

Now, for a change, this will be applied to the total number of medals collected by each country at the Summer olympics across the editions. We will start from 1960 (this is for soul-related reasons...), and consider all the participating countries.

And guys, we have something good coming from Rio 2016: it's been more than 50 years since the Gini coefficient was this low. This means that the distribution of medals among participating countries, despite the increasing presence of golden eater empires, has been more, let's say, equal.
If we combine these figures with the fact that the number of countries who participated reached its maximum with Rio 2016 (207), and that the share of the "De Coubertin-ian" countries (i.e. those that do not capture any medal at the Olympics) is at its lowest level since 1980 (less than 58%, in Moscow it was 55%, when, however, the number of participating countries was heavily impacted by boycott), we could speculate that if you participate to the games, it won't be a mirage to get rewarded soon.






Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ma che ci fai con la palla?

Complice la festa dei patroni di Roma, un divertissement di analisi dati sulle partite di Euro 2016 (sì, lo so, è una malattia...).


Allora, il grafico riporta in ascisse il valore economico medio di ogni squadra, mentre sulle ordinate abbiamo il tempo passato da ogni squadra con la palla in possesso in  attacco. Il market value predice questo parametro meglio di altri (numero di tiri in porta, percentuale di possesso, ...).
Ragionevole: chi ha giocatori che valgono di più, tende ad avere la supremazia di gioco. Ora, se calcoliamo la regressione (R2 discreto, ha un senso), avremo un certo numero di squadre che si troveranno al di sopra della retta di regressione, ed altre sotto.
La cosa interessante è che le squadre che si trovano al di sopra hanno, ad oggi, avuto meno successo (fino ad ora) rispetto alle altre: in qualche modo, le squadre che sovra-stimano la capacità di essere dominanti in campo sono state punite. Le altre, in media, hanno avuto più successo. Direbbe il maestro Arrighe, "umilté...".

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Dov'è l'oste?

[AVVERTENZA: questo è un post un po’ con i capelli bianchi, un po’ “ai miei tempi”, e non parla necessariamente di sport; gli ayatollah del nuovismo possono subito passare oltre]

Niente, poi arriva pasquetta, e si cerca un posto dove andare a mangiare: Oltre, Gusto, Dolce, Lievito, Rosti, …
Ecco, mi  sono reso conto solo ora di un cambio impressionante degli ultimi venti anni: i ristoranti non hanno più nomi di persona. Prima c’era Gnegno, Edmondo, Dino e Tony, la Sora Lella. Insomma, un nome  proprio, che ti ricordava che c’era un oste, una persona che apriva la sua cucina agli altri, a cui ti sentivi chissà perché in diritto di dare del tu, che mandavi a quel paese se non t’aveva fatto mangiare bene, e che però ricordavi come un amico noto agli amici per consigliare un posto dove si mangiava bene.
Ora no, ora comanda la sensazione eterea del concept, quasi come se un posto non debba appartenere, ma solo essere sentito, nemmeno toccato. E se ti viene da consigliarlo ad altri, questo diventa quasi impersonale, quasi slegato al vissuto, perfetto per il tripadvisor.
A proposito, tra i primi 600 ristoranti di tripadvisor (ordinati per recensione), il numero di quelli che sono riconducibili al nome di un oste è inferiore ai trenta...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Il Palermo primo in classifica! (se solo le partite finissero al ventiseiesimo…).

Non solo, ma il Milan avrebbe un campionato da champions league piena se il triplice arrivasse al trentesimo. E quanto faticherebbe la Sampdoria, invece, a restare in serie A.
Sì, proprio questo quello che ci troveremmo di fronte, se prendessimo i 90 minuti delle partite, e ne tagliassimo una fetta. Dal fischio iniziale, fino al minuto che vogliamo noi. Attenzione, non si tratta di vedere distribuiti i goal delle singole squadre, ma solo quelli che determinano una variazione della distribuzione dei punti tra le 2 squadre. Cosa cambierebbe?
Be’, al vertice, quasi nulla, perché la Juve mostra di costruire il suo vantaggio con regolarità fino al cinquantesimo, e non molte volte le è stato necessario impegnarsi nella fase finale delle partite (è questa, forse, una inversione di tendenza rispetto alla squadra di Conte, che costruiva punti con più regolarità nella seconda parte di gara).
L’animazione mostra, inoltre, che la Roma è un po’ tardona, e costruisce punti con regolarità lungo la durata degli incontri. E la Lazio sembra prediligere con chiarezza i venti-venticinque minuti a cavallo dell’intervallo, come fa in parte la stessa Sampdoria. Il Sassuolo esplode nel secondo tempo, ma perde molto proprio nel recupero, dilapidando buona parte del tesoretto costruito.
In coda? Be’, il Parma, probabilmente anche a causa delegate questioni societarie, all’inizio del secondo tempo sarebbe già lontana dalla penultima, mentre regge più di un tempo il Cagliari.

Altre curiosità: quale la squadra che più spesso ha visto le proprie partite cambiare segno in schedina? Il Genoa, seguito da Milan e Napoli. Tra le più “noiose” , oltre a Chievo ed Empoli, la Samp e il Toro (alla faccia di presidenti cinematografici, e vecchi cuori…) 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Spain at FIFA 2014: a fruitful collapse

The World Cup is over (did you know that? And Germany were actually able to win Women’s under 20 in Montreal, also), and football is coming back to continental and national leagues - actually, we have already seen Real Madrid crush Sevilla frail hopes in the UEFA Super Cup. So what are the mortal remains of FIFA 2014? As odd as it can be, FIFA 2014 in Brazil was barely able to increase the average market value of player who played there. In order to single out the effect of FIFA 2014, we restricted the analysis to the players who were in the starting eleven of the teams who reached the quarterfinals (Ronaldo, Iniesta, and Balotelli may disagree, but their appearance in FIFA did not significantly change their value). And we got the data that appeared on transfermarkt.com both before (as of june 1) and after (as of august 15) the tournament. We thought that, by considering these 88 players, the average market value would have significantly increased in the considered time span; as a matter of fact, being in the quarterfinals could be considered as a success (except for Brazil, that’s for granted…). And this happened to be true, but only to a certain extent: on average, the increase was around 15% of the value before the tournament. But who benefitted the most at the league (and at the team) level?



Despite the poor performance of Spain, LFP saw the highest value increase among leagues. And the clubs who benefitted the most in the Liga - either because they sold players in the summer time spell, or because they saw their players increase their value - have been Real Madrid and Real Sociedad (the latter basically as a consequence of Griezmann performance), with Barcelona following. Monaco managed to monetise James Rodriguez’s fine production in Brazil.



Interestingly, Premier League did not see their player dramatically change their average value: Hazard and Chelsea’s Oscar and David Luiz changes were contrasted by an evident decrease of Van Persie and Ozil values.

Monday, July 28, 2014

How do football leagues go social…

We had a look at the way the four most popular football leagues in Europe are getting on with social audience. We were not really interested in ranking the most popular teams (and, yes, for those of you who are interested, it is still a clash between Barcelona and Real Madrid giants, with Manchester United as the odd team out). We wanted to have a look at the leagues, to check if there is a strategy behind each league.
To do this, we captured the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers for the first 32 teams of each of the following four countries: Spain, England, Italy, Germany. Why 32? Well, actually, because we used NFL teams as benchmark. Basically, 32 teams for each of the European leagues meant having the whole first tier, and a selection of the second tier, with some teams from the third tier. Twitter and Facebook data were summed (yup, you are right: there is a big difference between following your town foe, and actually liking it on Facebook, and yes, there is multiplicity both across teams and across social platforms, but we hypothesized this wouldn’t bias differences between leagues), and just the “home” twitter account was counted, leaving out the international replicas, based on the ground that people from outside the team’s own country may be both followers of the original twitter account and its translated version.
First, the totals: Spain and England are able to drag as many as around 190 million people worldwide, while Italy lags behind at around as many as its inhabitants, and Germany stops at approximately 43 millions. For comparison, NFL teams are followed by less than 90 millions.
The striking difference between NFL and football leagues in Europe was, instead, on the way these figures were distributed: if we rank the 32 teams in order of the numbers of fans, and consider the cumulative values, relative to the overall audience, as a function of the cumulative number of teams (nothing new, it’s the Lorenz curve overused in economics), the behavior changes dramatically between NFL and Football Leagues in Europe, as the figure below shows. From the Lorenz Curve, a measure of skewness (Gini would have said inequality) can be also calculated.

Lorenz Curve for Facebook + Twitter followers: cumulative share of teams from lowest to highest number of followers (x-axis), and cumulative share of number of followers (y-axis)

While most of the european leagues stood on the "unequal" side of the coefficient (with Spain leading with a Gini coefficient value of 0.82, and all above 0.75), NFL displays a whopping 0.30 (in economics, this would have meant socialism!), which basically highlights the ability of NFL to have each team in the league being followed by a relevant share of the overall audience. And this is reflected also at the social level. Even if the number of fans is not necessarily related to the ability of each team to win a league, We predict that these numbers may end upin  having an effect on the overall equality of a league (and, as a result, on the interest it draws). After all, Vitrue said that one fan is worth around 3 €/year...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

You better run!

Most stats in this FIFA 2014 World Cup focus on shoots, attempts, saves, and fouls, while metrics associated with distance have been somewhat overlooked. While there may be a significant change in the kind of play between the former World Cup champions and the next ones in these terms (remember tiqui-taca?), let’s have a look at what happens to distances covered by the eight teams that reached the final stage of FIFA 2014.
Among all the parameters that can be calculated from match analysis, we chose a metric associated with the amount of “useful” distance covered by a team during a match, and we called it Run dominance:

As it can be seen from the equation, Run dominance is calculated as the fraction between two components:
- at the numerator, you average the distance covered by the team when in ball possession with the distance covered by the opposing team when the latter is defending. This summarizes the ability of each team to move when in possession, and to make the defending team move to oppose the attacks.
- at the denominator, you calculate the average distance covered in total by the two teams: it can be considered as an average measure of intensity in the match, to be used as a normalizing factor between low intensity ones (i.e. with low distances covered) and high intensity ones.
Thus, Run dominance can be seen as a measure of the amount of physical power associated with movement that a team displays during a match. The higher limit of 1 could be reached if the team were always in possession (and in that case, the opponent yields 0). Usually, distance covered in possession, distance covered in non-possession, and distance covered during dead times lie in the range 20-40% of the overall distance, which usually sums at around 200-250 km per match. With these figures, and under the hypothesis that the total distance was equally subdivided between the 3 situations, Run dominance would yield 0.33 for both teams. We collected data to obtain this parameter for the matches of the Round of 16 at FIFA 2014, and this is what we got for the teams that advanced to the round of 8:



By taking a look at the quarterfinal pairings, this metric seemed to predict that both Germany–France and Netherlands–Costarica would be lopsided, with the Teutons and the Dutch being the move-makers. Argentina might have proven similar against Belgium, while Colombia and Brazil were very close in these regards.
Make no mistake, though, dominance does not necessarily equal win in the football stadia (…but it might help ;)). Analysing extensively all the matches played up to now, it looks like Run Dominance is all but a bold predictor of the level of success of the national teams: despite Germany and Argentina ranking at the top of Run dominance, regression power stops at less than 0.1, which basically means that it does not predict scores, not even goals conceded.


However, Run dominance does predict fairly well the number of attempts that a team is able to produce in a game, as it can be seen from the figure below. And this predictor strongly correlates with possession percentage, with which it shares the regression power with the number of attempts per game.

By plotting Run dominance against possession percentage, teams above the line are those teams that are more prone to make the ball run more than the players when in possession, while teams below that line tend to move the ball when in possession. By looking at this latter graph, teams can be ranked according to the overall ability to be in control of the game. Most UEFA countries seem to lie above the regression line, almost regardless of the ability to direct a match, while CONMEBOL countries lie below that line (if we exclude Argentina, which have crossed the bar only after the final match). The other confederations do not a show a common behaviour, even if Australia and United States seem to behave in a similar manner to UEFA countries, as expected, given the presence of european managers.


Thus, with the representation of these two variables - possession percentage and Run dominance - one is able to collect two different measures: the amount of control in the match each team is able to produce (or concede to the other team) based on its position along the regression line, and the quality of this control (i.e., by making the players move when in possess, or making the ball move), captured by the relative distance from that line. This is even clearer in the figure below, where regression residuals are represented against possession percentage (CONMEBOL teams labelled in red, UEFA in green).


Thursday, November 17, 2011

What in god's name gives u the right to say that!

For most of people who are not very into UK politics, Nigel Farage is a populist right-wing euro-skeptic lad who sits in the european parliament. And he is mostly renowned for his frank and not-diplomatic talks in the EU parliament, mainly against the monetary union, and its "unelected fistful of technocrats". In these days in which the new italian PM, Mario Monti, is being sort of sanctified almost unanimously in Italy, this dissonant voice may help put things in perspective, as far as i consider. Obviously, this doesn't mean I agree with him, but it helps looking from another viewpoint...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Google Plus or Google Plaster?

I guess this is going to spark some discussion among the early G+ adopters:
I am under the impression that G+ is just a Facebook knockoff. I mean, I am not talking abut the frills and the technicalities that most of the social geeks have already highlighted ("sharing is easier", "circles are a step ahead", "graphics is sloppier"). And I am not talking about the fact that G+ will strongly benefit by the blend of products Big G has made us accustomed to, and from which it is able to pull user-generated contents: yes, this will make G+ a strong competitor for Facebook, and it may eventually end up in being more popular.
I am talking about the fact that, at now, with less than a hundred hours of use, and with less than 15 friends in my circles, I see that this small sample (including myself) is just using G+ the same way, and for the same reason as it is using Facebook.
Am I wrong? Is it going to be hugely different?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Web 3.0: l'invasione dei droidi? - droids invasion?

Translittered from italian...

When we started using the internet, WH Gates the third, together with its computer geek jedis, told us what was it for: "we shall use it as a repository of information to which having access, (almost) instantly, (almost) free, (almost) effortlessly". In short, a huge body of knowledge that was made available from many sources, and where to get from. We followed their advice, at first with caution, such as toddlers playing with a new toy for the first time, then, once we improved skills, with increasing familiarity, taking possession of the keyboard as the remote control that we have learned to use for ten years. A panel of substantially infinite content, not always reliable, but with the great advantage of having access to when we wanted, and as we wanted. And the feeling of something "interactive", which allowed us to overcome the concept of spectator of something proposed by others. If the TV offered a limited set of contents, through which my knowledge could be "driven" in some way, the PC connected to the Internet (let's call it Web 1.0) gave us the feeling of overcoming this impasse, with the sense that we could somehow work on the contents bouquets available. It was not really so, but so it seemed, given the number of florists we could turn to.
At one point, however, this was is no longer enough: the Web would have been conceptually undervalued, if its function had merely been to allow everyone to gather content from a number of sources. The step forward was the possibility to intervene at the level of the individual user content: generate, share, transmit, modify it at will, as in a group of peers. In short, a process of content democratization from the bottom, and a philosophic shift from the broadcasting of contents, to their management and production. Web 2.0 was born.
Throughout this process, the role of computers has been instrumental in allowing these changes: boxes that collect information, and intelligence and SW that serve users in the process of transfer / exchange / editing of contents. But for these few years of Web 2.0, the plethora of user-generated contents has far exceeded the original content. Plus, these contents are not orphans, but bring with them a set of user-related information that are the result of each of the profiles that all the sources that generate content (i.e. us) has taken good care of characterizing.
What does this mean? It means that this mass of data can train artificial intelligences, can make the boxes that until now have been limited to making service take the initiative, or learn from this wealth of information, to know how we are and propose things that we need. In short, the web is getting filled with SW droids that can think for us, e.g. to predict our desires, and thus to overcome the simple function of servicing. Also: these droids, using this cornucopia of data, can actually "create" new content, making it one of the species that interacts with humans. Is this the future Web 3.0?
So it seems, as Conrad Wolfram predicts. And it is a difference in quality, not quantity, compared to Web 2.0. Is it of concern? Do you fear the HAL 9000 effect?
It seems to me one more chance. Some pico-elements that show this change are under our eyes: just try to look for a "friend" among your Facebook "friends": you type the first letter, and boom, the first that appears in the suggestion list is, with high probably, the very one you are looking for.
Then, you know, the claimed "goodness" or "badness" of an instrument depends only on the use we will make of it ...

The original post in italian

Quando abbiamo cominciato ad utilizzare internet, il vecchio Bill Gates ci ha detto a cosa serviva: lo utilizzavamo come ricettacolo di informazioni alle quali avere accesso (quasi) istantaneamente, (quasi) gratuitamente, (quasi) senza sforzo. Insomma, un grande pozzo di conoscenza che veniva messo a disposizione da tante sorgenti, ed al quale attingere. Lo abbiamo fatto, dapprima con cautela, come i bambini che giocano per la prima volta con una cosa nuova, e la cosa non è affatto banale, poi, mano mano che acquisivamo competenza nell'uso, con sempre maggiore dimestichezza, prendendo possesso della tastiera come del telecomando che abbiamo imparato ad usare a dieci anni. Una pulsantiera sostanzialmente infinita di contenuti, non sempre affidabile, alla quale avere accesso quando volevamo, e come volevamo. E la sensazione di qualcosa di "interattivo", che ci permetteva di superare il concetto di spettatore di qualcosa proposto da altri. Se la TV offriva un insieme di contenuti limitato, e orientava quindi quello che potevo vedere, il PC connesso ad internet del Web 1.0 superava questo impasse, dandomi la sensazione che in qualche modo potessi intervenire sul bouquet a disposizione. Non era davvero così, ma così sembrava, visto il numero di fiorai ai quali potevo accedere. A un certo punto, però, questo non ci è bastato più: il Web era concettualmente sottosfruttato se doveva llmitarsi a permettere a tutti di raccogliere contenuti. Il passo in più era la possibilità di intervenire, a livello del singolo utente sui contenuti: generarli, condividerli, trasmetterli, modificarli a nostro piacimento, in gruppo, tra pari. Insomma, un processo di democratizzazione dal basso dei contenuti, ed un passaggio dal broadcasting of contents, al management degli stessi. Era nato il Web 2.0.
In tutto questo processo, il ruolo dei computer è stato strumentale a permettere questi scambi, scatoloni che raccolgono informazioni, e intelligenze SW che servono gli utenti nel processo di trasferimento/scambio/modifica dei contenuti. Ma in questi pochi anni del Web 2.0, la pletora di user-generated contents ha di molto superato i contenuti originali. Ed inoltre, tali contenuti non sono orfani, ma portano con se' un insieme di informazioni user-related che sono il frutto dei profili che ognuno dei generatori di contenuto (cioè noi) ha avuto tanta cura di caratterizzare.
Cosa vuol dire questo? Vuol dire che questa massa di dati può addestrare intelligenze artificiali, può fare in modo che gli scatoloni che fino ad ora si sono limitati a fare servizio, possano prendere l'iniziativa, ovvero imparare, da tale mole di informazioni, a sapere come siamo fatti, e proporci le cose di cui abbiamo bisogno. Insomma, il web si popola di droidi software in grado di pensare per noi, di predire i nostri desideri, e di superare quindi la semplice funzione di maggiordomo dei contenuti richiesti. Non solo, questi droidi, sulla base di questa cornucopia di dati, possono realmente "generare" nuovi contenuti, diventando una specie che interagisce alla pari con gli umani. E' questo il futuro Web 3.0? Così sembra prevedere Conrad Wolfram. Ed è una differenza di qualità, non di quantità, rispetto al Web 2.0. E' preoccupante? Fa paura l'effetto HAL 9000? A me sembra un'opportunità in più. E di fatto alcuni elementi per vedere questo cambio già nel presente ci sono: fate caso al fatto che, quando cercate un "amico" tra i vostri "amici" di facebook, il primo che vi appare dalla lista dei loro suggerimenti è, con alta probabilità, proprio colui che state cercando. Poi, si sa, la bontà o cattiveria di uno strumento dipende solo dall'uso che se ne fa…

Monday, February 07, 2011

State multiculturalism: failure or future?

I honestly need to say this: when I first heard of this David Cameron's statement on multiculturalism, I just thought that it was something silly from a person who just wanted to set himself apart from the past (the encumbering Blair's past).

But then I realized that there was something deeper going on there, e.g. a political statement on the fact that, by not giving to second generation immigrants (and to 1.5g as well) a model, they wouldn't have a reference whom to confront to (and possibly, to react to). Basically, the youngsters have been swaying between their parents models (that were however unable to keep up with the changes they, in first person, were facing), and the shaking reference of the new country which is basically unwilling of (if not afraid of) providing them with the so-called mainstream model. As a result, they feel themselves right in the middle, and maybe not totally accepted by either side of the shore. I am grossly extrapolating by saying that Cameron predicts that this could possibly end up in feeding terrorism.

Without jumping to these frightening conclusions, I don't know if Cameron's analysis is correct, but I'm under the impression that if we just downplay the sentence "multiculturalism has failed" as a right-wing shortsighted position, we may be underestimating the issues that may need to be faced in the future. Since immigration is now worldwide (I am under the idea that sic stantibus rebus, it is going to be a stationary and multiple sources-multiple sinks phenomenon), I don't think that "it's just a matter of time" to settle things down. I am convinced that an intercultural society, and civilization merge as well, do not breed automatically from multiculturalism, but may need to be driven to be favoured, more than let free. The choice on how to drive this process is now at stake: are we really so sure that sharing the "universal human rights" postulate is enough?


In italiano:
In tutta onestà devo dire questo: quando ho ascoltato per la prima volta questa dichiarazione di Cameron multiculturalismo, ho pensato che fosse qualcosa di sciocco detto da una persona che voleva distaccare la propria immagine dal passato di chi ha rivestito il suo ruolo (il passato ingombrante di Blair).

Ma poi ho capito che c'era qualcosa di più profondo in quello che diceva: una dichiarazione politica sul fatto che, non fornendo un modello agli immigrati di seconda generazione (come a quelli "1.5g"), questi ultimi non avrebbero un riferimento con cui confrontarsi (ed eventualmente, a cui reagirei). Fondamentalmente, questi giovani immigrati stanno oscillando tra il loro modello proposto dai loro genitori (incapaci tuttavia di tenere il passo con i cambiamenti che, in prima persona, stanno affrontando), ed un insicuro riferimento proposto dal modello del paese che li ospita, quest'ultimo di certo non voglioso (se non proprio impaurito dalla possibilità) di fornire il modello di riferimento.
Come risultato, il giovane immigrato di seconda generazione, si sente nel mezzo del guado, e forse non totalmente accettato da nessuna delle due rive. Sto grossolanamente estrapolando, se dico che Cameron predice che questo processo potrebbe portare ad alimentare il terrorismo.

Senza saltare a queste ultime preoccupanti conclusioni, io non so se l'analisi di Cameron è corretta, ma ho l'impressione che derubricare la frase "il multiculturalismo ha fallito" ad una miope posizione destrorsa, potrebbe portare a sottovalutare situazioni che comunque dovranno essere affrontate. Dal momento che l'immigrazione è ormai un fenomeno globale (ho la convinzione che rebus sic stantibus, è un fenomeno stazionario e multisorgente e multidestinazione), non credo che "è solo una questione di tempo" per risolvere le cose . Sono convinto che una società interculturale, ed il mescolamento culturale, non cresce automaticamente dal multiculturalismo, ma può avere bisogno di essere guidato per essere favorito, più che lasciato libero. La scelta su come guidare questo processo è l'argomento all'ordine del giorno:siamo davvero così sicuri che il postulato della semplice condivisione dei "diritti umani universali" sia sufficiente?

Friday, January 08, 2010

La Tirannide dei Vinti


Domenica 3 Gennaio 2010. Alle ore 19:00, come si conviene ad un maniaco dello sport americano nei mesi di autunno ed inverno, mi schiaffo davanti al computer e mi guardo le partite della NFL. Oggi è l'ultima giornata della regular season, e si stabiliscono le (12) squadre che potranno continuare a giocare per guadagnarsi l'anello al Superbowl. Prima della partita, gli occhi sono puntati sui vincitori dello scorso anno, i Pittsburgh Steelers, che quest'anno rischiano seriamente di uscire senza partecipare ai play-off. Nel frattempo, alla televisione seguo un interessante speciale su Rai Storia, in cui si illustrano le vicende delle Brigate Rosse genovesi a fine anni '70, e i tragici attentati che li hanno visti protagonisti, con un occhio di riguardo all'omicidio di Guido Rossa, operaio dell'Italsider, e sindacalista CGIL. Mentre distrattamente seguo l'alternarsi dei risultati dell'NFL (gli Steelers riescono a vincere una faticosissima partita contro i Dolphins, ma questo non impedirà la loro eliminazione dai play-off), a un certo punto, nella ricostruzione dell'omicidio di Guido  Rossa, viene intervistato, come persona testimone dell'epoca, un ex-brigatista, che, davanti ad una bellissima libreria di libri antichi in una casa borghese, afferma che, in fondo, l'omicidio di Rossa, non era voluto, ed era stato una scheggia "impazzita" fuoriuscita dalle BR ad ammazzarlo. Trattengo a stento un moto di rabbia, determinato dalle parole di questo intellettualoide chissà quanto  "pentito", chissà quanto "dissociato", e continuo a seguire lo speciale, peraltro particolarmente interessante. Finito lo speciale, (lo trovate qui, ma la parte sul brigatista sembra essere stata rimossa nella versione online) mi rimetto al computer, per venire a sapere cosa sia successo agli Steelers, ma all'inizio non trovo traccia di informazioni dirette che li riguardino. A quel punto, capisco che gli Steelers non sono passati, lo spazio è tutto per i "vincitori' del momento (i Ravens e i Jets), che strappano il biglietto per un pezzetto di sogno.

Ecco, queste due cose che sono successe, e che forse non hanno alcun elemento in comune, mi fanno però capire la differenza. Gli Stati Uniti sono uno schiacciasassi, e portano in palmo di mano qualunque vincitore, qualunque vittoria, rastrellando ogni brandello di "emotional story" per il vincitore (Lance Armstrong che vince e stravince dopo aver sconfitto il cancro, il soldato Ryan che riesce a ritornare a casa grazie all'eroico sacrificio dei suoi pari), ma sono altrettanto feroci nel dimenticare il vinto, la medaglia d'argento, il "loser" del momento, che ritorna nell'anonimato in un attimo, perché se la storia di un paese la fanno i vincitori, in US la cultura e la società stessa sono forgiate nel nome del winner del caso.
In Italia, invece, la cura dello sconfitto è, credo, immanente nella società. Questo credo sia un elemento importante, segno del progresso di un paese, che apre le braccia a chi non ce l'ha fatta, a chi ha avuto l'opportunità e non l'ha sfruttata, o non l'ha voluta sfruttare. Questa è una cosa che mi rende orgoglioso di essere italiano, e mostra la misura della capacità "inclusiva" di un paese. Però, è anche misura della sua limitatezza, perché stare dalla parte dei vinti non può essere lo "scurdammoce 'o ppassat" di partenopea tradizione. È solo ricordandosi il passato, ricordandosi dove è la ragione e dove il torto, che il vinto può avere uno spazio, senza che la ragione ne possa essere influenzata. In certe situazioni, invece, l'Italia sembra dare la precedenza ai vinti, ai quali è spesso permesso riscrivere la storia con gli occhiali polarizzati della loro esperienza. Si sviluppa, essenzialmente, un criterio criterio del tipo: il vincitore ha già avuto il suo premio, al vinto il diritto della critica storica. Credo che questo, in alcuni casi, sia purtroppo avvenuto, e ha portato ad una sorta di tirannide dei vinti, nella quale la verità è annacquata dall'esperienza del singolo, ed il vinto nasconde la ragione.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Super-mom!


I was getting bored with all those "america's next top model"-ish style tennis players in WTA, and I was on the verge of thinking that, Williams apart, you're not gonna make it into the real big game unless you're being signed for (or run) a fashion company. And I'm happy that mom Kim proved me wrong!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

doesn't need a hand...


Kevin Laue is an impressive center, a hell of a shot blocker, a nice shooter, and he was repeatedly said that he would have made it to the NCAA Division 1, if he had had two hands. in fact, it turned out that he really doesn't need the missing one, apparently he's going to play into Division 1 in the NCAA with the Manhattan Jaspers. Best of luck mate!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Take care, bloody red sock...


Curt Schilling retired, with two rings from the beantown.
Not bad, Curt, not bad...
“Turn out the lights, the party’s over”

I used to wait with bated breath for Don Meredith to start singing that on “Monday Night Football.” Normally, it was sweet music if the Steelers were playing.

If I could get him to sing it again, I would. This party has officially ended. After being blessed to experience 23 years of playing professional baseball in front of the world’s best fans in so many different places, it is with zero regrets that I am making my retirement official.

To say I’ve been blessed would be like calling Refrigerator Perry “a bit overweight.” The things I was allowed to experience, the people I was able to call friends, teammates, mentors, coaches and opponents, the travel, all of it, are far more than anything I ever thought possible in my lifetime.

Four World Series, three World Championships. That there are men with plaques in Cooperstown who never experienced one — and I was able to be on three teams over seven years that won it all — is another “beyond my wildest dreams” set of memories I’ll take with me.

The game always gave me far more than I ever gave it. All of those things, every single one of those memories is enveloped with fan sights and sounds for me. Without the fans, they would still be great memories, but none would be enduring and unforgettable because they infused the energy, rage, passion and “feel” of all of those times. The game was here long before I was, and will be here long after I’m gone. The only thing I hope I did was never put in question my love for the game, or my passion to be counted on when it mattered most. I did everything I could to win every time I was handed the ball.

I am and always will be more grateful than any of you could ever possibly know.

I want to offer two special thank you’s.

To my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for granting me the ability to step between the lines for 23 years and compete against the best players in the world.

To my wife Shonda and my 4 children, Gehrig, Gabriella, Grant and Garrison for sacrificing their lives and allowing baseball to be mine while I played. Without their unquestioned support I would not have been able to do what I did, or enjoy the life, and I am hopefully going to live long enough to repay them as much as a Father and Husband can.

Thank you and God Bless

Curt Schilling, 2009

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Superbowl XLIII





I need to say that my opinion on the match is much biased by my Patriots-leaning POV (Cards were owned by the Pats 47-7 less than a couple of months ago). I honestly think that the Cardinals are very overstated as possible superbowl winners. IMHO, Kurt Werner is no more than a fair QB, having three very good receivers always playing and an always play the ball offense, his stats are just OK for an offensive line like the one he has got. If I had to pick a team for tonight, I would definitely choose the Steelers, the hardly forgotten 70-ish defensive line is still there (even if a little grown older...), and big Ben will be at ease with the cards sacking blitzes...
My call? Steelers 21 - Cards 10.
And for the first time in ages, it's going to be shown n public television in Italy!! (Rai 2, 00:15 CET)

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Digital life goes chubbier...









For several early Jans, we have been used to Jobs and Gates clashing with words in the west, and it was all but an heavyweight fight: then, after Steve Ballmer's Keynote address at CES 09, and Philip Shiller's opening talk at Macworld 2009, it looks like the digital age is putting up weight ;) . I would give just a C+ to Shiller (he would have needed help from the team, but green batteries and tagging faces on iphoto had not been enough...), and a C to Ballmer and his over-sized gang (Windows 7 just tries to mimic functions already implemented in Leopard, and Live Search is trailing on localization features and functions). But, in the end, both looked like a sign of the times: is pervasive computing going to make all of us plumper? Let's just keep on Wiiing, at least... ;)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

...e buonanotte alla digital inclusion...


Fino ad oggi non avevo mai capito per quale motivo gli hot spot in Italia sono cosi' poco distribuiti. In tanti altri paesi, entri in un pub/bar/libreria/cafe', e con ogni probabilita' hai accessso gratuito alla rete con il tuo laptop: l'esercente ti offre l'accesso al servizio gratuitamente, anche perche' sa che con una bella connessione al web, tu rimarrai piu' tempo da lui, e probabilmente ti comprerai un croissant in piu', o un altro cappuccino. In Italia no, e non me ne facevo capace: poi ho letto questo. E', credo, il quarto anno consecutivo, che, per un esercente pubblico, e' d'obbligo
1. registrarsi presso la Questura, ma soprattutto
2. tenere un registro dei dati dei propri clienti o soci che si connettono a internet, ed inoltre,
3. identificazione certa degli utenti della propria rete (tramite carta d'identità o numero di cellulare)

Be', questo mi sembra andare proprio nella direzione opposta alle promesse di superamento del digital divide...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Non arrestarli, ma picchiarli...

Lui è stato Presidente della Repubblica:


Presidente Cossiga, pensa che minacciando l'uso della forza pubblica contro gli studenti Berlusconi abbia esagerato?

«Dipende, se ritiene d'essere il presidente del Consiglio di uno Stato forte, no, ha fatto benissimo. Ma poiché è l'Italia è uno Stato debole, e all'opposizione non c'è il granitito Pci ma l'evanescente Pd, temo che alle parole non seguiranno i fatti e che quindi Berlusconi farà quantomeno una figuraccia».

Quali fatti dovrebbero seguire?

«A questo punto, Maroni dovrebbe fare quel che feci io quand'ero ministro dell'Interno».

Ossia?

«In primo luogo, lasciare perdere gli studenti dei licei, perché pensi a cosa succederebbe se un ragazzino di dodici anni rimanesse ucciso o gravemente ferito...».

Gli universitari, invece?

«Lasciarli fare. Ritirare le forze di polizia dalle strade e dalle università, infiltrare il movimento con agenti provocatori pronti a tutto, e lasciare che per una decina di giorni i manifestanti devastino i negozi, diano fuoco alle macchine e mettano a ferro e fuoco le città».

Dopo di che?

«Dopo di che, forti del consenso popolare, il suono delle sirene delle ambulanze dovrà sovrastare quello delle auto di polizia e carabinieri».

Nel senso che...

«Nel senso che le forze dell'ordine dovrebbero massacrare i manifestanti senza pietà e mandarli tutti in ospedale. Non arrestarli, che tanto poi i magistrati li rimetterebbero subito in libertà, ma picchiarli a sangue e picchiare a sangue anche quei docenti che li fomentano».

Anche i docenti?

«Soprattutto i docenti. Non quelli anziani, certo, ma le maestre ragazzine sì. Si rende conto della gravità di quello che sta succedendo? Ci sono insegnanti che indottrinano i bambini e li portano in piazza: un atteggiamento criminale!».

E lei si rende conto di quel che direbbero in Europa dopo una cura del genere? «In Italia torna il fascismo», direbbero.

«Balle, questa è la ricetta democratica: spegnere la fiamma prima che divampi l'incendio».

Quale incendio?

«Non esagero, credo davvero che il terrorismo tornerà ad insanguinare le strade di questo Paese. E non vorrei che ci si dimenticasse che le Brigate Rosse non sono nate nelle fabbriche ma nelle università. E che gli slogan che usavano li avevano usati prima di loro il Movimento studentesco e la sinistra sindacale».

E' dunque possibile che la storia si ripeta?

«Non è possibile, è probabile. Per questo dico: non dimentichiamo che le Br nacquero perché il fuoco non fu spento per tempo».


Andrea Cangini Francesco Cossiga
Quotidiano nazionale, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

...




Animals don't have a choice.
If they're not happy with their place in the world... too bad.
They have to live the life they've been given.
Humans, on the other hand, don't have to.
We have a choice.
If you don't like your place in the world
you can get off anytime you want.
Suicide. That's right.
You don't like the way your life's going,
you don't like the way you are in the world,
anything around you,
you can check out anytime you like.
Animals aren't allowed that thought
and believe me, if they were, they would use it.
There'd be a lot of dogs and cats, owned by assholes
that live in high-rises, diving out the windows.
Zebras... if they even had remotely that thought
would take a look at themselves and go, "What the F*#K!
Black & white in a green & brown world... this blows.
I'm just gonna jump in the river.... I don't have a thumb to work a gun or hold a knife or even open a jar of pills. I'm just gonna dive into the next lion's mouth. Why even bother?"
Now, monkeys have the opposable thumb so they could kinda do it the exact same way we do. Now, there's a bunch of people that say, "Oh, it's against the law". Well, it's only against the law if you do a crappy job and get caught. Other people say, "Oh, we should save them". Yeah, well you know what? Not everybody wants to be saved. Not everybody should be saved. And who are we to force our will upon them? I mean, isn't that one of the joys about being a human? Freedom of choice? Now, it's not all bad. Now, I'm not saying "Kill yourself". But if you're gonna be an idiot and do it anyway, it's no sweat off of my back. There's a lot of good that could come from it. A little bit of bad thrown in. Some of the things: A job will open... An apartment will become available... There'll be more air for me... They say there's two girls for every guy - if you're a man, there'll be four chicks for me... There'll be more Ketel One vodka for me... There'll be one less idiot in line at the bank who gets up to the window without their F*#King slips filled out... I won't ever have to go to the store to buy my favorite Salt & Vinegar Chips and have the clerk point at you and say, "They bought the last bag".... You won't help change the McDonald's sign to a Hundred Billion Served... You'll never get AIDS... You won't have to worry about calories ever... No more, "Hey, does this make me look fat?"... There'll be one less polluting human...You won't have to recycle... There'll be one less car on the road... There'll be more Ring Dings for me... Fifty or so chickens' lives will be spared... Your fingers won't ever get red from eating pistachios... You won't be forced to visit your Grandparents on Sundays anymore... No more church... You'll be saying, "Hey, World - Kiss My Ass!"... No more wet dreams about Supermodels... No more Barry Manilow... For a few years anyway... Wondering "Am I a loser?" will be a thing of the past... Say good-bye to crappy Xmas presents from Aunts and Uncles... You won't have to suffer through a Motley Crue reunion... F*#K flossing and brushing... You'll never lose sleep over a pregnancy scare... Adios, Acne... Worrying whether you fit in or not won't be on your brain... See ya later, homework... You'll never have to sit through another movie brought to you by the creators of South Park... Schools out forever.... No more paying bills... You won't have to do chores... You won't be able to run over toads with the lawnmower though... You'll also miss McDonald's French Fries... Bugs Bunny... The amazing electrifying feeling that surges through your body when you kiss someone for the first time...
You won't be able to watch the letterbox director's cut of Jaws... Candy... Living above ground... Pudding crust... You'll miss the rush of getting your first apartment... Getting to the point in your life where you can tell your parents to "F*#K Off! I gotta make my own mistakes....you did"... You'll miss sex - you'll miss thinking about it, looking for it, sex by yourself, sex with a partner, sex with multiple partners... No more summer nights that seem to go on forever... Roller coasters.... Naming your kid the name you always wanted... Making a difference in the world... You'll miss the experience and pleasure of Hallucinogenics... Watching your neighbor's wife change clothes with her blinds open... A lifetime of masturbating... Watching your favorite team sweep the series... Music... You will definitely miss music... Trying to sneak into your house drunk - three hours past your curfew... You'll miss the blaze and glory of the 4th of July fireworks... The taste of Captain Crunch... If you're a boy, you'll miss the feeling the first time you reach up a girl's shirt... If you're a girl, the feeling the first time you reach down a boy's pants... You'll miss your favorite coat... Waffles with whipped cream and strawberries... Beating your friends at video games... You won't be around to see what shape and color the new marshmallow in Lucky Charms will be... You'll miss the feeling you get when reminiscing about your first love - thirty years after the fact... The joy of giving and receiving at Christmas... Skinny dipping... Getting stoned, reading Green Eggs & Ham, and eating like a horse that got loose in the grain bin... Flying cars... Hey, you were born - Finish what was started.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Friday, October 03, 2008

VP hopefuls clash (not so much...)

Sarah's been better than I mis-predicted, but Joe is (despite his artificially raised Spock-styled eyebrows)too experienced for her rally style way of debating...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Joe, enjoyed the ride?


For the millions of voters getting to know him, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, portrays himself at times as an average guy who takes the train to work, frets about money and basically has led a middle-class life.

“Ladies and gentlemen, your kitchen table is like mine,” Mr. Biden said when Senator Barack Obama introduced him as his running mate. “You sit there at night after you put the kids to bed and you talk, you talk about what you need. You talk about how much you are worried about being able to pay the bills.”

Mr. Biden certainly can trace his roots to the working-class neighborhoods of Scranton, Pa., and Claymont, Del., where he was raised. But these days, his kitchen table can be found in a 6,800-square-foot custom-built colonial-style house on four lakefront acres, a property worth close to $3 million.

Although he is among the least wealthy members of the millionaires club that is the United States Senate — he and his wife, Jill, a college professor, earn about $250,000 a year — Mr. Biden maintains a lifestyle that is more comfortable than the impression he may have given on the campaign trail. A review of his finances found that when it comes to some of his largest expenses, like the purchase and upkeep of his home and his use of Amtrak trains to get around, he has benefited from resources and relationships not available to average Americans.

As a secure incumbent who has rarely faced serious competition during 35 years in the Senate, Mr. Biden has been able to dip into his campaign treasury to spend thousands of dollars on home landscaping and some of his Amtrak travel between Wilmington, Del., where he lives, and Washington. And the acquisition of his waterfront property a decade ago involved wealthy businessmen and campaign supporters, some of them bankers with an interest in legislation before the Senate, who bought his old house for top dollar, sold him four acres at cost and lent him $500,000 to build his new home.

There is nothing to suggest Mr. Biden bent any rules in the sale, purchase and financing of his homes. Rather, he appears to have benefited at times from the simple fact of who he is: a United States senator, not just “Amtrak Joe,” the train-riding everyman that the Obama-Biden campaign has deployed to rally middle-class voters.

“He was a V.I.P., so he was treated accordingly by the bank,” said Ronald Tennant, a former loan officer who handled the mortgages Mr. Biden used to build his house. The bank did not give him a below-market interest rate, a perk that has caused embarrassment for some other members of Congress. But, Mr. Tennant said, “We paid particularly close attention to make sure everything came out right.”

Mr. Biden’s campaign said that he neither received special treatment nor offered any to the people he has dealt with in real estate and banking, and that he had not left a misleading impression of his wealth with voters. The senator, said David Wade, his spokesman, “has never forgotten where he came from, or how he grew up, and those middle-class values motivate his work for the middle class.”

“He appreciates,” Mr. Wade continued, “that with his income as a senator he has been blessed to live comfortably, provide for his family, send his kids to college, and have the home his family dreamed of.”

As for the payments by Mr. Biden’s campaign committee, Citizens for Biden, his aides insisted they were not used to cover the senator’s living expenses, which would be illegal. Election lawyers said that the law does not spell out all the ways an officeholder could benefit personally from the use of campaign money, and that regulators are generally reluctant to challenge the justifications campaign committees use.

Mr. Biden’s campaign said the payments to tree trimmers and lawn services, typically totaling a few thousand dollars a year, were permissible because they were tied to political events at his home. Jim Whittaker, co-owner of Grass Roots Inc., which was paid $4,345 in 2000, said the payment probably represented several visits to the senator’s property, adding that Mr. Biden was “late paying the bill one time.”

“We cut the grass and put sod down for him, did spring cleanups, mulching and knocked down vegetation,” Mr. Whittaker said. “One time we did a mulching job and he was having an event, but I don’t know if it was political or just for friends.”

Beyond landscaping costs, one of the Biden campaign’s largest regular expenditures is for Amtrak tickets for the senator and his aides or consultants. Going back to 2001, those expenses typically ranged from $9,000 to $15,000 a year — far exceeding that of his colleagues in Delaware’s Congressional delegation, whose campaigns spent between $500 and $3,000, federal election records show. Like Mr. Biden, Delaware’s other senator, Thomas R. Carper, and Representative Michael N. Castle commute daily to Washington, their offices said.

Commuting on the train to and from Washington is an expensive proposition, $84 round trip from Wilmington or $1,062 for a monthly pass, although Amtrak offers a little-known discount for federal employees traveling on business. Senators cannot use their office travel allowance for commuting, according to a spokesman for the Senate Rules Committee.

But Mr. Biden’s aides acknowledged he sometimes uses campaign money to pay for trips if they “involved a meeting or event related to his campaign.” They could not explain why his campaign’s Amtrak expenditures are relatively high, other than to point out that they would include travel by his staff and consultants, as do those of other politicians.

The Biden campaign’s Amtrak expenses have remained high even in years without elections, when he was not actively campaigning and his committee retained a handful of part-time staff members and almost no consultants. In 2003, for instance — after he had just easily won re-election to another six-year term — his committee spent $10,874 on Amtrak tickets; that same year, the campaigns of Senator Carper and Representative Castle spent $1,257 and $589, respectively.

Mr. Biden’s Amtrak travel is the stuff of Washington lore. He started making the 90-minute trips each day to be with his young sons after his first wife died in 1972, and he has continued ever since. On the stump, Mr. Biden cites his commute as a way to connect with voters; last month he brought reporters along to chronicle a ride.

At least by Senate standards, Mr. Biden does not have to try too hard to underscore his relative lack of wealth. He has long shouldered a heavy debt load; he obtained or refinanced mortgages 29 times since he was elected in 1972, and currently owes $730,000 on two mortgages on his home. In addition, he has had several personal loans, including one for up to $50,000 secured by the cash value of six life insurance policies.

Mr. Biden supplements his $165,000 Senate salary with a stipend from teaching a college course. His biggest boost came a few years ago, when he collected $225,000 in advances for his best-selling memoir. The Bidens have several checking accounts with less than $15,000 each, and Jill Biden’s retirement fund with between $15,000 to $50,000, according to their tax returns and Mr. Biden’s Senate financial disclosure reports. The couple reported virtually no investment income last year, and their largest asset by far was their home.

Mr. Biden previously lived for 21 years in a 10,000-square-foot former DuPont mansion in Greenville, which he bought in 1975 for $185,000 after learning it was slated for demolition.

After extensive renovations, he sold it in February 1996, through word of mouth, to John R. Cochran III, the vice chairman of MBNA, one of the nation’s largest credit card companies. He agreed to pay Mr. Biden’s full asking price, $1.2 million. MBNA reimbursed Mr. Cochran for a loss he took on the sale of his old home, according to a 1997 securities filing, which said the company requested that he move to Delaware from Maryland.

Mr. Cochran, who still lives at the house, could not be reached for comment.

The real estate deal was just one facet of a close relationship between Mr. Biden and MBNA, which donated more than $200,000 to his campaigns. The Delaware-based company gave a job to Mr. Biden’s son Hunter; flew Senator Biden and his wife to the Maine coast, where Mr. Biden spoke at a company retreat; and its former chief executive, Charles M. Cawley, donated at least $22,500 to a nonprofit breast cancer fund started by Jill Biden.

MBNA also was an aggressive advocate of bankruptcy reform legislation before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Mr. Biden was a senior member and its former chairman. The legislation would make it harder for consumers to escape credit card debts.

Mr. Wade said there was nothing improper in Mr. Biden’s dealings with Mr. Cochran. He said the sale price was supported by an appraisal for the same amount, and that Mr. Biden never did MBNA any favors in the Senate.

In acquiring a site for his new house, Mr. Biden bought the lakeside parcel in Wilmington in March 1996 from Keith D. Stoltz, a real estate executive who once lived adjacent to the property and sold it to the senator for $350,000, the same price he paid for it five years earlier. In an e-mail message, Mr. Stoltz said the price was reasonable because the real estate market was soft and he had paid a premium for the lot so he could keep it undeveloped.

“Joe initially offered me $300,000 for the lot and I declined his offer,” he said.

Mr. Stoltz and several of his relatives have since given a total of about $33,000 in campaign donations to Mr. Biden over the years. He said the senator has never done anything “either formally or informally” to help his company.

To build his house, Mr. Biden turned to Beneficial National Bank. Its executives were active in state politics in Delaware, major campaign contributors to both parties nationally and advocates of changes to bankruptcy policy.

Not long before Mr. Biden obtained his construction loan from Beneficial in July 1997, he had offered to nominate the bank’s chairman, James H. Gilliam Jr., for a federal judge’s post in Delaware, according to news accounts of Mr. Gilliam’s death in 2003. Mr. Gilliam, a lawyer who also headed a state judiciary nomination panel and donated to Mr. Biden’s campaigns, declined the offer and recommended someone else, whom Mr. Biden nominated in June 1997.

Mr. Biden’s campaign said that his dealings with Mr. Gilliam had nothing to do with the $634,000 in loans he received from Beneficial, adding that Mr. Biden had other reasons to consider Mr. Gilliam, who would have been Delaware’s first African-American federal judge.

Mr. Biden, who said in his book that he designed his house “from the ground up,” saw it finished it time to move in for Christmas 1998, although the work of maintaining it never seemed complete. Recounting how he was once interrupted by a presidential phone call while he was outside watering newly planted cypress trees, he lamented that “even after a few years on the property, there was still landscaping to be done.”

McIntire and Kovaleski

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The first debate

There's just a big winner here, and his name's Jim "muppet's eyes" Lehrer!
Enjoy these 97 mins...

...the odd couple: a terrifying prospect?

Forget Joe Biden. I'd like to see John McCain debate Sarah Palin.

McCain's scorn for Barack Obama was on unrestrained display in Friday night's debate. How dare this impudent whippersnapper imagine he can be president, you could almost see McCain thinking. I'm the one who's racked up the frequent-flier miles to Waziristan! Henry Kissinger and I were BFFs when Obama was glued to "The Brady Bunch"! Listening to McCain debate was like a stroll down foreign policy memory lane: Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko. George Shultz, "our great secretary of state." Perestroika. SDI.

Those were the days, my friend. We thought the Cold War would never end.

"Back in 1983, when I was a brand-new United States congressman. . .," McCain reminisced. And, "I supported Nunn-Lugar back in the early 1990s." By the time McCain described how the Pakistan-Afghanistan border "has not been governed since the days of Alexander the Great," you were half-expecting that he was going to tell you about how he led the congressional delegation that met with Alexander.

All this looking back doesn't strike me as a politically smart tactic -- or is that strategy? McCain risked coming off as the crotchety uncle who insists on telling you the same war stories -- over and over, no matter how off-point they are. No voter looking into the financial abyss believes the most pressing budgetary problem is $3 million to study bear DNA.
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And for McCain to open the debate by noting that Ted Kennedy was in the hospital -- a gracious touch, certainly, but reminding the audience about an ailing senior senator is not the optimal move for a 72-year-old cancer survivor seeking the presidency.

Which brings me to Palin, and my continuing -- no, make that deepening -- mystification over McCain's choice. I can understand how he views Obama as untested and unprepared.

I can't square that dismissive attitude with McCain's selection of Palin.

McCain's fundamental argument in pursuit of the presidency is that he has the background to do the job. He made this point again and again Friday night. "I've been involved, as I mentioned to you before, in virtually every major national security challenge we've faced in the last 20-some years. There are some advantages to experience, and knowledge, and judgment." Or, "The important thing is I visited Afghanistan and I traveled to Waziristan and I traveled to these places and I know what our security requirements are."

And so therefore I picked a running mate who didn't have a passport two years ago? Asked about that by Katie Couric, Palin explained that "I'm not one of those who maybe come from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduated college and their parents get them a passport and a backpack and say, 'Go off and travel the world.' "

Instead, Palin said, "the way that I have understood the world is through education, through books, through mediums that have provided me a lot of perspective on the world."

This would be more reassuring if Palin had demonstrated more evidence of having read extensively about history or world affairs. Asked in an interview for PBS's Charlie Rose show last year ( http://www.charlierose.com/guests/sarah-palin) about her favorite authors, Palin cited C.S. Lewis -- "very, very deep" -- and Dr. George Sheehan, a now-deceased writer for Runner's World magazine whose columns Palin still keeps on hand.

"Very inspiring and very motivating," she said. "He was an athlete and I think so much of what you learn in athletics about competition and healthy living that he was really able to encapsulate, has stayed with me all these years."

Also, she got a Garfield desk calendar for Christmas 1987 that made a big impression.

McCain is a voracious reader of history. The day before the New Hampshire primary, I sat on his campaign bus listening to him hold forth about William Manchester on Douglas MacArthur.

And in his most recent book, "Hard Call," McCain explains why knowledge of history matters: "Great statesmen who have been praised for their ability to see around the corner of history knew their history before they looked beyond it, and they understood the forces that drove it in one direction or another." If there is evidence that Palin has that understanding, it is yet to emerge. Peering around the corner of history with Palin as vice president is a terrifying prospect.

Ruth Marcus

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Franco Sensi (1926 - 2008)


Shed no tears, Roma, just the feebles do...

(Dino Viola, 1984)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Rome, still my town? :(



It's been now around four months since Rome mayor elections were held, when Alemanno chimed in after an upset victory against Rutelli. My confidence on his ability to propose new ways to serve for the local administration was not low, but I think I need to change my mind, since he's just sticking with a personal version of the old (and IMHO not that good for Rome, right now) Giuliani's recipe of fixing broken windows:

?? No bivouacking on the streets ??

??? The army at the subway station ???

???? No 3-or-more people gathering in the parks ????

This will be quite scary, if it is enforced...
Come on, Gianni, do you really need anchors and pickets to climb Rome?
And a little reminder for those ones who are going to visit Rome: just keep walking, pretend you don't know each other, and if you happen to get drowsy, remember, espressos are everywhere... ;)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Flag bearers...


Lopez Lomong will carry the US flag at Beijing Olympics. Not too bad for a Sudanese guy who used to walk more than five miles a day out of his refugee camp in Kenya just to see the Sydney Olympics on a B/W screen. Good call from the USOC guys, and a (not so) little reminder to China about the Sudan conflict...








And Homa Hosseini will be the flag carrier for Iran, whose politics is usually blamed for its chauvinism. This is another good one!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wonders, in one text message: #3


Forse
davvero
ci piace, sì ci piace di più
oltrepassare in volo, in volo più in là.
Meglio del perdersi in fondo all'immobile,
meglio del sentirsi forti nel labile.

(Godano, 1994)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Small talks, (spin doctors,) big men?



C: You should be on the beach,you need a break. Well, you need to be able to keep your head together.
O: You’ve got to refresh yourself.
C: Do you have a break at all?
O: I have not,I am going to take a week in August. But I agree with you that somebody, somebody who had worked in the White House who — not Clinton himself, but somebody who had been close to the process – said that, should we be successful, that actually the most important thing you need to do is to have big chunks of time during the day when all you’re doing is thinking. And the biggest mistake that a lot of these folks make is just feeling as if you have to be.
C: These guys just chalk your diary up.
O: Right, in 15 minute increments …
C: We call it the dentist’s waiting room, you have to scrap that because you’ve got to have time.
O: And, well, and you start making mistakes or you lose the big picture. Or you lose a sense of, I think you lose a feel...
C: Your feeling, and that is exactly what politics is all about. The judgment you bring to make decisions.
O: That’s exactly right, and the truth is that we’ve got a bunch of smart people, I think, who know ten times more than we do about the specifics of the topics. And so if what you’re trying to do is micromanage and solve everything then you end up being a dilettante but you have to have enough knowledge to make good judgments about the choices that are presented to you.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Beijing wonders

These stadia are really terrific, chapeau!
Is it gross to say that the second looks like an ashtray more than a bird's nest? ;)
Seriously, I have a crush on both of them...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

are the cheetahs full? may be or may be not yet...


Oscar Pistorius didn't make it for the Olympics. He just fell short of the standard qualifying time of 45.55. He literally tried and did his best (46.26), but it wasn't enough for his cheetahs to climb a spot for Beijing.
That's ok, mr blade runner, I will be waiting for you in London 2012!

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Giovanna, volata via...

CALIPSO Odisseo, non c'è nulla di molto diverso. Anche tu come me vuoi fermarti su un'isola. Hai veduto e patito ogni cosa. Io forse un giorno ti dirò quel che ho patito. Tutti e due siamo stanchi di un grosso destino. Perché continuare? Che t'importa che l'isola non sia quella che cercavi? Qui mai nulla succede. C'è un po' di terra e un orizzonte. Qui puoi vivere sempre.
ODISSEO Una vita immortale.
CALIPSO Immortale è chi accetta l'istante. Chi non conosce più un domani. Ma se ti piace la parola, dilla. Tu sei davvero a questo punto?
ODISSEO Io credevo immortale chi non teme la morte.
CALIPSO Chi non spera di vivere. Certo, quasi lo sei. Hai patito molto anche tu. Ma perché questa smania di tornartene a casa? Sei ancora inquieto. Perché i discorsi che da solo vai facendo tra gli scogli?
ODISSEO Se domani io partissi tu saresti infelice?
CALIPSO Vuoi saper troppo, caro. Diciamo che sono immortale. Ma se tu non rinunci ai tuoi ricordi e ai sogni, se non deponi la smania e non accetti l'orizzonte, non uscirai da quel destino che conosci.
ODISSEO Si tratta sempre di accettare un orizzonte. E ottenere che cosa ?
CALIPSO Ma posare la testa e tacere, Odisseo. Ti sei mai chiesto perché anche noi cerchiamo il sonno? Ti sei mai chiesto dove vanno i vecchi dèi che il mondo ignora? perché sprofondano nel tempo, come le pietre nella terra, loro che pure sono eterni? E chi son io, chi è Calipso?
ODISSEO Ti ho chiesto se tu sei felice.
CALIPSO Non è questo, Odisseo. L 'aria, anche l'aria di quest'isola deserta, che adesso vibra solamente dei rimbombi del mare e di stridi d'uccelli, è troppo vuota. In questo vuoto non c'è nulla da rimpiangere, bada. Ma non senti anche tu certi giorni un silenzio, un arresto, che è come la traccia di un'antica tensione e presenza scomparse?
ODISSEO Dunque anche tu parli agli scogli?
CALIPSO E’ un silenzio, ti dico. Una cosa remota e quasi morta. Quello che è stato e non sarà mai più. Nel vecchio mondo degli dèi quando un mio gesto era destino. Ebbi nomi paurosi, Odisseo. La terra e il mare mi obbedivano. Poi mi stancai; passò del tempo, non mi volli piu muovere. Qualcuna di noi resiste ai nuovi dèi; lasciai che i nomi sprofondassero nel tempo; tutto mutò e rimase uguale; non valeva la pena di contendere ai nuovi il destino. Ormai sapevo il mio orizzonte e perché i vecchi non avevano conteso con noialtri.
ODISSEO Ma non eri immortale?
CALIPSO E lo sono, Odisseo. Di morire non spero. E non spero di vivere. Accetto l'istante. Voi mortali vi attende qualcosa di simile, la vecchiezza e il rimpianto. Perché non vuoi posare il capo come me, su quest'isola?
ODISSEO Lo farei, se credessi che sei rassegnata. Ma anche tu che sei stata signora di tutte le cose, hai bisogno di me, di un mortale, per aiutarti a sopportare.
CALIPSO È un reciproco bene, Odisseo. Non c'è vero silenzio se non condiviso.
ODISSEO Non ti basta che sono con te quest'oggi?
CALIPSO Non sei con me, Odisseo. Tu non accetti l'orizzonte di quest'isola. E non sfuggi al rimpianto.
ODISSEO Quel che rimpiango è parte viva di me stesso come di te il tuo silenzio. Che cosa è mutato per te da quel giorno che terra e mare ti obbedivano? Hai sentito ch'eri sola e ch'eri stanca e scordato i tuoi nomi. Nulla ti è stato tolto. Quel che sei l'hai voluto.
CALIPSO Quello che sono è quasi nulla, caro. Quasi mortale, quasi un'ombra come te. È un lungo sonno cominciato chi sa quando e tu sei giunto in questo sonno come un sogno. Temo l'alba, il risveglio; se tu vai via, è il risveglio.
ODISSEO Sei tu, la signora, che parli?
CALIPSO Temo il risveglio, come tu temi la morte. Ecco, prima ero morta, ora lo so. Non restava di me su quest'isola che la voce del mare e del vento. Oh non era un patire. Dormivo. Ma da quando sei giunto hai portato un'altr'isola in te.
ODISSEO Da troppo tempo la cerco. Tu non sai quel che sia avvistare una terra e socchiudere gli occhi ogni volta per illudersi. Io non posso accettare e tacere.
CALIPSO Eppure, Odisseo, voi uomini dite che ritrovare quel che si è perduto è sempre un male. Il passato non torna. Nulla regge all'andare del tempo. Tu che hai visto l'Oceano, i mostri e l'Eliso, potrai ancora riconoscere le case, le tue case?
ODISSEO Tu stessa hai detto che porto l'isola in me.
CALIPSO Oh mutata, perduta, un silenzio. L 'eco di un mare tra gli scogli o un po' di fumo. Con te nessuno potrà condividerla. Le case saranno come il viso di un vecchio. Le tue parole avranno un senso altro dal loro. Sarai piu solo che nel mare.
ODISSEO Saprò almeno che devo fermarmi.
CALIPSO Non vale la pena, Odisseo. Chi non si ferma adesso, subito, non si ferma mai piu. Quello che fai, lo farai sempre. Devi rompere una volta il destino, devi uscire di strada, e lasciarti affondare nel tempo...
ODISSEO Non sono immortale.
CALIPSO Lo sarai, se mi ascolti. Che cos'è vita eterna se non questo accettare l'istante.che viene e l'istante che va? L 'ebbrezza, il piacere, la morte non hanno altro scopo. Cos'è stato finora il tuo errare inquieto?
ODISSEO Se lo sapessi avrei già smesso. Ma tu dimentichi qualcosa.
CALIPSO Dimmi.
ODISSEO Quello che cerco l'ho nel cuore, come te.

Pavese, 1946

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Wonders, in one text message: #2

Tirami una rete e non lasciarmi andare che non
so dove sto.

Non farmi cadere che c'è molto di più, c'è di
più, fossi in te rischierei.
(Di Giacomo, 1992)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wonders, in one text message: #1

Morire come le allodole assetate
sul miraggio

O come la quaglia
passato il mare
nei primi cespugli
perché di volare
non ha più voglia

Ma non vivere di lamento
come un cardellino accecato

Giuseppe Ungaretti - 1917

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What a goof...



According to the Olympic committee in Beijing, and to the official guide they have prepared, people suffering from disabilities are "isolated, unsocial, and introspective. They can be stubborn and controlling, ...defensive and have a strong sense of inferiority".
Mmmmhhhh, mister Liu Qi, think carefully, who's going to be isolated, maybe defensive, and for sure suffering from a sense of inferiority in the next few days?
Superb one ;), Mr Qi...

Monday, May 26, 2008

Six, seven, eight...

Alright mates...
I think I can't stash this... ;)




Won't you help my soul to grow?
To heal, its all that I know...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fourth estates: just close to a breath-taking sea view...




I am not a Sardinia resident, so I do not honestly know how Renato Soru is behaving as a Governor of that region, within a centre-left coalition. I personally think he's a very good manager, he's the owner of Tiscali group, one of the very few ICT international companies based in Italy. It looks like he's just bought l'Unità, the once communist-alleged newspaper in Italy. Owner of both a telecommunication company and a big newspaper, and governor of a region pretty much as big as e.g. Massachusetts... Have ever heard of the term "conflict of interest"? Or does it only rhyme with Mr. Unfit?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

45.55 s


Oscar, now it's your time to post that time!
Plus, we finally found a good reason why there's a ninth lane in the olympic stadium in Rome ;)


Study Revives Olympic Prospects For Amputee Sprinter

ScienceDaily (May 16, 2008) - Based on Rice and MIT findings, the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne, Switzerland, has ruled that Pistorius is eligible to participate in International Association of Athletics Federations sanctioned competitions. If he qualifies for the 2008 Beijing games, Pistorius would be the first disabled athlete ever to run against able-bodied athletes in an Olympic event.
A world-renowned team of experts in biomechanics and physiology from six universities, led by Professor Hugh Herr of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, refute scientific claims that the prostheses worn by Oscar Pistorius, a 21-year-old South African bilateral amputee track athlete, provide him with an unfair advantage in the 400-meter race. Their conclusions were based on data collected at the Rice University Locomotion Laboratory, under the direction of Professor Peter Weyand. Pistorius hopes to run in the 400-meter race at the Beijing Olympics this summer.
Based on the team's findings, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland, has ruled that Pistorius is eligible to participate in International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) sanctioned competitions. If he qualifies for the 2008 Beijing games, Pistorius would be the first disabled athlete ever to run against able-bodied athletes in an Olympic event.
The team's findings were presented to the CAS April 29-30 by Herr and Professor Rodger Kram of the University of Colorado at Boulder, and provided the foundation for Pistorius' appeal to overturn the IAAF decision that previously banned him from running against able-bodied athletes in races that are governed by IAAF rules. The team's findings were presented at the CAS, where Pistorius was represented by the international law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf on a pro-bono basis.
In addition to Herr, Weyand and Kram, the panel of experts included Professor Matthew Bundle from the University of Wyoming, an expert in the energetics and mechanics of sprinting performance; Craig McGowan, from the University of Texas at Austin, a leading authority on muscle, tendon and joint mechanics;
Alena Grabowski, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an expert in human locomotor energetics and biomechanics; and Jean-Benoît Morin from the University of Saint-Etienne, an expert in the mechanics of human running performance.
None received compensation for their research or participation in the hearing. The authors plan to submit the study to a peer-reviewed journal now that the legal case has been settled.
The scientific team was asked to evaluate the IAAF's initial claim that the Cheetah Flex-Foot prostheses (J-shaped, high-performance prostheses used for running) worn by Pistorius give him an advantage over able-bodied runners. The team concluded that the scientific evidence put forth by the IAAF investigation to ban Pistorius was fundamentally flawed. "While an athlete's performance in sprints of very short duration is determined almost entirely by mechanical factors, in races of longer duration, such as the 400m, performance depends on both mechanical and metabolic factors," said Herr, a bilateral amputee who heads the MIT Media Lab's Biomechatronics research group.
Based on this performance link, the scientists refuted the IAAF findings on two major points: the speed-duration relationship and rates of metabolic energy expenditure.
Specifically, the scientists concluded that:
* Pistorius' ability to maintain speed over the course of longer sprints--his speed-duration relationship--is essentially identical to that of able-bodied runners, indicating that he fatigues in the same manner as able-bodied sprinters.
* Pistorius' rates of metabolic energy expenditure do not differ from elite non-amputee runners. In particular, he has nearly the same running economy, or rate of oxygen consumption at submaximal speeds, and a similar maximal rate of oxygen consumption as elite non-amputee runners.
"Based on the data collected at Rice, the blades do not confer an enhanced ability to hold speed over a 400m race," Weyand said. "Nor does our research support the IAAF's claims of how the blades provide some sort of mechanical advantage for sprinting."
"The study commissioned by the IAAF claimed that Pistorius has a 25 percent energetic advantage at 400m race speeds. That claim is specious because anaerobic energy supply cannot be quantified," Kram said.
In summary, the team of experts unanimously concluded that the IAAF allegations were not scientifically valid.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080516103833.htm