The Second Version


Nuance Required

Nuance is a word that has been heavily vilified, especially in right-wing circles, as the epitome of muddled, inconclusive speech. Not casually, nuance is often cited together with Europe, where politicians are so nuanced that they become unable to reach any clear conclusion or decision. However, "nuance" remains an useful word; and more importantly, the capacity of grasping and understanding subtle differences in meaning isn't one to despise. Even if a good man must take a clear stance at some point - but I digress.

Via Cold Fury, I found a post where Dean Esmay presents his Anti-islamophobic manifesto, as we can call it:
1) Islam does not represent the forces of Satan or the Anti-Christ bent on destruction of the Christian world.

2) There is no 1,400 year old "war with the West/Christianity" being waged by Muslims or anyone else.

3) Islam as a religion is no more inherently incompatible with modernity, minority rights, women's rights, or democratic pluralism than most religions.

4) Medieval, anachronistic, obscure terms like "dhimmitude" or "taqiyya" are suitable for polite intellectual discussion. They are not and never will be appropriate to slap in the face of everyday Muslims or their friends.

5) Muslims have no more need to prove that they can be good Americans, loyal citizens, decent people, or enemies of terrorism than anyone else does.
Well, this manifesto is utterly un-nuanced. To the point it becomes truly simplistic.

I can fully agree only to #4 and #5, but in all honesty I can neither accept nor reject the first three points as they are written. Here's why.

#1: There seems to be a fairly large fraction of Muslims who would actually like to see the end of the Christian world. Those willing to actually fight aren't many, granted - but their supporters are more. Anyway, I happily leave rambling about Satan and the Anti-Christ to the end-of-days-is-coming types (and in my old blog I dedicated at least a couple of pieces to them).

#2: Similar objections. While it is also simplistic to talk about a "1400 years old war", it is also hard to deny that for a few centuries the Islamic Empire grew by the sword. And by their own words, a number of Muslims (incidentally, more or less the same mentioned above) seem to be doing the same thing, albeit with a wider array of weapons and tactics.

#3: Even the wording of this statement is messy. In particular, I think that putting modernity, minority rights, women's rights and democratic pluralism all in the same list is misleading - because they refer to different areas of culture and society. If the statement is rephrased as "Many Muslims can live in, and certain strains of Islam are not incompatible with western-style liberal democracy", I agree with it.

As you can notice, I often talk about fractions or parts of the whole of Muslims: this is a case of "good" nuance, because it should be clear to anyone that talking of some 1300 million people as a monholitic block is way too simplistic. On the other hand, there are valid heuristics.

A possible objection is that those committing violence in the name of Allah are not true Muslims. You know, that may actually be the case, but I cannot play in this game; only cheer from the sidelines. Defining what constitutes "true" Islam is a problem that only Muslims themselves can resolve; different memes are already competing for supremacy and outsiders can't do much to alter the outcome of that struggle. And surely denying that better strains of Islam (compared for example to Wahabism) can exist is the least helpful stance. Of course, if memes irredeemeably hostile to us were to triumph, we non-Muslims may have to take drastic measures for self-preservation.

Anyways... I'll add to my blogroll also, a blog with which I don't agree enormously, but I think can give a valuable contribution to a sane discussion of these issues.

Update: I do not like the term "Islamophobia" and its derivates; it is one of those words that make me roll my eyes - much like "diversity" and derivates. I think it is redundant - we already have bigotry for hatred based on religion/ideology - and misleading. This new term, manufactured to the customer's specifications, not only implies irrational fear while there are some very rational reasons to be wary of certain elements of Islam (in part detailed above); it also introduces a new class of specially aggrieved people, thus alimenting the nefarious identity politics trend.

Etichette: , ,

Impressions of Jakarta, Part 3

The Flood
I arrived there just in time to experience firsthand the worst flood (banjir) in years. Water was up to 4 meters deep in some parts of the city. The hotel was effected marginally, too: for the first two days, satellite TV was restricted to a local channel and Al-Jazira (argh!) and Internet was not available (no big deal; I intentionally left my laptop home). Then the hotel pools had to be emptied due to a shortage of clean water and for one day shower water had to be rationed. But it's nothing compared to the several tens of thousand people who had to be evacuated and saw their properties severely damaged. At some point, I began worrying that riots or disturbances of some sort may break out with all the evacuees in precarious conditions, but nothing happened. The Italian embassy - which had been flooded too - had no particular recommendations. Travelling around was even more difficult than usual, and my friend could not go to work. But we spent more time together, and we're more-than-friends now... Waste collection was disrupted, and a pile of rubbish will be really nasty after a few days in the tropical climate, trust me.

People tried to make the most of the situation, so it was not uncommon to see fishermen with rods or the throwing nets typical of SE Asia trying to pull some fish out of the flood water. However, most of the water were gone by Friday, and on Saturday morning I even had a brief swim in the pool.

The Security
Every hotel, mall and many business buildings are protected by checkpoints where security guards check the trunk and underside of incoming vehicles for explosive or other nasty devices. It feels awkward initially, but I got used to it. Many malls also have security personnell checking bags and backpacks at the entrance.

Cops over there do not normally carry firearms, but a long truncheon and a taser/stun gun (my lady told me that cash is required not to be tasered...). In fact, the only openly armed person was a non-uniformed guy walking across the mall with a 12 ga. semiauto slung over his shoulder. Apparently, in Indonesia it is sufficient to pay a rather hefty fee to obtain a firearm carry license, but I don't know the details.

The Food
Food in Jakarta is of the general Asian variety: stir-fried and deep-fried stuff; rice, noodles, vegs - but with local variations. First of all, over there they just love chillies and put inordinate amounts of them everywhere. They also eat loads of seafood; probably the most typical dish is fried rice with seafood (and chillies). Boiled meat, beef and chicken, is also very popular, including oxtail, tripes and brains. Eggs are boiled in a fashion that renders them brown on the outside, so I needed some times to understand what those smooth and brown globes were. Another specialty is cow skin; I'm not sure how it is cooked but it tastes rather nice - as long as you don't think about what it actually is.

We went to an excellent seafood restaurant where I had a fish covered in an aromatic paste, then wrapped in palm leaves and finally grilled: delicious. And another fish, cut open and then deep-fried whole, so it assumed a sort of butterfly shape. That one was delicious too, and my lady assured me I could eat also fins and even bones, but I wasn't interested. The meat was enough.

The curious thing is that bread is common in Indonesia, and you can even find butter-fried bread sweets. Bread & butter aren't Asian things, so I suppose it must be a leftover of the Dutch colonization. Which lasted quite a long while, and the Indonesians shook off with the force of arms.

Read Part 2

Etichette: ,


Cittadini, Alle Armi!

Noto con soddisfazione che ci sono diverse persone dall'Italia che capitano sul mio blog facendo ricerche Internet su armi da fuoco, poligono di tiro ed altri argomenti dello stesso genere.

Sembra che l'argomento susciti un certo interesse. Come ho giò detto, il tiro al bersaglio è uno sport per tutti, che può diventare molto coinvolgente. Perchè la prima di competizione un tiratore (o una tiratrice) non è contro gli altri, ma contro sè stesso. Riuscire a migliorarsi, vedere la rosata che si stringe e si sposta verso il centro sessione dopo sessione è una soddisfazione. I tiratori poi non vanno al poligono carichi di rabbia, immaginando la faccia di Prodi (o qualsiasi altro nemico) al posto del bersaglio. No, l'approccio è freddo e concentrato; quando si mettono a fuoco tacca e mirino per allinearli, il bersaglio è una lontana macchia sfuocata; quello a cui si pensa è solo mettere il colpo al centro.

Ma di certo c'è anche l'aspetto difesa personale. Molti italiani percepiscono le città come poco sicure, ed è difficile dar loro torto. Anche in una città piccola come Parma, rapine, furti, scippi ed aggressioni sono fatti quasi quotidiani. Basta camminare per una decina di minuti in qualsiasi area per vedere frotte di nullafacenti che ciondolano bevendo alcolici da mattina a sera, ed anche non pochi spacciatori. La piazza davanti alla Stazione Centrale di Milano è più degradata dei quartieri poveri di Jakarta - e non sto esagerando. E mentre gli italiani non sono estranei a questi fenomeni, la maggioranza di sfaccendati e pocodibuono sono stranieri, che vi piaccia o meno.

Di recente a Parma c'è stata un'impennata delle vendite di spray anti-aggressione (l'unico strumento di difesa che si può portare liberamente); io ne ho comprato uno e pure altri miei amici ce l'hanno. E' naturale che qualcuno pensi anche a procurasi armi da fuoco, che rimangono efficaci strumenti di difesa personale e domestica nonostante le pesanti limitazioni poste dalla legge italiana non solo al possesso e porto d'armi, ma anche al loro uso difensivo. Ed il fatto che più cittadini provvedano ad armarsi mi piace - anche perchè ogni cittadino armato è per lo Stato una fonte di preoccupazioni ed inquietudine, e c'è un che di soddisfacente nel sapere di rendere la vita dei burocrati meno confortevole.

Etichette: ,


Those Little Bastards ARE Packing!

I mused a while ago that these may have been the last words of a tiger confronted by early humans armed with their crude lances.

Imagine my reaction when (via Protein Wisdom) I found out that chimpanzees have been observed while making wooden lances and using them for hunting. And here is the abstract of the actual paper on Current Biology, for those who prefer the hard science.

Of course the press report has to give a more colourful account of the events.
"It was really alarming how forceful it was," said lead researcher Jill D. Pruetz of Iowa State University, adding that it reminded her of the murderous shower scene in the Alfred Hitchcock movie "Psycho." "It was kind of scary."
I suppose that a field biologist would be accustomed to the brutality of the fight for survival, but that's just me. Anyway, out in the African wilderness I'd carry a 12ga. shotgun and plenty of ammo whenever I can, just in case. Besides lance-wielding chimps, there's plenty of other dangers over there.

The article also speculates that females are the main toolmakers because they are the most inventive and curious problem-solvers. I offer the alternate (or complementary) explanation that males do not need to make tools because they are bigger and stronger.

Now what has to be determined in with long-term observations is whether this knowledge will be transmitted to other members of the tribe, and maybe across tribes; and whether it will be improved with time.

Update 23:00: Funny, my blog received a visit with the URL of the WaPo article I linked above as referral, but I could find no link in the whole page, related content or comments. Only the "Who's blogging" section has a link to here, but from a different URL. Whatever, trafficum non olet.

Speaking of the comments thread on that article, don't read it if you want to avoid a massive RCOB moment. It took a total of say, 1 comment before the first stupid GW Bush joke, and it does not change tone in all the four pages. The idiocy emanating from that thread is so dense a meteo radar could barely cut through it; the moonbattery oozing from the comments is more viscous than the pitch at University of Queensland.

As an aside, the fact that - according to the researchers - female chimps are more likely to make and use weapons than males should put those spouting all that crap about masculine violence in a tight spot. Or so I hope.

Etichette: ,

The Britney Test

I want to test by myself if blogging about BRITNEY SPEARS and BRITNEY SPEARS' SECOND ESCAPE FROM REHAB, and PICTURES OF BRITNEY SPEARS' BALD SCALP can actually increase blog traffic.

BRITNEY SPEARS is so famous, and PHOTOS OF BRITNEY SPEARS are so titillating to weirdos that I expect some success.

Or I could just blog more about "adolf eichmann spectroscopy", search string that already brought me one visit...

Etichette: ,


Waiting For Chlorine

So, now we learn from Reuters (that just casually noticed the novel fact) that jihadis in Iraq have begun using homemade chemical weapons - bombs that release chlorine gas. And they have killed a dozen people and injured many more so far.

What can I do? I'll wait trepidantly, from the dramatic reportages on RaiNew24, for the footage of bodies covered in chemical burns. I'll wait for interviews with concerned doctors, for congressional and parliamentary interrogations. I'll wait for pronouncements of the UN and unanimous, strong condemnations of the practice. I'll wait for the perpetrators being tried at The Hague for crimes against humanity.

I think it will be more productive to wait for Kelly Hu to come knocking on my door late at night and beg me to give her that warmth and comfort Italian stallions are well-known for.

Etichette: ,


La caratteristica di chi non vuole mai decidere da che parte stare, chi vuole a tutti i costi rimanere al centro anche di fronte a scelte chiare, in questi tempi viene chiamata equivalenza morale (con accezione negativa) o equidistanza (con accezione positiva).

Ma io preferisco tornare alle radici della nostra lingua, con Dante che chiama queste persone ignavi, e non li ritiene nemmeno degni di un posto all'inferno - insieme ai cattivi, si, ma quelli con le palle come si direbbe ora.

"fece per viltade il gran rifiuto"
Alla fine, dietro all'ignavia c'è il non voler affrontare il minimo sacrificio, l'essere incapace di asserire la propria posizione ed accettarne le responsabilità. Così si continua a barcamenarsi sperando di non dover mai essere chiamati a rispondere delle proprie azioni. Spesso l'ignavia viene mascherata da ragionevolezza o tolleranza, ma invece è soltanto razionalismo amorale e fine a sè stesso.

Essere capaci di raggiungere un compromesso è segno di maturità, ma quando questo venga dopo avere preso una posizione chiara ed avere orientato la propria bussola morale.

Gli ignavi di oggi sono quelli che non sanno decidere chi sia preferibile fra israeliani e palestinesi (e quindi, si dicono amici di entrambe oppure ci ricordano che nessuna delle due parti è perfetta); sono quelli che mettono George Bush nella listi di tiranni e dittatori; quelli che messi di fronte al barbarismo di certe società non sanno fare altro che elencare i difetti dell'Occidente.

E come Dante collocò gli ignavi con spregio nell'antinferno, io non ho molto interesse a dialogare con loro.

Etichette: ,


Dimissioni Subito

Non qualche antiprodiano, ma D'Alema in persona ieri dichiarò che la maggioranza dovrebbe andare a casa se venisse sconfitta sulla politica estera.

Oggi proprio questo è successo: la maggioranza è stata battuta al Senato sulla politica estera.

Ergo, a questo punto il governo Prodi dovrebbe dimettersi per mantenere la parola data.

E c'è di più. ricordo che tempo addietro Prodi stesso ha affermato che non ci sono "maggioranze variabili"; se la coalizione di governo cade si va alle elezioni anticipate.

Quindi, manterranno gli impegni presi con grande enfasi verso il popolo italiano, o si riveleranno coem meschini voltagabbana? Nel secondo caso, spetterebbe agli elettori di sinistra per primi fare fuoco e fiamme contro quelli che hanno votato per poi diventare traditori.

Aggiornamento 22:51: Prodi si è onorevolmente dimesso e Napolitano, come da procedura, avvierà nuove consultazioni. Mentre invece l'Ulivo e PRC stanno già chiendendo un Prodi-bis, ovvero di rimangiarsi promesse fatte e parole date. Rutelli si riempie la bocca con "la maggioranza ricevuta dagli elettori", fingendo di non sapere che si è trattato probabilmente della più esigua maggioranza nella storia della Repubblica Italiana. Verdi e comunisti poi stanno già puntando il dito verso i traditori... se ci fossero ancora i gulag, quella sarebbe la loro fine.

Un governo Prodi-bis, così come rimpasti e nuove coalizioni sarebbero uno scandalo ed una presa per i fondelli degli elettori.

Etichette: ,

The Dragon Never Sleeps

This is odd: I got five visits in a row from China in the last hour and half - while usually visits from China come only once in a while. Moreover, these visitors had unknown referrals and stopped for 0:00 (according to Sitemeter's method of measuring visit length).

The visist are divided 3:2 between CHINANET and CNCGROUP; one of the IPs apparently belongs to Pingyang Water Conservancy Bureau and another to an Intimate Net Bar.

A while ago Charles Johnson lamented heavy bot traffic on LGF from China. I wonder if I am witnessing a similar event, or it's just a coincidence. Whatver the case, both my routers/firewall and software firewall logs are not showing any unusual activity on my home network.

Etichette: ,


Impressions of Jakarta, Part 2

The Traffic
I already mentioned it, but traffic in Jakarta has to be seen to be believed. It is heavy, but also utterly chaotic. Drivers are supposed to keep the left hand side, but on the backroads they seem to keep whatever side of the road is more convenient. Motorbikes (hojek) - often with two or three people on them - pop up from everywhere, trying to enter the road, overteke or switch lanes at anytime from all sides. Cars and those terrible three-wheeled taxis do more or less the same. The honk is your best friend over there. Passenger buses ride with no front and rear doors (I dare to guess that it's the only ventilation system they have) and not just seldom passengers perform incredible stunts to hop on and off moving buses with their luggage. Pedestrians have to be quick and sharp while crossing roads - but you can see many happily walking up and down the side of expressways. Or maybe it was just because the flood made things even worse than usual. A lot of vehicles are old and battered; I thought the traffic in Italy (at least the North) was bad, but Jakarta is a couple orders of magnitude worse.

It had to be coming, Indonesia being the most populous Islamic country. But let's start with a clarification: as far as I know, Indonesia is a federal republic in which the constituent states (or provinces; you get it) have rather large autonomy. The constitution of the Indonesia is a secular one.
The kind of Islam I've seen in Jakarta seems pretty easygoing. There are many mosques, but also a number of Christian churches. I haven't seen a single burqa - while I have seen many in London: most Indonesian women seem content with wearing a hair-covering veil over modest but western-style clothes; ankles and forearms are often exposed. A few women wear also long vests, but that's about all. Alcohol can be bought almost everywhere, and pork products are just a bit less common. It was close to the Chinese New Year, and this being the year of the Pig, many shops were openly selling pig toys and other pig-themed items. Edgware Road, London, looks much more Islamic (and Arabic) than Jakarta. Of course, I know that Indonesia has its own set of radicals and jihadis. One episode I witnessed was...

The Disturbing Souvenir
I went to this huge shopping mall, Taman Anggrek, and in there some shops also have smaller stalls on the mall's inner concourse. One of these stalls sold souvenirs - small flags, statues, fridge magnets and all that. I noticed a souvenir that was a reproduction of the WTC in New York complete of the first plane slamming into the tower and a big, golden, grinning Bin Laden's face beside the Twin Towers. I muttered "That's sick" and walked away. The sick souvenir just lied casually among US flags, Leaning Towers of Pisa and many other innocuous items: I do not know whether I should be more or less disturbed by that. I did not try to engage the girl at the stall in conversation for various reasons: Most people over there do not speak enough English for an abstract conversation; she was in all likelihood just a worker with little if any say in the matter - and first of all, it is not exactly wise to rock the boat when you're alone in a foreign and even Islamic country.

Read Part 1
Read Part 3

Etichette: ,



I've still got enough brain fuel for another short post, tonight.

At Winds of Change, Donald Sensing wrote another piece on the global warming issue. In it, he examines the state of the often-invoked scientific consensus on global warming. The conclusion? There isn't much of a consensus, especially on the anthropogenic part.

BRD of Protein Wisdom instead looks at the Iraq problem (and marginally global warming as well) from the perspective of management of both false positives and false negatives. I like that approach, because it rises from the endless debating of particular details to a more general, almost universal plan.

Etichette: , ,


Vogliono, ma Possono?

Sabato 17 febbraio è il giorno della grande manifestazione contro l'ampliamento della base USA di Vicenza (ed a questo punto mi chiedo, perchè noi liberali non riusciamo nemmeno a mettere insieme cento persone, una bandiera scolorita ed uno stereo a pile per protestare contro l'atrocità del DDL Mastella?). Non ho voglia di scrivere sulla questione dell'allargamento in sè, ma c'è qualcosa che mi ha colpito.

Oggi (venerdì) guardando i telegiornali della sera, ho visto diverse persone dei comitati organizzatori assicurare che eventuali facinorosi e violenti verranno rapidamente individuati ed isolati*, anche dai servizi d'ordine dello stesso corteo. Non dubito della buona fede di queste persone (forse della CGIL un po'), ma mi sembra che i loro programmi non tengano molto conto della realtà.

Nella sinistra radicale ci sono molti elementi che non esitano ad usare violenza predatoria, anche contro i loro stessi compagni giudicati non sufficientemente puri - o che semplicemente si trovano ad costituire ostacoli alla realizzazione di certi piani. C'è inoltre una variegata fauna di esaltati, fulminati, fattoni e specie correlate che agiscono in modo ben poco razionale e non aspettano altro che una scusa per scatenare il caos. Si, sono stato a qualche rave party e specie di centro sociale; so di cosa parlo.

Qualsiasi servizio d'ordine che voglia davvero evitare disordini deve avere sia le capacità che le intenzioni di usare la forza contro i facinorosi, altrimenti sarà pressochè inutile. Spero di sbagliarmi, ma temo che i piani degli organizzatori della manifestazione non siano all'altezza.

*Cosa intendono poi per "isolati"? Isolati e lasciati liberi di continuare a combinare danni? Isolati, per poi chiamare la polizia così che siano sempre i soliti celerini a dover fare il lavoro duro? Isolati ed offerti come vittima sacrificale/capro espiatorio?


Generazione Distribuita di Elettricità, Parte 1

Dal punto di vista strettamente economico e termodinamico, poche grandi centrali elettriche sono preferibili a molte piccole: grandi impianti possono trarre vantaggio da situazioni e soluzioni tecniche diverse, e dall'economia di scala.

Tuttavia, altri fattori rendono la generazione distribuita interessante e forse anche preferibile. Il difetto principale della generazione localizzata è la necessità di lunghe linee di trasmissione. Queste linee sono costose da costruire, ed introducono significative perdite ohmiche di energia; per minimizzare le perdite si usano alte tensioni che richiedono l'uso di trasformatori elevatori di tensione, i quali aumentano la complessità degli impianti e non possono mai avere rendimento del 100%. Inoltre, di recente si è diffusa l'idea che le linee di trasmissione elettrica siano un rischio per la salute delle persone.

Le linee elettriche di superficie sono anche piuttosto vulnerabili. Fenomeni metereologici come tempeste di neve e soprattutto vetroghiaccio causano spesso la rottura dei conduttori e caduta dei tralicci, mentre le tempeste magnetiche possono indurre correnti dannose nelle linee elettriche. Ma queste linee sono anche vulnerabili da atti intenzionali: non per dare suggerimenti a malintenzionati, ma abbattere un traliccio non è un lavoro molto difficile (anche se comporta una certa dose di rischio) e non richiede mezzi o tecniche di difficile accesso. Alla peggio, un seghetto da ferro con una buona scorta di lame e parecchio olio di gomito bastano.

Tenere le linee elettriche sotto sorveglianza è improponibile, sia per l'estensione delle zone da sorvegliare, sia per i lunghi tempi d'intervento; interrarle per porzioni significative comporta costi astronomici e non è comunque sufficiente a renderle invulnerabili. Anche le centrali elettriche stesse potrebbero essere attaccate da terroristi, ma si tratterebbe di operazioni più difficili da mettere a segno.

Se è vero che in condizioni favorevoli una linea elettrica può essere ripristinata piuttosto rapidamente, è anche vero che 24 ore di blackout bastano a produrre danni economici considerevoli; c'è poi la possibilità di tumulti nelle aree metropolitane (specialmente se c'è un intervento coordinato di sabotatori e sobillatori).

L'unico sistema per ridurre i problemi delle linee di trasmissione elettrica è ridurne la lunghezza (e la tensione operativa), portando le centrali elettriche più vicino agli utilizzatori di energia.

Ma questo non si può fare con centrali elettriche delle dimensioni necessarie a produrre le migliaia di megawatt preferite per gli impianti di generazione localizzata, ed è qui che entra in gioco la generazione diffusa. Che significa semplicemente avere molte piccole centrali elettriche, ognuna destinata ad alimentare un'area di estensione limitata (che chiamerò cellula). Ci sono già impianti industriali di diverso tipo che generano autonomamente una quantità più o meno rilevante dell'energia di cui hanno bisogno; nelle raffinerie di petrolio si usano comunemente vapore generato dal raffreddamento degli effluenti dei reattori e gas di scarto dei vari processi per produrre elettricità.

I vantaggi della soluzione diffusa sono diversi, ma tutti partono dalla minore lunghezza delle linee di distribuzione e quindi minore tensione di linea (per esempio, 15 kV invece dei 220 - 360 kV della trasmissione a lunga distanza). L'area affetta da un guasto o sabotaggio è piccola, e con le opportune interconnessioni non sarebbe difficile reperire la capacità di generazione necessaria per continuare ad alimentare la cellula interessata (questo avviene già, ma su scala molto più grande e difficile da gestire). Il sistema di distribuzione elettrica diventa quindi molto più robusto nei confronti di incidenti ed attacchi deliberati. Anche l'induzione causata dalle tempeste magnetiche ha effetti minori su conduttori elettrici più corti.

Un motivo che viene spesso citato in opposizione alla costruzione di centrali elettriche è che l'energia elettrica prodotta nel luogo X viene trasmessa altrove, quindi senza produrre vantaggi concreti per la comunità di X. Questo è vero solo in parte in un sistema di distribuzione elettrica interconnesso, ma il fatto sembra sfuggire ai più.

Nel caso della generazione diffusa, l'obbiezione precendente non sarebbe più valida, visto che la centrale elettrica di X produrrebbe energia quasi esclusivamente per X stesso. Con una maggiore vicinanza fra generazione ed utilizzatori, si può anche ottenere un maggiore coinvolgimento dei cittadini nel problema della fornitura di elettricità, forse facendo comprendere ai comuni cittadini alcune delle difficoltà che si incontrano.

Le fonti di energia rinnovabili ed alternative si inseriscono meglio in uno scenario di generazione diffusa piuttosto che localizzata, ma di questo aspetto tratterò nella seconda parte di questo articolo.

Etichette: , ,


Di Nuovo al Poligono

Cosa c'è di meglio da fare in un tiepido pomeriggio di sole che tirare al bersaglio? (Un'idea ce l'avrei, ma mi manca la compagnia giusta...)

Quindi fra poco andrò a scaricare altri cinquanta colpi di .22 LR alla linea dei 25 metri - finalmente, dopo un paio di settimane passate senza sparare. Ho anche la tentazione di fare un salto al bancomat così da poter sparare 100 colpi su due bersagli. Vedremo.

Aggiornamento: Posso resistere a tutto tranne che le tentazioni, quindi certo che ho sparato 100 colpi. Ed ecco i risultati; a sinistra i primi 50 ed a destra la seconda serie.

(E vi piacciono le piastrelle della mia stanza?) Mi sembra che ci sia qualche problema con la mia tecnica di tiro (ho sprato a due mani), visto che le rosate sono tutte basse ed un po' a sinistra del nero. C'è anche da considerare che la vecchia Beretta 89 che ho noleggiato mancava di una vite delle guancette, e le altre tre erano allentate... vi lascio immaginare che piacere.

Suggerimenti? Può essere che io sia uno di quei tiratori che deve mirare proprio nel nero invece che al suo bordo inferiore? Ora mi sono accorto da solo che la mia posizione di tiro era sbagliata: devo tenere il piede destro (il lato dell'arma per me) in line o anche indietro rispetto al sinistro, non in avanti. Ora vorrei tornare al poligono al più presto possibile...

Those above are the results of my yesterday's shooting session. I fired off 100 rounds at 25 meters (27 yds) from the two-hands shooting stance, and as you can see my shots tend to be low and slightly left of center. Well, I have a pitiful excuse too: out of the four grip screws of that Beretta 89, one was missing and the other three were loose, thus making the grip wobble around. Oh joy.

I just realized that I committed a mistake in my stance: I kept my weapon foot (right) forward, while it should be in line with the other or back, dang... Now I want to go shooting again and correct my stance! anyway, does any gunner out there have suggestions? May I have to change the sight setting?

Etichette: , ,


Impressions of Jakarta, Part 1

The Air
Indonesia is a tropical country, so I naturally expected the climate to be hot and humid. But how hot and humid, I could not figure out before experiencing it. And I can say, a lot - every second there is like a hot and particularly humid summer day in Italy; one of those days when the smallest movement gets you drenched in sweat. Though my host told me those days of flood were very humid even for Indonesia. But the air in Jakarta isn't clean, not at all. The haze you can see over the city is not just water vapour, and the backroads are full of the smell of two-stroke exhaust, overused frying oil, stagnant putrid water, the occasional whiff of actual rotting rubbish and maybe durian, the most infamous fruit in the world. And this brings us to...

It's a cantaloupe-sized fruit, but with a spiky, spiny outside. Its most distinctive property is the strong smell, a curious combination of rotten, putrid notes and fruity ones. Some estabilshments in Jakarta, such as the hotel where I stayed, do not allow durian on their premises and define its odour "offensive". Still, many locals just love it - my host does, and so do some girls from the Philipines who work at my village's bar in Italy. I tasted durian, of course, but did not like it. It is like a sweet, creamy pulp with a weak taste much like the fruit's odour - I could bear eating it in an emergency, but not for pleasure.

The Streets
Many streets of Jakarta are like endless markets, lined with stalls selling food - a lot of fried (goreng) stuff - stuffed balls, pasty squares with some unidentified filling; the omnipresent rice and noodles with seafood or chicken. And stalls selling soft drinks, cigarettes, Chinese medicines, and lot of items I did not have occasion to examine closely. The rithm of life is more relaxed than in the West, and many people just gather to chat and kill some time at road junctions, under bridges and other structures - especially during the frequent squalls of heavy rain. But I admit, as an imperialist western male I did not spend a lot of time going native; I preferred the comfort of my hotel or at least shopping malls. However, adults seemed to barely notice my obvious diversity; only some small children did actually stare at the alien in front of them.

The Language
I gather that the local language, bahasa Indonesia, has been in part "designed" by the ideologues of Indonesian indipendence and nationalism, taking Malay as the starting point. Indonesian appears to have a rather simple structure with some curious features - in many cases, the same words appear to be used as nouns and adjectives (as in the bahasa indonesia expression itself). But the most evident characteristic of this language is the staggering number of borrowed words: polisi, kartu, mal, taksi, monumen, konsierse, teroris and many many more. I can only recognize words borrowed from English (Inngris) and european languages, but there are also ones which may be borrowed from Chinese and Arabic (selamat comes to mind). There are also tricky words: air over there means water, in fact...

Read Part 2

Etichette: ,


Words Do Matter

Discussing about semantics, the meaning and usage of words may seem like nitpicking, and sometimes it is. But on the other hand, a necessary assumption for discussion is that all those discussing give more or less the same meaning to the same words. Otherwise, it's just chaos.

I have already treated this issue in the past, but I keep running into semantic obstacles every now and then. The last case, one (leftist) guy on a blog asked me what's my idea of democracy (because I stated that democracy and marketplace of ideas are not synonyms). I replied with a list of links detailing the meaning of the word, and some philosophical discussion about democracy. He replied that he doesn't care about the links; what is my idea of democracy? This makes as much sense as asking "What is your idea of electrophilic aromatic substitution?" Well, there is only one electrophilic aromatic substitution - and there is no such thing as your personal idea of it.

There are many words being misused even in good faith, and one of them is theory.
Mrs DuToit wrote an interesting and accurate piece on nature vs. nurture in which, however, she badly misused the term theory.
You know what happens when someone posits a theory? You test it. You do experiments and studies to find out if it is correct.
No, this is not done to theories, but rather to hypotheses. An hypothesis, which is a conclusion reached after some research and/or observation, needs to be tested - and testing needs to consider both cases, what-if the hypothesis is right and what-if it is wrong.

If a hypothesis manages to pass a certain number of tests, it gets upgraded to theory. Why not to fact? Because scientists are aware that new discoveries and observations can disprove even long-held theories. Or, put in another way, it's because you cannot inductively prove something, but you can only have different levels of confidence in it.

So we have a transition-state theory to explain chemical kinetics. In practice, chemists use it as a fact, but if someone will eventually produce new compelling evidence and thus an alternative hypothesis and finally theory, we will switch to it.

Etichette: ,


Home Sweet Home!

More than fourteen hours by plane and a couple by train, and I arrived back in Parma. The hotel in Jakarta was great, but nothing like my own flat, in fact.

I nearly fell in love with Singapore's Changi airport, and I decided that Lufthansa is a great airline indeed. More about my holiday will come in a near future.

Etichette: ,


From The Flood

I'm still in Jakarta, safe and sound. Probably you know that the city has been hit by a severe flood that killed nearly 60 people and made 200 000 homeless. I've seen the flood with my own eyes, but the biggest incoveniences I suffered are longer taxi rides and closure of the hotel's pool. Only one day I and my friend almost had to wade through a flooded stretch of road, but in the end we rode to the hotel on the back of two motorbikes - a local favourite among transports. Swimming in the muddy floodwaters like some kids here do may be more real, but it's not my thing, terima kasih.

Regular blogging will probably resume at some point next week.

Etichette: , ,


Flying Away

Yours truly will son leave for a holiday to nearly the other side of the world - Jakarta, Indonesia in fact (yes, it's an Islamic country. So sue me).

I'll be away for from today till Feb 11, and I hope I'll have fun and distraction. If I can't do these a little crazy things before I'm 30, when could I do it?

My flight leaves in the evening from Linate to Frankfurt, and this is the forecast for Linate: LIML 010400Z 011212 VRB03KT 0200 FG OVC002 TEMPO 1215 0800 BKN004 - that means, fog with 200 m visibility and sky overcast at 60 m altitude. Oh joy...

Things look better at Frankfurt, with scattered and broken clouds and no precipitation more serious than rain drizzle: EDDF 010400Z 011212 23006KT 9999 SCT015 BKN025 TEMPO 2112 4000 RADZ SCT007 BKN011 PROB40 TEMPO 0310 BKN008

I'll keep safe if not exactly good... and I'll post pics later. The blog may be updated in the meantime, but I cannot be sure.

Etichette: , ,