Friday, August 29, 2008

Eufemismi

Dal Corriere della Sera di oggi:
Niente più politica, invece, per l'ex deputato dell'Udc Cosimo Mele, qualche mese fa al centro di uno scandalo rosa finito su tutti i giornali. Dice di volersi dedicare solo alla famiglia e alla ditta di calcestruzzi lasciata con l'elezione a Montecitorio.


Io ricordo invece una storia di spaccio di cocaina e una prostituta che rischiava la vita per overdose.
Se questo e' uno scandalo rosa...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Poços de Caldas

Tomorrow I am going to Poços de Caldas, a spa four hours from Sao Paulo, to spend my weekend. There is a famous fountain with radioactive waters, there!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

First post from a Mac widget

While exploring the new products of Google I stumbled into a blogger widget for Mac: 
macwidgets

Cool!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Doing the washing in São Paulo


Many of you expats and long-term residents in São Paulo, Brasil, will have noticed that it is very difficult to have the clothes washed at a reasonable price.
Using the laundry service at the hotel is a VERY expensive options. It is cheaper to throw the clothes away after using them, especially the underwear!
Laundromats or reasonably priced laundries does not seem to exist here in São Paulo.

After some research on several blogs and portals, like I was able to locate a very good laundry that washes the clothes at a price comparable to Europe or Asia, that is to say good value for money.

The laundry is located in Rua Clodomiro Amazonas,1277 in the Itaim Bibi distric.
The phone number is 38496205.
It is run by a very friendly and helpful family of Argentinians.
Having tried it several times I recommend it warmly.


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Monday, June 09, 2008

Nudge

To nudge means to push gently. This is the title of the latest book of Chicago University professors Thaler and Sunstein. Taking advantage of cutting edge research on behavioral economics, the book is about choice
, how biases affect everyday's choices from which food to eat to what mutual fund to invest on.
Ever wondered why you find so difficult to stop smoking, or why you cannot remember to stop the subscription to that magazine, or why people (not you obviously) appear so irrational?
This book is for you.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

La sicurezza

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out
because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out
because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemoeller's poem inscribed on a stone in New England Holocaust Memorial

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sprezzatura

Italian, a rich language, has many interesting words with great historical heritage.
For example the word sprezzatura was coined by Baldassarre Castiglione, a Renaissance man.
He was a diplomat, soldier, writer and play producer.
An eclectic man like most Renaissance Italian scholars.

In his book Libro del Cortegiano (which could be translated roughly as Book of the Gentleman) he gives the following definition

e, per dir forse una nova parola, usar in ogni cosa una certa sprezzatura, che nasconda l’arte e dimostri ciò che si fa e dice venir fatto senza fatica e quasi senza pensarvi.


Which could be translated as

and, coining probably a new term, (a gentleman?) should use a certain degree of sprezzatura, so as to hide his proficiency and to show his deeds as done without effort and almost without any thinking.


Thanks Professor Ritson for pointing this word to me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What is leadership

Graziano Mesina, one of the most notorious Italian gangsters of the twentieth century, on leadership.

"I never considered myself as a leader but even if you do not think yourself as a leader, people always serve the leader. It is not you that make yourself a leader. Your peers make it clear to you that they trust you, because you have a better vision, you are more intelligent or you are braver. They just follow your directives.

This is how you become a leader.

A leader needs to coach the team mates how to resist to danger and the meaning of respect. A leader needs to establish shared rules. The rules must be liked by the team mates. They must not think that the rules are just for team mates and not for the leader. They must not feel themselves used by the leader."

Graziano Mesina, interviewed by Roberto Olla.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How to change the thousand and decimal separator in Excel for Mac

If you want to change the thousand and decimal separator in Excel for Mac, you need to change it at operating system level.
For example I have Leopard in English and Excel 2004 in Italian and I have changed the decimal separator from .(dot) to ,(comma).

How to proceed:

0) close excel for mac
1) open mac os system preferences from the dock
2) open Personal, International
3) go to format
4) select a region where the comma separator is used, for example United Kingdom. In the bottom of the popup window, the numbers should appear in the correct format
5) relaunch excel for mac

Friday, February 22, 2008

Luke Johnson: a serial entrepreneur

Yesterday afternoon I attended a lecture at University College London. The guest speaker was Luke Johnson, a "serial entrepreneur" as he likes to define himself.
Mr. Johnson is famous for having organised the acquisition of Pizza Express and having floated it at the London Stock Exchange with the price of 40p. He lead the company until 1999. The stock price had increased 20 times during his tenure.
He sits on the board of several companies, he is the chairman of Channel 4 and writes a column on the Financial Times.

Mr. Johnson became an entrepreneur when he was at university. He was studying medicine at Oxford during the day and partying in the night.
One fateful night, the owners of the dormitory where he was staying complained for the noise of his parties.
He thus decided to partner with a nearby bar that was not going too well. He would collect tickets at the entrance and the bar's owner would earn from the sales of drinks.
Parties were saved and Mr. Johnson had become an entrepreneur.

Not all endeavors were so successful. In Mr. Johnson word the life of an entrepreneur is characterised by many failures. An entrepreneur that says he has never failed is lying, in denial or heading towards a dramatic failure.
Being an entrepreneur is like having a monkey on the back that constantly pushes you to look for improvements or new challenges. Most entrepreneur have obsessive and psychotic personalities. You need to be ambitious and believe in a better future.
To be a successful entrepreneur you need luck, ingenuity and resilience. You need to be able to implement your dreams: ideas are cheap, it is execution that matters.

Mr Johnson's advice for young entrepreneurs is "never give a personal guarantee".

Mr Johnson most loved book is "Grinding It Out: The Making of Mcdonalds", the autobiography of Ray Kroc.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Conformism

In the sixties, Stanley Milgram, a psychologist of Yale University made a series of experiments on conformity. He tried to assess the degree of obedience to authority by persons. His experiments were both simple and powerful. He pretended to be experimenting how memory is affected by electric shocks. He asked volunteers to pose a series of questions to a person that was hidden by a screen. Every time the person gave the wrong answer the volunteer was asked to push a button that would give the person an electric shock of increasing power, up to 450 volts. The person hidden by the screen was an actor and was not receiving any shock, naturally, He was nonetheless instructed to scream as to show pain and to beg to be freed from the experiment.
Unexpectedly the majority of volunteers (more than 65%) continued to press the button and inflicted the maximum voltage, just because they were asked to do so by a Yale professor. So powerful was the obedience and conformity inducted by authority.

It is very much probable that certain terrible episodes in the human history like the persecution of Jews and Roma during WWII and on a very different scale the My Lai massacre during Vietnam War, the Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay scandal in modern times can be explained with the results of Milgram experiment.

Human beings are not bad or good by nature, but social structure, chain of command and control mechanisms can have dire consequences in some cases.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Apple to end Itunes price discrimination in Europe

Apple has issued a statement according to which it will end its practise of price discrimination within the boundaries of the European Union.
This is good news for the European integration process and ultimately for the consumer.
For a theoretical approach to price discrimination in Itunes, see my previous post.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Excel 2008 for Mac Os

I was very disappointed to read that Office 2008 for Mac does not support VBA anymore. This means that Excel 2008 is useless for me. VBA support is necessary for Solver and Stats analysis which I dearly need for my MBA studies.
That is why I rushed and buy Office 2004 for Mac, student edition before it is pulled out of the market.

Please Microsoft, add support to VBA in Excel 2008! Do you really expect me to install VMWare or Parallel + XP and contaminate my Mac?
Or do you hope I install Vista? That would be really an heresy.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Switching to mac

Two weeks ago my Acer company notebook died.
After couple of hours of utter desperation I took the big decision to switch to mac.

When I was a teen-ager I was a great fan of Apple.
I discovered Apple at the home of a schoolfellow of mine. Most of my friends tried to be invited to pretty schoolmates' home inventing implausible excuses.
In my case it was the other way round: I was much more interested in computers than I was in my schoolmate.

It was a beautiful Apple IIe.

Alas, I must admit that I was not very faithful at the time. Now and then I betrayed the Apple IIe with the PC of another friend of mine. The rival was an Olivetti M24, an unglamorous IBM clone. But at the time I was young and after some time I forgot the Apple, mostly for convenience. The Olivetti was just two blocks away while the Apple was at least on one hour by bus.

My future was decided in that period, I feel ashamed to confess.

After that, my life was similar to the one of many geeks of the time. It was the era of wintel. Andy Grove and Bill Gates mostly decided what the world had to look like. I was never to touch the warm and smooth surface of an Apple for many years.

But my true nature was starting to emerge again. I found myself dreaming of a world without reboots and without ugly cables under your desk.

I was ready to switch.

Thank you Steve jobs and thank you Apple for making me happy again when I look to a computer.

(to be continued)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Accidente

Sosteneva, fra l’altro, che le inopinate catastrofi non sono mai la conseguenza o l’effetto che dir si voglia d’un unico motivo, d’una causa al singolare: ma sono come un vortice, un punto di depressione ciclonica nella coscienza del mondo, verso cui hanno cospirato tutta una molteplicità di causali convergenti. Diceva anche nodo o groviglio, o garbuglio, o gnommero, che alla romana vuol dire gomitolo. Ma il termine giuridico «le causali, la causale» gli sfuggiva preferentemente di bocca: quasi contro sua voglia.

Carlo Emilio Gadda. Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana.