Thursday, May 28, 2009

Goodbye books

I can start counting the days I have left at Dartmouth if I put together my fingers and my toes. This also means that I am about to move all of my belongings, the light ones and, alas, the heavy ones as well. This brings the blame on our best friends, the books.

Books are nice, but they are extremely heavy, especially when they come in large numbers. Furthermore, in five years at Dartmouth I collected a lot of books, some of which I probably should have never bought. Those that know me well might also know that I am not a fan of collecting and that holds true even for books, with some exceptions. Those books over which you really studied hard will always be a very good reference and you might not want to give them away.

Although there are a lot of books which you might have read once and you will probably never read again, for which it is usually just a good idea to borrow them from the library and return them, and there are a lot of books which you might just have not liked them at all. So well, a lot of books weigh more than half of my laptop. What is the best option for them? Thanks god, there are better options than throwing them away.

I finally decided to start selling them on Amazon. The process is amazingly fast and efficient. In a couple of hours I managed to post about thirty books. Now I don't know how many of these will get sold, but in the early afternoon I already sold my first one. Hopefully it is not just luck and tomorrow I will be celebrating again.

I just need to avoid being caught by the frenzy or I will start selling all the books I see around me. The fact, I believe, is that books, like tapes and cds, might eventually become something from the past. A lot of people will tell you the opposite but I think they are wrong. The technology is just not there yet, but, when it will, reading books on paper might feel ridiculous. Anyway, as long as people don't get that, it will be easy to sell. So take your chance now.

I hoped there was something similar to Amazon in Italy, my family has collected all sort of useless medias during the past three decades. When I go home I should start the frenzy again.

Human people have an irresistible instinct at collecting stuff. This probably goes back to when people used to live as hunter gatherers, in which case if you lose your woolly piece of clothes or the spear that your grandfather passed to you, then chances are that you are going to starve to death while freezing your ass. But be aware of what you collect. Cds and dvds will not last longer than thirty years, your electronic gadgets will soon be outdated and your books will eventually be yellow like the cover, if they are Springer books. My sole piece of advice is: if you don't use, you don't need it.

Carpe diem!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fantaboulous skydiving

Last weekend was probably, by many measures, the craziest weekend of my life. Together with a bunch of good friends I went to this small place in Maine for rafting and a few minutes of pure adrenaline by skydiving from a small plane.

Overall there was a lot of pain involved. By camping in the cold, being sleep deprived, getting completely wet in the river while the sun is hiding behind the clouds, and being repeatedly bitten in the face by flocks of mosquitoes so dense that they could cover the sun.

But the grand finale with the jumping from the plane made up for most of it. If I had to summarize the whole experience with one sentence I would definitely go for the following one: There is nothing to fear but fear itself. In fact, skydiving is a pretty safe activity. Definitely safer than rafting and by many order of magnitudes safer than riding a car with a 19 year old girl driving around 108 miles an hour, as it happened on the way to Maine.

But the really cool part about skydiving is facing your own irrational fears. I had never ridden a small plane, and yesterday I was in this little box, with no space for seats, with barely space for five people, about 3500 meters up in the air standing on a small metal plate inside a big vacuum just full of air.

You can think about it a lot, but being there will give a feeling that it is difficult to describe. Put that together with the fact that you don't know what it is going to feel like. You just know that it will feel like nothing you have experienced before.

That's exactly what I felt. As my tandem instructor put it, it was fantaboulous. I confess I was pretty tense, although not more than I would feel if I had to jump from a 20 meters cliff, or climb a 20 meters cliff. Apparently skydiving has little to do with being afraid of heights. To some extent, I would say it was even less scary because everything will keep telling you that it is safe. Truth is, there is a cap on how scary something is going to be if you rationally believe that it is safe. Emotionwise it will never equal the experience of meeting a hungry polar bear in the middle of an ice pak.

The thing I was scared the most was actually to be scared. Since I bought the video, I thought that I was going to remember everything that I did, so I better did it right. I concentrated a lot about how I was going to behave and maybe it turned out that doing so helped me concentrating on something other than my fears. I don't have the video yet, but I got a feeling that it is going to be pretty funny and kinf of stupid.

But what the hell, as soon as I get it I am going to put it on my phone, so that I will keep it with me all the time. I am so glad I did it. It was worth it every single cent.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Nikitas and Friede's party

Tonight I went to the birthday party of two very close friends. There were many good friends there. I had a really good time, although I cannot the sense of gloominess that comes from the fact that in less than a month I will be leaving Dartmouth for good. Five years living in the same place are quite a lot, and even if I changed friends and company many times during these five years, I feel now even more nostalgic.
Most of the friends at this party are people from Europe that will at some point go back home, whatever home means for them. I am leaving but I am not going home or getting closer for what matters.
I felt really touched by all those that told me that they are going to miss me. They were mainly drunk, I think they really meant it. I ended up DJing after midnight, first with some salsa and then with some awesome songs that we loved and shared. It felt so good, it really seemed that we were celebrating all the time we spent together with the songs that touched us the most.
Friede got a photoalbum for her birthday. It was incredibly nice. Months and months of experiences collected in a single book, and I am in many of them as well. It is scary. People never used to take so many pictures.
Well, this post is a bit of a mess, but that's how I feel now, despite the fact that I have not drunk at all. I feel a lot of gloominess. There were too many nice things happening tonight to believe that it will all be just part of the past soon.
But, as the movies Benjamin Button points out, how would we know how special the people we care about are if they were never to leave us?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Cully's run

It does not happen very often, for me, to participate in a 5K run organized for someone that committed suicide which I actually knew at some point in my life. More in general, it does not happen to me to participate in a 5K run at all.
The day was cloudy and windy, as the typical days in spring and summer in New Hampshire. You could feel the chills on your bare legs and the humidity from the grass and the mud. I did not know very well Cully, the person which the 5K was organized for. But I felt touched by the attempt her Rugby team put on the remember her. There were plenty of pictures of her and a long letter describing what person she was like and quoting things that she said. Everything was aimed at describing what a nice and caring person she was.
It seems like after you are dead you suddenly become a wonderful person. It made me wonder what people will remember about me when I will be gone. I do not like the idea to be remembered just for the good things I have done. I would rather have a completely sincere version of me.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Samsung NC20

I know it is kind of lame to make a post about a laptop, but I cannot help. The geek inside me is screaming. Well, as you might have guessed, I bought a new laptop this week. Last weekend I googled "netbook 12", looking for an affordable light laptop. All of us have seen this little laptop called netbooks and got fascinated to some degree. I have been disgusted though. What is the use of a computer with the keyboard of a large cellphone. None in my opinion.
But I do like the idea of a light laptop, without the useless cd drive, which I can bring everywhere, with my thumb, my index finger, and my middle finger. Well, the NC20 is exactly what I was asking for. For a mere $550 you get an awesome 12 inches laptop, weighing 1.5kg. If it was oval, you could use it like a frisbee. Resolution is cool, 1280x800, hard drive is awesome, 160GB. You can read the specs online, it has everything you need.
On a side note, why they did not invent it before? The answer is awesome. Intel forbade hardware manufacturers from putting their processors in netbooks larger than 10 inches, to avoid competing with the more lucrative notebook market. So VIA came out with this new platform, Nano, which is targeted at ultramobile devices. Basically all of my laptop, other than few pieces, is made in Taiwan.
The keyboard feels awesome, you can type really fast, and the screen also looks great, and the system is so silent, you cannot tell the hard drive is working or the fan is spinning. Compared to my 5kg old laptop this looks like a feather blown by the wind.
Here is my geeky post, if you are planning to buy a laptop consider the NC20. You will be able to sit by someone with the Macbook Air and say, "Oh, cool like mine, just three times as expensive". Only problem, not everything works with Linux, which bothers me but it seems like it might get fixed. I can still hook it up at a conference and give a presentation with it. That is good enough with me.
Oh, I forgot to say, the battery lasts 6 hours. I always thought of the battery as that awesome piece of metal that allows you to move from one room to another without having to reboot. Well, it is time for a change. I am on my way to see if I can get some work done with matlab while getting some tan. Bu-ya-ka-sha!