ia: Benvenite! In mi blog io scribe in interlingua, italiano e anglese.

it: Benvenuti! Nel mio blog scrivo in interlingua, italiano e inglese.

en: Welcome! In my blog I write in Interlingua, Italian and English.

On Richard Stallman and people who cannot read

We live in strange times. People are so filled with hatred and prejudices that their brain becomes unable to parse the simplest sentences. I take this issue to heart, because it could happen to anyone — it has happened to me before (luckily, only in private online conversations), where an acquaintance of mine accused me of saying things I never said. And it happens to famous people all the time. Guys, just because you hate person X, you should not skip over parts of their speech or suppress context in order to make it look like they said something terrible or stupid, when they didn't.

Now it happend to Richard Stallman, with a whole wave of hateful people accusing him of saying something that he didn't say. Let's start with the VICE article, titled "Famed Computer Scientist Richard Stallman Described Epstein Victims As 'Entirely Willing'", which insists in quoting only two words out of Stallman's sentence:

Early in the thread, Stallman insists that the “most plausible scenario” is that Epstein’s underage victims were “entirely willing” while being trafficked.

Except that he didn't say that. Why not quote the whole sentence? It's not such a long sentence, really! Just follow the link to the source, which provides a complete excerpt of Stallman's words:

We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing. Assuming she was being coerced by Epstein, he would have had every reason to tell her to conceal that from most of his associates.

Now, English is not my native language, but I read it well enough to understand that “to present oneself as” and “to be” are different expressions having very different meanings (and, in most context, actually opposite ones!). You don't need to be Shakespeare to understand that. You only need to either stop hating or, if you really cannot help it, at least stop projecting your prejudices onto the people you hate. Hate makes you blind.

It's sad to see otherwise intelligent people take stupid decisions because of such misunderstandings.

I for one, stand in solidarity with Richard Stallman and with the English language.

(please note that this is not an endorsement of everything Stallman might have said in the past; I don't follow him that closely, and it may be that he also happened to say terrible things in this very thread. I'm only commenting this very specific issue, and I know that in this very specific issue he's being wrongly accused)

Principles and privileges

I intended to write a reply to Jos Poortvliet's blog post “Principles”, and I swear I did enter it as a comment to his Google-powered blog, but something went wrong and when I tried to publish it I lost all what I'd written. So I decided to let some hours pass, ponder a bit more over the subject, and write a more exhaustive answer on my own blog.

“A morte il fascio” — death to fascism.

Before going into the core of the topic, I want to point out that when I start thinking over the questions posed by Jos my thought can't help jumping to the Marxist concept of classes: the very fact that you are considering the possibility of refusing a business because of principles means that you can afford doing that, while most people just can't. The same applies to similar questions, such as declining a well paying job because of ethical reasons, or boycotting some products, eating healthy food, crossing the ocean on a clean yacht instead of polluting the air by plane, etc.: being able to make these choices already imply that you are in a privileged position (in some cases, extremely privileged!).

Why am I saying that? Certainly not to diminish the value of your ethical choices! By all means, please continue to do your best to change things! However, while you can proudly look at yourself in the mirror, please don't look down on people who don't seem to be as responsible as you: they might simply not have the choice, or not be able to afford it. Or maybe — that's also possible — they are not aware that they can make this choice.

So, besides being excellent yourself, one thing you could do in order to have a much bigger impact is to help other people get into a condition such that they would also be able to afford to take the brave choices you go proud of.

That was a long premise indeed, but it might help to understand the rest of my answer.

Which is: yes, I would (to a question like “Would you work with a company that builds rockets and bombs to earn money for Nextcloud development?”). Which might surprise many, especially those of you who know that I'm a hardcore pacifist. In reality, my answer would be much more faceted, depending on who you are and on the weight of your possible refusal. For example, if I were a superstar with a million followers, then I'd definitely refuse: such a decision, made public, would have a strong propagandistic effect. But when you are an ordinary software developer, with a dozen friends (or even a few hundreds) and no direct channel to the media, what would be the outcome of your refusal? It might impress a handful of people, maybe, but the evil company would easily find someone else to replace you and you'd lose a well paying job (which could help you to afford making more ethical choices). But more important than that, you would have cut out a communication channel to the people who might benefit the most from your presence — and from your message.

I would answer “yes” because I'd like to take a chance to know what people on the other side of the fence think. What are their reasons? Are they aware of the issues that bother me? It's possible that I'm overestimating myself, but even if there was a tiny, microscopic chance of instilling a doubt, of delivering a message or providing a good example, I would leave no stone unturned to grasp this chance. Of course, I'm not thinking of “converting” the management of a corporation; but some of my peers inside that company might start questioning things. And then, of course, you can always leave, when enough is enough; but joining and then leaving a deal has a higher impact than no joining at all. Or, if you like metaphores, in order to clean something, you first have to get your hands dirty.

Before reading Jos's post, I've been considering another question, which is vaguely related. Suppose that you were the owner of a bakery, and that you knew that one of your customer is a nazi. Would you still sell bread to him? Suppose that he's the only nazi in town: here you don't even need to worry about your business, because even if you lost that customer, it wouldn't have but a very minor impact on you.

My answer here is along a similar line as the previous one: yes, I would still sell my bread to him. One reason is that this risks being another rabbit hole: a nazi might hold the most disgusting opinions and views, but then — if you think about it — many people do. Maybe they don't hate Jews, but Roms, Muslims, lawyers, or the French; maybe they don't want to colonize Africa, but Greece; maybe they don't physically torture dissidents, but keep them rotting in a jail without charges (or with made-up charges). Even without going to these extremes, there's simply the fact that we are all imperfect: both in our opinions and in our actions. Would you refuse selling bread to a guy holding nazi views, but otherwise honest and well-behaving, while selling it to someone having well-balances opinions, but who evades millions in taxes?

But the main reason why I'd sell my bread to a nazi is that, really, I'd like to get to know him. I would like to learn why he holds those views, because I think that understanding is the first step towards correction. This is probably matter for a future post, but I'm convinced that all this censorship in the social networks (yes, especially on the federated ones!) is detrimental to the fight against fascism: if we won't even know where and who the fascists are, how can we have any hopes of winning the fight?

So, let's build bridges, let's talk, let's try to understand each other's points of view, and find exactly why we see things differently. And this is much more effective when done at a personal level, one to one, rather than with public big proclaims — which, more often than not, have the only effect of polarizing the field even more.

In short — and I guess this is my answer to Jos — try to make a difference with those who are closer to you. Accept the deal with the evil corporation, and let everyone of your friends and colleagues know how much you are suffering because of that. Let your peers in that company know you for what you are worth, but don't hide your feelings. Maybe, who knows, the day you leave the deal, they will also decide that it's time to make a big choice in their life?

Migrating to a new Mastodon instance

The wonders of improvised Mastodon instances: one node disappears after an outage caused by a summer heatwave, leaving its users no way to migrate their data or to notify their followers.

After about one month of waiting for the node to come up or give some signals of life, I've decided to create a new account on another instance. If you use Mastodon and you were following me, please forgive me for the annoyance and follow me again here.

Why you shouldn't fly with Aeroflot

I'm writing this while sitting in the Moscow airport, in a state which is a mix of tiredness, anger and astonishment. At this time I should be already at home, in Saint Petersburg, but something went very wrong and I feel the need to vent my frustration here. Please bear with me :-)

The story goes like this: we booked a flight from Venice to Saint Petersburg, with a change in Moscow. The time between flights was 1 hour and 20 minutes — that's not plenty of time, but it's still much longer than other changes I've had in the past in other airports. And I should stress that this flight combination was suggested to me by the Aeroflot company's website, so this time should be enough for the transfer. At least, this was my assumption.

And it was wrong: in spite of the flight from Venice to Moscow landing in time, in spite of us not losing a minute and performing all the passport and security checks without delays (we didn't even let the kids visit the toilet!), in spite of us running along the corridors as soon as we realized that we might be late, we arrived at the gate just in time to see it closing in front of us. And no, rules are rules, so they wouldn't let us board.

The guy at the gate comforted us by saying that planes from Moscow from Saint Petersburg fly every hour, so we could just take the next one, for free. We tried to protest, but to no avail; we went to the Aeroflot ticket desk, explained the situation, and they told us that we could take the flight 6 hours later. And no, it didn't matter that we had kids; the employee at the desk told us that we should be grateful to them, that we could fly for free, as they were making an exception for us.

Yes, you've read it correctly: they asked us to fly 6 hours later, and instead of giving us any compensation (as I once got from Finnair, for example, when their flight was late), we had to be grateful for not having to buy the tickets again!

And I want to make one thing clear: there was no announcement about the transfer time being tight, nor in the plane nor at the airport; no one came forward asking for passengers transferring to St. Petersburg and inviting us to skip the lines for the various controls, nothing. Our names were not called, ever. All that is the norm in all other similar situations I've experienced. If that does not happens, it means — but maybe I'm being too naive — that the second plane is waiting (or that there's still plenty of time to board it).

Luckily they found that an earlier flight, which was only three hours late than our initial expected departure had three available seats, so my wife and kids are boarding that place right now while I'm writing this. I'll take the other flight in three hours, hoping that there won't be any more surprises.

Lesson of the day: always fly from Finland (if you live in Saint Petersburg, like me, that's close), and in any case avoid Aeroflot.

Rifugio Carducci

La passeggiata da Auronzo al rifugio Carducci, che abbiamo compiuto ieri, è stata una delle più belle escursioni che io ricordi. E certamente anche una delle più difficili ed emozionanti, sia per il notevole dislivello (più di 1300 metri — il rifugio si trova a 2297 metri d'altezza), sia per alcuni tratti molto esposti (ovvero con il sentiero costeggiante un precipizio). Ma permettetemi di andare con ordine.

La tabella al inizio del percorso.

L'escursione inizia in località “Pian de la Velma” (non chiedetemi cosa significhi), poco più su di Auronzo di Cadore, a circa 960 metri di altezza. Dopo alcuni metri di cammino, abbiamo incontrato il cartello fotografato qui sopra, che ci informava che proseguire il percorso (segnato dal numero 103) era vietato a causa di una frana occorsa nel 2015. Tuttavia, visto che il personale del nostro albergo ci aveva consigliato questa escursione, senza peraltro menzionare questo divieto, decidemmo di non prendere questo cartello troppo sul serio, e di continuare il cammino.

Dopo una decina di minuti ci superò un altro escursionista, che ci confermò l'agibilità del sentiero, aperto solo una settimana prima. Il cartello non era ancora stato rimosso, forse per dimenticanza.

Il ponte che collega il nuovo percorso col vecchio.

Di fatto noi avevamo già trovato il punto dove il sentiero 103 originario era stato intenzionalmente bloccato con alcuni rami, e dove partiva la deviazione per un altro sentiero che sembrava uno seguito dai cercatori di funghi. Questo sentiero saliva abbastanza rapidamente, e a un certo punto le molte radici che emergevano dal terreno rivelavano come si trattasse di un sentiero scavato molto recentemente. Anche quando il sentiero entrava nel bosco, era evidente che non era stato percorso da molte persone, perché il terreno era un po' instabile. In un paio di occasioni il bosco si apriva e il sentiero si appoggiava su dei ghiaioni in costa, che attraversammo con un po' di paura (si veda il video alla fine dell'articolo, a 29 secondi).

Un tratto del nuovo sentiero 103. Si possno notare i rami recentemente tagliati per permettere il passaggio.

Il sentiero si sviluppa lungo la val Giralba, e in alcuni punti incrocia l'omonimo torrente che da il nome alla valle (o viceversa?). Il fragore del torrente era ben udibile lungo quasi tutto il percorso, e in alcuni punti si aveva la possibilità di bere e rifornirsi d'acqua.

Il torrente che scava la valle.

Una bella e alta cascata, che scendeva lunto la parete rocciosa, era a tratti visibile, ma preferimmo evitare di deviare dal percorso per tentare di raggiungerla — la nostra mèta era ancora distante.

Il torrente e, in alto sulla montagna, la cascata.

A 1335 metri di altezza (se il GPS della mia macchina fotografica è corretto) si trova un ponte di legno, di recente costruzione, che attraversa il torrente; dopo alcuni metri ci si ricongiunge al vecchio sentiero 103 originario, che si seguirà da qui in avanti.

La differenza tra il terreno del nuovo e del vecchio sentiero ci apparve evidente: il terreno del vecchio sentiero era più duro e dava l'impressione di essere più stabile (benché, a dire il vero, nemmeno i nuovi tratti del sentiero si danneggiavano sotto i nostri passi). Ma in alcuni punti anche questa parte del sentiero sembrava essere stata interessata da frane.

Un punto parzialmente ostruito da una frana.

Un luogo particolarmente piacevole era un rivolo d'acqua immerso nel verde: si trova a 1823 metri di altezza ed è indicato da un cartello con su scritto “acqua” posto sul terreno di fianco al sentiero. Questo luogo sembrava preso da qualche fiaba o da un dipinto fantasy, tanto era adornato di muschi e di mille fiorellini. Lo potete vedere a 2:28 minuti del video in basso.

La vista si faceva più bella man mano che si saliva.

Con l'aumentare dell'altezza, l'aspetto del sentiero cambia: i pini divengono sempre più rari, e anche i cespugli di pino mugo infine lascieranno il posto a prati verdi e pieni di fiori. È cursioso come nemmeno l'erba riesca a crescere oltre i 15-20 centimetri, a certe altezze.

A 2000 e più metri di altezza, si trovavano moltissimi di questi fiori dai petali lanosi. Non conosco il nome di questi fiori — suggerimenti sono benvenuti nei commenti.

Già potevamo scorgere il rifugio, benché si trovasse ancora a 300 metri più in alto. Questo ci confortava, ma allo stesso tempo fummo costretti a osservare come la vicinanza era soltanto apparente: nonostante si faticasse e si salisse, il rifugio sembrava mantenersi alla stessa distanza da noi.

Anche questi fiori gialli erano molto comuni (e pure di essi ignoro il nome).

Nella parte finale del sentiero i prati cedono spesso il passo a ghiaioni. Questi sono generalmente instabili (e soprattutto gli escursionisti più veloci ne fanno rotolare parecchio, di ghiaino) e la forma del sentiero può cambiare col tempo. D'altro canto, il rifugio è così vicino che ci sono diversi possibili percorsi per arrivarci, a quel punto; il problema è che non tutte le varianti sono ugualmente facili, quindi bisogna stare attenti a scegliere la via più adatta alle proprie capacità.

2120 metri. Il rifugio è ben visibile (si ingrandisca la foto per vederlo). Da quest'altezza in poi, il sentiero diventa più ghiaioso e instabile.

Finalmente arrivammo al rifugio. Prendemmo un cappuccino e una cioccolata calda, accompagnati da due fette di torta. Dopo questa fatica (che durava quattro ore e mezza, contando le molte pause fotografiche), il premio era ben meritato!

La nostra mèta.

Ho compilato un breve video con varie registrazioni effettuate durante l'ascesa. Forse saranno di aiuto a chi volesse intraprendere la stessa escursione, per farsi un'idea di ciò che lo attende: