Personal Log - May 2009

Yet another extremely busy month, as you can see from the total absence of blog posts and lack of tweets even. Things are getting pretty hectic at work now I guess: less people, more work, more responsibility, same money. They call it contingency; it’s the latest trend in the Western World, didn’t you know? I’m really not impressed. I can’t complain though I guess: I still enjoy my job very much and I know it could be much worse, so it’s just a matter of enduring until autumn — or so they say.

Star Trek Premiere

The month started with an event I’d been looking for for months: the premiere of Star Trek XI, aka “Star Trek”. It’s not that J.J. Abrahms couldn’t come up with a more original name (Star Trek: Academy used to be the working title, at one point), he simply wanted to tell the world that this movie was a new beginning, an elaborate way to start from scratch, to reboot what was more than once dubbed a dying franchise.

The movie was enjoyable – daring and a bit flamboyant – but still enjoyable nonetheless. I consider myself a Star Trek fan, and although it was not the usual Star Trek movie, I somehow liked Abrahms’ bold revisitation of Roddenberry’s universe. Take a bunch of unknowns (Chris Pine) or semi-unknowns (Zachary Quinto), then add some spicy British humor (Simon Pegg) and some old friend (Leonard Nimoy) and throw in an awful lot of XXI century special effects: what you get is not the usual, let’s-all-rock-because-we’re-hit traditional Star Trek, of course, it’s an alternate version of it.

That’s precisely what the movie is meant to be: what Star Trek would have look like if it had been created in the XXI century. The timeline feels disrupted since the very first minute (nevermind the end!), with a Jim Kirk stealing his stepfather’s car. Chris Pine is an alternate Kirk, quite different from the original one, but not that bad. Zachary Quinto, on the other hand, is a true revelation: he definitely is the new Spock, and he couldn’t have been cast better. So is Simon Pegg as Scotty, but unfortunately he’s not involved enough.

The baddies were a bit of a letdown. Nero is a bit too flat, and his ship is way too fancy, no matter where it comes from. Clearly some Hollywood junkie wanted a big, invulnerable dark ship to bring havoc in the galaxy, but that is NOT a Romulan ship, period.

At any rate, I enjoyed the movie and I’m looking forward to the second one, which I hope it will be followed by many others.

Unfortunately in Italy Star Trek is not worshiped in Italy as in it is the US, which is very unfortunate… Roxanne and I decided to play along and go to the cinema half-dressed-up, but our friends Elora and Michelle came with a full-blown Uhura uniform! The whole cinema kept staring at us. It was a bit freaky, but fun (check out the pics on Facebook — if you can, that is, I won’t post them here!).

Wedding Planning

Just over a month to my wedding. Scared? You bet. Stressed out? Indeed. Roxanne and I managed to get most of the things organized in the end, luckily. In particular, this month:

  • We went to the British Consulate in Milan, and applied to get Roxanne’s legal documents.
  • I bought and had the 7 vest sets delivered to Roxanne’s brother’s (Caspar) place, in London.
  • I ended up buying 8 (buy three, get one free) morning suits from Marks and Spencer, and had them delivered to Caspar’s place. He’ll be sending all the stuff over soon, hopefully.
  • Roxanne got the dresses for the maids of honor, and apparently we have to collect them on monday.
  • We sent all the invites we needed to send, but we’re still waiting for confirmations. It looks like it won’t be a big wedding, probably around to 60-70 people mark.
  • We ordered the bomboniere, they should come through soon.
  • Uncle John told us he had the music for the church and the reception sorted out.
  • We got the rings!

We still have to organize a few things, namely:

  • Write and print the prayer books
  • Book the flight for one of my ushers
  • Get some fancy gifts for the bestman and the rest of the people involved in the ceremony
  • Get married civilly here in Genoa
  • Organize a party at our place for the people who can’t come to the wedding
  • Do something else I can’t remember right now

Yes, we are still busy as hell. I’m looking forward to it all, but I’ll definitely be much more relaxed when it’s all over!

Home Internet: Epilogue?

I got broadband at home, finally, after five months. Let’s do a quick recap:

  1. Last December I signed up to Libero Infostrada, and told them I wanted to disconnect from Telecom
  2. In January I actually got disconnected from Telecom, got a new phone line contract, but the Internet was never activated.
  3. I kept calling clueless operators on both ends pointlessly for 2-3 months.
  4. I got pissed off with Libero, so in April I signed up to Tele2, telling them to disconnect me from Libero. They told me it would take at least 4 weeks.
  5. Meanwhile, I signed up to 3g, and got an Internet USB key. At least I can go online, even if with a crappy UMTS connection.
  6. After a month, Telecom rings me asking if I want to come back to them, promising I’ll have the Internet back on soon enough. Out of desperation, I accept and tell them to disconnect me from Tele2.

Just when I was about to write a long post cursing Telecom and their perverted schemes to force their customers to stay with them, I receive a call from Libero and they tell me that the Internet is now activated! Unbelievable. Now all I have to do is send letters to all the other ISPs (they don’t do these things on the phone — clueless operators, remember?) telling them I don’t want anything to do with them anymore.

This is how broadband Internet works in Italy. Jealous?


Last month I decided I would stop programming until after the wedding and so I did (at least at home). Nevertheless, I still keep strive to keep up-to-date with everything concerning technology and in particular programming.

Out of all the tech news I came across throughout this month, the Nimrod programming language definitely struck me the most. A German guy came up with a new language — that’s not a big news, new programming languages are born every week, if not every day.

I believe Nimrod is different though. Basically, here’s why:

  • It’s a mixture of Lisp, Python and C. It looks a bit like Python and it behaves like it (indentation matters), it allows the creation of macros, like in Lisp, and – this is what really matters to me – it compiles to plain C (which can then be compiled using GCC or whatever).
  • It is open source and can be used to produce commercially distributed executables.
  • The manual is simple to read (but with a few rough edges), and the language looks simple to learn.
  • The language is not yet complete, but it’s getting close to a 1.0 release. It works as advertised, nonetheless.
  • It offers a comprehensive standard library, and a huge amount of libraries and wrappers from everything from Windows API to GTK and Cairo.
  • It is cross platform, the Windows version even comes with a one-click installer.
  • It has garbage collection and it supports manual memory management, if you need it.
  • It’s statically typed, with type inference
  • It can generate standalone executables, with very little overhead (90KB for an hello world program).

A language like this has been my secret dream for a long time. I thought no one would ever come up like this. I am really looking forward to give it a proper try someday. What’s wrong with it? For now, a few bits are missing (like native serialization), other than that someone pointed out the weird, rather extreme case insensitiveness of the language. Basically, case and underscores are ignored to allow programmers to use their own programming conventions.
Personally I don’t think this is that bad. After all, if you name your variables “a_thing” and “aThing” and you want them to mean different things, that’s bad programming style anyway. Nevertheless, as far as I know it’s the only language I know which offers such an extreme degree of flexibility in this sense.

Learning new things

This month I also found myself to be extremely eager to learn about new things. I’m still faithful to Ruby and all that, but I’m opening up to new possibility, for different things:

  • I decided to start listening to slightly more technical podcasts, which are _not_related to tech news. In this way, I don’t have the pressure of having to listen to them on a regular basis. Other than FLOSS Weekly, which is probably the best show about Open Source Software out there, I’m going to try out Software Engineering Radio and The Command Line, both slightly more technical.
  • Because I decided to put my personal programming projects on hold, I’m having all sort of new ideas about even more projects I could start as soon as I can. No anticipations until after my wedding, of course.
  • I’m using Vim all the time now, both at work and at home. I feel confident with it, but I feel I still have a lot to learn, especially when it comes to marks, registers, etc. And I’m not yet ready to write an article about it — not the kind of article I’d like to write, anyway.
  • I’d like to learn more about Javascript and JQuery. I played around with it and loved it, but I really never used it for anything serious yet. This, however, may change in the future.