That was more or less what was going to my mind today, shortly after checking the italian newspapers for the outcome of the confidence vote Berlusconi’s government. And, to make it worse, that was during my lunch break !

I really don’t know what to say… The gut reaction is to be totally and utterly disgusted by what happened today. On the other hand, the cynical one, I’m not really. Actually it was kind of expected. So folks, it’s official now (in case you missed it over the past 10 years or so), Italy is a banana republic, de facto. That’s the only thing that you can say when the Prime Minister claims a “political victory” over a confidence vote “won” by three  votes. OMFG !

To save the day, rather unexpectedly, was former public prosecutor, Mr. Antonio Di Pietro. The speech he gave to support the vote against berlusconi’s government was really hitting the nail on the head. He did not spare him anything, he said it all, in his face… and, of course the old fart (pardon my French) could not take it and had to leave. The full speech is on YT, in italian of course, but if you’ve been reading this all the way down here, probably, that’s not a problem.

I am too pissed off crossed to bother to translate the speech but his bottom line was “We are ashamed of you [i.e. mr b.] as the Prime Minister of Italy, you turned this county into a banana republic” (b.t.w., this is  not a proper quote). I am ashamed too. I’ve been living in the U.K. for 6 bloody years now, and every time I mention I am italian I am always AFRAID, somebody might come back with some question or remark about Berlusconi. It’s a relief, when they just come back with the usual good (?!?) old stereotypes: “Oh, Italy, you have really wonderful weather down there… sunny, warm… brilliant!” (hello !?!? I am from Padova, 90% humidity and ~0 deg C in winter and 90% humidity and 30+ deg C in the summer…. yup, really nice indeed) or “Oh I’ve been to ‘WHEREVER’ and the food/wine/whatever was really astounding”… ah such a relief ! At least they are not mentioning mr. b. (lower case intentional).

So, sorry folks, no translation… just learn bloody Italian, will ya ? After all, if I managed with English…

Need to go to bed now, have fun, Peace.

I made it ! I finally managed to complete my first woodworking project : a step stool. I started building it about two years ago and, yes it took me ages. The reason is not that the project was particularly complicated or anything, it’s more to do with learning that two you kids and time consuming hobbies are not a match made in heaven.

I found out about this project on a nice woodworking video podcast from a nice American chap. I convinced myself to go for it because of the extensive documentation and videos explaining every detail of the construction process without assuming anything about your woodworking skills. It was my first project and I did not feel confident enough to find a hard word seller so I decided to buy some window sill oak boards from Ridgeons in Cambridge. That was a bad idea. I got totally ripped off ! Actually, probably it was still not too bad considering that I was buying finished oak window sill board (finished and everything), but I’ve still spent a fortune. I just wish it was easier to find a British equivalent of the American lumber yard.

While building this project a developed a true passion for woodworking so I decided to invest a bit of money on my new hobby. When I started building the project the only tools I had were three rather dull chisels, a brand new tenon saw and a few measuring tools. I soon realised that sawing through a 1″ board of hardwood 8″ wide was a really hard job. The problem was not the amount of elbow grease required but, rather, the extreme difficulty of keeping everything square. Once I started attacking the dovetail joinery for the first step, I soon find out that it was far from trivial… I was spoiled : watching the pros doing it makes it look like a piece of cake. I could not be more wrong. So here comes the first, unsurprising advice: no matter how much you read or watch about woodworking there is no replacement for trying to do it yourself.

Fortunately the more pins and tails I was cutting the better I was getting (I’ve still got plenty of miles to go though…). In the meanwhile I bought a whole new bunch of toys, pardon me, tools. I got three different water stones for sharpening and the fancy Veritas jig to keep my chisels and plane irons at the right angle. That was money well spent except for the fact that it left a bitter taste in my mouth because I realised that I needed even more time for my hobby that I could possibly afford: doing any woodworking with dull chisels is dangerous and frustrating, however if you are not doing it for a living, it does not leave you with much of a sense of accomplishment to spend your only spare couple of hours sharpening and honing and not doing, actually, any woodworking at all !

After having everything dry-assembled in my living room for about an year, this summer I decided that it was about time to finish it off. So once, I finished refurbishing our cupboard, I decided to put everything else on the back-burner and dedicated all my efforts to finished this overdue project. After finishing the remaining joinery (the back stretcher) and assembling everything, I did a fair bit of surface preparation with my scrapers and then with 320, 400 and 600 grit sandpaper. I then applied three of coats of clear varnish, sanded everything again and then put another three coats. The final result is rather pleasing, although there was room for improvement on the finishing as well.

Here it is for you to judge, enjoy ! Full-resolution photograph are available on Flickr.

Steve Munro

Steve Munro

This is a very sad moment.

Yesterday evening I went down to my favourite pub in Cambridge, The Live And Let Live, after about a month since I had been there. I had not been around for most June and I was quite looking forward to meet Steve, my Scottish friend. I was utterly shocked to find out from Haggis, shortly after ordering my pint, that Steve Munro passed away about two weeks ago. He died of natural causes and was found dead in his house a few days after not showing up at work.

I’ve met Steve down at the Live and Let Live  about three years ago. Since then we had become quite good friends and we spent very pleasant evenings sipping nice real ales and chatting about anything from politics to history, religion, books, science, real ales (of course!) and whiskys, and our lifes. We always had a great time and the only comfort now are the good memories. Last summer I met his Chinese girlfriend who came over to the UK to visit him. I do remember her name but there is no way I would be able to spell it correctly so I’ll rather leave it. Anyway, she was really nice and friendly and, most importantly, they seemed to have a very good time together. A few months ago he mentioned they were planning to get married by the end of the year… I really hope his brother (whose name I don’t actually know) will manage to get in touch with her.

At the beginning of this year we started to head down to the Devonshire Arms after the Live and Let Live had close down for a final pint before going to bed. We suddenly fell in love with Nero and Marcus Aurelius, two fantastic pints brewed by the local Milton Brewery. At the end of May we met down there, it must have been a Wednesday or a Thursday, and spent a very nice evening chatting with Dom and the rest of the bar staff. Our passion for real ales was what brought us closer but then it quickly evolved into a rather close friendship.

He was project manager at Cambridge SOFA, a local charity. I think he was doing a terrific job down there and I am sure he will be really missed by his volunteers and trustees. Today I’ve been searching the web madly trying to find out any information about his death but I was rather depressed to find very little, if anything at all. He was proud of his un-traceability, “you can’t find me on Google”, he told me several times… well now I wish I could have. I’ve only managed to find a picture from some politician that supported the charity… and that’s about it.

You will be greatly missed Steve ! I just opened a fine bottle of Brewdog Tokyo Stout, and I am having it while writing this, I am sure you would approve,

Slangevar Steve, it had been a pleasure and an honor to have met you,

Your Friend

Marco

yeah ok, it’s a bit early but maybe you could make good use of the days before hand to get into the spirt. If I may, there are a couple of YouTube videos I’d like to suggest. They are good fun, but remember to switch on your brain before hand….

I hope you enjoy the videos, the language gets a bit extreme every now and then, but George Carlin is one of my favourites american stand-up comedians. I know you are probably busy getting into the Christmas season buy spend a heck of a lot of money on useless presents, but maybe you could do yourself or, even better, somebody else, a big present and buy something really useful: enjoy [UK/US] !

This December I am by myself. Francesca and the kids are in Verona (Italy) with the grand parents whereas I am here alone in Cambridge trying to improve the architecture of the Gaia reduction pipeline (can you feel the excitement ?) with Greg and Chris, our new recruits.

So what can I do to kill the Sunday night bore ? Well, in these cases, Google is your friend… so I started looking for some old friends that I’ve more or less lost contact with since I moved in the UK in 2005. One of these is Giorgio Tonazzo who, in the mist of times, initiated me to the art of bass guitar (or, rather, at least he tried to… but I am still “una gran pippa“). Right now I am way too tired to be start rambling about the good ole times, so I’ll rather point you out to a couple of very nice videos he posted on YouTube, enjoy !!

I guess somebody just invented a new extreme sport: power sliding ! Not a sport (and a video) for the faint-hearted. Enjoy

I should be sleeping by now, but what can you do when you stumble upon something like these:

the night is so short… and I love the accent !

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