Sunday, 29 May 2011

Back to the cold old world

It's pretty cold in London.

We had an overnight flight so this is jet lag time. But in a nutshell: great trip. I like Atlanta, even learned to pronounce it Etlanna. Charlotte needs more exploring but my first impression is favourable. And Giuseppe attended his first baseball game. What more do you need?

The baseball stadium by the way is like the Hilton of stadium. It's a playground for all ages where you can also watch some sport. They have lifts with a/c and attendants; audience music selection; food everywhere and something scary called a Kiss Cam.

posted from Bloggeroid

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Gender-less Children

There's a thing on telly about families who keep their children's gender a secret so the child can choose his own path.

I confess I like the idea but for completely different reasons: I would know the gender of my child and his/her needs etc. But people around us would not and therefore that would not affect the way they treat my child in early days. I like that.

America I

When I was little I always enjoyed the ice machines in American hotels. I would arrive, drop my bags and got get ice, which I then may or may not use. I just thought it was great that I could get ice whenever I wanted.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Lu to the Gano

I haven't been very good at posting since I have been here. Turns out I have been having full days from 8am to past midnight. I'll get some photos up on Flickr later and fill you all in. For now: Grancia.

Lugano's international community is on the rise, with 11'000 foreigners in the Canton now, and they are building a new opera/symphony house along the lake. Let's just hope it's not hideous and we're on the way to being a real city here.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Rosalind Franklin would disagree

This recent xkcd comic reminds me of a recent conversation.

A couple were telling us how they chose their son's all-boy school. As the school's principal explained: by not having girls in the classrooms, they can dedicate more time to mathematics and science and provide a higher level of learning.

My response was as you read in the title: "Rosalind Franklin would disagree."

This was about a month ago. It still makes my skin crawl.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Alumni Weekend

It was 2 days of alumni events non-stop... for three different schools. In particular two US universities: Franklin College which is in my home-town of Lugano, and Vassar College, my Alma mater.

First of all, the Franklin evening.
A quick word on the college: founded in 1969, it is a liberal arts college with both US and Swiss academic accreditation. It sits on a beautiful hillside over-looking most of Lugano, and boasts one of the world's most loved Italian professors: my mother Ornella Gebhardt.

Friday's event was a social reception with a brief presentation on sustainability projects on campus. I thank Franklin for extending the invitation to me, other than an occasional summer course I did not attend the college myself. The presentation was interesting and I was fully introduced to the great friendliness and diversity of the Franklin student body.

It was a great evening of meeting new people (and seeing a couple of known faces as well), all of whom were friendly, interesting and enthusiastic about their lives. A thoroughly enjoyable night out.

Saturday was the Vassar Sesquicentennial event in London. It was a long but interesting day of talks, presentations and some social time as well.

After a morning coffee we heard opening remarks about Vassar and the Liberal Arts: Then and Now by the woman who was my adviser at the college, Rachel Kitzinger (this woman is one of the main reasons I chose to major in Classical Greek).
I may have to enquire if she will distribute a copy of her speech. She spoke of course about the purpose of a liberal arts education: what the term means and how Vassar evolved throughout the years. She quoted from the Antigone to highlight the complexity of "learning" in higher education. As I am typing from memory I don't have the exact words, but she concluded to the effect of: to each question there are many equally valid answers, all plausible, correct, destructive and irreconcilable.

This was followed by Susan Kuretsky's talk The Transformation of Shadows, about how the tools for teaching history of art have evolved. This incorporated a classroom lecture by Andrew Tallon on the Hagia Sophia using live graphics and 3D modelling.

We broke for a buffet lunch - equally interesting and entertaining as being surrounded by Vassar grads of different eras often is.

The afternoon brought two more lectures and a brief presentation.
We started with Ron Patkus' 40 minute lecture about different version of the front page of Newton's PhilosophiƦ Naturalis Principia Mathematica over the course of about 150 years. Yes, just this:

It sound so strange and yet it was sincerely interesting. Amazing how much this page can tell you about the author, the publisher, the place and time, and society.
My personal favourite was the edition "for use the by the ladies".

Ellen Silbergeld followed this with a talk on the use of mapping in the field of public health. Again, fascinating points about the use of maps throughout the history of public health, right up to Google as the most successful indicator for predicting flu outbreaks.
I also learned about Darwin's views on women as evolutionarily challenged (I think that's the PC term): "We may also infer from the law of the deviation from averages, that the average mental power in man must be above that of women." (just to choose one quote).

We ended with a brief presentation by the Royal Society's head librarian about the collection he manages.

And here also ends today's post. If I manage to get my hands on Rachel's speech I will link to it here.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


He got his own hashtag, we are all more famous in death than in life I guess.

Anyway, now that it has sunk in a little and I re-read what I wrote yesterday, I have some brief thoughts to add.

First of all I hope it was clear that I feel no sadness or remorse at this man's death, simply not jubilant happiness. The sense of relief that I mentioned, however, has since increased. I think in my immediate reaction I was somewhat dumbstruck and didn't know what to think.

I am still unimpressed by images of people rejoicing, but I in no way equate their actions to those who rejoiced at the attack on the twin towers in 2001.

And that is all. Compliments to the US Intelligence forces, compliments to the Navy Seals, and compliments to all those who have risked and in too many cases given their lives in combat throughout these 10 years.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Osama with an "S"

Poor Sky News correspondent was talking about Obama talking about Osama and he was having some trouble keeping the names straight.

I heard the news on the radio when I woke up, so came in to the sitting room and turned on the TV. The first images I saw were people at Ground Zero celebrating. Which I confess: made me sad. At Osama's death I feel relief, but not joy.

I'll tell you what would have had me cheering: capture. And a trial. Although I realise that itself could potentially bring bigger problems than his death. I'm not sad that he's dead either. Better dead than alive and operating, no doubt. And I am proud and thankful to those who spent years in his hunt and in this weekend's operations.

Anyway, that's my immediate and sincere response. Let's see how that evolves as the news sinks in.