Book Review: Invisible Cities

“Kublai Khan does not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the cities visited on his expeditions, but the emperor of the Tartars does continue listening to the young Venetian with greater attention and curiosity than he shows any other messenger or explorer of his.” So begins Italo Calvino’s compilation of fragmentary urban images. As Marco tells the khan about Armilla, which “has nothing that makes it seem a city, except the water pipes that rise vertically where the houses should be and spread out horizontally where the floors should be,” the spider-web city of Octavia, and other marvelous burgs, it may be that he is creating them all out of his imagination, or perhaps he is recreating fine details of his native Venice over and over again, or perhaps he is simply recounting some of the myriad possible forms a city might take. »

I got Covid

After two years of avoiding it, I finally got Covid. First two days, I had a few symptoms but was testing negative (it was likely to be Covid because one of my daughters was positive.) On day three, I tested positive. It’s ten days now, but only during the first three or four I didn’t feel good: a light fever, pinching throat, some coughing and sleepiness, that’s all. I did not have to miss any working days (I’m self-employed) and only had to skip two of my daily training routines1. »

Author image Nicola Iarocci on #covid,

Becoming the Emperor

Today, probably not just by coincidence, I came across Becoming the Emperor, an excellent New Yorker piece from 2005 on Memoirs of Hadrian, Yourcenar’s other works, and her peculiar career and life trajectory. Having just read the Memoirs, I was glad to see several of my reading impressions confirmed. I found the New Yorker article to be spot-on on Yourcenar’s prose and theme: Actually, some of Yourcenar’s prose is marmoreal, but not so that you can’t get through it. »

Eve-Swagger v0.2 released

I just released Eve-Swagger v0.2 on PyPI. Eve-Swagger is a Swagger/OpenAPI extension for Eve powered RESTful APIs. This maintenance release addresses a few issues and adds support for eve-auth-jwt. Many thanks to Roberto Romero for his contributions to this release. Subscribe to the newsletter, the RSS feed, or follow @nicolaiarocci on Twitter »

Book Review: Memoirs of Hadrian

Memoirs of Hadrian and its author Marguerite Yourcenar have always induced a cautious fear in me. I fretted the tome for high literary circles, one of those texts so infused with learned quotations and obscure literary references as to be utterly indigestible to the average reader. Despite their evident reputation, I relegated the Memoirs to the bottom of my reading list for a long time. When I stumbled on another reference to Yourcenar’s work a couple of weeks ago, I finally decided to plunge and pull the Memoirs off the shelf. »

Stripe releases MarkDoc and that's a good thing

Stripe docs are a marvel, and every developer who’s had to deal with them knows it. After years of painful PayPal interactions, I remember the amazement and the feverish grin on my face the first time I landed on their API reference. Stripe API is beautifully designed, but it’s the combination of good design and excellent documentation that paved Stripe’s fulgid success. A few days ago, they unexpectedly released MarkDoc, the “powerful, flexible, Markdown-based authoring framework” they use internally to build their documentation. »

In-person vs. online events

Last week, thanks to Andrea Verlicchi1’s effort, we ran the first in-person DevRomagna event since 2019. We did some meetups during the pandemic, some in 2020 and a couple in 2022, but they were all online. In theory, online meetups and DevRomagna are a match made in heaven. The Romagna region consists of small same-size towns scattered in the vast countryside. To accommodate this, and in an attempt to encourage varied participation, DevRomagna has always been a roaming meetup. »

Book Review: Lone Rider

In 1982, at just twenty-three years old and halfway through her architectural studies, Elspeth Beard left her family and friends in London and set off on a 35,000-mile solo adventure around the world on her 1974 BMW R60/6. Exhausted by a recent breakup and with only a few savings scraped together from her job in a pub, a tent, a few clothes and some tools, all packed on the back of her bike, she was determined to prove herself. »

If you know your user is asking for help show them the damn help

One of my pet peeves has always been the many different, sometimes very original ways in which CLI tools handle help requests. POSIX sets the canon: -h or --help is how we ask for help. But no, some tools1 want to be original at the worst moment: when their users are struggling, looking for guidance. It’s somewhat consolatory to learn that I’m not alone in this fight. The other day I landed on Clayton Craft’s blog. »

Neuromancer and the birth of Cyberpunk

I went back to my library to check the year of my original Neuromancer edition. It’s 1993. For some context, I was 23 back then, with my software company founded only a couple of years earlier. The World Wide Web was at its very early stages. I distinctly remember getting out of that book dazed and confused. Characters were two-dimensional at best. There was a certain lack of exposition. The recurring streams of consciousness were complex for me to follow1. »

The Sun in high resolution

The Sun as seen by Solar Orbiter in extreme ultraviolet light from a distance of roughly 75 million kilometres. The image is a mosaic of 25 individual images taken on 7 March by the high resolution telescope of the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) instrument. Taken at a wavelength of 17 nanometers, in the extreme ultraviolet region of the electromagnetic spectrum, this image reveals the Sun’s upper atmosphere, the corona, which has a temperature of around a million degrees Celsius. »

How to copy a file's path in macOS Finder

No matter how long I’ve possessed a Mac and how hard I try, there will always be a helpful keyboard shortcut hidden somewhere that I don’t know about. Today I learned about holding the Option key while clicking on the Copy command in Finder. It activates the super-useful (and super-secret) “copy as pathname” feature. I spotted this trick on Jamie Smith’s website, where other handy shortcuts (and the pretty gif above) reside. »

Book Review: Roumeli

Roumeli describes Fermor’s travels around Northern Greece and Macedonia. He visits secluded and remote areas and describes the rugged countryside and how people of these remote regions live. As he meets Sarakatsan shepherds and spends some time with them, visits the impressive monasteries of Meteora, attempts to track a pair of Byron’s slippers in Missolonghi and investigates Kravara and its secret language, he makes acute observations about these communities and their history. »

My Playwright session at WebDay 2022

If you understand Italian, the recording of my Playwright session at UGIdotNET’s WebDay 2022 is now available on YouTube1. Playwright is a phenomenal cross-browser, cross-platform, cross-language, single-API, mobile-friendly front-end testing tool. I’m looking forward to giving the same session in English sooner or later, but I should first win my laziness and start looking for exciting events with open CFPs. If you happen to know one, please let me know. »

Quoting David Foster Wallace

Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship-be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles-is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. »

How multifactor authentication is breached

Dan Goodin at Ars Tecnica, on multifactor authentication (2FA/MFA): Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a core defense that is among the most effective at preventing account takeovers. In addition to requiring that users provide a username and password, MFA ensures they must also use an additional factor—be it a fingerprint, physical security key, or one-time password—before they can access an account. Nothing in this article should be construed as saying MFA isn’t anything other than essential. »

Three Days Well Spent

A few weeks ago, Giulia turned eighteen. As a birthday gift, she asked for a skiing weekend with me. Our family’s precious little thing has traditionally been spending the Christmas week skiing in the Alps. We haven’t gone as much as we’d like in recent years, so I was pleasantly surprised and thrilled that she wanted to celebrate adulthood at our special place with her dad. We left home Friday at five in the morning. »

Endurance: Shackleton's lost ship found in Antarctic

A few months ago I started my review of Lansing’s Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage with these words: Of all the stories of maritime adventures I’ve read, that of the Endurance, masterfully told by Alfred Lansing in this book, is the most incredible and shocking. And I meant that. As the book’s title suggests, that story is simply unbelievable, yet true. Imagine my astonishment this morning at the news that the Endurance was found in the depths of the Antarctic. »

Trusting third-party services with your data, a cautionary tale

Quoting Nelson’s weblog: Goodreads lost my entire account last week. Nine years as a user, some 600 books and 250 carefully written reviews all deleted and unrecoverable. Their support has not been helpful. In 35 years of being online I’ve never encountered a company with such callous disregard for their users’ data. Ouch. A lesson learned the hard way: My plan now is to host my own blog-like collection of all my reading notes like Tom does. »

Book Review: Thinking Fast and Slow

This book stands up to its fame. It’s chock-full of precious insights on our decision-making and behavioral processes and how and why we humans are often capable of making informed yet awful decisions. The bad news is that we can hardly avoid most of these biases, no matter how hard we try and even if we know about them. So-called experts in the field are subject to these same biases: their short-term estimates and predictions can even be pretty good, but they will fail miserably in the long term, like any other man or woman. »