East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Project Gutenberg can’t be reached from Italy

The big news of the moment is, the Italian authorities have sealed all accesses to Project Gutenberg, the famous open library of classical texts – if you are in Italy, what you get when you hit gutenberg.org is a warning sign from the Guardia di Finanza, that the website you are trying to reach violated copyright laws.

What’s up?, you might ask.
Well, it turns out our authorities have cracked down on those websites where you can illegally download ebooks, and in particular those that allow the downloading of magazines and daily papers.
Now, how to find these websites?
Apparently the investigators made a list of all the URLs that were traded on certain Telegram channels.
Project Gutenberg was mentioned, so Project Gutenberg was blocked.

The situation is still pretty confused, but if on one hand our authorities are currently looking like dorks, and all those that were accessing the Gutenberg archives to do research, translations or out of sheer curiosity are left out in the cold, it is also true that this is a fine example of what can happen to our freedom in a few minutes.
Ironic, considering how vocal some people are in this moment about conspiracies involving viruses, 5G cell fields and Bill Gates.
But of course a lot of those never read a book in their life, certainly not on Project Gutenberg.

ADDENDUM: in the time it took me to write this post, the Gutenberg pages were unlocked. They can be dorks, but they are fast on the uptake.
Better this way.

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One of the lucky ones

In three weeks flat I will be 53 years old. And for the first time in… well, in almost 53 years, in the last few weeks I really, really felt old. Systems needing a good check, structural tear and wear, and a general sensation of the end of the line approaching.
I guess it happens, from time to time.

And this morning I found, via the IQ Facebook page, a ling to an interesting web gadget called Life Stats: you dial in your date of birth, and they give you a short animated presentation about how much the world has changed since you first came here.

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The Cat with No Name

The Cat with No Name, a feral cat that used to hang around our courtyard, was killed last night when someone run it over with a car. On a private side road, in a small village, during lockdown, the list of suspects is very short, and yet it is impossible to nail the person responsible.

The Cat with No Name used to come to the courtyard when my father sat outside in the evening, looking at the stars. It was feral, but it liked humans, and it was very sweet. It asked for food, it liked to be cuddled.

Today is a very bad day.

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Enough Dark Elves to last you a lifetime

The fine folks at Humble Bundle are offering a huge bundle of Forgotten Realms novels, most of which seem to focus on the Underdark and its denizens, the Drow or Dark Elves. As usual part of the proceeds go for a charity.

One buck will net you six titles, and if you go all in and spend 15 bucks, you’ll get 23 books. There’s a whole slew of R.A. Salvatore novels featuring Drow swordmaster Drizzt, plus a few titles from other authors and series.
I admit I am not a fan of R.A. Salvatore, but admittedly I read his books a lifetime ago, and in translation. This is a good opportunity to re-evaluate the bestselling Salvatore. And other books seem promising.

As I mentioned, part of what you pay will go to a charity, in this case Extra Life, that is setting up children hospitals.

And as we are at it, there is also another bundle you might be interested in – up to 26 Warhammer 40.000 ebooks, with the same deal. In this case, the charities supported are two, CLIP and the Every Library Institute.


In the Red Zone

As of one hour ago, the Asti province – what I usually call Astigianistan – is Red Zone for the COVID-19 virus. Which basically means nothing is coming in or out of this place, we are invited to stay at home and not go around, because the infection is out of control.

All we can do is sit tight and wait – but really, if we have been infected already (I visited Asti twice in the last three weeks), there is little else we can do.
If nothing else, by staying put, if we are carrier of the virus, we will not spread it around.
For the rest, we have food for about ten days, and books to last us forever.

I’ll keep you posted.


Night of the Befana

I have already posted in the past how, in the Italian tradition, on the night between the 5th and the 6th of January the more-or-less benevolent hag known as Befana brings little gifts to the good kids, and coal to the bad ones.
The Befana is a very old tradition, and apart from the bad press she got after being sanctioned as the Fascist Regime’s response to too-British Santa – so that in the 30s she became “Befana d’Italia” – it’s still a sort of smaller-scale Christmas in a lot of Italian families.

Traditionally, the Befana is said to bring the festivities to a close, clearing the field for the Carnival that follows.

We usually exchange gifts on this night in my house, simply because the festivity of the Befana also happened to fall on my mother’s birthday – cue to obvious jokes – and so we skipped the gift-thing on Christmas.
And now that our parents are no longer here, we’ll celebrate with a good dinner and we’ll exchange small gifts – or the promise of gifts “as soon as Amazon delivers”. Sweets, chocolate, oranges and tangerines, a watch for my brother, a few ebooks for me.

Then I will spend the night working – I have a translation that’s long overdue, and I’d also like to try and submit a two-page story to a call I received yesterday – it’s a low paying market, but it’s also a two-page, 500-words story. Why not?
It will be a fun way to take a break from the translation work.