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The Say of the Week December 16, 2008

Posted by dorigo in food, games, humor.
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“You must know what you want, or you will have to get what comes.”

(seen in the menu of a chinese restaurant)


If you like wine… August 24, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, food, internet, personal.
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A longtime friend of mine, who now lives in Brussels, has recently opened a blog about wine. Since he works for CEE, he certainly has time to spend and money to invest in enological explorations. And if I know him he is serious about it, so you might find his reports worth a look. For instance check this gathering of enthusiasts trying to determine the best among ten different brands of Brunello di Montalcino.

On a second thought, I wonder if the child who is just arriving will make Francesco’s blog output sparser. I will keep an eye on his posting rate and on the quality of his pieces, before I create a permanent entry in my blogroll…

Happy for the hunt August 20, 2008

Posted by dorigo in food, personal, travel.
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No, not a post about Physics. Having no inspiration to discuss particles and their interactions, I console myself by posting a picture of today’s achievement: one of the best specimens of Boletus Edulis I have ever found in years of walks in the wood. Great brown color, the top is perfectly round and intact. The flesh has the consistency of much younger specimens, and upon cutting it (we are going to have it raw, with just oil, salt, pepper, and maybe a bit of lemon juice) it is of a very pleasant white. The taste is of fresh walnuts.

I found it together with its smaller buddies this afternoon, while walking back from Malga Nemes. That is a very panoramic place we usually hike to from Passo Montecroce Comelico, close to Padola, where I spend a few weeks every summer. I saw a nice Amanita Muscaria on the right of the trail under some trees, and went in to investigate – Amanita Muscaria is believed to be a marker for Boletus Edulis, and I can only confirm that the two mushrooms like to grow close together. As I examined the area, I saw a wonderful double circle of tiny mushrooms, making a perfect 8. I cursed myself for not having brought a camera with me, and then I spotted today’s prey, which showed head and shoulders above the ground which it had parted to grow. I am unable to explain why, but finding these mushrooms brings me a lot of satisfaction. And, this evening, the satisfaction will be from eating it!

One good reason to live in Italy is… February 7, 2008

Posted by dorigo in food, news, science.
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food ? Well, maybe, but I had another answer in mind: life expectancy. The new data by ISTAT (the italian institute of statistics) confirms some preconceptions I had: italians live longer, and better, than other europeans.

2007 data on life expectancy in Italy gives 84.1 years for women and 78.6 years for men. I have no access to similarly updated numbers for other european countries, but life expectancy has been following a similar growing trend everywhere, so we can have a look at less updated numbers (dated June 2005) from Eurostat:


In the table, the first column refers to men and the second to women. The third and the fourth are life expectancies at 65 years of age, for men and women respectively. As for the countries: BE is for Belgium; CZ for Czech Republic; DK for Denmark; DE for Germany; EE for Estonia; EL for Greece; ES for Spain; FR for France; IE for Ireland; IT for Italy; CY for Cyprus; LV for Latvia; LT for Lithuania; LU for Luxembourg; HU for Hungary; MT for Malta; NL for the Netherlands; AT for Austria; PL for Poland; PT for Portugal; SI for Slovenia; SK for Slovak Republic; FI for Finland; SE for Sweden; UK for United Kingdom; BG for Bulgaria; RO for Croatia; TR for Romania; IS for Iceland; NO for Norway; and CH for Switzerland.

One clearly sees that Italy does quite well. But even more striking is a table showing the number of years of good health one is expected in european countries. The indicator, called “healthy life years expectancy”, HLYE (also known as “disability-free life expectancy”, DFLE), is a composite attempting to express how much one is expected on average to live without disability. See the table below:

On the DFLE scale, Italy scores way better than other countries! The influence of our better eating habits ? Or is the cause to be sought elsewhere ? Let us look at the incidence of cancer. In the table below are reported the age-standardized rates of incidence of cancer per 100,000 population. The columns indicate rates for men and women in 1995, and men and women in 2002.


Italy does not score well on the table above: cancer has a larger incidence on average in Italy than in Euroland. So let us look at obesity for another hint. The following tables (for men and women, respectively) list the percentage of population with 25<BMI<30 (overweight) and BMI>30 (obese).  BMI, the body-mass index, is a number determined by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters. The tables clearly show that italians are on average more fit. The first table is for men, the second for women.


In Italy, obese men and women (BMI>30) are a smaller fraction than in other countries, particularly at a young age – 3.8% of men and 2.3% of women are both record lows in Euroland. A casual correlation between life expectancy and obesity ? Of course not. Let us compare the numbers shown above with those in the US, where obesity is a plague and a major cause of mortality. From the site of the NCHS (National Center for Health Statistics) I found this document, which contains the information. One learns that men have a life expectancy of 74.7 years, and women of 80.0 years.

The fraction of men with a BMI>30 in the US is quoted as 29.5% here, and 33.2% for women. And it seems that obesity has little to do with genes, and a lot to do with lifestyle: in fact, the percentage of obese men and women has shown a dramatic increase in the recent years, as the graph above shows.

So, let’s all stop eating junk food! Particularly you. Yes, you. You know I am talking about you. Put that bag of chips down!

CMS Party at P5 December 13, 2007

Posted by dorigo in food, news, personal, physics, science, social life, travel.
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The CMS collaboration is having its last “CMS week” of the year this week. This evening at 6PM many of the attendees gathered in the big industrial building where the detector components have been assembled and lowered bit by bit in the pit, down into the cavern where the whole thing is being put together. Below you can see one of the few pieces still waiting to join the rest: a wheel of muon chambers, designed to detect forward-aiming charged particles penetrating enough to punch the whole central structure of the CMS detector – muons, that is. One cannot avoid feeling awed while walking under these giant structures.

There was good food and drinks available to the participants. Too good food – it speaks of an army not aggressive enough. But anyway, things unrolled easily and as I left to go back to work everybody seemed to be having a good time.


Yes, I said I am back to work… I have been fighting with some analysis code this afternoon, and I promised it I would come back in the evening to finish it off. Tomorrow I will be flying back to Venice, so I have to see the results of the code tonight or wait next Monday for them.

Sauvignon from Chile March 27, 2007

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Today’s talks at the Outstanding Questions in Cosmology conference left me quite exhausted, after ten hours in the conference room spent trying to make sense of complex talks on a subject unfamiliar to me, and blogging about them. So I went back to my hotel, had a shower, put on more casual clothing, and went out to explore London’s night life.

A taxi brought me from High Street Kensington to Piccadilly. It was an experiment, and it failed. I wanted to see if it was a reasonable alternative to the tube or the bus these days, but I found out it is a bit too expensive, especially during rush hour. Anyway, I wanted to discuss something else here. 

Wandering around in Soho, a few drinks past what’s advisable, I stopped at a nice little restaurant, which eventually provided me with a filet mignon, a half-bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, and a creme brulee.

The food was good, but the wine was -surprisingly- just as good if not better. I am now feeling sorry for not having taken a note of the name on the bottle… I am not a real expert with wine, but I have gotten to the point where I can tell you with a sip if a white wine is worth more, less, or about 10 euro at retail. Which is more or less what I need to know.  

And I do not want to get any better in my wine-tasting capabilities: if I did, I would certainly end up escalating to appreciating only more expensive wines, and I would have little more to enjoy if not the thrill of drinking down a full week of salary during a happy evening. No, I think I got to the point where I would become concerned with details too subtle to tell if I learned more. So it is actually ok if I did not take a note of the name of that good Chilean Sauvignon.

Five things January 8, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, chess, food, games, humor, internet, italian blogs, personal.
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I am happy to have been tagged by Andrew Jaffe (http://www.andrewjaffe.net/blog/) for a silly blog-game, consisting in posting five things you might not know about me. As with most die-hard bloggers, I think most of myself is here for anybody to read already, but let me see… I unfortunately have to dig deep in my personal life. Here is my list.

  1. I played several tournament chess games against grandmasters (among them Delchev, Vogt, Dizdarevic, Godena), losing every single time, and a dozen or so against international masters, drawing once (against Deev). I won simultaneous display games against Wojtkiewicz and Skembris, drew against Karpov, Ehlvest and Benjamin (plus a few more I can’t recall). Online, I won several times against grandmasters in blitz games.
  2. I have not spent even a single night in a hospital as a patient. It did happen once when Ilaria was born, but I was just little more than a by-stander then.
  3. I practiced discus throw in the nineties, never making it to the 30 meters line.
  4. According to a recent estimate, I had about 15,000 orgasms in my life – roughly two thirds of which without external help. 20,000 seems a quite reachable goal if I live long enough.
  5. I can’t eat cheese.

Ok, so I now need to tag three blogger friends. Let’s see. Ok, be it Pietro (http://pietrovischia.altervista.org/blog/), Louise (http://riofriospacetime.blogspot.com/), and Helge (http://cow-gone-mad.blogspot.com/).

I would make a very good single father… December 23, 2006

Posted by dorigo in food, personal.
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On Saturdays, the kids are my business. Mariarosa works all morning, so I have to take care of them, being home in their company.

I am always proud of how I manage them. With me, for some reason, they are much more well behaved than with their mother. And I manage to have them do their homework (Filippo), put order in their room, wash hands before lunch, without effort.

Today, as I was serving them a good portion of exquisite spaghetti with caviar and cream after an appetizer of crevettes (for Filippo) and soppressa (for Ilaria), I could not help thinking I am also cooking somewhat better than the average single father… But of course, I have no wish of becoming one!  

Great party yesterday December 22, 2006

Posted by dorigo in food, personal, social life.
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Yesterday’s party began in the worse possible way, with a phone call from Dario, the big boss of our group, who announced he would not make it, being stuck at the Fiumicino airport due to a lost connection.

Despite that initial setback, things got merry very soon as people started flowing in. I was especially pleased to see Elisa and Michele, and Chiara and Giulio. Both these couples had been invited quite late for different reasons: Elisa, who did her thesis with me four years ago, had not read my messages of invitation; Chiara, a summer student at Fermilab 10 years ago, lives in Grenoble and it was only by chance that I met her in the basement of the physics department this Tuesday.

It was also nice to have at the party a few people I did not know: Federica, Julien’s new girlfriend, and Diana, Mia’s cousin – especially since they are both young and pretty.

In the end we had about 30 guests, as predicted. There was a huge amount of food, because many had brought a contribution. And very good wines too, some of which has stayed with me. I am in fact presently serving myself an appetizer as I write these lines, and along with the appetizer an exquisite Sylvaner 2004 by Gruss.

Especially appreciated were the tartines (my concoction) which disappeared in the first five minutes, the pasticcio with mushrooms, the calamari, and the roast-beef. And of course, two large bowls of Tiramisu, a dessert made with coffee-dipped savoiardi (a particular kind of cookie), mascarpone cream, and a cocoa topping.

Below are a couple of pictures I took during the party.

Waiting for you December 21, 2006

Posted by dorigo in food, personal, social life.
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The three large pans of lasagne (one containing bucatini with mushrooms and meat sauce, one with pine nuts and ham, and a third “regular” one) are ready to go. The calamary are done. The tuna steaks with olives are baked. Polenta is on its way. The large chunk of roast-beef is waiting to be sliced. An obnoxious amount of tartines with caviar, salmon, crevettes are all set in their trays. Some 20 liters of good to very good wine are waiting, either on the table (the reds) or out of the window (the whites and the cartizze).

All we are still missing is the guests! In 20 minutes they will start coming. You sure you cannot make it tonight ?