Inspired by “Fogus’ yearly list of great things and people that I discovered, learned, read, met, etc.” - this is my own version of what were the best things I discovered in 2017.
Technical and Non-Fiction Books
- La lingua geniale - you need to be Italian to really appreciate this; being able to read in Italian is not enough: you see, in Italy we have a quite old debate about teaching classical languages (Latin, but especially Greek) as part of one of our High School curricula. There are basically two camps: those who think that these are obsolete and should be abolished to add more STEM or at least more foreign (modern) languages, and those who are convinced that learning Greek or Latin bestows some kind of superior analytical skills that will make you successful in any kind of study, business or enterprise. I am firmly rooted in the first camp (despite having studied Latin, with above average grades), but I was still interested in giving it a go. I recommend it to anyone, no matter whose side of the debate you are on.
- A Philosophy of Loneliness - discovered this quite accidentally (someone mentioned "A Philosophy of Fashion" from the same author in a forum). I am quite solitary, and this book really helped tackle some of the issues I had with being alone. Recommended: even if you are an extrovert with a lively circle of friends and relatives… you can still learn to better understand people who are - by choice or random chance - living mostly alone.
- Against the Modern World - (I am cheating a bit because I am like 30 pages from finishing it while I write this) I have a bit of interest in Traditionalism (you know, Guénon, Evola…). I read a few books from both authors, but I lacked a full overview of Traditionalism. This book gives you a bird's eye view of the whole history, including most recent developments like Dugin's work.
- Hawkeye - my life as a weapon - I am slowly making my way through this series of comics (i.e. I bought a volume at a time as a treat, I am at #4 at the moment). I have lost interest for superhero comics, but the understatement of this series (along with the original, quirky drawings) is a welcome exception.
- Jack Glass - I discovered the author through a different book, but I like this one much more. It is divided in three parts, three stories connected by the eponymous Jack Glass character. The author reminds me a bit of Priest, in the sense that is difficult to categorise and that he tackles stories that are hard to complete satisfactorily. Luckily, he seems able to do be much better than Priest at endings, while still dazzling you with his prose.
- Seven Surrenders - second title in the Terra Ignota series (the first one was mentioned here) - I can only confirm that Ada Palmer is a deign heiress to Bester.
- Stories of Your Life and Others - finally got my hands on this anthology (I suppose that the movie helped). Most of the stories I had read through dubious links on Internet, but there were a few that I had missed. And every page is a treat.
Favorite non-book media and entertainment
- Treasures from the wreck of the Unbelievable - I am not much for art shows, especially from contemporary artists, but this was really too enticing to miss (and not just because it gave me a chance to visit Venice once again). Took a boatload of pics, too.
- Fondation Folon - I have visited friends in Bruxelles lots of time, but somehow we never managed to see this until this time. The moment we stepped in I got a silly smile on my face, which is a rare event for me. Some pics here.
I am really happy to report that in 2017 I started playing RPG again. It looks like it was short lived (it was a one-on-one online campaign and the player is now busy with other stuff) but it was good while it lasted (and I am trying to find someone else to play with).
- Discord a text/voice chat designed to support players online. I would still like to have something more geared towards tactical combat (with maps and counters) but we managed to make it work anyhow.
- I commissioned (i.e. paid for) a tailor made system to adjudicate projects as part of a RPG adventure or campaign. More here.
- Mini-Six it is a streamlined, "bare bones" generic RPG based on Open D6. I wanted something very simple because I never played online, we were supposed to get another player who ad zero experience with RPGs, and there were a lot of unknown or untested things (including my ability to keep committed to the whole thing) so I opted for something easy to explain and play. I was quite satisfied with the result (we used it for a low-magic Fantasy campaign and it proved pretty suitable for our goals). (I later put some of the stuff I developed for it here)
- Fallen London. This is a bit hard to describe… a web-based RPG set in a steampunk universe where the whole city of London was moved underground as a consequence of some mysterious pact with equally mysterious entities. The game is quite slow (it would work nicely as a purely e-mail campaign) and is based on mechanics similar to the old adventure gamecocks. Yeah, I realise I am describing something that would bore everyone to tears. But (at least for some, including me) the incredible high quality of the content (in terms of backstory and actual "adventures") makes it mesmerising. After almost a year of playing it is starting to wane, but I could easily rekindle it by putting some money into it (you can play for free though, it will just be slower and some content will not be available to you) or branch into one of the spinoffs based in the same universe.
- Gemini and CleanMyMac are two OSX utilities, both from MacPaw. The first identifies duplicated files on Mac drives (I needed it mostly to clean up redundant pictures all over the place) the second is an optimiser similar to the Cocktail but with more options and ancillary functionalities.
- Logitech K380 This was probably a mistake. Not because it doesn't work (it works perfectly well, can pair with any type of device, Windows, OsX, Linux, Android… you name it) or it is fragile or uses too much battery power or anything like that. The mistake is that I apparently do not need a Bluetooth keyboard, after all. I expected to use it to write stuff on my iPhone while travelling, but in reality so far its only use was getting my carry-on baggage inspected at airports (when they ask you "do you have any tablet or laptop in your baggage, sir" keep in mind that depending on the airport you should also take out the Keyboard, apparently).
- Mogic Light. A rechargeable, waterproof led light. It's a cute little item, which is perfect for mounting over the place to provide ad-hoc lighting in odd spots, and/or as small gifts/stocking stuffers.
- Nuance Wine Finer - not really a 2017 "discovery", but I have bought a few of these this year to give out as gifts. It provides a filter that also acts as a stopper and, most interestingly, as a "instant decanter": the liquid goes through a series of small tubes that aerate the wine. Works well, easy to clean.
- Linux Mint I was toying with the idea to install Fuchsia on an ancient Netbook (a venerable Samsung NC10) — it didn't work in the end, so I looked for a lightweight replacement (the NC10 was originally running WinXP and has very limited processing power). Linux Mint performs very well (I also added a 120GB SSD, but performance was good enough even before). The only sad thing is that this setup (I replaced the original battery a couple years ago, so it can run for few hours) made my Logitech K380 even less useful…
- MTalk I am an Italian Expat in Germany, but I kept my Italian SIM for my personal cellphone. Some services (especially toll-free numbers) cannot be accessed unless you call from a (local) landline. MTalk allows me to use a virtual landline (that works like I were in Italy) through my cell (as an app) or even from my desktop PC.
- Genie9 - I used to recommend Crashplan as the best backup system to everyone, and I used it for local backup both at home and in my office (where it was used to back all my working files to a network drive inside our Intranet). The self-hosted backup functionality of Crashplan has ben EOLed, though, so I moved to Genie9. it works on Windows only but for the rest it proved a good replacement for Crashplan.
- Cabin Zero Backpack I fly much more frequently than before, and while I rarely travel with cabin baggage alone, I decided to shop around for the biggest Backpack that can still fit the standard size of cabin luggage. In the end I opted for this (specifically the 44L Travel Vintage). There was a minor snafu in shipping it to me, but everything was sort out easily and I was also happy with their customer service.
- Car2Go - I do not own a car at the moment, and even if I had one it would not help much when I am back to Italy (I live more than 1300 km from my former hometown, so driving "back home" is not really an option). Car2Go provides affordable transportation not only in my city, but works the same all over the world. You pay a small registration fee (around 10€), install their app and then you are able to drive around in any city where Car2Go is present. Perfect to come or go from the airport, for example. If you are able to drive and need to visit other cities (by train or plane) make sense to register anyway: it is way cheaper than a taxi, for example.
- Bamboo brush - this will make sense only to (Asian) calligraphers. Well, maybe not even to them: this item is not very easy to shop for. I hope to be able to write a full entry explaining the whole story.
- Yoko Okamoto Aikido Seminar - I had the privilege to train with Okamoto Sensei in Kyoto, in 2016, so when she came to Berlin for a seminar I immediately registered for it.
- XVII Alpine Seminar with Malcolm Tiki Shewan and Pascal Krieger in Soraga (Italy). I have been practicing Aikido since 1989, and Shodo since 2008. When I sat in my (rented) car to drive back home at the end of this seminar I had the (luckily brief) impulse to just quit both on the spot, forever. The seminar gave me a glimpse on the vast ocean of things that I do not know, and that I did not even know existed, that I suddenly realized the rest of my life would not be enough to get much more than a glimpse.
Dining and Shopping
- Wuff - Cozy and nice restaurant in Dublin. I only had lunch, and only once, but I liked it a lot. If you visit Dublin I definitely recommend it (but you may find difficult to find a place, allegedly).
- Aiko - Japanese restaurant in Berlin. It is really a small part of Japan transplanted in Berlin.
- Tianfuzius sensational vegan chinese restaurant in Berlin. I had lunch there once in 2016, I think, but this year I managed to take different people there (all pretty happy with it) over no less than 4 different occasions.
- Kopps another Vegan restaurant in Berlin. This one is very posh, offering what I would call "nouvelle cuisine" (and with a rich wine menu). Not cheap, but definitely worth it.
- Ti Breizh - Creperie Bretonne in Hamburg. Yes, in French. Everyone is French there, which actually makes things easier for me (my limited French is way better than my non-existent German, after all). Cosy and nice. Cider and crepes to die for.
- Porto Portoguese Restaurant in the Portuguese Quarter in Hamburg. I went there on an invite by a Portuguese friend, so I think it could not get more authentic than this.
- Briccodolce - A small cookie maker in/close to Turin. Discovered them by accident: I was flying with Air Dolomiti and when I asked for a Vegetarian snack they gave me a small portion of tiny parmesan-flavoured "sticks". I was instantly hooked and contacted the producer immediately after collecting my baggage. They now have one (or two? not sure from their website) stores and if you are in Turin I definitely recommend a visit.
- Dublin For my birthday I decided to go to Ireland (never been there before). To be honest, I was, in the end, a bit underwhelmed. That could very well be because I did not do much research before departing: I tend not to prepare a detailed list of places to visit or things to do, usually. Also, I spent most of my (short) vacation in Dublin itself, despite always associating Ireland to green pastures, castles, fairies and so on. Still nice, anyway - here are some pics.