Under the tree…

ITA

Christmas Eve thought: if 2020 really changed our lifestyle, how did it change gift-giving? How has it made it less physical and more virtual?

I guess the question translates to “How do I make a virtual present to those which will happen to read these words?” Dang, why don’t I offer some reading advice. Here it comes, my list of the

5 books you must not skip reading in 2021

No particular order, and most are essays.

A small essay masquerading as narrative, but really about how your pre-conceptions can throw you off from what reality really is.

Yeah, right, Physics, what a drag. Well, first of all, understanding some Physics a little better never hurt anybody, but the point of this book is that “What we cannot explain, we haven’t really understood”

And if you already read this, you can move to “Six not-so-easy pieces”…

It may look like a book on the origin of the Universe, but instead it’s a Philosophy treaty dealing with creation. As someone said, Science explains “how” the world works, Religion explains “why”

The ten major “inventions” of evolution. An excellent book which requires some commitment; it makes the list even though the last three are not as riveting as the first seven.

Recommend a book from where a movie was made? If the author is Michael Lewis, why not ? (Oh, and by the way, if you haven’t seen the movie, go fix this !)

Sotto l’albero…

ENG

Pensavo oggi che se veramente il 2020 ha modificato i nostri stili di vita in modo irreversibile, anche il rito dei regalini di Natale forse è cambiato, è diventato meno fisico e un po’ più virtuale.

Dunque come faccio a fare un regalino virtuale a chi leggerà queste parole? Ma è ovvio, gli consiglio qualche buona lettura, ed ecco qui la mia lista dei

5 libri che non potete non leggere nel 2021

Non sono in alcun ordine e, sì, sono in maggioranza saggi

Amazon.it: Flatlandia. Racconto fantastico a più dimensioni - Abbott, Edwin  A., D'Amico, M. - Libri

Questo è un piccolo saggio mascherato da racconto e tratta di quanto radicali possano essere i pregiudizi. Un bel regalo: in un’ora potete diventare una persona migliore.

Sì lo so, la Fisica, che palle… ma qui il problema non è capire la Fisica (anche se non ha mai fatto male a nessuno) ma capire che “ciò che non siamo in grado di spiegare, significa che non lo abbiamo veramente capito”.

Chi lo avesse già letto può passare direttamente a “Sei pezzi meno facili”…

Sembra un libro sull’origine dell’Universo e invece è un trattato di Filosofia che tratta della creazione. Come diceva qualcuno, la Scienza ci dice “come” succedono le cose, la Religione ci dice “perché”…

Le dieci maggiori invenzioni di cui è stata capace l’evoluzione; questo libro è talmente avvincente che lo consiglio anche se le ultime tre non sono all’altezza delle prime sette.

Consigliare un libro da cui hanno tratto un film? Beh, se è di Michael Lewis, sicuramente. Così contemporaneamente vi consiglio anche un bel film, se per caso non lo aveste visto…

Ciambelle

di Mirella Facchin

Ingredienti

  • 35g burro morbido
  • 180ml latte a temperatura ambiente
  • 410g farina tipo 00
  • 55g zucchero
  • 15g lievito madre disidratato
  • 1 uovo piccolo + 1 tuorlo
  • 1/4 cucchiaino estratto di vaniglia
  • 1/4 cucchiaino di sale

Procedura

Sciogliere il lievito con metà del latte e 2 cucchiai di farina e lasciarlo riposare coperto al caldo per un’oretta.

Nel frattempo sciogliere il burro nel latte restante. In una ciotola mescolare farina e zucchero e, a parte, mescolare uovo, tuorlo e vaniglia.

Quando il lievito si sarà attivato (si formano bolle sulla superficie) aggiungerlo alla farina + zucchero e impastare. Aggiungere burro e latte e poi il composto di uovo e vaniglia a cui solo all’ultimo momento si aggiunge il sale. Il composto va impastato a lungo: 10 min. nell’impastatrice o 20 min. a mano.

Formare un panetto, metterlo in una ciotola e porre in luogo tiepido a lievitare per 90 min. e comunque fino al raddoppio. Coprire la ciotola con la pellicola e mettere in frigo per almeno 3 ore.

Riportare l’impasto a temperatura ambiente, stenderlo all’altezza di 1cm e con due coppapasta formare le ciambelle. Disporre ben distanziate su una placca foderata da carta da forno leggermente infarinata, coprire con un canovaccio e porre in luogo tiepido a lievitare per circa un’ora o fino al raddoppio di volume.

Friggere in abbondante olio di semi di arachide ben caldo fino a doratura, scolare su carta assorbente e passare nello zucchero semolato. Servire immediatamente.

2^6

Today it’s my birthday: I received wishes from so many of my friends and family and I have done my best to respond to each individually, but in case I have missed you, apologies and many, many thanks.

It is also a birthday with very important musical reminiscences: when John & Paul wrote “When I’m sixty-four” they chose this number to indicate an unfathomably remote old age, so far from their present to be alien; in fact only Paul and Ringo would live to see their 64th birthday.

I was 11 when Sgt. Pepper’s was released, and to be honest, my musical tastes at the time did not include the Fab Four: an uncle of mine was a sales rep for RCA Records and he fed me unusual music for an 11yo such as Eric Burdon and Frank Zappa; they would be soon followed by Jimi, the Zep and the Dead and only later it encompassed more pop.

I have no memories of what could have been my expectations for such a distant future like my 64th birthday, but here I am: this will be my last power-of-two-birthday, and I am definitely fond of the Beatles, even though I still like the Mothers of Invention and the Animals.

Secrets of pizza-making

by Mirella Facchin

Disclaimer: I have no familiarity with groceries abroad, so some denominations may make no sense at all: I tried, wherever possible, to describe what I meant to allow readers to source the right product, whatever it might be called.

Pizza is a deceivingly simple dish which dates back to the Roman era: Virgil writes in the Aeneid of a threat by the Arpie (evil winged monsters) whereby Aeneas would suffer so much hunger to eat even their “mensae” which were the dough discs distributed instead of plates; once finished and being soaked with sauces and condiments dripping from food, they would be given as food to servants: according to some historian, this is the origin of the pizza we know today.

I had my share of discussions with American friends who genuinely though pizza was invented in the States, but there are XVIII century Italian authors who wrote about pizza as an established, well-known Neapolitan dish.

Finally, the word itself comes from the same germanic roots as “pezzo” and “piece” as well as “bissen” and its English equivalent “to bite” in all likelihood dating back to the Longobardian Kingdom (around VIII Century).

Naples or Rome?

Although the pizza Napoletana is more well-known (thin central disc with a fat border which could also be ricotta-stuffed), there is a very old variant called Romana which is thicker all around and usually sold in rectangular rather than circular servings. Given the tradition goes back to Rome (and not Naples) one should not discount the Romana.

Whatever your preference, the dough is the heart of any pizza, but it so happens the two doughs are very different in preparation and ingredients, so you got to decide which one you will prepare from the get-go.

The two other ingredients that require careful selection are the mozzarella and the tomato, where obviously the adherence to the standard may be limited by their commercial availability.

Flours come in many varieties, but lately a trend is emerging whereby they are classified according to Refinement (from totally refined to whole wheat: Type 00, 0, 1, 2 and WW) and Strength (representing its ability to withstand long leavening, i.e. the gluten level, from below W180 to W360 and above).

Neapolitan dough requires a medium strength flour, while the Romana dough uses the much stronger Manitoba flour (W350+).

Pizza napoletana

Pizza napoletana: trucchi e consigli per farla in casa
  • 750g of T1 W260 flour (if you can’t find Type1, you can use the more common Type0, replacing some with an equivalent amount of whole-wheat)
  • 450ml of water (20-22 °C)
  • 100g of whole-wheat flour
  • 10g of powdered malt or a tablespoon of acacia’s honey (or other not flavored honey)
  • 15g of dried mother yeast
  • 40ml of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 20g of salt
  • 300g of tomato pulp (this is bought in cans, the difference with sauce being it’s a little thicker)
  • 400g of mozzarella filone (regular mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella have too much water in it; despite its processed aspect, this is actually the most appropriate kind)

In a big bowl mix the malt, yeast, whole-wheat flour and all the water; stir with your hands until the mixture is homogeneous; cover with a towel and let it rest for 1 hour in a warm oven (pre-heat to 30°C and turn off). When you take it out, the surface of the mix should be uneven, indicating that the leavening agent has been properly activated.

Add the flour and use your kneader to incorporate (yes, this can also be done by hand, but…); after 5 mins or so at speed 1, add the oil and AT THE VERY END, the salt (should be the very last ingredient you add); continue kneading at speed 2 for another 10 minutes or so until the mix is “incordato” (no idea what’s the English for it, the meaning is that the bowl is completely clean and all the dough is on the kneading hook).

Grease the inside of the bowl with a little oil, make up your dough in a ball and put it at the bottom, cover with the towel and put again to rest in the warm oven (see above) for 2 hours.

Remove the towel, cover the bowl with film and let it rest in your fridge for 24 hours.

Take it out of the fridge and let it reach ambient temperature for another hour, then divide it in as many pieces as you have pans (this amount of dough is enough for two 24x36cm pans).

For a rectangular shape (I have included this shape even though not very popular as it’s a bit easier to manipulate):

  • Grease generously the pans with oil and spread the dough WITH YOUR FINGERS (don’t use a rolling pin !) until it fills the pan leaving about half an inch of space all around; the dough being rather elastic, you may have to do this twice, waiting 5-10 minutes between the two.
  • While the dough rests another fifteen minutes, you prepare the toppings: put the tomato in a small pot, season with salt, pepper one teaspoonful of sugar and a tablespoon of oil and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Spread evenly on the dough, two or three tablespoons per pan should suffice, but this is according to taste. Cut finely the filone and spread it according to taste.

If you’d rather have the classical round shape:

  • flour your pastry board, cut away some dough (this amount should make three pies) spread it with your fingers, then add the tomato, minced filone and other toppings according to your taste. (*)
  • Place the pizza shovel flush with the dough; have someone hold it still for you, or use your belly; grab the borders and with a swift continuous movement, slide it on the shovel (it will deform when you pull, but the dough is elastic enough to easily regain its cirular shape); open the hot oven, place the shovel at its center, then jerk it back to leave the pizza inside.

Pre-heat the oven to 220 °C (more if you use a stone slab base), place your pizzas as low as possible; cooking should not take more than 5-7 minutes. Serve immediately.

Pizza Romana

Pinsa romana con la ricetta originale: ecco come prepararla
  • 1kg Manitoba flour
  • 800ml of warm (20-22°C) water
  • 25g (one block) of fresh brewer’s yeast
  • 20g of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • enough durum wheat flour to flour the pastry board

Put the Manitoba in a very large bowl, melt the yeast in the water and pour it all on the flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until you get a sticky, semi-liquid batter: this is right, resist the temptation to add more flour !

Add the oil and only when everything else is perfectly mixed up, the last ingredient, salt. Mix until absorbed.

The compound will NOT look homogeneous or dough-like, but that’s the way it should be, don’t worry. Cover with a towel and leave it to rest for 15-20 minutes (avoid cold drafts).

Grease your hands (the mix is sticky!), spread the mix on the floured pastry board, then fold it: this means folding it in half (the mix is very soft at this stage, you might help yourself with a large spatula), then turn it around 90° and fold it again. The dough should be folded 5 times in total – this is very important as it’s the equivalent of kneading.

Put the mix back in its bowl which should be large enough to contain at least twice the amount, cover with film and put in the lowest shelf of your fridge for 24 hours.

When you take it out the next day, the surface should show big bubbles; spread it in the two well-greased pans WITH YOUR FINGERS (not a rolling pin) leaving half an inch all around, and let it rest another hour.

The official protocol allows for almost any conceivable topping on the Romana: tomato, cheese, anchovies, vegetables, anything (bar the pineapple!) remember that ham or salami is best added AFTER cooking. If you use tomato and mozzarella, see my notes above for the Napoletana

True pizza Romana is rarely done in round pies, and is often sold “al trancio” (in slices); it will be about 3/4 of an inch thick and therefore should bake as described for the Napoletana, only longer (10-15 mins). Serve immediately.


(*) Note on toppings: it’s pointless to argue which is best, but there is one which is the Queen of all pizza toppings: tradition goes that the “Margherita” was so named in 1889 to honour of HRH Margherita di Savoia, then Queen of Italy, with the three colours of the Italian flag: red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). Now you know.

Pyramid puzzle

Many will be familiar with this puzzle which exists also as an online game; its rules are simple: you can only move one disc at a time and cannot place a disc over a smaller one. The objective is to move all discs from the C to the A position.

The entertainment value of such puzzles lies in the utter uselessness of the objective, and while it is deceivingly simple, attempting to solve it without a method leads to failure; I found an extremely elegant, recursive way to solve it and to calculate the number of moves it will take.

Obviously, moving the topmost disc from C to anywhere requires one move; moving the top two involves three moves:

  1. move the smallest disc to B
  2. move the second-smallest disc to A
  3. move the smallest disc from B to A

Since we know this, we can immediately determine that moving the top THREE discs requires 7 moves:

In fact, moving the top “n” discs always requires 2n-1 moves, allowing us to say that moving all 8 discs can be achieved in 28-1=255 moves.

The things I HAVEN’T demonstrated are WHY the number of moves is always a power of 2 minus 1 and whether this is the MINIMUM number of moves to achieve the solution.

[Guest post] La ricetta della focaccia genovese

by Mirella Facchin

Ingredienti

  • 187g acqua
  • 19g olio
  • 7g sale
  • 3g malto
  • 299g farina (che regga una lievitazione media, tipo W260)
  • 16g lievito di birra
  • olio e acqua per cottura

Procedimento

500g di pasta riempiono una teglia 25×40

  1. Sciogliere acqua, sale, malto ed olio
  2. Aggiungere metà della farina fino ad ottenere una pasta densa, ma ancora liquida
  3. Aggiungere il lievito ben sbriciolato, eventualmente sciolto in un po’ dell’acqua tiepida sottratta da quella iniziale
  4. Lavorare la pasta aggiungendo la farina restante, fino ad ottenere un impasto compatto ma non duro
  5. Lasciar riposare per 10/15 minuti su un’asse di legno coperta da un telo per evitare che si formi la crosta: la pasta diventerà più asciutta e più facile da gestire
  6. Piegare la pasta in 2 (o in 4 a seconda della forza della farina) per rinforzarla
  7. Dare alla pasta una forma che ricalchi la forma della teglia dove verrà cotta, senza però stirare l’impasto
  8. Versare sul centro della teglia un po’ d’olio e deporci sopra la pasta
  9. Cospargere di olio la superficie della pasta con un pennello (sempre per evitare la crosta)
  10. Mettere a lievitare nel forno spento (30°) per circa 1 ora (raddoppio del volume)
  11. Stendere la pasta nella teglia schiacciandola e non tirandola fino ad occuparla tutta
  12. Cospargere la superficie con un velo abbondante di sale sempre per evitare la crosta
  13. Lasciar riposare circa 30 minuti
  14. Versare un po’ di acqua tiepida e poi un po’ di olio evo
  15. Formare i buchi nella pasta, usando la punta delle dita
  16. Lasciar lievitare altri 75 minuti (anche 2 ore se serve) ATTENZIONE A NON SBATTERE LA TEGLIA METTENDOLA IN FORNO
  17. *** A questo punto è possibile bloccare la lievitazione mettendola in frigo ed estraendola circa 90 minuti prima della cottura ***
  18. Infornare nel forno già caldo (220°) e cuocere per 15-20 minuti ATTENZIONE A NON FARE MOVIMENTI BRUSCHI NELL’INFORNARE
  19. Quando sarà cotta sfornare e rovesciare la focaccia per far passare l’aria anche sotto
  20. Dare una pennellata di olio sulla superficie

La salute della batteria dei servizi

Auto: Hyundai Kona 64kWh Excellence MY2019

Chi segue questo blog sa che ho avuto una disavventura (felicemente risolta) con la batteria dei servizi della mia auto (è raccontata qui). In quel periodo ho involontariamente sviluppato una certa intima conoscenza con questo umile componente, che oggi vorrei condividere, principalmente a beneficio dell’amico Leonardo ma magari anche di altri.

L’argomento può tornare di qualche utilità in un momento in cui le nostre EV stanno ferme per lunghissimi periodi di tempo.

Durante queste soste, infatti, alcuni dispositivi elettronici mantengono uno stato che potremmo definire di dormiveglia che comunque li porta a consumare un po’ di energia che più avanti calcoleremo insieme.

La batteria dei servizi della Kona ha una capacità di 44Ah o, più correttamente, di 528 Wh ma, come accade per tutte le batterie, la sua graduale scarica può comportare che la tensione diventi insufficiente per l’attivazione dei circuiti elettronici del BMS e dunque, anche se non ha bisogno dello spunto necessario per far ruotare il motorino di accensione come accade per le termiche, in pratica sotto gli 11V l’auto non si accende.

Il primo consiglio che vi dò dunque è quello di acquistare ed installare voi stessi un Battery Monitor (imperdonabile che manchi un accessorio del genere su un’auto che costa 50.000 euro !) come questo, anche se ce ne sono di diverse marche tutte più o meno equivalenti.

L’installazione è cosa banale: il dispositivo ha due morsetti, uno positivo (rosso) e uno di massa (nero). Basta allentare leggermente i morsetti della batteria e collegare il dispositivo in parallelo (positivo su positivo e massa su massa) come si vede nelle foto:

Una volta che il dispositivo è installato, basta caricare sul proprio smartphone l’applicazione di gestione (qui il link per Android), accoppiarla via Bluetooth al dispositivo per leggere la tensione della batteria in tempo reale.

Questo dispositivo è anche un datalogger, cioè registra la tensione anche quando l’auto è spenta: questo è particolarmente utile per capire cosa succede, ad esempio, durante la notte; facendo degli screenshot inoltre si possono ricavare preziose informazioni da passare ai tecnici della manutenzione.

A cosa mi serve sapere la tensione della batteria dei servizi?

Intanto vi dico subito che questa è una domanda da non fare MAI a quelli come me: se è possibile sapere qualcosa di più, non importa quanto inutile possa sembrare, io sono SEMPRE a favore.

Ciò detto, facciamo un esempio:

Leonardo ieri mi chiede se è normale che ogni giorno si accenda la funzione Salvabatteria, cioè il circuito di sicurezza che “legge” la tensione della batteria dei servizi e, se questa scende sotto un certo livello, accende il BMS e trasferisce un po’ di energia dalla batteria di autotrazione a quella dei servizi, per riportarla al livello ideale.

Lo vediamo benissimo in questa schermata che riproduce la tensione della mia batteria in un giorno in cui non ho usato l’auto (uno dei molti, ahimé): come si vede la tensione scende in 24 ore da circa 12.7V a 12.4V, livello a cui si attiva il Salvabatteria per circa 20 minuti riportandola al livello giusto.

Questo ci permette anche di calcolare il consumo di energia per i circuiti elettronici di cui parlavo all’inizio (incluso il Battery Monitor che abbiamo appena installato) che risulta pari a circa 0.3*12=3.6Wh ogni 24 ore; arrotondando possiamo dire che ogni giorno di sosta, dalla batteria di autotrazione vengono prelevati circa 4Wh, il che significa che una Kona 39 lasciata parcheggiata completamente carica si troverà “a terra” dopo 9.750 giorni, mentre una Kona 64 ce ne metterà ben 16.000!

Un’altra ragione per cui una EV è superiore ad una termica

Questo ci permette di confutare una affermazione che spesso viene fatta senza cognizione di causa, e cioè che “come avviene per le vetture termiche, anche le vetture elettriche soffrono se lasciate in sosta a lungo”.

In effetti, soprattutto se la batteria dell’auto termica non è nuovissima, una sosta prolungata può dare inizio ad un processo di solfatazione che la degrada rapidamente fino a rendere necessaria la sua sostituzione: per l’instaurarsi di questo fenomeno può essere sufficiente una sosta di un paio di mesi. Invece in un’auto elettrica, se dotata di circuito Salvabatteria (ma sono moltissime quelle che ce l’hanno) ogni 24 ore la batteria verrà riportata al livello ideale, e un eventuale problema insorgerà solo alla scarica della batterie di autotrazione che come abbiamo visto richiede circa 44 anni di sosta ininterrotta!

Quarantine living: practical lessons

We have been in lockdown for almost three weeks, now: the first was voluntary, then it was mandated by the Government, so we’re a little bit ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to practical lessons we learned.

Obviously, this is not meant to replace all the stuff they’re telling you right now: stay at home, wash your hands, etc. but it adds to that a few survival tips:

  1. shops will close. Not at first, but eventually they will. Supermarkets will stay open, but you’ll likely have to line outside waiting for your turn, and that does not strike me as the best way to avoid contact. Shopping online is a good alternative, but sites will buckle under 50x or 100x traffic. So wherever possible, while they are still online, try to set up repeat weekly orders for your food/produce/groceries.
  2. the Internet will slow down, everywhere, under the weight of millions of people on Netflix 24/7; as a backup, stock up on DVDs, esp. if you have children. Also a couple of boxes of books might be a good idea: sadly, you’re not likely to find crowds at bookstores.
  3. Also useful if you have kids, buy a couple of new board games. Believe me, you’ll thank me afterwards.

Hang tough, hopefully it will be only a month or so, but it will feel like eternity.

Down the trampoline

For the best part of the last two years, I devoted my life to this start-up, OneWedge.

Like any start-up, it has been so far an exhilarating journey: since its inception, we (me and my brother Paolo) have been working on defining the business model and testing it with hundreds of potential customer calls.

We’ve been encouraged by the fact that so many big corporations took the time to discuss our idea with us, even though we are nothing, yet: we have been met with genuine interest which sometimes resulted in rejection, more often in polite, “let’s-keep-in-touch” interest and in some cases in authentic, enthusiastic support.

However our idea needs money (several millions) and the search for funding has been exactly like they tell you it is: endless pitching of investors, looking for the right one.

That part is not pleasant, take my word, rejection is ugly.

It causes you to doubt yourself, to think that maybe you’re too early, that you don’t have the right background or experience, that your competitors will crush you, that you’re too old, More insidiously, rejection is often due to the inability to overcome the nagging feeling I read in their eyes:

If this is the solution, how comes no-one of your many, big competitors has thought of it?

It’s the worse kind of objection, first of all, because it’s implicit, secondly because I have been asking myself the same question every morning for the past two years.

Reading books written by entrepreneurs who made it, usually you find an empirical 10-to-1 rejection rate, meaning 9 out of 10 investors you pitch won’t even meet you, and 9 out of 10 you meet won’t invest. By that metric, I am still way short on rejections.

Anyway, next Monday we’re headed for Florence where we’ll meet a group of hot investors prospects; this is not really a cold call, as we had the benefit of a long preparation phase with investment advisors: this meeting has been thoroughly prepped and their interest probed already. The deck has been scrupulously rehearsed – including the de-luxe rehearsal session at the TEDx – and it has been a long time since I have ever met a “new” objection.

I write this ahead of the event to make sure I faithfully record my feelings as they truly are and not through the filter of delusion or elation depending on the outcome.

I need my best performance, ever – I play the visionary, Paolo plays the concrete, down-to-earth Operations man. By experience, I know the impact will be directly proportional to how high on adrenaline I will be, because audiences large or small feel energy flowing and are attracted to it, they want to partake.

Most people think that events like the TED limit the length of talks to less than 20 minutes not to bore the audience, but I think the real reason is that they don’t want to exhaust the best speakers who pour immense amounts of energy on the audience.

Thanks God the week is almost over, only 80 hours to go, then we’ll look down the trampoline.

After that, there is only the jump.

ski-jumping-pro-1a.jpg