Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A thousand words worthier than a picture

I was born in Erice, on the slopes of that solitary mountain overhanging over a large swath of the western coast of Sicily. Known as Jebel Hamid to the cultivated Arabs who ruled on it for 336 years, and dedicated to their beloved Julian from the ever wagering Normans who snatched it on their quest for empire, in even more ancient times got wide and far wafting fame for its legendary temple to Love, dedicated from the Phoenicians to Astarte, from the Hellenes to Aphrodite, and from the Romans to Venus. Sadly, not much remains today of such a celebrated temple, but this adoration of Love must have somewhat influenced me nonetheless, as at some point in life I decided to climb the white cliffs of Albion as I shared with my sweeter half only the language of Shakespeare, well, obviously what passes for the commonly contemporary used subset thereof. My kindergarten was Saint Mark’s square in Venice, where my mother was leaving me free to roam while she was plying her trade in the nearby State Archives, to the utter dismal of that old gloomy policeman who caught me, such a dreadful barbarian, uncountable times riding the wingless lion made of cold stone and dreams. As far as I can remember, I did fall in Venice’s channels only twice, both in summer, and the second time, remembering the monumental scolding I earned the first time, I stubbornly dried myself lying like a lizard on that cold Venetian stone until every single drop of water had evaporated from my clothes. I must confess a close encounter with tens of Murano glasses, on which I once fell face on. As a teenager in Trapani, the sickled city on the harbour on the shadows of Erice, once dear to Saturn and Ceres, nowadays to Mary and Albert, I read my classics in a grammar school dedicated to a Sicilian born Spanish engineer, Don Leonardo Ximenes, to whom, the preeminent designer of so many of their roads and canals, we owe much of the beautiful sights of Tuscany, hence shouldn’t be surprising I decided to study what, wrongly or perhaps not, I thought may be the far front of the contemporary ars technica, computer science, on what I perceived was, and still is, the reddest brick of the engineering persuasion in the language of Dante, the Politecnico of Milan. I didn’t see much of the white domed city to whom England, thanks to the Genoese intercession, ultimately owes George’s flag, really Ambrose’s, as they decided I should pursue my learning seconded on their branch in the quieter shores of the lake of Como, so I was taught the secrets of my guild in the city of silk, a place far more genteel than most of the dreary capital of the Lombards. I had to endure my fair share of congested cities although, when my first employer, a research centre in Monreale, a town crowned by a glorious Normand cathedral, shipped me to consult downtown in Palermo for months on end, and later on, self-inflicted, when I fell in love of my Antiochian wife in Istanbul. If you believe there is such a thing as congestion anywhere in Britain, obviously you haven’t seen either. Back in the 90s in Sicily I consulted in Ministries, in Hospitals, in Sweatshops, under the smelly shadow of a Refinery, later on I trained people in Oracle and Java, Internet and Xml, and I started to enjoy building software. Building software is a complex endeavour, but it has got one advantage: is that rara avis, an IT job you may satisfying explain in simple terms to a layman, so my mother seems to understand it, at least in principle, while she hasn’t got a clue about what my wife, a SAP FI/CO application manager, is really doing for a life. Once my flawless dove, who at the time was working on the SD/PP/PM modules, had naively tried to explain what that meant to my mother, and the result was that the latter thought for years she was working in a warehouse, and was consequently much worried for her health. People I worked with tend to think I am quite amenable to deal with lifeless resources, one of my previous employers’ directors once commented that whatever software system people will throw at me, early or later I’ll find a way to catch it and make it work, either with the hammer or with the chisel. On the other hand, I like to think that without some, at minimum latent, ability to deal with real people, proper breathing and free thinking resources, and without making an effort to understand their needs and requirements, you’re not going to build much software, and release even less of it. Last but not least, after duly paying my taxes for seven years of plenty, at least for the coffers of the Exchequer, I felt constrained in my denizen clothes, I thought I earned the right to vote, so I kindly asked to become a British citizen, a pleasure I was then granted. There is some irony on that, on at least four different accounts: one, as most Sicilians of fair complexion, I must have a fair share of Norman ancestors, who evidently liked living on islands, and it does look like that passes with the blood; two, I am the more tea-drinking Sicilian I ever heard of, I had to endure a life time of people questioning me if by chance I was an Englishman in disguise, a tea bloated Bond perhaps; three, people perceive me as parsimonious, a virtue which generalizing Italians often remark upon as being proper only for the loin fruit of a Genoese father and a Scottish mother, or viceversa; fourth, my father was actually born in a British prison camp in what was then the Occupied Enemy Territory of Eritrea, helping my granddad, who had been captured at Keren, to avoid a passage to India.