Traveling in Puerto Rico

December 26th, 2009

This December, right before Christmas, we spent 6 days in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean island famous for rum. Bacardi is probably known all over the world. As we had really great time, we wanted to share a few tips for those that are willing to spend some time on the island.  Our resort, Rio Mar, is located in the north east of the main island really close to Loquillo, fairly close to Fajardo and about 40 minutes away from the San Juan international airport. The resort offers several amenities such as a nice beach, swimming pools, hot tabs, golf course, tennis fields, restaurants and a casino.  If your idea of vacation fits with what the resort offers, with a $80 dollars cab right you can get there. Just keep in mind that in the resort you are going to find the same food you are probably able to eat in US and, in general, at the same price of a US restaurant. Eventually, the resort offers a wide range of day trips with a price that varies in between $50 and $200 – not cheap.

Rio Mar Beach Iguana at the resort

Car Rental

We decided to rent a car to reach, with a reasonable budget, the desired degree of freedom – we had several day trips in mind. If you are used to US driving, Puerto Rico will seem a bit crazy at first – direction lights are not part of the culture, not even during Christmas holiday. And some of the secondary streets are really narrow and bumpy. In any case I would suggest purchasing the insurance with the rental company – forget those proposed through Orbitz, Expedia and similar, in case of damage they include a deductible amount and usually require an additional amount of work for processing the claim. In our case our brand new car was scratched in the parking lot – of the resort - and the insurance purchased through Alamo, about $90 made us save 500 bucks - the deductible amount of the insurance proposed by Orbitz when reserving the car.

Loquillo/Fajardo area (north east)

The Loquillo/Fajardo area is a really interesting location, not that far from San Juan and really close to the rain forest (El Yunque) and the beautiful islands of Culebra and Vieques. From the airport, it can be reached easily by route 3. Actually, route 66 is a nice $1.50 shortcut, usually not jammed as route 3 and with a higher speed limit. Because of the close vicinity to the rain forest, there is constant moisture in the air – be ready for damp clothes and books - and a higher chance of clouds and showers.  In these days, the temperature ranged between 70F and 84F.

Dining in the area

If you are going to stay in the Rio Mar area there are many good dining options. I will list the ones you should not miss:

  • Isamar Bakery - It offers breakfast and amazing pastries for a really good price. I am not going to lie, we were buying 10 pastries at a time. It is located at the intersection of route 3 and Rio Mar Boulevard.
  • Lolita’s - Excellent Mexican food at a really good price. Try the wet super burrito, just amazing. It is located on route 3 going towards Fajardo after the Loquillo exit on the right
  • La Parilla - Really good fresh seafood and local dishes. You can also buy their nice t-shirt for $12.50. On route 3 between the Rio Mar Boulevard intersection and Loquillo, going towards Loquillo on the left, it has a big sign, you cannot miss it.

Trust and truth.

August 26th, 2009

Tway defines trust as, “the state of readiness for unguarded interaction with someone or something.” He developed a model of trust that includes three components. He calls trust a construct because it is “constructed” of these three components: “the capacity for trusting, the perception of competence, and the perception of intentions.”

Thinking about trust as made up of the interaction and existence of these three components makes “trust” easier to understand. The capacity for trusting means that your total life experiences have developed your current capacity and willingness to risk trusting others.

The perception of competence is made up of your perception of your ability and the ability of others with whom you work to perform competently at whatever is needed in your current situation. The perception of intentions, as defined by Tway, is your perception that the actions, words, direction, mission, or decisions are motivated by mutually-serving rather than self-serving motives. (source: Trust Rules: The Most Important Secret About Trust, by Susan M. Heathfield,

And this was interesting, but one crucial point is missing: the truth: I do not know everything and may lean on your expertise. If you always tell me the truth then I know that I can rely on what you say and not have to do any further checking up.

Truth and reliability (If you always do what you say you are going to do, it makes your behavior very predictable, which means I can feel even safer around you) can be related to the whole notion of ‘integrity’.

Don’t underestimate Vienna

August 12th, 2009

Great city to visit, great city to live in. Always amazing to admire the famous “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt.

Paolo Ciccarese in Schonbrunn
St. Stephen's Cathedral by Paolo Ciccarese Dessert at Demel by Paolo Ciccarese Hundertwasser haus by Paolo Ciccarese
Museum Quartier by Paolo CiccareseSheede Khalil at Museum Quartier by Paolo CiccareseAustrian Parliament by Paolo CiccareseHofburg by Paolo CiccareseBelvedere by Paolo Ciccarese

Visiting Prague

August 7th, 2009

Prague is always an amazing place to visit. We really enjoyed walking around, it does not take a long time to walk from the old town plaza up to the castle or to Wenceslas Square. We appreciated the outstanding conditions of this romantic city.

The Prague Astronomical Clock (by Paolo Ciccarese)
The Old Town Plaza (by Paolo Ciccarese) Prague from the Castle (by Paolo Ciccarese) The Dancing House
Sheede Khalil and Paolo Ciccarese in Prague

May trip to Washington DC

July 12th, 2009

Chernobyl disaster after almost 23 years

February 18th, 2009

This morning I was having breakfast while watching this interesting documentary about wild life in the Chernobyl area. I still remember those days of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The fear for clouds that could spread radioactivity across Europe. I remember, years later, the news about malformed children and animals and so on. The documentary has been played by Discovery HD Theater channel:

Chernobyl: Life In The Dead Zone: The site of the world’s worst nuclear accident was hastily abandoned by panic-stricken humans over 20 years ago. Only a number of house pets and indigenous wild animals remained. To the surprise of scientists, they not have not only survived, but thrived.

In the documentary they where showing how nature was getting back that area that cannot be populated by humans anymore. Surprisingly, it seems that the suspected genetic mutations have been really rare and many species are not only surviving but increasing in numbers. It seems that the complete food chain has been reestablished. Dears, wolfs, bears and all sort of wild animals of all dimensions are proliferating and taking control of the area, visiting the ruins of houses, schools and so on. I found interesting the story of a cat that was still living by the ruins of a house (where probably its ancestors where living). The cat is now acting as a wild animal, hunting for feeding the kittens. Fighting and strategizing for protecting the kittens from the wolfes. In summary, it seems that mother nature can reestablish life where humans have been able to take life away.

Chernobyl area Spring 2007 - Elena Filatova

Talking about this with a friend he pointed me to this website by Elena Filatova. The website collects pictures of the Chernobyl area taken in the last years. Elena wrote: If I had to express what I do in Chernobyl in a few words, I’d say, from year to year I only observe how world of materials objects dissolve into nothingness.

Edward Tufte’s Talk

February 26th, 2007

Recently I’ve been in Harvard to listen to an Edward Tufte’s talk. Edward Tufte is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Statistics, and Computer Science, and Senior Critic in the School of Art at Yale (do you think it is enough?). I am writing here some quotes from the speech:

  • I spent many years of my life willing to be a professor but I was wondering what the hell of professor I wanted to be
  • every time I had the feeling that in the place I was working in I wasn’t able anymore to learn I moved
  • probably I took more from other people than what I gave them
  • if you want to play you have to play with the big guys, to play small doesn’t make any sense

All this made me thoughtful…

ehm… scary?

November 2nd, 2006

Tonight I’ve been in Harvard for attending the talk: “Intelligence Will Underlie Everything of Value” by Ray Kurzweil.

Leading inventor Ray Kurzweil was the principal developer of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition. His latest book, The Singularity is Near, was a New York Times best seller.

I am reporting here some quotes:

  • “with nanotechnologies we can inject into the the blood artificial red cells that can carry more oxigen in the body. A person could run the olimpic final of 100 meters without breathing”
  • “in the near fufure it will be possible to switch on/off genes responsible for diseases and not only”
  • “it will be possible to take cells out of the human body, reprogam them and put them back in their place”

But it was more scary the idea that Moore’s law is valid not only for electronic evolution but for everything. Accordng to Kurzweil, medicine and genomics will grow exponentially because of technology improvements. For instance, because of the new CT scan we will have it will be possible to do the reverse engineering of the brain and to reproduce the brain functionalities with computers (i.e. intelligence). No matter what will happen, growing is exponential. Also people life expectancy is growing exponentially.

Thus, it seems we will have super-humans able to live a really long life and intelligent machines able to think as humans… doubts? According to Kurzweil he has been always right… isn’t it scary?

An interesting book: “Our Iceberg is Melting” by J. Kotter

October 15th, 2006

I am not really into business management but I found this book really interesting, deep and a bit funny too. It is amazing how the author (John Kotter) has described the typical real life situations through a simple penguins tale. I found myself laughing several times while thinking at my real life experiences, often similar to the ones described in the book. People are not always ready for big changes but, unfortunately or luckily, this is common in every real life context, starting from personal affairs down to the work projects.

Book Cover   One of the things I thought, while reading the book, is that doing my job (I am a sort of trait d’union between the IT and the Healthcare environment) I often noticed the resistence of the establishment in introducing news in the people way of working. But, in the same time, I’ve always been lucky in finding somebody (as the penguin Fred) willing to move the world to a better direction. And I am not talking about critical decisions, as the one arisen in the penguins community of the book. I am talking about work optimization and quality of services. And I have to thank all those “Fred”s that everyday are surprising me and teaching me how poor is IT without a deep understanding of the real life processes. Observing users, and listening to them, is often the way to transform a gray IT project (cool as you want but still a bunch of lines of code) in a colorful reality which will be able to support people evolution.

Of course sometimes it is also necessary to push ideas coming from other domains (even in the book, the solution of penguins problem came from the seagull scout), without waiting for an explicit users’ request… but this is another tale… with another Fred ;)

Global Warming Effects? /2

October 9th, 2006

Even if global warming consequences are a really serious problem… this picture gives some evidence supporting the theory or better the phenomenon (I think it cannot be called a theory anymore)….

Global warming evidence...

Technorati Tags: ,

Movie “An Inconvenient Truth”

September 23rd, 2006

This evening I’ve been to watch an interesting movie proposed by the MIT Lectures Series Committee: “An Inconvenient Truth”. The former vice-president Al Gore presented in a really effective way some data and information regarding, mainly, the global warming phenomenon and effects. I should report here many interesting things I saw in that documentary but I rather suggest you to watch it… besides Al Gore personal story (which is a bit out of topic) it is a really good contribuition. Here’s the website where you can find many info.

By the way, in the documentary, it has been presented among the others, an interesting survay. In summary, it seems that scientists do agree on the existence of the global effect problem but looking at the media it not really clear if global warming exists or not. Now, I can’t say that what Gore is saying is truth or not and honestly, I have to say that I don’t care that much if it is the truth… the point is… do we really need to know we are killing the planet before starting to change our behaviour? If there are ways to reduce carbon dioxide generation now… it is really a good idea to wait until the day they will tell us “too late man… it’s over”. Even if that day will never come, why don’t we start with some simple actions in our micro-environment? Why don’t we pay more attention NOW? It is pointless, from the planet point of view, to discuss about what was right or what was wrong in the movie. We should do something in any case.

Looking at the movie’s website there is a list of actions that can help in respecting our planet a it more. For instance in the house:

  • Replace a regular incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb
  • Move your thermostat down 2° in winter and up 2° in summer
  • Use a clothesline instead of a dryer whenever possible
  • Turn off electronic devices you’re not using
  • Unplug electronics from the wall when you’re not using them
  • ……

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tallinn, the capital of Estonia

August 31st, 2006

Tallinn is the capital of Estonia. It is situated by the Gulf of Finland, on the opposite sea-side of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Tallinn is the biggest city in Estonia and it counts around half a million inhabitants (Estonia’s total population is much less than 2 millions).

Tallinn was first referred to in chronicles in 1154. In the Middle Ages it was an important trade centre. If you want to read more about Tallinn’s history I suggest you wikipedia.

Keep in mind that Tallinn is one of the best conserved Middle Ages cities in all Europe [tallinn tourism website]. Nowadays, you can still feel the taste of old middle-ages walking in the Tallinn’s Old Town belonging to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Inside the amazing city walls, you can admire incredibly well conseverd examples of middle ages architecture as well as a huge quantity of really fascinating cafes, restaurants and shops.

Tallinn Old Town - Town Hall Tallinn Old Town - Town Hall Square Tallinn Old Town - Town Hall Square Tallinn Old Town - Town Hall Square
Some pics of the Tallinn’s Old Town Town Hall Square (click to enlarge)

Probably, the most known middle ages example is represented by the core of the Old Town, the Town Hall which is dominating the impressive Town Hall square. The first time I saw it it was around midnight at the beginning of December… nobody was around and it was quite cold and snowing but still… amazing… an incredible view still clear in my mind. In summer time, the Town Hall Square is really alive with restaurants and cafes always full of people.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Hints on Estonian /1

August 28th, 2006

Let’s start with some everyday Estonian (thanks to Maria for being so patient with me). As every language course (even if this is not actually a real course) I am going to start with greetings… You’ll find english and italian translation for every estonian word:

English Estonian Italian
hi tere ciao
hello tere salve
good morning tere hommikust buon giorno
good afternoon tere buon pomeriggio
good evening tere õhtust buona sera
good night head ööd buona notte
goodbye head aega arrivederci, addio

It is not difficult to understand that “tere” is one of the words you are going to listen more in Estonia.

——– [Copyright (c) 2006 - All rights reserved] ——–

For more information about Estonian I’ll suggest you this link on the Web encyclopaedia Estonica.

Technorati Tags: , ,


August 24th, 2006

In the last year I had the great chance to visit and enjoy Estonia a country in Northern Europe. According to Wikipedia, Estonia has land borders with fellow Baltic country Latvia (339 km) to the south and Russia (229 km) to the east. It is separated from Finland in the north by the narrow Gulf of Finland and from Sweden in the west by the Baltic Sea. Its coastline is 3,794 km long.

Estonia in Europe

Estonia location in Europe.

Estonia, officially the Republic of Estonia, is a country of less than 2 millions citizens located in the north of Europe on the baltic sea. Recently it has been part of the Soviet Union even if culturally, socially and historically, it has always been more connected to Finnish countries (Somebody told me that Estonian language is similar to Finnish language but I have to ask better about it…)

Estonia map

Estonia regained its independence on August 20, 1991, with the Singing Revolution and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The last Russian troops left on August 31, 1994, and Estonia joined NATO on March 29, 2004 and the European Union on May 1, 2004.

Technorati Tags: , , ,