Message in a bottle (a.k.a. Chronicles of Coronavirus)

Message in a bottle (a.k.a. Chronicles of Coronavirus)

I send an S.O.S. to the world, I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle.

Sting – 1979

Sunday 31 May

Getting Better


A very eventful month of May is gone. As the northern hemisphere gets closer to summer, let’s have a look at what is going on in different parts of the world.


On the 8th of May installment of these chronicles, I explained how France authorities were planning country re-opening. The process relies on a map, where each region is given a color: green, orange or red. The status of each region is periodically re-assessed taking into account three indicators.
France is officially entering phase-2 on the second of June and the maps have been updated.

Overall, the situation continues improving: only the Ile de France region is now labeled orange zone in the metropolitan France territory.


Italy is also going through a steady progress path. I noticed that the 7-days simple moving average of the number of new cases, which is today around five hundred units, has halved in the last two weeks. The same thing happened in the previous two weeks. Different regions are experiencing different trends: the situation is still critical in Lombardia and serious in Piemonte, Liguria and Emilia Romagna. Others are headed for full recovery: in six out of twenty-one Italian regions, no new case was recorded yesterday. While more and more business re-opens, the next milestone is set to the third of June, when European Union citizens will be allowed to enter Italy with no need for quarantine.


In my home, we are used to the new routines and one major highlight is that I will enter my reduced working time agreement next week. As the country is still closed there is not much that I can do, so I will try to keep some of these off days for future use.
Although some business will reopen on the second of June, I and my girlfriend will continue working from home and there is nothing new in view for us for at least two weeks.
We completed our first cycle of foreign language study: my girlfriend is learning French and I am going for German. We are now starting the second cycle, obviously online.
Today I successfully completed my fitness challenge: for the whole month of May I did one hundred push-ups and two minutes of plank every day. I am also running regularly, in a cautious way in order to prevent knee injuries.
My girlfriend runs with me sometime, or she does Yoga at home. She also got very passionate about kitchenware shopping lately. She is now very excited because of her recent purchase of a cast-iron skillet 😉
On my side, I would like to buy a new digital SLR camera.


Some countries are looking at restoring air traffic connecting with this part of the world. There was news recently about possible scheduled flights from and to China and Korea. The airport should be open for transit passengers somewhere in June.


As I reported on the 14th of May installment of these chronicles, South Korea is the cautionary tale that reminds us that it is not yet time to be complacent. The country reported last Thursday its biggest jump in coronavirus cases in more than 50 days. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 67 of the 79 new cases were from the Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live. Following an emergency meeting, the government decided to shut public facilities such as parks, museums and state-run theatres in the metropolitan area over the next two weeks to slow the spread of the virus. Officials also advised private tutorial schools and computer gaming lounges in the area to close during the period or otherwise enforce anti-virus measures.


Diary


Chronicles of Coronavirus

As more and more countries implement social distancing policies to try to contain the Coronavirus epidemics, some news websites estimate that today, more than a billion people are at home. Since this unwanted guest made his way into our houses, we are forced to rediscover life in a confined space. Today I start my chronicles from confinement. It is a way to defy boredom, reach out to the outside world and share what happens in this part of the world. These are difficult days, but we will overcome difficulties and who knows, maybe learn something from all this.


A sky full of lanterns

A sky full of lanterns

During 2020 Chinese New Year, raging Coronavirus was claiming a heavy death toll in Chinese province of Hubei, when me and my girlfriend travelled to Taiwan for a short trip. One morning, we visited the National Palace Museum, hosting some of the finest Chinese imperial era pieces of art sent to Taiwan during the civil war between the Communist and Nationalist armies. Later that same day, we took a train to the small city of Pingxi, just a few kilometers East of Taipei, to attend the local sky lantern festival.

Traditionally, at the beginning of the Lunar Calendar year, just after Chinese New Year Spring Festival (過年、春節), Chinese farmers used to write their wishes and prayers for a fruitful harvest, reliable water sources, lots of rice, protection from the elements, safety of farm animals onto paper lanterns and release them into the sky to reach the heavens.

In Taiwan and the Pingxi area, sky lanterns came to symbolise a wish to give birth to more boys to help out on the farm since the Taiwanese Hokkien wording for “adding a boy” to the family (添丁) and the word for sky lantern (天燈) have a similar pronunciation, roughly pronounced tiām dīng and tī dīng.

In a magical night, while the whole world held its breath hoping that the Coronavirus would not spread out of China, we looked at thousands of paper lanterns slowly ascending in the dark sky and wished that moment could last in our memories.


Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival Video


Photo credits


Coronavirus

Unfortunately the virus spreaded throughout the whole world. I am keeping a chronicle here

97 points in two games

97 points in two games

Going through physical pain and health issues is annoying but we have to be prepared to it as it is an unavoidable part of life; everyone eventually gets old and even individuals that seem immortal cannot escape this rule. Let me get it straight, with an example: everyone gets old and this includes Micheal Jordan.

In January 2000, Jordan returned to the NBA for the second time, after his memorable “I am back” in 1995. That time he would return not as a player, but as part owner and president of basketball operations for the Washington Wizards. The next summer, Jordan hired his old Chicago Bulls head coach, Doug Collins as Washington’s coach for the upcoming season, a decision that many saw as foreshadowing another Jordan return.

On September 25, 2001, Jordan announced his second NBA comeback as a player in the team he partially owned. Here follows a story that Doug Collins told an ESPN interviewer; it is a snapshot of Micheal Jordan exceptional NBA career sunset. This story goes out to those that were lucky enough to witness this fantastic basketball player dominate the game throughout the nineties.



When I was coaching in Washington we played the Indiana Pacers and we were down 25 at the end of the third quarter. I took Micheal out of the game and I said: “look Micheal, I know you think that we can still win this game but we got to play again soon, you know. If we make a little run tonight I’ll put you back in the game”, but we didn’t.

I found out after the game was over that he had eight points in the game and he broke a streak of like eight hundred and sixty something games in double figures and so the media was: “you know, how do you think Micheal is going to be with this?”

I said: “You know what? Micheal has got championships, rings, he’s got gold medals, he’s got NCAA championships, he’s got MVPs. He is not going to care about the eight points”.

So he (Micheal Jordan) met with the media and agreed.

You know, the bus is lonely as a coach when you’re sitting there after you got your head handed to you, so I was sitting on the bus and actually Micheal had hired me. He was the part owner and president General Manager and he hired me to be the coach and then he came back to play.

I’ll never forget this moment. As his coach this to me was greatness.

He got on the bus and said “scoot over”. Then he looked at me and said: “Do you think I can still play?” and I said: “Absolutely, that’s why I am here to help you”.

He said: “You know, to be my coach you have to believe in me and believe I can still play”, and I said: “Micheal, I believe in you”.

He said: “You did the right thing tonight, you did the right thing tonight. I don’t care about the points but I needed to know that you believed in me”.

Fast forward; we get on the plane, he has a few cocktails, smokes a couple cigars, all the things you’re not supposed to do. We get back about 3.30 in the morning in Washington. At 7.30 that morning he is in the fitness room with Tim Grover, training like you can’t believe. Nice 41 years old. We play the New Jersey Nets next night and Micheal scores the first three times he has the ball.

Byron Scott takes a timeout and Micheal comes over and says:

“I want the ball right there the rest of the game and don’t take me out until I tell you”

And so that’s fine by me but with two minutes to go in the game he gives me the sign like that’s enough.

I take him out of the game, he walks over the bench and I say: “Micheal, what happened tonight?”

He said: “Well, the guy that was guarding me told me his back was hurting, don’t ever tell me you got a problem, I’ll make you pay for that”.

51 points later, 51 points at age 41, he came back the next game with 46 (points) and he looked at me and said: “I told you I could still play”.

97 points in two games. I was absolutely blown away at what this guy could do with his mind, how strong he was, and he is playing on one leg, and he cut his finger doing a cigar, all his finger was bent, he had a bad knee; the competitive will and great, I’ve never seen anything like that, but that moment when he looked at me and asked if I still believed in him, as this is the greatest player to play the game wanting to know if I still believed in him. It was a moment I would never ever forget.


Micheal Jordan played his last NBA game on April 16, 2003, in Philadelphia and retired for good at the end of the season.  He scored 32292 points in his NBA career and for the impact he had on the game and his unparalleled skills, is generally regarded as the greatest basketball player of all times.

Good Bye Tsukiji​

Good Bye Tsukiji​

On October 11, 2018, Tsukiji fish market in central Tokyo will close down and the area where the market is located will quickly be redeveloped to become a transport hub for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Tsukiji market started operations in 1935 and is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. It is also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. The market was portrayed in many popular movies, including 2012 Jiro Dreams of Sushi, that revealed to the world the unlikely saga of Jiro Ono, the 93 years old chef that runs a three-Michelin-starred Japanese sushi restaurant in Ginza.

Tuna auctions are maybe what Tsukiji is most known for. Throughout the day, intermediate wholesalers assess hundreds of fresh and frozen tuna before they go up for auction. Following a ritual unchanged for decades, they check fattiness of tail cross-sections in the dim light of their torch lamp and scribble down the lot number of the best animals. After the auction, tunas are cut using hand-crafted traditional knives and dispatched to the next ring of the supply chain.



The fish market will move to a new location in Toyosu waterfront district and precious space will become available in the heart of Tokyo. Since the plans were first unveiled, the project has been delayed multiple times. The last delay was due to concerns about consumers health after important quantities of chemicals had been found in the new Toyosu site.

Paradoxically, the urbanists that layout plans for the capital of the most traditional country on Earth seem not to care about symbols and legacy of old times. Ancient buildings are a very rare sight in Tokyo: many have been destroyed by Second World War bombings or earthquakes. Those that survived will likely be wiped away by Japanese passion for progress and novelty.


More travel photography on this blog


Other media on Tsukiji fish market

The incredible hands: a documentary on Tsukiji fish market and tuna wholesalers

Big Jet Plane

Big Jet Plane

I like Angus & Julia Stone because they are chill and have beautiful voices. It is the kind of music I want to listen when I’m at home for the first weekend in a long time and I’m laying on the sofa, while the warm sun filters through my living room window shade and caresses my cheek.

I definitely took too many planes in the last weeks. Every time the same routine, it seems normal. But flying is a miracle and recently inspired me a collection of pictures named “Airliners”.

Last Sunday, while my stereo was playing that relaxing music and I was enjoying the warmth of the sun filtering through the window shade, I suddenly started feeling creative. So I thought of asking Angus & Julia to lend their voices to my pictures and the result was this video.


Big Jet Plane Video


Floating wishes

Floating wishes

According to the Royal Institute Dictionary 1999, Thai word loi (ลอย) means “to float”, while krathong (กระทง) has various meanings, one of which is “a small container made of leaves which can be floated on water during the Loi Krathong festival”.


Loi Krathong falls on a full moon night, in November. Come the right time, Thais dress up in their best clothes and go in a place close to the water, a pond, a canal or a small lake will do, holding a little boat made of banana leaves. In the boat, they have put flowers and a candle. They light up the candle, set it afloat and make a wish while they look at the small thing going slowly away.

More travel photography on this blog

Airliners

Airliners

A famous quote by Richard Branson goes: “If you want to be a Millionaire, start with a billion dollars and launch a new airline”. There is almost no rationale behind accomplished businessmen obsession to invest into a high-risk business like civil aviation.

Unfortunately, unlike Sir Richard, I am not wealthy enough to bet on airlines. Instead, I have moral concerns working in an industry that accounts for a huge share of the world greenhouse gas emissions; I hope technology improvements and regulations will one day inverse the trend and make air transportation environmentally sustainable. Nevertheless, having rubbed shoulders for years with airlines people and dragged my ass on the most unlikely commercial routes, I cannot avoid feeling sincere sympathy and admiration for those who carry our life around the world with care,  every day and in every season.

No airline is perfect: glitches appear here and there when closely looking at the fusion between the technological prowess of a 180 tons aircraft floating in thin air and the work of hundreds of persons allowing it to detach from the ground.


 


Ignore the glitches and consider how in only a few decades, civil aviation made accessible to the majority of people two of our most innate dreams: defeat gravity and go discover remote places.

Please restrain from displaying contempt to the stewardess showing the way to your seat while boarding your next delayed flight. It takes an amazing resilience to sustain the stares of the 160 annoyed passengers fitting in an Airbus A320, a remarkable humanity to smile and say “welcome onboard” to each of them and many weeks of exhausting training to make it sound so heartfelt.

In the blink of an eye, you’ll be floating in the sky and that is incredible. Forget the delay, sit down and relax. We hope you’ll enjoy your flight.


More travel photography on this blog