Tag Archives: Giovanni Volpe

Cambridge Analytica Hearing

Standard

By geovolpe

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, I was asked to attend and report on both hearings where Mark Zuckerberg testified. These congressional interrogations were an electrifying event for those interested in the issue of data protection. But they became a sensation also due to the incredible fame of the witness. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who heads one of the largest tech firms in the US, testified before Congress twice, for a total of almost 10 hours over two days. The congressional grilling was highly anticipated, for this reason I had to queue for hours on the first day of the hearing, for a total of 4 hours. I arrived at the Senate Hart Building at around 10am and lined until 2pm, when the hearing started. I was fairly close, sitting in the second row of audience, right behind Mark Zuckerberg aides. I saw Mark Zuckerberg very clearly, and the senators were also extremely visible. He entered from a door which I was sitting by. He is short and very pale. But going back to the subject:

The hearing was by all intents and purposes rather unsatisfactory. No concrete progress was made, and this was largely due to the generalized lack of knowledge of the senators on the internet world. The senators looked unprepared, and Zuckerberg was showed deference, humbleness, and respect. It was a win for the CEO, who left D.C having successfully repaired the damage. At least to the large public’s eyes.

I did not attend the second hearing, I streamed it on line instead. The day after my expectations were significantly lower, so I decided not to go. However, it turned out I was wrong. The second hearing was more useful, as senators tried to not repeat the same show of ignorance that occurred the day before.

On a fun note, I appeared in the background on the live-stream of the event on The Guardian and CNN and, while in line, I was interviewed by a Japanese TV. Fun time!

Advertisements

Springbreak no springbreak

Standard

I did not have a spring break. That was completely my choice. Despite the absence of classes, I kept working at my internship, where business went on as usual in a quiet DC, depleted of students.

I spent the week seeing pictures of friends that were actually on vacation: Florida, Mexico, California, you name it. I came to the realization that maybe I should have taken some days off. D.C was cold and empty. Work was unusually little stimulating and fairly repetitive. Other than a cool event at the Organization of American States, where they served amazing Colombian coffee, I spent the rest of the week doing  mostly secretarial work.

I still managed to have fun after work. I tried a few food places that I had never tried, such as Founding Farmers, which I enjoyed.

I climbed up the rooftop of the Hepburn apartments, which has to offer one of the best views in all DC. Also, the Hepburn is an amazingly classy apartment complex. There is a pool on the rooftop and so many amenities. The Hepburn is the epitomization of wealthy, corporate D.C. Unnecessarily luxurious, in my opinion. Although it could be argued that Luxury is by definition unnecessary, depending on your understanding of necessity. I also did something productive and future-related: enrolled in Masters. Starting in August, I will be in the SciencesPo Economic Law Master in Paris. Cool, right?

Anyhow, going back to my spring break. I managed to have fun regardless of the city’s emptiness.

One thing, though, was occupying my mind over the past week.  An underlying sensation of an imminent, fast-approaching and unpredictable threat. The ancient romans would call this feeling “horror vacui”, which literally means fear of the void. Far from being scared, I felt some sort of uneasy feeling as if something was just not right. After a lengthy and thorough internal dialogue, I had an epiphany. Today, March the 19th, it is the beginning of the end.

I have been in the US since August. It will soon be 7 months since I’ve been here. And less than 2 months left of the exchange.

Spring break has been the turning point. 75% of my exchange year is now gone, and I don’t know how to feel about it. The second semester is literally running in overdrive mode, and it feels that I have no control over the things that I wanna do. My days go by very quickly, from a report to a memo, from a midterm to an essay, with little time left to stop and stare.

I have to find a solution to this: in the coming days, I will draft a bucket list of what I should do before I leave the US at the end of this academic year.

Stay tuned.

Dad’s surprise visit

Standard

By geovolpe

Surprise visit with my dad.

My dad’s here, again. He’s stopped by D.C before leaving to go back to Italy. He’s scheduled to leave next Wednesday.

This time he came with his girlfriend, Erica, that I met for the first time. They met back in August in New York, when my dad came to help me move in. They met in a Starbucks. My Dad was in line to the cashier and could not understand a word of what the employee was saying. Not being able to speak English, he was just standing there trying to figure out what the cashier was asking.

Erica was the next in line. She was in a hurry, and paid for his coffee. And here they are, coming to visit in D.C.

They are funny together, they have their own way to communicate as they have no shared language to speak in.

So once again, despite my fast approaching midterms, I spent the weekend doing touristy activities. We went to see the Smithsonian American Art museums, where the portraits of President Obama and Michelle are exposed.

I have finally been fed good food for the entire weekend: we tried Ethiopian, Thai, Japanese and Indian cuisine.

We concluded the weekend watching the Italian elections that took place on Sunday, march 4th. I’d say this is the lowest note of the weekend. As I write, the votes have been counted, and the situation looks particularly dire. A center right, populist coalition has won a clear majority. The anti E.U 5 Star Movement comes second.

I find solace in the fact that I don’t live in Italy. My dad is leaving tomorrow, and flying back home on March 7th. I’m not envious.

Away from D.C

Standard

By geovolpe

It was a random, rainy and cold Thursday night when we decided that we had had enough of D.C.

Not actually, of course. But sometimes, when your routine gets overwhelming and the weather doesn’t help you power through it, it is normal to feel the urge to escape for a few days.

Me and my roommate felt that urge last Thursday night, as soon as we found out that there were no classes on President’s day and that we had not planned anything. We bought round trip tickets from DC to Philly, by bus. This type of short term, last minute planning is definitely my favorite. And the US East Coast serves that purpose pretty well. I mean, where else in the US can you get away for 2 days at a price of 80$ to visit a major city?
This isn’t something you can do if you’re in California, or Texas or even Chicago.  I like this European dimension of closeness that the east coast has.

We planned it out, recruited 2 friends and then we were ready to go. The details of our trip were as follows:

Departure on Sunday morning, and return on Monday night. 2 full days, 1 full night, 4 people and a full hostel. Full hostel meaning that other than us 4, our room was filled with additional people which, I know, is the very principle of a hostel. But as I had never sojourned in one, I was slightly weary of the concept. I did shared airbnb’s or even co-ops several times in the past, but never hostel. The bunk beds remind me of a military setting and the fact that you share them with strangers is a 50-50 situation. Either strangers are normal, or they are not. However, there is no room for such perplexities and considerations when the price for one night is so low: 26$. Unheard of in D.C.

We arrived at around 11 am on Sunday. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get rid of the D.C cold, as in Philadelphia it was about the same temperature. It was sunny, though, unlike in D.C. So the absorption of vitamin D compensated for the lack of heat.

We spent the day doing touristy stuff: the liberty bell, the independence hall, the museum of Art. We went to a pub at night, and the rest is history. No, we didn’t do anything malicious by American standards, of course. We chilled at the pub and then went to bed. There was no weirdo, and we made friends with the other people in our room.

On the second day, we visited a super cool garden (see pictures) made with re-purposed waste.

  

Philly is a cool city. Middle ground between a European city and New York. It is high rise, but also historical. Pretty hipster-ish, and more lively than D.C on a Sunday night. Food is good (shout out to Philly cheese steak!) and cheaper than D.C

My verdict is: great get away destination for a weekend. Hostels are mostly safe.

  

Zoo in DC

Standard

By geovolpe

As the new year began, I vowed to put an end to procrastination. One of my new year’s resolution was to stop procrastination and putting off things to do. The main goal is that of getting to the end of the day knowing that I did not waste my time.

It is very likely that you end up not doing much of your day when it’s cold outside, warm inside, and school deadlines are not pressing yet.

It was a beautiful day in DC, at least 15º(celsius). It felt like a pause from the crippling winter-like cold that haunts most of the East Cost. So I decided I would do something I have been procrastinating since I was a child. That is, going to the zoo. My parents have always avoided taking me to animals-related attractions such as to zoos or circuses. There was no particular reason, it just wasn’t a family thing to do.

At 21 one years of age I have the chance to catch up with this long overdue childhood experience.

Here’s some pictures from the Smithsonian zoo.

 

Mom, I’m not coming back for Christmas.

Standard

By geovolpe

I’m not coming back for Christmas, Mom. 

“I spent a lot of time reflecting about this, and I know I promised you before I left for the US, but I feel this is the right thing to do. 

 I don’t think that coming back would be helpful to me in any way, and I think we both know it. I will be home in July, I will see you then. Or whenever you overcome your fear of planes and decide to come visit. 

I hope you understand and sorry for canceling the tickets.”

I cancelled my tickets to Italy a few days before my scheduled departure. Having been abroad for almost three years now, Christmas has become the only constant re-encounter with my parents. My parents were not super enthusiastic about losing the money, but they eventually supported me in this: “You know I would love to have you here. If I were selfish, I would have you fly home immediately. But If I were you, I would not want to come back either. Just try to go somewhere sunny over the break, maybe to California. You need vitamin D.” 

That was the beginning of my first Christmas away from home in 20 years. 

I spent Christmas eve and Christmas day in DC with some friends of mine that also remained in town. We were all excited and lonely. Three young men and one young woman on the other side of the Atlantic. We tried to emulate a family-like situation: went out for dinner on Christmas eve, cooked a full course meal on Christmas day. I guess it was the closest I ever felt to adulthood. 

On December the 26th I was leaving for Sevierville, Tennessee. A small town next to Knoxville. I know, pretty random place to go on vacation, but that’s where my heart was riding me to. And I was happy to be along for the ride:  I spent a week with a fantastic girl I met in GW and her family. This love among the school desks brought deep into the South. Despite being only a 9 hour bus ride from DC, Tennessee did not feel like the America I had known so far. The thick southern accent, the food culture, both so rich but so exaggerated, the interminable mountains surrounding the town. I hopped on a bus in a fairly European-styled place and I drop off in the middle of America. Real and genuine America. The one we choose to ignore as visitors but that is there and has a lot to offer. I will elaborate on this in my next post. For now, I’ll only say:

I had a great time, but as soon as January the second, I felt I needed it was time for me to follow my mom’s advice. I stayed for three days in DC, running errands and moving into my new apartment, bracing myself for the golden state.

Landing in Los Angeles in January the 6th felt more than just good. I was ecstatic. Not being very used to DC-cold weather, being catapulted to the beach at 70º really thrusted life back into my body. I was staying on UCLA campus at a friend’s place. The equation is very simple yet infallibly effective: friends + good weather + beach + January and winter break = Happiness. I dare you find a better recipe.

I came back the morning of January the 14th. Waiting for me, 10 degrees and another semester to start. D.C does feel like home now. Despite the unappealing weather. And I’m sure my last semester here will be so great I will forget California pretty easily. Although, as much as I like DC, I have to admit to the inarguable fact that the West coast is the Best coast. And that my mom gives good advice.