24 July 2008

Library trip

Today I went down the street to the library. Ostensibly, to get books on how to run my own business. As if there were a greater intelligence out there, the path to business books took me straight past... that's right, knitting books! And cookbooks! I only got one knitting book and one cookbook and three business books.

The more I delve into this stuff, the more I realize how unnatural business is. In anthropology, we look to cultural values to explain behaviours and objects we can't understand. Once we get at the value, all becomes clear. Whether you agree with / like the value or not is besides the point; the cultural logic is always there for you to follow. At least you understand why people do what they do. My students who live on fast food might do it partially because it's cheap; but they also do it because to them, time is money - that's the underlying value that makes them spend as little time as possible on eating, as much time as possible on working.

But, with business, as the primary value is to fulfill basic needs - make money to first of all survive, and then to live in the manner in which I would like to become accustomed to living. Any other value - doing good, in whatever form - is layered on secondarily and artificially. Everything comes back to the bottom line. So, when looking at a company's behaviours and products, it has to be taken into account that they're doing it backwards: trying to instill values into behaviours and things that aren't necessarily or naturally there.

Not that I think that doing good for the sake of doing good is the only reason to do good. This is the old philosophical argument about altruism - how can it exist when you always get a return - even if it's just feeling good about yourself? And, is that a bad thing? If that's what motivates us to do good, that seems ok to me. So, with businesses, if it's the bottom line that's motivating them to do good, then is that necessarily problematic? Not really. It just makes it a bit more of a puzzle trying to make values stick to behaviours and objects rather than the other way around.

And that's how culture culture and organisational culture differ.

Now, how can I market this?

I started a new secret project yesterday. It involves my noro wool.

18 July 2008

Grotto in Sicily

I now realize that my little blue sweater was foreshadowing for the water we were to find in Sicily...


Before we left, I quickly knit up this little capelet with my new wool, thinking it might be useful for cool nights in Sicily (had there been any, it would have been!):

I emailed my friend Gabi the day before we were leaving on our trip, since we were staying with her, and I didn't have her mobile number. I didn't hear from her all day. When we left at 6am the next morning, I still hadn't heard from her, and I was really nervous as I hadn't been in touch with her since we had made our plans. As usual, me leaving things til the last minute. Why hadn't I emailed earlier in the week? I know she has an insane schedule. When we got off the plane, I turned on my mobile quickly and admittedly, surreptitiously, as I hadn't let on to Rog that we might not have a place to stay after all. No texts. Or not from Gabi. Just the "Welcome to Italy" one from t-mobile. Thanks, can we stay with you, then?

Anyway, we had the directions, so we started to drive south from the airport near Palermo. It was this intense landscape, arid, with mountains that look like huge, cresting waves. About halfway there, I finally got a text. Quel relief! Gabi runs an olive grove that her father owns, and there is also a B&B on the estate, and also one closer to the beach (about a 30 minute drive away). They are in the process of updating their webpage, but it's worth checking out if you ever want to go. It's like a little garden of eden, with acres of olive trees, lemon, peach, plum, pear and fig trees, rows upon rows upon rows of veg - tomatos, broccoli, herbs, lettuce, peppers, and so on. When we got there, we got a typical Sicilian meal of pasta with sardines, caponata, and the most amazing lemon sorbet. All delicious. The best part was that even though I hadn't seen G in four years, it actually felt like no time had passed at all since last I'd seen her. I love those kinds of friendships!

We were staying in the cottage, which was much more palatial than the name suggests:

More pictures of where we stayed:

We sat out on the veranda here and had our tea and fruit and yogurt every morning:

Some of Gabi's very cute dogs:

The estate is right near a little town called Castelvetrano, which we didn't explore that much.

Those are snails in the crate on the lower left hand corner.

Sicily feels like nothing has changed since the 1950s. Not that I really know what Italy was like in the 1950s, but it's my impression. We went swimming every day and did very little sight-seeing. There were lots of people about eating gelato and sitting around having coffees. It seemed like there were very few foreigners besides ourselves. We did go to see the ruins at Selinunte - two Greek acropoli, with the ruins of other structures. There was a priest wandering around the ruins, and I think he was part of what made it feel like time had stopped - even though it was evisceratingly hot, he was dressed head to toe in black.

On Saturday night, we went into Palermo. I didn't bring my camera with me, though I wish I had. It was such an organic, messy (in the best possible way) city, I really loved it, and next time I'm there I'll spend a lot more time exploring it. There's so much history layered in and woven together, and the present and future fit deftly into the spaces created by the past. On the way up to Palermo, we were just following Gabi, who was driving Italian-style. i.e. any given two-way road would briefly switch from being two-lane to three-lane as drivers decided to overtake, regardless of whether it was allowed or not, regardless of whether trucks were coming full throttle from the other direction. And, as we didn't know where we were going, we had to keep up with Gabi at all costs. She took us through the small streets of Palermo, streets that looked like they should have no cars on them, or maybe one car at a time at best - yet there were often cars coming and going in opposite directions. And at any time, a pod of motorbikes would suddenly appear and swarm. It was intense.

Finally we parked, off to the side of an immense square. A little boy asked Gabi's nephew if he wanted to play football, which we did, while we waited for a friend to show up.

We went to an opening at lo spasimo, which is the ruins of an old medieval church; it hasn't been fixed and it was never even completed, so there are parts where there is no roof, but it was absolutely beautiful. The exhibit, an installation by Vanessa Beecroft, on the other hand left me cold. It was so gimmicky. Yawn.

We left, and walked through dark streets, and grand buildings in disrepair in the old Moorish part of Palermo. Through another square, and by piles of rubbish, and feral kittens. Gabi's friend told us, as we passed a police station, that the best way to have your motorbike robbed off you, was to park it in front of the police station.

We made our way down a steeply inclined side street. At the bottom, we arrived at another old building which had been fixed up, and was now a trendy little bar, where there was yet another opening. We had a glass of wine, and I lost at arm wrestling to Gabi's 9-year old nephew. He barely even tried!

At around 11pm we were feeling quite exhausted, but it was just time for dinner. Again, we tried all sorts of Sicilian dishes. Well, I tried some of them - there was a sardine and orange salad that I ate, but didn't like too much, and chickpea crisp sort of things that were great. I have to admit, I drew the line at tongue and cartilage. I did try the little mini-cod that came at the end, but I really didn't like it. But I did try it! At least we didn't get taken to the offal restaurant, thankfully.

We started the drive home at around 12:30am. About 15 minutes later, I got a text from G, saying that the boars that they keep on their land had gotten loose, and that we should watch out for them upon our return, i.e. not let them out of the gate when we arrived, and also try not to get gored. When we arrived, we found neither hair nor hide, but they woke Rog up early the next morning with their snuffling.

We did a lot more swimming and drinking coffees and granita. On Tuesday, before we caught our flight that evening, we spent the day in Scopello and at the riservo naturale di Zingaro. Scopello was a cute little town, touristy, but that's ok.

The approach to Zingaro:

Note my tan (R is convinced that I'm part albino or something, and I here offer proof that I'm not!!!):

We went swimming in one of the grottos at Zingaro, and it was amazing. The water was so clean and the waves were big but not scary, it was a great way to end our trip.

10 July 2008

It's not an impulse buy if...

... I thought about it every day for three weeks, and looked around on Ravelry til I figured out what I would make with it, even though my love for it was definitely impulsive. Right?

I went back to Loop, and got my misti chunky alpaca:

The baby sweater for Marieke's new niece or nephew (no lamb yet, sorry!!!)

The Secret Project, or Marieke's birthday present, which she received today (though it's me in the picture; I'd love to see a picture of you with it!):

Karl's grave up in Hampstead Heath:

The quote says: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it."

Clouds in London:

Growing vegetables in the middle of Hoxton Square:

And some random shots:

Finally, did I mention that we're going to Sicily tomorrow? We are! I'm really psyched! I got some new beach flip flops: