Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back to normal

To my usual rants, I mean, not that the situation concerning students' protests et al. settled in any way. I'm contemplating about setting up a new blog to deal with politics since it seems to me that it just doesn't fit in here. My Paperback Life was planned to be exactly what the title says – cheap and disposable.* Politics and bitching about politics just doesn't fit in.

So, I did some knitting lately. I promised a sweater to Olga which is nearly finished and it seems that I'll have just enough yarn. It's the same thing as I made for Kristina although the yarn dyed differentlydue to the random factor inherent to the dyeing technology ** but the aurora borealis effect is preserved. The good thing is that this design needs the carryalong which has been sitting in my stash almost ever since and for which I didn't have any use. Both recipients love it so it's a good deal.
I almost finished another sweater – I madly love my blue sweater in linen/whoknowswhat blend. I wanted to make a similar one with slight alterations in the design concerning the drawstring through the sleeves.
I fully finished yet another sweater in yarns so good that one could eat them – silk/angora/wool blend for most of it, wool/angora for the striped bits.


Houston, we have a problem.The white sweater is my well-worn favourite which is not important, the important thing is that it fits well.

For those who are not sure what am I talking about, the tape measure shows the good lenght of the sleeves. It doesn't look that straight but it is, sort of. Yes, the blue one needed some eight rows to be done with and the grey one was entirely finished***. Upon trying them on, I found that (1) blue has sleeves too short (2) grey has sleeves too long, one of which damn-way-too-long. Back to the armpits, then. I am anal about details, I know it. I don't mind ripping and redoing three-quarters of a garment because there's a wrong stitch somewhere there. I do't mind reknittng the whole thing when there's a cable crossed the wrong way on row 6. To be totally frank, I might ignore it at a thing done for someone else who woldn't be able to find the mistake but were the thing intended for my own use, I might not be able to live with it. In neither case, a sleeve 15cm longer would be acceptable.

Someone on Ravelry remarked when I whined about ripping the whole sweater that grew after dipping in the water (redoing that one is the next task after fixing the abovementioned disasters) that I should accept it as a possibility to spend my time working with beautiful yarns.

Speaking of growing sweaters, I'm working on a pattern called Monet's garden. Most of the thing is made of the same yarn as the growing sweater. I'm past the armpits and I'm trying to work the increases into the foliage patterns so there's lots of working with beautiful yarns. The same bits, for that matter, but I like more and more how is it turning out.

And, yes, there' a yellow floor here. It is a bit less ugly than what it looks like on the pictures.


*Just the other day I spotted two volumes of essays on Florentine humanism and neoplatonism, printed on a cheap paper, bound in cheap paper, around 80 euros each. Bear this on mind when dealing with the paperbackiness of this place. Just in case.

**so called Boil the balls alive.

***not the ends. I have more than one thing with hanging threads because the little finishing details just somehow don't get finished. I can wear my precious garment and tuck the loose thread somewhere inside so why bother.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ongoing struggle

I don't keep a detailed record of the protests. There was a demonstration on Tuesday, the classes are taking place outside school pretty often - "lessons for free for all instead of universities for a few" being the message. Our department will be occupying the railway station square on Monday so I'll have pictures.
The protests are widespread and damn many people are taking part. The law that started it impacts schools of all levels and it's not only the kids but also parents and uninvolved bystanders / there were 60 000 people demonstrating in Florence and 30 000 in Pisa on Tuesday.
Berlusconi announced that if the students don't stop that, he'll send out the army. I read that in someone's newspaper on the bus on Wednesday. This article is a summary of events and comments from politicians; the two lines above the title say The prime minister talked about being tough on the protesters and Minister Gelmini [the Minister of Education]: "Terrorist campaign against the reform." Obviously, I got pissed to no end and decided that from now on I'm taking part in everything. I may not be well-versed in the local course of matters but this is just too much. Since when, the fuck, is sitting on in teh square and listening to a rant about Piero della Francesca terrorism? And if so, then it's a high time to tell the guys in Afghanistan to come back immediately to start eavesdropping on the streets in case someone may be committing a terrorist act of disagreeing by the terrorist action of talking about art?
Yes, the people sometimes block the streets. The last time I was here, there were demonstrations of someone else - state employees, bus drivers - I have no idea, I didn't care unless the bus drivers were on the strike and I do not recall anyone screaming Terrorism!* And, since when is disagreeing a crime? This commentary in La Repubblica discusses the notion that Mr. Berlusconi tries to change the issue of protests against a political action into a matter of public order.

I'm angry, I admit it. Maybe I should calm down, be objective, think about the other side of the argument.... Damn, since when is a course of actions leading to destruction or near-destruction of universities not self-explanatory? Back to angry mode.

I'm not the only pissed person in this area. The local edition of La Repubblica ** has an article on factory workers expressing their support to the students and the readiness to fight. Like in the '68.

I feel the spirit everywhere.Wherever I go, there are banners, posters informing what will be going on in the next days, it's in the news. I'm not sure whether other people have the adrenaline rush, too. It feels like history is happening now and here.

*Admittedly, when my mother saw the demonstrants with red flags and hammers and sickles on the banners, she started cursing "the fucking Communards" and looked for a loose cobblestone while murmuring that someone should send them to Siberia to check the Communism thing in person. She's not in charge of any armed forces nor is she a politician or a public figure. Moreover, there were no loose cobblestones, mainly due to the fact that via Manzoni is paved with stone slabs.

**I promise, I'll check in the newsstand what else is being published here. I never meant to do any political blogging and the circumstances sucked me in unprepared.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Going political

I might have mentioned that when I came to Italy, I happened to land at the beginning of school reform. Or what the hell.
First, the study plans changed. Which is a little bit irritating on one hand, on the other hand, I just have a different list of things to do than what I would have last year.
Second and more important, there's a new law, according to which the government funding for universities should be cut by 1.5 billion euros in the next five years, scholarships were cut by one third this year, universities should transform to institutions with private funding. There are things related to primary and secondary education which are not of my interest but the cuts are on all levels and people are pissed.
Personally, I don't find anything wrong with privately run universities (or any other schools). I suppose that great part of the students wouldn't mind either. The issue is that there are over 80 state universities in Italy, some of them damn big and should all or majority of them become private, it would conclusively mean high school fees, division to education-only institutions and research institutions and I sincerely doubt that many would bother with research. As I know the human nature, it may end all university research because it doesn't earn money and the three persons that would like to be scholars would find their way to some research-friendly land.
Another thing that scares the local folk is that cutting the funds may lead to limiting the access to universities. Now, you bring your secondary school papers, fill in a few forms, cough up some money in fees (for this semester, it's some 350 euros which I wouldn't call a negligible sum) and start going to the lectures. I grew up in a system where entrance exams are normal and where I started studying with other 17 folks picked from the crowd of several hundred so I don't see it as much of a problem but here people see it as an attack to one of the basic human rights.
So, on Thursday (I'm late with blogging, as always), the action of the day was Lessons in the Streets. I must say that I supported the revolutionary effort by spending most of the day sitting on the stairs of the loggia of Brunelleschi's Ospedale dei Innocenti and I have a terrible back ache even today but I did my part.

Professor Tigler (the grey-haired guy) gave a lecture on paleochristian and Romanesque sources of inspiration in Brunelleschi's architecture. Well picked theme, regarding the location.

No to the 133 - the 133/2008 law is the one against which we are protesting. The banners read Art goes to streets and Class for all compared to university for a few. (The huge one in red and white at the background is for the museum in the building.)

I found a bit of the news, too. Yours truly is somewhere far left from the picture, though. I didn't manage to embed the video so check here

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Something touristy

Well, only mildly touristy. I don't really like making touristy pics and for non-touristy pictures, I'd have to get up at six before the buggers get out of hotel beds and plague the streets.
I went up to Fiesole to take a few pics of the gardens in the Franciscan monastery but as i was lazy and the sun got too low, the pics are no big deal. Neither is this pic of Florence itself, it's against the sun and since the morons were burning garden stuff, the whole valley was smoky
A propos of European University: I don't know who is funding them but the suckers have a villa with a park and us poor folks from the state university sit in overcrowded rooms with windows to busy streets. It's not fair. Yeah and that's the gardens.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Nothing changed

I went to check the classes in the dance studio where I used to go. Some people that started with me go to the same course, too. The guy who taught me erm, four years ago now teaches intermediate classes so I gave it a try.
On my way back, I got fed up with waiting for the bus and decided to take a walk downtown, my old usual way along Arno to Ponte Sta. Trinita and then along via Tornabuoni to do some windowshopping at Ferragamo or Emilio Pucci, then along the huge rustico of palazzo Strozzi. The honorary consulate of Finland isn't in via Strozzi anymore, Fendi has a collection of colourful rubber boots (can't wait when some moronic fashion stylist starts explaining how rubber boots are en vogue these days since they are a must in Florence's autumn bucket rains), Patrizia Pepe is across the street, moved there from somewhere else and there were musicians at piazza Repubblica as always.
Today I went to Yrja's class. I 've already mentioned elsewhere that my Swedish is of dubious quality so I wanted to do something about it. It was sorta fun, that absurd fun whether I didn't know whether to feel like a total idiot or whether I'm actually doing well. Time will show. My enthusiasm, which had equalled almost zero anyway, to join Finnish classes decreased considerably after I noticed that the same Leena who taught me those five years ago teaches there. Good ole guilt that I haven't worked hard enough.
It's all so strange, to be back here. I feel as if I left for a week, not for three years.

Back to the damn freaking paperwork.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Belated post V: Esoteric sciences

Been to the Accademia today.

The advantage of being a student is that you know magic words. Today at 1520 the magic words were Did the group of professor T. already go in, I'm a bit late.Thus I skipped the queue, was let in via the exit door and nobody wanted any ticket.There's an exhibition on Giovanni da Milano going on and as soon as I recover from the miserable state of brokeness, I'll get the catalog. One of his Crucifixions just screams Master Theodoric, if nothing else. Not that I weren't aware (as almost anyone litterate) about the connections between Italian and Bohemian art in the 14th century but this one was pretty apparent even to me who pretends more than actually knows.

Too bad that I haven't taken more (1) books with me. I could use Skaug (2), for example, just to refresh my knowledge.

(1) The bastards on Amazon have it for $28 and I coughed up like 100 euros for the copy of mine! Make the world fair, someone! Now!

(2) That book on punch marks. I'm getting to the dissertation mode but I'm not there yet.


Belated post IV: Practicalities

I got some sort of internet connection although I'll have to ask a few questions at the Vodafone place since the connection counter shows something in contrary to what I was told at the shop, shoud've had 300 hours of connection/month, not 50 and I didn't hear a single word on data limit. Better than nothing, though.

I cleaned this place. The kitchen lacked basic things, such as a knife worth its name – the best and only one was the one I left here three years ago, now it's blunted to useless; the only pot with a lid is the one I left here three years ago, the other pots as well as the pots and various containers reminded me of my grandma's late yard with all sorts of vessels from which the cats and dogs would eat, occasionally tossing them over, chasing them around or otherwise adding patina.

I decided that I need something non-repulsive to use. I know, I know, it may be my subjective feeling but I wasn't going to live with that lamp and those plates. I found out where Ikea was (using their 2006 catalog, atlas of Italy, particularly the higway map of Florence and surroundings and the old bus map of Florence which is still working pretty well) and set out for the shopping trip.

The troubles started at the main station from whose surroundings the 29 and 30 were supposed to go instead of the stop, there was a hole in the ground, as well as in surrounding streets. I went across the whole station to the information booth on which a map of provisional stops was stuck. Obviously, on the other side the stop was so I turned around and fought my way back across the station and two streets further.

Ikea says it is in Sesto Fiorentino but in reality, it's in Osmannoro. One way or another, I soon discovered where the poorer neighbourhoods are. I shared the bus with a stinky black guy and his foldable kiosk of Almost-Gucci sunglasses, several Romanian or Albanian but definitely Gypsy beggars who were off work, though, with a few people who felt a need to listen to loud music (no, I don't like Italian techno, neither I like something that sounded like Turkish pop. I don't like any loud music (where loud is defined as I can hear it but it's not my device making the sound) in pubic transport. Only if the heaven opened and the angelic choirs descended onto the board, I may not be pissed.

Well, the good thing about Ikea is that it's easy to see so with a huge relief, I spotted it, got off the bus, walked half a mile on a non-existent sidewalk along a stinky stream and then among closed-down shops to find out that there's a shuttle bus going to and from the main station. Fair enough, I looked when would it be going back and went to get my kitchen towels (the house provided something that I would use only as a so called Thing carried to the rubbish bin), bowls, silverware, table lamp and whatever may please my soul. The bad thing I discovered was that the silverware is sold not in the logic order of each of a knife, a fork, a spoon and a teaspoon but either by six of each or in sets of 24, six of each four elements. I don't need silverware, I have plenty back in the North, including the silver silverware so I made a fruitless effort to find sticks somewhere there but they are either so popular that they were sold out or Ikea simply has none. I'm bound to use the silverware with plastic handles that screams Disinfection! or rather Rubbish heap! until I find something sorta normal. At least I made the place sorta normal.

I got some tunnbröd (if I cannot eat bread, then I'll at least get the sort I like) and cookies and cloudberry jam enjoyed the absurdity of Ikea full of Italians, Italian language lacking decent names for cranberries, for example (red blueberries, they call them... stupid southern people, even we have a name for cloudberries although they are a polar relict in two or three localities on the mountain tops... but we had those scientists – language maniacs who invented names for things since they wanted to prove that ours is as rich as Latin or German, providing the posterity with interesting synonyms and many poetic possibilities).

When I got back home, I found out that there's no carving board. Damn.

In the evening, the landlord dropped by, to tell me that if there's no hot water in the bathroom, I should turn it on to the fullest in the kitchen so that the heater would work. How ingenuous, to waste water in such a manner. Resources crisis onto them!


Belated post III: I'm high. Sibutramine diaries

Yes, it is indeed a cheat, I should have worked out more.

I got a pack of the medicine from my doc – she had a sample pack from the company representative so I even saved a bit of money. i decided to postpone using it after the holidays with family, I'm usually the garbage bin who eats everything within reach. And, after reading the enclosed leaflet, I wanted to keep the potential side effects for myself.

As for the side effects and adverse reactions, the leaflet promised indeed many. On Day 1 I had only dry mouth which is irritating but not that bad. Today is Day 3. As promised, I feel an urge to pee at random times, I can't sleep (it says Insomnia – very common), my thermoregulation is out of normality limits (Excessive sweating – very common) and I feel high. Like, after 30 coffees and half a bucket of cocaine high. The leaflet doesn't say anything, all what's promised is constipation, palpitations, worsening haemorrhoids, elevated blood pressure and a few more – since they insist that ladies use contraception, I think two-headed babies are not out of question either. It doesn't feel that bad, I mean, being high, not two-headed babies. The bad part of it is that my attention span is about ten seconds.

Funny feelings aside, it works. The sibutramine thingy, I mean. For three days, I haven't had any urge to eat a box of chocolates or a bag of raisins or any container of anything. I do eat, I was instructed by the doc to do so but I don't feel like eating. So far so good.

I feel compelled to add that I took two pairs of jeans with me. I have three pairs of black jeans, two of which are in my current size and a third one which is some 10cm around the waist smaller – which is exactly the one I grabbed by mistake. So, as a result I have one pair of wearable jeans (and you may have noticed that I wear something else than jeans approximately twice in five years). I wanted to buy something cheap but apparently I have Italian size 50 and in all normal shops they end up at 46. It's of no consolation that Italians are just mutant dwarves who have no shoes that would fit on a normally grown person either.

Written on Friday, Oct 2, I'd say.

Belated posts II.: The course of matters

Written, as it appears, on Friday, October 2.

Yesterday the Medieval courses started. I expected one guy who would give us some syllabus and literature for the course and start lecturing but there were all four of the Medieval professors and we were given general instructions.

So, the thing is that without actually knowing, I landed in the middle of a school reform. There's a new new system of study (the new one was when there were credits instituted), things seem to be a bit upside down and nobody knows for sure how some of the details will work.

There's also some pressure from the government which wants basically to privatize the universities. (technically the universities would be private foundations, didn't get whether non-profit ones, though) Not that I'd understand the details but apparently the academic crowd doesn't agree. Even now, the budgets are being reduced, the schools are pressed to have more students per teacher (nice. Now the people sit on the floors in the lecture rooms because there aren't enough chairs. What's the next step, cancelling lectures and making people read stuff on the internet) and less teachers in total numbers (ditto), less scholarships etc.

Not that I was an expert on Italian school system, economy and the general social climate but from what I know, the privatization thingy isn't a good idea. Back home, the demand for higher education is high and everybody wants to be a manager or artist or IT guy or something similarly sexy... or at least they want to have a diploma so that they can do a nice office job. Since the state schools accept only a limited number of students, many private institutions sprang up. One of very many offers postgradual studies, most stick to the bachelor degrees and the Pay and Graduate routine. Although legally, degrees are equal regardless of the university where one got them, it's a common knowledge that the state ones provide better education although the people may lack a few points in self-presentation compared to the proud alumni of some Anglo-American Academy of Information Technologies (the crappier the school, the more noble the name sounds, I'm urged to say although its my feeling, not a scientific observation).

I seem to know where the things are going and I'll observe it all with great attention.

Belated posts: Family holiday

I was offline so I just wrote down my rants and I'll try to publish them with a bit of delay - unedited so that you don't miss my erratic style.

Family holiday can actually be fun. Although I'm not a big fan of getting us three together for a longer time, it somehow turned out nice, without any arguments. We even stayed in a decent hotel and I didn't get any major indigestion.

First few days we spent only with my mom in Florence, wandering around the touristy places – sort of. We arrived at six in the morning so I got me a coffee (anything that contained more coffee than the dirty water they served on the train) and then went hanging around. The well-known fact of touristy places is that the tourists wake up around nine so before that, you can have space, natives and all the normal things. Like, Ponte Vecchio with no tourists. Or just any place without tourists.

While doing this hanging around, I discovered San Stefano of which I thought it was somewhere else and San Salvatore al Vescovo (make mental note to get inside on some occasion). At noon, we transferred our stuff to the hotel. Mom bought a new backpack, claiming that she cannot use mine because it's too small.... and then I was carrying her backpack and my bag because the backpack was oh so heavy and we got off the bus one stop earlier because I'm stupid and don't have a clue and... anyway.

The last time mom was in Florence was at the end of June when it was freaking hot. She thus got the impression that in Florence it's always hot. So, we stayed in a hotel with a swimming pool which we never used (I'm not much of a swimming person anyway) because oddly enough, even in Italy they have different weather than default hot. Mom got a cold, too.

We at least walked a lot. I didn't have my camera with me because it was at dad's car somewhere in the Nothern Italy so I'll flood the world with pics sometime later.

There's a little museum on Franciscan missions in Fiesole (free entrance, donations welcome, forgot about the opening times). I adore small local museums. This one lacked legible tags, had only basic system of organizing exhibits, there were no custodians or annoying safety measures and it was totally charming.