Category Archives: The Big Unanswered Questions

Renovating in Italy

It’s now ten years that we have been in Pitigliano, renovating, holidaying and living. We chose Pitigliano, in the hills of La Maremma, southern Tuscany, for several reasons – the town itself; the hot springs of Saturnia; the wonderful beaches south of Argentario, and the countryside all around. Here are a few photos.

We took up the floors and found old tiles which was a wonderful find, but which now need work again because the ceiling of the magazzino (store room) below is deteriorating affecting the floor above. In truth this work was always going to be done, it was just a matter of when – when arrived in 2012.


I made my own stoneware tiles for the kitchen, following the idea of uncovered – ‘found old marble’.

We found the original painted wall and built it around designs incorporating terracotta wall lamps I made. Not everyone would do this or even like it for his or herself, but for us the architectural point of an old house like this, going back in parts to the 17th century – as it it is for local builders – is that you create and reconfigure old aspects and ‘finds’ into the overall look.

The fireplace was completely excavated, set back and made much larger, and we designed a heavy cast iron grill and had it made at a local foundry, so any fire on it would suck up the air and roar up the chimney.

A wood heater (la stufa), for keeping the house warm when a roaring wood fire would create too much heat.

The roof was redone.

Ceilings and a skylight done.

Shutters (le persiane) put up.

Slowly, modestly we are getting the house in shape.

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Inside Job and The Euro

See the documentary Inside Job – a forensically researched, superbly delivered film about the 2008/2009 financial collapse – to see what the Euro leaders really have to deal with, the rating agencies delivering them an ultimatum.

Why haven’t we had a detailed analysis as we see in Inside Job presented to us by big media?

Some empirical facts to ponder: “The financial services industry’s share of profits increased from 10% in the 1980s to 40% in 2007, and the value of its shares (in the overall) went from 6% to 23%, while the industry only accounts for 5% of private sector employment.” Household debt in the U.S. grew from 3% of disposable income in 1998 to 130% in 2008. Prime mortgage delinquency as a percentage of loans increased from 2.5% in 1998 to 118% in 2008 – Manuel Castells.

Fictional Capital

If you haven’t seen the film Inside Job (by Charles Ferguson) – don’t know him, not connected to him, not selling, just saw it and say, get a DVD and watch the documentary. In the meantime have a look at Castells in London, standing right in the financial heart of (very near to) the City.

What is Facebook really up to?

Initially this post was about Facebook dismantling its groups. The issue then: Many people spent an enormous amount of time developing them and asking people to join. Because of widespread concern and protest by Facebook members FB resolved this and groups could keep their members. At the time I wrote: “Facebook is fast acting like a corporation acting in concert with other corporate or shady political interests – not a borrowed idea from a dorm at Harvard existing only because a lot of people use it. If Facebook is about anything it is about each and every one of its members – Facebook is nothing without the people who bother to use its pages.”

Now Facebook wants, it seems, to use stored data of its members and make it public. This has been true for sometime of course. FB data-mines its users. But is the ante being upped with new moves? Does this breach the privacy terms implied in the original terms of use?

Facebookers should be informed of what this new FB policy is and what it means and then they should be asked whether they agree to the use of data that was once ‘private’ between FB members.

Facebook should reflect the members that make it up. Facebookers are not a resource to be exploited for profit in this way by Facebook’s founders (this was not the original ‘pitch’ or purpose of Facebook). If use of private data does happen, at the very least it should be only with prior full agreement of Facebook users.

If Facebook wants to charge for the service then they can and people can opt out of the FB site if they so wish – taking their data with them, not leaving it behind for commercial use.

If I buy a house I get the house and grounds, not the furniture and fittings inside and outside, unless it is in the contract of sale. Facebook do not own the data, (though I am sure their lawyers would say they do). They have already profited hugely from having such a huge number of users, but they don’t own Facebookers or their private and personal data.

Credit where, all hail to..

It is, I assure you, an infuriating mess, a refuge, a joy to behold, an acrimonious cesspool of computerisable angst, an endless checklist of outso(u)rcerized disputes – a hole in the wall for all the world’s minds to filter down onto damaged DVDs. They will in time. And this you will find will be their final resting place.

The staff are miraculous, critically underpaid, limitlessly incompetent, irritatingly profound, delightfully empty, lazified beyond imagining, utterly perfect in their rhombus like cartoon feature creatures silicon graphic simulatoring carnival spirit. They sit there one at a time in that hell’s kitchen like Camusian sentences in utter knowing decrepitude.

If I could ever find the title I crave, the one I have up here, I will throw a week long party for all of you (send me yr contact). As a photocopier – though – to be honest – let’s be fair – my local is the soul of efficiency. As a printer of documents it is besmirchless –

….any fault the computer hard-drives at you is not down to the poor beleaguered impoverished centre.

It is a meeting, as it were or was – point by point – planned, for the perfect silence of minds, brought to life ONLY by murmuring mobile phonies and at least one hundred SE-a-MLESS dialects.

Not a letter I know is transferrable in order to patronise misapplication by default (if you know how to approach it). So…All hail to my local

….– library.