Tuesday Tidbits

Well, I haven’t posted anything since early April because I had a lot of things going on and completely lost the habit of writing anything:

  • Work has been quite terrible since the week before Easter
  • We’ve been to Bavaria and back
  • The long Easter weekend was lovely, and I read a lot
  • I had a horrid toothache for almost two weeks
  • I discovered the language learning app Duolingo and now I’m addicted

At work we had the worst failure of our tools ever. It started with the deployment of a new technology stack for our content management infrastructure two and a half weeks ago, which had unplanned side effects coupled with the hardware failure of an important server. Since then, we’ve been in a hectic mitigation mode that’s been quite exhausting (although probably more exhausting for the system admins who have to fix everything while also supporting our workarounds, so that at least some things could get done).

Despite this, I had a nice, relaxed Easter weekend (only logging on to work once to check if a mitigation procedure had run as planned, which it had). I meant to write a blog post or two, but I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything except read and do some cooking. Mum and I spent Easter in Bavaria, as Partner needed to be at his place. I finished reading the second volume of Gibbon, read two of Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James crime novels and started reading a history about Pagans and Christian by Robin Lane Fox that I’ve had for a couple of years and that fits in well with the first two volumes of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

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The weather was lovely during Easter and while we were in Bavaria. Lots of sunshine, but still a bit cool. Very good for walks with Curious Dog – no drying of a wet and muddy dog afterwards. Sadly, spring has brought the ticks back out of hibernation (or wherever they disappear in winter). We had a nasty episode where CD lost a huge tick and it was stepped on… The Juneberry bush we planted a couple of years ago had its first blossoms, very nice. It’ll be interesting to see if any berries develop. Now that we are back in Baden-Württemberg, there’s a bit of rain. Everything is green and the apple trees are glorious.

On top of all the work stress, I developed a bad toothache, which only turned up at night at first. Basically, before Easter, I spend about three nights not sleeping at all well because my entire left jaw hurt. During the day, the pain disappeared, and I didn’t go to see my dentist, because of “head in the sand” syndrome (hoping it would go away by itself). Once we were in Bavaria, I didn’t want to go to a different dentist, so I treated it with a cup of golden milk every night (soy/oat milk with some turmeric, ginger, pepper, cinnamon and honey for sweetness, plus a dab of coconut oil). Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and it worked for me (it’s very important to take it with a pinch of pepper as it otherwise isn’t bio-available). It made my nights pain-free, and I could sleep again. I was quite surprised as I hadn’t really believed it would work so well – perhaps it was partly a placebo effect. During the day, I had come-again go-again pain of various intensities, but bearable. I didn’t want to take more turmeric during the day, because you shouldn’t overdo it, and I didn’t want to take conventional painkillers either (if I’d had to take painkillers, I would have gone to see a dentist). Now that I’m back at my place, the pains gone. I didn’t have any swelling and I’m not sure what caused the pain. Maybe it was a kind of delayed reaction to my tooth extraction. Or it was one of my wisdom teeth acting up. I’ll probably just wait until my next planned dentist’s appointment at the beginning of June (unless the pain returns before then).

On Easter Monday, I thought I’d try out the language learning app Duolingo, of which I have heard good things from Naemi, of A Book Owl’s Corner. Since then, I haven’t been reading anything much. I’m addicted, I tell you, addicted! I’ve restarted my efforts to learn Latin and I’ve started learning Ukrainian (new to me) – the app has short lessons, is very motivating and the ads in the free version aren’t terribly bothersome. I’m really enjoying myself and can already say extremely useful sentences like “I don’t eat meat” and “The home is where the cat is” in Ukrainian (my pronunciation is probably terrible). My current focus is on learning the Cyrillic alphabet in the Ukrainian version. There are some letters that look like letters from the Latin alphabet but represent different sounds (confusing) and there are a lot of “y” and “I” sounds that I find difficult to differentiate between. But it’s a nice challenge. I’m also looking up other resource to supplement the app, as I think in the long run the app won’t be enough. I guess I chose Ukrainian because of the current situation with so many Ukrainian refugees coming to Germany. I’m also enjoying taking up Latin again with which I tend to have and on-and-off again relationship. Learning Latin used to be one of my yearly goals, but I never followed up and therefore dropped it again. Let’s see how long my enthusiasm lasts this time.

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My neighbours in Bavaria, who have an empty old house on their lot where the grandparents used to live, have provided it to Ukrainian refugees (it’s old, but in good condition – certainly much better than the refugee reception camp which is just folding beds in a sports hall). Five people are living there now, grandparents, parents, and a child. The men were working in Germany when the war broke out and the women and child fled afterwards. Their convoy was shot at and one of the cars was destroyed. What an awful experience. They don’t know any German and communication works with Google translate. We donated some dishes and Mum gave the child a teddy bear. Mum was a refugee too when she was about six years old at the end of WWII and she’s always remembered that she had to leave her teddy bear behind – she hid it behind a wardrobe.

Like everyone else, I’m following the news about the war in Ukraine. It’s all so terrible. I’m annoyed about the waffling of the German government regarding the provisioning of heavy weapons, especially considering the human rights violations by the Russian Army. But I’m also sad that this is even necessary. I’m disgusted about the interview that the German ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder has given to the New York Times, where he affirmed that he wouldn’t be giving up his posts with the Russian energy corporations and that Putin wanted peace – if Putin wanted peace, why start a war in the first place. Like many Germans I’ve never approved of Schröder’s position on the boards of those Russian companies. He’s an ex-chancellor so he gets a high monthly pension (€ 8 300) and generous additional benefits (all paid for by German taxes). What does he need income from Russian firms for and why was he even given those posts? Very dubious this is.

Keep safe, world.

Children of Dune

As the title indicates, this third novel in Frank Herbert’s Dune series tells the story of the coming of age of Paul Atreides’ and Chani’s twin children, Leto II and Ghanima, born at the end of the previous book, Dune Messiah.

These were not merely nine-year-old children; they were a natural force, objects of veneration and fear. They were the children of Paul Atreides, who had become Muad’Dib, the Mahdi of all the Fremen. (p. 2)*.

The children are both aware of the knowledge and life experiences of all their ancestors (like their aunt Alia) and have prescient powers like Paul. They are brought up by the Fremen and educated in their tradition. Because the two have access to the knowledge of their ancestors (who emerge as distinct personalities in their minds), they are adults caught in the bodies of children and as such are always underestimated.

And they sat in the Royal Council. Children of such tender years, yet wise enough to sit in the Council. They might be children in flesh, but they were ancient in experience, born with a totality of genetic memory, a terrifying awareness which set their Aunt Alia and themselves apart from all other living humans. (p. 6)

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I really like how Herbert manages to convey the extremely odd precocious nature of the twins while still making them child-like in some respects (mostly to do with their immature bodies and the fact that all their knowledge isn’t based on their own experience). The ancestor’s presences in the children’s minds is both useful and a huge danger – there is a certain fearsome possibility that the strongest of the ancestors might take over their minds to live again in the children’s bodies. This calamity has overtaken their aunt Alia, who acts as regent. She is not her own person anymore but is governed by one of her ancestors (arguably, the most brutal one). The children strive to avoid this fate and plot to bring about the most advantageous future for humanity, which they call the “Golden Path”.

As usual for the Dune novels, there are plots within plots and all of them centre around Leto and Ghanima. The Lady Jessica returns to Dune and appears to be once more aligned with the goals of the Bene Gesserit. She recognizes that her daughter Alia has become an Abomination, which is the Bene Gesserit’s name for a person with ancestral knowledge who has been taken over by one or more of these ancestors.

The Lady Jessica wants to save her grandchildren, but she also isn’t averse to manipulating them – she is behind a plot to get Leto overdosed on spice to force him to face the tumult within his mind and either emerge victorious or to fail (and probably be killed).

Alia tries to have her mother murdered, but the Lady Jessica flees to the Fremen and later to the previous emperor’s planet where she becomes the instructor of a prince of the fallen House Corrino, Farad’n. Farad’n’s mother, without his knowledge, plans to have the twins of House Atreides assassinated and lays a perfidious trap near the twins Fremen home, from which they flee in order to seek the mysterious Preacher, who turns up here and there to preach the traditional Fremen way (and whose identity is unclear).

All in all, this Preacher was a figure from Dune’s past. (p. 56).

During their flight, the twins manage to evade the assassination attempt by the House Corrino, but Ghanima is injured and has to return to the Fremen. To give Leto the opportunity to follow the “Golden Path”, she hypnotizes herself to believe that Leto had been killed – in fact, she believes it so strongly that she vows to avenge herself on Farad’n to whom she is supposed to be betrothed (by plots involving both her aunt Alia and the Lady Jessica.

[…] Ghanima felt herself to be the pure Fremen, a carefully prepared extension of tribal brutality. She needed only a target – and that, obviously, was House Corrino. She longed to see Farad’n’s blood spilled on the ground at her feet. (p. 292)

Leto sets out to find the Preacher, but on the way is caught by an outlaw band of Fremen who are conspiring with Gurney Halleck, an old retainer of House Atreides who is loyal to the Lady Jessica. They force Leto to overdose on spice, awakening his prescience and almost getting him overwhelmed by the ancestors inhabiting his mind. Leto, however, follows his own strange strategy… but that would be telling.

This idea of having access to the memories and knowledge of all one’s genetic ancestors, while also hearing their voices in one’s head always makes me think of multiple personality disorder (or dissociative identity disorder).

At the end of the novel, all the different plot lines are brought together and resolved, making this a good place to interrupt my reading of Herbert’s Dune series for a while. They’ve grown on me – they are very well done. The world-building is stupendous, and I do want to read the next three books, but I will take them up again at a later point in time. I don’t know if I ever want to reread the three first books, but I want to find out happens next – Leto has made a strange choice and what will come of it? I enjoyed this book best of the three, mostly because I found the twins very likeable.

*All quotes are from Frank Herbert, Children of Dune, 1976 repr. 2019. An Ace (Penguin Random House) eBook.

Keep safe, world.

The Waves

This is the second novel by Woolf that I read this year (the first one was the very short imaginative biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog Flush). This novel is fairly short (ca. 225 pages in my edition) but intense and poetic. I really enjoyed it. It’s not focused on action, there are a lot of repetitions and revisiting of the same events. It’s dynamic in a rhythmic sort of way (like waves in the novel).

The Waves has an unusual structure. It tells the stories of the lives of a group of friends from childhood to middle age. Each section dealing with the friends’ lives is preceded by a poetic look at nature, at a sea-side landscape with an emphasis on waves breaking against the shore. These poetic descriptions are set apart from the rest of the novel in italic script. They are written in the past tense, and they have a progression from spring to autumn and from dawn to dusk – that is, the first of these passages with which the novel starts, begins at dawn and in spring:

The sun had not yet risen. The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it. Gradually as the sky whitened a dark line lay on the horizon dividing the sea from the sky and the gray cloth became barred with thick strokes moving, one after another, beneath the surface, following each other, pursuing each other, perpetually. (p. 3)*

And, almost at the end:

Now the sun had sunk. Sky and sea were indistinguishable. The waves breaking spread their white fans far out over the shore, sent white shadows into the recesses of sonorous caves and then rolled back sighing over the shingle. (p. 181)

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The characters in the novel are Bernard, Neville, Louis, Susan, Rhoda, Jinny. They tell their stories in the present tense in interior monologues (Woolf called them “dramatic soliloquies,” according to the introduction in my edition – which I read after reading novel and writing this review). We first meet them on a sunny spring morning (maybe the one that is just dawning in the preceding description of the waves, the shore, the birds, and the landscape). They are young children, not yet at school, enjoying themselves (or not) in the garden of a country house. We read about their caretaker, but nothing much about their families or how they are related. Rhoda seems to be the youngest and a bit of an outsider. Louis also often feels like an outsider because he is the son of an Australian banker and as such not as rooted in their society as the others. He’s very much concerned with rootedness throughout the novel. Jinny is very emotional and impulsive and later a bit of a society girl always with a new lover. Susan is the solid one, who becomes a mother and lives on her family’s farm. Bernhard seems to be the oldest, the one with the most potential, the storyteller. He also later marries and has children (or at least one son – we only ever get a few glimpses of the characters’ children and none of their spouses). Neville is the poet and scholar.

In the next section, the children are at boarding school. There they meet Percival, an older boy with whom they are all to some degree fascinated. Especially Neville, who loves him. In the next episode, Bernard, Neville, and Percival are at university while Louis works in an office and resents it, reading books on the side. Susan has returned to country life at her father’s farm. And Jinny and Rhoda are society girls (where Rhoda doesn’t fit in, but Jinny is in her element).

After college, the friends meet to bid farewell to Percival, who is leaving for a job in India. And so it goes on – a bit about nature, the waves, followed by a section showing the progression of the characters’ lives. In the last section they are middle-aged and have a reunion dinner at a pub in London (at least those that are still among the living).

Those sections that tell the characters’ stories are always in present tense and they are always interior monologues in which the characters comment on what they are doing at the moment, how they relate to the others, what their dreams are and how their lives play out. The focus is not on anything that happens (except for some key events that affect them profoundly) but on their inner interrogations about the meaning of their lives. There’s a lot of repetition as the characters reconsider aspects of their lives and their pasts. We also sometimes see how the same events have different meanings for different characters.
The poetic bits about the waves written in the past tense seem to emphasize the eternal motion of the waves, sometimes gentle, sometimes violent. The motion of the waves is timeless, and the present-tense narratives of the characters gives the impression that they are living in a perpetual present (which is also kind of timelessness). At the same time, the nature scenes progress through a day and the seasons of a year, which are both recurring eternal events – dawn to dusk, followed by night and a new dawn. Spring to winter, followed by a new spring. But what about the characters? They are not timeless; they have to contend with death. What is the meaning of life?

The novel is very different from Flush, and it’s different from Woolf’s other novels that I’ve read (as far as I remember them, anyway). I haven’t read all of her novels (yet). Judging by the ones I have read, Woolf is a creative and versatile writer, trying out new ways of writing all the time. She wrote letters, diaries, essays and novels and I enjoy all her work (that I’ve read so far). Her novels are not for everyday reading. They are intense, very literary. Sometimes (often) I need something with more plot and action, just for fun and relaxation, but as a contrast to more mainstream novels and as works of artistry and meaning, I love her writing. And I wouldn’t say it’s difficult reading. There are no strange words or convoluted sentences. I need to be in the mood for this type of literature, then it’s rewarding and enjoyable in its own way.

*All quotes are from Virginia Woolf, The Waves. Penguin Books, London, 1992.

Keep safe, world

Monday Miscellanea

The week (or rather the 10 days) in March that we spent in Bavaria was really pleasant. Sunny weather, with freezing temperatures and night and warm spring-like temperatures in the afternoons. It got warm rather quickly after the cold nights, so that when Curious Dog and I went for our morning walk before work, I only wore the inner fleece of my jacket. At first it was a bit chilly, but by the time I had gained the gravel road up in the woods, I was warm enough to enjoy the walk. During the week, I saw a couple of squirrels and once two deer almost invisible up on a hillside beside the road back into our village. Also, a lot of birds. When we arrived, the shrubs in our garden had only small buds, but by the time we left, small, furled leaves were starting to make an appearance. As it is now cold again, with some very frosty nights, I hope the budding leaves will survive.

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It was rather dry, as it hadn’t rained much if at all during March. I’m quite glad that it is now raining, but there was no need for the temperatures to drop again. Now that we are back at my place, Partner and I have seen the two storks in residence on their nest almost every morning. Once I saw them foraging on a freshly turned field on the afternoon walk with Curious Dog, quite close to us.

On our drive to and back from Bavaria, I drove slowly, to save petrol. I did about 100 km/h on the Autobahn (creeping in the right lane as much as possible) and about 80 km/h on the country roads. Usually, I do 130 on the motorway and 100 on the country roads (where possible). The slower speed was kind of boring, but also a lot more relaxed and I didn’t notice that we took a lot longer for the trip than usual. I’ll be keeping it up, even if the petrol prices go down again. I managed to reduce the petrol consumption of my car a bit, from 7.0 to 6.8 litres per 100 km. Not that much, but every little bit helps, I guess. I also didn’t heat my office either here (where it’s in our bedroom) or in Bavaria, but it’s been quite warm anyway. I hope I can keep the heat off. I’m keeping an eye on the level of oil in the tanks for the furnace. In Bavaria, they are fairly full, and the oil would last for another winter, but here at my rented place, they probably won’t.

I keep wondering what we could do about heating in our house in Bavaria, since eventually something will need to be done (unless we sell it and leave the problem for the next owner to solve) but so far, I haven’t come up with a good plan. Lots of people heat with wood pellets, but I really don’t see how that is supposed to be any better for the climate than burning oil. I don’t know if a heat exchanger would work in our old house and as far as I’ve been able to gather, a hydrogen-fueled heater needs gas to work (so far anyway). Heating with electricity is inefficient and not really an option. The heating system is my biggest house-related anxiety (it has been for some time, not just now since the war-related energy crisis). Ah well, we’ll stick with oil for a few years yet, I guess, and hope that something better will be developed soon. We could put solar panels on the south side of our roof, but in fall and winter we have lots of fog all day, so that the panels wouldn’t be very useful during the cold period.

I wonder what my landlady wants to do about the oil furnace at my rented place. The furnace is pretty old (older than the one in our house) and last year it needed a new control system as the old one broke down. Fortunately, that at least is not my problem. Some of my neighbours swapped their oil furnace for a gas heating system a couple of years ago. I suppose they are not too happy about that choice now. Good thing my landlady didn’t go that route.

We had lots of Saharan dust on our balcony in Bavaria. Mum tried to sweep it up, but it stuck to the tiles along with all the winter gunk. So, I scrubbed the entire thing by hand, but I divided it up and did just a quarter a day – otherwise it would have taken about three hours and I’m much too lazy to scrub anything for three hours. It was very nice and ready for summer after the clean-up, but I couldn’t help noticing that the metal railing and the wooden fencing really need a new coat of paint. The old paint is peeling off and parts of the railing are starting to get rusty – I saw it before but have been ignoring it. I’ve now decided that I’ll have to do the repainting myself. During my next week in Bavaria, if the weather is fine, I’m going to start sanding the old paint off and eventually I’ll take a week off to do the painting. I quite like painting, but I hope I don’t get totally fed-up half-way through. I’m not really a very enthusiastic craftsperson. I think I’d enjoy it more if I didn’t have to do stuff like that in my spare time after work, walking with Curious Dog, grocery shopping and the other stuff that needs doing. If I don’t have enough time for reading and meditation, I get grumpy. On the plus side, I’d feel super accomplished once I was done with the painting.

It’s a pity that Partner doesn’t want to move to Bavaria. Now that we are allowed to work from home all the time even after the pandemic, I could move back and save a lot of rent and have more time and money to fix up the house and the garden and research climate-friendly heating methods.

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The first weekend in April was rather changeable weather-wise. A few showers, some sunshine, a lot of frost at night – last night destroyed all the lovely blooming Magnolias in people’s gardens that we admired on our walks with Curious Dog. They were beautiful and still looked fine this morning, but this afternoon all the blossoms had turned brown. The weekend was rather relaxed. I did a lot of meditation, a bit of reading, and quite a bit of watching series with Partner. The new episodes of the second season of Star Trek Picard, the first episode of the new Disney+ series Moon Knight (so far, quite strange, but let’s see how it develops) and a few more episodes of Clone Wars (escapism). As usual, Partner and I did a lot of cooking, but we stuck to known dishes and didn’t experiment. A mushroom risotto on Friday, cauliflower in a tomato-caper sauce with polenta on Saturday and a nice warm vegan goulash soup on Sunday (we had the leftovers for lunch today).

I’m catching up on Edward Gibbons’s second volume of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I want to finish the second volume quickly, so that I can read something else during the rest of April. I like it, but it does take a lot of time and my problem with reading long books or series is that I keep getting side-tracked by other books that I stumble across and want to read (I should stop watching BookTube videos or reading blogs – but I know I won’t). My list of potential reads keeps getting longer.

This morning, I tidied up my home office desk. It wasn’t very untidy, but it’s quite small and when it gets cluttered, it irritates me. I’m hoping that the uncluttered desk will get me more motivated to keep up my blog and get out of the writing slump I had during the second half of March. Work has been going fine, nothing special and no tool failures in the second half of March. Hope it stays that way for a while.

The contrast between my normal life and the news from the war in the Ukraine keeps getting worse, it’s hard to comprehend. It’s hard to write about, but it would be dishonest to say nothing and act as if everything were fine in these catch-up posts. The war crimes committed by the Russian Army are truly awful. The Russian soldiers are acting like terrorists, bombing civilian infrastructure, using fragmentation bombs, shooting unarmed men, women, and children. Raping women – what kind of people are the Russian soldiers who commit these crimes? It’s one thing (bad enough) to invade another country for trumped-up reasons, but to shoot at fleeing civilians and rape women is the worst kind of barbarism. And then the Russian government and military command pretend that it’s just fake news and Ukrainian “provocations”. It’s mind-boggling. And it seems that the Russian public are swallowing these arrant lies. I guess it’s hard for them to get independent news, but when I hear that even Russian relatives of Ukrainians prefer to believe their government’s propaganda that’s just hard to take. All war crimes should be tried by an international court, but who knows if that will ever be possible what with Russia hiding behind its nuclear arsenal.

It’s terrible that all Europe’s endeavours to coexist peacefully with Russia despite political differences have come to naught. Germany is being criticized for having been too lenient and trusting in our relations with Russia and in hindsight that’s true. Now we must reconfigure our politics and strengthen our military forces so that we can defend ourselves and our partners. And urgent problems like climate change that endangers the entire world may end up having to wait. Not to mention all the other knock-on effects of this useless unjust war, like growing world hunger. Just what we all needed…

I hear all the time in the news that it’s not possible for Germany to stop all Russian energy imports at once (especially regarding Russian gas) but maybe we should just do it and deal with the consequences even if it’s hard. It can’t be as hard as what the Ukrainians are going through.

Keep safe, world.

March Reading

March has been a lovely month weather-wise (otherwise, pretty terrible). Very mild, sunny and spring-like. I’ve been rather lazy about blogging (and certainly didn’t meet my blogging goals for March). I kept composing stuff in my head while walking with Curious Dog in the woods in Bavaria last week, but never actually sitting down to write. The usual. But now I’ve been back at my place since last Sunday, it’s now the last day of March – a good time to get back into writing with my reading round-up. I’ve had a very productive reading month.

Ongoing projects:

  • Giovanni Boccaccio and J.G. Nichols (translator), Decameron
    I’m almost done with the stories of the Third Day, so quite on track again. I’ll finish them up on the weekend. It’s fun.
  • Edward Gibbon and David Womersly (ed.), The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
    I finished the first volume but haven’t started on the second A lot of info about early Christianity in the Roman Empire in the later part of the first volume. Gibbon is quite scathing about the fact (which I remember learning about during my time at university) that the Roman didn’t persecute half as many Christians as Christians later went on to persecute other Christians (whom they defined as heretics).

Poetry:

Emily Dickinson and Thomas H. Johnson (ed.), The Complete Poems
I’m continuing with reading poetry in bed almost every morning. I still haven’t managed to completely get rid of the bad habit of checking the news on my smartphone in the morning, too. (I started this habit when the war in the Ukraine started). Here’s another short one:

381
A Secret told –
Ceases to be a Secret – then –
A Secret – kept –
That – can appal but One –

Better of it – continual be afraid –
Than it –
And Whom you told it to – beside

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Non-Fiction:

  • Virginia Woolf, Selected Diaries
    A look at Woolf’s daily life. I didn’t sample any of this in March. I guess it’s also a kind of ongoing project.
  • Anna Reid, Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine
    Seems to be a good overview, which I read in March because I know virtually nothing about the Ukraine and wanted to gain at least some basic knowledge. I wrote about it in my last blog post.
  • Stephen Kuusisto, Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey
    I stumbled across this memoir by chance. It’s about an almost blind poet, who gets a guide dog in his late thirties, which changes his life completely. It’s very good.
  • Cynthia Bourgealt, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening
    I came across this book by chance as well. I was interested to see the role meditation can play in the Christian faith (not that I’m particularly Christian myself, though I did grow up in the tradition). It’s a well-written book and I got some pointers that I can use in my own secular meditation practice. I plan to write a more detailed review soon. There were some arguments about the nature of meditation that I didn’t agree with.

Novels:

  • Frank Herbert, Children of Dune
    The third installment of Herbert’s famous series. It’s about the twin children of Paul Atreides and Chani. I liked it quite a bit, it’s the best of the series I’ve read so far. I think I’ll continue reading the series at a later point. This seems to be a good point for a break, at the end of the first trilogy. Here’s my review.
  • S. M. Stirling, Dies the Fire, The Protector’s War, A Meeting at Corvallis
    Books 1 to 3 of the Emberverse. I’ve had Dies the Fire as a paperback for years and read it too, but never continued. I got the next two books on Kindle. Somehow, I felt the like a nice post-apocalyptic read. The Emberverse is huge, with 15 installments. It’s about what happens with human civilization after a strange phenomenon causes all higher technology to stop working. An interesting premise. I’m stopping the series for now, since the first trilogy makes a good stopping point. The three books were good fun, but too much at once would get tiresome.
  • Virginia Woolf, The Waves
    I’ve had this paperback since the last time I had a Woolf phase but hadn’t actually read it (the phase died before I got to it). It’s very poetic. I liked it very much. The best read in March. Here’s the review.
  • Nella Larsen, Passing
    A short novella about two African-American women, childhood friends who had lost touch with each other. It’s set in Chicago and Harlem, New York, in the 1920s. One of the women is “passing” as white, married to a white racist, the other is married to a black physician. Their reunion leads to conflict and tragedy. This was my book-club read – for once one that I quite enjoyed.

Not only have I not been keeping up with blogging, I’ve also not kept up with the blogs I usually read (sorry!). I used to spend short down times at work reading blogs, now I use them to obsess about news about the war. I will try to limit my news reading to a couple of times a day, as it is depressing and demotivates me. At least I’ve managed to keep up my meditation practice – that’s helpful for everything.

I’m quite pleased with my reading, although I didn’t read all the things I’d planned at the end of my February Reading post. As usual, I’m planning to write more detailed review for most of the books I listed above. In April I’m planning to finish Volume 2 of Gibbon and read another Louise Erdrich novel. Since there’s the lovely long Easter weekend in April, I should have lots of quality reading time. I’m even planning to start yet another new series – Partner’s given me the entire Expanse series, 9 books, by James S. A. Corey on Kindle. We enjoyed watching the series based on the novels on Amazon Prime and I’d considered reading the books but wasn’t planning on it short-term. Now I will get down to it. If I read one book per month, I’ll be done in December. It will be interesting to compare the books to the series. I’ve had a bit of a browse in the first book, and I think I’ll enjoy it.

Keep safe, world.

Tuesday Tidbits

I wanted to post a Monday Miscellaneous post yesterday, but then I had such a busy workday that I didn’t feel up to writing in the evening. We had issues with our tools again during the second half of last week and thought we had solved them, but when I logged in on Monday, it turned out the problems had resurfaced. The ticked we opened about the issue had an annoying comment in it that everything was running smoothly, and could we provide more details? Well, just a look at one of our projects would have shown anyone that things weren’t running smoothly. But I complied and spend the first two hours of my workday analyzing errors and writing up the results. The analysis was easy but documenting everything was a pain. We still haven’t got any idea what caused our problems and why the fix we came up with only worked sporadically. We’ve repeated the fixes, and the projects to which we applied them look good at the moment, but we have to keep checking because we don’t know if things won’t act up again. It’s very annoying, especially because we’ve got an upcoming publication deadline this week. Since all our entreaties to the team responsible for our tools haven’t elicited any useful response by their management, we’ve now reported the situation as an ongoing risk to our project management. It will be interesting to see if that has any effect. At least, if we end up missing a publication deadline because our tool environment is acting up we will be able to say “we warned you”.

We’ve had a very nice weekend, with lovely weather. Today it’s raining with a lot of yellow dust from the Sahara coming down. My skylight is getting rather dirty again and the light outside has a strange yellow tinge to it. We seem to be getting these yellow dust clouds in the air above Europe more often. I can’t recall that happening when I was younger (but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention). It’s supposed to cause dramatic red sunsets, but probably not if it is raining.

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Last week on Friday, I went shopping for Curious Dog’s kibble, which I buy in 15 kg bags, two every ten weeks or thereabouts. I was a bit earlier with the purchase than usual because I decided that since everything is getting more expensive all the time, I might as well try to have a bit more of a stock of kibble than usual. I also took the opportunity to pick up some groceries in a store on the way to the dog food store that aren’t available in my town. So, I was busy driving around and grocery shopping for most of Friday morning. Partner stayed home and vacuumed our house, and I cleaned the entire ground floor and the bathroom (but I did the cleaning on Saturday and the bathroom on Sunday night, as I couldn’t motivate myself earlier). Still, it was nice to have a temporarily clean home. If only it lasted! The clean-up was needed, because I hadn’t done much the weekend before. I also did a couple of loads of washing and I fixed the blinds on the window in my bedroom / office.

Last week, as I was pulling up the blinds (they are on the outside of the window as on most German houses), something went wrong with the mechanism. They rolled all the way down and couldn’t be pulled up again. Last time that happened, I called my landlady and she turned up with someone to fix it. He took ages and cursed a lot. I really didn’t feel like calling the landlady again, since she gets on my nerves, so I watched a couple of YouTube videos to learn how to repair the mechanism myself. It looked quite complicated, but when I opened the casing, I saw straight away what the problem was, and it was really easy to fix. Not sure how long my repairs will last, because the brackets to which the mechanism used to roll-up the blinds is attached to are in a bad state, with bits broken off, but for the moment the blinds are working again. I pull them up and down very gently. Afterward I felt a triumphant sense of accomplishment, although anybody could have done it. It pays to try things out.

We watched some films on the weekend. Red on Disney+, which I liked a lot. Partner was a bit skeptical, and I guess we aren’t exactly the target audience, but it was fun. We also watched In the Heart of the Sea on Amazon Prime. It came out in 2015, but it was new to us. It is tells the story (somewhat embellished) of the whaleship Essex, which was sunk by a sperm whale attack in 1820. Herman Melville used it as inspiration for his novel Moby-Dick. The film had the framing narrative of the young author Melville interviewing the last survivor of the shipwreck and ensuing odyssey of the sailors, who had to cross vast leagues of ocean in small boats. Watching the film, we couldn’t help but find some poetic justice in the actions of the whale (although in reality he didn’t pursue the boats after having rammed and sunk the Essex). We also watched some more of Clone Wars (it’s silly, but kind of addictive).

I finished reading Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine by Anna Reid (second edition) and now feel that I have at least a basic understanding of the history of the area, which is extremely depressing. Lots of instances of mass murder, especially during the twentieth century. Millions of peasants left to die of hunger in the early 1930s because Stalin wanted to get rid of them. Lots of death under German occupation during WWII and a lot of people deported to gulags later (for alleged collaboration, although only a few Ukrainians worked with the Germans). No wonder that the Ukrainians are fighting for their freedom with such determination. Also, apparently the Russians historically don’t recognize the Ukrainians as a separate nation, despite all their previous efforts at nation-building. Of course, this doesn’t at all legitimize Putin’s War. I’m still watching the news all the time and hoping that the Ukrainians manage to hold up and that a cease fire and diplomatic solution will be found. It must be very galling to have to negotiate with a regime that has attacked one’s country and caused so much death and destruction. Terrible.

This morning I took Mum to a specialist, an orthopaedist. In January she had a swollen foot for a few weeks, but we couldn’t get an earlier appointment (by now the swelling and any pain has disappeared). It turned out that the foot is fine, but she’s getting some insoles for her shoes. She’s had them before and they never seem to have done anything and she’s also not in any discomfort, so we’re rather skeptical about the usefulness of those things. If they turn out to be a pain, I guess Mum just won’t wear them. It took absolutely ages. The appointment was at 9:30 and we were done at 11:45. I spent most of the time waiting in the car (as I wasn’t allowed into the doctor’s office due to Corona) and read a good bit of the third Dune book, The Children of Dune. I started it on the weekend, and I’ve read about 75% by now. I like it best of the three books I’ve read so far, it’s very good.

I’m using a new tablet for reading eBooks, as my old one (12 years old, I had it since 2009) was getting too slow and wouldn’t do updates anymore. It’s a Nokia tablet, not too expensive, and I’m hoping it will last at least as long as the old one which was a Sony (I would have bought another Sony but couldn’t find one that wasn’t too expensive for me). I also had to replace my smartphone recently, which was only four years old. Hope the new one lasts longer.

There was a supermarket just next to the doctor’s office, a Rewe, where I buy a lot of our groceries. It’s a lot bigger than the one in our town and it had a bathroom for customers which was my salvation. It’s likely that I’ll do some of our grocery shopping in that supermarket in future, as it’s not far off and in the same town as the drugstore (dm) that I occasionally frequent (like once a month). There’s no drugstore like that in our town. I bought a few things and standing in line I had to listen to the cashier and another customer comparing Ukrainian refugees favourably with other refugees… It made me despair of humanity once again. Maybe I should have spoken up, but I was too astonished. A hierarchy of refugees – what a load of rubbish. Also heard the opinion that all Corona measures should be discontinued and only cowards fear getting it since it’s “nothing but the flu”. All that with extremely high rates currently in Germany and lots of deaths being reported every night on the news. And what about long Covid? I guess for some people the news is fake (or they don’t watch it).

Tomorrow we’re off to Bavaria again for the next ten days, and Partner to his place. I’m taking tomorrow off for the trip.

Keep safe, world.

Manners and Monsters

During my last stay in Bavaria, the weather was nasty and stormy, perfect for curling up in an armchair with a cup of tea and a good book. I wanted something light and amusing and somehow stumbled across the Manners and Monsters series by Tilly Wallace.

It’s an alternative history / fantasy series set in England just after the Napoleonic Wars. There are supernatural beings, magic and mages, as well as science and zombies. The first novel gives the series its title: Manners and Monsters.

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Hannah Miles, the plain and bookish, but intelligent daughter and assistant of the medical doctor and scientist Sir Hugh Miles and his wife Lady Serafina Miles, must work together with the moody and disgraced Viscount Wycliff to solve some horrible murders that can only have been committed by one of the so-called Afflicted.

Her own mother, Lady Serafina, a powerful mage, once politically influential and essential to the war against France, is now also one of the Afflicted: one of a few hundred unfortunate members of high society (mostly women) who were poisoned by a French plot. They died and turned into zombies, kept somewhat alive by a rather disgusting, albeit traditional zombie remedy.

Without the necessary sustenance, the bodies of the Afflicted deteriorated and they rotted in their expensive silken shoes. (p. 36*)

Owing to her mother’s circumstances, Hannah, quite in contrast to the rude Viscount, has a lot of understanding and compassion for the unfortunate Afflicted. She is therefore officially asked to support the Viscount in his investigation, to keep him from ruffling more feathers than needed.

I liked the Georgette Heyer romance vibe between Hannah and the Viscount, as well as the world-building, the gothic fantasy elements, and the murder mystery. Both Hannah and the Viscount have personal secrets that are revealed by-and-by in the three novels I’ve read so far. The series consists of six novels and one epilogue novella. They are quick and fun reads. I managed three in two days – pure escapism.

The second novel, Galvanism and Ghouls, is about a Frankenstein-like monster that seems to be responsible for several death. Sir Hugh Miles, Hannah’s father, known as a “mad scientist” because he is invested in finding a cure for the Afflicted, as his own family is affected. There’s also a dismembered hand (shades of Addams Family), that turns into a family pet.

“Does that mean you will cooperate?” Hannah asked. The reactions of the hand really were quite extraordinary, as though she spoke to an odd little creature rather than a dismembered piece of a larger whole. (p. 100**)

The author is quite skillful at reusing and integrating ideas from popular culture into her own alternative fantastical world. The mix of science and magic is well done, too. We learn more about the recurring characters. Hannah’s secret is revealed, and we get glimpses of what the Viscount is hiding – he is now living at the Miles’ house, for reasons only known to Lady Serafina.

The third novel, Gossip and Gorgons, brings about a revolution in the relationship between Hannah and the Viscount. In addition, they are invited to the house-party of an influential goblin banker (now from where did the author lift this idea???).

“Lord Pennicott is a goblin. He hails from a long line of goblins who are exceptionally good with finances.” (p. 11***)

Although neither Hannah nor the Viscount are keen to join the party, they have to attend, as the Viscount needs money to invest in some improvements of his run-down estate. He wishes to borrow the required funds from the banker. As he can’t get access to the goblin via other channels, he hopes to persuade him at the private party. Of course, there’s soon a supernatural murder to solve, for which Hannah and the Viscount are predestined.

As already said, I enjoyed the first three novels. Perfect escapism, light and fun reads, a nice combination of various pop culture elements into a new world. Romance, murder mystery, and fantasy / alternative history combined. I will be reading the other books of the series when I next need a bit of light reading – probably the next time Mum, I and Curious Dog drive to Bavaria, as I’m always too tired after the trip to read anything demanding.

* Tilly Wallace, Manners and Monsters, 2019 (eBook).
** Tilly Wallace, Galvanism and Ghouls, 2019 (eBook).
***Tilly Wallace, Gossip and Gorgons, 2020 (eBook).

Keep safe, world.

Tuesday Tidbits

We’ve been having lovely weather. Cold, freezing nights and sunny (if sometimes a bit windy) days. No rain and therefore no mud. Perfect weather for long walks with Curious Dog, who has fortunately gotten over his lovesickness. On the weekend Partner and I even did some gardening, trimming the hedges on the boundary to the neighbour’s side of the garden which we should already have done in autumn, except that it was too wet (all the time!). It didn’t take very long, as our garden is really small, and the hedge is only three metres at most. Still, it took some time to pick up the small branches and leaves that Partner chopped off with the electric trimmer borrowed from his store of gardening tools. The garden of the house that he and his brother inherited from their parents is much larger and has a very long and tall hedge along on side, so he has the proper tools for taming it. Before we started cutting, I peered into the hedge to check that we weren’t disturbing any birds, as a lot of sparrows have been congregating in it, much to CD’s annoyance. He likes charging out of our patio door to bark at the birds in the hedge. I think they tease him.

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We’ve also seen that the storks have returned from their wintering grounds in the south. We saw two of them yesterday near their nest and assume that they are the same ones as last year.

Partner has slightly sprained his ankle a couple of weeks ago, having slid in the mud. It’s slowly getting better, but such things take time. It’s not terribly bad though, and he still walks with CD and me on our morning walks. The hole in my jaw from where I lost one of my back teeth last week is improving too. Today I had my last checkup at the dentist’s. My next appointment to check on the progress and discuss the next steps (probably a bridge) is not until the beginning of June.

We did a lot of cooking and baking on the weekend. We made a large vegan cheesecake (cashew and millet mix for the cheese part and raspberry pudding on top for a fruity note). In the past, we’ve only ever baked this cake in a small tin, this time we increased the recipe by about one third and used a larger tin. I wanted to try if it worked so that I can take the cake in to work for my colleagues one day (with enough for everyone, which wouldn’t be the case with the small baking tin).

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We watched The French Dispatch on Disney+, which was not bad, but not as good as The Grand Budapest Hotel. We also watched The Darjeeling Limited which was also good, but not as good as The Royal Tenenbaums. But in general, I like all of Wes Anderson’s films that I’ve seen so far. We also watched a few more episodes of The Clone Wars. I’m wondering if at the end of the series (we’ve now started the second and I think there are six seasons), Anakin Skywalker will have succumbed to the dark side. He’s already being rather unscrupulous for a Jedi in the second season. This is of course pure entertainment of a mindless sort, but I’d really like to see a film or series set in the Star Wars universe that isn’t about war. Like, what do the Jedi do in peaceful times?

I did very few chores on the weekend, too lazy. Also didn’t do much reading but did manage to finish the first volume of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, so I’ve caught up. Now I’ve got the rest of March and April to read the second volume.

It could have been a normal relaxed weekend, but all the time while I was going about my usual weekend activities, I was thinking about the war in the Ukraine. Spending lots of time on the internet looking for the latest updates, following the news and all the special news on public TV. It’s such an appalling situation and I’m so sorry for all the refugees. And so needless, when we have so many other problems that we should be putting all our efforts into instead of having to divert a lot of resources to upgrading Germany’s armed forces.

One of the lowest points last week was on Thursday, when we woke to the news that a Ukrainian nuclear power plant had been attacked. Fortunately, the reactor wasn’t affected. It’s absolutely mindboggling that the Russian Army would attack a nuclear power plant – a nuclear incident with a possible wide-spread fallout in Europe would be the worst. I still remember Chernobyl. I was 18 at the time and it was awful. And of course, in the meantime we’ve experienced Fukushima, so really, I don’t understand how the Russian leaders can act in such criminal ways. It would affect their own territories and people as well, depending on the wind patterns, and I’m sure it would have led to an escalation of the war.

Last week we learned that our company is helping the Ukrainian employees that want to flee from Kiev, which is very good. We also heard that while the company is complying with sanctions (of course) and shutting down all sales in Russia, they are keeping our colleagues in Russia employed – which I am all in favour of. Some very vocal colleagues are all about shutting everything down in Russia, but I fail to see how that would help the Ukrainian colleagues. I think that some communication avenues need to stay open, so that Russians have a chance of seeing other news than that propagated by Putin’s channels. Also, we had some Ukrainian and Russian colleagues dialed in to the company’s call who made clear that they didn’t want to promote hate within the company.

I’m also not sure that it is the right thing to stop all collaboration with Russians in the areas of sports and culture. Aren’t these ties supposed to promote peace and understanding? And shouldn’t they be kept up as long as possible? But then, these areas can and are also abused as platforms for Putin’s ideology… It’s really very difficult to know what’s best in such times and seeing the news about all the deaths, the destruction of housing and infrastructure in the Ukraine, and all the millions forced to flee makes it hard to disagree about some of the sanctions. It’s also very difficult to know in how far the people of Russia actually support Putin’s war. We know that some are brave enough to demonstrate against it (which is super courageous), but what about the majority?

Enough about Russia. I’m absolutely astonished at the courage of the Ukrainian people. It’s amazing how their army and their civilian volunteers are able to hinder the Russian invasion. I support the German government with its new strategy that has started supplying the Ukraine with weapons along with the other Western nations, because doing nothing would be worse. Pacifism wouldn’t have helped the Ukraine and probably we’ve been too wishy-washy in our relations with Russia in the past. But I’m not sure if weapons and humanitarian support is going to enable the Ukraine to prevail over Putin, since Russia has a so much larger military might. Maybe it will turn into a David versus Goliath story – one can hope that bad morale will negatively affect the Russian Army, that sanctions will work, and that negotiations will eventually have a chance.

After having spent a lot of time on the internet following latest developments, I’ve decided that I need to know more about Ukrainian history, because I’m really rather clueless. Eastern European history wasn’t a subject very well covered by my school curriculum 35 years ago (and I’d be surprised if that has changed in the meantime), and I had a totally different focus at university. I’ve started reading Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine by Anna Reid (second edition). I’ve read a few chapters and have already learned a lot. It’s an interesting mixture of history, travel writing and personal experiences. I considered reading The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine by Serhii Plokhy, and may yet take it on, but wanted something a little less weighty to start with. Among other things, Plokhy has also written a history of the Chernobyl catastrophe, which also sounds like an interesting read.

Keep safe world.

Dune Messiah

I read this second novel in Frank Herbert’s Dune series on a weekend in February. The review of the first one is here.

The novel starts 12 years after the events of the previous book. Paul Atreides has been Emperor of most of human space in all those years and for the same number of years the Fremen have been conducting a religious Jihad throughout the empire. Paul and his sister Alia are now worshipped as gods. A whole priesthood has risen around the new religion, the Quizarate, whose head is Korba, the Panegyrist, who has his own agenda and plots to make a martyr of Muad’Dib (Paul’s public Fremen name), so that he can gain power and return to the Fremen traditions, some of which have been diluted by the changed circumstances.

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There’s a second plot against Paul by Scytale, a Tleilaxu Face Dancer (someone who can change his body to impersonate anyone, also an assassin), the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam (who we know from the first book), and Edric, a Guild Steersman, as well as the Princess Irulan, Pauls consort (in name only). The presence of the Guild Steersman is intended to block Paul’s prophetic oracular sight, as steersmen are also lesser kinds of oracles. Their presence muddies the waters of time (so to speak), so that no-one can see what’s being plotted.

This may be the theory, but in practice Paul is quite cognizant that he is being plotted against, just not of all the details. He’s also aware of Korba’s plotting. Paul is troubled about his role as God-Emperor, about the horrific things that have been done in his name during the Jihad. He would like to escape from everything or change his destiny, but to achieve this, something must be sacrificed, and he has been reluctant. Eventually he concludes: “I must pay the price.” (p.45*).

One of the most interesting characters in Dune Messiah is Duncan Idaho’s clone Hayt – his clone was created by the Bene Tleilaxu, who are capable of manipulating human genes. They wish to create a perfect clone, one who can access the memories of the original human (the original Duncan Idaho died fighting for Paul during the attack on the Atreides at the beginning of Dune). Both Hayt and Paul are aware that the clone is intended to destroy Paul, but is this really the ultimate plan? There are wheels within wheels…

This was a Tleilaxu thing. The Tleilaxu displayed a disturbing lack of inhibitions in what they created. Unbridled curiosity might guide their actions. They boasted they could make anything from the proper human raw material – devils or saints. (p. 91*)

The world-building is as well done as in the first book. There are lots of quotes from invented historians and their works and many glimpses of happenings between the first two books (in those twelve years of Jihad) where the reader isn’t told all the details. The hints serve to deepen the illusion of an entire universe upon which the novel is built. It still doesn’t seem like a very pleasant future.

As in the first book there is a lot of action, but in this novel, it is all filtered through the points-of-view of the various characters. Mostly through the eyes (or visions) of Paul Atreides. He is plagued by many doubts regarding his actions and at times seems very constrained by the currents of time or destiny. Seeing everything unfold from those interior viewpoints creates an odd sense of being one step removed from the action, which might alienate readers who prefer to be more immersed in the plot. This removal is heightened when Paul starts seeing things unfold through his visions. It works as though he is one step removed from immediate experience and the reader is therefore twice removed. It struck me as quite unusual and interesting.

I’m still feeling a bit undecided about how much I like or don’t like the series. I think I preferred Dune Messiah to the first novel, because it has such a lot of reflection about the situation that Paul finds himself in. I also like that he’s not enjoying being worshiped as a god and that he’s trying to look for a way out. It’s also interesting to see how the whole development of the last 12 years caused a lot of people, not only Paul, to change in good and bad ways. We see how the Fremen, who were such heroes in Dune, have become a scourge on the universe with their Jihad and have also in some ways lost their roots.

Considering the ending of the book, which I won’t reveal, I’m really quite keen to see how things play out in the third installment. Depending on how much I like that novel, I may or may not continue with the series.

Not a bad read!

*All quotes are from Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah, 1969 repr. 2019. An Ace (Penguin Random House) eBook.

Keep safe, world.

Tuesday Tidbits

We’re back at my place in Baden-Württemberg. Our ten days in Bavaria were defined by all the storms blowing by. Most of the time I could only walk along the valley with Curious Dog as the woods were too dangerous. Walking in the valley when it’s very windy or stormy is fun while you’re walking with the wind at your back but is annoying when you have to turn back and face it head-on. Cold wind always makes my eyes tear up and that’s a pain when you’re wearing glasses (I can’t see very well without my glasses, so taking them off isn’t an option). I’m very short-sighted. The first three days last week, CD was very love-sick. It seems that there were a lot of bitches in heat around (we even met two of them on various days). Every morning at breakfast, CD howled like a wolf while looking out of the windows in our kitchen. Usually, he only howls when he hears a siren. it’s quite funny. He seems to be back to normal now.

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Mum’s breast cancer checkup last week was fine. The doctor said that she was a “tough girl”, and Mum wasn’t sure if she was slightly insulted or pleased. The doctor’s a nice guy, and naturally we’re extremely happy that there’s been no recurrence. The next checkup will be in six months; she no longer has to turn up every three months. In a couple of weeks, she has an appointment with an orthopaedic specialist because she had a swollen foot in January. It took quite long to get the appointment and by now the foot’s back to normal, but she’ll be going in anyway, just to be on the safe side.

As for me, yesterday I had my dentist’s appointment, where the treatment of the tooth that had a root-canal procedure three weeks ago was supposed to be continued. It turned out that that root-canal was for naught. The last remaining bit of tooth broke down to below the gum line (I felt it when it happened) while we were in Bavaria, and it had to be removed. Alas, poor tooth! To my surprise it was actually not a terrible experience. It didn’t hurt at all due to the local anaethetic (and it didn’t hurt afterwards either). Now I’m not scared anymore of maybe having to have my wisdom teeth removed at some time in future. I’ve now got a missing tooth at the back of my jaw. The hole in the bone has to heal for the next three months and then it’s a decision between an implant (super expensive as there’s a large co-pay) or a bridge (still expensive, but much less than an implant). Fortunately, I have enough savings for either option, but I will need to do some research. I’m not really keen on the idea of an implant.

Otherwise, like many people, I’ve been obsessed with following the news about the Ukraine. I’m glad that Europe and Germany are supporting the Ukraine with sanctions etc., but I haven’t a clue if that will deter Putin. All those threats from Putin are horrific in their implications, but I’m hoping that he’ll keep his own children and grandchildren in mind… It’s great that Europe is welcoming the Ukrainian refugees, but I’m rather disgusted that this welcome only applies to refugees from another European country. Also, I’ve been seeing on twitter that Indian and African refugees from the Ukraine (many students) are apparently being discriminated against both while they are trying to find transport to the borders and at the borders themselves. If that’s true, it’s despicable and shameful.

I work for a large global company, and we have a smallish office in Kiev as well as offices in Moscow and a couple of other Russian cities (and lots of offices in other eastern European countries). The company is trying to help our colleagues in Kiev. Many of the Russian colleagues have also expressed their regret at the situation, but there are one or two that have been posting Putin’s fake news on our internal company site. I don’t usually post much on our portal (except if I have to for work-related stuff), but I had to comment on a couple of fake news posts. The company is keeping an eye out and deletes the false info which is fine with me. Still, it’s kind of weird. I don’t know what’s going to happen to our branch offices in Russia and feel sorry for those colleagues as well (at least as long as they aren’t Putin supporters). I also really admire the Russian people with the courage to demonstrate against the war. And the Ukrainian people who have managed to slow down the invasion. It’s such a horrible situation. My Mum, who was a refugee in WWII (she was six at the end of the war), is also quite aghast that such a thing is happening in Europe again. I sincerely hope things deescalate, but it’s hard to sustain that hope at the moment.

We should be concentrating on fighting climate change and mitigating all the millions of other issues that plague our times and not have to muck about with senseless wars! This, of course, is also the case with all the other wars currently being fought throughout the world and causing so much suffering.

About something different: work is still fairly slow. I had my performance feedback talk with my manager a couple of weeks ago. It went well. I was quite surprised how much we did as a team last year (and how much I contributed). My manager was specially very pleased with the job I did on that one project I volunteered for (and then regretted volunteering for) which rather surprised me as I didn’t feel that I had enough time from my other projects as would have been needed for that project. I felt I only did the bare minimum, but it seems to have been enough. It’s nice to be appreciated. Tomorrow I will be doing another online training (I had one last week already which was quite interesting and useful for my job not like some of the mandatory trainings we sometimes have to do).

I want to have my monthly look at the state of my 2022 goals and resolutions (since I care about them despite all the other things that seem to make my personal goals rather unimportant). I’m happy with my progress on my reading goals – as I said in my February Reading post, I got a bit off track but that’s fine. I don’t want those goals of kill all my spontaneous reading. All the new books that I’ve bought have been e-books and I’ve read them immediately – no increase of the backlog. I’ve also read two paperbacks and a hardback from my physical backlog so far (I forgot to mention this on my reading post). About my other resolutions, I’m doing middling well. Not great, but not terrible. For the second month I’ve only managed nine blog posts instead of ten (not too bad, though). Maybe I’ll catch up this month. I’ve been keeping up my meditation practice very well (helpful for keeping calm in trying times), but I completely failed to start up my Yoga practice again. Time to try again this month. Procrastination has been better in February (I’m pleased with that after my failure in January). I haven’t yet learned a poem off by heart for the first quarter of this year, so I need to do that this month, too. Checking up on my goals once a month is helping me keep on track and is kind of fun. If I start feeling completely out-of-tune with those goals, I’ll abandon them, but at the moment they still engage me.

Keep safe, world.