Commuting

On Monday I started off from home to drive to work at 7 minutes past 7 a.m. That’s 7 minutes late — it’s amazing what a difference a few minutes can make with traffic density. The back-up at the turn into the main thoroughfare in the last town I have to drive though started already at the town border. That’s not terribly bad, since it is not a large town and the traffic evens out again after the main intersection.

Today I was 7 minutes late, but the traffic back-up was only half as bad. I’ve noticed that traffic on Monday tends to be worse. How come?

The other day, on my way home, I was first stuck behind a bus and next behind a driving school car. The learning driver was not confident enough to overtake a biker within the village, so we followed the biker slowly though village no. 1 on my commute. Luckily, I’m all Zen about these kinds of situations. After the driving school car had finally turned off into a side street in village no. 2 (the last village on my way home), I ended up stuck behind a 50 km/h scooter on the curvy country road between village-the-last and my town.

Yesterday after work, I stopped off at my favourite organic grocery to get some tofu, tempeh, soy yoghurt, and other specialist vegetarian foodstuff that is hard to find at normal groceries. Although my new commute is longer that the old one, at least I can do my special shopping on a normal day instead of on the weekend. There’s an organic grocery at my new town, too, but it seems to be more expensive that the one I’m used to, and I want to avoid spending more money on groceries. It’s good for a quick trip for something forgotten at the other store, though.

Luckily, I don’t have to get up any earlier than before for my new commute. I’m always in early at the office so that I can leave early. The longer commute just means that I’m in slightly later. The commute now takes about 30 minutes (including parking) one way, instead of about 15 minutes.

Last day of work! Weekend ahoy!

Dog Tales

After work yesterday, as always, I took Curious Dog for a walk. He already had three other walks that day, one long one in the morning, two shorter ones at noon and in the early afternoon. My partner takes him for these walks. Hopefully we will soon complete the fence around our small back yard. Then the afternoon walk can be dropped, and we can play in the garden instead.

It was lovely, mostly because the weather is unseasonably warm and it’s still light outside. It was about 12°C (and it was already after 5 p.m. in February). I tried the body-language thing that I saw on TV on Sunday and that we learn in dog school. The body language thing: center yourself and walk with self-confidence and purpose and then the dog will accept your lead and come along by your side. Well, this works when my dog trainer does it, but only occasionally with me. Instead, CD charges ahead and pulls me along. Okay, lots of practice has helped. He now only pulls at the start of our walks when he’s excited and throughout the walk when he follows a scent or for some other reason. He pulls whenever he feels like it, but I stop when he pulls and only start walking again when he stops pulling. A walk can have a lot of stops and starts, sometimes. I can’t let him off leash, because he doesn’t come back when called and heads off towards anything that interest him (usually other dogs). But I do let him off when we meet his dog friends (when it’s at a suitable place), because then he plays with them and doesn’t head off towards the horizon. That works quite well. His pulling on the leash has improved, but he’s still a puller. I guess he’ll stop pulling when he’s older. He’s four now and a lot quieter than he used to be. Was he ever an excitable puppy! Super exhausting…

The walk last night was lovely. Balmy, still light out. A calm and peaceful end to the day. And it looks like it will be nice again today.

I’ve gotten used to walking in all weather. Curious Dog doesn’t mind getting wet and insists on his walk even in a downpour. I don’t mind getting wet either but getting dry afterwards is a pain. All those dripping clothes and the wet and muddy dog. And the mess in the hall…

Walks in the snow are also great. All walks are great. Even in Summer, when it’s too hot for long walks during the day, the early morning walks are the best part of the day. Walks without CD are boring.

We’ve been at the seaside twice with CD. The Baltic in October. It’s off season then, empty beaches, other dogs to play with, and we can let him off the leash, too. Lots of space, no cars, and other dogs to play with. Dog heaven – and great relaxation for humans, too. Last year we didn’t go on vacation as the move was too expensive and we didn’t have time, but maybe this year we’ll manage it again.

P.S. I haven’t called the dentist or the plumber yet. I’ll do it by Friday, I hope. Maybe one call tomorrow, one on Friday. Hello, procrastination!

Monday Misc

Watched a very good Tatort last night: Murot und das Murmeltier (Murot and the Groundhog) It’s a pastiche of Groundhog Day. The Tatort is a German TV classic that airs on Sunday evening prime time on public TV. It features various Police detectives in various German towns (or towns where German is spoken) solving fictional crimes. Some episodes are boring, but other are creative and good. The Tatort from Wiesbaden tends to be experimental and in this case was about a bank robbery with a hostage situation. The detective Felix Murot (played by Ulrich Tukur) is caught in a repeating time loop and must figure out how to get out of the loop. Poor Murot kept getting killed, day after day. It was funny and grotesque. I also like the Tatorte set in Vienna, Münster, and Dortmund, but the one in Munich is also usually good.

What I did and didn’t do today:

  1. Went to work. Did the usual, including some boring meetings.
  2. Had one good meeting with my co-workers on our new project. It’s getting on well. The structure proposal for our document was approved by the expert and we know what we have to do this week to get ahead.
  3. Didn’t call the dentist.
  4. Didn’t call the plumber.

Will need to call the dentist tomorrow. Today one of my colleagues was already in the office when I arrived, and I didn’t want to air my dental woes in their hearing. I need to have two wisdom teeth extracted and need to find an oral surgeon. My dentist gave me a referral, but that’s not going to work for various reasons, so I need to phone about getting another one.

I’m fed up with calling the plumber. They are never in and never return my calls. It’s a never-ending story. In November, on a Sunday night no less, after the Tatort, I found that my main tap had sprung a leak – luckily the flooding was only minor, but I had to call emergency services to get it provisionally repaired. Basically, they used a huge pair of pliers to squeeze it shut in such a way that it stopped flooding but still lets water through. The next day, the plumber came and checked what needs to be done. They needed to get a spare part – after that, I never heard back from them and it’s now February. Sigh. I’ll call tomorrow (again).

Sigh. I hope I do call someone tomorrow. I hate calling.

MainTap

Meditation Practice

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of a regular meditation practice for years, but I hadn’t done anything about it until a couple of years ago. My first semi-regular meditation experience was with a few minutes at the end of Yoga practice. Unfortunately, I stopped doing Yoga when we got Curious Dog, as I don’t have time for it anymore what with dog walks, work, house-keeping, and whatever. I keep meaning to take it up again, but so far haven’t managed it, as it just doesn’t fit into my daily schedule. I did, however, manage to start a regular meditation practice instead.

At first, I just did meditation once a week through a program offered at my office. We meet one morning a week and do a twenty-minute meditation session. I think I started with that early 2017. Then I came across the book Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment, by Robert Wright. It motivated me to try and start a real meditation practice, which I did in the fall of 2017.

I got the free version of the app Insight Timer to help me with the timing – it has a nice feature that allows you to set different gongs at different times in one’s meditation. I usually try to sit for 45 minutes and have a gong every 15 minutes (1 to start, one after 15 and 30 minutes and 3 gongs at the end). I managed to meditate almost every day in 2018, but sometimes my sittings were only a few minutes. Still, it helped enormously to keep me sane during my stressful move last year. I like the app a lot, because it tracks the time I spent meditating and because it offers a huge selection of free guided meditations. I also once bought a course, 10 sittings for a reasonable $4.95.

This year I’ve made a resolution to deepen my practice. It’s going well so far. I’ve not missed a day yet (since January 1). I do my 45 minutes timed meditation (usually after dinner) and on some days (at least three days per week) a guided meditation – I’m planning on doing the weekly MIDL mindfulness trainings (52, one for each week of the year) by Stephen Procter: https://insighttimer.com/stephenprocter. I find these to be helpful for my non-guided meditation sessions, too. I usually do the guided sessions early in the morning or late at night, both times while lying in bed. Early is better. I have fallen asleep during some of the late ones (but that’s also an acceptable outcome). Sleep is good!

Stephen Procter also has his own website with the MIDL trainings (Meditation in Daily Life) and other information: https://www.meditationintheshire.com.au/

Since I’ve been doing meditation for about a year daily, I’ve found that I’m getting better at it. I don’t get bored so quickly (or if I do, I try to investigate the bored feeling). While my mind still wanders all the time, I do experience fleeting periods when the thoughts seem to recede into the background while I concentrate on breathing and being embodied in the moment. I’m not sure if “recede into the background” is the right description, though. It’s hard to describe. It’s a journey, I’m open to see how it will develop.

The practice has also helped me to become slightly more mindful in daily life. The MIDL trainings also have this goal, which is why I like them so much. When I walk with Curious Dog, I often notice that my mind is wandering all over the place. And then I try to stop doing that and instead enjoy being with CD in nature. This is just an example, it happens in other situations as well. I’m trying to increase these moments of being in the moment. I don’t beat myself up if it doesn’t work, I just notice it and try again. Well, at least sometimes. Mostly I go through my day without being mindful, but those few moments when I aspire to mindfulness spur me on in my practice.

Meditation can be a spiritual practice for someone who’s not religious. My inner skeptic approves of it.

WinterWeg

January Reading

A bit late, but here’s the list of books I read in January. I was on vacation over Christmas until January 13, so I had a lot of time to read. I managed about 7500 pages! (Just a fun metric).

Leckie, Ann:

  • Ancillary Justice
    For those who haven’t come across this series yet: it is about a person who was forcibly turned into an extension (ancillary) of an AI piloted warship, the Justice of Torren. This meant that she was part of one AI with lots of bodies (the warship body, plus all the other ancillaries). All the bodies have different experiences but can share them all among themselves. They are controlled by the AI but still manage to have different personalities owing to their different experiences. Due to treachery by the ruler of the empire (who has some, let’s say, mind-body problems), the Justice of Torren is destroyed with all the ancillaries, except for the one, who then seeks justice and/or revenge. Great story, well developed. I read the first book a few years ago and never got around to the others in the trilogy. So, I re-read it and then read the other two. Definitively recommended.
  • Ancillary Sword
  • Ancillary Mercy
  • Provenance
    This is another novel set in the Imperial Radch world of the Ancillary novels. It’s a coming of age novel with a murder thrown in. It shows a different part of the universe in the Ancillary novels and elaborates on species and events only hinted at in the other novels. It’s very character-driven as are all Leckie’s novel, which I like (I’m not that keen on sci-fi that’s more about gimmicks and cool ideas that character development).

Williams, Tad:

I gave my mother some books by Tad Williams for Christmas, set in the Sorrow Thorn universe. I liked this fantasy series a lot (might want to re-read it sometime soonish) but didn’t like some of his other novels – the Otherland series didn’t do it for me, for example. But I thought I’d give him another try.

  • The Dirty Streets of Heaven
    Bobby Dollar series 1. I liked the premise: an angel as an advocate for souls doing an investigation into missing souls, but I prefer my detectives less hard-boiled. Not sure if I will read the rest of the series.
  • Shadowmarch
    The Shadowmarch series is somewhat similar to the Sorrow Thorn books (Elves, humans, others races and conflicts between them) but it’s also about keeping old gods from returning and has some interesting twists. I especially liked the Funderlings. Not bad! Makes me want to re-read the Sorrow Thorn stuff, including the new novels in that universe. Although not soon, because after four huge fantasy novels I’ve over indulged and need a rest.
  • Shadowplay
  • Shadowrise
  • Shadowheart

Schuhman, Rebecca: Schadenfreude, A Love Story: Me, the Germans, and 20 Years of Attempted Transformations, Unfortunate Miscommunications, and Humiliating Situations That Only They Have Words For – good but not great. A bit too many clichés. Sure, clichés are clichés for a reason, but this memoir was trying too hard to be funny. But maybe I’m just a dour German with an underdeveloped sense of humour! Or it’s because I don’t appreciate Kafka enough…

Caldecott, Andrew:

  • Rotherweird
    Great! It’s a fantasy with aspects of alternative history, sci-fi, and steampunk. It has a likeable cast of recurring and new characters. I can’t wait for the third book.
  • Wyntertide

Carey, M. R.: The Girl with All the Gifts: A new take on the zombiekalypse. There’s a movie as well that I want to check out now that I’ve read the novel. Beware fungi!

Jones, Diana Wynne: The Dark Lord of Derkholme about the ravages of tourism on a world of magic. Very imaginative, tragic and funny. Recommended, for all ages.

Steinfest, Heinrich: Die feine Nase der Lilli Steinbeck: A quirky read. A crime novel with fantastic elements and pointed philosophical bonmots. Also a good read, but I don’t think it’s been translated into English. I may look up other novels by this author.

A good start to the reading year!

Home Office Doings

WinterMorning

Thirteen of them, arbitrarily reported:

  1. Cooked breakfast in the morning: porridge made from rolled oats soaked overnight in soy milk. Ate it with bits of apple, raisins, almonds, cinnamon and a dash of sugar. Yum! Shared the leftovers with Curious Dog (sans all the toppings, although he did get some apple slices). For some weird reason, he loves plain porridge and always get a small share.
  2. Checked my work mails and answered a technical question from a colleague in China.
  3. Took CD for his morning walk. It had snowed snow pellets early in the morning and the tarmac was quite slippery with it. Almost sat on my tail a few times!
  4. Took Mutti to sign her name to the current Bavarian petition to “save the bees” (which I couldn’t sign up for because I don’t have my main address in Bavaria, too bad). It passed!!
  5. Returned to work in my home office and worked until Lunch.
  6. Had Lunch (made by Mutti, as she always cooks when we are in Bavaria): and took CD for his short midday walk.
  7. Had a virtual meeting with a colleague to get started on a project.
  8. Took CD for his longer afternoon walk.
  9. Returned to work.
  10. Called my partner and we told each other about our doings (it’s a ritual when we are apart).
  11. Did my long meditation (45 minutes).
  12. Had dinner and hung out in front of the TV afterwards. But read instead of watching as nothing interesting was on. I was just keeping Mutti company. I’m reading Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. It’s a fantasy heavily influenced by African mythology and set in a fantastic version of Ancient Africa (a nice change from all the Nordic fantasies). It’s very intense, with lots of gore and violence and I wasn’t sure I liked it at first, but it’s growing on me.
  13. Did my short meditation in bed. The trick is to stay awake, which didn’t work out too well this time.

Half the work week done!