Internet Outage!

Today, at around 10:30 a.m. my Internet connection failed. I noticed it straight away, of course, as my connection to the company network broke down. At 12:30 p.m. the Net was still down. Very annoying, as I didn’t have any work to do offline. Also, there was supposed to be a long team call in the afternoon, in which I couldn’t participate. Even more annoying. After lunch I did an hour of meditation (to calm down) and then, as the Net was still offline, I decided to go grocery shopping and got it done for the week. Better than sitting in my home office corner, anxiously waiting for the Internet to come up again. My smartphone network wasn’t any good either, I couldn’t Google the issue with it.

And the morning had started so well, work-wise. I’d had a couple of calls, done my usual quality-checks, clarified a few issues per mail and was just going to get started on updating a few of my document, due in a couple of weeks, when I was suddenly offline. Unfortunately, I can only update my documents online, not offline. And I didn’t have anything else to do offline.

Having this unexpected free time was quite unsettling. I found it hard to decide what to do. I thought about preparing my blog post about the books I read in March or the one I’m planning on Song of Solomon, which I finished last night. But I didn’t feel like it and I also didn’t feel like doing any tiding or other housework. It’s amazing how dependent one is on the Internet. Just the knowledge that I was offline made me nervous. Although, I guess it’s more the fact that I couldn’t dial in to work and that I meant to pay some bills that I’ve been procrastination on, which I couldn’t do either (obviously). That’s what one gets for procrastinating.

On my way back from shopping, I saw a fire engine driving through the streets, with someone blaring something through a megaphone. I couldn’t understand a word, but my Partner said it had something to do with the emergency phone lines also being out of commission. Wonder what happened? Was it just too much traffic on the Net, or was it some other defect?

In the end, it turned out that the Internet was unavailable until almost 6 p.m. I did use the afternoon to go grocery shopping, which was actually really cool, as hardly anybody was out and about. Apparently, Tuesday afternoon isn’t a popular time for a grocery run. I got all the things that I needed, but toilet paper was still missing, and yeast was again gone. No matter, I got those things last week. The rest of the afternoon I used to tidy up my office. Now I can spread out my elbows without pushing a heap of paper and other paraphernalia off the table. Maybe I’ll catch up on the time lost on Friday. Depends how far I get with my tasks the rest of the week.

Keep safe, world.

Keeping Busy

I worked on Friday morning on a stupid mindless task which basically took until 2 p.m., meaning that I did a couple of hours overtime. I’m going to use that time to go grocery shopping this week. I was listening to YouTube videos while I was working, the sort that you don’t need to watch. That’s what made it bearable. I should ask my team if we can’t somehow find a way to automate the task, although I think I remember that something is already in the making. Can’t come soon enough for me.

I didn’t do anything much else on Friday, apart from walking with Curious Dog and a bit of meditation.

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Saturday, I didn’t need to go shopping, as I’d already been on Wednesday. So, I went out early in the morning while partner was out walking Curious Dog. I met them on my way to the bakery to pick up some bread for the next days and of course CD refused to leave me at the bakery. Once I got our bread, we continued the walk through the town and along the banks of the small river that flows through our town. It was nice. I hadn’t actually walked on that side of the river before, as I usually take CD through the fields at the edge of town or through the woods.

When we got back home, I did an hour’s worth of meditation and then rolled up my sleeves and did a thorough cleaning of the ground floor of my house. I hoovered all the rugs (one in the hall and two in the living/dining room. Then I took them and the chairs out onto the patio and washed the floor in the very small guest toilet, the small hall and kitchen, and the large living room. I don’t usually do that this thoroughly. Usually I just hoover everything and wash the floor around the rugs. But sometimes one needs to be a bit more thorough. Afterwards, I was knackered. We also did two loads of washing, one white, one for coloured clothing. The new cotton gloves we bought for grocery shopping sure shrunk in the wash. They can still be worn, but if they shrink again in the next wash, they may end up being too small. We hung the washing up outside in the sunshine and almost all of it got dry. Good use of the still lovely weather. It got cold and overcast on Sunday.

After all that housework on Saturday, I did a quick clean of the bathrooms on Sunday, but since I’d done them the weekend before, it didn’t take long. Still, I’d meant to do the stairs and the upstairs hall (very small) but didn’t get around to it. I always have ambitious cleaning plans and never follow up on all of them. Too lazy. Cleaning house is such a never-ending job. I need to wash the windows, too. And tidy up the cellar. Ah, well eventually things will get done.

I spent about 2.5 hours meditating on Saturday, with sittings in the morning, early afternoon and at night and about 2 hours on Sunday. It was great. My meditation practice is a great help in these times, I’m sure I would be more anxious to no avail without it. It also helps to me regulate my mood in daily life. Not to get upset at stupid stuff. I’m more mellow at work and don’t get annoyed as easily as before. I try to be kinder. I don’t get into a foul mood when I do housework. I’m more aware of my reactions to situations and can sometimes manage to modulate by behaviour or my mood. Not always, not even most of the time, but definitively more often. It also helps me to stop procrastinating — again, not always, but there’s definitively an improvement. It took a while to develop, though. You really need regular practice. Just a couple of sittings every now and then won’t do it. But I have read somewhere that even just 5 minutes a day will be helpful. I started out with 15 minutes a day a couple of years ago and now I do 30 to 60 minutes on workdays and longer on the weekend when I have more time. Occasionally, I’ll just do 5 minutes a day, if I’m really busy or somehow don’t find the time, but that doesn’t happen often.

Also did some cooking and some watching of movies. Watched the last episode of Star Trek: Picard. Watched two episodes of The Mandalorian, as we got Disney+, a six months free offering along with my normal Telekom TV offering. Quite nice!

Now it’s Monday and the lovely spring weather has taken a downturn; still mostly sunny, but cold and rather windy. Really cold, with subzero temperatures at night. Some of the blooming magnolias turned a rather unbecoming brown colour. I hope fruit trees aren’t affected. Some are already starting to bloom but are hopefully not far enough along to be affected.

The downside to all the weekend activities was that I didn’t have time to read much and didn’t manage to finish Song of Solomon, although I’m almost done. Definitively won’t make my March reading goals, but maybe I can catch up over Easter. A very unimportant problem, considering the global situation, which is, sadly, not yet improving.

Keep safe, world.

Living at Home

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Still sunny, still windy and cold.

Nothing much is going on. The usual stuff in at work, which I’m still doing from home as is almost everyone at my company. We have our regular tasks. It’s just all a little more boring than usual, because of the sitting alone in my bedroom office corner instead of in an office with three or four kind colleagues. We skype and chat, so there’s that. Other people have it much worse. It’s odd that one is sitting around doing work more or less as usual, when other people are facing the crisis head on.

I last went grocery shopping yesterday and don’t think that I will need anything except bread before next week. The drugstore still didn’t have any toilet paper, but Aldi did. You were only allowed to buy one package, but that’s perfectly fine. The smallish organic supermarket in our town had a policy of only two customers in the shop at once, but I was the second person in the queue, so I didn’t have to wait too long. The other supermarket, Rewe, had no toilet paper but had stocked up again on dry yeast, so that was great. Everybody kept well away from everyone else, the new normal. I’ve read comments that in future we will be wearing face mask all the time in crowded places, as they do in Asia. That would be strange. Hardly anybody was wearing masks at the shops yesterday (I didn’t either). Maybe because they are in short supply. I did wear cotton gloves that my partner had ordered on Amazon. Paid everything with my bank card, except for the two loaves of bread I got at the bakery. Had to take the gloves off for that, it was too hard to fumble the coins and bills out of my purse with them on.

I’ve started reading Song of Solomon, my third Toni Morrison novel this year. I’ve read it before, but it’s been a long time and I’d forgotten how good it is. I guess I’ll write a short review when I’m done.

I’ve been doing long walks with Curious Dog in the afternoon. Since I’m up to date on all my work task, I have enough time for an hour’s walk, particularly since lunch is usually a quick affair. We have our main meal at dinner and partner does the cooking during the work week. On the weekend, we do it together, usually. Yesterday we had zucchini and mushrooms with pasta, today we are having baked potato wedges (homemade) with radicchio salat and tofu. Simple but delicious. I worked up an appetite on my hour’s long walk with Curious Dog in the biting wind.

Tonight, we’ll check the news on TV. The number of daily new Corona virus cases is still very high in Germany, but at least it seems to have reached a plateau (although it’s probably still too early to be sure). Hopefully the situation will get better after Easter. Small and medium businesses are hit very hard and our government has decided on a very large aid program for them, as well as for larger corporations. Also, a lot is being invested into the health sector. Hope it is enough to get us through this crisis and I hope that we, as a society, learn from it and maybe come up with some better ways of living. Do economies always have to increase, can’t and shouldn’t we build a circular kind of economy that is resource-efficient and better for the planet? Since we know without doubt that our current rapacious way of life isn’t sustainable for future generations. Questions worth pondering.

Keep safe, world.

Bleak House

By Charles Dickens. A walloping good read and not nearly as bleak as the title suggests. I highly recommend it. It’s a very long novel with lots of characters and lots of plot lines. It tells the story of characters that are in some way (some very peripherally) connected with the case in Chancery called Jarndyce and Jarndyce (it’s a court case to do with wills and testaments and has been running for a long time, causing hardship for the people waiting to come into their inheritance).

I’ve drawn a mind map of the connections between the main characters in Bleak House. I’m placing it under the cut, as it contains a few spoilers as does the rest of my review. Don’t read if you don’t want to be spoilered (although the spoilers are mild). It’s handwritten and not easy to read, but you can see the complexity of the connections.

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Sunny Days

Lovely sunny days again, but with a biting cold north-eastern wind (a little less biting today than it was yesterday). Walking with Curious Dog, the cold wind made my eyes water, but in sheltered places it gets quite warm. Quite a few people were out and about, but only in small groups of two or three and keeping a good few meters out of each other’s paths.

Life in home office is quite boring, nothing much going on. We had a short social call this morning within the team, which was nice. I haven’t been out shopping since last week Friday. This week I have to work on Friday morning due to a normal deadline task that needs to be done, so I’m taking tomorrow morning off instead. I want to check what the shopping situation is like in the middle of the week as opposed to the weekend. I’m hoping to find some toiled paper and yeast. First all the flour disappeared off the grocery shelves and now the yeast is gone, too. Ah well, we’ll have to bake with baking powder or soda instead. I do have some sour-dough starter in the fridge that I haven’t used in ages, maybe I could try baking a sour-dough bread again.

I’ve also heard that furnace oil is the new toilet paper around here in Germany. The oil price has dropped so much that everybody is buying oil, but the delivery is backed up until June. Luckily I got ours already a couple of weeks ago while we were in Bavaria. It wasn’t as cheap then as it is now, but it was a good deal cheaper than last time we bought it, so I’m still happy it’s done.

The higher echelons at my company, while acknowledging that the situation is unclear and they also can’t say how things will develop, seem to think that the company will get through the current crisis and emerge stronger beyond it. Not sure if this is wishful thinking, reassurance for the employees, or if it is based on a realistic assessment. We’ll see, no doubt. The company stock prices have risen today, but since they have been going up and down randomly for the last two weeks (mostly down), I’m not sure what to make of that.

I had a few calls with friends. One of them is pretty sure that her husband had Corona (and he’s a risk case, too), but he’s recovered. He hasn’t been tested yet, although he had all the symptoms. No capacity apparently. Another friend has to go to work and their co-workers aren’t interested in taking the required precautions at all. Apparently, they just make macabre jokes and think it won’t concern them. Wow, the stupidity. The friend planned to speak to her boss about it, but I haven’t heard what came of it.

Keep safe, world.

On the Weekend

…we kept to ourselves. As I’d done all the shopping on Friday, there was no further need to go shopping and other excursions are not possible, so … time for cocooning.

On Saturday it rained and was cold and windy, so Curious Dog and only saw other dog walkers out and about. Not like on the previous days, when quite a few people were walking, jogging, bike riding or whatnot. Sometimes in small groups. Also, lots of people apparently were still meeting in larger groups in parks and on the banks of the Neckar in Heidelberg (at least, that’s what a colleague told me, who lives near the Neckar). All the fine-weather perambulators! (As opposed to hardened dog walkers, out in every weather. Some dogs don’t like going out when it rains, but Curious Dog doesn’t mind at all. The only things he minds is thunder and firecrackers (the latter, of course, are only a problem around the New Year, or very occasionally at other times).

The last ten days or so we have also weaned Curious Dog of his annoying habit of only wanting to go out with me when I’m at home. He started this after the New Year’s fireworks, when he suddenly decided that the outside was dreadfully dangerous and could only be faced with me at the end of his leash, not my partner. Except when I wasn’t home, then it was ok for him to go on his walks with my partner. Well, now that I’m doing home office, this behaviour is very inconvenient, and so I just disappeared upstairs to my bedroom / office after breakfast and eventually, he consented to go out with my partner. Now, ten days later, things are back to normal and CD and partner go on walks without a lot of coaxing beforehand.

We stayed home, cooked, baked, and watched movies, and read a lot (at least I did). I managed to finish up Bleak House and I’m planning a separate post about it. Very good read.

As for baking: we made a pizza for dinner on Saturday. Partner made a delicious fluffy chocolate layer cake with a silken tofu white chocolate filling (like a vegan version of a “Milchschnitte”, a well-known German treat). Sunday, we baked an apple cake, which we are still enjoying today (and there’s some left over for tomorrow).

We watched the movie Her, about a guy who falls in love with an artificial intelligence, the operating system of his computer. It was kind of weird, but not bad. I liked the ending; it was very believable. Not the usual happy ending for a romance, but a good sci-fi ending.

Each night we watched the news (and looked it up on the internet during the day, too). It seemed like our safe and happy cocoon was poised over the abyss. Unsettling. I did a lot of meditation sessions over the weekend and that helped to keep me calm. It is glaringly obvious nowadays, that life is about change and we are seldom in control.

So, today it’s Monday. Worked as usual in my home office.

Keep safe, world.

Living and Coping

This morning I got up as early as on my workdays, as I wanted to get things done and not waste half the morning sleeping in. Specifically, I wanted to go shopping early so as to avoid crowds and to get back in time for a breakfast online meeting that was set up for my team. Just half an hour to chat about the situation. I thought it would be fun to join, and it was. But it was a near thing, I dialed in about ten minutes late.

Avoiding the crowds by going shopping right when the shops open wasn’t such a good idea. Apparently, lots of other people had the same idea. Next time I’ll try going a bit later, when the first wave has crested. Or even around midday, when everybody is at lunch? The first shop I got to gave me a bit of a shock – lots of empty shelves (although some in the process of being filled up) and still no toilet paper. Also, we were all shying away from each other trying to keep 1,5 m distance. There were markings on the floor at the checkout counter to remind one to keep one’s distance. All very sobering and disconcerting but a good measure, I guess.

I did manage to get most of the things we needed (toilet paper is not yet a problem and I’ve still got flour and pasta, so everything is fine). Should be enough fresh food to avoid the shops at least until next Tuesday.

On the call with my team, we all recounted our experiences with working from home (mostly positive) and shopping. Also, about the weird expectations some people have regarding the support our company should provide for working from home. Personally, I’m glad we’re able and allowed to do it, I don’t need extras. I’ll keep quiet about the details, but it was definitively an eye-rolling, check-your-privilege type of thing. Not from my team – happy to say that we’re all graced with common sense.

Afterwards my partner gave me his gloom-and-doom report. He thinks that this crisis will change everything about the way we live and work. Something about the fall of the Roman Empire and the end of capitalism as we know it. Well, it’s certainly a serious situation. We’ll see how it works out. Maybe we can even come to a better way to live, more in tune with the planet and less exploitation all around, which we do desperately need to do. But I’m not holding my breath. I’m also not thinking too much about things. There’s nothing I can do at the moment except behave circumspectly, isolate my family and hope for the best. Too much anxiety isn’t useful, so best to try and keep it down.

I did a lot of meditation to stay calm. And not much surfing news sites or watching TV (well, I only watch TV in the evening, anyway). Tomorrow, after I’ve done my chores (basically, cleaning the bathroom and other parts of the house), I hope I’ll get around to reading more than just a few pages. I’m totally behind with my March reading goals. I’m not sure if I’ll be pushing to meet them or if I’ll give up. Haven’t read any poetry or short story or graphic novel this month.

Bavaria, by the way, has instituted a lockdown. Some cities have as well. All because people won’t stop congregating in parks and elsewhere. I’m sure the rest of Germany will follow. I suspect Markus Söder, the state premier of Bavaria wants to appear as especially capable in this crisis. Maybe he’s aiming for the chancellorship after Angela Merkel steps down. Except that I’m not sure whether the rest of Germany would condone a Bavarian CSU-politician (Christian Social Union) as chancellor.

Good wishes for everyone!

Bramble Patch

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Oh Thursday! Last workday for the week for me. Had boring long task to do today that the colleagues I coordinate ought to do themselves but most of them don’t, so I have to do it. Took me the whole morning. Last time I listened to some YouTube videos (the kind you don’t need to watch) but this time I forgot it. Well, I wrapped that stupid task up and some other things as well and now it’s the weekend coming along.

Tomorrow I’m going to do a grocery run early in the morning when nobody much will be shopping (I hope). I need to make a list so that I don’t forget half the things I need. I don’t want to do unnecessary shopping trips during this Corona situation.

It’s still nice and sunny (has been since Monday), almost 20°C today, so I did a load of washing and hung it up in our small yard in the afternoon (not much sun there in the morning, as it has a north-west exposure.

We finished up the delicious cake from yesterday and my partner has already baked the next one. He’s very into baking since he discovered YouTube baking channels. I’m too impatient and don’t like baking that much, except for Christmas cookies.

In the afternoon, I took Curious Dog for his walk as usual. We went along the wood’s edge where I haven’t been walking much, as it’s muddy when it’s wet. But now it’s been dry for a week, so the mud has more or less dried out. Patted the noses of a couple of ponies (or small horses?) that live in a paddock near the edge of the wood. Took a photo of some new blackberry shoots. My raspberry bramble is also getting new leaves, but it’s not so far along, because it doesn’t get that much sun in my yard. I planted it last year in spring and it was quite small. But it did grow about 5 raspberries, so hopefully it’ll do better now that it’s bigger. Maybe it’ll be a prickly pest in a few years!

Today it’s so warm that people are having barbecues in their yards or on their patios. Some are even congregating in parks, my colleagues, who live in the cities around here told me. If this goes on, we’ll get a curfew. But it is supposed to get quite cold again on Saturday, with sub-zero temperatures at night. So maybe people will be more inclined to stay in their homes.

Strangely Lovely Day

It’s surreal. A beautiful spring day, people enjoying their yards, with shrieking children, barking dogs, singing birds and lawnmowers being heard all afternoon through my open skylight. While elsewhere the Corona virus is wreaking havoc (and who knows, it’s probably active around here too).

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We stayed at home all day, except for walks with the dog. We had breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea (lovely piece of homemade vegan cake) and soon we’ll have dinner. It still feels a little like a holiday. It’s surreal.

We’re out of bread, tomorrow I’ll have to go out shopping. Or maybe we’ll cook something instead and only go out once on Friday morning to shop for the weekend. Trying to shop as little as possible seems best.

My heart goes out to all the people whose livelihood is threatened. All the small business owners, freelancers of various kinds, people working in restaurants or catering and so on and so forth. I hope the government will be generous with help, and not just loans that have to be repaid. Lots of small businesses or self-employed people will have trouble paying back loans.

I’m very grateful to all the people keeping the country running, especially medical personnel and people working in the grocery shops, community services and everybody else who still needs to go to work and can’t self-isolate.

I work for a large corporation, but I still wonder how this will affect us down the road. Stock quotes have dropped quite a bit, and I’m sure the quarterly results for this quarter and the next won’t be too rosy. During the last global crisis in 2009 nobody was let go and I hope that it won’t happen this time around, either. I’m not too worried yet, but the times they are interesting (negatively, if that needs saying).

According to data from Johns Hopkins, Germany is now in fifth place regarding the number of confirmed infections, just behind Spain. The big car manufacturers, VW and BMW are shutting down production for a few weeks, which of course also affects all their suppliers — a big deal in Germany.

Hope that the situation improves as soon as possible, everywhere. Hope that the wholesale suspension of public life will show good results.

Proto-Indo-European

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I wanted to listen to podcasts on my commute. My commute is about 25 to 35 minutes and has some mind-numbing boring stretches with lots of hold-ups due to traffic back-up at traffic lights. I remembered that I’d always wanted to listen to the History of English Podcast. I found this quite a few years ago but didn’t manage to listen to a lot of episodes, because I didn’t have a good time slot for podcasts. But now I do and am really enjoying it.

You can find it here: https://historyofenglishpodcast.com/

It’s excellent and what’s more, there are more than 130 episodes, and I’m only on number 26. Oodles of goodness to look forward to! I average about one to one and a half episodes per workday, but as I only work four days a week and one week out of four is home office (and currently all days are home office), I’m not very far yet.

In one of the earlier podcasts the creator Kevin Stroud mentioned the book The Horse, the Wheel, and Language by David W. Anthony. It sounded fascinating, so I looked it up on Amazon and got if for my non-fiction reading for this month. It’s about the origins of Proto-Indo-European, the (reconstructed) language which is at the root of a lot of modern European (and other) languages. The book explores all sorts of questions around this language, like who spoke it, what was the culture of the speakers like, where was it spoken, how did it manage to become the root languages of all the modern languages, political exploitation (some very nasty stuff to do with rabid nationalism), and how linguistics and archeology together can reconstruct the history and development of the language and the people who spoke it.

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I found it very interesting, but also a demanding read — took me about ten days to read and now I’m behind on my other reading projects (doesn’t matter, I’ll catch up). The linguistic part was familiar, at least in parts, because I studied English Linguistics at University, as part of my Master’s in American Literature, but the archeological parts were very detailed, in depth and a bit of a slog (all that stuff about pottery). Ultimately still interesting, though. It was very dense, full of intriguing details of which I’ve forgotten at least half. I’m probably going to re-read this sometime in future. If you are interested in Proto-Indo-European, linguistics and archeology, this is a book for you.

I’m putting a short summary of the main findings under the cut, mostly for my own use. If you’re interested in reading the book, you may wish to skip this.

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