Tuesday Tidbits

The day started off on a positive note. I managed to solve a visual puzzle, where you had to move a certain number of elements to make a different picture. This came up in a book I’m reading about learning called A Mind for Numbers, by Barbara Oakley. Now I consider myself not to have a mind for maths, but maybe I can turn this feeling around (which is a self-fulfilling prophecy and therefore limiting). Or maybe I can use the strategies in this book for other things to learn – I’m always interested in how learning works and like reading about it. This book seems interesting, but I’ve only at the beginning, so can’t say yet how it will turn out.

Another positive thing was that the colleagues at work had heeded my emails about error fixes so that the errors in our documents actually dropped by half overnight. I’ve received feedback that the colleagues are working on the remaining ones. Hopefully by tomorrow no errors or just a couple will be left.

I did a lot off additional quality checks early this morning, before I took off for the Tuesday morning shopping trip. I bought a lot of produce and some other groceries, so we should be set until next Tuesday (with maybe just a short trip to the bakers’ in between). Very efficient. I think I actually spend less time (at least marginally) shopping now that I do a huge trip once a week instead of many smaller trips.

My work notebook is still not installing updates as it ought. I’ve tried heaps of things, the support colleague I had a couple of meetings with tried a lot of things, nothing worked. Now I’ve got some cryptic instructions again from anther support colleague that I can’t make out. I’ve set up a meeting for Thursday with the original colleague to have another look at it. I think I reported the issue at the beginning of June. Now it’s a month later and the problem persists. Wonder if it’ll get solved on Thursday. I’ve got tons of other things to do on Thursday, so I hope the stuff that we’ll be trying won’t make things worse. The notebook is after all running smoothly otherwise. It would be a shame to have to get a new one if this update problem can’t be fixed.

The puppy next door grew a good bit during the ten days we were away. He still likes to bark at Curious Dog and I’m still trying to get them accustomed to each other. CD doesn’t seem to be particularly interested, but he does like to bark back at the puppy. It funny, the puppy is cheeky, but also kind of scared. His barking is almost a kind of howling, very unpleasant. Hopefully he’ll grow out of it. Otherwise he’s very cute.

We had our first watermelon of the summer today. They’ve been available in stores for longer, but somehow, I didn’t feel like having any. But today I did, and it was delicious. Curious Dog really liked his share as well.

The government is actually planning laws to improve the situation of workers in the meat processing industry. The nasty conditions have been known for a long time, but Corona has really shone a spotlight on the situation. Of course, now there’s pushback from the industry, but in effect it seems that improvements have to be done by the beginning of 2021. I hope this will also have positive repercussions in other industries — in logistics management, for example. Meaning Amazon. All those workers packing and delivering parcels could do with higher pay and better conditions. Maybe this will make online shopping more expensive, but it would be fairer. We also need improvements in Europe for migrant workers in agriculture, but I haven’t heard that anything is planned for those workers. The prices for some produce have risen quite a bit, but I don’t know if that will translate to better wages and conditions for workers.

2020_06_30Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

Back from Bavaria. The trip was pretty uneventful. We got off to an early start (early for us) at 10:45 a.m. yesterday. We did a quick detour to the family grave to check on the plant, which wasn’t looking too good. Leaves looking slightly wonky and only one bud, but hopefully it’ll improve. We’ll have another look in three weeks when we return. The country roads were empty, but we still had the two detours, one of which was rather long. But it seems that the roadworks are progressing, as I could see that the road surface behind the barrier where we had to detour has been tarred which wasn’t the case the last time we drove past. So maybe next time this detour will be history.

Last Thursday, I had a tiring day of doing clicking on stuff and checking things from 9:00 in the morning till 3:30 in the afternoon (with a lunch break in between). The tool was slow and got slower over time and at last, I had an Internet outage for half an hour. The whole thing made me numb and tired and I didn’t feel like writing a post.

In the evening, we had a book club meeting online. The first one since the Corona thing started. It was nice, but not as nice as a meeting in person. We had read a book that nobody liked that much; it was a quick read and somewhat interesting, but nothing great. Most of the books we’ve read in the book club turn out to be so-so. Guess our tastes are too different. The best part of the book club is anyway the catchup gossip we do along with the book discussion. The next meeting is in August, but we’re not yet sure if it will be an in-person meeting or another online one.

Friday, I got up early, took Curious Dog for his walk – it was hot and muggy – and then drove to the county seat to go shopping. Got the usual groceries, mostly provisions for the next time we’ll be staying at the old home, but also some fresh produce for the weekend. Also got some of CD’s dog food, which I always buy at the pet food store in Bavaria, as it has a good selection. Then I went to the DIY-store and bought some cardboard boxes for storing the things from the living-room cabinet that Mum has been sorting and to get a sack of quick-drying plaster so that I can start to replaster the wall of the old garage, where the old plaster has dropped off. I started doing that last year, but didn’t manage to finish it, as it had to be done in small sections and I’m not much of a plasterer anyway. Hope I get it done this year. There was only a small sack available, 10 kg, when I wanted 25. Blast. Hopefully they’ll have more next time we’re in Bavaria. Or maybe I should try using a different kind of plaster. I tried researching this on YouTube but wasn’t very successful. It’s all a bit beyond me.

Late in the afternoon, I pulled myself together and cleaned the window in the office. Was a real difference afterwards. Probably hadn’t been cleaned for more than a year. I had meant to also do the one in my bedroom but postponed that to the next time we are in Bavaria.

2020_06_29

In the evening, we had a mild thunderstorm, with a bit of wind and a nice lot of rain. Mum and I were sitting in the kitchen pulling our harvest of redcurrants off their little stems. A bit of a fiddly task. We got slightly more than 1 kg from one old bush. Pretty good. My harvest from my old bush (that I inherited from the previous tenant) was only about 600 g. Curious Dog was hiding under the table, with one of his rubber balls in his mouth. The ball seems to comfort him; he doesn’t like thunderstorms.

Saturday morning, I woke up early enough, but I dawdled reading in bed until it was almost 9 and then had to walk CD when it was again hot and muggy. Then I had to pick up some buns from the village shop and bring some gardening rubbish to the municipal collection point. And take some old clothes that Mum had discarded to that other collection point and by that time it was noon already, and I was hot and bothered. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading, because it was too hot and muggy to move. Just as I was going to set out on Curious Dog’s afternoon walk, we had another thunderstorm. So instead I did a quick vacuum through most of the house. Since it kept threatening thunder in the distance for the rest of the evening, Curious Dog didn’t get his walk at all, just a bit of playing in the garden. As I’d been so lazy, I got in a lot more reading than anticipated, which was nice. But I should have got up earlier and done a bit more chores. Well, postponed to next time. Procrastination rules.

Sunday, I did manage to get up early and we actually got away on our trip back to my place before noon. Was nice to meet up with Partner again. We went for a walk with CD. It was warm and overcast and rained later that evening. This is turning into a bit of a rainy summer, but the groundwater is still lower than usual after two years of drought, so it’s all for the best (as long as the rain doesn’t spoil the harvest). Some of the potted plants on my patio looked quite awful on our return, as it doesn’t seem to have rained while we were away. But they have now revived a lot and I hope they’ll survive.

Today, Monday, was another busy day doing quality checks and reminding colleagues to fix their errors. The deadline is approaching and there are still quite a number of errors. I’m getting quite anxious, also annoyed, as I’m not seeing much progress. Hope I’ll see some tomorrow, otherwise it will be a real problem (though not mine). Otherwise I had four hours of meetings which I didn’t like at all. To many meetings make me bored and drowsy and then I’m no good for more challenging work.

In between meetings, I had a call from my internet provider offering an upgrade of my internet package. I agreed to it, because it’s not a great deal more expensive than the old package and it has a higher bandwidth. Should be useful for home office and for streaming TV. But once I had decided to go for it, I learnt that I would also need to upgrade my router. As that upped the price, it annoyed me. But having already decided, I stuck with it. I hope it all goes quickly and without any disruption of my service as I do need it to work from home.

Keep safe, world.

Unusual Wildlife Sightings

Today is another day with high UV radiation. But since I stay indoors doing home office all day except for a short lunch amble with Curious Dog, it’s not as issue for me. It’s not a problem when CD and I do our morning walk and it’s no longer a problem on the afternoon walk, as we are going out pretty late in summer anyway, as Curious Dog doesn’t like the heat (neither do I). This afternoon, I took him out to play ball in the yard and he gave up after three throws (same as yesterday, but the last time we stayed here when it was cooler, he ran after and fetched his ball at least 15 times). He really doesn’t care for exertion in the sun.

This morning our local newspaper showed a photo of a wolf who has been sighted twice in the county (or rather, captured on game cameras in the woods between my village and the county seat). Maybe he will establish a pack in the area, as apparently there’s enough game to support one. Interesting to think there’s a wolf roaming the woods. Sheep farmers in the area won’t be particularly pleased, although if a pack is established, they will get state support to get flock guardian dogs and/or electric fences. There are a few travelling sheep herd hereabouts as they keep the juniper grasslands from turning into woods. The grasslands are protected, because of their diverse insect population and because they are an iconic landscape around here.

Mum is getting on quite well with clearing out the living room cabinet. I’m going to get some cardboard boxes on Friday, so that we can box up some of the stuff, either to keep or to donate or get rid of entirely. I don’t think we’ll get the cabinet dismantled this week, but maybe during our July Bavarian week. Maybe I’ll get around to sort through my old books from younger years. There’s a lot of books that I’m sure I won’t want to read again, old paperbacks that are falling apart and could go for paper recycling as I’m sure nobody else will want them either. Especially now that there are no flea markets where one might try to get rid of them.

I mowed the lawn yesterday evening (it only took 20 minutes, as it is small and about a third of it is overgrown with poppies, which I didn’t mow down). I almost procrastinated with it but heard on the Tagesschau (German TV news) that there may be thunderstorms in the evenings for the rest of the week. That would have put a damper on the mowing, so I pulled myself together and did it last night. It was pleasantly mild outside, I really rather enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll overcome my evening laziness again tonight and clean the window in my office. It could really do with a clean and I don’t want to leave all the cleaning for the weekend. Or I could scrub the floor of the balcony. That really needs a good scrub, too. Oh, what wonderful choices!

Work was uneventful today. The highlights of the day were the walks with Curious Dog in the woods, where it was nice and cool. No wolf sightings by us! I haven’t heard any news about my work notebook issue. Tomorrow I shall be busy doing mindless quality stuff that will take a few hours, but then tomorrow is already the end of the working week for me, so here’s to looking forward to the weekend – a lot of cleaning and packing and driving back to my place in Baden-Württemberg and consequently not as much reading time as I’d like.

Keep safe, world.

2020_06_24

This and That

My Deutscher Wetterdienst app (German Weatherservices) tells me that today we have an uncommonly high UV-radiation over much of Germany. Very odd. Hereabouts it only just 24°C with a mild breeze. Quite pleasant in fact. Wouldn’t have guessed it. The warning is from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. so I’ll be taking Curious Dog for his afternoon walk later than 5 p.m.

Yesterday’s dog school was fun; Curious Dog was middling well behaved, neither a total disaster nor a super overachiever. He did everything well, except stay (bleib in German). He knows bleib of course, but the Rhodesian Ridgeback bitch was just so interesting, that he couldn’t possibly stay but had to go play with her instead. There were only four other dogs apart from CD and while they did do some romping, they didn’t do it in the drifts of old leaves and so he didn’t pick up many ticks. I think I found just one or three afterwards, and they hadn’t latched on yet.

This morning I took CD on our usual walk through the woods and back along the bike path in the valley. The poppy field that was in light purple bloom last time has now turned into a field of mostly poppy pods with just a few blooms left. The same has happened to the poppies in our garden. I’m going to collect some of the seeds when they are ready and try to sow them in my yard at my place, too. The roses in the garden are lovely, but some of them got a bit damaged by last week’s rain. Tonight, I’m going to mow the lawn, unless I succumb to laziness and procrastination. But I’ll try not too, as I don’t want to have to do it in the last few days before we leave again on the weekend.

2020_06_23

I had a couple of calls at work this morning and did some quality checks and then had to mail some colleagues to ask them to fix some errors. The usual. We’re also coordinating a test of some updated document types that’s going well. No problems found so far, which is nice (for a change). At 11 a.m. I made an hour’s break and went grocery shopping. At the shop in the village I found that I’d forgotten to bring a mask along. What a pain. I had to return home to fetch it. I guess I’d better deposit one in the car in future. The village shop had a good selection of fruit, but no vegetables, as their cooling unit is broken. So, I had to drive to the next small town as well. Will have to work a bit longer tonight to fulfill my work hours.

I’ve been having computer problems lately. My notebook is otherwise working very well, but it refuses to apply the latest Windows update. I’ve contacted my company’s IT helpdesk and have had three calls already to find a solution, but so far it has been elusive. Today, the support colleague found some log files on my notebook that I had to attach to my error message, so that the next level support can have a look. Hope this gets resolved soon; it’s been dragging on for about three weeks. Hope I won’t need to get a new notebook. Although, if the issue persists, I may have to, to comply with security protocols. I though my notebook was only about two years old but found that it’s actually almost four years. This surprised me, as my notebook is still working very well, except for this stupid update problem.

After work, I phoned Partner (we phone every day and tell us how our days went). Even when nothing much has happened, it’s still nice to hear his voice. He’s in North Rhine-Westphalia, where a big Corona outbreak has occurred at a meat processing plant. Lockdown has had to be reinstated in the county (not where he lives, luckily). A nasty scandal about the working conditions at the plant – but it’s been known for years that the conditions at meat processing plants are awful. Maybe this time new laws can be put in place to give workers more rights and improve the working conditions. A lot of the workers are from Eastern European countries, as the wages and conditions are such that Germans don’t want to do that kind of work. I just hope it won’t just blow over with hardly any consequences.

Keep safe, world.

Last Week

Last Wednesday was a wet day, with a mild thunderstorm early in the afternoon and another one late in the afternoon. I had a headache all day that didn’t yield to two aspirins, one in the morning and one late in the afternoon. Must have been the change in atmospheric pressure, or something. It rained quite a bit, with the rain drumming on my skylight. Kind of cozy. Thankfully, the thunderstorm and rain didn’t turn into a real downpour (although there was a bit of hail) and the big puddle in my small yard had disappeared again by nightfall (which is pretty late at this point of the year, around 10:00 p.m.). Curious Dog didn’t like the thunder, poor guy. He hid beside Partner’s desk. The next morning, we had to coax him out of the house for his morning walk, but I’m not sure if he was still upset because of the storm, or if he already sensed that we were leaving that day.

On Thursday, Partner drove to his place in North Rhine-Westphalia and Mum, I, and CD drove to our place in Bavaria. The traffic was fine. Lots of lorries on the Autobahn, but not that many cars. There were two diversions because of roadworks on the country roads. One has already been in place for our last few trips, the one through the Ostalbkreis (a county). Very scenic, hilly, and woodsy, but quite a long way out of our way. The other one was because of roadworks in a village that lead to a detour through the Nordlinger Ries – a large flat area where eons ago a meteor flattened everything. Both detours were well known to us, as we’ve had to take them at various times. Still, there wasn’t much traffic in the countryside, so the trip didn’t take much longer than usual.

Apparently, it rained a lot since our last week in Bavaria and our garden is very green and overgrown. All the grass verges that I cut by hand last time have regrown. I’ll have to cut them again this week. It rained a lot on Friday and Saturday, so I couldn’t get it done last week. Can’t mow the lawn on Sundays, of course (too loud). But it was anyway still too wet on Sunday, so I’ll be doing the lawn later this week, when it’s supposed to be sunny and hot. Today it hasn’t been raining, but it’s still fairly damp. From tomorrow on it’s supposed to get warmer, with no cloud cover, perfect for lawn mowing. We’ve been lucky regarding the weather this year – only one or two days 30°C and above. Great for people like me who hate the heat. June is almost done, then it’s only July and August with potentially long hot days. September is usually not so hot anymore (and, even if it is, the days are no longer so long).

2020_06_22

I meant to have painted the kitchen this weekend, but I forgot to bring a paint roller from my place, and we don’t have one here. I didn’t want to buy a new one, and anyway, it was cool and wet. Probably better to do it next time, when it will hopefully be warm and dry outside, so that the paint can dry quickly. Not that I really wanted to do it, anyway. There are better things to do on a weekend than applying a lot of masking tape and mucking about with paint. I also need to paint the hall at my place (very small, but with four doors, so lots of masking tape to apply). I want to use latex paint so that we can wash the walls when Curious Dog gets them dirty (which he does all the time, when it’s wet and muddy outside). On the other hand, latex paint is difficult to remove and not that easy to paint over with normal paint. Since it’s a rented house, maybe I shouldn’t use it after all. I’ll have to do some research.

Well, since I didn’t paint and it was raining a lot, I didn’t do much on the weekend other than read. I did our grocery shopping on Friday and then only went for walks with Curious Dog in between showers and otherwise spent the rest of the time reading. I finished this month’s installment of War and Peace, and I read the book for my book club. I also finished Flannery O’Connor’s short stories (didn’t much enjoy them) and started reading Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey short stories (I thought I’d read most of them before, but actually most of them were new to me – an unexpected treat. I also read Toni Morrison’s Jazz on Sunday (will write a review, but first I need to write the one for Beloved). So now there’s still a few days left in June and I’m already all done with my planned reads. I’ve started a new fat novel, Anthony Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her? Seems really good. I’m also reading Sanderson Brandon’s The Way of Kings as a read-along on Booktube. The latter has to be done by end of July and has more than 1000 pages. I’m on a roll.

Not much time for reading today, as Curious Dog and I are going to his dog school. The first time since the Corona lockdown. It’s outside, so not much danger of getting infected. Hope he doesn’t pick up millions of ticks. On our first walk after we arrived here in Bavaria, he picked up lots of them, and about six latched on. Very annoying. I’m now spraying his harness with a lavender and lemon spray that’s supposed to discourage the ticks. It has reduced them, but dog school will be a stress test. The dogs usually romp through a lot of old leaves and that’s perfect for picking up ticks. I don’t like using the usual tick repellents, because they contain nerve toxins and they didn’t agree with our previous dogs. I’ve not been using anything, but this year the ticks are so bad that I just had to try out at least a non-toxic repellent. I’m only spraying it on the harness, because I’m not sure if the scent is good for him to lick off his fur. But the harness spray is working somewhat, and the ticks are reduced to just a one or two a day that latch on (and get removed).

Keep safe, world.

Light Summer Rain

It started raining early in the morning, with the rain softly drumming on the skylight in our bedroom. It’s always really gemütlich (comfy) hearing the rain while snoozing in bed. Also, it wasn’t I but rather my Partner who had to take Curious Dog for his morning walk. Always a plus when it’s raining – that’s a joke when it’s soft summer rain. I wouldn’t have minded getting wet and neither did Partner much mind. I had two early calls at work, so I couldn’t offer to go instead. One of them was mostly a social call and could have been postponed, but it was a lovely chat with a colleague about what we did on the weekend and the books we are reading and other such non-work topics. Basically, a coffee-corner chat done via Skype. Nice start to the workday.

After that, though, I had a serious call, where I actually had a point on the agenda to discuss with the participants. It went well and was well received as it was about some upcoming improvements to a software tool we use daily. The rest of the day I did some of my recurring quality checks and wrote emails to about 20 people asking them to repair errors or check some documents. It took a bit of time and effort to find these errors, but it’s nice to be able to hand the repairs off to the responsible colleagues. I’ll be doing more of those kinds of tasks, as a deadline is approaching.

Otherwise, I went to the post office, to post a birthday present to one of my young cousins (first cousin once removed) on her 25th birthday. Very efficient, only due to the badgering of my Partner, as I otherwise tend to send birthday presents too late to arrive on the actual birthday (sometimes very much too late, except when my cousins were still children – nowadays they don’t mind). It was still raining, and the mask fogged up my glasses. This happens quite often, even when it’s not raining, and is annoying (but not enough to leave it off).

I also went shopping, but only picked up a bit of produce as we are again leaving for Bavaria on Thursday and consequently don’t need much until then. I’m planning to paint the kitchen in my parental dwelling and Mum wants to clear out the cabinet in the living room and get rid of it. It’s quite a large wooden thing, quite solid, but quite out of fashion. Mum never liked it, but my parents got it cheaply at a house sale, years ago. I guess I can take off the doors and remove the drawers and shelves and take it to the municipal collection point in pieces. Sounds like a lot of work. We’ll see what we will actually get done. The cabinet is quite big and made up out of different elements and maybe I’ll keep part of it for my bedroom – I’ve already got one part of it and quite like it when it’s not so large that it covers an entire wall as it does in the living room. Although I’ll need some help to lug it up the stairs.

I downloaded the German Corona Warning app that was launched today. It’s supposed to help track contacts with infected people. It adheres to very stringent data protection and privacy laws, so I’m fine about installing it. Next time I’m shopping, I will turn it on. If it turns out that I have contact with someone who’s infected, I can get tested. It’s all voluntary and it will be interesting to see how widely it will be used and if it will do any good in the fight against Corona.

After dinner I hung up a load of washing on my fold-away laundry rack and for almost the first time today, the sun came out. I moved the rack outside to the patio to catch the last rays of the sun, before it disappeared behind the hills. I’ll move it back inside before I go to bed tonight. It won’t be dry, but at least aired. Most of it will dry overnight in the living room.

That was my day, not very exciting, but good.

Keep safe, world.

2020_06_16

Long Weekend

It was the last long weekend of the year (at least, one due to a public holiday, I guess I can still take a day off for a personal long weekend). Corpus Christi last Thursday. The weather wasn’t very good throughout. Very overcast, occasional rain, cool temperatures, humid. But good for going for long walks with Curious Dog and I definitively prefer cool wet weather to hot baking weather.

Apart from going on walks with Curious Dog I used the weekend to do some:

  • Cooking and baking
  • Reading
  • Watching movies with Partner
  • Cleaning
  • Meditating – although not as much as I had meant to.

The usual stuff, but more relaxed as there was more time for everything.

Regarding cooking and baking, I did the cooking and Partner did the baking. We had a mushroom stew with carrots and kidney beans in a beer sauce with dumplings on Thursday and the leftovers on Friday. Saturday we didn’t cook and had Singhalese take-away instead: carrot fritters with a yoghurt dip. On Sunday I made a huge pasta salad with peas, capers and fried smoked tofu which we had for both lunch and dinner.

Partner baked a vegan cheesecake for Thursday and Friday and a fantastic vegan tiramisu with strawberries that we had on Saturday and Sunday. Today, we had a simple but nice nut cake for our afternoon coffee break, to sweeten our workday.

I caught up on my reading goals by finishing up Little Dorrit, which I really enjoyed. I also continued with poems from the New Oxford Book of English Verse and read a few of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories (which I still find quite weird and depressing). According to Wikipedia, it’s supposed to be (American) Southern Gothic with grotesque characters – I can sure confirm the grotesque part of the description. Guess that’s not going to be my favourite genre. Still, they are kind of fascinating and I will finish the collection, but I’m probably not going to choose to read a novel by O’Connor anytime soon.

We watched some films and documentaries of TV. What stuck in my mind was “Der Tag wird kommen” (“The Day Will Come”) the latest episode of the Polizeiruf 110 series, which is a police detective series that was the East German counterpart of the West German Tatort series (also a police detective show). The series were continued after the German reunification. Sunday’s episode was about a suicide disguised as a murder in order to cash in on life insurance and also about the manipulation of the police detectives by a criminal they’d put into prison in previous parts of the series. Not bad. We also watched Knives Out with Daniel Craig and loved it. Very nice homage to Agatha Christie and quite funny, too. Additionally, we watched the three-part episodes Stories vs. Reality on the youtube channel Like Stories of Old. This channel is great. It explains philosophical ideas behind movies and these three videos examined the role that hero tales play in our lives. Makes me want to read Simone de Beauvoir The Second Sex and Joseph Campbell The Hero with a Thousand Faces, although I haven’t got time at the moment. They go on my to-read list (which, unfortunately, is always growing never shrinking).

Housecleaning and washing clothes were also on the agenda. But I didn’t overdo it.

I even took a shopping trip to a dog food store a couple of towns over. Last time I went was at the beginning of the Corona lockdown. It was a nice drive – almost my usual commute that I’ve not been doing for month now and will not be doing probably until the end of the year. And I’m sure in future it will be easy to do home office.

Shockingly and sadly, the weekend was overshadowed by yet another murder of a black man by police. Rayshard Brooks, shot in the back! BLACK LIVES MATTER – we must overcome rascism and police brutality, in the US as in Europe, and the rest of the world.

Keep safe, world.

2020_06_15

Dombey and Son

By Charles Dickens. Straight of, I have to say that I found this novel, which I read in May, a bit of a slog at times and certainly didn’t enjoy it as much as, for instance David Copperfield. I’m putting the review under the cut, as it contains spoilers.

Read More »

May Reading

Here’s the books, short stories and poetry I read in May:

Ongoing projects:

  • Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
    138 pages, my quota for May — still liking it.
  • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy
    Almost total fail again. It’s not really an issue, as it is an optional goal, so I don’t really care about not getting ahead. I read a few pages, but not many.

Poetry:

Helen Gardner (ed.) The New Oxford Book of English Verse
I’m up to poem number 583 in this anthology. I’m still enjoying it very much and I’m still doing my reading each morning in bed, when my partner is blocking the bathroom. A nice way to start the day. I mark the poems I especially like with a sticky note, so that I can later revisit them and maybe search out some more of that poet’s work.

Here’s a very short poem by William Blake (1757 – 1827), number 460 in the anthology:

The Sick Rose
O rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

Short stories:

  • Ali Smith, The Whole Story and Other Stories and The First Person and Other Stories
    I’ve now read all the short story collections by Ali Smith and absolutely loved them.
  • Flannery O’Connor, The Complete Stories
    I’ve started this short story collection in May and will finish in June. I’m finding them very odd. I’m not sure what to think about them. They seem to be only about the dark side of humanity with not much hope for any betterment. The characters in the stories are all pretty horrible.

Non-Fiction:

Alfie Kohn, Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason.
Very good and eye-opening book about parenting which should also be useful for teachers and everyone who deals with children. Wow, I sure did some things wrong in my relationship with my god-child and her sister. I very highly recommend it.

Graphic novel:

Thi Bui: The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir
This graphic novel is about the Bui family and their flight from Vietnam as boat people and how they fared in America. It also tells the life stories of the parents. The art is beautiful and the story is very interesting. I recommend it.

Novels:

  • Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
    Quite a weird novel. I didn’t like it very much but will write a longer review about it.
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved
    A great novel. I will also write a longer review, but don’t wait for it, read it.
  • Samantha Shannon, The Priory of the Orange Tree.
    A fantasy novel with interesting world building. It’s about the usual thing, defeating evil and saving the world, but it is refreshing in that it has a diverse cast, interesting different societies and lots of strong women characters. Also, it’s done in one novel, when so many fantasy stories number at least three books. Recommended for fantasy readers or readers who want to try a fantasy that doesn’t require one to read lots of installments.
  • Martha Wells
    • Network Effect (Murderbot Diaries 5)
      A scifi series that I love a lot. This latest installment is even greater than the first four novellas, because it is a full length novel. The series is about a construct, a kind of android who also has human body parts and human emotions. They are treated like slaves or things, but the protagonist has a broken control unit and is therefore free. The amazing thing about this series is the internal voice of the construct and the way it struggles with its humanity and feelings (it has no sex or gender, therefore “it”). But the stories are also full of suspense. I highly recommend all of them.
    • All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries 1)
      I reread the first part of the series because I love it so much. Here we get some of the backstory and the first adventure of the construct.

So, I managed to reach my goal in May and even read some extra books. Had a good reading month and can recommend most of the books I read.

2020_06_09

Monday Miscellanea

As I’ve been struggling a bit with being productive at work and not bored out of my skull (although only part of my work is boring), I’ve made a list of three tasks that I absolutely had to do today and did them. That gave me a feeling of accomplishment which in turn was motivating. I’ve already come up with a list for tomorrow and will continue create these lists. I actually ended up doing more than what was on my list which was great.

I also decided to actively pay attention in most of my meeting and not do things on the side, because trying to pay attention to more than one thing at once doesn’t work for me. Usually I get absorbed in the thing done during the meeting and I end up having only a vague idea of what the meeting was about. Now this is somewhat ok for some meetings, but most of the time it’s a bad idea.

As a consequence of these two changes, I felt much better about work today and feel reasonably sure that this will continue. Summer at my job is characterized by lots of people being away on vacation while still a lot of work needs to be done for deadlines in autumn. I like to stay at work during summer and take my vacation after the deadlines. This year, my October vacation falls right into the middle of some deadlines and therefore it’s crucial that I stay on top of things so that I can get them done in good time by September. I’m committed to this and I want to do it without a lot of groaning about being demotivated. A little bit of grumbling and groaning can be cathartic sometimes, but I need to put the lid on it for now. I’ve never actually not met my deadlines, but sometimes too much internal complaining was involved, which mostly only serves to make tasks more painful than they really need to be.

We are back at my place, returned from my Mum’s place in Bavaria. The trip yesterday was very good, hardly any traffic although a good deal of rain during the first half of the drive. It was raining nonstop even in the morning when I took Curious Dog on his walk. We got very wet, which wasn’t bad because I like summer (or spring) rain and it wasn’t freezing. The only slighty annoyance was having to pack up our wet gear.

Last night, we watched another Tatort – I think it was the last one before the summer hiatus. The Tatort is a German crime series that features film-length stories of different (usually pairs) of police detectives who solve various sorts of crimes in different German cities. It runs on Sunday evenings after the news. Yesterday’s Tatort called Lass den Mond am Himmel stehn (“Leave the Moon Shining in the Sky”, as per my unofficial translation) showed the detectives Batic and Leitmayr who are the Munich Tatort team. It was pretty good. Chilling, with an unusual murderer, dysfunctional families, and an unsettling ending (no spoilers, so no more details).

The plants on my patio have all survived our week away, as it wasn’t very hot and rained a lot during our week away. The glass water bubble things weren’t needed and also don’t seem to work, because the one plant that was underneath the roof and didn’t get rained on was dry and the water hadn’t been dispersed. Maybe the water can’t run out because air doesn’t get into the glass bubble. I’ll have to experiment a bit.

Yesterday Curious Dog touched noses with the neighbours’ cheeky puppy through the fence links. And today they met while out walking, so I’m hoping they’ll become friends or at least tolerate each other. It’s amazing to see how much a puppy grows in a week, he’s markedly bigger than he was before our stay in Bavaria. At first, he was interested in CD, but also a bit scared, so he barked at him. But eventually, they touched noses and CD didn’t growl at the puppy. Very cute.

Keep safe, world.

2020_06_08