Tuesday Tidbits

I’ve been too lazy to post anything for the last two weeks. It’s amazingly easy to get into the habit of not writing and therefore not posting. Today I decided to post something, even if it is only a few sentences, just to get the creative juices flowing again at the end of August, so that my procrastination doesn’t carry over into September.

I stopped posting with my rant about the book I had to read for my book club, Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, so I feel I should let you know what the other book club members thought about it. We had to do an online meeting again, because our host in whose garden we would have met sadly had a terrible family emergency and had to cancel. Our gathering was rather small, only four people, as the other four (or so) couldn’t make it because of one thing or another (mostly, being on holiday). The four of us felt that the book was rather awful, even the person who suggested it (they had thought it would be like an Elizabeth George novel). As I predicted, we had fun slagging all the characters in the book. It wasn’t my turn, but since all the members whose turn it would have been were away, I got to choose the next book, which is Halldór Laxness Fish Can Sing, an Icelandic classic. I’ve been wanting to read something of Laxness’ for a while and I hope this will be a better read than the last few selections. The next club meeting is not until after my vacation in October, so I’m not planning to read it in September.

The weekend of August 21/22, Mum and I visited my aunt and uncle who live in the town where I was born. The aunt is my Mum’s youngest sister and my uncle turned 80 and had a smallish birthday party. So, we drove there on the Saturday and returned on Sunday. Partner stayed home with Curious Dog (it would have been too stressful with CD, although we considered it and Partner was quite happy to stay home, as he detests family parties – not sure why). Before going to our relatives’ house, we made a small detour to my grandmother’s grave (on my father’s side), which I haven’t seen in two years. It was in a rather bad shape – almost overgrown. I need to bribe my cousins to fix it up more often. We tidied it up a bit and later in autumn I’ll ask one of the cousins to check on it again and maybe plant a new plant.

The birthday party was nice. We saw our relatives in person after two years. There were lots of lovely cakes and a nice hot meal at night outside in their large garden in the middle of town. They own a huge timber-frame townhouse from the 18th century, which has an old timber-frame carpenter’s workshop in the backyard that my cousin has fixed up for hobbies or partying in. It could also be turned into another residence, but they don’t need it because the main house is so large. They’ve got a lovely garden with a huge tree and lots of space – amazing, for a town house. Anyway, my uncle was a founding member of one of the town’s marching bands, so the band turned up and played in his honour. It’s kind of cool having a private little concert like that (pretty loud – Curious Dog wouldn’t have liked it). The weather, luckily, was also good – no rain for once.

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After the weekend, Partner had an appointment at his place and left on Monday, so Mum and I decided to also leave early for Bavaria, also on Monday instead of Thursday, as would have been our normal schedule. I took Monday off and we’ve been in Bavaria again since then. We’ve had a couple of nice days, but it’s been raining on and off for at least the last 5 days. Fortunately, I never got caught in a shower on my walks with Curious Dog and tomorrow the weather is supposed to improve for a few days. It’s been rather cold – most of the time while I’m sitting doing home office, I’m wearing a thick woolen jacket. Very unusual for August.

Last Sunday (being now fully vaccinated) I met up with my two best friends in Bavaria. We hadn’t seen each other since late in 2019, so it was great to see each other again. We had spoken on the phone a few times, but that can’t compare with an in-person visit. We met at the house of one friend and had a good gossipy catch-up. We had the first pumpkin cream soup of the season, home-made and delicious (especially, as it was dark, wet and cold outside). My friend had acquired two Canary birds, a blue one (male) and a yellow one (female). They were very cute and flew free in her house. Mostly they perched on bird-sized swings in the window – apparently, they enjoy swinging a lot.

One of my friends is already retired and the other one will retire at the end of the year (they’ll be doing a bit of part-time work still, but mostly retired). Both are older than me. I still have a lot of time till I can retire (unless I win in the lottery). Work has been somewhat quiet as lots of people are on vacation, but also a bit of a pain as I keep having to do this or that for the colleagues on vacation. This year there’s a lot going on, so it’s not possible to just wait until the colleagues return. Still, my colleagues will reciprocate when it’s time for my vacation in early October.

I didn’t have that much time for reading, due to all that driving around and visiting people on the weekends, but I did manage to finish a couple Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes novels. I’m also reading the next Louise Erdrich novel (Tracks) and continuing with The Tale of Genji. I managed to leave my tablet and thus my Kindle reader at home, so I’m unable to continue with my ebooks (but it doesn’t matter, because I need to catch up on my Genji project).

That’s what the second half of August was like for me.

Keep safe, world.

Tuesday Tidbits

It being vacation time, yesterday I was asked to do something that’s usually done by a colleague who’s on holiday. It wasn’t a big deal, I just had to start a background job in our main content management system and this morning I had to finish up with some manual adaptions. I tried doing these settings but when I was done, the system didn’t let me save them. It kept giving me an error message with an object ID that I couldn’t find when I searched for it. Being an optimist (or an idiot) I tried a few times but the behaviour never changed. I tried some other fixes which didn’t work either. Then I called the only other colleague not on vacation and we looked at it together and couldn’t find anything wrong. Then I chatted with a support colleague who told me that it was a bug that only a support super user could solve. They fixed it for me, but I had wasted a couple of hours. A very annoying start to the day.

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Yesterday I received the book for my book club in the post, just in time for me to read it. A thriller, which I feared would be a terrible but quick read. Sadly, I was right about it being awful: The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena. I spent a good deal of last night reading it and finished it off on my lunch break. The plot was convoluted and unlikely, the characters were flat and horrible people. There were convenient revelations and the ending was an  unnecessary dramatic gore-fest. The writing was plain and simple, mostly in present tense and with short sentences, probably to create a sense of urgency (which it succeeded in doing). The novel consists of dialogue and the characters’ thoughts and we jump from one point-of-view to the other. Nobody trusts anyone else and they all have things to hide. There weren’t any descriptions or background explanations. The narrative was like a shallow but fast rushing river. It’s probably not easy to write that way and to keep track of the plot twists, but I just didn’t like it. The paperback’s headed for the recycling bin as soon as my book club meeting is done.

Spoilers ahead – don’t continue reading if you want to read the thriller. It begins with Marco and Anna, having dinner with Cynthia and Graham, their neighbours in the terraced house next door. Marco and Anna’s baby girl, Cora, six-month-old, is sleeping at home. Marco and Anna have brought a baby phone with them and check on her every thirty minutes. When they return home at 12:30 p.m. the baby is gone. They call the police, who suspect Marco and Anna of having killed the baby. We learn that Anna has postpartum depression and has had violent episodes in her past. We learn that Marco has money worries and that he hates his father-in-law. Eventually, when the reader is just starting to believe that Marco and Anna are probably innocent after all, Marco, out of the blue, reveals (just to the reader) that he’s the one who arranged for the kidnapping of his daughter. His accomplice was supposed to share the ransom with him (and, of course, keep Cora safe), but he ends up dead and Cora disappears. In the meantime, Anna convinces herself that she had a mental breakdown during which she killed Cora and Marco is just covering for her. By and by, it turns out the father-in-law, Richard, manipulated (how is that even possible?) Marco into coming up with the kidnapping plan via his accomplice, who’s a crony of Richard’s. Richard uses the kidnapping to steal the ransom money from his rich wife, whom he is planning to leave. She owns all their money and he wouldn’t get any in case of a divorce because of their prenuptial contract. He wants to leave her because he’s having an affair with Anna’s and Marco’s nasty neighbour Cynthia. Cynthia, by the way, has filmed Marco kidnapping the baby and tries to blackmail him. We find out that Richard set Marco up to take the blame for the kidnapping, but Marco saves himself by giving evidence against Richard, who not only instigated the kidnapping but also killed his crony. He does return Cora to Anna, so we almost get a happy end, except that Anna unnecessarily confronts Cynthia and it gets gory on the last few pages.

The plot is based on the characters being stupid and/or terrible people:

  • Marco: using his own child to extort money from his in-laws and handing her over to some guy he hardly knows.
  • Annie: keeping secret her weird blackouts and slapping her baby instead of asking for help. Totally unnecessarily confronting her nasty neighbour at the end.
  • Cynthia: a creep and Graham: a pervert.
  • Richard: a sociopathic money-grabbing control freak, thinks he’s clever.
  • Alice (Richard’s wife, Annie’s mother): keeping Annie’s mental health issues secret and putting up with Richard all those years – she could have divorced him ages ago.
  • Failure to communicate: the whole thing would have been unnecessary if Marco had told Annie about his cash-flow problem. If Annie had asked for help, her mother would have supported them.

Is it possible to avoid being prosecuted for kidnapping your own daughter just because you give evidence against the person who apparently manipulated you into the plan? Seems unlikely. Also, how can you be manipulated into such an unethical deed? Ugh!

At least it was a quick read. In general, I prefer crime novels with less thrill and more likeable characters (with at least some character development and less stupidity and/or nastiness), a more believable plot and less choppy writing. Previously in the book club we’ve read Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins and The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware, both of which I also hated (especially Cabin 10 – that woman was so stupid…). Luckily, some of my fellow book-clubbers also didn’t like them and we had fun complaining about the idiocy and hatefulness of the characters… the club meetings are always amusing, even when the book selections are suboptimal. I’m looking forward to the meeting, we’ll have fun slagging the characters.

Still, it’s about time we read a good book for once (like Chronicle of a Corpse Bearer).

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

My identity card and my passport both expired sometime in March. Since then, I’ve been procrastinating on applying for new ones. One, because I had to get a copy of my birth certificate and two, because I had to call the municipal council for an appointment. I hate anything to do with bureaucracy. The first problem wasn’t one at all, because Mum has all that kind of paperwork collected in our family registry (which I’ve been carting around in my notebook backpack for the last three months) and the second one wasn’t a problem either, because it turned out an appointment wasn’t needed (only during Corona lockdown). You could just turn up during office hours. Since we are planning on a short vacation in Italy in October, it was high time to apply for a new identity card, otherwise I’d have been too late. Takes about 4 weeks for the new one to arrive. So, I combined my Friday grocery shopping with getting a new ugly biometric passport photo taken (those photos make one look like a criminal) and a quick trip to the council office. Then it turned out that since August 1 they have to scan your fingerprints to add as biometric data to your new identity card. First, they try to scan your index fingers (didn’t work with mine). Then the thumbs (didn’t work either). At last, they managed to get the prints off my middle fingers. As I never wear gloves when I do anything, the tips of my fingers are worn almost smooth and it’s hard to take prints (at least that’s my theory – maybe it’s due to dry skin or whatever). I had this horrible experience once on a business trip to the U.S. where they couldn’t get my fingerprints to scan. They took me to some back-office at immigration and gave me the evil eye until they at last managed it. It was super nerve-wracking, because I felt like a criminal and I feared they’d send me straight back (well, better that locking me up, I suppose). It’s not very nice being fingerprinted at immigration in the first place but being taken out of line to the back office was worse.

Anyway, at long last I’ve now applied for my new identity card (I didn’t get a new passport as well, as I don’t need it for travel inside the European Union and am not currently planning any other travel where I would need one). Now I only have to wait until it’s ready to be picked up.

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Otherwise the weekend was much as usual. I had a lot of plans for cleaning the house, but then, as usual, gave up on everything except for what couldn’t be avoided. Spent a lot of time reading and watching films and series with Partner instead. Or cooking. After all, I bet I’m never going to regret all the cleaning I didn’t do when I look back on my life (this is an excellent reason for not doing stuff one thinks one has to do but can get away with not doing).

Partner made a delicious vegan tiramisu (with silken tofu) which we had with coffee on two afternoons. I cooked a vegetable curry with rice on Friday and together we made a potato salad with soy yoghurt, which turned out very well and was enough for both Saturday and Sunday, so we didn’t need to do any cooking at all on Sunday. Always a win. We had fried tofu with it for one meal and fried tempeh for the other. We also used up the ingredients for Moscow Mules on two nights – leftover from when my cousins visited us the a few weeks ago, drunk out of the copper mugs they gave Partner.

We watched the last few episodes of Bad Batch on Disney+ as well as the last ones of The Mysterious Benedict Society. Both are fun and I’m hoping for new seasons. We also watched the film Fisherman’s Friends which is based on a true story about a group of singing fishermen who became famous. A nice feel-good film – also, it’s set in the small seaside town where the series Doc Martin is also set (it’s about a grumpy doctor who used to be a famous surgeon until he developed an aversion to blood). Partner and I love Doc Martin and enjoyed seeing Port Isaac in the film.

We went on nice long walks with Curious Dog early in the morning. It was quite hot on the weekend, so we got up as early as during the week, to avoid the heat. Once we walked through the woods, the other times just the usual long walk though the fields, checking on the storks’ nest. It was pleasant. The rest of each day was spent indoors until the sun disappeared behind the hill in the evening. I did a bit of gardening on Sunday evening (if you can call pulling weeds out between the paving stones of our driveway “gardening”). It was too hot to be outside otherwise (but then, we are wimps when it comes to heat).

The rest of the weekend I spent reading. I discovered that Joan Aiken, whose children’s series The Wolves Chronicles I adore, had written a lot of adult novels and mysteries as well. I’d read one or two previously but didn’t know that she’d written such a lot. So, I downloaded four of her novels (one after the other) and read them all on the weekend. I’ll write reviews about them. They were very good (almost everything by Joan Aiken is great). She wrote a lot of sequels to Jane Austen books. I read one of those and three others: Eliza’s Daughter, Castle Barebane, The Silence of Herondale, Foul Matter. I would only have read three, because I meant to have read my next book-club book but found that it wasn’t available on Kindle. I had to order that book as a paperback and will have to finish it quickly as soon as it arrives (hopefully today) as my next club meeting is this week on Thursday. It seems to be a dreadful but quick to read thriller (quite often the book club selection is not what I would read voluntarily). Bad planning on my part. I also continued reading the biography of Gavin Maxwell with which I didn’t get far due to the overabundance of Joan Aiken.

Keep safe, world.

Project Hail Mary

Having read a glowing review of Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary, and having liked the film The Martian, which is based on another Weir novel, I was curious and looked at the preview on Amazon last Friday. That preview was enough to seduce me to download the Kindle version and spend the rest of the day and a good bit of the night in gobbling up the book. What was so thrilling? Well, for one thing, the main character, one Ryland Grace, is stranded in space with no memory of how he got there. We get the story how he copes with his current situation interspersed with his returning memories, as flash backs.

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The gradual revelation of the background kept me glued to my Kindle screen, but the unfolding events in Ryland’s present did the same – there are no slow parts to the novel, everything is fast-paced and plot-driven. I’m sure that this novel, like The Martian, would make an excellent sci-fi film. I don’t want to go into details, as that would spoil the novel if you haven’t read it yet. But now that I’ve read it, I’m also sure that I will revisit it whenever I feel like a reading a very engaging novel, anticipating my favourite moments in the story.

Although the novel is plot-driven and there isn’t really much character development, there are some very emotional scenes, which brought tears into my eyes, so it’s not only mechanical plot progression without feelings. At first, Ryland seem a little emotionally cold, but that’s due to his amnesiac state.

I really enjoyed the novel, despite the use of some plot devices I normally don’t care for but which, surprisingly in this case, didn’t reduce my enjoyment. I’m going to put those quibbles under the cut, because they are a bit spoilery. Don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoilered.

Read More »

Tuesday Tidbits

Already my work week is almost done. Time flies. I had my second Corona vaccination today, the BionTech one. As with the first one, I got it at my company, so I commuted in the morning and returned home in the early afternoon. There wasn’t much traffic, but I can still do without the commute. The office was still pretty empty, as it is vacation time coupled with the fact that most people are still doing home office. I brought my tea and lunch sandwiches from home and didn’t see anybody, except for some unknown colleagues when I was getting my vaccination (which was very fast and very well organized, like last time).

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As I was driving to work, I heard on the radio that there had been a tragic accident on one of the motorways involving a driver who had, presumably by mistake, entered the motorway in the wrong direction. On Sunday, on our trip back from Bavaria, we had to pass a large and confusing construction area at an Autobahn junction. I’m used to it, because I’ve driven through that construction site a few times already, but the signposts are not very clear and a couple of times I thought that I missed an exit or took a wrong one by mistake. It wasn’t actually the case, it always worked out fine, but it’s definitively confusing. Well, on Sunday, I saw a car standing at a closed exit facing the wrong way and looking as if they were going to drive onto the motorway on the wrong lane, in the wrong direction. There was a lot of traffic and I could hardly believe that someone would do it. I considered calling the police, but there wasn’t anywhere to stop, and Mum can’t deal with smartphones, so I left it for someone else to call. A few minutes later, I actually heard a warning message on the radio about a driver on the wrong lane at just that junction. Must have been that same person. Fortunately, in that case no accident happened. In German, these drivers are colloquially called Geisterfahrer, that is “ghost drivers” – meaning that these people are basically courting death, their own and others, because obviously it is extremely dangerous to drive onto the motorway in the wrong direction. I’ve never seen it before, and I can’t understand how anyone can do that in the case we had on Sunday. If hundreds of cars are coming head-on at you in the lanes you are trying to enter, doesn’t that indicate that you should turn around or at least stop? That something must be wrong? Or is it such a stressful situation that your brain just shuts down? Very strange. Although, as I said, partly it must have happened because the construction signage and everything else at that junction is currently so confusing.

We returned late on Sunday instead of early as usual because I was trying to avoid a lot of traffic jams. Some of the northern German states had the last day of their summer school holidays and lots of vacationers were on the way back traveling in the same direction as we did. My tactic paid off – there was a lot of traffic but only a couple of short traffic jams.

The weekend in Bavaria was rather nice. The weather was changeable, but I managed to mow the lawn and get rid of the gardening rubbish at the collection point. I did the usual amount of grocery shopping and cleaning (that is, not very much). Walks with Curious Dog were also, as always, on the agenda. The rest of the weekend was spent reading – inspired by Naemi of A Book Owl’s Corner, I looked up Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary on Amazon and was hooked. I downloaded it on Friday afternoon (even though I had meant to finish my unread books bought this year before getting more new ones) and finished reading it late that night (stayed up very late). It really drew me in. I’ll write a more detailed review soon (it was very engrossing, but in places it did require a lot of suspension of disbelief). On Saturday, I got back on track with my reading, with A Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell, which I had downloaded in March. It’s about Maxwell’s life with otters, very interesting – I have mixed thoughts about the book, which I will also devote a separate post to (keeping wild animals as pets, generally not a good idea). When I finished that one, I started a biography on Maxwell (which I’d also got in March, because Maxwell was such fascinating person). I’ve just started it. I didn’t get any further with Aristotle’s Metaphysics as I wanted something lighter to read on the weekend. I’ll get back to it.

Along with everybody else, I found out last week that Amazon Prime’s series about the Second Age of Middle-Earth is planned to start next year on September 2. I am so looking forward to it!! I love The Silmarillion. It’s still ages till the series’ start, more than a year – I’m definitively planning to reread The Silmarillion beforehand, so that I will be up to speed on the background. So much fun to be looking forward to another filmed version of Tolkien’s world. Reminiscent of waiting for the three installments of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Keep safe, world.

Irrelevant Musings

This morning I was just about to congratulate myself that for once an important task at work had run smoothly (in contrast to the last couple of times) when someone noticed a glaring horrible issue which required an emergency call with tool support and half the morning to set up a workaround and trigger a correction. Then I had to wait until the correction was done, with took until the afternoon, and then I had to redo things (that last step was quick). It completely derailed my day. Luckily, I was productive yesterday and so didn’t have any other urgent tasks on my plate. Most of the stuff I planned to do today, I quietly moved to next week. Currently nothing ever seems to run without a hitch, but I guess that safeguards my job. At least today is my last day of work for the week, so someone else will have to deal if anything goes wrong tomorrow. Poor colleagues!

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On another matter: I’ve always been interested in ancient Greek and Roman history. I studied Ancient History (with a focus on the early Roman Empire) as a secondary subject at university, but I never got into literature or philosophy which I’ve always regretted. So I decided that I would start reading some of these books (in translation: my Latin is very rudimentary and Greek non-existent). I did some research using the reading lists of various colleges for Classics undergraduate students and for some reason I can’t remember I decided to begin with Aristotle’s Metaphysics. I downloaded the Kindle version of a Penguin Classics edition. It’s now one of the books I bought this year and haven’t read yet and as I don’t want to end up with any unread books bought in 2021, I’ve begun to read it. I’m still on the Introduction and was rather fascinated by a bit of information about one of the earliest philosophers, Parmenides, who invented something called Monism, which maintains that the world is made up of only one thing that includes the whole of being. He came to this strange conclusion by arguing that anything that is can’t at the same time not be.

I say: I am a woman. I say: I am not a man. Therefore, I both am and am not, which is not possible according to Parmenides. As the book is not about Monism, it’s not explained how Parmenides got from two statements like those to his theory. It’s a strange idea, but it made me think.

I say: I am a woman. I say: I am not-a-man. If the “not” modifies the noun (man) instead of the verb (am), the two statement now no longer imply that I don’t exist. I am both a woman and not-a-man, no non-being involved. What does that say about Parmenides’ argument? One can get around it by playing with language? I don’t know, but in a totally irrelevant (and perhaps ignorant) way it was fun to think about.

So, I’m enjoying the book (so far), but I guess I will take ages to get through it if I keep having weird thoughts and feeling the need to write about them. Is that the point of philosophy, engaging in thought? Anyway, who knows, maybe at some microscopic subatomic level everything is really made up of the same stuff. People (other than myself) are still concerned with questions brought up ages ago. That’s awesome.

It was again wet and foggy this morning, as it rained during the night. Curious Dog and I nevertheless had a good time on our walk. We just missed meeting his best enemy, a Jack Russell terrier. The two of them hate each other and always engage in a lot of barking and growling and pulling on the leash so I was glad we only saw the other dog in the distance.

The weather improved during the day. It even became sunny. Some rain is forecast for the night but I’m hoping that it will be dry enough to mow the lawn tomorrow. The municipal collection point for gardening rubbish (and other recycling stuff) has opened again (it was shut last time due to contamination by illegally dumped waste oil) allowing me to get rid of all the rubbish that Mum has collected last time and during this week. I also have to go shopping and do some cleaning and we need to tidy up our grave plot – all the rain this summer has caused the Vinca groundcovering plant to explode. It’s encroaching on the other graves, so we have to cut it back a bit. It’s also half strangled the Lavender plant we put in to keep off the ants that keep trying to colonize our plot even though they’ve got the entire wood next to the graveyard to play in. Lots of things to do, but I’m feeling quite energized about it – probably because I managed to do Yoga again today.

Keep safe, world.

Daily Rituals

On a mission to read all the books that I bought this year and haven’t read yet, I started with Daily Rituals: Women at Work by Mason Curry. It’s about the working habits of 143 painters, authors, actors, designers, composers and other artists. I got it back in March and I think it was probably suggested to me by Amazon’s algorithm. As I’m interested in how creative people (or anyone really) organize their work and their lives I thought I might as well read it. It was cheap, and it started off with Octavia Butler, one of my favourite authors. So I bought it and then never got round to reading it.

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Well, when I initially started reading, I was irritated, because the profiles of each artist are very short and at first sight appear superficial. But then I got into it and found it interesting and congenial. Naturally, a book about 143 artists can’t go into depth (what was I thinking?), but it does what it set out to do: it gives the reader an insight into the working habits of these women. I read about a lot of creative women I’d never heard of and found their different work habits kind of inspiring for my own life. Some of these habits wouldn’t suit me at all and I’m not half as intense and driven as most of these women, but I can relate. The reports got me thinking about my own talents and how I want to continue to develop them.

What is my greatest talent? I’d say reading. It’s the one thing that I’ve been passionate about all my life. Is reading even a talent? It’s definitively a skill and one can get better at it through practice and challenging oneself. I like reading for pleasure and for a very long time during my working life that’s all I did. This side of my reading doesn’t need improvement (what would that even mean?). I certainly won’t stop reading books for pleasure but I also like reading to learn things and to participate in world culture – in my case with a focus on the humanities, on literature and history, biography and memoir and whatever else strikes my fancy. Sometimes I also read about scientific topics, rather seldom though. I’d like to not only read but get better at thinking critically about the things I read and retaining them. I started the blog to keep a record of the books I read and it also evolved into a kind of journal. The blog is a creative outlet and I’d like to improve my writing skills, too. I’m happy that I’ve managed to keep this blog going for almost two years and I hope to continue with it for a long time. This means, of course, making time for both reading and writing.

Making time for reading doesn’t seem to be terribly difficult for me, but there are some pitfalls. I read at least every morning and each evening in bed, before getting up or going to sleep. But reading at night in bed isn’t great for complicated topics, I’m too tired to concentrate. After work I usually do my blogging (although I usually start during my lunch break) and then from around 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 I hang out with Partner, which I don’t want to change that – my relationship with Partner is important. Also, Curious Dog needs to be walked and played with (also not negotiable). So most of my serious reading time is on the weekend and I’m not particularly well organized. Luckily, I have long weekends, because I don’t work on Fridays. But I still have to do everyday life stuff like cleaning the house, gardening, washing clothes, cooking… whatever. Also, I like just hanging around in a leisurely way on weekends, so I certainly don’t want to organize my weekends to the last minute or hour (sounds gruesome) – I am definitively not as passionate as some of those artists in Daily Rituals. Some of them wouldn’t bat an eye about sacrificing their weekends to their calling. Others got a lot done during short amounts of time.

Making time for writing, well, that could definitively be improved. Somehow, I only seem to manage it on workdays. On weekends and on vacation, other things seem to gobble up all my time. I’ll have to see if I can get myself to do at least some writing during my leisure time.

As you see, I found the book very thought-provoking. It also introduced me to many creative women I hadn’t heard off and reminded me about others. When I’m looking for a new biography or memoir to read, this book will be useful guide to find people with interesting lives.

Some quotes that I liked:

“It’s really all about establishing a flexible routine,” Zittel said in 2017. “Having a pattern helps ensure that you fit everything into a limited amount of time, but too much of a pattern and you get stuck.”

Andrea Zittel (an American artist) in Mason Curry, Daily Rituals: Women at Work, 2019, p. 121.

“I enjoy people best if I can be alone much of the time,” Butler said in 1998. “I used to worry about it because my family worried about it. And I finally realized: This is the way I am. That’s that. We all have some weirdness, and this is mine.”

Octavia Butler (sci-fi author), in Mason Curry, Daily Rituals: Women at Work, 2019, p. 4.

“The only thing that I do every day is I read something,” Giovanni said. “Even if it’s just the comics pages, I read something. And I say that to my students: I think it’s way more important to read something than it is to write.”

Nikki Giovanni (a poet), Mason Curry, Daily Rituals: Women at Work, 2019, p. 180.

I also found Jean Rhys, author of Wide Sargasso Sea (which I haven’t read yet) intriguing. She had a difficult life and a difficult time writing, as I gather from her profile. Near the end of her life she wrote: “Isn’t the sadness of being alone much stressed and the compensations left out?” (Daily Rituals: Women at Work, p. 323).

Curry has written another Daily Rituals book focused on famous men with a smattering of women. I guess it would also be interesting, maybe I’ll check it out sometime.

Keep safe, world.

Tuesday Tidbits

Poor Curious Dog had to be content with just one walk yesterday, in the morning (the morning walk is the longest) and a bit of playing in the garden in the evening instead of another walk. After working until 5 p.m., I had to go grocery shopping. As we’d arrived on Sunday when the shops in Germany are usually all closed, we didn’t have any fresh food in the house. I don’t like grocery shopping on Mondays, because the produce section in the supermarket is usually still depleted from the preceding Saturday which a lot of people use for their weekly shopping trip. By the time I got back home, it was 6 p.m. I called Partner so we could check up on each other and then we had dinner and after dinner I was too tired for a walk. So, I just threw CD’s ball for him to chase a few times and I guess he was happy (at least he didn’t keep nudging me to take him for his walk).

We had a nice walk this morning, and a short walk in the late afternoon. The weather was very changeable, foggy and cool at 10°C in the morning, sunny later on, then some showers, then sunny again… Autumn-like in the morning, April-like the rest of the day.

It’s holiday time and colleagues are on vacation – the time of strange out-of-office replies. Yesterday I sent a mail to a few colleagues as a reminder that they needed to publish some documents later this week and promptly got an out-of-office reply from one of them. It just said “I’m on vacation, please expect a delay in my reply”. What a useless message: it didn’t say when they would be back or who would take over their tasks in their absence. I had to check their online calendar which told me that they wouldn’t be back in time and then I had to find out in the content management system who else was assigned to the document so that I could to delegate the publication task to someone else. Luckily that person was available. Once, a few years ago, someone wrote in their out-of-office reply that they were on vacation until such and such a time and that if the emails sent to them during their absence were still relevant on their return, the senders should resend them. Obviously, they planned to delete all the unread mails in their inbox once they were back in the office. This caused a bit of a scandal and we had a session in our team meeting on how to correctly maintain out-of-office replies (although that odd message wasn’t written by anyone in my direct team). Secretly, we probably all felt that it would be great to delete one’s unread emails after one’s vacation. Depending on the length of the vacation, there are usually hundreds to plow through (and quite a few of them are no longer relevant). The joys of office work!

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As for my restarted Yoga practice: I didn’t do any Yoga on the weekend, as I didn’t have time since we had visitors. On Sunday, I would’ve had time after we arrived in Bavaria, but I didn’t think of it. Monday was really tiring, and I didn’t have a suitable time (you can’t do Yoga after dinner on a full stomach, which was the only time I would’ve had). So today was the first time since Thursday. It went reasonably well. I think I remembered all the poses – after having lugged my Yoga instruction book to Bavaria every time for years, now that I’ve actually started doing it again, I promptly forgot to bring it. I’m still pretty stiff (no wonder, since I’ve only been doing the poses a few times so far), but I feel energized afterwards.

I had a very productive workday today. Only one meeting so lots of time to review those documents that have to be done this week. Only one more to go tomorrow and some fixes and follow-ups. Not a lot of meetings tomorrow either, so I might be able to get that last one crossed off, too. Then Thursday for a few left-over odds and ends and I’ll be finished a whole week before the deadline. It won’t matter if my second Corona vaccination takes me out of commission for a couple of days next week (which I sincerely hope it won’t). Partner is feeling tired but otherwise fine after his vaccination yesterday.

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

Last Thursday I took the afternoon off work for a lot of house-cleaning in preparation for my two cousins who came for a visit from Friday to Sunday morning. Good thing that I’d already cleaned the bookshelves in the guestroom (which is otherwise Partner’s office and Curious Dog’s bedroom), because otherwise I’d never have made it. Partner vacuumed and I cleaned (not only the guestroom, but also the normal weekend cleaning, all condensed into one afternoon). Hard work, but we were cheerful because we were looking forward to Cousin 1’s and 2’s visit. They are both in the process of finishing their studies – and once they start working, who knows how often they will be able to visit. Cousin 1 is waiting for her exam and thesis results. She’s going to be a teacher for special needs children and Cousin 2 will be a primary school teacher – she still has to write her thesis and is planning to be finished with everything early next year. But she’s also already going to start work when the new school year starts. They are both very goal orientated. None of that endless studying that I did for my master’s years ago. The German university system has changed a lot since I did my degree. I guess it’s no longer possible to dawdle quite as long as I did. But never, ever would I have managed to write my thesis and work 12 hours a week as a teacher at the same time. I always had odd jobs, but they were mindless ones.

2021_08_01Friday morning, before the cousins arrived, I went grocery shopping. I went to the shopping mall in one of the towns on my commute because I had to get a quick check of my car’s tires nearby. When I parked in the mall’s park house, I forgot to display the time I had arrived with my parking disc and when I returned, after about an hour (I didn’t exceed the free parking limit), I found I’d got a parking ticket for €25. Would you believe it!? I was super annoyed. I made a mistake, so I got ticket, fine – but €25 is just daylight robbery. €10 would have been appropriate, €15 a bit much, but €25? Absolutely ridiculous. I decided there and then never to shop there again.

The rest of the weekend was much nicer. We did a lot of cooking, we walked with Curious Dog, we played games, we watched films. We caught up with the cousin’s news. We were also invited to their grandfather’s (my uncle’s) birthday in three weeks. Just a small party with a few family members. I hope we can make it. We need to find a holiday apartment where we can take Curious Dog along.

The cousins were keen on disaster films. We watched The Wave, a Norwegian film about a tsunami in one of the Norwegian fjords – it was pretty good. Fairly realistic, not over the top. And we watched Greenland, a film from 2020 about comet fragments striking the earth to create an extinction event. The main plot was a family seeking a place in an underground bunker on Greenland. Very thrilling, very last-minute-escape. We borrowed both films from Amazon Prime. It’s weird that we like watching these types of film when we would not be among the people selected to survive in a bunker. None of us has a job that would make us important for rebuilding civilization. In 2018 I read the Last Policeman trilogy by Ben H. Winters about a policeman who went around still solving crimes while society went to hell waiting for a meteor impact (or something like that). That was all about people who weren’t selected for survival (not sure if anyone was). I don’t remember many details (and I didn’t keep a blog record at the time), but I remember that I liked the series (though it was probably a bit depressing at the end).

We made home-made pizza on Friday and a vegan goulash soup on Saturday. Friday was still fairly hot, but Saturday was quite overcast and cool, so a nice spicy soup suited us very well (and we didn’t want to spend excessive time in the kitchen and soups are not much work). We also had a few cocktails (well, one with each film on Friday and Saturday nights respectively). The cousins brought a cake and the ingredients for Moscow Mules, a cocktail with Vodka, ginger ale, and limes. Drunk from beaten copper mugs – which the cousins got Partner for his birthday, which we celebrated on the weekend. I gave him a nice t-shirt, a game, a book and a film (a few little things as I couldn’t think of anything really special). We had a good time and Partner was pleased.

Sunday, we had a leisurely breakfast and took Curious Dog on a long walk. Afterwards, the cousins packed up and drove back home. Partner, Mum and I also packed up and drove off. Partner needed to be at his place for his second Corona vaccination and so Mum and I headed off to Bavaria, one week earlier than usual. But next week I have to get my second vaccination at my place, so that worked out quite well. It rained a lot on the weekend at our place in Bavaria, but it had let off by the time we arrived. Now it is cool and changeable, only around 20°C all week with rain forecast every now and then. Not useful for working in the garden, but much better than the heat wave in the southern parts of Europe, in Greece and Italy and in Turkey, with lots of forest fires.

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Work today was typical for Mondays: lots of meetings which tired me out. Fortunately, there are not so many meetings tomorrow so that I should be able to make headway with my document reviews. I need to get two done this week, as there’s a preliminary deadline next week which may be problematic if my second vaccination ends up making me ill for a couple of days. So best to get everything done this week. Hope we don’t have any annoying hang-ups with tool or databases.

Keep safe, world.