Monday Miscellanea

Back in Bavaria, one week earlier than planned. Mum, Curious Dog, and I drove here last week on Thursday afternoon. I took the afternoon off and worked on Friday morning instead. On our normal schedule, we would have driven a week later, this Thursday, but Partner had an unplanned appointment at his place, and it didn’t make sense for him to drive there and back again, so we just changed our plans.

We had a good trip without any traffic jams, detours, or other obstacles.

We’ve been having very grey autumn weather. Lots of cloud cover or fog, no sunshine, but also no rain. Today was the first time in a week or longer that it did rain. It was only a soft rain so that Curious Dog and I got slightly wet but not drenched on our Morning walk. Curious Dog is quite recovered from his infection and we didn’t need another trip to the vet. I’m very relieved about it. The grey weather, while fine for walks (especially when it’s dry) is no hindrance for our daily morning and afternoon walks, but otherwise it makes me sleepy. I’m either sleepy or hungry – I could spend all day chomping on something.

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Work is currently a little less stressful, with only a couple of deadlines looming at the beginning of December. Last week we had another couple of days when the software tools we use to manage our documents was again slow and buggy, but as there are no urgent deadlines it was inconvenient but not as serious as when we can’t finalize our documents just before a deadline. There’s hope that the situation will improve next years as some of the problematic processes that cause the instability of the software are planned to be changed. Of course, during the transition period to the new processes it’s very likely that things won’t run smoothly, but hopefully afterwards, once the dust has settled, everything will run smoothly and we won’t be stressed out all the time, trying to salvage the situation. But it will take time to implement the changes and test them. It will be months yet before we can expect real improvements. We can look forward to an interesting year in 2022. But before I start thinking about work next year, I will take a nice long vacation for at least three weeks (as I usually do). Can’t wait, but there’s still four weeks to go.
Mum is currently baking our first Christmas cake, a Stollen, which is a German fruit loaf traditionally eaten during the Advent time or at Christmas. Next Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. We will be returning to my place; Partner will be back as well, and we’ll celebrate with the cake (which will taste better for having had some days to develop its full aroma). Maybe Mum and I will even bake some Christmas cookies this week.

I still have to come up with some good ideas for Christmas presents.

Last Saturday, Mum and I spontaneously headed into the Corona vaccination centre at the county town. Mum got both her vaccinations there in February and March and we hoped to get her booster. I’d tried to get an appointment, but the earliest available one was on the first of December, when we will be back at my place (I considered staying here longer but didn’t really want to). I was quite surprised to get an offer for such an early appointment though because what with the escalating Corona situation in Germany, demand for vaccinations is rising even among some of the non-vaccinated people. I’ve heard that appointments in some places are all booked out until January or February. So, considering that the vaccination centre was offering vaccinations without prior appointments on Saturday, we decided to gamble and try if we could get a slot for Mum. And we did! There was a middling long queue but after about 1.5 hours Mum had her booster. Since I was only vaccinated in August, I am not yet eligible for one and so I didn’t get it. However, my company is again offering vaccinations starting soon and I hope to get my third vaccination in January or February. Just leaves Partner, but he’s not yet eligible either. Hopefully he’ll manage to get one somewhere too.

Despite vaccinations the Corona incidence among 100 000 persons is higher than it ever was, with the majority of cases among those not vaccinated. Considering that millions have been vaccinated with hardly any ill effects, it’s strange that people are still so suspicious of the vaccinations that they are willing to risk death rather than getting vaccinated themselves. Public life is being restricted again. In the worst-hit German states (such as Bavaria), Christmas markets have been cancelled again, for the second time in two years, and strict rules about what one may do or not are being introduced to get the situation under control. About time too. The government has fumbled the ball quite badly this autumn. At least they came up with an incentive to get the non-vaccinated to reconsider: if they end up infected or need to go into quarantine, they won’t receive any pay during that time. That, I hope, will galvanize a few of the non-vaccinated. I wonder if a general obligation to get vaccinated (except if one has a condition that makes vaccination impossible) will be legislated like in Austria. Politicians deny that it will happen in Germany, but if things get really bad… you never know. I think it would be only fair. People need to do their part so that everyone can live a normal life again. Everything is just such a mess, currently. I feel really sorry (and worried) for all the young people and children who haven’t had a chance to get vaccinated yet and for the medical personnel that has to deal with this catastrophic situation. All because people wouldn’t get vaccinated, and politicians were too busy campaigning or forming the new coalition! It’s a debacle all around.

Keep safe, world.

Rainy Day

It’s been a very wet day at my place in Bavaria. It rained in the morning when Curious Dog and I did our morning walk in the woods. It rained on our afternoon walk. I had to dry CD twice today (his towels got quite muddy). He doesn’t get very wet from on top, as the rain tends to just slide off his fur, but his legs and belly do get very wet because when he walks, his paws kind of fling water up from the wet ground. It’s quite strange, really. I enjoyed our walks despite the rain, as it was a soft kind of rain without wind to blow it into our faces. The woods are still colourful and autumnal as the leaves haven’t all fallen yet.

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My work week is done again (as I don’t work on Fridays), and so is our week in Bavaria (almost). It was a short one, because we only arrived last Sunday and will leave again this Sunday. Usually, Mum and I arrive on Thursday, so that we spend 10 days here, but this time Thursday didn’t work out. I quite enjoyed the drive, as there wasn’t much traffic last Sunday. When travelling on Thursdays, we often get stuck behind trucks on the country roads once we’ve existed the Autobahn. When we return on Sunday, I’ll be trying an alternate route to bypass a motorway junction that’s currently a huge construction site. Last time we returned to Baden-Württemberg, we were stuck in a 45-minute traffic jam because of that construction.

Tomorrow I wanted to take Mum on a shopping trip to one of the towns in our vicinity, but we’ve scrapped that idea, because the Corona numbers are rising again, and Mum hasn’t had a booster shot yet. She was already fully vaccinated in March (or April?) and that’s been six months. I’ll try to organize another vaccination next week.

Today I had a meeting with my manager and asked him if I could soon get rid of one of the projects that I volunteered for earlier this year. The first part of the project has ended and I think I’m not really needed anymore and anyway, I found that I have quite enough to do with my other tasks. And it wasn’t much fun. Happily, he thought that it was probably feasible that I could drop it at the end of the year. I hope that this will actually be the case, as it would be a real relief.

Otherwise, I spent quite some time today updating a document that was published three weeks ago because some colleagues had forgotten that their topic needed to be covered. It meant changing a few chapters as well as some graphics and I was slightly annoyed about it. But it always happens. You publish something (only online, fortunately) and a few days later someone sends an email “Can we add this and that to the latest document?” and I reply somewhat sarcastically “That latest document that was published three weeks ago?” and they say “Oops… yes, that document.” Next week I will publish that document again, with a note at the beginning listing the changes.

Partner and I have been to a cinema twice this autumn. Once before our vacation to see Dune, and once last Saturday to see the latest James Bond, No Time to Die. With masks and both of us vaccinated. That may have been the last outing until the Corona numbers drop again. I liked Dune but felt that it stopped when things were becoming really interesting (no wonder, since it’s only the first part). As far as I remember the film was fairly true to the novel. I read Dune while I was in college – borrowed the book from the college library and I can remember quite a bit of it (rather strange, since I’m usually not good at remembering details after such a long time). I didn’t even like it all that much. It was too esoteric, I thought, especially the sequels (of which I didn’t read all). I think I’m going to have another go at them as I believe I may like them better this time round. But I’m not starting before next year, because I still have a lot of books to read to achieve the goals that I set for myself this year. As for James Bond: I’ a great fan of the Daniel Craig films, but the ending of this last one was not at all Bond-like. It annoyed the hell out of Partner and me. No details, because I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

Keep safe, world.

Last Workday

For a change, it was a pleasant sunshiny day. In the morning a light fog, harbinger of worse fogs to come in November. Cool enough to wear an old (very old) fleece jacket on my morning walk with Curious Dog. The path up into the woods was still muddy, the leaves dripping from the fog condensing on their leaves. Spiderwebs outlined with tiny droplets of water. A lovely morning for a walk and the best part of the day (except for the evening walk).

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Luckily, it’s the last day of my work week – I’m quite fed up. I spent half the morning hunting down an error using Excel comparisons which wouldn’t work because the downloaded data contained invisible tab spaces at the end of the strings. A new bug in the download. I think I’m specially fed up with work because I haven’t had a longer break for some time. When was my last vacation? Can’t remember. Good thing I’ve got one coming up in October, but it’s still four weeks until then. But then I still have to organize a lot of things: winter tires for the car, as we are going to the South Tyrolean Alps, road charges to be paid in advance for Austria, keeping an eye on Corona-related travel paperwork (online or otherwise), organizing a set of snow chains (to be on the safe side)… and what not. I can’t help feeling that it would have been simpler to travel to the North Sea or the Baltic as we usually do instead of into the Alps. I also wonder what the Corona situation will be like by October, what with rising numbers all around. Maybe we won’t even be able to go (hope this doesn’t happen).

If already checked that Curious Dog EU pet passport is up to date with all his vaccinations and that he will tolerate a muzzle. He’s very good about wearing one for a short time, but also very good at squirming out of it when he’s had enough. I’m hoping we won’t really need it, but it’s good to be prepared.

One of the cousins can’t join us, because she is working as a primary school teacher while also writing her thesis. So, we’ve invited the boyfriend of the other cousin to come along. Wow, our little cousins now have jobs and boyfriends and aren’t so little anymore. The first time we took the two of them to the seaside, the younger one spent all the trip barfing – it’s a joke now, but it wasn’t at the time. I was really worried about dehydration and such, as she was only 9. Probably it was the excitement of her first vacation with us. One the way back she only threw up once. Well, cousin number two will be travelling in her boyfriend’s car this time, which is quite useful, as otherwise we would have been three people plus one dog plus a lot of luggage in one car. The cousins are incapable of travelling light and we need some provisions, games, book and dog stuff as well. If both cousins had been able to join us, we would have used my car and Partner’s. We’ll meet up at our place in Bavaria first, as it’s a much shorter drive from Bavaria than from Baden-Württemberg or Hessia (which is the German state my cousins are from and, incidentally, where I was born).

This morning I chopped off some of my hair. I haven’t been to a hairdresser since last March, at the beginning of the first lockdown. It’s grown quite long now, but a bit scraggly. I’ve been thinking of making an appointment for getting the ends cut, but I never seem to get around to it. On the spur of the moment, I did it myself. Let’s just say, I wasn’t cut out to be a hairdresser. Fortunately, my hair is still long enough to pin up so that my dreadful cut isn’t noticeable. I’m planning on letting my hair grow until I can put it up in a proper bun and if I still like that style (which I last wore in my early twenties) I will keep it long. Otherwise, I’ll return to my pre-Corona short hair style.

Keep safe, world.

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

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.

Monday Miscellanea

On Friday, Partner and I started the day with a long walk with Curious Dog through the woods. It was sunny, but still early and therefore cool and pleasant. We met one of CD’s dog friends (a Doberman bitch – she’s very sweet and friendly). CD got muddy paws in a small trickle of water – earlier this week he played with a puppy and then took it upon himself to jump into a muddy ditch full of stagnant water. He was covered in mud up to his belly and we had to clean him up with a bucket of water afterwards. He looked a bit put out when he floundered in the mud, I guess he hadn’t expected it.

Afterwards I went on a shopping tour in the town on my commute, the first (except for grocery shopping) since the start of Corona. I went to get a new battery for Mum’s wristwatch and then I had to wait until it was put in, so I had time to kill. I meant to get some plain (or plainish) white t-shirts but couldn’t find any. Instead, I got a pair of rather nice cropped summer jeans and a blue paisley patterned shirt. I don’t much care for shopping for clothes, because I usually get fed up after trying on a couple garments that don’t fit. But a lot of my jeans are very old and falling apart, and the same goes for my summer t-shirts. I like wearing favourite clothing until it disintegrates, but it’s getting a little ridiculous. I’d love to just keep getting the same things again if only they were still available. I guess I’ll have to search online for some plain basic t-shirts.

I also got a book for Mum, a travel report (I’ve forgotten the title) where someone walked with a donkey from Munich to the Mediterranean. It sounded interesting. I also tried to find a book for Partner, as it’s his birthday soon. I couldn’t think of anything special, so I’m thinking that I’ll give him a selection of things. I found a DVD that I think he’ll like (Fisherman’s Friends), and a nice t-shirt, and I’m planning to get a book and a good bottle of wine. I also got a couple of other DVDs, a German comedy and the biopic Tolkien. Quite a shopping spree for me. I found that the main shopping road in town was quite sparsely populated and there weren’t a lot of people in the shops (but it was a workday).

After lunch I went grocery shopping and then was quite exhausted for the rest of the day. I did a bit of internet surfing and a bit of reading my current book, which is a biography of Samuel Johnson by Peter Martin (the guy who wrote Perth, the dog tale that I read in March). I wanted to read a modern biography of Johnson in addition to Boswell’s and got this one on Kindle earlier in the year.

About books I got earlier this year: I find that I have 10 Kindle books that I got this year that I haven’t read yet and 8 paper- or hardbacks (2 of those are poetry anthologies that I’ve started, the German one and the one with poetry by women from the 18th century). One’s a book about reading and one’s a selection of Adrienne Rich’s essays. And 5 are Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes novels (I need to get 2 more in order to complete the series). Plus 6 more Louise Erdrich novel that I wanted to read this year (but haven’t got yet). That’s 26 books. I’d better not get any others this year. Luckily at least 10 of those are crime novels, which are quick reads. It would be great to read all the books I got this year and not increase my backlog from previous years. Looking at my list of books read this year, I haven’t made much inroads on my backlog because most of the books I read, I got this year. Maybe I’ll come up with a plan for concentrating on unread books I already own next year. And only buy one new book at a time, so as not to enlarge my TBR. If I never have unread books from the current year, and keep reading unread books from previous years, naturally at some point I won’t have anymore unread books. That would be cool.

On Saturday, after the walk with CD, I spent reading until around noon when I did some cleaning. In the afternoon, we watched the latest episode of Bad Batch and then I decided to tackle our big bookcase in Partner’s office, which also doubles as a guest room. My two cousins are coming for a visit on next weekend, and the office was super dusty, especially the bookshelves. One of the cousins has asthma and both are allergic to dust mites, so a clean-up was in order. I thought it would go quickly, but I wanted to rearrange two thirds of the shelves, as we just dumped books on the shelves without sorting when we moved in. The sorting took much longer than I thought it would. I only managed half and had to had to finish the rest of the shelves on Sunday. Now it’s nice and clean and the books are properly sorted. I even managed to get rid of a few that I decided I’d never want to read again.

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Partner and I watched a new Disney+ series for kids. It’s well-made and amusing: The Mysterious Benedict Society. It’s based on a series of books by Trenton Lee Stewart. I’ve never heard of them before, but now I’m tempted to read them – but then I’d really like to reread the Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken. I loved those books as a child (I actually can’t remember when I first read them but it must have been at around 12) and collected them later when I started working (as a child, I borrowed them from the public library). I think I’m missing one of the later ones – I dusted and sorted them all yesterday and noticed that I’m missing one. They are alternative history mixed with magical elements and the main hero is one Dido Twite (but some of the book have other main characters). I think they are the kind of books that you can love as a child and still enjoy as a grown up (at any age, really).

The weekend was nice, what with walking with CD, reading and watching Disney+ and the Tolkien movie (which was ok, but not great). Quite productive, too, with the cleaned and sorted bookshelf. It’s just a pity that the bookshelf took up too much time and I didn’t get round to cleaning up the rest of the house. Oh well, I’ll do it later in the week. Maybe I’ll take Thursday afternoon off (I’ve still got half a day’s holiday from that Friday on which I worked in the morning a few weeks ago.

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

In Germany we’ve been following with horror the situation in the areas affected by last week’s floods it’s now not only in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, but also in Bavaria (near the Alps, which isn’t where I live when I’m in Bavaria). More than 150 people were killed and many more have lost their homes and livelihoods. Some villages still cannot be reached except by air, as roads and bridges have been swept away by the floods. It’s devastating. Thankfully my family isn’t affected, as nobody lives in the flooded areas in the western parts of Germany. Partner lives near one of the flooded areas and had a bit of flooding in his village but nothing that caused a great deal of damage. One of my aunts lives in a town that had a flooding river, but her part of the town only had a few inches of water so she’s safe and there wasn’t any damage except for a bit of water in the basement of her apartment building. That’s already cleared up. But of course, we are all thinking of the people who were not as fortunate. There have been floods in Germany before, even bad ones that caused a lot of damage, but so many deaths… very shocking.

Compared to that, my weekend has thankfully been mundane. Just the usual, grocery shopping, cleaning (well, not very much), packing up our things and returning to Baden-Württemberg after our week in Bavaria. We’ll be returning sooner than usual, in the first week of August, for practical reason to do with the appointment Partner and I have for our second Corona vaccination. During the first week of August Partner must be at his place, the other week I must be at my place – juggling three places of residence between us is sometimes a bit of a pain. Sooner or later we will need to consolidate, as I don’t think we want to continue this way of life forever. But that’s a project that’ll take some time (especially as Partner and I haven’t decided on where we want to end up living in future – we’re also not really working on a plan yet).

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I did a lot of reading on the weekend (and didn’t have much time left for cleaning and other annoying tasks – story of my life). I finished The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow in two days. It was a great smooth flowing read (although Jane Austen would probably have managed the same story in half the pages). I’ve also started reading Claire Tomalin’s autobiography (and stayed up too late on two consecutive nights because of it). This means that I’m pretty sure to finish my Jane Austen July TBR this week – which is good, because my two cousins are coming for a visit on the last weekend in July. I will therefore have to do a proper cleanup of everything plus the guest room (that is, Partner’s office) next weekend and I can’t afford to spend all the weekend reading. We’re really looking forward to their visit. Curious Dog is also very fond of them, especially the younger one.

Yesterday we had a hot and dry day (for once, but the next rain is supposed to come on the weekend, though hopefully not as another deluge). On our way back to Baden-Württemberg we were stuck in a traffic jam for a hour – the were roadworks on the Autobahn and three lanes were diverted into just one. As it was quite hot, 30°C, I was worried about Curious Dog. There wasn’t much reason to worry, because the car has air conditioning and I always bring water along, but I still worried about the car breaking down and leaving us stranded in the heat. I’m a worst-case scenario worrier which I think I inherited from my Mum, who thinks she got it from her experience as a refugee at the end of WWII when she was six years old. I tend only to worry excessively about other people (or animals). If I had a breakdown on the Autobahn on a hot day by myself, I’d call a towing service… but with CD and Mum in the car, I worry about overheating. But it didn’t happen (phew!).

Sunday evening Partner and I watched the last two episodes of Loki – very good. They ended on a bit of a cliffhanger and there’s to be a second season. Looking forward to that. We still need to catch up on The Bad Batch and we haven’t yet watched the last episode of The Underground Railroad.

Work has been rather annoying again, with processes that should’ve taken about half an hour taking two (!) days instead. Our tools had developed another bug and the support experts were not available. So, very stressful (but I missed the second day as it was on Friday, when I don’t work). It would be a relief if things went smoothly for a change. Today wasn’t great either, as on Mondays there are too many meetings on my schedule. But at least tomorrow’s only meeting was cancelled, so I’m looking forward to a day of uninterrupted time where I can hopefully review a document that I should have reviewed earlier (but I’m still within my allotted time-frame, as I always make sure to have a large buffer which, however, is now gone).

It’s warm and sunny and I’ll take Curious Dog on his afternoon walk very late today to avoid the heat. The corn fields through which we walk have grown amazingly high, at least three metres. All that rain. It’s pleasant walking in their shade when the sun is low in the sky in the evening.

Keep safe, world.

2021 Mid-Year Book Recap

Wow, six months have passed already, and the year is half done. The perfect time for the mid-year book recap that’s my version of the Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag on BookTube. I did it last year, too (and renamed “freakout” to “recap” as I don’t feel like freaking out about books). Here’s the link. I wasn’t tagged (no wonder, I’m only on BookTube as a viewer) but I’ve seen it popping up there again and also on blogs I’m following, so I felt like doing it again, too. Here goes:

Best book you’ve read so far in 2021?

Klara and the Sun, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I loved how Klara’s character. In some ways really human, but in other ways quite alien. I also appreciated the world building and how you had to piece everything together bit by bit as the novel progressed and the ethical questions were thought-provoking. Here’s the review I wrote.

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2021?

The Moor, by Laurie R. King. It’s book 4 of the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series and it’s inspired by “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Arthur Conan Doyle. I love King’s series that I’m rereading this year. I’m looking forward to getting to the books that I haven’t read yet, as I’ve only read about half the series but wanted to start again from the beginning before getting to the new-to-me parts.

I also enjoyed Fugitive Telemetry, by Martha Wells, the Murderbot Diaries 6. I love this series and mentioned book 5 of the series in last year’s post.

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to?

Ariadne, by Jenifer Saint. I’ve had my eye on it for a while, but somehow decided I had to reread The Illiad and The Odyssey first. I’ve just finished The Illiad today but won’t get around to The Odyssey until after Jane Austen July.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year?

I’m waiting for J.R.R. Tolkien, The Nature of Middle-earth (edited by Carl F. Hofstetter) to be published. I hope it’ll be sometime in the second half of the year. I don’t want the super expensive deluxe version, just a normal book (not ebook).

Biggest disappointment?

No disappointments yet. I’m pretty good at selecting books that I like and am only ever disappointed by books that my book club makes me read. And then I’m not really disappointed because I can usually tell straight off that I won’t like the book and then it’s not really a disappointment, rather a fulfilled expectation. Sad but true. Occasionally, the book club selections are super and the meetings (currently still Zoom) are always fun and sometimes illuminating, so I can live with reading a few sub-optimal books.

Biggest surprise?

The Illiad, as translated by Caroline Alexander. I started this expecting it to be boring because I didn’t like this epic much when I first read it, about 25 years ago. I don’t know whether it was because the German translation I read wasn’t great or if I just didn’t appreciate it or if I changed as a reader (could be). I think I’ll write a review explaining why I liked it, soon.

I was also really surprised at how much I liked the short stories of Rudyard Kipling.

Favourite new author, either debut or new to you?

Caroline Alexander. She’s not a debut author, but I love her translation of The Illiad and would like to read the non-fiction book The War that Killed Achilles.

Newest fictional crush?

I’m too old for crushes on characters. I said something about this in last year’s post, but I think next year I’ll just remove this question.

Newest favourite character?

Klara, from Klara and the Sun. She just so sweet and courageous and sometimes wise and sometimes naïve.

Book that made you cry?

Any book that has tragic stuff in it will make me cry, unless it’s written in an overdone way that makes ridiculous. I cry all the time when I’m reading. It’s embarrassing.

Book that made you happy?

All the books I read made me happy. Crying about tragic stuff doesn’t make me unhappy. It’s catharsis, I guess. Not reading makes me unhappy. I get grouchy if I don’t have time to read.

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Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year?

Mary Oliver, Dog Songs. A slim paperback with poems about dogs and lovely black-and-white drawings. It’s very cute.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Don’t exactly need to read any but would like to complete my goals to read all of Louise Erdrich novels in the Love Medicine series. So far, I’ve read two of eight, so I’m not exactly on track. And I want to finish The Tale of Genji.

I’m quite happy with my reading progress on the whole. I’ve finished 54 books by now and have almost met my Goodreads challenge (which I set to 60 because I didn’t want to stress myself). Regarding my own goals, which I published on the blog, I’m probably not quite on track, but I currently don’t care. Work is really stressful and stressing about my private bookish goals is stupid, so I’m more or less ignoring those book goals for now. I want to keep my reading enjoyable and not another source of stress.

I had my first Corona vaccination on Tuesday (second one is planned for early August). My arm hurts a bit at the injection site, but it seems to be getting better. I worked at the office until noon on Tuesday, as I got my vaccination through my company, and it was still empty and boring as hardly anyone was in (nobody from my team). I’m glad to be working at home again today.

Keep safe, world

Monday Miscellanea

I had a nicely relaxed weekend. Saturday, I went on a long walk with Curious Dog in the morning because during the last week the walks were mostly just half an hour or so because the weather was so fickle. It always looked like it would rain, or worse, like there’d be a thunderstorm. Both CD and I hate thunderstorms, so we shortened our walks. But the walk on Saturday morning was lovely. We walked through the fields, past the cattle (which CD is always slightly afraid of) and by the stork nest. The nest is up on an out-of-service power pole, in the middle of a field. Partner and I have seen one or two of the adult storks on the nest very often, but we’ve never seen a young one. Saturday, I definitively saw one baby stork, and we saw it again today. I hope to see it grow up and start trying out its wings (although I haven’t a clue how long it takes for stork chicks to mature).

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I spent a lot of Saturday morning vacuuming the house. I hadn’t done my bedroom / office for a while, so I was really thorough for once. Took ages. I also I moved my large palm-like plant outside for the summer. During the autumn, winter and spring it lives in front of the one floor-to-ceiling window in my bedroom, but in summer I put it on the patio. It gets a good dose of sun and I get to open my window properly. Win-win for plant and human!

Curious Dog in in full-on shedding mode. Our living room, Partner’s office (where CD sleeps at night and which is also the guest bedroom), the kitchen and the small hall: all were covered in drifts of dog hair. I vacuumed it all up and on Sunday I gave CD a good brushing session. He doesn’t like that much, but it had to be done. But he’s still shedding. He has only two settings: standard shedding and extreme shedding. At the moment it’s extreme.

Mum and I were having lunch on Saturday when Partner arrived. He’d said he’d probably turn up around 2 p.m. but was earlier because his vaccination was faster than planned. He had hardly any reactions to the first jab, just a sore arm for a couple of days. Hope it will be the same for me tomorrow when I’ll be getting my first vaccination. It was very nice having Partner back.

We watched a quite a few shows and a couple of films on the weekend: three episodes of Bad Batch. In one of them poor Omega was kidnapped by a bounty hunter) and two episodes of Loki. Loki has just recently started on Disney+ and I like it very much. Not sure what it’s all about yet, but it has something to do with time manipulation and some beings that watch over the time stream with the help of a huge administration. It has a lot of Loki being Loki moments and the other characters are fun, too. We also watched the new animated film by Disney and Pixar, Luca. It’s Italian-themed and super enjoyable (although I liked Raya and the Last Dragon maybe just a tad more). The visuals and characters in both films are great, but Raya’s plot is more complex and more intriguing. But both films are fun.

We haven’t managed to watch the last two episodes of The Underground Railroad yet, mostly because it was too hot for a serious show. As the temperatures are supposed to drop again after today (and after probably another set of thunderstorms), I guess we’ll get to these two episodes sometime later this week.

I also read a lot of my current book, The Illiad (translated by Caroline Alexander). I’m now quite near the end, only three chapters left to go. I’d quite forgotten from my first reading years ago that all the violence in it is so graphic. It’s definitively not an epic that glosses over the ugly side of war and only concentrates on the “glory”. There’s a lot of ugly stuff in it. The gods keep interfering and being unfair. Warriors who beg for mercy are slaughtered anyway. Warriors who get killed usually also get their armour and stuff stolen, and their corpse desecrated. It’s very bloody. But there are also a lot of interesting pictures of life during ancient times and short bits of the protagonists’ backgrounds and a lot of psychologically plausible motivation for their actions. I’m surprised at how much I am enjoying it. Since I liked the Odyssey more than the Iliad when I first read them both, I’m guessing I’ll be really wowed when I get round to rereading the Odyssey (only after Jane Austen July).

I was feeling quite happy with the temperatures and precipitation in June this year. There were hardly any days hotter than 25°C and quite a bit of rain, but it turns out that it was extremely hot and dry in the eastern parts of Germany, so that it will probably turn out to have been the third-hottest and driest June since this data has been collected. Not so great.

On another note: recently I saw a short documentary on TV about automatic lawn mowers. If you use one of those in your garden, and you’re located in Europe, please deactivate it from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. They are dangerous for hedgehogs. Hedgehogs don’t run away from danger; they roll themselves up. Then the automatic mower runs them over and they get killed or badly injured. These accidents are avoided if the mover is turned off late in the afternoons and during the night, as hedgehogs are only active during those hours. Apparently lots hedgehogs are currently being injured by these mowers and taken to animal shelters. I don’t have a mower like that (my patch of lawn is much too small), but if I had, I wouldn’t have known about this issue. So, I thought I’d mention it on the blog (not that I have that many readers, but you never know… it might be useful info for someone).

Work is as busy and chaotic as ever, but one of the most stressful projects has had its deadline moved for about four weeks, which will de-stress things for a little while. The downside is that the project will continue to bug me for longer, but I guess you can’t have everything. I hope it doesn’t get postponed again, because I would like for it to be finished and done with before my vacation in October.

Keep safe, world.