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.

Monday Miscellanea

As you may have noticed, I’ve totally given up posting every day in November. Life got in the way – well, Curious Dog’s prepuce infection. He has to wear a body to stop him from licking his infection and he doesn’t really like it. I spent the weekend, when I wasn’t out grocery shopping, sitting reading in the living room with him instead of up in my bedroom at my computer, typing up posts. I made quite a bit of headway through my November non-fiction read From Dawn to Decadence and on my project reading The Tale of Genji. I’m halfway through the former and about two thirds through the later. They are both very interesting in quite different ways. Dawn is a cultural history of “the West” and Genji is a tale about court life in ancient Japan. Dawn covers a topic that I’m somewhat familiar with but with lots of details and interpretations new to me. Genji shows quite an alien world which I often find extremely puzzling, but it’s fascinating.

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But to return to Curious Dog. I was sitting in the living room with him so that he didn’t have to wear the body – I just stopped him when he started to lick. On Friday I chased him around the living room for about an hour with a syringe to irrigate his prepuce with an anti-bacterial liquid and I actually managed it without holding on to him at all. He just kept still by himself (he probably got fed up with being chased all the time). That was very surprising. Partner and I didn’t manage it at all on Thursday, we couldn’t hold him. He kept squirming away and the nifty way of holding him that the vet showed me did didn’t work with us. I guess we are not as practiced as the vet. But Friday was the only time I managed it, the rest of the weekend he never held still. Nevertheless, he got all his antibiotic tablets, and it looks like the infection has cleared up. One more night of wearing the body and that’s it. That’s a relief. Curious Dog was still very keen on his walks, but he was a bit off his food on a couple of days. He left kibble in his bowl, which he never does (normally it’s all gone in a few minutes). He did, however, eat it when we fed him by hand. Very odd. Maybe the tablets didn’t agree with him. Or maybe he was milking the situation because he enjoyed the extra attention (dogs do that). I don’t know, but today he ate all his food again at his usual speed and I think he’s back to normal.

The weather was very dreary on the weekend. A very soft rain on Friday – CD and I got quite wet on our afternoon walk. No rain the rest of the weekend but the sun hardly got through the fog and the clouds. It grew a bit warmer, so walks were quite pleasant, but it was still very muddy. Since it was so dreary, we streamed a few episodes of München Mord (meaning “Munich Murder”, which is in German a play on München Nord which is an exist on the Autobahn: Mord = Murder, Nord = North). It’s three oddball police detectives investigating murder cases in weird ways, hindered by their superior who panders to higher-ups. It’s very quirky and has funny elements. The chief detective of the trio has a weird way of reenacting how he thinks the murder took place which makes him look crazy to most of the police department (although his method is very successful). The other two are always looking for love in the wrong places and have other character quirks. The relationship between the detectives is one of the many highlights of the series which we just really enjoy. Perfect for dingy autumn days.

We did a lot of cooking and baking. Partner made some very tasty pastries filled with shredded apple and spiced with cinnamon and I cooked a lovely vegetable soup on Saturday. On Sunday I made a mushroom, carrot and kidney bean stew in a dark beer sauce with dumplings and a purple cabbage side-dish (Partner helped). It was delicious and I made enough to last us for today as well, so Partner didn’t have to cook today for once.

Today is still dingy weather-wise, but it’s back to work, no time for films. I had a virtual training about developing a “growth mindset”. Basically, a lot of truisms about keeping an open mind and seeing possibilities instead of problems. The concept makes sense, that’s why it’s a cliché, but those type of trainings always put me into a contrary mood, where I try to come up with examples for when positivity and openness don’t help much. Which is quite hard, because most bad experiences are probably not helped by being in a negative frame of mind. Mostly I feel cynical about these trainings, because it’s the company trying to motivate us into becoming better employees: flexible, hard-working, and innovative to influence the bottom line positively and make investors happy. They always use a lot of examples from sports. How being in a “growth mindset” leads you to being more successful in your chosen sport. I don’t enjoy competitive sports, so those examples make me grumpy (I guess I’m difficult). I’ve heard these types of things so often that I’m surprised at myself for still waiting for new insights from these kinds of trainings. This time there was a refreshing point from a colleague about keeping a sense of proportion and humour to deal with difficult situations. That took me out of my cynical mood and got me to acknowledge to myself that the training was at least a change from normal work. Which, you know, nothing to be sneered at. But I don’t believe I learned anything new at all, so it wasn’t a very effective training. I’ve had very good trainings at work, I guess a dud now and then isn’t unexpected. Newer colleagues, who haven’t had such motivational trainings before, may have found it more interesting.

Keep safe, world

Trip to the Vet’s

Yesterday I missed another November post, because instead of writing one I had to take Curious Dog to the vet. He has developed an infection of the prepuce. This was the first time we visited the vet at my place. He always gets his yearly vaccinations at the vet’s in Bavaria and he’s only ever needed other vet visits (very seldom, luckily) when we were in Bavaria. I looked up the vet’s surgery hours here yesterday and they were only open between 4 and 6 p.m. When I turned up with Curious Dog (I left him in the car while I dealt with the registration), it turned out that the surgery was really full. I ended up waiting an hour outside in the cold (didn’t want to stay in the waiting room because of Corona). I didn’t want to sit in the car because that was cold too. I basically paced around my car and recited all the poetry I could remember to myself, hummed some songs and otherwise tried to pass the time. Curious Dog was sitting in his car box.

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When at last it was CD’s turn, he was quite excited (as usual when he’s at the vet). The vet and her assistant tried to lift him onto the examining table, but he wouldn’t let them. In the end I had to do it. Then I had to put his muzzle on because he kept growling just a little bit (good thing we practiced that). We made him lie down on his side and the assistant had a nifty way of holding him still, while I held onto his head. The examination didn’t hurt him, he just didn’t care for it. So, the vet diagnosed the infection problem and irrigated CD’s prepuce with a syringe full of anti-bacterial liquid. She did it very well, but Partner and I have to do it for the next 5 days. We’re starting tonight and I’m not really looking forward to it. CD also got an antibiotic shot and some tablets and if all that doesn’t clear the infection, we’ll have to revisit the vet in 5 days. In the meantime, he has to wear a body, so that he doesn’t keep licking himself. He’s very good about letting me dress him up in it, but afterwards he looks put out about having to wear it. We take it off when we go for walks. Otherwise, he would have had to wear one of those cone things around his neck and I’m sure that would have been even more annoying for him. I’ve had to order another body online, so that he can wear one while the other one gets washed. Wearing the same one for 5 days would be quite unhygienic and not exactly good for the infection.

I hope the infection will have cleared up at the end of the 5 days. He’s otherwise fine, as hungry as ever and as eager to go on his walks as ever, which is good. I’d be worried if CD was off his food.

Yesterday at work I had a quite surreal meeting with a colleague from another team who wanted to show me some inexplicable things our content management tool supposedly did with their content. Turned out the tool did nothing inexplicable but that the colleague had absolutely no clue what they were doing. They’ve been working with that tool for years and don’t understand the most basic things about it. I was very patient and explained everything but actually I was horrified. I was tempted to advise them to repeat the basic tool trainings but I didn’t dare – they probably would have been insulted. Most of my colleagues are super competent, some of them know more about the tools than I do, but with some colleagues one is left wondering…

The weather is foggy and cold – yesterday the sun came out in the middle of the day and stayed awhile, but today the fog was stronger. It never cleared up and it looks like the weather will stay that way for most of the weekend. Perfect for cozying up with a book and a cup of Glühwein (hot spiced wine). I’m glad that my work week is over, and the weekend is at the door.

Keep safe, world.

Another Busy Day

On the morning walk with Curious Dog it was foggy but we had a pleasant walk anyway. We met up with one of CD’s dog friends, but she was accompanying a Husky, who didn’t look too pleased to see Curious Dog. Curious Dog also wasn’t too pleased, but he apparently decided that he couldn’t take on a Husky and then pretended not to see him and instead spent five minutes sniffing all around the verge of the footpath until the other two were way ahead. It was quite funny and a lot more relaxed than if the two dogs had thrown a fit. Curious Dog is quite canny about the dogs he’ll get upset at. They can’t be too large or too many (he never gets mad at two or more dogs). He’s got two favourite enemies, one here in Bavaria and one at my place and they are both small male terriers. They hate him right back. Mostly CD is friendly with other dogs, especially if they are female.

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After the morning walk, I had to drive to the supermarket in the next village as I’d forgotten some stuff yesterday (it always happens). On the way, it was still foggy, but on my way back half an hour later the fog disappeared and the sun came out. It was quite hot in the south-facing rooms of the house. After lunch, I vacuumed everywhere and later cleaned the bathroom. Mum did the kitchen and also baked a very nice apple roll which we tasted after a stint in the garden. We didn’t do much, it was still too wet, but I cut back one of our lilacs and Mum tiedied up some potted plants. At three 3:30 p.m. the fog started coming back. By 4:00 p.m. the sun was gone, and I had another foggy walk with Curious Dog in the woods.

In between vacuuming and gardening I spent an hour reading Islands of the Mad (Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes part 15). I’ve read slightly less than half the novel and I have a strong hunch about why the missing person chose to go missing. I’m looking forward to finding out if my guess is correct. Annoyingly, Mary Russell doesn’t seem to get it which either means that I’m wrong or that she is obtuse. It’s kind of annoying if she’s not seeing the obvious, because she’s supposed to be a genius. Or maybe my guess is wrong in which case the author laid a false trail which would also be annoying. Still, I’m enjoying the read. It’s a nice change from my non-fiction November tome From Dawn to Decadence of which I also read more than a few pages this morning in bed because I woke up early and couldn’t fall asleep again.

After I’ve posted this perfectly unexciting report of my day, I’ll power down my notebook, dismantle my home office setup and pack everything up ready for tomorrow’s trip back to Baden-Württemberg. Our next week in Bavaria will be at the beginning of December. The second half of this year has passed so fast. It seems a few weeks ago I was moaning about the summer workload and now it’s already time to start thinking about Christmas presents and how long my vacation should be over Christmas and the new year.

Keep safe, world.

Uneventful Friday

Today I enjoyed a bit of a lie-in, reading in bed, continuing on with From Dawn to Decadence and my anthology of 18th century women poets that I started during Jane Austen July. On normal days I don’t have much time to read in bed in the mornings. I just manage a few poems before having to get up. I do have time on the weekend but have to make sure that I don’t stay too long in bed, because then the whole morning is out of whack. Walking with Curious Dog before doing anything else takes time.

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CD and I were done with our later than usual morning walk by 10 a.m. Afterwards I set out on a grocery shopping trip to pick up some stuff in town that isn’t available in the supermarket in the next village. This time I also had to pick up a new little light bulb for the fridge, as the old one had expired suddenly a couple of days ago. Oh, what an exciting errand!

The rest of the day was just as uneventful. I got back from shopping around lunch time and after lunch I spent the early afternoon reading. I’m now done with the first part of From Dawn to Decadence and have found out that the “invisible college” mentioned in my Wednesday post was a group of 16th century scholars who were later involved in the founding of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, which still exists today. This first part of the book is all about the effects on Western culture of the Reformation and the Renaissance. There was an interesting short excursion that looked back at the Middle Ages and pointed out that the period between ca. 500 and 1500 had seen the growth of a new civilization from the ruins of the Roman empire and had had its own Renaissance from 1050 to 1250. So it wasn’t all “dark ages.” I’d know that already from my historical studies at college (I studied History as the minor part of my degree, with American Literature as the major), but it was nice to be reminded.

While I enjoy reading non-fiction, I usually find it harder going than fiction. Even when I’m really interested and engaged, non-fiction is kind of tiring for me. It needs more concentration. I tend to read slower and sometimes struggle not to nod off. Today was a cloudy, damp, and cold November day where my tendency to fall asleep over my tome was very strong. Before I could do so, I took Curious Dog for his afternoon walk. That woke me up again.

I should have done some gardening in the afternoon, but it was so wet outside from all that rain yesterday that I postponed it until tomorrow when hopefully it will be a bit dryer. The house also needs to be cleaned before we leave again on Sunday, so tomorrow I won’t have that much time for reading. Maybe I will start with the next Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes novel as an antidote to all that non-fiction.

I’m currently watching Farscape on Amazon Prime. It’s an Australian-American sci-fi series from the turn of the century. I watched a few episodes when they were first aired on German TV but didn’t manage to keep it up. I’m rather liking it. It’s about an astronaut from Earth who is flung through a wormhole into a strange part of the galaxy where he teams up with a few alien ex-convicts on a living spaceship (a “Leviathan”) who are on the run from militaristic so-called “peacekeepers.” The series has a very distinctive look (one of the alien characters is an animated puppet). The first season is a series of mostly stand-alone episodes but later on a story-arc develops. I’m enjoying it a lot, but it’s going to take me ages to finish it, as I only manage an episode now and again. Partner didn’t seem particularly keen on it, so I’m watching it by myself.

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.

Tuesday Tidbits

Things have been terribly busy at work and I have been too tired at the end of the day to write anything. Last week was especially awful, with escalation meetings on Monday (at least we managed to solve the problem in question – at least for now though hopefully forever) on top of the usual Monday meetings. Then two colleagues called in sick and one was on vacation, so that only myself and another colleague remained to do the work usually done by the five of us. One of the sick colleagues was supposed to be the substitute for the one on vacation. There were a lot of tasks that had to be done, and after they had called in sick for the second day, I had a look at the list and found that things were quite off track. Stuff that should already have been done had been forgotten and of course the tasks for last week also hadn’t yet been done. I spent the rest of week working on those things (and I wasn’t impressed by the substitute – it’s bad luck to be sick, but if you are supposed to be doing a lot of stuff which you can’t do because you’re ill maybe a short mail pointing out that stuff needs doing might be in order). Also, I kind of expected some heartfelt thanks when they returned, but that didn’t materialize either. As I wasn’t as familiar with those tasks as with my usual ones, it took longer and was more tiring. My other two colleagues and I had more of a clue than official substitute, very odd. I’d always suspected that the colleague on vacation did most of the job, now I’m sure. At least this week the sick colleagues are back at work and next week the person on vacation will be back – phew, I’ll be relieved.

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I’ll be on vacation from end of September until the middle of October, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m feeling stressed and fed up with work. A few days away will be lovely. I’m spending the next couple of weeks finishing up my work as far as possible, so that my colleagues don’t have to do too many things on top of their usual work. Some can’t be avoided, because the tasks can only be done on certain dates during my vacation, but I’ll try to keep everything else down.

Last Friday, Partner and I went shopping for bed sheets and duvet covers at a large furniture store. Partner had a voucher and at the store we won another one, so in sum we had vouchers for € 100. We got three fitted sheets (two for us, one for Mum) and a double set of duvet and pillow covers. While we were there, we looked at the store’s entire selection of couches. Those couches were quite expensive, sometimes ugly, and most of them much too large for our modest-sized living room. We happened to find a set of couches, one for three people and one for two, in red leather (bright, but not too bright). Reduced to half-price because they were sample pieces. Well, while we were at the store, we couldn’t decide if we should buy them or not, but when we returned, we measured where they could go in our living-room and decided that it was an excellent match. Currently we have a three-seat couch and two armchairs. The set is 25 years old. The last seven years have been especially hard on them (otherwise they would still be in good shape), because of Curious Dog. In the end, we decided to buy the red set (our current one is a bright dark green – we like some color in our living-room). I returned to the shop and when I spoke to the salesperson, they gave us an additional discount (which I didn’t even ask for – I mean, the couches were already at half-price). In addition, the delivery is free of charge and our old couch and armchairs will also be removed at no expense. A very nice piece of good luck. The leather should be easier to clean than the weird material of the old couch set. I would have preferred couches not made of leather, but this was a case of a gift horse, so no quibbles. The delivery will be after my vacation in October. Can’t wait.

On the weekend, we watched the last episode of The Underground Railroad. It was a very striking series, really showing the horrors of slavery and how runaway slaves were not safe anywhere. It had an open end, but one could hope that things would improve for the main character. The acting was excellent. I’m very much inclined to read the novel one of these days. The only thing about the series that I disliked was that a lot of the action took place in darkness where you hardly saw anything. It’s just not that much fun watching shadowy shapes poking around in the dark. Maybe it was symbolic or verisimilitude, but still a dark TV screen is just not that great.

Poor Curious Dog has an eye irritation in both eyes. It started on Sunday and became quite pronounced yesterday. The eyes themselves are clear, but the lower lids are slightly swollen with a discharge. Last night, I bathed his eyes with weak black tea (I didn’t have any chamomile) and surprisingly today they are much improved. If they hadn’t improved, a trip to the vet’s would have been necessary. I think he’s been brushing through too much high grass and got seeds into his eyes or perhaps he got some dust into his eyes when I pruned our huge Buddleia bush on the weekend. A very dusty business which Partner can’t do because it causes his hay fever to flare. The Buddleia still needs a lot more pruning. Anyway, I’m glad that CD’s eyes are better and that he’s so good at letting me bathe them.

Next Saturday I have to see an aunt of mine in Düsseldorf, which is about (at least) 3.5 hours away (one way). She’s my last relative on my Dad’s side (his elder sister) and wants me to pick up some tableware from my grandmother. She asked me a few years ago if I wanted to inherit it and I said yes, but now she wants to get rid of it immediately. I’m not really looking forward to the drive, there and back on one day, sevenhours in the car, but it will be nice to see her. We’ve never been very close, because Dad’s relationship with her was rather contentious, but we’ve been keeping in touch by phone for years. Maybe Mum will come along (although she’s not too keen on such a long drive either).

I’ve been reading, but not too much, because of work and other things to do on the weekends. Maybe September will turn out to be a not-so-great reading months, but we shall see.

We’ve been having quite pleasant weather early fall weather. Sometimes already a bit cold, but no rain, and we haven’t had to turn on the furnace yet. The storks we used to watch on our morning walks with CD seem to have left.

Keep safe, world.

The Memory Police

I read this novel by Yoko Ogawa in June for my book club. It was published in Japan in 1994 but was translated into English only in 2019. It was a very good read, one of the best novels I’ve read this year, but it was very strange.

The novel is set on an island (presumably a Japanese one, but we are not told). It has only a handful of protagonists, a woman novelist, her editor (referred to as “R.”), and old man who lived on a boat and later moved in with the novelist. Near the end of the novel, the novelist also adopts a dog.

The novel has a strangely calm atmosphere, with life going on mundanely despite all the strange things that are going on. Every now and then (and it accelerates towards the end of the novel), things disappear. People wake up in the morning with a strange feeling and suddenly they know that something has disappeared. But there are still relics of these things, which they then gather up and destroy. Most people then immediately forget that these disappeared things ever existed and go on with their lives as though nothing has happened.

But our memories were diminishing day by day, for when something disappeared from the island, all memory of it vanished, too.

Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police, 2019 (1994) p.18.

However, some people are immune. They remember the disappeared things, even keep some of them, and talk about them – all of which is forbidden. These people are persecuted by the Memory Police, who round them up and “disappear” them. Anyone who ends up in the clutches of the Memory Police is never heard from again.

The main protagonist, the novelist, finds out that her editor “R.” is also one of the immune people, and, because she is in love with him (despite his being married and his wife expecting a baby), she offers to hide him in a secret compartment in her house, which she built with the help of the old man. So, life goes on with R. hidden in the novelist’s house. More and more things disappear, including books, so that the novelist is no longer able to write novels, but instead turns into a typist. She’s still trying to write her novel, but it’s difficult, as lots of words have disappeared and the whole concept of a novel is gone. Her novel also strangely mirrors her life, being about a typist who’s locked up and loses her voice and her ability to communicate.

In the later part of the novel, people’s body parts also start disappearing – they don’t really disappear, but they disappear from one’s perception, so that you can’t really use them. This also affects animals. The first thing to disappear was left legs. People and animals can’t perceive their left legs anymore or feel them. They still exists, but can’t be used anymore (luckily, they didn’t try to destroy their legs, that would have been macabre).

Gradually we came accustomed to living without our legs. Needless to say, things did not go back to the way they had been before, not exactly, but our bodies acquired a new sense of balance, and a new kind of daily rhythm took hold.
[…]
No matter how much time went by, there was no sign that our left legs were going to rot and drop off. They remained firmly in place, fixed to our hips. But no one seemed to care.

Yoko Ogawa, The Memory Police, 2019 (1994) p.251.

MemoryPolice

We are never told why things disappear, why people can’t remember disappeared things, why some people are immune and why they are hunted by the Memory Police. We also don’t know who the Memory Police are working for (are they part of a totalitarian regime?). We don’t know if the disappearances affect only the island or if this is happening throughout the world. This openness made for a lively discussion in my book club. One or two of the book club members really hated the novel and thought it was idiotic, some quite liked it and others liked it very much indeed. I was one of the latter.

The writing is lovely, and a lot of things happen in the novel (it’s not a novel without a plot). It’s just that absurd things happen without explanation and the ending is totally open. Maybe one can call it Kafkaesque although I personally never liked what I read of Kafka (too depressing) and I did like this novel (somehow not depressing). I found it fascinating and thought-provoking and would recommend it for readers that don’t mind that questions aren’t answered, and the ending remains open.

Some of the book club members found that the novel spoke to their experiences during Corona, where things also kind of disappeared in so far as they couldn’t be done anymore and one had to adjust to doing without – no longer going to the office, no concerts or sport events… Though these things are luckily not lost forever.

A remark about yesterday’s post: I wanted to try the hypnosis app recommended by Huberman, but it wouldn’t start on my smartphone. So, I deinstalled it again. I’ll have a look at his other video on the topic to find out the details, and if I’m still intrigued, I’ll look for other instructions for self-hypnosis. As it is, I did some meditation instead after lunch today. I’ve done that sometimes before I ever heard of Huberman and it’s quite a good way to recharge (certainly better than surfing the internet during one’s lunch break). I’ve also put blocks in my work Outlook calendar to remind me of the best productive times in the mornings and afternoon for working on difficult topics. The other times are left for things like email and mindless quality checks and other busy work. I was quite energized at work today, but I usually am when I try out new things (or resurrect old ones). Usually, after some time I revert to my old habits of doing the easy daily stuff in the morning and then being somewhat exhausted in the afternoon. I always get everything done, but I should stick with the ways that make getting things done more efficient and enjoyable.

This morning, as I was in a meeting, I happened to look out of the window and saw a deer with two fawns jumping through a field of grain in the valley. The deer would run and jump a few paces, with the fawn following, then stop and look around, the fawns also stopping, and then start again. After a few minutes they disappeared into a corn field. They were almost the exact shade of brownish yellow as the grain and very hard to see (and too far away to take a photo). I just saw them because I chanced to see their movement. Very sweet.

Yesterday it rained from early afternoon until late afternoon. And today it was overcast and will probably rain again tonight, but we also had few instances when sunlight burst through the clouds. It’s very cool for the middle of summer, only 20°C (or even less). On our morning walk, Curious Dog and I met a woman with a child and a young female German shepherd, a very cute and friendly dog. Both dogs refused to walk on; we had to let them play a bit. CD and I then had a lovely walk through the soggy woods. I like rain in summer (although we do need a few hot days soon, so that the grain in the fields can dry out in time for harvesting).

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

Last Friday I drove to our place in Bavaria with Mum and Curious Dog while it was pouring with rain. The rain started just after a few kilometres on our way and ended just before we arrived which was useful as I didn’t have to load and unload our luggage in the rain. On the way we passed some small hamlets (on one of the diversions roads) which were surrounded by flooded meadows. In places it seemed that the water was almost ready to flood the road. On the afternoon of our arrival, our neighbours told us that it had rained every day since the last time we were here (but I’m not sure if this wasn’t slightly exaggerated).

The garden has certainly kind of exploded, green everywhere. Our old red currant bush gave us about slightly more than a kilogram of berries – a lot, for that old bush. All the other plants are doing great (the sweet potatoes, the juneberry bush, the small apple tree…). Our small half-dried up Korean fir tree has perceptively grown and is now a lot greener. It’s now a mix of dead dry fir needles and new green ones. The grass (and dandelion greens and other stuff that make up our lawn – it’s a mess) has grown a lot again, too, but I ruthlessly mowed it all down on Saturday. Some bits will need to be done by hand again, probably this evening, as today is supposed to be the last dry day until maybe Saturday. Normally at this time of year the lawn is dry and brown, it’s nice that it’s so green.

The downside of the green explosion is that some of the rain was accompanied by thunderstorms and some of our rosebushes are very much blown about and need to be pruned (or tied up, or both). Unfortunately, we can’t get rid of our gardening rubbish as the municipal collection point has been shut down because some idiot concealed electronic scrap in their garden waste. You can deposit all sorts of scrap and rubbish at the collection point, you just have to separate it properly. Also, someone else (or maybe the same person) dumped a canister of old oil in the waste metal container which then leaked and contaminated the soil. So now the entire collection point is shut for decontamination and we have to keep our garden rubbish until it opens again. Who knows when that will happen? What a pain. Why are people so stupid and inconsiderate? The people who work at the collection point are all volunteers and are always very helpful. It’s not showing a lot of appreciation for their work to dump illegal waste in with the legal stuff. Also, bad for the environment and probably bad for future prices – I bet the council will start charging more to regain the costs of the decontamination. Very annoying all around.

2021_07_12

I had some lovely walks in the woods and fields with Curious Dog while it was either foggy or mildly raining. The woods are quite wet, it’s like walking on a sponge. I hope that this weather does a lot to fill up the ground water stores that were depleted during the last two dry summers. I guess we’ll have some more wet walks during the next few days, as the weather forecast indicate that it will rain a lot until the weekend.

An old friend from Australia phoned my Mum on Sunday. It was lovely to hear from them and lucky that we were here and not at my place. We will ring them back one of these days now that we have the telephone number. They are the same age as Mum and are doing well. Unfortunately, our landline phone died after a while during the call because it needed new reloadable batteries. Not a very useful time to die on us.

Apart from gossiping with the neighbours, mowing the lawn, grocery shopping and walking with Curious Dog, I did a lot of reading on the weekend. I finished Jane Austen’s Persuasion already last week and continued with Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James and with an Austen fanfiction. So, I’ve managed to read about half of my Jane Austen July TBR. Then I read two more Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, The Language of Bees and The God of the Hive. The latter was one I hadn’t read yet. I’ve got another unread one at home, but I still have to acquire the rest of the series. I did some research on Amazon and have ordered those that are in stock. One or two I’ll get when I return to my place in Baden-Württemberg, as they will take longer to arrive. It’s a pity I didn’t keep up with the series when it was published, especially as I really like it now that I’ve started up again. It would have been cheaper to get them on Kindle, but as I’ve got the other ones as paper books, I don’t want to switch to e-books. As usual, I’ll review the books I read in a later post.

My work problems from last week have luckily been solved. I was quite embarrassed to learn that our documents disappeared from the database because of something that I myself did. It was very strange, because I’ve done exactly the same thing in the past (and also with other documents) and never had these problems (other colleagues have done it too). I will of course not do this thing again…but it was odd. I’ve also reverted to my old notebook (which I luckily brought along with me to Bavaria) because my new one isn’t compatible with my external monitor (well, it needs a different connecting cable and I’ve managed to order the wrong one…). I can’t work with just the small notebook screen, it’s too hard to compare things in different apps and views. The new cable will arrive on Wednesday, I hope. Next week I will have to return the old notebook, but I’m glad I brought it along, as otherwise I’d have been sunk.

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).

2021_06_28

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.