Monday Miscellanea

Today’s my third day of work after my lovely long vacation over Christmas and the New Year. I’m underwhelmed. Basically, it’s the same situation as last year. Our tools are slow and buggy. I had to update and republish some documents that I already updated last year because someone had missed the deadlines. But I’m still feeling well-rested and optimistic mostly because I’ve succeeded in convincing my manager to let me drop a project that was getting too much last year (on top of all my other, regular projects). That’s very positive and frees me up to work on testing improvements to our software tools which are planned for this year. Maybe the situation with our tools will improve later in the year. It can hardly get worse. Although it might be interesting if things did get worse – what would happen if we couldn’t publish our documents on the planned publication date? It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s been close. It would be super embarrassing for the company and very stressful for my team, which is why I don’t wish for it. Something like that would, however, be guaranteed to galvanize the management of the department responsible for our tools to invest properly in real improvements instead of patching here and patching there. Heads might even roll (but then you never know if the new heads would be better). At least we’ve been open about communicating, so no-one can say they weren’t warned. I expect we will muddle through as usual until the planned tool improvements go live, then we will deal with new bugs, and eventually our processes should run smoother than they do at the moment. That’s the plan.

I’ve been to the dentist’s twice this month (on my first day of work and last Friday). I’ve found a new dentist here at my place, because it’s easier than staying with the one I used to go to in Bavaria. For one thing, I haven’t been since early 2019 (I think) which is when they told me I should get two of my wisdom teeth removed. The horror! I procrastinated about it, then Mum had her cancer episode, and then we got hit by Corona. I didn’t want to get teeth pulled during a pandemic (a good excuse, right?). I didn’t have any pain, so there wasn’t an incentive to do anything but just before Christmas I noticed that one of my back teeth had developed a vertical fissure and seemed to be on the verge of falling apart. It didn’t hurt but scared me enough that I finally made an appointment. The dentist’s surgery a short walk away from our house which is great (no driving to the next town like in Bavaria). During my first appointment, my teeth were x-rayed, and the dentist explained the findings to me very well. On the second appointment, he removed an old filling from the tooth in question and found that its nerve had died. So now I need a root canal treatment – that’s the next appointment coming up in February. Eventually, the tooth will need to get a crown. The dentist also filled a hole in one of my wisdom teeth and said that another one will probably need to be pulled. That’s only one tooth to be pulled, not two (as my old dentist said) so that’s a win. Also, it’s not urgent, so I can ignore it for another good while (I hope). In this case, my procrastination about getting those two wisdom teeth pulled was actually good! During my last appointment, I also had my first ever anesthetic injection for a dental procedure and I’m happy to report that it wasn’t half as bad as I’d feared. In the past I’d always gone without the injection because the thought of an injection in my mouth terrified me. Maybe the whole tooth extraction thing will turn out to be not as horrific as my imagination makes it out to be, too. Let’s see how the root canal will turn out…

On Saturday, when I went out walking with Curious Dog, I found that someone had stuck anti-Corona vaccination stickers onto the dog poo bins. I peeled them off and threw them into the bin, and for good measure removed two more of those things from a lamppost and another bin. These stickers are appearing everywhere – it’s annoying. I can’t remove them everywhere, but I decided on the spur of the moment that my dog taxes pay for the dog poo stations and I don’t want to see those stickers on them. It’s defacing public property, too. It was kind of fun removing them.

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The last week or so the weather has been cold with subzero temperatures during the nights and not much above zero during the days, so all the mud was frozen and the walks with Curious Dog were much nicer, not so much of the wallowing in mud. Very overcast, hardly any sun. Today, the wet weather has returned but colder temperatures are forecast, so I’m hoping we’ll have some more cold days. Mum, CD, and I will be returning to Bavaria on Friday to stay until January 30, and I would very much prefer to not get wet all the time while walking with CD, like we did during December.

My 11 days of vacation in January were very relaxed, but I also took some time to deep clean half of my kitchen – the fridge, all the countertops (including the kitchen appliances that live on top of them) and the backsplash tiles as well as the outsides of the top cabinets (the insides are in good shape). So now I only have to clean the oven and the cabinets beneath the countertops. I’ll get around to those when we return from Bavaria (and I have plans for a small special cleaning project there too). I also did my normal cleaning of our house (Partner did the vacuuming), so I feel that I started the year well, with only a minimal amount of procrastination.

I didn’t manage to read as much in January as I did in December (so far) because Partner and I also watched a lot of series and films. We finished Hawkeye and started The Book of Boba Fett (on Disney+) and watched the final season of The Expanse (on Amazon Prime). All pretty good. We also watched Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (very nice) and Eternals (kind of meh – too sentimental and a weird plot). I haven’t managed to watch Black Widow yet because Partner doesn’t seem keen. Perhaps I’ll watch it by myself on my notebook while in Bavaria. We also watched Nomadland (also Disney+) which was an excellent movie about low-income older people living in vans as itinerant workers in the US.

We’re also watching the second season of a German-Danish series called Sløborn, about a pandemic and the ensuring breakdown of civilization on the eponymous fictional island. It’s not bad although some of the characters are a bunch of stupid idiots. We’ll be watching the season finale tonight. There are supposed to be two more seasons (the first season had eight, the second six episodes). And then we saw three films of Nord by Nordwest (one was a Christmas special). This is a German series of (so far) 16 feature length films about a police detective in a small fictional town on the Baltic who’s also a veterinary with a dog. He and his dog live on a houseboat. It’s a crime series with comedic elements which I like a lot. There’s another of those films airing this Thursday. Last but not least, on Sunday we had an episode of Tatort with my favourite police detective/coroner duo stationed in the German town of Münster. This is also a series of crime films with comic relief (at least in the case of these two main characters). That was a nice ending to the weekend.

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

Last week I was really busy and therefore not inclined to post anything.

Things at work weren’t running smoothly last week. Our tools were acting up on Monday and Tuesday, then everything was running fine on Wednesday but later we ran into delays on Thursdays when we were supposed to publish a new set of updated documents. So, I was troubleshooting almost everyday which made me tired and fed up and not up to anything much after work.

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I did have a lovely online Christmas party with my team last week despite the other difficulties. We all met for a meal at night in front of our computers in an online meeting. It was a lot more fun than I had anticipated, especially when we did a pub quiz after our meal. Tragically. I found out that most of my team is pretty clueless about The Lord of the Rings, one of my favourite books/films. If they weren’t otherwise great colleagues, I would have to find myself another team (joking!). On the other hand, I was super ignorant about social media and didn’t know any of the questions one of my colleagues asked about that topic.

The weekend was also quite busy. I did a lot of cleaning and shopping. I even shopped for Curious Dog’s kibble, which I only do once every quarter or so, as I always buy two 15kg bags that last for at least three months. I drove to a different town and went shopping for office supplies (new calendars for 2022, some paper, some sticky notes). I also wanted to pick up a special New Year’s lottery ticket, but they were sold out. Oh well, I’ve got a couple from Bavaria. And we usually don’t win anything anyway. I have now acquired most of the Christmas presents I need for my Partner, Mum, and the Cousins. Nothing particularly creative, but I think they will be appreciated. We’ll be sending the presents for the Cousins off sometime this week.

The weather has been mostly just above freezing, with lots of drizzly rain and only occasional sunshine. All the tracks where we walk with Curious Dog are very muddy and he get himself covered in mud (at least his belly and legs) all the time. On Friday morning I cleaned the hallway and Friday afternoon after our walk, it was dirty again. Oh well, such is life. We had a lovely longer walk on Sunday morning up the hill and down though the woods. It was sunny and pleasant, despite the muddiness.

I did a bit of reading on the weekend and a lot of TV watching. There’s a new BBC miniseries based on Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days with David Tennant as Phileas Fogg, the main character. It’s very good as films with Tennant tend to be (I haven’t seen one with him that I haven’t liked). The series is being shown on German public TV (ZDF) in a few days but is already available online. We (Partner, Mum and I) have watched six of the eight episodes and will probably watch the last two today and tomorrow. The miniseries isn’t particularly true to the book, but the modernizations work well.

As for reading, I didn’t have that much time what with shopping, cooking, cleaning, meditating, walking CD and watching TV, but I did finish my German poetry anthology and I’ve almost finished the Arabian Nights Entertainments. I liked some of the poetry, but not all of it and I found the book quite lacking in usability about which I’ll complain in another post.

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

My Monday got off to an uplifting start when I found that our software tools at work were obviously acting up again, so that my team and I had to do a quick analysis and create a ticket for the admins to check the situation. A lot of the processes on the servers were showing very odd behaviour, but the admins wanted us to provide examples, when they could have just checked the dashboard and seen for themselves what was up. I love it when the users have to point out that things are running badly, when it should be them letting us know that they are monitoring issues and dealing with them. Sigh. I raised the red flag in the morning, and we got a “we are working on it” reply late in the afternoon. Double sigh. I hope things will be looking better tomorrow morning.

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On a happier note: this week is our virtual Christmas party where my team will be having a meal and doing a pub quiz. It will be fun, I hope. Also, only 7 more workdays for me and then I’ll be on vacation for 3.5 weeks. I am very much looking forward to it. I like taking a longer time off over Christmas and the New Year, because it’s just so cozy having lots of time to read, watch films, play with Curious Dog, and do small jobs around the house that I don’t seem to have time for otherwise. Since lots of colleagues are also on vacation for at least some of the time, there won’t be so many mails and things that I will need to deal with on my return.

The weekend was mostly dismal weather. Friday was quite nice, with even a bit of sunshine, but otherwise it was and is dark, cloudy, and wet. Curious Dog and I got soaked on at least 3 occasions last week and somewhat damp on most days. I wouldn’t mind if we had some subzero temperatures and sunshine to freeze all that mud that’s covering our normal walk routes. It’s a bit of a pain having to dry off CD after every walk and hang up my wet clothes.

Because of the dreary weather, I made soup twice on the weekend. I always love soup, but it’s particularly nice when it’s wet and cold outside. One was a mixed vegetable soup with carrots, potatoes, onions, Savoy cabbage and cauliflower bits cooked in broth with some carrot juice (and spices) and the other a cream of broccoli and potato soup. They both were warming and tasty. Partner tried out a new recipe for Turkish flatbread which was excellent. The dough was rolled out and fried in a non-stick pan on the hob without any oil. The flat round dough blew itself up like a balloon while cooking – it collapsed again afterwards. I thought it wouldn’t work, but it did. We had it on Sunday with a vegan chili (had some leftovers for lunch today, too).

Otherwise, I did the usual grocery shopping. I’d wanted to go into town for some other kind of shopping, but the weather was so foul I couldn’t motivate myself. It’s postponed it until next Friday. Partner and I also did the usual cleaning and other chores, but mostly we hung around watching Hawkeye on Disney+ and The Wheel of Time and Undone on Amazon Prime. I love Hawkeye since he is my favourite Marvel character. I’m not sure about Wheel of Time. It was fine so far, but perhaps it will become tedious. I almost got the urge to read the books, but I squashed it firmly, because I remember that last time when I started the series I gave up after about three books because they were just too long, meandering, and repetitive. Usually I like long and meandering, but that was too much. If I remember correctly, the characters also got on my nerves. I do believe that I’ve got better series I should be following up on (for example, The Stormlight Archives). The series Undone is strange but so far quite intriguing. Something to do with time travel shown in an unusual animation style.

I managed to finish The Tale of Genji on Sunday, which is one of the things on my Year End list done. It was a very interesting read and hopefully I’ll soon get round to a proper review.

Keep safe, world.

Monday Miscellanea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep safe, world.

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.

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.

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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

After a lovely weekend a somewhat horrid workday.

We did a lot of homely things on the weekend: gardening, cooking, cleaning, watching films and series, setting up the new work notebook, and, last but not least, reading.

On Saturday Partner and I harvested most of the red currants on our one and only red currant bush. We got at least 2.5 kg from that one bush. I think that last year it was only about 900 g. There’s still some of the red currants on it that we didn’t pick. They weren’t quite ripe yet and I’m not sure if we will harvest them. It’s cool and rainy again for the next few days and then we’ll be off to Bavaria for 10 days again, so we may not get round to those last few berries. Maybe we’ll leave them for the birds. On Sunday we used 900 g of the red currants for a cake. Partner did the baking; I pulled the red currants off their little stems, a quite fiddly task. The rest of them I deposited in our freezer, after Mum and I had de-stemmed (or however you call it) them as well. Mum helped, because it would have taken ages otherwise.

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We meant to have pizza on Sunday, but because we were exhausted from all the baking and de-stemming, we had soup instead. Also, we had some left-over potato salad from Saturday. Vegan potato salad made with a soy-yoghurt sauce (with mustard, a bit of lemon juice, salt, pepper and some broth and some olive oil) – it’s very nice. We had fried tofu to go with it and for dessert, Partner made a mousse from aquafaba, red currants and sugar. We got the aquafaba from a glass of chickpeas and used the chickpeas for hummus. Aquafaba, the liquid in which chickpeas (or beans) are cooked, can be beaten like egg-whites.

Saturday I washed the floors after Partner had vacuumed. That made me hot and borderline annoyed, so afterwards Partner and I watched the next episodes of Loki and Bad Batch as a reward for stupid house cleaning. Both episodes were good. We also watched the penultimate episode of Underground Railroad on Sunday. The subject matter was again very dark. At least that bloody slave hunter got his just deserts, but we still need to see the last episode to find out what will become of Cora, the main character.

Sunday evening, as there are currently no new episodes of the Tatort crime series, I made Partner watch Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with me. We borrowed it off Amazon Prime and watched it in German (I couldn’t also force him to watch it in English). It was amusing. A lot of heaving bosoms from the women and smoldering looks from the men (especially from Mr. Darcy). The Bennets’ cousin Mr. Collins, the stuffy reverend, was played by Matt Smith (of Doctor Who fame) rather like a court jester. Catherine de Bourgh was a famous zombie-slayer (as was Mr. Darcy). The Bennet girls where all accomplished zombie slayers as well, having learnt the art of self-defense in China at a Shaolin school (they fought together really well). Wickham was an evil traitor, plotting with the zombie army and abducting Lydia without her consent (a major deviation from Austen). The ending was strange: marriage for Jane and Lizzie while the zombie situation wasn’t resolved (leaving things open for a sequel?). It was fun trying to spot the parts still fairly true to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice mixed in with the zombie plot. All in all, we had a blast with this sometimes slightly cheesy movie. You may too if you like zombie films and romances. That’s crossed one of my Jane Austen July to-dos off the list.

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On Sunday afternoon I unpacked my new work notebook and did all the required steps to get it set up. There were some snags where I found the instructions unclear, but I managed to get it up and running. It also installed a lot of updates and needed occasional restarts. Today I installed some more apps and tools, but it went faster than expected and I used it for work today.

The IT problem at work that I talked about in my last blog post wasn’t solved today despite the analysis my colleagues and I did (and why do we have to do this instead of IT?). We groaned and moaned about the situation in our team meeting. We’ve been having such a lot of weird issues with our software tools lately that it’s really impacting our ability to work productively, and tempers are getting frayed. One of these days we won’t be able to meet a deadline and then things will really turn unpleasant.

To return to the weekend: I finished reading Persuasion for Jane Austen July (another to-do off the list). It’s excellent. It was a reread, but I couldn’t remember much of it beforehand, so it was almost like a new read. It deserves a separate review which I will hopefully get to later this week. I also continued reading The Tale of Genji (I’m lagging behind again, but so is my reading buddy so it doesn’t matter – we will catch up this month). And I read a few poems from my anthology of 18th century women poets. So far, a lot of the poems complain about women’s lot in the 18th century. Some of them are excellent, but they are not well known because they didn’t really enter the cannon (reserved as it was for so long to male authors).

On the weekend mornings we did some long walks with Curious Dog, since we have more time than on workdays. We did the long walk through the woods that we hadn’t done for a while. It was still quite muddy in the woods and since it’s raining again today will get muddier. Still, it’s good to have a summer with rain for once. Unfortunately, there were again violent thunderstorms with flooding, but not hereabouts – we had milder storms. Nevertheless, poor Curious Dog didn’t like them at all and hid under Partner’s desk or the living room couch table. I wonder what our garden in Bavaria will look like after all the storms we’ve had recently. We’ll be driving down again on Friday (or maybe Thursday afternoon, but I’ve got so much to do at work that I think it’ll be Friday).

Keep safe, world.

Bits and Pieces

I’ve enthusiastically started Jane Austen July and am already up to p. 88 of Persuasion (its very good) and have read some poetry by Mary, Lady Chudleigh and Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea. They aren’t contemporaries of Austen, since they died in the early years of the 18th century and Austen was only born in 1775. But I will get to the later poets eventually. The month is early yet.

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I thought I’d share this interesting poem from 1703 by Lady Chudleigh (whose marriage wasn’t the happiest):

To the Ladies

Wife and servant are the same,
But only differ in the name:
For when that fatal knot is tied,
Which nothing, nothing can divide,
When she the word Obey has said,
And man by law supreme has made,
Then all that’s kind is laid aside,
And nothing left but state and pride.
Fierce as an eastern prince he grows,
And all his innate rigour shows:
Then but to look, to laugh, or speak,
Will the nuptial contract break.
Like mutes, she signs alone must make,
And never any freedom take,
But still be governed by a nod,
And fear her husband as her god:
Him still must serve, him still obey,
And nothing act, and nothing say,
But what her haughty lord thinks fit,
Who, with the power, has all the wit.
Then shun, oh! Shun that wretched state,
And all the fawning flatterers hate.
Value yourselves, and men despise:
You must be proud, if you’ll be wise.

Roger Lonsdale (ed.), Eighteenth Century Women Poets: An Oxford Anthology, 1990 (1989), p. 3.

Glad I’m living in the 21st century, where one can get a divorce (at least most of the world) when one’s husband turns into a tyrant.

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Partner and I got up slightly later than on workdays but not much later because we usually wake up early anyway and in summer it’s best to walk with Curious Dog before it gets too hot. Not that it’s been hot. This week was all about rain, thunderstorms (bad ones in places, but not were we live in Baden Württemberg), and cool temperatures between 18 and 23°C. Quite pleasant really (especially when one considers those parts of the world currently experiencing horrific 45°C and higher – dreadful!). Today it’s slightly warmer, tomorrow it’s supposed to be warmer yet, but on Sunday we are expecting the next wave of storms and the next cool period. Fine with me as long as the thunderstorms stay moderate.

So, we walked with Curious Dog in the pleasant morning sunshine, had a glimpse of the young stork and one of its parents and on our return, I read a bit of Persuasion. I managed to pull myself away from the novel to go grocery shopping. A couple of things I couldn’t get at my usual supermarket so maybe I’ll take another short trip tomorrow. We had lunch when I returned, just some corn on the cob and bread with our usual vegetarian spreads. We’ll be cooking a mushroom risotto tonight for dinner (well, Partner will probably do it). After lunch I put a load of washing into the washing machine and cleaned the bathroom. In between I took part in a short social call with my work colleagues (I usually join if I’m not otherwise occupied on my Fridays off). Then we had coffee and some lemon cake (baked by Partner yesterday – he’s the baker in our household) and now we are lazing around. I still need to hang up the washing, but that’s it with housework today. I’ll be doing some more tomorrow but am not inclined to overdo it.

My new work notebook arrived today. I’d ordered it in early April, but apparently there are delivery delays. Good thing my old notebook is still working (even if it’s having trouble installing updates to the operating system). I’m going to do the setup of the new one tomorrow or on Sunday, as I haven’t got time during the week. I must return the old one soon, so can’t dawdle with the setup. But it should be easy, as all my work documents are stored in the cloud and just need to be synched with the new notebook. Then I only have to install the tools I need and configure them (some of them take about an hour to configure which is a bit of a pain).

Yesterday I had an annoying workday, analyzing errors and checking the completeness of documents on our database. Earlier during the week thousands of documents had disappeared and we had to trigger a reload to the database. My colleague and I raised an IT ticket but didn’t get much of a response – we wanted to know what and why the disappearance had happened. So yesterday after analyzing the database all morning, I found that everything was available again after the reload. However, this afternoon, when I logged on for the social call with my colleagues, I was told that the documents had disappeared again. Very odd. My colleague raised another IT ticked, but since it’s Friday afternoon, I guess the issue won’t be solved until next week, cutting it very close to our next deadline. Looks like I can anticipate another stressful week. But I’ll be enjoying the weekend first.

Keep safe, world.