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new people?

More for the German crowd, but still: misjah is organizing a friending meme (not a "fiending meme" - typos, typos ...).

Go ahead, participate and enjoy!


Sergi Arola, Madrid

We've been to Sergi Arola yesterday - two Michelin stars. And yes, once again, very much worth it. I will fully admit that my knowledge of alcohol and cocktails is limited but when I ask for a fruity cocktail and get exactly what I asked for, something indeed fruity (but not in a sweet way!) that complements a meal in the most perfect way, I know that *they* do understand their drinks. Also the very fact that they did not blink an eye on my request (I was somewhat overwhelmed by having to decide what to drink from the top of my head - but as always, the guest is the king! At least as long as the guest is not mean-spirited.). They have also been wonderfully accommodating to my friend, who cannot eat fish, including when it came to amuse-bouches.

I was in general somewhat nervous because I invited a friend along where I would have felt really bad if he had felt that he wasted the money. He very much did not feel this way - and, photography being his hobby, actually made much better photos than me, but I am still showing you my crappy ones :P

They do serve ala carte, but we did go for the tasting menu - not the most extensive one, though. I would do it next time, but this we did not quite have the time or the stamina.

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Would I recommend it? Yes, yes, yes! Perhaps not if this is your only evening in Madrid (I really think you need to try one of the more down to Earth typical Spanish places), but very much so if you want something very fancy with wonderful service and if you have the right company to spend three and a half hours talking (we did!).

coffee o'clock

  • I did send quite some books back to Germany with N. (who had to go there because of visa idiocies - over one and a half thousand dollars for one signature, yay! Not.) And of course my brain went into the "omg, I don't have enough books" mode. Which is ridiculous, given that I still have more books here than I can read until end of November, but I also know that I need books around me (as in: more books than I can read) to feel home somewhere, but that's not the topic here. Anyway: So I went on a shopping spree that I wanted to do for a while: all the James Tiptree Jr. (aka Alice Sheldon) books. I don't think I've ever ordered that many second hand books online: 10 books. And - I was aware that some of her work has been re-issued in Germany (thanks to a recommendation by Denis Scheck in Druckfrisch - yes, there still are great TV shows about books!), but what I did not know that all of her short-fiction are published in a new translation and that her novels are forthcoming. How cool is that? And how sad is the fact hat I have to hunt for her books second hand in English.
    (There is a well-regarded award, the James Tiptree, Jr. Award that focusses on gender in speculative fiction - she is not a half-forgotten author, a big part of the sf/fantasy community knows her.).
  • Speaking of community: does someone happen to know a good academic work in the concept of community, especially with a focus on contemporary USA and in contrast to other parts of the world? Yes, historically it comes from German "Gemeinschaft", but the thing is ... the concept as such is almost non-existent, while "community" is ever present here: scientific community, Indian community (that my roommate is a member of), the Somerville community (referring to my little town), etc. The only context where something alike exists in Germany is religion/individual churches. Anyway, I'm not good at explaining what I mean, I just have a hunch and there is good chance that what I think to be is not true but merely a function of the different, well, communities I am in in the two countries and googling things up did not seem to help. But who knows, perhaps one of you did stumble over something alike at some point?
  • I am getting one of those people - not really hipster, but ... opinionated people on random things? Like: dark roast coffee is the most vile thing ever. But of course it's what you get most places. No way I can convince people that coffee is something amazing and yummy if all that they get tastes bitter and sour.
    Also, first person narrators. So many books would be so much better with a close third person. A first person narrator is really hard to pull off a) convincingly b) interestingly. But yeah, I know that I am not the intended audience for most books that go first person narrator.
  • I (very much on purpose) spoiled myself for Civil War. I was, to be honest, hoping for a clear cut "nope, not for me" reaction. But I am still in the limbo of not knowing whether I want to watch this movie. It's easy to ignore it when DC screws up because I can get back to the comics I love (they may not be what everyone likes, but I love them - yes, Hush, is one of them), but I never managed to get into Marvel on the comics side. That said - it may even be great storytelling choices in movie, but I am not sure they will not be soul-crushing for me in the way that stories with the wrong agenda are.
    Anyway, there is a reason why I try not to start any series before they have finished. Understanding how popular storytelling works and having a bit of a feeling for the markets makes it actually more frustrating. (I bet at least one decision in the movie was because of actor costs / time constraints.)
  • I booked Cirque du Soleil for July! I'm not sure why I hesitated before (not sure about whether I would travel somewhere and when?) and yes, the tickets are not cheap but I do love the shows and who knows when I have a chance again.
  • Also, it looks like I've been more to the theatre than to the cinema this year and that it will stay so. How sad it is: I finally found *my* theater, a year before I leave Boston?
    Anyway, seen "Arcadia" a few weeks ago and forthcoming after Madrid but before my Munich friends visit are two plays interpreting Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night, or What You Will" in different ways - same director, same actors, same play, but the promise it that it will be very different. I've seen this director's "Copenhagen" last year (amazing production that made me go to all the other play in Central Square Theater), so I have high hopes.
  • And to return to books and community and all that. There is that other little free library on the way to the supermarket that usually never has anything interesting, except for yesterday:

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    And there were other four or five books I'v been considering, but ultimately decided not to take. I hope that will be enough to hold my "not enough books" anxiety down.
  • Also: hiiii new people! Welcome! I hope I don't disappoint. If you want to know more about who I am, here is my last attempt to write an intro (and older intro is here). Generally, I have the "keys"-tag, that I use for what I consider to be keys to who I am. And there is also the "101 things I like in fiction"-entry, that may tell you more about me than my rambling about myself ever will. [No obligation to read anything, don't worry! And questions are always absolutely welcome!]

Somerville little libraries

I do not necessarily have a bucket list of things to do in Boston before I leave, but visiting all the little free libraries in Somerville was something I wanted to do for a while, actually since I've seen an article on the fact that there are (at least) seven in this one small city (I myself live in Somerville, two houses away from the Cambridge border). Only it's quite a bit of walking and doing it alone sounds boring. Enter N. and this Sunday:

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  • The marshmallow update seems to have broken all the third party alarm clocks on android, including my trusted one. This causes me a disproportionate amount of anxiety. I just hate change, especially when forced onto me, OK? I also really dislike the standard android alarm. And getting up on time is a big thing for me because I really struggle with it. (Btw., the song I wake up to is "Space Girl".) I may have spend a lot of time whining about it lately.
  • I went to the Harvard Coop bookstore last weekend to check on some popular books on astrophysics I was going to recommend to reisezeit (yeah, I kind of hate it that I can't just look into my own bookshelves and have all the books handy) and almost bought five other books. I did not. Only I came back with N. on Thursday, and bought 7. And another two yesterday in Pandemonium, the scifi bookstore. I should feel bad, but I don't - N. can bring up to one and a half suitcases of stuff for me to Germany and that was not quite planned for. Well, actually just one suitcase given how many books she bought herself.
  • One public outreach even on Tuesday (a live version of "Ask me anything ..." but in the form of "Ask me about black holes") and another yesterday ("How do we actually see black holes?" - talk). Both went really well. I just wish people would acknowledge how hard it actually is not being a native speaker - I stood there trying to explain the size of the galaxy by an analogy and could not remember the word "bucket". I don't in which point I want the acknowledgement - something like extra points in the CV? "I did all this public outreach in English, in a country that I still do not fully understand". I am whiny, sorry. It was a ton of fun. I usually don't like working with kids, but with things like these they are the best audience that you get most back from.
  • N. and I have made Greek salad. Nomnomnom. I should really remember how great it is and make it more often! I love Greek salad. Even though buying a whole baguette for one person is quite a commitment - it's a ton of meals for me and baguette does not freeze well. Except that I now have that microwave bread pudding recipe that may work with frozen baguette. Hmmm ... I see more Greek salad in my future!
  • We've (we being N. and me) been bowling yesterday with some colleagues - and than for Korean food with two of them who came late enough that we already had finished playing :D They did have a very good excuse, though, and I got some bibimbap and some Strawberry lime cider (imported, but the only local they had was the Downeast maple blend, which is great but which I also still have a can of in my own pantry). We also walked to the bowling place - it's pretty much an hour walk, but I needed the exercise, the weather was nice (t-shirt weather on the sunny side of the street) and the T was not running: it would have taken an hour to get there with the Replacement buses. Although to be honest, it would have been some 40 minutes with the T itself, too, because one first need to get to the T. from my place and that's a 15 minutes walk.
    Anyway, I had a nice time bowling and I ate bibimbap - I wanted some for a while but did not get a chance to eat some. It should not be too hard to prepare, but it's so many different ingredients, seems not really worth it for one person ...
  • And yeah, the title and sharing cookies? Because when you have friends visiting, this happens (half of each cookie for N., half for me):

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Utah 2015: Canyonlands

I can only repeat what I said before - Utah was amazing. Magic. Incredible. Each part we've been to.

But the place that just blew my mind was Canyonlands. We spent a day in the "Island is the Sky" district and one of my aims in life is to go back there and do a backlands tours. Yes, they are incredibly expensive. Yes, you need to bring everything out again because it is so dry that nothing (and I do mean nothing) decays. But it would be so worth it.

Photos do not give this landscape justice. Even standing there, I can't comprehend the sheer sizes of it. The sheer alieness. But if I don't show you the photos, I will miss the chance to perhaps make you go there - and I can't do that. So: here we go. None of the photos were in any way altered. The colors are the way they are. The desert has the most amazing colors that change depending on the light and the time of the day:

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So yeah, I will be back. For longer. And will get to explore the other parts of the park. Above is "Island in the Sky", but there is also "The Maze" (not reachable by normal car at all) and "The Needles" ...

random Thursday bits

  • Did I mention that I stayed in Florida for two and a half extra days? It was amazing: warm, but not yet hot. A ton of nature - alligators and manatees and birds and spiders and a forest that looked like just out of Jurassic park. But now my legs itch - even though I used a ton of deet-rich anti-mosquito spray and even though it's now four days since I'm back.
  • Aren't Harper Perennial's Olive Edition books the prettiest? I almost wish I didn't own "The Dispossessed" already. I did buy "Alas, Babylon", though. And yes, I love it, that "The Dispossessed" appeared in the same edition as "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (which I read) and "Bell Jar" and "Crying of Lot 40" (which I still need both to read).
  • Did you know that neither Tom Stoppard (born Tomáš Straussler) nor Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski) had English as their first language? Duhduh. Just saying. And at least Conrad is said to have had a heavy accent. I wonder whether they have heard things like "oh, your English [in my case: German] is really good" with an implied "for a foreigner" often, too.
  • Wholefood's dried mango are only slightly more expensive than the ones I did buy in bulk (a 5 pounds package - and yes, I did eat it all up, embarrassingly quickly) online. They are actually cheaper compared to the ones not bought in bulk. In short: I am not allowed to go to Wholefoods again. Ever. Dried mango is quickly turning into my personal cryptonite.
  • thistleingrey recommended Prune, the mobile phone game. I ... may have almost played it in full. Ooops? The only problem is that none of the screenshots have enough quality to use them as backgrounds, I would love them, just my aesthetics.
  • It's mid April and I still haven't bought any new clothes this year. I am pretty proud. Although in Florida I realized that my everyday ballet flats are almost falling apart, so I am not sure whether I will be able to sustain the not-shopping.

Boston --> Naples, FL

I'm sorry that I haven't answered all the comments to the last entry yet - quite a number of comments are longer than the entry itself and while I *love* it, it takes time, that I don't quiet have right now. I will, however, I promise. Same for not commenting atm.

Why? Well, because my Sunday starting this way:


and proceeded this way:


The second pic is, however, a lie. Those are indeed my feet. And there is a pool and palms. That photo was, however, the only thing I actually got to do before diving headfirst into conference madness half an hour later. Just to give you a feeling: Monday started at 8:30 AM and ended at 7:30 PM (and then we went to dinner and talked some more about science), with only 20 minutes in between, because one session ran over and the biggest part of the lunch break had a splinter meeting I wanted to attend. Tuesday was somewhat alike, including a talk by yours truly. And then we came back from dinner at 10:30 PM, realized that all the nice things the hotel offers close at 10 PM and proceeded to sit around until 1 AM with various people talking things like open science policies, software projects, statistics of variability analysis, and behavior of X-ray detectors under extreme conditions.

things we assume people know

There are so many things that we assume that people know, but they don't.

It was not until my own very early twenties that I actually understood what "homoeopathic" means. I kind of assumed "herbal" before that, along the lines of assuming that homoeopathic cold medicine meant a lot of natural vitamin C. My GP was quiet a bit into homoeopathic cold medicines, you see. I wish someone would have told me as I never bothered to look up. (But than again, my early twens were before smartphones and before "to google" became a verb, at least in German.)

Something that is part of the natural knowledge to me but is not for most other people are the discriminations of Jews in the former Sovjet Union; the fact that Sovjet passports listed your ethnicity (wikipedia in Russian; the only other entry seems to be in French - as said, people don't know; trying to google for it brings ... stuff onto the top of the google search results that makes me want to vomit; I am rather desensitized to the past, I am not to rampant antisemitism today - it is, as a matter of birth, something that directly affects me, something I cannot escape as I cannot escape my skin) and that whether you were allowed into certain schools and jobs would highly depends on what was written in (being Russian was good, being Moldovan was OK in Moldova, but bad everywhere else; being a Jew ... well, there was no place where it was good). Or that being Caucasian in the sense of belonging to an ethnicity from the Caucasian region still means belonging to one one of the most discriminated against ethnic groups in what is now Russian. I guess this is not something that is important knowledge for most people but it does define a lot of trouble I have with the American concept of "race" and checking off ethnicity/race on any kind of paperwork.
(I did know about slavery from really early on; it took a while to find out about the Internment of Japanese Americans - this is a part of WWII that has been too far from where I ever was to make it into the curricula; I don't blame them, there is a limited amount of time, merely pointing out that this is something I did not know at a point of my life.)

Basic astronomical and astrophysical knowledge is, on the other hand, something so mind-changing that I think most people would benefit from it: the sheer number of stars in our own Milky Way. The truthfulness of the "we are stardust" declaration. The vastness of the universe - already the distance to the Andromeda nebula, our neighboring galaxy. It's like flying above the cities, looking down onto New York from the cruising height of am everyday Boeing 737. But in your mind. And bigger. So much bigger. Earth is beautiful and vulnerable and incredible from this vantage point. But I forget that most people don't have the same image in their minds that I do. But this one is where I can contribute to people understanding it better (this is why I did sign that petition against removing astronomy from the school curricula; this is why I keep doing public outreach).
Yesterday, I made enough kale, potato & bean soup for six meals with the aim to freeze at least three portions. After eating one, the rest went down the drain because the idea of eating another bowl sounded less appealing than frantically cooking during the week.

Today, I turned up my computer to this news from the Japanese space agency: Communication failure of X-ray Astronomy Satellite “Hitomi” (ASTRO-H) (a less technical article here) and a few other gory bits that people posted on twitter. In short: it does not look good. (This was supposed to bridge the time until the next X-ray mission from Europe, in 2028 ... Not to mention friends whose jobs depend on it. And some of my own employment hopes.)

Also, neither did I apply for the job I wanted to apply for nor did my taxes. This one I am myself to blame for - and it's not even winter, but I don't seem able to care about doing stuff. WTF.

In short: can we please re-wind this weekend?! And then start anew on a different course?
-- Terry Pratchett, "Thief of Time" --

  • I've packed the first load of unread books (and a few sweaters) into a bag that my friend is going to take with him to B. My books are no longer in two rows, but they are still a lot. Still, the bookshelf feels a lot more naked.
  • I've been eating out every day for dinner Tue to Fr. OK, Thursday was ice-cream (the amazing Toscanini gelato) for dinner, but still. There was also a lunch on Thursday, a pizza seminar on Friday and dim sum yesterday. I've had great conversations, but now I feel overfed and socially drained.
  • There is soup (roasted kabocha squash and carrot again) in the making for the rest of the week and I may finish a part of my cross stitch today. Not sure that I want to push for it, but it's a nice feeling to see the end in sight.
  • I have three more cans of Downeast Maple Blend hard apple cider. One of them in the fridge.
  • It is supposed to snow today night and tomorrow during the whole day. Yes, we had days with t-shirt weather just a week ago. That's Boston.
  • It looks like September may be roadtrip time: Ithaca, Niagara Falls (the Canadian side), Chicago, Madison in three/four days. And then flying back from Milwaukee. My friend is moving - there may be tears in the end. But that's the good side of science (if we all stay in science, but right now things are good, all of us three have next offers) - you don't fall out of touch with people so easily if you see them every second conference and keep working together.
  • I've got a lot of generall grumpiness: about collaborators not properly communicating (twice in different context, one will be a hell to fix because student involvement and I don't want a conversation in front of the student), about people listing the German non-prof positions as "assistant professors" on their English-language CVs (don't google up people asking questions in mailing lists, although that's not the first time I run into it so maybe its subject specific, who knows, but I seriously don't think that even "akademischer Rat auf Zeit" is equivalent to a prof), about me not doing enough ... Speaking of which: I better go and take care of that soup. And then clean up a bit. The room does not clean itself and I may feel better with less chaos around me.
I'm reading Christa Wolf's "Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud" (City of Angels or the Overcoat of Dr. Freud) and this passage trapped me, oscillating: past and present (than and now, repeating patterns), Jewish and German (and because it seem not to be as clear from my posts as I thought it was: yes, I am both), USA and Germany (I've been on both sides of this conversation, foreigner in Germany, German in the USA). This tendency to fool oneself. But they are weak. Yes, of course. No question about it. What else should I do?

Typing it down also brought me back into thinking about the translations: does the English really express what the German does? Especially with Wolf, where every word weights so much. But also the cultural context: can this be translated? I've not lived through the German history of the early 90ies myself, but I know it, I feel it. I spent my - late - teens listening to Die Ärzte and know "Schrei nach Liebe" (of English translations the second is better but neither gets all the symbolism right, that's one very clever song; see also the wikipedia entry for the song including of the fact that it was #1 in the charts 22 years after the it first went live.) by heart. And there is of course all of Christa Wolf's personal background, the mistakes made, the controversies. So much reverberating behind the text, so much context ... And of course the context of my own reading of this particular passage right now, one deeply rooted in the current discussion in German media that is not reflected on this side of the pond, too busy navel-gazing their own election, barely interested in the happening on the other side of the globe even when not distracted by internal trouble.

Anyway, Christa Wolf:

-- Christa Wolf: "Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud" (City of Angels or the Overcoat of Dr. Freud) --

your body is a battlefield

The German insurance system is still much better as a system but it fails at contraception compared to the good American one I have right now. (The thing of course is that should I get unemployed here I would not get to keep the good one, at least not if not paying crazy amounts of money - and not every job comes with one at all and with one as good as mine, proven once again by the fact that the student nurse who gave me my vaccine shot yesterday had hers not covered by her insurance.)
Anyway, I was lucky enough not to need the insurance much, but I did get a new Mirena IUD this fall - and got an amazing OB/GYN with whom I spent time gushing about how Mirena is literally life-changing. That one did save ♥ and me a ton of money. And yesterday I got first of the three shots of the HPV vaccine (the 9-valent one) - those are covered for kids in Germany but I was out of that age-range by the time they were introduced.

So there is this student working with the folks on the other floor - I meet her in the kitchen pretty often and try to follow the unwritten rule of being nice to students even though I am usually one of those grumpy people who just want their tea or coffee and not a conversation. But yeah, students, making them feel welcome and so. Until at some point you have a look at their laptop and realize that there is a giant "pro life" sticker covering half the back of the 15" machbook pro.
And just ... no. I want to take back the nice conversation we had about her Avengers-t-shirt. I want to take back my recommendation to talk to another colleague who is a big comics fan.
At a point in my life, when I was happy about any friendly word and about anyone who did not resort to xenophobic slurs, a lot of my little circle of loser-friends were kids from Bavarian suburbs/villages around A. So I am not a foreigner to people with opinions very different from my own, including on this topic. But having an opinion is one thing, bringing it to work this way is another one (I also do not wear my flying spaghetti monster t-shirt to work). She can decide whatever she wants about her body, but she is not going to decide about mine. And if she wants to - well, than I just want to have my tea, without a conversation.

Did you know that OB/GYNs are not allowed to list whether they are performing abortions on their websites in Germany? Well, they don't. Which means the next time I need an OB/GYN there, I will be asking questions first and making appointments later.
This was a warm winter: I feel like I haven't had enough of my warm sweaters -- partly because I spent almost half of it traveling (5 weeks Europe, another conference, New Orleans), leaving out of a single suitcase. I used the heavy facial cream, the one that saves me when my skin starts flaking because of the cold, only twice or thrice. I almost miss the snow but I also enjoy the days when it smells like spring. And in a week, I will be packing the first suitcase to send back to the other side of the Atlantic: snow shoes and winter jacket and the chunky sweaters that are for the coldest days.

Once I mended a piece of clothing, I feel extra attachment to it. It's almost a "I saved your life, so you better stay alive for really long". Does anybody else feel the same way or is it just me being strange?

If you want a really sweet movie (with some amazing British English), go watch "Saving Grace" (2000). I feel this need to go and search for more movies with Brenda Blethyn.

If you want an amazing science fiction story (length-wise a novella, I guess?), Cory Doctorow's "The Man Who Sold the Moon" (available in full length online) may be for you. I cried like crazy over that thing - it does have a few heavy handed moments but given how they all come from either stoned people or teenagers, they feel just as real as the rest of the story. Hard science fiction, perfect characters, burning man, Theo Jansen (I so need to manage to be in den Haag for summer next year if/when his strandbeests [not a typo] walk the shore; there has been a happening in the Peabody museum last year, but I missed it) ... This one just works.

Any audiobook recs? My preferences is for British English speakers, unabridged text, and comfort reads or detective stories. I'm still listening my way through Terry Pratchett but I came to realize that there is not an endless supply of those books left. Still enough for several years given how much I listed to, but, but, but ... (This is me, my perception of time is rather skewed.) And I am really asking for audiobooks, not books that may be nice as audiobooks. I have several ideas there (Stephanie Plum), but the audio samples did not work for me.
Someone I know - someone I got to know here on LJ - died this week. We've not been very close, but it still leaves me sad. And ... puzzled. Confused. I can't find a good word for this feeling.

She was one of the first people I met here, we wrote letters for a while - back in times when penpalling was a hobby I had time for. We went on with life, in different directions, but still kept loosely in touch in a few other online places. She married, battled cancer, was declared healthy, was an artist and a cancer-activist, gave birth to a child - and died, her baby boy mere two months old. I don't know what happened, I don't know anybody else in her life whom I could ask (we've been joking a few times that we really should meet up if we end up at least in a roughly same part of the country, but we never did) - I've seen people posting on her profile and would not have known it happened otherwise.

It makes me wonder about the other people who suddenly disappear. I don't tend to dwell too much on this usually, but: there is her profile, coming up when I want to use goodread's "recommend this book" function. I may have thought that she just left her online presence, being too busy with her kid, if I did not know.

(If you leave lj at any point, say "bye". Let me know you are ok.)


  • I am a grumpy ass at the moment. I was snappy in my e-mails to N. I was definitely too loud on my work-date yesterday (work-date = sitting in a cafe with a collaborator/friend discussing science and especially future plans). I am pretty sure I snapped at a few more people. Hrmpf.
  • Deadpool! Deadpool was so much fun! I don't know the comics (the old MArvel problem) but can we talk about how the movie treats sex and sex work and female bodies? Vanessa is a sex worker (as clear as this is going to be spelled out in a superhero movie) but there is no angst around it not even when Wade sees her in that one bar late in the movie [not spoiling, I am taking care!]. He has a thousand reasons to freak out and none of them is "she is back to her job!" because he does not fucking care about this part. Also: the progression of a relationship told in sex scenes only. Also the pegging scene (yes, I've seen the movie in a matinee viewing; yes, it was full; yes there was a ton of uncomfortable laughter at that one).
  • Umberto Eco is dead. It makes me so sad. Here we are: the writers whom I got to know as contemporary are not contemporary anymore. Christa Wolf. Umberto Eco. And with Eco - I think I appreciated him far more as an intellectual in the recent years than as a writer; did not feel like picking up his newer novels, but I would read any essay written by him at any time.
    It's also an interesting cultural disconnect - so much about Eco among the Europeans in my larger social network(s), nothing from the USA side. It's certainly unsurprising (how many big American intellectuals do I know?), but it also brings home how different things are.
    But also there is the ongoing surprise that someone who wrote in Italian was so well known in whole Europe. Language (and culture! but the language one makes it even higher) barrier is very much present there, too, of course.
    [The title of this post is, of course, a citation of Eco's.]
  • Third visit to the Central Square theater. Third good play (not as mindblowing as as "Copenhagen", but hardly anything is as mindblowing as Copenhagen). I am biting myself in the ass now that I did not find out that this theater existed much earlier. Preferably my very first month in Boston. I also absolutely low how creative they are in their use of the room and the stage - how they re-arrange the stage and the seating every time to fit the play best. And yes, "Copenhagen" was the classical "audience before the stage" but neither of the other two were and in all three cases it was just perfect for the play.
  • "Who owns history?" was the one question that the booklet that accompanied the play (Danai Gurira's The Convert) - and it seems to be one that people think a lot about? It's just: there is certainly one clear thing that happened. Someone died. Someone was born. But the narrative of it? The history? I've seen it changing hand to often: there is the history taught in the Sovjet Union and history taught after the Sovjet Union - but it may have depended on the political affiliation of the teacher, and the history taught in Germany, and there is the history taught in the USA. And I do not have any illusion that one of them is more real than the other. I kind of forget that this is perhaps not a view that most people hold.
    (Careful, I am still very grumpy XD)
  • I've also spent an hour on the phone today (and quite a bit of time on e-mails) with someone I once met at a few conferences&talks who is now moving to the USA for a job. Collecting karma points by being helping other people, in the hope that others will do it for me. (They do, see the conference buddy who helped me to get my paperwork from Germany to the Netherlands in the fall. Or the people here.)

New Orleans 2016

So my flight back from the Netherlands got delayed by two hours and I landed in Boston on Saturday afternoon and spent over an hour standing in line for pass control. I got home, re-packed from the proper suitcase into my carry on, and got up at 4:30 AM to catch the flight to New Orleans at 8 AM on Sunday to catch the last days of Mardi Gras. Was this somewhat crazy? Definitely. Was it worth it? Oh yes!

I brought home a mask - my friend brought some for all of us. Mine was surprisingly comfortable to wear and, as I realized when I took it down, actually provided some protection against the cold and wind. I threw away the few necklaces I collected (I could have taken much more) in the hotel in Gonzalez - they would make a nice deco, a remembrance of the stay in New Orleans, but I am not a person to collect memorabilia on one hand and there is the matter of moving continents (again) in less than 10 months (I did send a bunch of books back to Germany with one of my friends whom I met for this trip and who was heading back there). I could not stop myself from collecting the bouncy balls that one of the floats at the Bacchus parade threw into the audience. Do you remember trying to get them out of the machines (the same kind as the gumball machines) as a kid?

Anyway, some New Orleans impressions for those less interested in swag and my childhood memories:

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My last half day there (my flight went back on Wednesday afternoon), we went to see the Laura plantation, where we had an amazing, opinionated guide who drove home the horrors of the place. Also did you know that people used to live in the former slave huts in some places until Katrina? Sure, they may have added some makeshift electricity. But: people lived in the slave huts! Try wrapping your mind around it - I can't.
Big LIGO (gravitational wave detector) announcement today at 10:30 EST / 4:30 Central European time (aka in 15 min):

https://www.youtube.com/user/VideosatNSF/live [original livestream link]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aEPIwEJmZyE [video of livestream]


Today's APOD (astronomy picture of the day) has a placeholder for until after the press conference:


A primer on gravitational waves from the Universe today:


Same author but in German has a detailed discussion of why this is cool in several posts here:


Anyway, let's see what will happen in 15 min. And then I will head over to the astro main building for the big party.

[eda:] Oh, Rai Weiss is on stage! I know Rai and he is great!

[eda2:] And here is the original peer reviewed publication that went live during the press conference:


And here the, also peer-reviewed, article on the astrophysical implications:


recipe recs IV: vegetarian without egg

Given how all I've been eating since Sunday is deep fried seafood, I am very much looking forward to a few more veggie-heavy dishes starting tomorrow. Don't misunderstand me, Louisiana's seafood is amazing (I used to say that I do not like fish soup, I was so proven wrong over and over again), but I am also missing my green stuff. A lot.

In that sense: Last but not least bunch of recipe recs!

Super simple creamy pasta
Skip the milk, get some more cottage cheese for an especially creamy pasta. This works perfectly as one-portion. I've been eating tons of it lately - cottage cheese is a great protein source, too, if this is something you tend to care about.

Chocolate espresso mug cake
Instant coffee instead of espresso - otherwise: it's a mug cake! Without eggs and only with ingredient I always have (I always have milk, because coffee)!
Mug cakes are never as perfect as real cakes, but this one is so satisfying when you suddenly need your chocolate cake mix and are too snowed in to even get to the coffee shop around the corner.

Stuffed peppers
The way I make my corn stuffed peppers it veeeery roughly inspired by this recipe - but this is still what gave me the idea, so ...
Normal peppers for me, though the long ones (which are thinner) are preferred. Also no rice because I hardly have any left over. Canned corn, because I am lazy and fresh corn is hard to get in Germany. I also take some freedom with the spices.
Anyway, yummy vegetarian meal. Very forgiving.

Mushroom gorgonzola pasta
Yes, I know this is a vegetarian recipe post but the linked recipe contains steak. I made it with steak exactly once - and another 10 times or so leaving the steak out and increasing the amount of mushrooms by a lot.
The recipe is absolutely amazing. Rich in both taste and texture, creamy, satisfying. The perfect winter lunch or dinner.

Aubergine involtini with herbed ricotta
This is another laborious one that I usually male for guests (once again with *my* tomato sauce) - and SO worth it. I don't have a griddle pan, a normal one will work perfectly, too.

Buttermilk biscuits/scones
I don't quite know what these are, but they are perfect. (Eat them with lemon curd from the "vegetarian with eggs" recipe rec post.)
I absolutely need to make more recipes from smittenkitchen - they always turn out great. Too many recipes and not enough time ...

Roasted broccoli and carrots
Forget the lemon and the garlic, but keep the red pepper flakes or chili. And don't ever leave out the parmesan. If you, like me, like your veggies on the crunchy side, keep to the 10 minutes, not more.
Perfect light winter snack. Or dinner if you had a big lunch but still crave something warm when it's cold outside. I tend to (almost) always have broccoli and carrots in my fridge in winter because of this recipe.

Beggars linguine - linguine with nuts and dried fruit
I know this recipe sounds strange, but it is great - I convinced both ♥ and (independently of each other) two friends of mine. Feel free to experiment when it comes to both nuts and dried fruit; whatever you have in your pantry is going to work. I cannot imagine making this without walnuts for example that are not in the original recipe. The orange zest is a nice addition, but not a requirement; but don't leave out the pepper.

Puff pastry & tomato squares [German]
So easy and so good. The squares taste best fresh from the oven and make a perfect lunch or dinner. They are somewhat less crisp next day, but still very tasty.
I've never done them with fresh basil - dried one works just perfectly. I also tend to brush them with the oil&basil mixture before baking; I don't even know why, that's just the way I make them.

Clafoutis with olives and sheeps' cheese [German]
I haven't made that for ages - I don't even know why ...? Oh well, no creme fraiche in the USA, so this one will have to wait.

Garlic pull apart bread [German]
I don't have a kitchen machine, so I kneaded the bread by hand. It's less work than you may afraid it to be. The only thing you need to take care of is that the butter melts and can drip through small cracks in your backing dish if it has any. Take care or you'll have a mess in the oven.

Fruit crumble [German]
I've been making this one for ages - plums taste best, but almost any other fruit will work, too. I had everything from apples and pears (cut them in small pieces so that they get soft quicker) to berry mixtures. I don't need whipping cream for the crumble, so I never make it ...
I never measure out the ingredients for the crumble, but I am pretty sure I use a lot less butter and flour, but perhaps even a bit more oats - oats make the streusel especially crunchy.


recipe recs III: vegetarian with egg

Braindead. But the conference is great. Also, having eggs + bacon for breakfast every day (yay good hotel food!).

Which seemed like a good transition for vegetarian recipe recs with egg, but I am not sure anymore that it is. Anyway: enjoy!

Simple egg quesadillas
I've been eating these for years. Don't skip roasting the capers, but feel free to skip the lemon and add any other spices to the yoghurt (I tend to use normal one, not Greek, but the tart European kind). Chives are great, but I don't often have fresh ones; simple onions, leeks, scallions, they all work.

Ricotta stuffed shells
This is one of the more complicated recipes, but oh so worth it. One of my favorite things to make when hosting people for dinner.
I tend to make my own tomato sauce - I have feelings about how tomato sauce has to taste. But the one suggested in the recipe tastes nice, too.

Herbs omelette with bell pepper and goat cheese filling
So this is the recipe that started my recent love for omelettes. I tried something alike in a restaurant and then went searching for a recipe - the restaurant version also had cashews that are a nice addition but not necessary. The omelette you get is wonderfully fluffy and the feeling is perfect - I am sure not only for a bell pepper and goat cheese lover like me!
I don't think I ever used exactly the herb combination from the recipe - I used chives, parsley, basil, scallions and onions. It tastes better with fresh herbs - as most things do - but dried one will work as well. I am also not quite following the removing from heat/folding routine; I follow my feeling there. Especially since I am not good at actually flipping omelettes without totally destroying them.

Lemon curd
We've only made lemon curd once in my life - but it was oh so yummy. Totally need to repeat it at some point in my life when I am not cooking all for myself alone.

crustless cheese and onion quiche
It tastes best when cold - a great take to work lunch. I am pretty sure I leave out the butter. And I use whatever cheese I have. And use mustard instead of mustard power (I don't think I ever had any). And more onions than recipe calls for. (Hmmm ... I haven't cooked this since I am in the USA; I need to remedy this.)

Zucchini filled with mushrooms and cream cheese [German]
Easy and yummy. This is another combination that sounds strange but comes out of the oven absolutely amazing. It also warms up well - a bit messy for a work lunch (and somewhat too light for a really long working day), but worth it.

Semolina pudding [German]
I hate this stuff when it is cold - and dearly love it when hot. Did so even as a kid.
My favorite way to eat it is with fresh apples. I will reduce the amount of sugar somewhat as compared to the recipe - adding some crunchy brown sugar on top if it is not sweet enough.

Bread, apple, and raisin bake [German]
So yes, I am the kind of person who can have pancakes for lunch/dinner. Or sweet bread, apple, and raisin bake. It may not be very healthy, but who cares? Well, at least sometimes ;)

Spinach & ricotta filled pancakes [German]
Fresh spinach, not deep frozen spinach. (I will need to re-try frozen spinach at some point, but my only one experience with it so far was awful and made me hesitant trying spinach again for far too long.) Very rich and yummy.
I am also pretty sure I tend to make the pancakes my own way - but I am sure the one in the recipe works
well, too. It is remarkably popular and well rated.

Turkish spinach bites [German]
I am repeating myself, but: fresh spinach. Otherwise these are just perfect - I tend to use feta, but I am pretty sure a different sheep cheese will work, too. I also never use the sparkling water - I just never have any around. Also dried oregano instead of the fresh one.
The bites are also surprisingly filling. Good, quick one-person-dinner.

Apple and maple syrup muffins [German]
Favorite muffins. 'nough said. Absolute favorite muffins for years now.

Ovenpancake with cherries [German]
Did I mention pancakes for lunch/dinner? Well, it does not always have to be simple pancakes. Sometimes it's baked pancakes with cherries.

Quark strudel with peaches [German]
So I used canned peaches, because I am lazy. But this is so incredibly good. And that say I who usually hates baking.

Shakshuka / eggs in tomato & bell pepper sauce [German]
I wanted to try shakshuka for ages before I finally run into this recipe and cooked it. And then I cooked it again. And again. And again. If you cook the eggs all the way through (no runny yolk), it's another great work lunch.



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