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So there was this fact-sharing meme going around (comment, be given a number between 1 and 50, share this number of facts) and tralfamadore was so nice to give me a nine. And I spent a few days thinking of which facts to tell. And then I remembered being asked about my refugee experiences (I know by whom, but I also know that this person has a lot of other things on their plate right now, so ... this is past and your life is present, so let me be there for you and not the other way around <3). And yeah ... Why not 9 of those? Well, because this is not something that is easy to talk about. And some things (a lot of things) will not make it to this blog. This time (never). Yet - it's a game, right? It's easier when it's a game. It's not really 9 facts. Nine stories. Moments. Thoughts. Memories. Whatever. NOT in the right chronological order, to prevent confusion, although there is a certain time arrow.

1. Does anybody realize the irony that it is Nuremberg? The Nuremberg of the Nuremberg trials. And before that of the Nuremberg rallies. But the reception camp for the newcomers is in Nuremberg. So yes, you've been to the Nazi party rally grounds. On like your second or third day in Germany. The first being spent trying to get from Frankfurt airport to Nuremberg by cheap trains with flimsy giant bags that contained mainly beddings, comforters and pillows and a few dictionaries. You would lie if you say that you remember much of the rally grounds.

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9. You teach yourself German more than you are taught German. Mainly reading. Writing letters (that will be your first love). Unsurprisingly, when you go to Gymnasium a year later (one of the very few children in your class who made it; and even you have to step back a year from where you were before you changed countries - the systems wants it, it's not like you are lacking the knowledge - and spend the next two years being endlessly bored in math and half of the other subjects) your German teacher tells you that your German is not good enough. It's your worst subject. She also quietly recommends you a private tutor. Your parents hire you another one (he says two hours a week would be better, but you can't afford it; you still have no bed and no desk). The marks don't change (you did not hire the tutor she recommended you), but he teaches you how to pronounce German properly. You get a nice Bavarian-Swabian accent, not enough to fool the native of the area, but enough that someone from Berlin will place you in Bavaria, not in Eastern Europe (at least you would like to believe that). The teacher exchanges mid-year. Your mark suddenly goes from a 6 or a 5 to a 2. Huh. (They will also reap your sweater this year; one of the only three you had. You are an easy victim. And oh, you are Jewish and there are people in your class who remind you of this. It will take another two years before you will change schools again.)

[Comments unscreened for the moment. I may change my opinion and screen them by default and only unscreen once I read them. My replies may also be very selective; this is likely me, not you, there is just a certain amount of spoons I can spend on this.]

grumpy

I.
I am so not looking forward to the week. It's hot, it's humid and it will get only worse. I fully expect to end up functioning on three hours of mostly interrupted sleep. Or I'll shlep the window A/C unit upstairs and build it in. Not that it will help much with the quality of sleep: it's old and loud and it takes away one third of my anyway tiny window or in other words my chance to actually wake up (I need sunlight to wake up).

II.
That said, I used the fact that yesterday was actually cool to cook for the week: I finally got beets (they were old sold out the last two weekends except for some tiny and some giant ones) and cooked&diced them for a beet and feta salad. Pan-fried salmon for a salad with salmon. And cooked eggs for a kefir-based version of okroshka (cold Russian soup). That shall bring me through the week given how there will be 3 different work lunches.

III.
Speaking of kefir: there is a Whole Foods tax, I kid you not. Of course plain kefir was sold out in Market Basket. The very same one - same company even! - costs one and a half times that much in the WholeFoods. Grah!

IV.
Summer generally requires a rather annoying amount of planning: I need clothes that I will not get cooked inside in while walking to work (or changing buildings, or going to lunch ...) but at the same time will not freeze to death in my office (the A/C is ... interesting and the temperature distributions can be described as rather spiky, in both directions). I don't use the dryer and the only place to air dry my clothes is in my room (140 square feet or 13 square meters, btw.). Given how I'll suffocate if there is additional humidity in my room on the got and humid day, I need a stretch of at least two, preferably three cool days to do my laundry. Or some travelling.

V.
We have so many new people from the other project in my building now. All the technicians! I know they mean well, but if I'm making my morning tea, the last thing I want is to strike a conversation with someone who first thinks me a student and then asks me about my future without having a faintest idea of how academic job markets work. I just want my tea because I got out of bed ever so slightly too late and then procrastinated so that I ended up walking here when it was already too hot and now I'm dehydrated and grumpy.

telegrams

  • A very British colleague is visiting and I am distracted by the fact that part of the conversation I tend to overhear happens in my favorite accent that I usually never ever get to hear. I really, really wish I were speaking British English.
  • I've seen the new Terminator movie on Friday. We went in mainly for the laughs (and the tacos before and the company after) and with zero expectations but it was less bad than expected. Also: [Spoiler (click to open)]Dr. Who is Skynet. Whoever made this particular casting choice is pure genius. I want a whole story of Skynet's adventures of inter-dimensional traveling.
  • I get reminded that I am a really quick walker. N. was complaining the last time she's been visiting that I am literally running to work. I am not. But since then I am very aware of how often I will overtake people on the streets, even when loaded with a backpack and two totes full of food and drinks for the week.
  • I now own three pairs of pearl earrings. I just wanted one but they had this set on sale. Very ... bieder is the German word that I can't find the right German equivalent to. Oh well, or just all grown up and right for interviews. Anyway, I think, I rock them.
  • I went down the memory lane and re-read "Республика ШКИД" for the first time since more than 20 years. Still loved it dearly. Of course, it's not translated into English, but you can hunt down the German translation, "Republik der Strolche" easily. And seriously: do so.
  • Also this fic is currently an absolute obsession: Simmer and Boil. One of the sort that I would totally read as a book (and it would need only minor editing; says the person in whose opinion a lot of books need major editing). It's pretty much an AU of an AU and readable without any knowledge of canon. The perfect book, I tell you; a genius use of strictly limited POV and one of the truest portrayal of feelings I've encountered lately in both fanfic and books, wrapped in the story of a fling slowly turning more with a good dose of understandable emotional angst. Like seriously: if you want a good comfort read, this one is for you.
  • Also, this is an old list (and as all such lists it has a lot of problems, i.e., it's English-centrism, and some plus-point, i.e., the additional of a number of classic sf books) but here it is in a nice useable format: Guardian's 1000 novels everyone must read. My score is 81/1000, but as said, English-language-centrism and I openly admit that I've read much more German and Russian classics than the English ones. Anyway, clicking my way through it gave me the inspiration to finally tackling some books that have been on my shelf for a while.

somerville cooking II

I really like having people over for food - I may freak out before and spend too much time thinking whether they will actually like it (I am aware that my own taste is often rather eclectic and will not usually serve people my favorite beet salad, because not many people actually love beets). Yet: the conversation during the meal. The process of cooking several dishes, often some that I will not take the time to cook otherwise. The idea of a multi-course meal. People asking for recipes or just enjoying what I made for them. I love it all.

Why this as an intro to this post? Because while I did not have much chance to cook for friends lately, I did so once, resulting in this meal:




The photos, except for the galette, weren't taken on the same days - but the items are the same. My everyday food is more modest, though:

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Fourth of July weekend

Friday
Lazy morning. Giant breakfast with bagels. "National Museum of the American Indian" esp. the Inca road exhibition.Read more...Collapse )Three books (Zuni Coyote Tales; American Indian Trickster Tales; The Inca Empire - A Multidisciplinary Approach). Peruvian street food & a pisco sour for dinner. Passion fruit ice cream for dessert. Shopping for the rest of the weekend - olives in "small", "medium", "large", "extra large" and "super colossal" (and people make fun because we named it "extremely large telescope").Read more...Collapse )Reading. John Wick (the movie). John Oliver show.

Saturday:
Making and eating a giant stack of crepes (an almost tradition for when I visit here).Read more...Collapse )Hardware store to get fold-able chairs. More cooking. Picnicking at the lake, eating the pasta salad I made. Read more...Collapse )Watermelon and cherries for dessert. Beavers! And finally getting a good shot at one of them.Read more...Collapse )Fireworks one city over.Read more...Collapse )and finally fireworks over the lake with a ton of kids being very excited all around us.Read more...Collapse )(No color filters used. Photos as taken, only resized.). Apple ginger cider. Good cheese. Laughing over stupid videos.

Sunday
Brunch. A walk along one of the creeks. Deer.Read more...Collapse )The game/fun kitchen stuff store. Reading. Goodbyes. Skype with ♥. Work. Playing iota with my host.Read more...Collapse )(Note the creative use of M&Ms to mark where no card can be played. Also the difference in the shape of the game once we realized that there is a trick to get more points.) An e-mail saying that I got a talk in August. So did a good friend. A Soko Stuttgart episode (German crime procedural).

Monday - that one will be work.

rrrandom

  • Did you know that Aristotle used "democracy" to denote something negative? Democracy to policy as what tyranny is to kingship. Don't tell me that the meaning of words change, I know. I just found this amusing.
  • So, ladies. Rompers and jumpsuits. To be honest, I can totally see how some are even rather pretty. OK, very pretty. And remember the times when we all though that shorts over tights are awful and I sill love the look. But how do you pee when wearing a jumpsuit? I mean, come one ...? Wearing them the whole day?
  • I've not been reading transformers comics for ages. On one hand I keep hearing good stuff about the storylines. On the other there are interpretations of characters that I feel rather meh about, at least reading about them. But. But. They have [Spoiler (click to open)]Elita One now. They have Elita One in the IDW universe. Maybe I have to pick the comics up again.
  • On the other hand: Midnighter has an ongoing comic. Midnighter! And I am zero interested in reading it because they split Midnighter and Apollo up. I know, don't judge stuff before you read it, etc. But the whole stuff about them (I know, spoilers - but seriously, for a comics from the 90ies?) was that they started out as a couple and their status as a couple was never seriously put in question, not even when Midnighter went onto his epic "I have to leave the team and my family less we destroy the world" nor through the turbulences in "Human on the Inside". I mean sure, trouble. But they never split. Ahem ... Anyway, but if you want a comic recommendation: old Authority comics. Next to an amazing (gay) long-term relationship, ot also features awesome female characters.
  • Also Hellblazer. Hellblazer is amazing. (And reminds me of the first volumes of Lucifer - of course it's wrong in sense that it's Lucifer that should remind me of Hellblazer because I'm reading the first volumes, the ones from late eighties that prominently feature Margaret Thatcher's speeches as an instrument of torture and that have been published good 10 years before Lucifer ...)

Well, giving how we started with politics and ended with politics this may be a good moment to wrap it up ...

STEM

echomyst mentioned the buzzword "STEM" (MINT for the Germans among you) and while thinking about an answer to her post I realized that it is actually worth an entry of its own. Because it's important and because my thoughts on it went further than the context it was originally mentioned in. And because this whole thing grew far out of the confines of a comment.

Also warning for generalizations, some speculations, lack of proper referencing etc. You could find quite some studies on the points I mention (a lot of my own background knowledge that is implicit in writing this post comes from the outreach projects I've been part of; for the Germans among you I can only recommend to take a look at studienkompass - who are by far not only doing STEM - and perhaps decide to support them ...), but I have a limited time and less limited trust in you folks. Anyway:

So isn't STEM education just a part of a normal, well-rounded education? Why the buzzword? Why the extra?

It should be part of well-rounded education. Is it? No, I don't think so. Not to many people. Two examples, from two different cultural contexts [although I do mix the contexts in parts, sorry], that frustrate me to no end.

  • Admitting one's STEM ignorance is a well-loved small-talk topic, at least in Germany. "Oh, I was never good in physics". "Maths was my worst subject." "I need a tax accountant, I almost had to repeat the 7th grade because of maths."

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  • Something I found out from the inclusive astronomy conference twitter stream, not being familiar with the American high school system myself: a lot of high schools, especially among those visited by a lot of minority students, will not offer physics at all. [I wish I had the link to the article, alas ...]

    It's mind boggling to me. For a variety of reasons, not only because I am a physicist. (I am sure the same applies to chemistry and other subjects, it's just that given the topic of the conference the focus was of course on physics):

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So yeah, this is why STEM education for me ...

Also, because somewhat - perhaps even a lot - relevant for the context of my personal relationship to STEM and non-STEM subjects here is an old entry on my rambling on science == art, art == science.

binge-watching daredevil

So well ... I guess this was a first. The first time I binge-watched a show. And a really good show. I started on Saturday, with 3 episodes. Naively thought that it was a total of 10, realized at around 11 PM Sunday, half-way into episode 10 that this could not be the end. And had to finish it. In parts because I could not imagine watching it home on the tiny 11 inch monitor - I needed the whole 85 inch beauty in 4k.

The thing is, I don't feel fannish about in, now in the way I feel about the universes that leave a ton of holes in its fabric to fill out by the reader/watcher. It's the other kind, the (better?) kind where I want the canon as it stands, this shiny thing that I can admire and love and recommend to other people who like action-packed superhero stories of the more violent kind.

There are plotholes - [Spoiler (click to open)]I don't quite understand how Fisk got where he is; Wesley's fatal mistake was a stupid one; we could have done without the old heartless but perhaps not so heartless mentor (although I suppose that this is the part where people familiar with the comics may strongly disagree); also where is the Avengers/stark tower in the NY skyline? - but honestly? This is a squee post. Let me squee.

Let me also start with my wishes for the next season: all the things Vanessa. In excruciating detail. Also, more half-naked beaten up Matt - no, I did not get enough of it! How could I?

Things I love, in a random order and spoilery - and most likely by far incomplete:

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Or to sum it up: YAY! Also: Don't underestimate a 85 inch TV that can do 4k. I was sitting on the couch some 1.5 meters in front of it and the image was so clear that my glasses actually made a difference.

[Mainly written on train from Methuen to Boston today morning. I kind of have the feeling that it has too many typos, but am too brain dead to hunt for all of them. See the fact that I got into bed at half past three and had to get up at 7 to be at work on time to take care of my student and actually do work.]

a bag of mixed vegetables

I.
I have to resign myself to the fact that I am going to feel like shit about my work until I publish at least one more first-author paper, aka, for quite some time. Amazing stuff like the conferences in the last two weeks or meeting my collaborators or planning stuff with people is just a short-term reprieve. Well ... I suppose I should be writing then, right?!

II.
I have also a ton of swirly thoughts on identity (ethnic and cultural identity, mainly) and social constructs and cultural narratives and all kinds of fancy words that don't come together to anything coherent (except of a coherent feeling; but a feeling is not a text) and can be summed up to "I am a perpetual foreigner". The scary thing (and another thing that I have to resign myself to) is that while I feel very uncomfortable here in the USA in that regard (for various reasons, "The Dispossessed" comes to mind but so does a number of less prominent sf that deals with building societies) - and not the kind of uncomfortable that one should lean in, rather the kind that you need to run away from to keep any semblance of mental stability - I also know that I will return (if I return) irrevocably changed, that I will be upset about much more things back in Germany/Europe than I was upset about before (and those weren't exactly few things to start with). There is no place that is home.

III.
Speaking of homes: my plan for the weekend it to house-sit for a colleague. So I yesterday night I had some cooking extravaganza, making lunches and dinners for four days - today, the weekend and Monday, since I will be getting directly to work from there (it's about an hour by train from Boston, so getting home in between is just time loss):

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I kind of also just realized that all three dishes are vegan. That wasn't necessarily on purpose, but I just like veggies (and legumes and potatoes). I also made some tuna salad/dip for dinner today, but that was made today morning, not yesterday night.

My plans for the weekend include science (for that paper I hope to be my next), reading while sitting on the porch overlooking a giant garden (I have two books with me and there are a ton of comics waiting for me; also my bikini), and maybe watching Daredevil on a giant TV in the newest-whatever-high-res-technology (I have my cross-stitching with me; been a while since I felt an urge to cross-stitch *not* in winter - actually I passed on it this winter, oh well ...).

(IV.
And then today morning I managed to stain a shirt (white blouse, little blue stars) that I just re-discovered as a favorite yesterday after not wearing it for two years with the color from a skirt (red) that should *not* be bleeding anymore. So yeah, it's now a white blouse with little blue stars and a blush pink pattern in the background. I even bought bleach and tried to save it. No way. Duh. Embrace blush pink, I guess.)

first grocery shopping



OK, not quite the first since I got myself some baby bok choy, mushrooms, cabbage and pickled radish from the Korean market and a giant watermelon, milk (for coffee), and cottage cheese from Whole Foods around the corner to survive the weekend. But the first real one. And one where I rather went overboard with the fresh produce - even I did put some stuff I would have liked to have, like the green asparagus, back, given how I simply would not have been able to eat that much veggies before they turned bad. I definitely badly missed fresh fruit and veggies while traveling (and thus also gained a few pounds to be honest).

Anyway: Siggi's yoghurts are my favorite breakfast since they are very close to the tart taste of German yoghurt and have an amazing consistency. Cherries and blueberries are for snacking. The nectarines are a good fruit to take to work and so are the apples (Granny Smith are my usual favorites). Do you see the kohlrabi?! I could hardly believe when I saw it in the Market Basket. They never have it! And here it was, for a reasonable prize! The corn is a nice quick dinner that needs 15 min in the oven and nothing else. The cucumbers will be eaten with some tuna salad - I think the original recipe called it "tuna salad cucumber bites" but I don't arrange them nicely. Carrots, snows peas, and bell peppers are meant as veggies for munching at work, but some of them may become a veggie stir fry that will also need the onion (I gave a big bag of rice as well as the usual spices and thai curry in my pantry; there is also still some garlic in my fridge - which reminds me that I don't have frozen corn anymore, unto the grocery list with it!). Some carrots may be turned into a carrot, apple & walnut salad. And my balsamic vinegar was almost out, so I bought it even though I may not need it this week, but I'll forget otherwise and end up buying the expensive one in Whole Foods because I don't feel like going all the way to Market Basket because of just one or two things.

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thinking on trains

Today I ask myself "why?". Why can't I be happy with a normal job, somewhere where I can wake up next to ♥, go for long walks, meet with friends over the weekend, build relationships that do not rely on my non-existent e-mail skills and one-week-visits to Germany where I never ever manage to see all the people, always leaving someone out, always leaving someone I love offended?

It should get easier with time, instead it gets only harder.

This is ... scary. This is not SAD. There is sun, so much sun. I've not been on facebook for days, on purpose. And yet, and yet ... Getting out of bed is a fight. Looking forward, taking steps is a fight. Whatever we have to do, can't we do it tomorrow, please? I just want to sleep and to read. I am back to here (the names and ideas change, but not the concept).

But how does not recognize the difference between impostor syndrome and the realization that one is not good enough?

When does the balance tilt into the other direction? I am only doing this job as long as the fun overweighs, as long as there are more happy days than sad ones. When does this stop being the case? The human brain skews the memories. Should I keep a diary of good and bad days? But doesn't keeping the diary change the whole process itself?

Tomorrow will be better. I will talk about my paper plans. I will write the talk for the conference next week. I will get my hair cut. I will meet with my students. I will go out with co-workers (some of them friends) - I made a reservation for 18 people yesterday.

Tomorrow I will know and feel why. [Please don't tell me, this is not what it is about, I am not fishing for compliment, I can only repeat this. I know I said it already somewhere.]

But today I am sitting in the train. Leaving ♥ behind. An e-mail in my postbox about a tenure-track professorship position that I know I am not good enough to apply for (because I haven't been as productive as I should have been the last 1.5 years). Not knowing when I will come to Germany again (it has to be this year, but who knows when ...?) because of visa and work contract issues (small issues that everyone has, but my brain does not care about everyone).

I've read the expression "talking about X as political activism". There is a lot of trouble with it and yet ... See this entry as one. If you ever meet someone who changed countries, for whatever reason, even the privileged "expats". Be gentle to them. It hurts; they fight a long painful battle. If you meet people fighting their way through academia, be gentle to them, too. They are on an amazing adventure to understand more of this world. And they will end up bloodied and broken and most of them will not win ... [We all are fighting our own battles, I know. But these are mine. I can tell you about them.]

Essigbrätlein



Oh gosh, these must have been the best invested euros of my life (and I know for sure that advdiaboli whom I went on this adventure with agrees with me) - or in other words: if you are ever in Nuremberg or even roughly in the area, go to Essigbrätlein, aka a tiny (20 seats or so) 2-star-Michelin place that simply blew my mind. Their focus is on local, seasonal vegetables, paired with amazing spices and fresh herbs. Both the fish and the meat were perfect, but the veggies were the stars (you can also order a vegetarian or a vegan version). They are also, it seems to me, master's of understatement. One of the courses simply reads "asparagus" - what you get is an amazing composition of three different asparagus dishes, each special, each perfect. But anyway, take a look:

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We started with a house aperitif - there was something with quince and champagne and it set just the right tone. The wine pairing was superb (I am so happy we decided to go for it, even though I had to miss on the last two). We had a very amusing conversation with our neighbors, a couple celebrating their 50ies wedding anniversary there. The service made us feel as if we belonged, although we clearly do not. I am pretty sure we used some wrong silverware along the way? Ooops? They told us about the wine (in understandable terms since we admitted to know nothing) and the food and seemed genuinely pleased when we asked whether the dessert referencing back to the first courses was on purpose.

cherry picking

One of the few eating rules I (loosely) follow is the 5 portions of fruit and veggies the day one. The other two are not to buy fat-reduced and no-sugar products and try to avoid additives. They still do not stop Siggi's 0%-fruit yoghurt from being my favorite one - although this is partly due to the fact that European-tasting yoghurt is really hard to find - or from enjoying jelly beans, Tostidos salsa, and the occasional thing from the Asian supermarket where I cannot even read the ingredients. Well those three rules and a general approach of trying to keep my calorie count lower, at least the part of it that is not based in the five fruit&veggie portions that often turn into something like seven. But then again, I usually eat out several times a week, often in some relationship with work, and nobody will stop me from eating up my fries or ordering a dessert if I really want it (but I may pause and ask myself whether I really want it). So take any rule with a big grain of salt (or with sugar and full fat milk, the way I drink my coffee), except that I tend to really feel uncomfortable if I skip on fresh fruit and veggies for too long, as happens when I am traveling.

Anyway ... I know this is a loaded topic and what works for me will not work for you and your body. This is not what I want to get to. What I want to get to is below - although it may take a while to get there. Be patient, it's me, I'm rambling here ("noodling" I've read a while back somewhere, this word may fit, but I haven't seen if often enough yet to fully understand its meaning and thus use it).

Anyway ... My average grocery bill? Not exactly low. And about 70%-80% of it will be fresh fruit and vegetables. Especially if you don't count "coffee" as food. And then there are cherries. And blueberries. And figs, And blackberries. Oh god, blackberries,. But especially cherries - blackberries and blueberries are there all year round, but the cherries are not.

The first time they had really good looking cherries this year I walked buy. I made my round through the supermarket. I came back. I bought them. I ate them and loved them. (I used to eat/steal cherries and sour cherries from trees as a kid. They were the first earrings I wore.) And eating them thought that I should talk about this. Talk about how these cherries (more than the bowl I should eat in one sitting, but not too much more) did cost about a fifth of what our (our, not mine) weekly household budget was back when we moved together for the first time. I on social welfare (this is what happens when your parents are refugees; I know that we prefer to look at the winners, but there are far more losers, the ones who never again manage to stand up after being pushed into the ground over and over again) and ♥ on a student's stipend (he did the German equivalent of high school - for the ones familiar with the German system here: officially, high school is seen as equivalent to Realschule, not Gymnasium -, went for professional training, and then went back to school to get a higher high school degree that would enable him to go to university; the German system is rather complicated, but I am glad to explain ...).

Anyway ... Back to the cherries, I digress again. Perhaps because I don't quite 100% know what I want to say. Except this: those cherries were hella expensive (and our weekly budget was hella low). I wonder how someone who has not been on the other end of the income scale sees them. Although no: I do actually not. I know (I have experience it on my own skin, growing up) and it makes me sad. What I am more wondering about is why is it that a pound apples here costs more than a kilogram of apples in Germany. Apples and carrots would save me back when I could not afford the cherries. But I could get ten times the amount of calories (if not more) buying cookies for the same price as the apples. So yeah, if it were just about the getting the calories, getting enough energy to keep your body going, without the 5 fruits or veggies a day rule ... Because after the five apples you still need you calories. Your meat or your pasta. And you can't eat half a kilogram of carrots every day; well, at least I can't. And pasta is cheaper and more filling than veggies.

And then there are food deserts (oh yes, those can exist in big cities). There are food banks - I have extensive experience with the German ones, although clearly not in the last 10 years, and I can tell you, that you will not get fresh produce from there, at least not fresh produce that is going to last. There are ... ah, so many things.

Anyway ... Cherries vs. monthly budgets. We got over it (even though scientists are still badly underpaid and I can't afford even a studio in this city; but I admit that this is a different kind of underpaid than social welfare, even in Germany, I've been there). My parents (no matter how often the city honors my father for his community service) never will, their income will never be higher than whatever social welfare levels are. And they are by far not the only ones.

(Interpret the title as you will.)

May. 6th, 2015

You know how you sometimes have a health issue that you objectively know to be minor but that pre-occupies your brain? Yeah. Welcome to the last two weeks of my life. So I went to a hand-surgeon today - he had a nice bedside manner, explained me almost too many details about how tendons work and suggested either to wait a few months since quite some tendon sheath cysts dissolve on their own, or, if this would ease my mind, to stick a needle into my hand to rupture it. Knowing my worrying too much brain, I asked him to. He even was really cute about letting me stand up slowly and in steps because I mentioned that I did faint before - although to be honest that was when they inserted the first IUD which was a) ten years ago and b) a more substantial medical intervention than a needle in my hand. (At some point, I also want to ask you folks -- fo even if this entry is, on purpose, not -- about contraception. Just out of general curiosity and the general feeling that we do not talk about it enough. And because I read there articles (I, II - not unproblematic in their stance, but interesting) and was kind of shocked. Especially given the teenage pregnancy rate figure. It is ... scary. Almost 60 out of 1000. 60 out of 1000! I knew that it was bad, but not how bad it was.) Now I am oh so looking forward to deal with medical bills (I do have a rather good insurance, but it's all not as straightforward as in Germany, especially given how I had to go to a specialist.).

Anyway, to get away from needles. This made me almost spill out my tea over my keyboard:



From here: http://jasonya.com/wp/your-manuscript-on-peer-review/

(Now I need to get back to the point where I have to worry about this. As a first author.)

Cape Cod 2015

Cape Cod - I wanted to get there for quite a while now, but did not have the right time and company. There was a plan last year but it turned out to be terribly expensive to plan short-term because it's so overrun during the season. So ♥ and I went for 3 days in April this time. We've not been sure whether we would cancel the trip until a few days before. The weather forecast was ... mixed. And New England April weather is crazy, covering very warm and sunny (remember that sunstroke I had last year?) to snow. We've been lucky, however. Empty trails since the official season only stars in May and perfect weather for long hikes.



We started out (after a breakfast at IKEA, but mainly because I needed replace a broken piece of furniture that I cannot get otherwise given how I don't have a car) at the Sandy Neck State park and I quickly realized that walking through the sand (fine, clean, incredibly white sand) is much nicer barefoot (the above photo, however, is from the Freat Island Trail on the second day). Mind it, I was still wearing a t-shirt, a fleece zipper-jacket and the outer shell of my double-layer rainjacket, but ... barefoot! Through warm sand! The main trail loop goes between the dunes and the marsh in one direction, and the other along the water, on the other side of the dunes, in the other. The photos are mainly from the first part:

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We slightly miscalculated and had to walk the last 3.5 or 4 miles back along the shore, against the (cold) wind. It was kind of miserable, but also fun. Lot's of good talk, lot's of long-term life-planning (as far as it's possible) ...

The second day was the actual Cape Code Natioanl Seashore. The thing is: we knew we needed sunscreen, we actually used some the day before. But yeah, a certain person - who is not me - removed it from their backpack the night before and did. not. put. it. back. Enter sunburn. But it was fun nevertheless. We first walked the Great Island Trail - part of it is actually under the water at high tide, but we accidentally timed our trip just right. Well, actually we went to the visitor center (I can only recommend all the National Park visitor centers; we never got bad advice in one), told the ranger that we wanted to hike the trail and he said we should just drive over *now* since this was the perfect time. And it was:

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It was late afternoon by the time we were done, so we drove all the way to the very end of the Cape, to Provincetown, hoping for some friend mussels for dinner. Unfortunately, and this was really the only disadvantage of being there out of season, the restaurants had not opened yet. So we had a dinner of Ritz crackers with cheese and pepperoni (for the Europeans reading: yeah, that means "salami" here) and went for one of the small trails, the Beech Forest Trail:

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The last day were two more trails - the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail, which also included the place where the first transatlantic telegraph station used to be (but the dunes are deteriorating so the station itself would pretty much hang in this air today), and the Pamet Area Trail System where we kind of lost the trail halfway through but still got amazing views over the beach below us. We also kind of wanted to have a small picknick there, but in spite of it being early April I've seen a tick next to where I was sitting and well, there was it. No picknick for us.

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We would have had time for another trail or two, but our feet were hurting - and mine had a few mean blisters - and there also was this outlet mall that was kind of on the way back to Boston? Kind of? And it wasn't even me who suggested it. It wasn't very successful but it was fun and a good closure for the trip. We got back on Monday night, I went to work on Tuesday and Wednesday we left the house at 5 AM to catch the 6 AM bus to New York where I did not make any photos because I made enough three years ago.
I have built myself (built me a self?), tile by tile (imagine the tiny tessera of old religios mosaics). Yet the edges are fraying, constantly. And people look and see something else (because they expect to see something different, because it is their cultural context, because my social narrative is not their social narrative). The observer changes the experiment. The observer irreparably changes the observed making any attempts of structural integrity nil.

Do not insult my own strength, by suggesting I look too whole to have ever been broken.
-- these are not my words, these are lines from a context of a story, lines I saved and quoted today to someone, lines that resonate over and over and over again.

I talked about strength here. Perhaps I should paint my nails red. I still have that old color. (And a new red I haven't tried yet.)

I wish my head weren't such a jumble of languages. I wish my future weren't such a jumble of hopes, most of them doomed to fail.

One of my deep, deep fears of going back (is it back or forwards? does back imply home? what is home?) is the language. Not everyone will know that I am the other just looking at my face (although many will). But they will hear it when I open my mouth. I thought I was over it. This is my language. This is the weapon I wield. Only I haven't used it enough and it rusted. I am afraid of the "but where are you from?" question of the "your German is so good" comments. I don't know whether they will come - or rather whether they will come more than they did, but I strongly suspect, I know how much I stumble.

I wish people here would not assume. I wish people would understand what the layers mean. What Sovjet, Russian, Moldavian, Jewish, German, European, Bavarian, Ahskenazi, East European mean in my context, in my experience. (But whom am I kidding: nobody can. The same way I cannot understand any other.) I wish they would not just see "German" and stop (here; I wish they would only see German in Germany); I wish they did understand the battles I fought. I wish they would see the scars. (But they would not, not even if I showed them the paperwork officially listing the 11 year old me as refugee; the exact status, Kontingentflüchtling, is the same as of Vietnamese boat people, for the curious.)

At some point in my life, I want to own genuine Kintsukuroi bowls. There is my general fondness for Japanese pottery. But also the idea of rebuilding, the idea of more beauty from repair and history. I like to think that things can be repaired. No. I need to believe that things can be repaired. (But some shards are too small.)

I sit here and cry. I think it's hormones. And loneliness. (I wish ♥ did not leave. I wish N. were here now not in four days. I wish to be the kind of person who would not follow her dream over the ocean. I wish the barriers weren't that high. I wish I weren't that tired climbing over cultural misunderstandings. I wish there were any culture where I could claim to not face these barriers. I wish people would at least realize this and not assume that there is a place I can call home.) ((I also wish I would not sound so old and cranky and broken and repeating the same again and again.))

This is a mess and thoughts are out of context. "Here" and "there" can mean so many things. "They" and "people" mean so many things. And I don't even use the words consistently.

I will smile tomorrow. Today it helps to cry.

[Nothing else helps. Today I had an really nice invitation, but I skipped because I just could not, not now. I had two different people tell me some very private things, had them rely on me - even though I kind of did not need it from one of them. Still: today it helps to cry.]

books and other news

Dear LJ,

I may have a book problem:

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Well, I kind of wanted to reduce the number of books I have here by reading all the books and sending them home? I ... failed? Because yeah, I also buy books while I am here. Or rescue some from "for free" boxes. Or find things in little free libraries and their friends. At least I did not fail as badly as I could: the number of books I read while in the USA is still bigger than the number I bought. (It did not reduce the total number of books I have here because I still have a giant unread backlog in Germany ...)

♥ has left yesterday night and I am back to Internetlands. Cape Cod was amazing and left me with a sunburn and a few blisters, although less than I would have expected given the new hiking shoes and the amount of hiking actually done. New York was amazing and included two evenings spent with friends (one over good food and one at a Astronomy on Tap event that I highly recommend and that exist not only in NYC) and one of the most amazing pieces of modern art I've seen (if you are there, go to the Museum of Modern Art and see Alfredo Jaar's Lament of the Images, 2002; it almost made it up to actually not getting the tickets for the Björk exhibition that sparked this whole trip).

Otherwise I had to find out hat I am not able to read on long-distance buses here and that the trip back from Vermont was thus not an isolated case. This ... well, erm, the only way I can express this is with an expletive and while I tend to curse a lot in rl, it kind of feels bad doing so on LJ when not making an emotional post. So yeah. I kind of planned for 8 hours of reading. Or at least a big part of it. Which I did not do, instead working my way through a meager 50 or 60 pages of Houellebecq's "Submission". And which likely means that I am giving up on Ulysses pact, at least for the moment, I still want to read the book. Especially as N. is coming next week and will stay here for a week and while she is the kind of guest whom I can tell without any problem that I need a few hours for myself and my book now, I actually do not feel like it most of the time.

hiatus: cape cod & nyc

Off with ♥ for three days hiking at Cape Cod and then for three days in NYC, this all without loki-the-laptop which I may get back from repairs during the day in between that I am back in Boston, but I don't expect so (yes, I timed the repairs to be during exactly this time period since this is when I need a laptop least). So, travelling and laptop-less (and smartphoneless in case you are wondering); typing this from selina-the-previous macbook pro, whom I can't really move because of flacky RAM issues this old lady has and whose "R"-key does not properly work, not to mention that after a year on an American keyboard layout the German one seriously weirds me out ...

Anyway - see you on the other side, don't expect to hear much from me. I also owe a few folks thoughtful comment to what they had to say about the linkspam - yay, I love in details conversations with comments longer than the post! I was however too emotionally caught up in the other clusterfuck and too grumpy in general to properly answer - I did not forget and still have things to say. Likely, however, only after NY.

Back to packing for the moment.

Tags:

We haven't had one of these for a while and I clearly need to get rid of at least a few booksmarks:

  • This one is old but a young me would have loved the hell out of it: Lois Lane Girl Reporter. Lois Lane was definitely one of those few female characters whom I could stand on her own. Does somebody remember the old Lois and Clark series? Looking back I realize that she (or at least the memory I have of her now) was so important.
  • 20hrsinamerica was the one who brought the book to my attention, but this has been on my mind for quite a while. Especially because I have the feeling that the pressure to actually have kids is higher here in the USA than back in Germany, even though in Germany I had more actual friends who were starting to get children. I did look up the numbers at some point and it's not only that there are more children per woman in the USA, it's also that people get kids much earlier ... And there was also the matter of that terribly upsetting New Yorker article this fall that made me want to bang my head again the next surface: Anyway: We need to talk about why we don’t want kids
  • This is a neat one not only because I am, given my own experience, very much inclined to believe that language shapes thinking. Especially the switching of thinking pattern depending on what language you are thinking in is something that I do notice a lot (also something that makes writing so much harder right now, because I am so used to switching ...): Speaking a second language may change how you see the world
  • This is very close to unbelievable - welcome to the world of international science (and not, this is not only UK's problem; don't even let me start on German or American visa hells): Miwa Hirono: my Home Office hell
  • So, Mr. Very Important was going on smugly about this book I should have known when Sallie interrupted him to say, "That's her book.". I've been more lucky during my science career so far because I mainly work with amazing people, but the number of times my fellow physics students back at university wanted to explain me things because I could not know it, being a being with breasts (which preclude any scientific knowledge, you know, by draining all the blood from the brain) and in skirts (even worse!) is rather impressive. Rebecca Solnit says it all much more poignantly: The Archipelago of Arrogance
  • I've spent a lot of time lately reading and thinking on science and the way science is presented in media. This one is an interesting essay that I am not quite sure I agree with in every individual point, but definitely in broad terms. A Disease of Scienceyness How misguided science fandom hurts actual scientists
    That's also an alike problem to the one I have with most non-fiction books out there; I've seen too often what happens in my own field to believe that it is much better in others.
  • I found this one interesting, being someone who is prone to tears myself - although tears do not necessarily mean emotional outbursts for me. There is crying in science. That’s okay. (I also can't remember whether it was here on LJ that someone linked to it. If it were you, I am sorry for not crediting you!)

[eda:] I somehow manage to post this one halfway when unedited and unfinished. If you tried to comment on the post that disappeared, so sorry!

a glass of wine and ...



I wish this were my Sunday, but of course it is not. That said: I do plan to drink that wine once it has breathed a bit (in fact, I do nip at it right now) and I do want to finish the Houellebecq book (which is as wonderful as I remember it; if you ever get your hands on his "Rester Vivant", which seems not to have been translated into English - READ it; I think it is both key to understanding him as a writer, and, free of the context of his other work, one of the most emotional, touching, scary, encouraging and depressinng testimonials of what it is like to be a writer/poet I know). I may also take a look into the other two books: it was nice outside, so I decided to walk over to my favorite bookshop and buy Ulysses to read it over the next weeks with hamsterwoman and perhaps a few more people. The other one caught my eye, I read the first few pages and needed to get it, especially given a number of recent conversations I had.

But yeah, my actual plans go more along the lines of doing a few plots for a possible paper draft, just to get the feeling of whether the data do actually warrant a publication and perhaps do some more science (my favorite source does stuff that may be interesting; although by now we had too many false alarms in the last 4 years - but it may still warrant a telegram. We'll see. Wine first.

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