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around the world in 80 books

A while ago, twodottedlines talked about reading around the world - this and the fact that I am considering to challenge myself to read more internationally for next year, made me go through my own shelves on goodreads, looking for which countries I read books from. I do not explicitly list Germany, Austria, Switzerland, UK, Ireland, USA, and Canada giving an example of an author; I've read far too much from all of them (although one could argue that I mainly read German, American and British authors, but it's hard to draw a line there). In the same context, I should perhaps not list Russian, given the size of my Russian/Soviet bookshelf, but I still do. Consistency, what is consistency? I will never ever say that I am consistent or non-contradictory. Anyway, let's go:

-- Do ancient Greece and Rome count as individual countries? I think they do.

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So that's 36 countries without the old texts and 39 with the ancient ones (and I've read more than just the listed author from quiet some of them). Good, bad, interesting? I am not sure. I haven't tried covering certain countries on purpose, but I definitely tried to diversify my reading, searching for new authors, searching for different views.

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sharing the joy of food

So I officially have a "recipes" tag now - which made me think about why it is that I love to post recipes even though they are usually not mine. And what it boils down to is that I like the idea of sharing things that make me happy in the hope that they will make the others happy, too. And there are few things that give me as much joy as amazing food. And if I can't take people out or cook for them, at least I can give them some ideas for cool things to cook. Plus both cooking for people and taking them out for food makes me somewhat anxious (do they like it? do they think it a waste of money? do they think that I have no taste?) while passing on recipes does not.

Anyway, this time it's not a link to a recipe, but an actual recipe. One I've been just asked about. I got the original recipe from a now defunct blog and modified it over time (cut the meat in half, increased the amount of mushroom by a factor of 4 or so, went with tomatoes instead of canned tomato sauce, etc.). It's amazing: hearty, flavorful, a tiny bit exotic for someone like me, who is not very much used to tex mex cuisine. You can adjust the spiceness according to your own needs and it freezes really well:

    Tamale Pie
    for 4 large portions or 6 normal-sized ones
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I am not showing photos - tamale pie never ever looks good. Just google it up and convince yourself. But it tastes a-m-a-z-i-n-g. I also think you could make it vegetarian by either leaving the meat out fully or going for one of those tofu-based non-meat minced meat thingies. I haven't tried it myself, though.
I felt like a meme, ok? And this one has kind of fun questions. And so many great people already participated and I enjoyed reading their answers. And I really did not want to work another half an hour (but I did answer the e-mail) and the book is really extremely tedious (but I kind of want to finish it if just to know whether it becomes better or whether this is another author I wanted to like but will not).

Anyway:

1. Do you like blue cheese?Read more...Collapse )

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the world just got closer

So this article really resonated with me yesterday - enough that I sent it to several people:

25 thoughts after this weekend [Süddeutsche; German]

I quoted the article by now in the comments to the previous post - and will likely quote it again (sorry, I will come around to the remaining comments), especially the last line, "Nein, die Welt ist nicht schlechter geworden. Die Welt ist nur näher gekommen." or, in my translation, "No, the world did not get worse. The world just got closer."

And then missfragout went and translated the whole thing, something that I would not have had the patience for even though I wished there was an English version. And allowed me to re-post it here (thanks, hon!):



My gut reaction to any "the world just got worse" declaration is a kind of incredulous laughter. Am I scared? Yes, I am (we do know a number of people in Ansbach; not my folks, rather ♥'s, but still.). Of course I am scared more now that the violence arrived, once again, closer to home and the loved ones. But there have been news articles I haven't been able to read long before (two come to mind, both things that I will remember in nightmares; one of them still on the main page of die Zeit; neither of them playing in Europe, of course). And no, it does not change my opinions, not a little bit. The fear rattles but I know it is fear; if somebodies house is on fire and they knock on your door, you let them in.

20 years ago my parents, when it was clear that we could not stay, made a clear decision to move to a country where they would forgo any chance for meaningful employment and not a country where rockets were raining and public buses being blown. It's not that bad even now and at least they got to raise their children with a peaceful mind. And look up the numbers of people who die in traffic accidents. They are still in thousands. The violence - whether terror or Amoklauf [there is no real word for it in English? huh?] - makes us afraid. But is not the thing we, statistically, should be afraid of (it does not change the feeling of fear, thus the, relative, peace of mind I was talking about).

And another thought: if somebody tries to kill themselves, twice, what does it tell us about the place we want to send them back to? I try to find a solution to this and I can't. How many cases like this are out there that we never hear about?

And a last one: YES Grundgesetz (#16 on the list above, "constitution"). I never knew how much the Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar ("human dignity is inviolable", but I am not sure that this is the right translation) as a concept mattered to me until I consciously moved to a country where this is not the basis of the constitution. (I thought I talked about it here but searching for it among my LJ e-mails only returns a conversation I had in comments at missfragout's.)

[eda:] And one last thought, perhaps the comments make me think that this is not clear. And re-reading, it perhaps isn't. The political situations in Poland and Hungary and Turkey and and and make me much more afraid than the chance of the next terrorist attack (which will likely come).

P.S. If you feel like starting certain kinds of big discussions (and I am terribly sad that this warning needs to happen), I invite you to remove yourself from my list on your own. Or prepared to be banned.

four things that make me feel better:

Yesterday ... Well, yesterday was not good (Munich is home; even though on paper I haven't lived there for as long as I feel I have lived there). My colleagues were all wonderful and let me introduce them to the wonders of Raumpatrouille (Orion). Even though they don't speak a word German. But who needs German when it's all about what people in the 60ies thought about the dancing of the future?


Seriously, if you don't know what I am speaking about watch it. It is going to make you feel good.
(Also, at least episode one - out of sadly just seven - actually exists with English subtitles. The series is great - yes, at least Star Trek TOS and even better, I would dare to say.)

So I got myself mobile internet and pokemon go. Not yesterday, the day before yesterday. But it helped me yesterday. How is it? Very buggy, very much a time- and battery eater. But it made me take the scenic route to work today (yes, on a Saturday, but we are at 35°C, 39°C heat index, so a place with AC is a must) and made me walk around the neighborhood yesterday night (it was too hot during the day), so mission accomplished. So far, I have avoided actually talking to other players, but I am working up to this.
But it wonderfully delivers what I wanted it to: making me walk around. I really loved how I felt after the 200 km in Iceland, I want to try to keep this up a bit more even though Boston is all flat. Almost all flat. And it made me leave the house yesterday at 11 or so because that gym around the corner had a space open (don't even ask how many are around the corner - Somerville is geek city; there are at least 10 pokestops along my normal slightly less than a mile walk to work, not counting the ones in the side street that I would need some extra steps for - and four pokestops I can access from my work building, two from my office and one each from the kitchen and the bathrooms; two of them are at restaurants and constantly have lures attached, but unfortunately only deliver booooring pokemon):

Screenshot_20160722-224913.png


I have also bough extra incubators. First because I wanted. And secondly because I liked the game enough to actually want to support the developers. I do so with apps I enjoy.
Don't worry, there will be no cute pictures of pokemon on my desk because my mobile does not have a gyroscope, so no actual augmented reality for me. But it's fun even without.

Also, this gif gives me all kinds of feelings:



I've seen and loved the comic, but the gif somehow really brings it home even more. I am not proud about the title as such but I am proud about the accomplishment and I love the feeling of being there, on the edge, pushing. And I love being reminded of the big picture, in the moments of the post-last-degree blues (people further on than I - does it stop at some point? It did not for me in the last almost three years ...) it helps a lot.

Even though sometimes this happens:

ChDOrKfW0AAnAin.jpg


Well, that was Wednesday. But on the other hand - this was not the usual "the data give no result" but more of a "wow, that looks much more interesting than I thought it would". So yeah, my half-written discussion for this paper is now gone because there is so much more in the data than I expected. But: yay, more cool stuff in the data! And the comic itself always makes me giggle. It's on my door now. Because it's so freaking true.

[For those not familiar with the city and/or not speaking German: my icon is the iconic silhouette of the Frauenkirche in Munich - and yes, it does look like two dicks, yes we do make fun of it - and the text reads "I won the jackpot! Now I can pay the rent for the next year!" implying that the rents are so high that even winning the jackpot in one of the big lotteries is not enough ... Which is very much true, was even true when we moved to Munich ten years ago.]

summer salads

Towards the end of last summer, I stumbled over this old article in the NYT: 101 Simple Salads for the Season. The only one I came around to try back then was #15 - and then it got colder and I don't feel that much like adventurous summer salads when it's cold.

Anyway, the other reason I did not talk about the article/recipe collection (what is it?) before was that it actually inspired me to try to make a list of salads of my own. I started writing it down (sitting on my friend's couch in DC), but being the perfectionist I am I quickly realized that there is no way I would be able to list them all. Some salads follow recipe; many others are spur of the moment decisions depending on what is in my fridge right now or what looks good in the grocery store. Some I haven't made for years, simply because I've forgotten about them.

So anyway, I had this draft sitting in my folders for ages. And I realized that I will not finish it. But it would be sad not to post it. Because: great salads! So - see below, enjoy.

And if you want to try any from the NYT list - all three I tried so far were absolute wins:
#15 is one of those things that made me wonder why I never considered a particular flavor combination (in this case: tomatoes and soy sauce) before since it seems so obvious now.
#28 is close to what I am doing anyway (especially since I used arugula - perfect with figs - and just some sweet balsamic vinegar as dressing; almond butter is not something I usually have in my pantry and peanut seemed of).
#14 is amazing. As in: yes, I agree, there is no better use for raw carrots. DON'T leave out those raisins. You don't need much of them, but they make everything come together perfectly. Grating the carrots on the coarse side of the grater works perfects.

And my additions (starting with actual recipes and progressing to ... random notes):

1. Grate carrot (on the fine side of the grater). Add a a bit of sugar. Mix. Eat quickly while the sugar crystals are still crunchy.

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world /// friends /// world

I had a plan of what to write yesterday. And then Nice happened. And then came the news that they found 675 bodies in that sunk refugee ship in the Mediterranean sea. 845 dead in this ship wreck alone (will somebody make a Titanic movie about them in 80 years? I doubt it).

And there are so many other worrying things: the possible (almost certain) end of net neutrality in Europe. The seemingly never-ending discussion about inheritance tax (and with it about how fair and social we want our society to be).

But life goes on, right? We have to live.

///

Yesterday, the plan was to spend an hour planning our small road-trip to Wisconsin. We did plan the trip, but we also met more people, one of whom offered us to stay with their family at one of our planned stops, laughed, built a giant Jenga tower

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(that's 12 extra layers, folks!), had take-out Thai food (leftovers visible in the photo; we've been to the student pub where the beer/cider is cheap and you are supposed to order food), and stayed until they closed down at 11, four and a half hours in in what was supposed to be an max two hours outing.

There is a certain fun to it watch 4 people with PhDs and major fellowships literally dance (and no, we were not drunk, it's just us) around a tower made out of wooden blocks. Some of them parents (including of a not-a-teenager anymore; adopted in this case, admittedly, but the ages would still work out, even with the USA's crazy restrictive "no sex before 18" laws).

I should be used to this by now, to the fact that anything we do turns epic. Bowling, conference lunches, half an hour meetings to discuss public outreach events that see us - after dinner, after ice cream, after extra coffee - sit on a bench in Central Square, half-freezing, because we need to finish that conversation. I am so going to miss these people. In four and a half month, one each of the four of us will be in California, Wisconsin, the Netherlands, Boston. Some getting closer to their partners, other further. All competing for the same jobs (but these are people I will be happy to leave the field for; I just hope that not all of us fail because we are too nice; because we manage to have fun and a life, sometimes, in the few moments in between).

///

On Tuesday, after work, we've been to Walden pond:

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(I feel like I should talk about body issues and Iceland and their open air changing cabins consisting ot two walls only and the naked showers in the swimming pools and how getting older I seem to have stopped caring much more than I ever believed possible about what others think of my body and started seeing only beautiful people around me. At least as long as they don't spew hate. But that feels like something for another entry. And also too much like preaching, so maybe not for another entry at all.)

And on the way back I got out of the T and got struck by how beautiful Somerville can be at night:

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spending an evening on the beach is not my favorite pass time, but with the right people and the right book it works.

///

I kind of feeling bad not participating in the interview or 30 days aks-me-anything memes. But I know myself and I know how much I do or do not write. How many ideas for posts I have. So here two thoughts that other people's answers made me think - on purpose not posted in the comments, I feel like they belong here, where I can find them again (and also, a bit, because they can be read as critique even though the were much are not meant this way; they are my meta on my life):

I do not see friendships as privilege. Or rather: I do not see my friendship towards someone as a privilege I bestow. Friendships is not something I give, friendship is something I feel. It is often, as feelings are, somewhat irrational. It is not always mutual. I can influence it, but only within certain limits.
I do, however, feel as if I am given the most amazing gift when someone I feel friendships towards returns the feeling. There is a moment when I am standing there, starry-eyed, not quiet able to grasp that this person really sees me (me!) as their friend, as someone they trust and confide into.

And I do want to get old. Or rather: I want to live a long life. I would not mind not getting old; I would love to stop my body from failing on me. But I want to be there at 80, I want to see the world then (and I am afraid of what it will become), I want to share the memories of that evening when we build the epic Jenga tower with friends.
The first short story of Heinrich Böll's that I read, the one that made me go and read what feels like half of his oeuvre, was "The Train Was on Time" ("Der Zug kam pünktlich") where the protagonist cannot imagine his life past this one place on the map. That feeling of doom ... that one struck a chord, even back when I was 11 (it was one of the last books I read on the other side of my childhood). I can imagine my life at 80. I want to.

///

Also, because my friends are amazing, this was waiting on my desk when I returned from Iceland:

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Cirque

I wish I were better at making stylish photos with my phone - I've been to a Cirque du Soleil show on Thursday and they set up the tent in the middle of nowhere, some 10 minutes walk from the nearest t-station, just behind (or on the grounds) of a closed down horse racing track. I bet the atmosphere there is eery in any case - splashes of color behind rusted gates in the middle of unkempt gras, but this evening it was also mixed with fog and I was there early, just two couples walking in front of me, the tent of the Cirque itself invisible in the mist and around the corner. I've hardly ever experienced a moment that was so much like a scene from a book.

The show itself was amazing. hamsterwoman taught me the term "frisson" for that feeling when an aesthetic experience is running down your skin in cold chills. Back in her post it took me a while to decide whether it was something I did experience but here I was, the first vocals of the show ("Kurios") starting with my skin prickling and tears in my eyes. I remember thinking that there is no way they can keep the intensity up after the amazing choreography of the first act. But they did. Oh they did. And then added on it. And I was sitting there, my mouth open, feeling the kind of wonder I do not get to feel often anymore.

In my childhood - the first one -, circus was seen as something far more than an entertainment for children. Oh, it was that, too. But clowns like Yuri Nikulin or Oleg Popov were also celebrated and admired as the amazing artists that they are.

Going to the circus (as to the theater) was a fundamental experience of my childhood. My circus was an actual building that I have vivid memories off - it has been abandoned for a while (there is this amazing photo exploration of the abandoned building; they seem to have rebuild parts of it meanwhile, but with a strongly reduced size of the stage and an audience of 300 instead of original 1900; I am not sure it's the same building at all). I've seen some of the big names perform - I am pretty sure Nikulin's was perhaps the only autograph I have ever gotten in my life.

I've never been to the circus in Germany (and it took me a while to be able to afford the student tickets to the theater), but sometimes we would catch circus shows on the French channel that, for some unfathomable reason, was one of the channels that our (standard German) TV would get. German-French friendship? I don't know. Nobody in my family speaks French, not even a bit, so we neither had an idea what they were saying nor a good feeling for when the shows would come, but if they did, they were watched reverently. This is how I first found out about Cirque du Soleil and first heard Alegria.

The whole experience just taps in so many right places.
And now the Alegria title song is running in the background and I feel it running cold and hot down my back. Not quiet as intense as at the beginning of Kurios (there is something extra special to a live performance), but intense enough.

(And as a side note and perhaps a different component to it: we've - we being ♥ and I, not my parents and I - watched the 36th Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain on ARTE this winter and it made me realize how connected I feel to the artists. Not in the physical demand of their performance but in that certain feeling and purpose and being one of a handful of people in the whole world who can do something very specific that we consider of utter importance and that we want - and need to share with others.)

Iceland 2016: Goats need some love, too.

So if my first career choice does not work out? I am going to open a farm and breed Icelandic goats. Just look how pretty they are!



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Yes, these are half-wild goats - the one who spend their winters at a farm but are left to roam free otherwise. Most of the one on the photos (except on the very last one) we met on the middle of a hike to the Fláajökull-glacier. The rams were pretty close to the trail, the nannies and the kids were framing the trail a few dozen of meters on and were utterly unperturbed by the humans walking past. Actually, they were still there on the way back - and there were a few (although not many) people who definitely had to have passed the spot in the meantime.

I've been wondering whether the goats would have let us pet them, but of course we did not try to - those were clearly free animals, roaming a national park. So I never were going to find out whether the goats were as friendly and as fluffy as they looked. Until the the very last moment, the drive back to the hostel on the last active day of the trip: we've suddenly seen a whole flock of them close to the road, perhaps 20-25 animals. We stopped, got out of the car and they came to us, some of them more curious then others and all very fluffy (they do produce cashmere wool!), friendly, and, I dare say, intelligent. They had some very complex communicating going on there with some other parts of the flock that was out of sight.

Anyway, apparently Icelandic goats are super rare and the whole breed has been on the verge of extinction twice. And they have been on Game of Thrones.

Otherwise: we drove 3700 km (according to the odometer) and walked 210 km (according to my walk logger than only counts steps), had a flat tire somewhere on the Öxi pass, bathed four times (hot river, small nature pool, Myvatn nature bath, hotpot - yes, hotpot, not a hotspot), tried to handle the fact that our hiking ability is now vastly different (and that I do have a certain fear of falling), ate [skip if you are touchy about food]hakarl (German Zeit article; English wikipedia entry) which I found interesting although I would not eat a whole meal of it (which I repeatedly told ♥ which prompted him to tell me "Es ist OK, du bist widerlich" [it's OK, you are disgusting] and me to burst into laughter), puffin and horse (which finally convinced ♥ that I do not tell people that I like horse because I want to shock them but because it is delicious), and I realized that I turned into an cider snob (as in: I absolutely can't drink the artificially tasting mixtures they sell as fruit cider, give me properly fermented apple juice) and got to meet sarahblack (thanks for indulging my jet-lagged self, hon!). More pictures forthcoming once I've sorted through the over 2000 I've made on this trip. I'm catching up on LJ, so expect random comments on entries from the last two weeks - I've hardly been online during this time, just enough to catch up on horrible news (Istanbul, Brexit ...).

Utah 2015: wildlife

So while I am in Iceland, hopefully collecting a lot of new experiences and amazing nature impressions, here another round of thematic Utah-pictures, this time of the wildlife we encountered. Now, you don't go to Utah for wildlife, you go there fore the---incredible, mindblowing, magic, not-from-this-Earth---landscape (see my previous posts on Utah panoramas and my on absolute highlight of the trip, the Island in the Sky portion of Canyonlands National Park). But if you are me, you are still going to enjoy the wildlife the desert has to offer - perhaps even more, given how it is much harder to survive there then in the lushness of (some parts of) California or the Everglades.



Bighorn sheep! But they were actually the (almost) last (new) wildlife we've seen on this trip. And while I am not quite posting in the order the photos were taken, I want to keep a rough order following when we've first seen the first of one or other group of animals

It all started out with Bison:

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before I leave for Iceland ...

... which will be Friday 17th to Sunday 3rd. Knowing myself and not going camping, I may end up stopping by here during my trip. In fact, I have a few entry drafts that I may work on in the airport or on the plane. But I will definitely be less active and comment less. Anyway, here some last (?) thoughts (I really do seem to like the bullet point format for entries lately):

  • nanila wrote an amazing entry about The Five Worst Things About Being an Immigrant and courteously allowed me to link to it. Because yes, every one of them resonated with me SO much - to repeat something I wrote in my comment to her actual post: both in my role as culturally-Jewish-German-citizen-who-has-been-born-in-former-SU and in my role as German-living-in-the-USA.
  • I have been having several conversation, both here and even more so in RL, about friendships and romantic relationship and compromises and the way they shape us and then almost (almost because I failed to sit down for a few hours on time) took part in a scientific study about long-term relationships. But, in the usual moment of l'esprit d'escalier, the epiphany came much later, in the context of some other train of thought, shortly before that intersection before actually entering Central Square, when nobody was there to listed to me:

      to me, relationships, both in terms of romantic relationships and friendships, are about opening possibilities.

    So I do not feel like (almost) anything in a relationship is a compromise because some doors indeed close (the most obvious being being in a monogamous partnership; but friendships close some too - let alone because I know that I can only be enough for a limited amount of people), but so, so, so many moor open themselves. I really don't feel like it would work if I felt otherwise about it.
  • Saturday night (that was before Orlando), I was going to a colleague for dinner, right after the Boston Pride. The green T line was full - the green is more of a small, very old tram, not really a train, and there was this girl sitting at the window. 16? 17? Something like this. A guy flopped down next to her, sitting in the classic man-spreading fashion, his back half to her - with his giant backpack, taking up half the space of her seat.
    I did not dare to ask the guy to actually take down the backpack (I find the USA hard to navigate in this regard, especially when there is a race component to it), but after two stops of not feeling good about it, I tapped the girl on the shoulder and asked whether she would like my seat (I got lucky and the person I was standing next to had to leave so I got theirs), because it looked as if the backpack was all in her way. She declined (she *was* very slender and did still fit in there, in spite of the backpack and being squeezed into half the space she should have had) and the guy did not overhear me or did not react (which was mainly my intention). But at least I've done something.
  • Do you remember me freaking out about talking about science to a bunch of kids in English? The one where I could not remember the word "bucket" in the middle of an explanation of how big and empty our galaxy is? Well, I got an award for it. OK, OK, I did not get it because I braved it in spite of not being a native speaker and I am pretty sure everyone who contributed to the whole Open Day got one, but who cares? It's really, really nice to be appreciated (some pocket money, a pretty cup with the name of the award - I got the same award two years ago for another thing I did and back then it was a simple cup from the overall department, some chocolate - not only Hershey's kisses this time, so something I can actually eat!) for something I did volunteer to do without expecting to get anything back.
  • Somebody on my list (can I name you, hon? I am not sure, so I don't) teagues_veil posted an amazing entry yesterday: Triumph Tuesday - listing five random triumphs from their life. Loved reading it. I feel like I talk about things that work out and are amazing and all that all the time here. Well, when I am not whining that is. And I would love to hear more of the triumphs of my friends. So what do you think, friendslist? Do you want to indulge me and make it a Triumph Thursday on your own LJ? Or if you read it this entry too late for it, a Triumph Tuesday next week? Or the week after the next. [Eda: So what I suggest is for everyone to post in their LJ :)]
-- take away the card & make her find a new one. (From this tweet by Darren Saunders)

  • I have the feeling that I start every second entry with: I am grumpy today. Which is not quite true, but it happens often enough that even I realize that it does repeat itself. This time it's a lot of small things - or big things but given how they are so many I have to see them as small. Also for some reason anxious about the Iceland trip - we are flying over on Friday and suddenly the weather forecast does not look good, starting Saturday. Sighs. And now I am worried whether my rain jacket really holds what it promises (10000 mm waterproof, sealed seams). And whether my shoes hold what they promise (never had them on in really wet areas - last year was Utah, as unwet at it gets). And, and, and ... You know the story, I guess.
  • But also: traveling is fun! Like when you read a NYT article on the "green caviar" (spoiler: it's not actual caviar, it's peas!) in Spain and realize that yes, you've eaten it! More than that, it was actually your favorite dish (proof here - I did not edit this entry).
  • It is also that doing anything means dragging myself by the ears to do it. (Of all the things I wanted to do this weekend, the only one I've actually done is some tax-related stuff that did not take much time but cause me a ton of anxiety. No job application I wanted to write. No science. No preliminary packing. No working though my open LJ-tabs.)
    And in the same breath: I sometimes wish my job was the normal kind of job, the one where you go to work, know what you will be doing this day, go home and don't think about it anymore. But yeah, I also know that any job that I like doing would not be like this. Stupid "Sinnhaftigkeit" (one of those untranslateable German words, a mixture of "meaningfulness" and "sense of purpose"). Knowing that this is what I am looking for does not make it easier.
    Anyway, the last week was a ton of good stuff but also a ton of really hard communication. And a lot of not getting done what I needed to do because more urgent things came up. Ugh. And now I don't know what of the many places where it is burning to address first in the one week that remains before I go to Iceland. And have tickets for two theater shows that I do not want to skip.
  • I more or less purposefully let my book-buying get out of hand, hunting down quiet a few out of print books, now that I know that the time to do so is limited. Bye-bye two years of buying only as many books as I read. But I don't feel bad about it because I am getting a lot of awesome books, mainly by women and a lot of it science fiction. A lot of authors I never heard of because they were not translated into German when my formative science fiction reading happened and likely aren't now.
  • On the other hand, I did stop myself from buying those booties, even though they were on some 75% sale (down from unaffordable to reasonable for leather shoes). Because yes, no clothes this year. Except I did order some leggings and tights (plus a pair of earrings) from Macy's because the friends who visited over Memorial day weekend left me $100 in gift cards that could only be used within one given week when they could not use them anymore. And I am not letting $100 go to waste just because I decided not to buy stuff this year. And I always need leggings + tights (the leggings will actually go to Iceland with me, they are cotton and will be a good change from my usual jeans for the flight and allow me to look OK while wandering Reykjavik on the first day - I arrive at 5 AM and ♥ 11 hours later and of course I can't check in and go to my room that early). And earrings are small enough to not make much trouble. (I also got an Anthropologie cardigan and what, I think, is quite a high end linen blazer for free, but that's a different story.)
First day: Friends arriving in the evening on Friday. Small MIT tour. Great fancy dinner at Catalyst (cocktails, one of the best lamp dishes I ever had - lamb with beets and turnip, good bread, a somewhat meh dessert, but mainly because the main was so great).

Second Day: buying some weekend essentials in the drugstore around the corner: Read more...Collapse ), followed by a breakfast at a tiny Brazilian place around the corner with the greatest passion fruit (!!! passion fruit !!!) smoothie ever. A tour through the TAZA chocolate factory Read more...Collapse ) (machines used to cover nuts - or chocolate nibs, my favorites - with chocolates; chocolate rounds; chocolate round packing machine; storage room and big roasting machine for chocolate beans.) Factory, shop, of course: Read more...Collapse ) (a dried coffee cocoa pod for my brother-out-of-law, cocoa nibs for my own enjoyment - think 100% dark chocolate, they are not sweet at all but intensely chocolate -, single-source chocolates to try with my friends; photo clearly made after the trip). MIT museum, including my favorite exhibits on kinetic art: Read more...Collapse ) (I could sit for hours in front of there two. Videos here (Beholding the Big Bang) and here (Machine with 11 Scraps of Paper) - but the videos are nothing but shadows of the real thing.) Museum-shop where I indulged my newly discovered interest in architecture Read more...Collapse ) Then off to the white mountains, almost getting lost on the way, dinner late in a random restaurant on the high-way, very American, the way one imagines it.

Third day: breakfast in a sugar shack, the owner coming over to tell my friend about how he married his wife before she could speak English while on deployment (he seems now at least 80, his wife's English is still shaky). I got myself a granola (still did not have time to actually try it out) and convinced my friends to get maple candy (that they disliked - yes, I like them even though their taste is strange): Read more...Collapse ) On to driving the scenic byways, including hiking the Arethusa Falls and Frankenstein Cliff Trail. Hiking along bridgesRead more...Collapse ) to the waterfall Read more...Collapse ) to spectacular views over the incredibly green White Mountains Read more...Collapse ) across/through a smaller waterfall Read more...Collapse ) and along some very adventurous paths Read more...Collapse ) (made extra adventurous by the fact that my hiking shoes are in Germany, waiting to be taken to Iceland) with a spectacular final of an old raised railroad in the middle of the forest Read more...Collapse ) Back along the Kancamagus Scenic Byway where we mostly drove through the clouds. Food, conversation, trying the from above chocolate, sleep.

Fourth Day: along the Kancamagus again in the early morning, more clouds to drive through, spectacular views the few moments that they half-lifted: Read more...Collapse ) Slow traffic (it's Memorial Day and the weather is bad, people are heading home), still taking time for a detour to Rockport Read more...Collapse ) (el_moofo: do you remember? We did not go into the German bakery this time, though. advdiaboli: I kind of get why one would stay there for four days, just relaxing) where the weather steadily improved. Driving 127 along the almost-palaces in Manchester-by-the-sea. Boston airport, good-byes, home. (Next time, I will sleep with mosquito spray on but that was a different story and it was still worth it.)
  • Talking to the new people on my list made me realize that I did not give a proper introduction to myself, but I feel utterly uninspired writing one and somehow linking to the old ones seems off. I know that I did so just a months or so ago, but somehow it does not feel right right now. Blame my brain on being cranky for no obvious but a lot of small reasons right now once again.

    Anyway, if you want to read back (no force, don't worry! and questions are always welcome), there is the keys tag that also contains at least two "this is me" intros I wrote over the years and otherwise entries I consider to be, well, keys to ... me? My life? This place? Something like this. Anyway, those are entries I myself often go back to and re-read.
    (I also get notifications about all LJ comments, so if you want to talk about anything anywhere.)
  • ♥ had cows trying to nib on his mountain bike atop of one of the Chiemgau Alps mountains.

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    I spent yesterday morning with waffles and wine and kick-ass science ladies talking orthotic shoes that do not look like it, military service, art, and visa issues:

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    You do not see the waffles themselves because we were eating them up too quickly. Also almost no wine for me - don't get bitten by mosquitos in New Hampshire or you may end on antibiotics (and antihistamines and a prescription steroid ointment) for a week. Or just don't get old and allergic to mosquitos, I suppose. (Also don't have crisises over life and future on skype over 6000 km and 6 time zones. But that's a different story.)
  • Of course summer means not only mosquitos, but also fruit! So many great fruit at the moment. I got all fruit at the grocery store on Thursday (some of which I contributed to the waffles): 4 small packages of blackberries, two bigger ones of blueberries, 2 somewhat sad quinces (they were on sale because of some brown spots - I do not mind cutting them out given how long I haven't had any quinces at all!), two pomegranates, and a package of pears, mainly to go into a salad. And I still have/had apples and peaches and a mango at home. Nom.
  • On the way to waffles and wine (I walked there, it's about 45 minutes, the same whether you walk or take the T), someone was moving out and had "for free" boxes in front of their house. Cue a water jug (I wanted one for a while but could not justify actually spending the money given my limited tenure on this side of the Atlantic) and a bracelet (red accessories are just *my* thing and I love the way bracelets look on me, but I do not wear bracelets often enough - since I type too much - to justify bying a lot of them):

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  • I am still reading Christa Wolf's "City of Angels or The Overcoat of Dr. Freud" (the one I cited from in this post). It's shaping up as one of those books which I will have a lot of trouble rating. So worth reading, but so incredibly slow-going. (Definitely not the book of hers I would recommend to read first, but one that is by now full of my markings and even some notes in the margins.)

    One of the most interesting things about reading such fictionalized-autobiographical books is that you stumble over things you did not know, go looking them up trying to find out whether they are real or what the real prompt between the fictionalized version is and learn stuff. Like the extent of Thomas Mann's own homosexuality. I had no idea - did you? Well, I do not like Thomas anyway - but I do love the books of both Heinrich and Klaus, unsurprisingly, and just recommended "The Loyal Subject" ("Der Untertan") and "Mephisto" to someone on goodreads yesterday.
    And in more sad bits of information: in the English translation of Christa Wolf's own "Pattern of Childhood", they have edited out her criticism of the Vietnam war (source). I ... my mind is blown. It is such, such a great, important book. But yeah, I will not be able to recommend it. (Read "Cassandra" and "Medea", though. I guess they can't screw up mythology re-tellings.).

    Also look at the German vs. the Chinese cover for the book itself. Is this some very nifty cover design that the Chinese did?! (I am confused that this particular book was translated at all into Chinese, especially given the above Vietnam thing.)

turtles /// students

On our first free night in Florida this April, we walked along one of the hiking trails - not in the Everglades themselves, in one of the parks outside the actual National Park. "We" being a group of seven people who all spent the last four days attending the conference. It was one of those typical trails for the area, not long - a mile perhaps? or even shorter - and the only dry land, surrounded by marsh and ponds.

Perhaps three quarters into the trail we stopped close to a bench overlooking a pond, taking stupid photos, laughing, when a a group (three? I think it was three) guys joined us. Are people around 18 old teenagers or young adults? Something like this. I may also be wrong about the age - they can drive when 16 here and out of my vintage point its sometimes hard to tell a difference between a 22 and a 18 year young student. (Says the postdoc who has been asked what she is majoring in the last time she hurried across Harvard campus, trying not to come late to an invited (!) seminar talk she was giving.)

In any case: the guys were carrying around a turtle. They weren't necessarily mean or so, they seemed just to have found an amazing animal and be fascinated by him. I hope. Because I did not exactly cover myself in glory in my reaction.

They asked whether we wanted to touch him. Some did. They set the turtle on the ground and to prevent him from running away pressed down on his back before picking him up again, talking about how big and cool he was. They said he was sitting next to the trail further up.

We walked on along the trail. They walked back towards the parking lot. I fought with myself over whether I should ask them to leave the turtle here not further down the trail. Whether, even better, I should tell them to bring him back where they picked him up. (I know it's an "it" in English; I use "him" on purpose. The human pronoun.) I did not. I did stay back a few seconds and tell them not to press down on the turtle to prevent him from crawling away - there were big scratches on the underside of the shell, clearly from the stones on the ground. But I did not tell them to let him go immediately.

Of course nobody else also did. We were seven people. Not all of us were small women with a strange German accent. But it is on my conscience that *I* did not tell them.

///

My friend the almost-postdoc A got a student B that she did not want. Nor does have the time to take care of him. That's one of those stupid things that just happen if you don't have enough money to pay enough faculty to actually supervise students and students who do need supervision, some of them needing more supervision than others, as in this case. More supervision that you cannot usually get from a different continent - but this was the only topic that for administrative reasons was working out for this student.

It's not my friends fault - she is overworked, she had a bureaucratic catastrophe come down on her head and she is perhaps not the most patient person to bad students. And B is not exactly one of the bright ones. It is maybe her supervisor C's fault but then he also tried his best being faced with a student who needed a thesis topic yesterday.

It's just - she (A) did not clearly communicate the problems she had with the student, her supervisor (C) (who is also the students supervisor) is overworked and will not recognize if one student gets lost. But A has been pouring her heart out to me over the last months. And I do mean months.

And this time - perhaps because I did not save this turtle (I do not even know if he needed saving, perhaps they let him go a few meters on, they did not seem actively mean), at least the story kept coming back to my mind - I did listen to my conscience and wrote an e-mail to A and her supervisor C raising red flags. Saying that from outside it looks like the arrangement is not working out and that this is not my friend A's fault but just an overall shitty situation but that someone should take care of it as to not make the student B suffer. Even though A clearly told me not to intervene when I, repeatedly, told that I felt like they (A and C) should talk to each other and that I would force it if they did not.

I think this may have been betrayal as seen from A's side. And to be honest: if I confide into someone I would not want this to happen. I would feel betrayed. But yeah ... I still think it was right. I have been a student without good supervision. I have seen friends breaking and leaving science because the PhD candidate or postdoc who was actually responsible for them did not work out and the actual supervisor did not realize or did not care. I wished people would have spoken up.

But I may have just destroyed - or at least heavily undermined - a friendship. But I don't think I could have lived with my conscience if I did not.
(I should have told them to let that turtle go.)

((Sorry for not giving more details. That's as far as I'm willing to go. And yes, I also talked to some mutual friends/colleagues about this to whom I can disclose some more details.))

keeping books[*]

[*] any ambiguity in title very much on purpose. This is me ;)


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So this is what's left of my bookshelf. It makes me sad. It amazing books - or at least books I am very much looking forward to reading - and it's more than I can possibly read until I leave, but still ... So few of them! Most of the Tiptree one will fly home over Iceland with ♥ very soon. I know I should send quite a few others home, too, but how am I to decide *now* what I want to read in September? Or November? Even in a week? (And if you say "kindle" I am going to explode, so please don't. I am clearly an old snob, who needs to touch her books, caress them and smell them, have one pre-defined font for the story and, sometimes, remember not only what the book was about but also how it was too heavy to easily read in this or that position or how the pages would not stay open if I tried to eat cherries while reading.)

Anyway, books. I am good reading-wise right now. Given the slump last year, this makes me very happy. Not so many outstanding wow books so far this year, but many enjoyable ones. And some recommendations:

For everyone - to become upset and to decide to change: "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg (with Nell Scovell) [5/5]

Seriously - don't make the mistake that I did and hesitate to read the book because of its media coverage. Read more...Collapse )

For fantasy- and comic-book readers who want to relax with a good glass of wine or a bowl of sweet strawberries: "Vicious" by V.E. Schwab [4/5]

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For those who read science fiction because it's a magnifying glass for the human condition: "Warchild" by Karin Lowachee [4/5]

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For anybody who ever had to rely on or had to write academic reference letters: "Dear Committee Members" by Julie Schumacher [4/5]

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For everyone interested in American politics: "Dark Money" by Jane Meyer [5/5]

Yes, I thought this was one sensational name for what was supposed to be a well researched book - before I actually looked it up and realized that this is the actual term used for certain money flows. Whuuut.

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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!

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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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