Log in

  • Tuesday, we had a fire drill. Which in itself would be not remarkable, except that the alarm was unexpected and loud enough for me to stab myself with my mechanical pencil between thumb and index finger of my left hand. And given how it's one of these Rotring Tikky ones, it hurt a ton and bled a lot.
  • One more person I know who as been far too close (hearing distance) to the Paris attacks: the lady who did the PhD at my institute and to whose job in Paris I, in a way contributed (she used the latex CV/cover letter template I hacked and has seen my applications as examples). We haven't been close friends, but we did chat from time to time and exchanged muffin recipes.
  • Blood red nails. They make me feel me and powerful and not quite so depressed about winter. We are on day three and they are going strong. (I will take the polish down for the interview, of course.)
  • I forgot to bring my jacket to the dry cleaners - the one my colleague's former messie tenant left behind. I ended up putting the other jacket and the skirt that belonged to this one into the donation bag. The jacket was too big, the skirt both too big and just the wrong cut for me. But the jacket was the most perfect thing for the last two talks.
    Anyway, I washed it by hand. I hope it worked. I guess I will need it two days at least (the talk is one day, the interview another).
  • Also - conference buddies are awesome. Someone I know from a conference is nice enough to allow ♥ to send some documents I need to her place instead of having to fedex them to the USA. And then to spend Sunday early afternoon getting the documents to me and eating dinner with me. I'm in this field for the people. No matter where I go next, no matter if decide to go into industry or become a high school teacher in the end, I met so many amazing people that it was worth it.
  • That said: N. sent us (me and our two friends/colleagues) about 4 pounds of homemade German cookies. Guess what I will be having for dinner today?!
  • I spent the last years trying very hard to avoid cuffed sweatpants because I thought they looked ridiculous. Now I had to give in and buy some - I needed new pants for home and the non-cuffed ones were all yoga pants without pockets. And I just don't do loungewear without pockets. Anyway: why did nobody tell me how incredibly comfortable cuffed sweatpants are? No cold air coming in! And if you buy them in tall but actually aren't tall yourself, they also don't look ridiculous.
  • I have found something that is far worse than both US and German bureaucracy. Italian one, also known as "we tell you in three places what you have to do, but all three of them unclear and seem to contradict each other". Aaaaaaah! I ended up with a "here is the paperwork if you mean the one thing, but if you mean the other thing, here is your paperwork, too!". They may just reject my application over being sassy, but I was in a panic mode at this point.
  • The neighbors - or their landlord - are renovating the stair. Which means waking up to the noise of a jack hammer at point 7 AM. It's a tiny jack hammer - not every efficient but extremely noisy. And I really, really need that half an hour of sleep I am not getting because of the noise.
  • I may be addicted to the Whole Foods's pigs in a blanket (for the Germans: Würstchen im Schlafrock). I mean, they are not even objectively good and I usually don't like sausages, but there is something to them ... I really, really want them all the time (after I got my first one when they were putting in the new windows and I did not have access to my kitchen for a day). And there is a Whole Foods around the corner from where I live.
  • I try reminding myself that I've done the best I can in terms of showing them that I am a great scientist. At the interview stage, it's often far more about whether the person fits the team and the task then whether they are good overall. And honestly, someone can be a great scientist (or a great programmer or a great whatever ...), but just not the right personality for a task or a team. And in the end I also don't want to work somewhere, where I don't fit and will be unhappy (honestly, I'm not paid enough for that). But it's really, really hard not to see any rejection at any stage as a judgement on my abilities and my quality as a person and a scientist. I know it often is not (I've been often enough on the other side of hiring), but ... (Somewhat relevant to this is this post by Dame Athene Donald, especially rule #10, the "don't kid yourself that luck does not play a role", is really, really important. Always.)

recipe recs I : fish and meat

There is a folder on my desktop called cookbook - it has over 2000 pdfs saved in there. It also has a sub-folder called "yummy" for recipes I tried and liked and would like to cook again at some point. So why not share? At least the "yummy" ones.

But 60 recipes are a lot for a single post, so you get them subdivided. No idea when the next posts (I plan for vegetarian and vegan, although they may get subdivided themselves) will come, but they will. I also point out below which recipes are in German - my comments on them are still in English. Because language mixing in one post just does not look good and also because recipes (especially simple recipes of the kind I prefer) are easy to translate. You can either try google translate or ask me ;)

My general approach is that I like my food to be simple and foolproof and not to use to many specialized kitchen utensils or ingredients. Big, bold flavors of all kind are always a win. So are fresh veggies, even though this part is not quite that obvious in this particular recipe selection. I also tend to err on the side of more spices, but that's also somewhat a matter of experience and knowledge of one's own taste, I guess. [eda: Also, most of the dishes need to amounts appropriate for a one-person-household.]

Anyway - enjoy! Ask if this are unclear. All the links go to original recipes as I found them online (random foodblogs for the English ones; the big German recipe website for the German ones).

  • Tuna salad with cucumber

    I use your average mayo - also quite a bit less of it, I think. And instead of nicely arranging the tuna salad on the cucumber, I use the cucumber slices as little spoons. It’s surprisingly filling and, less surprisingly a protein bomb. Also, the perfect 10 minutes dinner.
  • Moroccan style chicken in yoghurt marinade

    Halve the chicken, double the yoghurt for the marinade. The yoghurt dressing is amazing - serve the chicken with a salad (especially good if you add some slaw/cabbage into it) and the dressing. Also, marinating over night is wonderful, but it also works with an hour or so. Also yeah, I just put all the chicken into the pan, because I am careless like this.
  • Japanese cabbage pancakes with shrimp

    I never added kale into mine and they don't turn very much pancake like (I don't think these two things are related ;)). That said: they are yummy. I'm also too lazy to make the sauce (plus I think the one time I tried I did not enjoy it that much for it to be worth the work), so I eat them with the classic(?) Sweet Chicken/Sweet Chili Sauce.
  • Tuna and butter beans salad

    I use tuna in water (duh) and I don't add salad green immediately, only for serving - I just don't like my salad greens turning all mushy. Arugula tastes best, but given that this is me, this should not surprise you. I also just realized that the recipe uses lemon juice. I don't think I ever added any to my salad.
  • Hot and sour soup

    There is so much to tell about this soup - but first thing first: It is DELICIOUS. And super easy to make. (You will hear me repeating this often - I like things that are quick and foolproof.)

    This is the first and only recipe I ever made with tofu - I usually dislike it where it is mere ersatz for meat, but here it's an integral part of the dish. It's also a recipe that I would not have picked out myself. It just sounds so strange. 2/3 cups of rice vinegar, really? And all that tofu? Not to mention that I usually don't even like hot&sour soup that one gets at Chinese restaurants. But D. made it when I was visiting NY and gosh, was it delish. I had to try it myself - and I am now very sure that this soup will be in heavy rotation this winter. It's also super filling and great to take to work as lunch.

    The author of the recipe is also the owner of my favorite sandwich and cookie bakery in Boston (one where D. and I had Boston cream pie when she was visiting here). And I just found out that she has a restaurant here, too - I *have* to go there.
  • Asian curry soup [German]

    This soup is soooo good. And even better on the second or third day when it gets more thick and creamy.
    I tend to leave out the lime juice, but otherwise I just follow the recipe. You can reduce the amount of coconut milk, but don’t leave out the sesame oil. It makes the flavors of the soup really shine.
  • Indian veggie stir fry with chicken [German]

    I take some freedom with the spices on this one (I use the ones mentioned, although I usually don’t have the tandoori, but in wildly varying amounts) - but I can tell you that you really need the cardamon, it gives the dish a very special flavor. I also dislike green beans, so I use snow peas that I add a minute before things are done.

    I kind of also put in the veggies in in a wildly different oder, starting with bell peppers (that I like to be all soft) and corn, that I like to turn almost crunchy. The carrots come in really late because with them I also love them to keep the crunchiness. But that’s a matter of how you like your vegetables and tastes wildly differ there.
  • Iskender casserolle with feta sauce [German]

    I only cooked this one once so far back in B. - it’s not a dish to make for one person, but omg, was it good (we may also have made it with pork, hmm ...). Which reminds me that this is one of the recipes I want to make over the holidays, when at ♥'s place. I think it needs something light on the side. A good salad, perhaps?
  • Salmon with a walnut crust [German]

    Did any other Germans on my list grow up with Iglo's "Schlemmerfilet"? That's a bit like this - just much, much better and super easy (not quite as easy as just putting a frozen fish dish into the oven, but almost there). It tastes just amazing with a nice, big salad.
  • Spicy zucchini & mince [German]

    I have been eating this dish non-stop for the last 3 years or so, especially in winter. So good!
    To make the pax-version, you have to double to triple the zucchini though and half the meat. Also more curry and somewhat less cream is OK. I also prefer my zucchini cut in thin circles/half moons. And don't overcook, the zucchini are best when they still have some bite. It's then a perfect meal on it's own, perhaps with some bread - but you do not need potatoes or rice to go with it. Just zucchini and meat and the wonderful, spicy broth.


november feelings

I'm oscillating between being being elated by people being nice to me and believing in me and deeply depressed because I feel like I can't get my act together and am constantly running behind. I don't even have a semblance of a plan right now, I am just trying to extinguish whatever fire comes the closest to consuming me. (The original version of this sentence contains a lot more cursing, but I don't even know if it is proper English, so ...)

Packing for New York was a pain: it is supposed to be warm, so it's all t-shirts and such. My brain however is already all in the cozy sweaters and warm shawls mode, so everything feels and looks wrong and not me. (Staying in NY Wed-Sun, talk on Friday, guess who has not even touched it yet?)

It's a symptom, not the basic problem, but it makes it worse: I spend literally hours before I can make myself open and read e-mails. I know that I am in a state where the smallest critique can send me into a crying fit and I don't want to go there. (The strange thing is that of course all the e-mails are nice. We are not yet in the "getting all the rejections" phase.)

I really, really want to go for long walks at night.

I also really, really want hugs - the real kind. Touching. The presence of another.

(Maybe I also really want that crying fit; it would at least release some tension. But I don't want to cry alone.)


anger management

I am angry today. Do you know those days when you feel like you could smash something? Yeah. Reason? No reasons. Or some.

1. My LJ-style is broken. Instead of little black hearts there are giant (and I mean g-i-a-n0y) pink hearts. And given how often I use the symbol ... The support guys are working on it. I even tried different styles, but I really, really love mine and don't. want. to. change.

2. This interview with Slavoj Žižek (German, sorry). This is not the first interview of Žižek I read and while I would not presume to criticize in detail, I'm not a philosopher, I never found myself much interested in what he had to say before. But I was nodding along here: The absolute imperative to help when someone whose house is on fire is standing in front of your door. But also the push-back against cultural relativism.
Why it makes me angry? Mainly because I went down the memory lane to places I dislike.
Germany has a somewhat complicated school system with three main kinds of high school - in case you are not familiar, here is a quick overview. Back when we came to Germany, the usual way for the refugees - or ethnic Germans repatriated from the former Sovjet Union - was directly to the Hauptschule, the one who only gives access to the lowest level jobs. With quite some luck and pressure from your parents against the bureaucracy you could get to a Realschule, the one that would give access to intermediate level jobs - think secretary or paralegal or technician. My parents fought long and hard for me to get to Gymnasium, the one that gives access to university [being transferred to a Gymnasium after finishing Realschule isn't as easy as the linked explanation makes it sound; it was pretty much almost impossible 20 years ago] - I was extremely lucky to have parents for whom education of a girl mattered. A lot.
But I also had this friend, the way 12 year old have friends, living in a different part of the "refugee home" we were in while searching for an apartment of our own. Clever girl. Nice girl. Her parents were horrified when they realized that the German Gymnasium takes 13 years as opposed to the 10 or 11 it took in the former SU. And the only way to get there at this point was to lose two years, one in a "welcome class", one stepping back a year (absolutely unnecessary, both of them, but that's a different story). The story is: their daughter would be 21 by the time she would have finished school! And 26 or older by the time she would have finished university! But she should be married and have children by this time! And isn't being a paralegal or a nurse just as good as being a lawyer or a doctor? Such a job would fit a woman better anyway. Being a lawyer or a doctor is too stressful when also taking care of a family, anyway.
It will not surprise you, that this girl did not end up in a Gymnasium. Not even a Realschule, which would have been the way to being a paralegal or a nurse. Thinking back to her - thinking back to so many other Russian-speaking girls I knew -, it always makes me so, so, SO angry.
There are usual disclaimers: not everyone is like this. This is not the worst cultural background possible. But who is going to give this girl her missed chances back?

3. This post on the women in astronomy blog.
While I agree with the general sentiment - the number of publications does not say much about someone's scientific excellence and how much they are going to influence the field - the examples are so, so, SO of. Someone who published 4 papers, all of them first author? Well, if their papers were so interesting, someone would have reached out to them and asked for their input resulting in a co-authorship. Where are all those papers? Someone who only publishes as first author should be a giant red flag. This person is either not willing or not able to collaborate. Do we really want people leading our field who only publish as first author? What happens if someone - a colleague at the new institute - comes to them with an idea that would involve their method? Will they be able to step back and teach this colleague or will they go ahead and snag their first authorship? What with their students and postdocs? What with the simple promotion of their ideas and methods that, oh wonder!, happens via working with others that usually results in co-authorships? I know that not everyone is embedded in a big collaboration. I know that not everyone loves working on big projects. But you know what? If you are going to lead in the field, you will be.
And we are already in a field where almost only the first author publications count - go out there and ask anybody on hiring and fellowship committees. Do we want to promote this kind of thinking in a place that is supposed to discuss diversity? Especially from the perspective of women, who are the ones who tend to end up with the "service" and "helper" roles (ladies, hear my advice, learn from my mistakes and don't!).

4. And there was the end on net neutrality in Europe :(

I know, those are not really reasons to be angry. But yeah. I am. Stressed and furious at nothing at particular. And this needed to get out otherwise I'll not be able to sleep.

[There are a few sensitive topics in here. Underwater mines and such. Sorry. Tread with caution and such.]

stress cooking

I am a stress cooker. I know, the traditional thing is stress baking. But I am not a huge fan of baking. Cooking on the other hand is something I find intensely meditative. On the other hand, even with cooking, I do suffer from the "but who is going to eat it all?"-problem. Here I am. I really, really want to cook. I do even have the ingredient to make some Mujaddara - I haven't made any myself yet, but I tried some very yummy one on Saturday: fleeing the contractors working on our windows I met up with a friend for brunch and a short stroll through a local botanical garden. Yet there is still leftover bulgur & veggies bake from the last weekend for lunch tomorrow, not to mention the black bean and sweet potato soup in the freezer. And really, I neither have enough freezer space not containers to freeze more. Also, I will be gone in one and a half months for almost five weeks and for another five days in between.

Last weekend, however ... Last weekend was really good for cooking:

6x food photosCollapse )

Yeah, it's rather feta heavy. This is not untypical for me, but it's not like I eat feta with every meal. More so that my grocery store sells the feta in really big chunks and if I decide to buy one, I need to make sure I eat it up before it turns bad. Other days I will cook a lot with goat cheese. Or with blue cheese. Both are also sold in quantities that are far more than I need for one meal. Well, with goat cheese I could in theory buy the smaller package - and pay 90% of what I pay for the big one. I can as well just cook some more with goat cheese, I have enough great recipes.

I also ate out like 4 times last week. Even 4 and a half. Three work lunches, brunch with my friends, munchies (is this an English word you understand? This is something my colleagues use a lot for the kind of food we want at happy hour - I like it even if it's something regional) at the happy hour, and the amazing ice cream at Toscanini's that is almost a full meal.

I am also trying to decide how weird it would feel (not "be", I know dining alone should not be a weird thing) to go to one of my favorite restaurants alone in the evening. They are on the (very) price-y side. But they had this wonderful dish of bone marrow last winter. So amazingly good! And then it was gone from the menu - and now it's back. I could wait for my "I am back" dinner once I get back to Boston after Europe in January, but I am too afraid it will be gone from the menu till then. But how awkward am I going to feel alone in a upscale restaurant? I feel uncomfortable enough in smaller places. I know, I know luxury problems. But believe me, this is better than me complaining about the work load and the job applications (both are the reasons I am very sure that nobody will be able to go there with me in the next time).

Hmmmm ... Food. (I also find LJ meditative, sometimes. In case you can't tell. At least the food-ish entries.)

Oct. 16th, 2015

This has been on my mind the last week or so: Famous Berkeley Astronomer Violated Sexual Harassment Policies Over Many Year.

Sorry for linking to the buzzfeed article (also note that they changed the title as obvious from the link), but the NYT one is garbage that many people in my field have taken a stance against. And I don't feel like working my way through more articles.

It makes me feel ... I don't even know. I talked here how working abroad means giving up something that I see as an essential part of my work - the public outreach, the bringing science to kids from under-represented groups, the battle for gender equality. I feel this lack most acutely right now - and am even more aware that I don't know the US society and rules well enough to be a part of this work here.

(This is not the only case, just last year there was the case at MIT.)

The thing is also - astronomy is home, more so than any other group of people has ever been. Partly, because I went through a ton of shit outside, but have been extremely lucky to meet the right people very early in my career. Right people means looking out for each other. Right people means someone looking you into the eyes and telling you that you don't want to work with the person X (the reason may be that X does not properly acknowledge their student collaborators in the final publications - and it may be that they are known to be sleazy and inappropriate). I have never been harassed in the astronomy context, but I had a few interactions with people who clearly did not get their social cues (and I had to push back at least once really hard at a colleague; I don't think he ever properly spoke with me afterwards and the fact that I pushed back was thanks to the fact that I knew that I had people to cover my back who were just as annoyed as I by his innuendos.). Never been, but it does not mean that I am protected for the future. I know women who had awful experiences. I know women, very strong women, who cut any and all ties to their advisors once they were finished their degree; and even if I don't know the details, that's an extreme measure to take that people don't do lightly.

There are also wonderful people - there was the conference in Paris and when we went out after the conference dinner, I was not with my usual group (something highly recommendable in terms of networking - one fact that people hardly ever get is that those lunches and dinners are not fun, they are hard work, building relationships that will turn into science down the road; sometimes you go out with people who are not only colleagues but also friends, but the focus are the ones you don't know yet, whose names you may have just read on some paper you did find interesting, who gave a talk that may influence your work, who have data that you dearly need, whom have a model you would really love to apply to your data). It was a fun night. There were cocktails involved (not for me; but some people did not make it to the next morning session) that came after all the free wine at the conference dinner. And at some point the guys from my observatory walked past the bar we were in and I thought that this would be the right moment to go home. It would save me having to get to the hotel alone since we were in the same one. I said my goodbyes and before leaving had a senior colleague (ironically from Berkeley) stop me and ask me, repeatedly, whether I was really walking home with a group of men and whether he should order me a taxi instead (I did not speak French, he did) and he would pay for it, really, he would (I was a PhD student with the typical German 50% position). I may have given him an extra tight hug at the end of the conference and said "thank you". And he did not even get why.
There also is my colleague, who, after hearing that N. and I were going to take the last bus to Harvard Square and then walk the 15 minutes to my house, told me to message him once we get home. And were we really sure that we did not want a taxi? (I would take one, but I also know my area, walk often enough home from the T/subway station after landing in Boston late at night, and feel much more safe when there are two of us.) There was a message on my phone 5 minutes after we arrived home: was everything OK?
Those are people whom I can make inappropriate jokes with (and no, we don't need drinks to do so), roll the eyes at stupid course material that sometimes comes out of the diversity offices (not always and at least they try - I wish the times back when I could say "at least *we* try"), or build models of our favorite binary systems out of inflated condoms since they are easier to come by than balloons (I never said I was not silly). The guys (in the sense of "male individuals") whom I can share a tiny hotel room with in Dublin when we stay a few extra days.

I've been extremely lucky. Other people were not.
(And even those wonderful people will sometimes question why a women's representative is needed at any given faculty and at many faculty functions. Well. See the beginning of this posts for some of the reasons.)
And no, I am pretty sure it's not just my field. And not just the USA. I am just more aware of what happens here right now.
  • We were supposed to get new windows last weekend, but the contractors only finished the ones downstairs, so our landlord informed us yesterday late night that they will come in and do the ones on our floor today. I mean, I don't mind them coming, it's just ... a bit more warning would have been nice. My plans for today were to do groceries in the morning and then cook all the things for the next week. Instead I did not even get a coffee in the morning (they started with the windows in the kitchen) and am sitting at work. I wanted to work over the weekend, but from my bed. And I just can't get into the flow of it because I had plans for all the nice food. Plus there is this little voice in the back of my head that reminds me that with the new windows, the house is actually a really nice place to live in. And who knows what happens to the rent.
  • I crashed pretty hard twice this week. The kind of evening that you spend with people enjoying the company, but when you come home it takes hours to come down. Unproductive, annoying hours that you spend worrying about things you said and faces you made and impressions and whatever.
  • I feel like my skin is very thin right now; not only when it comes to the question of refugees but to so many other topics. I need to remember that avoiding is not a good idea. Exposure therapy, right?
  • There is a screening of PhD Movie 2 and a Q&A with Jorge Cham this Thursday. The same day and almost the same time as I have tickets for a screening of NT's "Hamlet". How is life so unfair? I mean, it's not like there many things out there that I WANT to attend but when two of them happens, they have to be at the same time, right?
  • On the other hand: there is a production of Michael Frayn "Copenhagen" in town and I got tickets for it. I loved the book and am so looking to see it on stage; it's also in a venue that does focus on the science/arts intersection, so I have great hopes.
  • Also, a friend will be in town in November (this is a public post, so I am not sure I should mention you name, so ... <3). And ♥ and I and two dear friends got a reservation for Essigbrätlein in December (it's a two-Michelin-star place focusing on regional cuisine especially regional and saisonal vegetables; I've been there for the first time this late spring and cannot stop gushing about it since).
  • On the other hand (yes, it's more than the second one - third or fourth? I feel like I need at least a second brain, so why not also extra hands?): I have three talks scheduled until mid December. Maybe 4. Maybe-maybe 5. One of them a per-invitation colloquium where they actually pay for me staying 4 nights in Manhattan so I feel like I need to put extra effort into that one. (I do with every talk; as a colleague once said - every talk is a job talk.) And 90% of application deadlines in my field fall between October and December. (We apply for jobs one year in advance. Yeah. I know it's stupid. Next question, please?) So perhaps it's good the PhD movie does not work out. And I should do something to stop crashing. And perhaps holing myself up is not a bad idea.
  • Whatever. Breath. Breathing may be a good first step.
  • I don't even know what I want to say with this entry. Hi, I am alive but stressed? But if I were truly stressed, would I waste hours paralyzed by worrying over - objectively seen - nothing? Oh wait, yes. It's me. I would.

this is not how minimalism works

I know I said that I am back. And then disappeared. It's just ... work and application season. And my new toys. Actually several new toys. So let me ramble about them to ease myself into writing again:

1. Smartphone.
I caved in and got one. I still don't really need one, but I got a WalkLogger, which is a fun way to realize that I do actually walk a ton, an audiobook app so that I actually started listening to the Discworld books again, a shopping list - I may stop forgetting my notes and thus half of the things I needed to buy, a nice interface (aCalender; I love their weekly view especially once I found out how to show start and end of the appointments) to the google calender so that I finally actually come around to use it, and Pocket, that may finally allow me to read all the tor.com short stories I wanted to read. I also got Book Catalogue to have an offline version of my goodreads collection for the cases when I end up in bookshops and can't remember whether I have a certain book or not.
Still no contract and thus no internet except when I get wifi, but that's actually good. And so far I managed not to connect to my work e-mail accounts. I know it will not stay this way, but.
(The phone is the 16GB version of MotoG 3, so not too fancy).
Also, it seems like it will remain nameless. I kind of have this tradition of naming my laptops after tricksters (the HP that I had in school and during my studies was Starscream, the Mac that I wrote my diploma thesis and PhD on was Selina - cookies for anyone who gets who is meant! - and the current one is Loki; given that I use terminals/the command line for 90% of my work, I actually get to see the computer name on regular basis and it makes me happy). But the phone so far does not feel like something that needs a name. I may still change my opinion, but somehow ...

2. Books.
There is now a giant free bookshelf on the way from work to home. Who thought this was a good idea ...? And given that this is Cambridge/Somerville, the quality of the books on such shelves is rather stunning. I mean, I know I don't lean towards simple entertainment books and I have left bookshops (your average ones in the pedestrian zone in German inner cities) empty-handed because I could not find anything and I still find so much on those shelves. "Thinking fast and slow" was on there and "Catch 22" and "Childhood's End".
I'm still OK on the "you are only allowed to buy a book if you send a read book home to Germany" front, but the number of the books here is still growing. The fact that I decided to turn my rewards points on my credit card into Barnes&Noble gift cards does not help ...

3. Clothes.
And that's where I totally fail. So the idea was 2-out-1-in. It worked last year, admittedly because I did go through my stuff before I moved to the USA and sorted out everything that was not really worth taking with me.
But then I went to the clothes exchange party and came home with an amazing skirt and a dress.
And then I brought advdiaboli to the MIT Coop and finally found a red sweatshirt that fits me.
And then we went to Utah and ♥ was the one to suggest to go outlet shopping. But not before him finding the perfect pair of earrings for me and me having to buy a belt because I forgot to pack one. I was good, so only a cardigan which I really needed since my black one is threatening to give up soon, and two shawls, mainly because ♥ looked at me when I held them up and expected him to say no and told me that yeah, they were mine.
And then, once I was back from Utah, I got this e-mail from a colleague saying that his tenant has moved out and left behind winter shoes and jacket and whether I wanted to have a pick? To be honest, I was kind of hesitant - I do have that thing about buying clothes used that comes from having spent my teenage years in clothes bought from the German equivalent of Goodwill, the ones you can only get to if you show them the paperwork that your income is low enough. There were times in my life when getting a shirt from H&M was pure luxury. Anyway. Once I was there it turned out that his tenant was a shopping addict who tried to cut all ties and re-start anew somewhere else. So she left everything behind, asking to just get rid of it. My size of shoes. A lot of my size of clothes. All either new or, from the look of it, worn only once Kitchen stuff. I was by far not the only one to pick through the things there, still I go:
And I will feel like I forgot something on that list.
On one hand: yeah, free stuff! On the other: this is now how minimalism works. I mean, I know that while I like a clean minimalist style, a minimalist wardrobe is not something that going to make me happy. But still: 2-in-1-out. I may not even have managed a 1-in-1-out this year.
I am baaaack. Two weeks without Internet are a really good thing. (Well, except that I come back to find out that the world is even a worse place than the one I've left, all of the sudden instead of the usual gradual change of following the news daily.) I don't think I will manage to go back and catch up, so please bear with me about it.

Utah was amazing. And ♥ is wonderful. And our Ford Fiesta (not the European version, though; an American one that is significantly larger) was a surprisingly comfortable, well-behaved car that talked to us. It did, at least the only way we could make it play music from the USB stick was via voice commands.

I need to go back to Canyonlands with a 4x4 drive and explore the backlands. The vastness of it, canyons within canyons - the brain, at least mine (and it is used to giant numbers and dimensions) just cannot comprehend it. That said, my legs have interesting colors, don't they?

Also: camping. It was kind of fun, but I think we agreed now that we should not do this again when the temperatures are below freezing at night. The sleeping bags were good; we did not freeze. Well, ♥ did not and I did not too much. But getting out in the morning, before it has warmed up - that was a pain.

On the other hand: the tent (rip poor thing) held. We even survived a two thunderstorms, one of them on a rather exposed mesa.

Boston Harbor Islands

There is a "National Recreation Area" (which is not quite the same as a national park) much directly in Boston: the "Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area" that also includes the Boston Harbor Islands State Park. I've never been there before, but they set up a really nice booth close to the Aquarium that I kept running into and now that advdiaboli is visiting, it seemed like the right point, especially since the weather forecast for Sunday was too warm for doing anything in the city.

We got food and books, paid for the ferry and were on our way:

12 picsCollapse )

And then I shocked poor advdiaboli with the chaos that is the inner city Chipotle (to be honest, the one at Kendall Square is a lot better and a lot less confusing!) and we went home, in my case with a light sunburn.

night sky on my toenails

I envy people who get CSA shares. Not only because they get all the amazing veggies and fruit, but also because they don't spend hours trying to decide what to cook next. If you have eggplants, you know you have to use them. While I am standing there in the supermarket trying to decide whether an eggplant salad, corn on the cob, a zucchini curry or something entirely different is the thing I want to eat three days later. Seriously, making this kind of decisions is such a pain e-v-e-r-y time.

I finally, finally found the word for the kind of writing I love: tight prose. It does not necessarily mean that it is short, although I know only a few authors who manage this kind of writing over more than 300 pages. It means that every word is there for a reason. That no word can be cut without losing something. That there is no other way to write a scene than the way it was written. Words that are just noise make me recoil from a book.

I really, really like my toenails: gold glitter over dark green. Reminds me of the night sky or the Nebra sky disk with the additional benefit of looking good even on day 14:

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It also reminds me of this article in NYT I read a while ago: The Price of Nice Nails and Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers. And the follow up here: Benefits, and Some Resistance, as New York Cracks Down on Nail Salon Abuses.

I was almost considering getting a manicure this spring, just to get it once. I decided against it after reading the articles. I can do my nails myself just as well.

And because I feel bad linking to English and therefore mostly US-centric articles but at the same time am hesitant to link to German-only links, here is a seldom article from a German newspaper that I found interesting and that exists in both English and German variants: Verschwörungstheorien:Der ganz eigene Wahnsinn / Conspiracy Theories: There’s something behind that. I'm somewhat
"hmmmm ..." about the summary, but there is this thought that I like a lot:

But the rejection of scientific results has another basis. It is the fear of losing control — not only over the world, but also over one's own life.

It also confirms my own observations when it comes to differences/similarities between Germany and the USA. And neither side comes out of this comparison especially positive.

throw back saturday: that short story

(Russian original, shitty English translation by me.)

Валентина Осеева / Valentina Oseeva
Печенье / Biscuits

Мама высыпала на тарелку печенье. Бабушка весело зазвенела чашками. Все уселись за стол. Вова придвинул тарелку к себе.
— Дели по одному, — строго сказал Миша.
Мальчики высыпали все печенье на стол и разложили его на две кучки.
— Ровно? — спросил Вова.
Миша смерил глазами кучки:
— Ровно... Бабушка, налей нам чаю!
Бабушка подала обоим чай. За столом было тихо. Кучки печенья быстро уменьшались.
— Рассыпчатые! Сладкие! — говорил Миша.
— Угу! — отзывался с набитым ртом Вова.
Мама и бабушка молчали. Когда все печенье было съедено, Вова глубоко вздохнул, похлопал себя по животу и вылез из-за стола. Миша доел последний кусочек и посмотрел на маму — она мешала ложечкой неначатый чай. Он посмотрел на бабушку — она жевала корочку черного хлеба...


Mother emptied the biscuits on a plate. The cups in Granny's hands ringed cheerfully. Everybody took place at the table. Vova pulled the plate to himself.
‘Divide them one by one’, Misha said sternly.
The boys emptied the biscuits on the table and divided them in two piles.
‘Fair?’ asked Vova.
Misha squinted at the piles.
‘Fair ... Granny, make us some tea!’
Granny poured the two of them tea. It was quiet at the table. The piles of biscuit quickly dwindled.
‘Crispy and sweet!,’ said Misha.
‘Uhu ...’ responded Vova with a full mouth.
Mother and Granny were quiet. When all the biscuits were eaten up, Vova drew a deep breath, patted his tummy and left the table. Misha finished eating the last bit and looked at Mother - she stirred the unstarted tea with a teaspoon. He looked at Granny - she was chewing on a crust of dark bread.

[Previously here.]

written by women book recs: 13-24/[24]

Marge Piercy
Marge Piercy is one of the reasons why I tell people "If I have trust in the author, I will also read things that would usually not interest me". I read and loved two of her science fiction classics, "Woman on the Edge of Time" and "He, She, and It" (both back in German, in the Ariadne social fantasies edition). So when I came around the (English!) "The Longings of Women ", a book about the lives of three women that fall apart, meet in the unexpected way, and turn something different. Piercy has written more, across genres, from science fiction to contemporary, from historical fiction to poetry. I have not read all of it, but I do intend to, because I trust her ...

Mary Roach
The only non-fiction writer here. Partly because I am really, really picky about non-fiction; not to mention the fact that I read the ton of it anyway, either in the shape of actual papers of the daily newspaper and magazine intake.
The book I read - and recommended to people who highly enjoyed it - is "Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex ", a book mainly about Sex research. Informative, hilarious, scientifically sound, wonderful. I've heard Roach's other books are the same. I very much intend to read them.

Charlotte Roche
This is what I wrote over on goodreads about her book Wetlands (Feuchtgebiete):

    I liked it. I also did not find it gross - I mean, sure, not something you'd read about in every book. But honestly: how many men have written about sex in such an open way and how long ago have we stopped screaming that it's all pornography and accepted it as literature? Read "Quiet Days in Clichy". Read whatever else. (Read fanfiction, but that's a different matter.) Why can't a woman?
    Sure it's meant to shock in its openness. But I can imagine things far more shocking (every second romance novel contains, if one really thinks about it, things more shocking) than a woman openly -- as far as an 18-year-old can -- embracing her sexuality. That does not happen to conform to the norms. So what?
    What it is in the end, is a funny, sad, and highly readable book. It works. And yeah, I know many will disagree. I stand by my opinion.
Her second book, "Wrecked" ("Schoßgebete") was rather pointless - such a disappointment. Still, I am glad I read "Wetlands".

Dina Rubina
I know that Rubina is mainly well known for her novels, however I've mainly read her short stories. Not last, because I made the mistake to buy her novels in an edition where four of them are packed into one giant hardcover - something that will happen rather often with books in Russian. But Russian books aren't easy ti get, so I grabbed what I could get.
She mixes the Russian tradition of the short story - the one that, for me, Chekhov defines - with what I regard as a very definition of a Jewish (or perhaps Eastern Jewish) outlook on life: trying to make jokes even in the saddest moments, making the other smile to make the life a little more bearable.
Her stories are - like the stories of the younger voices, Gorelik and Grjasnowa - often stories of immigration; born in 1953, Rubina left for Israel in 1990, but continues to write in Russian, drawing wonderful characters in tight prose.
Not that much of her work has been translated (here is the official list of translations on her site). A pity. Especially since she *is* actually well known and popular writer. On the other hand, if you speak Russian and don't mind reading on a monitor, a few of her stories are actually on her website. (I mind reading on the monitor, so I can't say whether those are the good ones; and I don't have my library here to check whether any of the stories I enjoyed in the books are online.)

Joanna Russ
So here is a writer I myself haven't read enough by, just two books, one too long ago (but oh, it left an impression!) the other one of her earliest works - so I will not recommend a certain book, but I will recommend to look her up. This is one of the women who defined what science fiction could be - and also a relentless critic and thinker. The book of hers that I really, really need to read (but am almost afraid to pick up) is "How to Suppress Women's Writing". A very relevant one, atm ...

Kathrin Schmidt
Another author of whom I've read exactly one book (her short story collection is on my wishlist) - but one that impressed me immensely, "Du stirbst nicht" (not translated, sorry ...). A woman(?) wakes up after a cerebral hemorrhage , missing memories, words (although sometimes she remembers the English ones instead of the German) and the control over her(?) own body. We follow the recovery, written (amazingly written) in the very language of the main character, the language that misses integral parts to be finally confronted with the question how much of the person who lived the last five years is there and how to define identity if pars of it are wiped out.
For once, I am really not good at summarizing the book - not wanting to give a away too much but at the same time to afraid not to mention something important, that would have made you read it. So ... Let me rather point me towards this review in "Die Zeit" that made *me* read the book in the first place. Perhaps it will convince you, too.

Barbara Slawig
Another German author whom I got to know via the Ariadne social fantasies - her book was, in spite of the awful name, "Flugverbot: Die lebenden Steine von Jargus " inventive hard science fiction, the science here being biology, with great characters and oh so much potential, a lot of it realized. I really wish more of German science fiction was like this; I would go back to reading it (I say that now - but oh, I read the book some 15 years ago? But then again, the other books I read and loved from this edition then and re-read now, I still loved.). She published another book, not a science fiction this time. I still ordered it; it should arrive in a few weeks. ("Flugverbot" seems to be available in a new editions in the Golkonda Verlag, who are also publishing Samuel R. Delany and the full collections of the brothers Strugatsky in German ...)

James Tiptree, Jr.
Her real name was Alice Sheldon - a woman who managed, for years, to fool the whole science fiction establishment; there were people praising her knowledge of the military that only a man could have. Well, she happened to have been a major in the army (and women could not achieve a higher rank at this time), then worked for a CIA, to finally get a PhD in psychology. But this does not tell you much about her books, does it? They are amazing. They are also hard to find - the best is to look out for "Her Smoke Rose Up Forever", a collection of amazing short fiction. And while I try to respect the fact that science fiction is just not everybody's cup of tea, Tiptree is one of those people you really should try even if you don't usually read sf, especially if you are interested in feminist literature. She is one of those authors who are much less well known than they should be because of the genre label.

Lyudmila Ulitskaya
Back in 2008, when I read her "Funeral Party", the book touched me so much that I had to dedicate a whole entry to a review. here. I will leave you with it, because I don't think I can say it better.
(The only thing I have to add is that her short stories are just as amazing. Her long novels are wonderful, but if you want to start - go for novellas, like the above, or the short stories. They will draw you in and never let you go; you can - and will want to - read the novels later.)

Kate Wilhelm
Why are her books so hard to find? Every second hand bookshop has a ton of Silverberg's and Dick's and all the other science fiction authors from the 60ies and 70ies and 80ies. Oh yes, she was a woman. I almost forgot.
Her most well-known work is "Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang ", that won the Hugo and the Locus and was nominated for the Nebula ... An amazing book that I heard described as anthropological science fiction. How does society work, if ...? It's amazing. And if you are even a little bit into science fiction or post apocalyptic fiction or YA (because this, this is what every YA dystopica writer should know and acknowledge as their roots, their wonderful, world-changing roots), take a look at it. There is, unsurprisingly, no current edition available (grmpf!), but it's available for kinds and you can get it used for cheap.
(I also wrote a review of her short story collection, "The Downstairs Room", which was really good. But it's "Birds ..." that I recommend most).

Christa Wolf
I have a Christa Wolf tag, what else can I tell you? (Most entries in the tag are in German, but here is an English one - Medea.)

Banana Yoshimoto
Yoshimoto's books are pure comfort reading - to be perfectly honest, I don't think any of her books ever got five points with me and yet ... Every time I finish a book of hers I go out and buy another one. I just need them in those moments where I need a book that will caress me in this slightly melancholic, real, and yet utterly foreign way of a society that is very far away from my own and an outlook on life that is so utterly different from mine, yet incredibly soothing and rather wonderfully written. Perfect books for summer melancholy.

written by women book recs: 1-12/[24]

Writers whose whole body of work (as far as I have read it) I recommend:

Rose Ausländer
I guess you need to read her in German - amazing, very distinct poetry. One of my very few poetry entries was about her work, here.

Myra Çakan
I wish I had my library here ... She wrote (in German, untranslated) two standalone science fiction novels ("Downtown Blues" and "When the music is over") that I remember to be very good. I also remember thinking about how much potential she still seemed to have as a writer; alas, the imprint she published at, Ariadne social fantasies, never had a real chance on the German market. I am still incredibly sad about it - they introduced me to some of my favorite authors, including Marge Piercy, Joanna Russ, and Maureen McHugh at a time when I read in German and their work would not have been available to me in any other way. They also tried for better translations of mistreated classics, such as Le Guin's "The Dispossessed", and to give a place for German science fiction voices outside of the pulp and space opera scene ... But yeah, Myra Çakan. If you like science fiction and stumble over one of her books, give them a try.

Agatha Christie
Well, duh. The classic. Also still an amazing comfort read. I read far more of her books - I guess 90% of crime fiction are read are not on there because it has just been too long. That said, there are a ton of her books I plan to re-read at some point; the few that I read in the last years I enjoyed immensely. Still so clever!

Manna Francis
"Mind Fuck" is a really good sf thriller. With a ton of sex, yes. But it is also just a surprisingly good book.

Anne Frank
That one took me a while to come around to - a certain hesitation? I don't know. I guess I was around 20 at that point. So yeah, still amazing, no matter at what age. Give it a chance. Both as a unique historic document and as the first work of an amazing voice that got silenced. (And get the uncensored version.)

Lena Gorelik
There will be a few authors on the list whose individual books don't get five out of five, but whom I still recommend: while there still is potential for more, they are also enjoyable reads as they are.
Gorelik work is not translated (duh), still, I have German readers, don't I? Gorelik has this fun voice, perfect for comfort reads with a side of social relevance. "Lieber Mischa (...der du fast Schlomo Adolf Grinblum geheissen hättest, es tut mir so leid, dass ich dir das nicht ersparen konnte: Du bist ein Jude)" is a wonderful, sometimes slightly polemic monologue, addressed at her newborn son, about what it's like being a (non-religious) Jew in Germany. "Meine weißen Nächte" is, I guess, in a way chick-lit, with a side of immigrant experience and a good dose of humor.

Olga Grjasnowa
Another immigrant author and one I just recommended. My German review for her "All Russians Love Birch Trees" ("Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt") is here. I just finished her second book, which was somewhat less strong but we are talking here about the different between and A+ and an A. She heavily draws on immigrant experience, too, but where Lena Gorelik is lighthearted and entertaining, Grjasnowa is much more heavy on the literary side. Mind me, it does not mean her books are not extremely readable; I finished "All Russians ..." within 24 hours and her other book in a few days during a high stress period at work.

Ursula K. Le Guin
Aren't you tired of me preaching that everyone needs to have read "The Dispossessed"? Yes? Well, then let me mention that she has written a ton of other amazing works. There is "The Left Hand of Darkness", a books that asks questions about gender and war, and is a tale of deep friendship and love. There is the "Earthsea" cycle; the first three books were among the foundations of my reading experience. And then came the later ones and oh, oh ... I've never seen your assumptions about a world shattered so wonderfully (so bitterly, too, I do understand why some people dislike them, but how wonderfully ...!). There are her short stories, that are amazing. There is just so much!
Wait ... Wait! And if you are really not into speculative fiction of any kind, there is "Sea Roads" and a few other books of hers that are decisively real. Well, as real as a book can be.

Elfriede Jelinek
Yes, I really liked her books. Yes, I am not saying that just to appear oh so intelligent because she won the Nobel Prize. (I am kind of annoyed that people will not believe that I like Jelinek - or Theodor Fontane; I do. Because I really enjoy their books.) "Piano Teacher" ("Die Klavierspielerin") is the most well known of her books and the one that I am going to recommend here. I have also read "Lust" that was very good. More books of her are on my wishlist, but she is definitely not an easy read, neither in the way she writes nor in the topics she addresses. But very much worth the effort.

Mascha Kaléko
The second poet on that list - a very different voice and another tragic life story that produced amazing poems ...

Brit Mandelo
I only read a short novella (long short story?) by her, The Finite Canvas (available on tor.com) - I so, so hope that she is going to publish much more

Maureen F. McHugh
McHugh is generally one of those voices in sf we do not hear enough one - she publishes sparingly and does not write series. But what she publishes, is amazing.
Her best known book - and one that has aged amazingly well - is "ABC Zhang" (Tiptree award winner, Hugo and Nebula nominee; one needs to mention that for an author as relatively unknown as her). You could say it's a story of a gay man in a future where communist China has become the dominant power - but that's just the very first layer and there are so many more. It's amazingly written, heart-crushing, hopeful. Also an amazing example for a book that is not plot-driven: the only plot is Zhang's life and even that one we will often leave it (is also a story of people he happens to meet by change; a girl whose parents can't pay to make her beautiful; colonists trying to survive; kite flyers) to take a peak into other stories. And once the book is over, you want more. You want to spend another 10 years with these people, to see what happens to them, where they go, where this world goes. And by now, the future of this book has become an ever so slightly alternative present. This is the kind of story that could be happening now or in five years.
Another recommendation is McHugh's short story collection, "After the Apocalypse" - McHugh has an amazing gift for voices, easily changing from a young girl to a mid-aged convict and her Apocalypses have an amazing range from very private ones to nuclear.

[13-24 forthcoming]

Aug. 6th, 2015

Sexism in publishing: 'My novel wasn’t the problem, it was me, Catherine'

I don't know why I feel so shocked. I know the numbers from academia (Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students). I do.

That said: any book recommendations by female writers?

What I like to read is postmodern, classics, contemporary with a side of social relevance and intertextuality, science fiction, sometimes good fantasy, anything that incorporates or re-interprets myths/fairy tales. I'm not much into historic novels especially of the doorstopper kind - the writer will need to convince me in some other context first. Shorter novels generally preferred to 500 page giants. Short stories, novellas, and plays are more than welcome.

I have a lot of English books on my wishlists (mainly science fiction, as strange as it sounds, but I've been into feminist sf almost as long as I knew the word feminist existed - although there definitely are names I may still have missed!), so I would especially appreciate books written in any other language. But if you have strong feelings about an English book, go ahead. Books that make people feel strongly about them is something I am always looking for. Just ... think about the other languages and countries, too, please. This does also include German books; more awesome German female writers!
Availability in English, German, or Russian translation is in general kind of necessary for me to be able to read the book (my Latin is definitely not good enough anymore if it ever was :P), but I can take care of searching for a translation myself. Out of print does not stop me, but e-book only may be a problem (still, recommend away!).

[I may write an extra entry with my own recs. But I need to find the time for this.]


Is Tuesday night too late to talk about the weekend? Especially one where nothing happens? Oh, but I am too late to everything anyway, so:

  • I've seen the newest Mission impossible. And while I am decisively meh about the movie (why does it get all the good reviews?), I am very happy about Ilsa Faust. (She could SO stand for a character of mine. Actually for two. Only red hair in both cases, longer in one, shorter in the other. Just the right mixture between kick-ass heroine with actual muscles and 40ies/50ies Hollywood star. I have no idea what suddenly happened that I see people who would actually fit my characters ... Two within what, a few months?!)
  • We also got caught up in conversation afterwards and since we did not actually want drinks, we somehow ended with espressos. Mind you, good espressos, I haven't had a good espresso for ages. Just ... Half past midnight is not a good time for an espresso. It took a while to get asleep and given how this was not quite my usual crowd, I also spent too much of that extra awake time being anxious especially given how the conversation went great but serious places and I spent too much time gripping for right words. Writing is so much easier than talking in a foreign language!
  • I spent the rest of the weekend mainly reading - finished Margaret Atwood's "The Blind Assassin". Atwood and I, we are not going to become friends, I am afraid. No matter how much I want to. It just rubs me the wrong way when a writer trust my intelligence as a reader so little. And makes science fiction references, but does not go all the way (the "left hand" discussion? And she very definitely knows of LeGuin's work there and it is relevant to more than one topic in the novel).
  • Which also reminded me that the neighbors downstairs are moving out - and the landlord's mother moves in. More anxiety D: I don't think he is going to throw us out; I mean, he seems a fair guy and he warned the folks downstairs several months in advance. But ugh ... I really got to love the location and the very idea of the possibility of a move (because it *is* his mother I will be living directly above) makes me all kinds of anxious. It's enough that one of my roommates will move out at some point this fall since his wife is finishing her PhD and moving to Boston from somewhere in Connecticut. I mean, he is not a perfect roommate (he kind of manages to like it summerly warm in winter and winterly cold in summer?), but we get along without conflicts and his wife makes me try her home-made Indian dishes when she comes visiting.
  • I knew that the limit on one of the credit cards was going to get up. And then they wrote me this e-mail of "we've looked at your payments and your score and give you double the credit line you were supposed to get". Mind you, double the credit line, not double the increase. It will never stop feeling strange to have more than two monthly salaries in form of credit in my pocket. I now consider whether I shall call them and try to convince them to waive the fee - or to transfer me to another card, one without fee. On the other hand: who knows whether I will keep the card for longer than another year at all?
  • I made chicken hearts! It was supposed to be three portions, two of them for weekday lunches. Well, I ate two of them. So good! I really need to remember more of the good old unfancy foodstuff.
  • Have I recommended Olga Grjasnowa's "All Russian Love Birch Trees"? ("Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt, German review here). No? Yes? Anyway: it's a great book, kind of relevant to the last post, in terms of what it's like to be someone with a "migration background" in German society today. I'm reading her other book at the moment and highly enjoying it.
  • I also have this pair of earring that have some sentimental value, but are absolutely not my style: filigree red gold - very Russian. I may have finally found a way to wear them that is not totally off. I hate having dead weight things, but there are some that are small and have that the sentimental value ... (Another is a red gold Magen David pendant that I got as a present.)
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.]


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).

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.

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!

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.

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.


  • 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.


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