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cherry picking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Interpret the title as you will.)

May. 6th, 2015

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

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

From here:

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

Cape Cod 2015

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

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

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

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

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

photosCollapse )

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will smile tomorrow. Today it helps to cry.

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

books and other news

Dear LJ,

I may have a book problem:

books sent home vs. new books brought hereCollapse )

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

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

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

hiatus: cape cod & nyc

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

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

Back to packing for the moment.


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

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

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

a glass of wine and ...

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

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


Sometimes there are those seconds - standing on top of the stairs, packing knives away, crossing the street - when it suddenly hits me how thin the wall between being and not being is.

Nothing happened to me, don't worry. It's just ... Realizations. Things you know but don't feel and then do. The child of someone you know is born prematurely and there is this moment of intense sorrow for a life that has not even half the weight of a full-term infant (and knowing that this happens often does not change much; the kid is very much fine and home with the parents already). And the teenage step-son of a colleague is in the intensive care unit after a car accident; he was just walking, one of the drivers involved had a medical accident (seizure? stroke?). I don't know more, but there is suddenly this thought: How many streets do I have to cross on the way home?

I know the numbers; I am not angsty and paralyzed. But sometimes it feels like the wall is paper-thin, like I can touch it and feel the pressure from the other side. (I have to thank Christa Wolf for that image; in Medea, the wall is between now and the past. Which is not much different from now and then.)

I write stories in my head. Complex timelines that could end well although the more logical, more impactful ending would not be a happy one. The advantage of not writing them down is that I don't have to decide; I can indulge myself in happy endings.

(If I am really, really honest, than I have to admit to myself that the only way "The time of angels / Shad" could end - the one story that I write and re-write since I was a kid, the endless plains of a universe that subsume all my experience, all my happiness and my sorrows and my hopes and my changing worldviews - is a thoroughly depressing one. It is not about the ending. Of course not. It is about all the adventures on the way there. All the happiness in the middle of war. But is it?)

I go and hide myself in fanfiction (Loki, Loki, Loki; although I will not say to anything that has an amazing Pepper, I do have a soft spot for read-headed CEOs) and carefully try to pick the ones that end well. (And squint towards what leaks about the next Captain America movie and want to run, even though it may be a good movie. I am not sure. I want comfort. I want a place to hide.)

I'm developing an almost-trigger. And intense feeling of "I did not want to even read this line" when it comes to missing limbs and irreparably broken bodies. There was one of the Goodreads books of the month on my timeline, the one that spoke of amputated hands, and I can't get it out of my head. Maybe I should read it, but I don't want to fall for just another marketing trick. (I can't get a few gruesome stories out of my head - I don't mean horror; I mean .... quite some of Sorokin's short stories. I am pretty sure they are more extreme, but leave me with less of a gut-wrenching feeling. And I am glad to have read them; I bought a few more of Sorokin's books afterwards. Or think back to the "1001 nights" stories, the originals and all the missing body parts there. Old law and such. Although thinking back to it scares me now. Did I really read this when I was ten, eleven? And no, I was not really supposed to, but this never stopped me.)

This all is interconnected. I can follow the red thread: Fear of death? Lack of security? Fear of failure? Fear of hopelessness? Although hopelessness is the wrong word; I mean the German "Ausweglosigkeit", the "no way out feeling" which is not the same as "Hoffnungslosigkeit" the "no hope feeling", but English seems to lack the exact term for what I want to say. The realization that there is no karma, no compassion except for what we create. And we can't create that much.
I'm not sure these words/ideas fit, but there is a thread. (It neither leads to the minotaur nor out of the labyrinth. It just connects.)

It's not a dominating feeling, by far not. But it is here. I let the yarn run through my fingers, disentangling the knots before I may store it (a part of it?) away.

I want to tell the story again

There is a certain criticism voiced against authors that I do intellectually understand but do not feel: "She/he wrote the same story. Again." It is often, perhaps, a certain laziness, the wish to follow the market - there is nothing morally wrong with it, we all need the money, but I want to believe that there is then more wrong with these books than just "the same story again". These are not the books I usually want to read (if I am not exactly working my way through Michael Moorcock's backlog, all the books that financed New Worlds).

I think there are other reasons to return to the same story, an inner urge, a compulsion to tell it. Jeanette Winterson may have summed it up better than I could:

What can I tell you about the choices we make?
I chose this story above others because it's a story I'm struggling to end. Here we are, with all the pieces in place and the final moment is waiting. I reach this moment, not once, many times, have been reaching it all my life, it seems, and I find there is no resolution.

I want to tell the story again.

That's why I write fiction -- so that I can keep telling the story. I return to problem I can't solve, not because I'm an idiot, but because the real problems can't be solved. The universe is expanding. The more we see, the more we discover there is to see.
Always a new beginning, a different end.

-- Jeanette Winterson, "Weight" (Canongate Myths series) --
Things you don't want to happen to you on a Saturday night at 10 PM after you spent the whole day sitting in various Starbucks proofreading and correcting a paper you are second author on -- OK, actually things you don't want to happen to you ever: a giant icicle falling from the roof and through your kitchen window:

... and the damageCollapse )

Luckily, my landlord was at a Portugese community meeting nearby and could both directly come by and talk to a contractor who was at the same community meeting. Landlord and I tried to mitigate the damage with some plywood and a giant garbage bag. The whole window should get replaced at some point soon. Unfortunately, they have to wait until the snow is gone, because there is no way to use a ladder to get to the outside part of the window right now.

so what now?Collapse )

And yes, it's still below 0 (celsius that is) outside. So this will be interesting ... Also, it make take a while to go asleep. This was quite an adrenaline rush.


(soul) food

As ♥ so nicely put it yesterday: food is my hobby. Now the problem is that I don't get to explore Boston's food scene enough because I don't have someone who would share my passion there (and have the means, Boston is a pricy place for food), but I've been to an Afghan place Saturday night (I want to go back and try ALL their starters; I may do si when ♥ visits), to Dim Sum Sunday morning (trying something that my colleagues identified as thousand-year-old egg afterwards - I am kind of happy nobody told me before, because this way I at least tried, although I am not eager to repeat the experience) and to one of my favorite new American or American French or whatever they call it places (Westbridge) yesterday night. And I expect some really super sandwiches from Flour for lunch today.

(Not that I know much about food. I don't. I just like eating. And cooking.)

And to amuse you and myself, here a random and abridged selection of my foodish idiosyncrasies:

  • I like my steaks medium rare and I prefer sirloin to rib eye.
  • I love, love, love beef Carpaccio. Same for well done steak tartare.
  • I am generally the kind of person who will skip the cake, but not the steak. Although I will also gladly skip the main course for a choice of multiple starters.
  • I prefer white wine to red and I drink too sweet wine (I know, not the high French taste at all, but remember that wine cultures differ and sweet wines are the pride of the place where I've been born).
  • If I had to choose one veggie to eat the rest of my life it would be bell peppers. But not the green ones, I don't like green ones at all except in some Mexican-inspired dishes.
  • Germany does not really have Asian eggplants. I am going to forever mourn this, since I love them. Well, eggplan in general, but especially the thin long variety.
  • I will usually pack myself a box of raw veggies as snack for work. It may include cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers (mini or cut normal ones), snow pears, radishes (radishes!), and carrots.
  • Some people's indulgence is eating Nutella with a spoon. Mine is eating maple cream this way. (Seriously, if you haven't tried it yet, do so - maple syrups, condensed. YUM!)
  • Scallops are amazing.
  • I'm a big fan of offal (is this the right English word?).
  • Despite me talking so much about meat here, I am actually mostly cooking vegetarian myself. I do, however, not trust most restaurants with veggie based food; I often have the feeling they cook their veggies too long, I usually love them firm and crunchy (or the other extreme: caramelized crunchy).
  • That said: there is a place in R. that ♥ and I love (Schweizer Häusl if you ever happen to be in the area) and their mains are good, but what sold us is their starter/side salad that one automatically gets with every meal - greens and seasonal veggies and the most amazing dressing ever. We've been considering going there and just asking for a big pile of salad.
  • Brussel spouts! Roasted, with sugar or honey and nuts. I could live on them.
  • My favorite coffee is proper mocca/turkish coffee. Brewed in the proper cezve, with the thick sludge at the bottom of the tiny cup. In everyday life I will go for instant coffee, that is still better than the Keurig machine we have at work.
  • I need my five portions of fruits/veggies a day or I feel restless. I can make it without for a few days, but not for long. I feel usually really off by the end of a conference or other traveling (and started just packing a few pounds of apples if I am somewhere where I can't really easily buy fruits/veggies).
  • I like the smell of lemon grass, but not the taste (it's incredibly soapy to me). This makes it really hard to buy fruity teas: they smell so good, but I know that I will hate to drink them.
  • The most amazing ice cream is kulfi (pistachio and cardamon variant, that is). So, so, so good.
  • Don't leave any cherries or pomegrenades close to me. They will be gone within minutes. I also have no trouble eating half a 10 pound watermelon. And the other half the next day.
  • I never know the answer to the question "what do you typically cook?". Whatever strikes my fancy. It's such a wild mix from all over the world!
  • Foods I used to dislike include fish, bananas (I like them raw now, but hardly ever in anything), and avocado (love, love, love).
  • I can (and sometimes indeed do) eat a whole meal consisting only of Korean pickles. My favorites are kim chi and spicy radish, but spicy tofu and cucumbers are amazing, too.

salon (by any other name)

I talked about how for me LJ is a like a salon here (if you feel like chiming in with what LJ is for you, I'd love to hear that - the post may be old, but for me it's one of the timeless ones), but I never had the chance to participate in one myself. mi_er mentioned holding one and I have to admit I was incredibly envious.

And then early last autumn I met this guy at one of the unofficial German scholarship dinners here: Do you know the moment when you meet someone, talk to them and then realize - give this person another 5-10 years and they are going to be one of those people who make a real difference in this world, a difference to the better? Read more...Collapse )

There are three or four more of this coming -- more if J. gets lucky to find some funding and can stay here for two years. But even if there were none: I want to make this happen again. Now I am certainly not the person to pull together a critical mass of truly interested people within a few months after moving to a new city. But say in Munich, where I do already know a number of people ...? I may be able to pull it off if I ever were to move back there and had some people helping finding the right participants. Now I have no idea whether I will ever be able to move to M., but I want to hold this thought, to not forget this idea. Or I wish there was a way to get to know the right people wherever I move to. It was such dumb luck that I met J., given how this was one of the only two scholarship dinners I made it to and one of the last ones which was a mix of different scholarships and both alumni (like me) and current scholarship holders (kike J.). They may have something alike two houses over and I would not know ...

Schild's Ladder

The one citation I needed to be in my thesis, was one from Greg Egan's "Schild Ladder":

‘When I was ten years old, all I gave my sweet-heart was a pair of projections that turned the group of rotations in four dimensions into principal bundles over the three-sphere. Ancient constructions, though I did rediscover them for myself.’
‘How were they received?’
‘She liked them so much, she extended them to larger spaces and gave me back the result. [...] So what about you?’
‘I’ve generally had more success with flowers.’

It is a part of a glorious scene, one of my favorites. A hilarious not!sex moment handled with wonderful grace. (Not an isolated case with Egan's writing. There are two more scenes in "Permutation City", one of them from a female point of view, that shine among everything that I've ever read.)

I will openly admit that "Schild's Ladder" is not for everyone, that to enjoy it fully you may need a degree in physics or maths (although I would love to hear that it isn't so; it's always hard to extrapolate to someone else's experience when the starting points are so different . Here is the first page:

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This will confuse most people - and yes, I *need* the figure to be able to follow. But this is also not technobabble. This is an extrapolation, but one based on actual work of, among others, Lee Smolin, - all nicely referenced at the end of the book.

Egan has much more accessible books - and both his "Permutation City" and "Diaspora" are heartfelt recommendations. But "Schild's Ladder" is the one close to my heart. I re-read it over the last week and here it was, as good as I remembered. Perhaps even better. I did flail about the book here on LJ years ago and going back and re-reading it helped me to remember that I used to love Yann so much even then.

And I suppose I will never ever understand why so many reviews say Egan's characters to be unbelievable. I don't read much hard sf - I'm a physicist (I would even say not a bad physicist) and getting the hard science wrong will easily put me off the book. It is much easier to forgive Zelazny or LeGuin (although there is nothing to forgive in "Dispossessed"; the physics there is perfectly coherent in itself and it tells of LeGuins mastery how she managed that without being a physicist herself, without explaining much, just conveying that sense of something that works; and her and thus Shaver's process of discovery in science is among the most believable I ever read - I am still appalled at Delaney's critique of this particular point, of wanting to push the writing into the trope-y description of the working of scientists, but that's a different story). But even more importantly, I am a character-driven reader. I need to believe in people and their motivation, to care for them, to enjoy (with exceptions, of course - this is not what I expect of Borges' short stories).

Egan's characters work for me. Perhaps they are off for others because they are not deeply wounded tragic heroes. Perhaps they are too tame - there are no sexual and emotional escapade's of Charles Stross's "Accelerando". I like this. Hell, I love this: Tchicaya trying to sort through his feelings (and old wounds) for Mariama, Yann, Rasmah. Yann's pranks. Discussion of consent. And laughter; so much laughter and jokes (this is very close to the mode of communication I prefer with people I will comfortable with, so yes, I may be slightly biased).

And there are a ton of little tricks. Yann in Cass' story reads different from Yann in Tchicaya's. Not inconsistent, but Cass and Tchicaya are two very different people and Tchicaya is a traveler. How Schild's ladder is a metaphor for Tchicaya (and Mariama), but also how Tchicaya, when first explained the concept by his father, acknowledges it as a metaphor himself, [b]ut it was a methaphor filled with hope, moving this all one level deeper (higher?) into the meta.
[And yes, I know that this all does not make Greg Egan a Christa Wolf or a J.M. Coetzee, but I don't pick up his books expecting him to be. The same way I would not pick Pelevin and expect fantasy - some people do and are deeply disappointed.]

Anyway, a few more citations that stayed with me:

And as a side remark: my edition of the book, the one by Gollanz, comes with an amazingly beautiful minimalist cover.

this may be a neat one ...

Especially since I know that a few people in my list were searching lately:

the 'what's on your bookshelf?' friending meme


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

I usually don't take photos when in a museum. I mean, where is the sense in it? To say: "I have seen it?" But the last time I've been to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston (together with Boston-D. and her roommates this summer), I ended up going back and making pictures of the exhibits that stunned me most to talk about them here. I never came around to do so, but I stumbled over the photos a few weeks ago and they still inspire me.

One of the things I deeply love when it comes to literature is how it will often undermine our perception of what is modern. There was the scholarship exam after high school (the part of it that I rocked), where they asked me to show whether and how Goethe's Faust fulfills the definition of Bertolt Brecht's epic theatre. It does (I could still explain with a bit of flailing) and it was one of the most amazing questions I asked. There was the seminar on Milton's Paradise Lost during my PhD where the docent (who has now a chair for British literature and culture studies, I SO happy to hear that, I loved that semianr) was giving a seminar on Joyce just before ours and thus would end up realizing and telling us how much of modern techniques often ascribed to Joyce Milton would use (don't ask me for the details here). There is Pushkin's Eugen Onegin that is meta-fiction like whoah. There is my favorite among the ancient Greeks, Aristophanes, whose play which often prominently feature his contemporary colleagues, could rival anything contemporary. Only in funnier.

Why am I talking about books when I wanted to talk about an art museum? Besides the fact that I *do* think books to be first and foremost art. Well, because of this plate (and remember, those are shitty photos taken with a simple camera without flash, they do not do the pieces much justice - as said, I would usually not take photos in museums!):

from a few years B.C. to 1898Collapse )

And this, because this needed to be said and is a nice return to my second paragraph, in a way:

thursday three

Somebody really upset me yesterday (I know, there is the perhaps best xkcd ever, and I don't pick favorites with xkcd lightly!), so I did the grown up thing (seriously!) and instead of getting involved in pointless online discussion directed my simmering brain (because I can't stop the simmering) towards something more productive: I first made a Moroccan eggplant salad that I ate yesterday for dinner and will eat for dinner today (yes, very late dinner today, but I had a big lunch in a nice restaurant with colleagues). And then I cooked the wonderful Moroccan bean&lentil stew that branna recommended (this time actually with ras al hanout! but I also substituted kidney beans for chickpeas because I did not like the texture of the chickpeas last time that much). I now have five frozen lunches for stressful days to come. It was a coincidence that both dishes are Moroccan ;) And if I think about it, both are not only vegetarian, but even vegan. Huh. Well, the stew would have been vegan, if I had used vegetable broth, but I had the chicken one around.

We had another 20 inches of snow. With more to come on Sunday/Monday. Hopefully not Saturday, I have plans for Saturday that require me not only to leave the house, but to take the train. We may have already hit the point where shoveling is a problem because we simply don't know where to put the snow.

The annoying thing about living internationally (on a very tight budget, I am sure it's different for some CEO or even just a consultant) is that you always want and sometimes even simply need something that does not exist in the country you are currently in. I do bring the one or other kind of sweets back from Germany, although luckily Toffifee aka Toffifay also exist in the USA. But the bigger problem is medicine: my favorite remedy for locked shoulders (that is not pilates) is the ibuprofen gel that one can buy only in the UK (and perhaps Ireland). My weapon of choice against cracked lip corners is a over-the-counter medicine in Germany that costs the incredibly high amount 2 € per tube that is most likely going to last the whole winter if not more. It does not exist in the USA. Same for my favorite cream to stop my poor nose from bleeding after a cold in winter. I do still have quite a bit of the ibuprofen gel, some of the lip corner cream, but none, none of the stuff that usually helps my nose. Well, usually is too much. I only needed it twice in my life, so I did not think to bring it. Alas, Dexpanthenol creams don't exist in the USA ...
Also, my facial wash - not the bodyshop one, the other - seems to be an European only product. But my mineral powder seem to have been discontinued in the right color in Germany; it still exists in the USA.

There are, of course, muss less fun cases. You can - and perhaps should - laugh about my predicament. But try changing countries if you have a chronic disease - even if it does not influence your life that much at a given moment - that does require constant medication. Especially medication that needs to be fine-tuned to your special case, see depression. See multiple sclerosis. (Neither is the case for me personally. But both are case to amazing people close to my heart.)

from Rose Ausländer to Roger Zelazny

For my own reference but perhaps also interesting for a general discussion - authors I currently want to read a lot more more by [very loosely compiled; not including authors I need to - consciously - read something by (say Ballard, whom I certainly read as a kid but can't remember much, or Juli Zeh, whom I have not come around to pick something by yet) at all or authors by whom I only read one book so far and so am not sure about the consistency of their writing (say Chabon whose writing goes too close to where it really hurts to read in winters or Grjasnowa who has not published that much yet)]:

*** Well, I would love to read more by Borchert, but I read everything he has written in his unfortunately very short life D: I am also close to being out of Fontane books. And of good Eco books.


material girl vol. II

So this is the last of New Year's posts, I think - you may also give this one the title of "I bought too many clothes in 2014". But I don't feel bad about it: I'm very happy with 95% of my purchases, I stuck with the 2 out one 1 rule for the most part (mainly because I did purge a lot before actually moving continents), and I live now in a climate that is both much hotter in summer and much colder in winter. And there is of course a certain different aesthetics here - and I admit I am not immune to what everybody else wears.

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It's strange how most of the clothes look - to me! - like they belong to the same person and not to a style chameleon like I am. But then again, I suppose I was having a certain aesthetics in mind when shopping and I did very purposefully go for more basics even though I may have wanted another flower-patterned skirt or striped shirt; but I have enough of those. Also it looks like I'm into shoes. Well, a tiny bit perhaps. But not as much as this post makes you perhaps believe.

This year will be a lot less shopping. I know, everybody says so, but I have the last year to show for me actually being able to go for less. That is, if I do not end up moving into one more somewhere with a different climate and style, but that is rather unlikely.

I would also love to commit to never ever again buying skirts or dresses without pockets (even the ponte pants I bought have real pockets, even though only back pockets!), but given the choices I have, the chances to follow through with it are rather low. But I am definitely on lookout for more dresses & skirts with pockets.

books '14

Well ... This was not a good reading year. Not that there haven't been amazing books - Wolf and Dick and Aristophanes and Nizami and Carey and Dürrentmatt and unexpectedly good Roche (who then proceeded to deeply disappoint in her next novel), it's just that the overall feeling is rather meh and I am missing the spark. I made my goal of 64 books, but only due to the last minute discovery and subsequent binge-reading of Mike Carey's "Unwritten". And because I counted a few of the novellas from Dozois's collections as whole books. But they were too awesome (esp. Brit Mandelo's "Finite Canvas", which you can also find on not to and they were listed on goodreads individually.

This is all I am going to say. Trying to make statistics kind of makes me depressed because I simply don't feel really goood about it. Let's try again this year, with more fun.

As always: reading recommendations (which is not always the same as the books with the best marks) in color. Pointscale goes from 0 to 5. "D" means "read in German" (for Deutsch), "E" "read in English", "R" "read in Russian".

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I abandoned one book only - a non-fiction thingie on astro that was just not my cup of tea (which is sad because I knew two of the authors and wanted to like it; perhaps I was just not the right audience, since it was one of those "50 most interesting things about X" books).

Lists from previous years are here: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.


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