28 February 2009

What I am reading: February 2009

  1. Cruel Zinc Melodies by Glen Cook: It's been quite a while since Cook has published one of his hard-boiled detective, Archie Goodwin pastiche set in a serious fantasy world. It was a great read and tied well into the series. It's a great relief to read a series whose author actually keeps track of and cares for the details of his creation and his characters.
  2. Legacy by Jeanne C. Stein: Sequel to The Becoming, following Anna Strong's development after her involuntary change to a vampire, as she begins to deal with her change and how it affects her relationships outside her new paranormal environment.
  3. Living with the Dead by Kelley Armstrong: Armstrong keeps changing this series up by following ancillary characters after completing story arcs.This is the second story starring Hope Adams as she comes to terms with her Chaos demon powers and we explore different abiities and peoples than we have explored before. Interesting look at a clairvoyant community that uses Roma archetypes.
  4. Undead and Unworthy by Mary Janice Davidson: How can Ms. Davidson feel comfortable allowing her (hard back) novel to be priced at $23.50 US when she is using what appears to be double spaced 14 point type? I think this was actually a novella. I have seen this before, with her Fred the Mermaid books but this is over the edge. Although I am enjoying her light and frothy romances with Sinclair and Betsy, Queen of the Vampires, from now on all books by Ms. Davidson will be purchased in paperback. And if the point size and leading remain the same, I think I will only be buying used.
  5. Wolfsbane and Mistletoe edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni Kelner: This is a collection of short stories (obviously with a werewolf and holiday season theme) that I am getting a bit late--- I pre-order books through Amazon in the US and my family kindly M-bags them to me when the collection gets large enough. It was vastly superior to the above book, was 50 pages longer, several square inches larger (!!!) and used standard size fonts and leading. There must have been more than twice as many words for the same price. And more interesting ones as well. I very much enjoyed the big bame stories by Charlaine Harris, Briggs, and Vaughan, a non-cover titled Karen Chance story, and also discovered what I thought was the best story: Fresh Meat by Alan Gordon, whose work I haven't seen before. That's the best part of a collection from someone who has done a good job as editor: meeting new authors whose work I can now seek out elsewhere.
  6. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones: A charming edition by Harper Collins, with illustrations. Not quite a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle, but another book in which Howl and Sophie appear and are developing characters. Although I was unhappy with the large type, at leat the lovely illos partially made up for it. Children's Fantasy.
  7. The Art of Detection by Laurie R. King:published in 2006 by Poisoned Pen Press in the UK, I picked this up last month in London and greatly enjoyed it. I hadn't read one of King's Kate Martinelli books in some time (I miss my books, left behind in the US) and although I stay on top of her other Mary Russell (Holmes) series I had missed this one, which is a pity. In this book, King merges her two series in a fascinating way as a perhaps apocryphal piece of Holmesian and some discusiion of a modern-day group of Irregulars form the basis of Martinelli's case. An underlying theme is that of gay and lesbian marriage in both the past and the present. A moving book. While looking at Ms. King's website I see that her next Russell book will be out this year and I look forward to it.
  8. Evil Ways by Justin Gustainis: Sequel to Black Magic Woman (which I read after winning it on Amber's blog), I picked this up in London as well. An interesting new series, pairing a supernatural investigator eponymously named descendent of Quincey Morris and his sometime partner, a white witch against various threats. Reminiscet of Kerr on occassion.
  9. This Must be the Place by Anna Winger:Set in Berlin in 2001, I will discuss this at greater length in another post.

24 February 2009

No Tuesdays with Dorie this week... and what's coming up.

I'm just too tired and chaotic. Although strangely enough, I did make a TwD recipe today, it's not the chocolate, toffee and caramel bars that would be this week's recipe, so I will post it when its time comes.

We have just gotten back from NRW where we visited in-laws and friends. We had expected to go to either Koeln or Muenster for Rosenmontag (it was actually the impetus for the trip) but the weather was so cold and actively raining that we gave up and revisted our friends by Muenster for lunch before we just drove back to Berlin.

The next few weeks are just crazy: the German was out of town today (and the girls are being rebellious about staying in bed), my friend went into the hospital (but still no baby), tomorrow I have a book group at my house and have no idea how many people will show (which is why I was baking today), although the author will be there. Thursday is either a Mom's night out or I drop exhausted to the ground and just go to sleep.

Then only 1 weekend to get an apa out, pack and get some paperwork together before a friend visits us for a long weekend. That Sunday she leaves and we have a Purim party.

Tuesday is another Purim party and we leave Wednesday morning for JFK. We haven't booked our cars yet, but we stay with friends in Westchester, do some shopping, perhaps the German hits Century 21 for a few suits? Then to Western Mass with our friends, where we meet some family to spend the weekend swimming and relaxing with the kids.

Back either Sunday or Monday then JFK to Orlando (a continuation, so international luggage regulations apply...) and drive down to Boca to meet my mom and other brother. Dad is supposed to fly in and after 3 days we head up to Orlando, where we have rented a house that we will be sharing with my oldest childhood friend, who is flying up from Houston with her family. We stay there through Tuesday morning, swimming, grilling, with a day or two at Disney, and then fly back to Berlin on Tuesday, arriving Wednesday.

I hope it winds up being relaxing. I do know our next family vacation will not involve airplanes but rather Europe, trailers and campgrounds.

22 February 2009

Antisemitism in the News 2/13-21/09

These are from Norm Geras' blog- always well worth reading:

2/13/09 Increase in antisemitism in Britain, and 1/3 Europeans say that Jews are responsible for world financial crisis. Back to the vile lies of The Protocols of Zion and the common rants of the Arab world.

2/16/09 Antisemitism conference in London
Yes, it is time. It is also time for the organized left, such as it still is, to take action against anti-Semitism. It has recently been most vocal in its condemnation of Israel's actions in Gaza. Relative to anti-Semitism in Britain and Europe, that is far away; relative to Gaza, anti-Semitism in Britain and Europe is right on the doorstep of the British and European left. These are not good reasons not to care, or to speak or demonstrate, about Gaza, if that is what you believe needs to be done. But they are good reasons for caring, speaking, demonstrating, about the upsurge in anti-Semitism in your own country. They are particularly so in light of the anti-racist traditions and avowals of the left. And they do rather bring the discourse of 'far and near' into focus.
2/18/09 You don't have to be an antisemite (op ed by Howard Jacobson in The Independent)
Wow. How well written. And how many of the comments allowed to follow this piece (which should be read in full, not in excerpt) go to fully prove his very points.

....I was once in Melbourne when bush fires were raging 20 or 30 miles north of the city. Even from that distance you could smell the burning. Fine fragments of ash, like slivers of charcoal confetti, covered the pavements. The very air was charred. It has been the same here these past couple of months with the fighting in Gaza. Only the air has been charred not with devastation but with hatred. And I don’t mean the hatred of the warring parties for each other. I mean the hatred of Israel expressed in our streets, on our campuses, in our newspapers, on our radios and televisions, and now in our theatres.

A discriminatory, over-and-above hatred, inexplicable in its hysteria and virulence whatever justification is adduced for it; an unreasoning, deranged and as far as I can see irreversible revulsion that is poisoning everything we are supposed to believe in here – the free exchange of opinions, the clear-headedness of thinkers and teachers, the fine tracery of social interdependence we call community relations, modernity of outlook, tolerance, truth. You can taste the toxins on your tongue.

But I am not allowed to ascribe any of this to anti-Semitism. It is, I am assured, “criticism” of Israel, pure and simple. In the matter of Israel and the Palestinians this country has been heading towards a dictatorship of the one-minded for a long time; we seem now to have attained it. Deviate a fraction of a moral millimetre from the prevailing othodoxy and you are either not listened to or you are jeered at and abused, your reading of history trashed, your humanity itself called into question.....
2/21/09 Statement combatting antisemitism
[S]hould... guard against equivocation, hesitation and justification in the face of expressions of hatred.

3/1/09 America examines Durban, discovers irredeemably flawed with antisemitism.

17 February 2009

Tuesday's with Dorie: Devil's Food White Out Cake

I have been starting to wonder whether I am cut out for Tuesdays with Dorie. I have had a few failures and a few items I really didn't want to make and I am starting to think that there will never be a recipe that doesn't have chocolate in it (which is bad, as I don't like chocolate).

But this recipe, chosen by Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater, was exactly the type of recipe that I was looking for when I joined. It had a frosting that I had never made and it was just gorgeous looking.

As usual, I had functional deficits: it seems that all the recipes in the cookbook require the use of a stand mixer or a food processor. So I used my hand mixer. I have imported cream of tartar: that was the missing ingredient covered.

I didn't think that I had brought my candy thermometer with me and the marshmallow frosting required the use of a thermometer so I sent the German out to fetch one on Saturday when he and Thing2 did some shopping. He couldn't find one and, of course, there is no Sunday shopping for that type of frivolity (food stuffs can be found in markets within train stations that have short Sunday hours) but today I looked through the last two unopened boxes from the US and found my cany making oils and equipment, including the thermometer.

I had only 1 8" cake pan but that was fine because my oven is actually too small to take two so I baked the two required rounds sequentially. As did many others, I found that the cake rounds were extremely flat. I'm not certain if this was because of the 1/2 cup of boiling water that the recipe called for toward the end of the mix- would it have risen more without it? In any case, I have annotated my book to read that next time I should use 6" pans. The rounds were too flat to allow me to slice them through and make layers, so I cut leach layer instead in half and then stacked three demi sections, retaining the fourth to crumble after frosting the layers (that demi section was large enough that I used only half of it for crumbs and cut and stacked and frosted the rest to be mini-cakes for the girls).

The girls both had tremendous fun licking the beaters for the frosting (I let it cool first) and then watching me frost. They greatly enjoyed making crumbs and then applying them to the frosted cake. Thing1 adores it and Thing2 likes looking at it: after a while she gave her piece to her older sister (who is now agitating for another slice after dinner).

For me, too sweet and too chocolatey. A huge thumbs up from Thing1 and the German though and the cake is extremely attractive to look at.

How about some less sweet choices though?

16 February 2009

What I have been reading: Antisemitism or Did you just think the Britsh Foreign Office was biased?

Have you heard about the high ranking British Foreign Office official who burst out cursing Jews and Israelis while running at the gym. It may come as a surprise to my American readers, but leaving aside the obvious problem of having a diplomatic official engaged in that area so little in control of his emotions and so clearly biased, it's actually a crime in most of the civilized world to incite hatred against other races and religions.

That's a real crime. One punishable by years in prison. Although I doubt he will get more than a wrist slap.

(this was hanging in the draft queue)

10 February 2009

Tuesday's with Dorie: Not this week.

Although in penance I am reading through everyone else's posts and wow, it's exhausting!

Check out their beautiful successes and a few interesting failures. This was too sweet, too eggy, and too complicated for my life this week.

09 February 2009

What I've been reading in Links: the Pope debacle.

I need to post these so that I can purge them from my system. Articles in German can be, somewhat, translated using Google translator or another- enough of the meaning should be decipherable even if you don't know German.

The German's far Right (we would call them neo-Nazi's) embrace of Holocaust denial and the Catholic church.

A discussion of the pope's background on inclusiveness that culminates in his welcoming a Holocaust denier back to the bosom of mother church.(Reuters)

The breaking of relations between Jews and the Vatican.

Thank you, Angela Merkel, for standing against the Pope's oblivious and negligent welcome to antisemitism within the Roman Catholic Church. (German). I sent an e-mail to her office thanking her, and Germany, for renewing my belief that Germany has changed. The belief that I had when I married a German and allowed us to be moved to Germany so that my children could be part of their German extended family.

"Good and Bad Antisemitism"- (German) A very interesting article discussing how antisemitism is allowed to flourish at the imam and mosque level in a type of racism that discounts race hatred when it comes from ethnic groups not "respected" by the intellectual elites.
This is a very important article and should be read as widely as possible.

A German Pope Disgraces the Catholic Church
- a very good explanation of the controversy, including a discussion of the disingenuousness of some responses. In 5 parts.
Specific to general and very well worth reading.
Here is the basis of the discredited faction that the Pope has clasped to his bosom like a viper:

During the course of the 19th century, anti-Judaism was replaced and displaced by anti-Semitism, which was rooted in racism. According to theologian Hans Küng, "National Socialism would have been impossible without the centuries-old anti-Semitism of the churches." During Nazi rule, conflicts quickly arose between Catholic doctrine and the all-encompassing claim to power of party members. Although some bishops were headed for a clear course of confrontation with the Nazis, the annihilation of the Jews was by no means the German episcopate's greatest concern.

It was only in 1965 that Pope Paul VI, in the "Nostra aetate" declaration of the Second Vatican Council, rejected anti-Judaism once and for all. The church, the groundbreaking document read, "decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone."

It is precisely this document that Lefebvre's followers have not recognized to this day. The SSPX saw the Council essentially as a "fissure in the church," through which the "smoke of Satan had entered the Church."

An overview (in English) of all the major Geman papers' responses to Merkel's declaration that the Pope must make clear his position against antisemitism and Holocaust Denial.

Here the Vatican attempts to hide from the consequences of its action by saying that criticism of its behaviour is "anticatholicism". This from a Pope who reinstituted a prayer that Jews convert, against the actions of Vatican II.

The pope finally states that Williamson must recant his denial of the mass murder of the Jews by the Nazis.

Norm Geras' view on forced recantation of vile beliefs and the efficacy thereof.

One last reminder of what the Pope has brought back to the Catholic faith:
But shortly before Christmas, Schmidberger and his fellow SSPX members wrote to German bishops to remind them of the supposed Jewish original sin: "With the crucifixion of Christ, the curtain of the temple was torn and the old alliance destroyed. But this does not just mean that the Jews of today are not our older brothers in faith. Rather, they are complicit in deicide, as long as they do not distance themselves from the culpability of their forefathers by acknowledging the divinity of Christ and the baptism."

This age-old atavistic way of thinking, which defines Jews as being spattered with guilt, has been part of the church once again since Benedict's decree. This, in fact, is what happened on Jan. 24, 2009, and it cannot be reversed with any declarations or visits to synagogues.

I will probably put a post up later this week discussing all the other vile Jew hating commentary and attacks that I have seen in the news and the incident that I experienced last month later this week, but I just need to not think about this for a while.
The intractability of SSPX and further grounds on excommunicating, once again, the SSPX leaders: the refusal to acknowledge Papal primacy and Vatican II (which they specifically agreed to in order to have the original excommunication removed).

The Pope does the right thing.

he reflected on the 2,000 year history of the relationship between Judaism and the Church, acknowledging that it "has passed through many different phases, some of them painful to recall."
He affirmed that the Second Vatican Council declaration "Nostra Aetate" has guided the relationship since its redaction.

"The Church is profoundly and irrevocably committed to reject all anti-Semitism and to continue to build good and lasting relations between our two communities," the Bishop of Rome declared.

He added: "The hatred and contempt for men, women and children that was manifested in the Shoah was a crime against God and against humanity. This should be clear to everyone, especially to those standing in the tradition of the holy Scriptures, according to which every human being is created in the image and likeness of God.

"It is beyond question that any denial or minimization of this terrible crime is intolerable and altogether unacceptable."

Benedict XVI concluded by urging that the memory of the Holocaust remain as a "warning to us for the future, and a summons to strive for reconciliation."

05 February 2009

German lessons again

I am so tired.

I am back in a German course and it has been exhausting and tempestuous. Perhaps that's always going to be true when so many of my classmates are in their 20's?

It started with my sitting in 1 class, then being moved up to a second class. After being there for a few days the teacher (whom I adore), suggested that several of us move up to a new class that was being formed for that purpose. I wasn't certain that I wanted to do that as 1. I very much liked the teacher (she was the teacher for my previous two courses) and 2. it seemed that people that were being asked to remain behind were more advanced than I.

I thought about it over the weekend, sent off an e-mail to discuss it more thoroughly, and then decided to go ahead with the move mainly to avoid being in the same class as another woman who had impressed me, in just 1 class, just that much.

Unfortunately, after a lovely first hour in my new class, Subject A showed up. This was also a characteristic she had displayed in the other class: showing up 30-55 minultes late.

I don't have a significant problem with lateness. This is not a group project so if someone else cuts their own nose off it doesn't affect me. But this person would come in and angrily complain that she didn't know something we were doing, that she had not been taught this. In cases where we had just spent up to an hour going over what she didn't know, that grew old rapidly. That behavior was followed with extremely loud states as to the stupidity of the German language.

Really, the rest of us don't love the German language. But the language is what it is, one just has to learn it. I don't think it will change to suit us.

Last week, every single class member stayed after class to complain about this student and to request that the teacher either rein her in or ask her to leave.

On Monday, she was on time and restrained her (extremely aggressive) loudness when she was confused (I was willing to understand and ignore a hearing disability, but the volume only increased when she was angry, which was whenever she was confused). She left 20 minutes early, but hey, that was fine with me.

Maybe we will all be able to get along (I assume that our teacher, who can have a fist of iron as she desires, spoke to her).

04 February 2009

November 28, 1956: 50 years later and it's still the same.


10 Things I know...

Charlotte has tagged me for this meme and hers is a bit more cheery than mine. As I told her, I am in a bit of a funk. But this is What I Know (or at least a small and non-cheery part of it):
  1. The older I grow, the thinner my skin.
  2. If a day goes by without reading- no, it has never happened.
  3. Sometimes one should cut toxic relationships. Not all things are worth saving.
  4. Sometimes distance makes things more bearable.
  5. And the converse: closeness allows us to see how unbearable things are.
  6. Civility is the mortar of civilization.
  7. Stupidity is real: sometimes it's not just a misunderstanding.
  8. It is not necessary to like anyone, but one should be courteous to all (subset of 6).
  9. When one has been attacked, one can defend oneself. This also applies to Jews, contrary to popular opinion.
  10. Jew hatred (prettified into racism or antisemitism) is a contagious disease that is both endemic and rages epidemic through the world. Only the falsely naive believe that is is gone. Only the innocent see education alone as a cure.

03 February 2009

Tuesday's with Dorie: World Peace Cookies

Another week joining my fellow Tuesdays with Dorie bloggers as we bake from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: from my home to yours. Today's recipe, World Peace Cookies, was chosen by Jessica of Cookbookhabit. That's a habit I share (along with garden books, sf, novels, travel books and expat reads- in fact, I am a bit of a reading addict) so I was glad to have a chance to check her site out.

The cookies, apparently based on a Pierre Hermes recipe, were an interesting recipe for me. I am finding cooking through this book fun because in so many cases I am cooking recipes that I would not choose: I am just not a chocolate lover. As I read the recipe, I saw that Dorie called this a variation on a sable (as were the Linzer cookies we made several weeks ago). Yet, this recipe included no eggs or fluids, unlike the other recipe. I also saw that it had a good 1/2 tsp of Fleur de Sel, as does the New York Times Chocolate Chip recipe (highlighted in my side bar) which is my current favorite cookie recipe (I especially love the sprinkling of sea salt on the top).

As I put the recipe together, and read the discussion, I saw that others seem to have had a problem with the texture being too crumbly. When I was done with the mixture, what I had in my bowl was actually what looked like a mess of flour (chocolatey flour, but still it looked as if there were no fluids). (I used my hand carried Dutch process cocoa- anyone know where to find it in Germany and what it is called?)

Although the recipe warned against overmixing, I kept on trying to beat the butter throughout the "dough".

Then I gave up. It looks as if later in the day some suggested removing a little of the flour prior to mixing, but at this point I just tossed in an egg. After mixing, when it still didn't look moist enough to roll, I added a few glugs of non-fat milk (that's what I had in the fridge). That brought it together as I stirred in a scant palmful of chips.

I separated the dough in two parts and wrapped it in Saran wrap. I then rolled it (within the wrap) into logs.
Here is the brilliant tip Dorie gave: take two paper towel rolls (what, doesn't everyone collect them for children's craft projects?), cut one side open, and put the dough "log" inside. This shaped it perfectly as I put the logs in the fridge. The recipe calls for a 3 hour chill, but I left it overnight and baked the cookies after my class this morning.
I preheated the oven to 160C and then cut thick (between 1/4 and 1/2") slabs of the cylinder onto my Silpat sheet on a cookie sheet. 12 minutes exactly later and I pulled them out. The half of the dough that I used (the other log is still in the fridge) made 11 cookies.

After cooling, I tried one. The cookies are surprisingly light and tasty (not too sweet). I assume the lightness came from the added egg and milk, because som of the other bakers are mentioning a density in their cookies?

In any case, both my girls (very picky baking testers) loved them and I am going to guess that my husband will as well. -Yes, he did. I'll freeze the other log and bake it up for them next week, I think.