31 May 2010

What I am reading: May 2010

  1. Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson: I had this book for ages (got it at a BEA years ago), but still never read it. I saw that he was writing the final Robert Jordan book (never got into him, perhaps I should try the series) and still didn't. But today I was standing in a line with my Kindle and didn't know what to start next and thought— Why not? Wow. Another win for the author giving his book away. I'm downloading Elantris today and trying to decide whether I should download his Mistborne trilogy or whether I should just buy the boxed set and bring it back. I'm not certain how long this book is- from how long it took me to read it I will guess 500+ pages (ok, looked it up, 592 pages) and I was enthralled through all of them. Fascinating magic system. Interesting characters. Exciting story. I only wish there were another book in this world for me to read. I expect to buy his other works (and think about buying Jordans Wheel of Time because I know it will end well-written) and I'll be shooting off an e-mail to him to tell him why.
  2. Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobbs: Although I have read Robin Hobbs when she was writing as Megan Lindholm, I somehow never picked her up under this name. Another good read from the Kindle temptations program (they give a book away and hope that you are intrigued enough to follow up and read others by the same author). I thought it was good enough that I will give her another try, but not quite good enough for me to pay full Kindle price for the sequel and getting a used copy in Germany isn't happenning. I hear her Ship series is much more exciting. I did enjoy Dragon Keeper, but the concepts are a bit too well -used for me. The novel is a bit of Amelia Peabody with an overlay of fantasy and I just do't have the patience with a heroine who finds it so difficult to understand what the issue between her husband (not a nice guy) and herself is. I did like the blossoming relationship with the ship's captain, the ship itslef and her development enough to- as I said- try the sequel down sometime in the future.
  3. -14: And the entire rest of my reading month, including the flights to and from NY, were consumed with re-reading Edgar Rice Burroughs fabulous pulp Barsoom series. I had heard that there is renewed interest in filming (exciting to see that Michael Chabon has signed on for script revisions). In any case. ERB is one of my childhood foundations, and I vastly enjoyed the re-read, with far less shock at the sexism and racism than I expected to find. ERB is such a quintessential early 20th century writer.
1.A Princess of Mars
2.The Gods of Mars
3.The Warlord of Mars
4.Thuvia, Maid of Mars
5.The Chessmen of Mars
6.The Master Mind of Mars
7.A Fighting Man of Mars
8.Swords of Mars
9.Synthetic Men of Mars
10.Llana of Gathol
11.John Carter of Mars (includes Skeleton Men of Jupiter) (ERB died while writing this).

21 May 2010

Heading Out

I haven't started packing yet, but I'm heading out in the morning for the US. It's a quick trip, without the kids and husband, and I am both looking forward to it and dreading it.

Looking forward to it because:
  • No husband and kids:). That translates into an easy trip, reading books, watching movies, sleeping.
  • I'll be visiting my parents, seeing my Dad just shortly after his 80th, seeing at least one brother and his family: I miss them.
  • I'll be stopping at the BEA--- and what could be better than ARCs for the forthcoming year's publishing schedule, meeting authors and listening to interesting panels?
  • I'm going over with a half empty suitcase and another within it and I expect I'll fill them up with Carters' clothes, Stride-Rite shoes,and Target t-shirts for myself (the husband has already got a few pairs of Zappos ordered shoes waiting). Another blogger recently found and posted how to get Splenda in Germany, so I'll be looking to bring back Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee and CrystaLite (I'm stocked on molasses and baking soda right now and make my own vanilla extract). The books will be shipped back at M-bag rates (half the cost of regular shipping) and I may ship a box or two of lighter things over as well, but I expect that I will fill that second suitcase. At least I don't need to bring any books with me because I'll be using the Kindle (300+ books last I looked, not all those I want to read:)), bringing magazines that I'll recycle on the way, and a book or two as presents that won't make their way back here.
Dreading it:
  1. Because I will miss the kids. The German not so much, because I'm used to him being gone all week.And because I expect he will call, but that I will frequently miss the kids becuase of the time difference and cell phone blanks in NYC.
  2. And because, due to following the cheapest ticket, I will be flying out of Newark, rather than JFK. It requires that I find a shuttle bus that I have never been on before, after making my way by train to NYC from visiting friends upstate after the Expo, while dragging two suitcases and a carry-on, alone. Yich. I'll be allotting myself plenty of time to discover that there are no handicapped (that is, luggage dragging) accessible ways from one public transport area to another. Ah well. It's something that I have become acutely aware of as a parent and now as a non-business traveler (never cared much when I was only carrying a carry-on!).

18 May 2010

Yellow cake

This week has been school vacation for my older, but Kita was still in session for my younger for Monday and Tuesday. That allowed us to sleep in a bit (although T1 still gets up at 6 am) and to wait for the plumber this morning.

But when I picked T2 up today, she was unhappy: by coming in late, she had missed making a small cake, which everyone else had done and then taken home (I assume for Shavuot, which is a dairy holiday). So on the way home we stopped to pick up some strawberries and some Schlagsahne (whipping cream- I couldn't find a can) and then I googled around and we made this recipe:

(I love Allrecipes.com for the ability to change to metric, which allows me to toggle back and forth between my preferred method, weighing ingredients, and the ability to use volume measurement for liquids.)

Yellow Cake from Scratch (with a few changes)
160 g all-purpose flour
150 g white sugar
50 g butter
120 ml milk
5 g baking powder
5 g salt
8 ml vanilla extract
2 eggs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour one 9x9 inch pan.
In a large bowl, cream sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add flour, baking powder, and salt alternately with milk, beating just to combine. Finally, stir in vanilla. Pour batter into the prepared pan.--- I beat it a lot more and added the baking powder last.
Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Frost and enjoy.

Nutritional Information
Amount Per Serving Calories: 139 | Total Fat: 5.2g | Cholesterol: 27mg

Review: The cake is nice, I overbeat the Schlagsahne and wound up with flecks of butter (what's with that:)) and so sprinkled powdered sugar and sliced strawberries instead. Next time, I will decrease the sugar by 1/3 and increase the flour- the cake was a tad sweet for me. But the kids were happy, so that's a plus.

17 May 2010

Clueless and Vitriolic

I was reading the comments to this when I just couldn't stand it any longer.

The vitriol and hatred flying from the "non-parents" at the "parents" was insane. I might say from the dog-owning to the child-owning, but that's really not what the tenor of the comments were. The tenor seemed to be that children should, as Mark Twain said, be put in a barrel and fed through a bung-hole until 18. I am more used to seeing this type of open and semantically veiled hatred from misogynists and racists but clearly I haven't been reading enough.

We live in a society and children are a part of that society. In Germany, women and children (and men ) have rights both as individuals and as family members within society. So when Germans, the most litigious nation in the world, sue because children are crying, they run up against the fact that children have a legal right to cry. And to play. And to make noise.

There are limits and bounds for everyone, of course. But some of the "child-free" should just live in a world where no one actually curtailed their lives to raise other people and see how they enjoy a dying society. Clearly they don't have enough empathy or forethought to understand the concept though.

11 May 2010

Recent randomness...

  1. For the last thirty years or so, I have been an sf fan. Part of that is going to sf cons and the moveable feast is Worldcon. This year it will be in Australia and I'm afraid that we won't be able to make it. However, a few years ago, John Scalzi and some others decided to put together a reading package of all the works (where made available by publishers)that we had nominated for the Hugo. This year, all the graphic art nominations were also available and I have been sucked into Girl Genius. What a rocking strip! I'm pretty sure it's got my vote, I have now read through inception, and I plan on buying the books (because reading comics on line rots compared to having the book). How late I am to this show: it won the Hugo last year, but I've just ignored comics since I went cold turkey in 1990. Now, this is the type of comic I want my daughters to grow up reading.
  2. After surviving my own mini-flame war, it seems that a lot of the blogs I have been reading have their own. Some are even related to the topic I was embroiled in: misogyny and sexism. See Racefail (on cultural appropriation), Mansplainin, How difficult life is for the Menz, the craziness on fanfic, which started with a reasonable post on Diana Gabaldon's blog (in a post which has now disappeared- and I don't blame her- the vitriol was amazing and the vitriolic made ad hominem attacks), but exploded through Boingboing and GRRMartin and ever outward. Watching how these things degenerated into insanity and how trolls took over was illuminating and shows the difference between an editorial page and the internets in all their glory.
  3. We caught up with Lost. The last episodes are coming this month and we want to watch them semi-real time. And Fringe is getting better and better. As for Castle, what is not to like about a mystery writer as the hero of a series, with a kick toosh woman Police detective in charge. Nathan Fillion (from Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog) is fab.
  4. Working on math... the way it's taught here is so non-intuitive that my husband can't understand it. I can, but I understand the issues. It's rote utilization of certain table formats and we just need to get Thing1 understanding that when there are lank boxes, a null is a perfectly correct way of filling them.
  5. Same with reading. We are getting there, but the way that the German system (here at least) utilized the whole word method at the beginning, then moves to phonetics, makes it hard. There are far more "letters" here, though, so I understand why they operate the way they do. They didn't finish learning all the different vowels and consonants until after the winter holidays (there's a whole separate section to learn with the umlauted and conjoined vowels). And they don't sing the alphabet song, they learn "A wie Affe, Ei wie Eis... usw.) Fascinating to get a look into the basic culture and how it is indoctrinated.

10 May 2010

Rolling with the Changes

I had expected to spend the weekend with friends, re-visiting the Keukenhof, but they bagged the trip Thursday night and without the lure of their children to play with ours, we threw the towel in ourselves.

I'm missing the chance to see the gardens at a later stage of development than we have in the last three years (this year's visit was disappointingly early), and if we had known that they would not make this weekend, we would have gone last weekend. But it is what it is.

So, instead, we 1.took the kids out to practice bike riding. Not that T1 needs to practice, but T2 is gong great guns on practicing her pedalling. The 12" bike that we have for her (garnered through freecycle Berlin) would normally suit her for at least the next year, while we waited for her to grow over 110 cm to fit a 16" bike, but the seat height control is busted, and according to our local bike shop, irreparable. We also discovered at the local bike shop(s) that although there are 14" bikes, they are not really available in DE (although they are in the Netherlands and Belgium). Now there was our reason for heading to Leiden anyway— if only we had known!

It turns out that they are available in Berlin, although at Spielwaren (toy shops) rather than bike shops, and at quite the price (we couldn't find one under €149).But we found one for about half online, in T2's desired lieblingsfarbe of blau. We should have it in a few days and just in time: T1 and 2 switched bikes and it was a bit of a circus act, with T1's knees up around her ears and T2 only able to stop by falling over (her feet couldn't reach the ground)!

then we headed over to Idee, to pick up materials for a craft project that T! found online: a witch's broom in Snow White colors.

We followed up with a quick trip to Ikea, so the kids could play in the "Marienkaeferplatz" (the playground) but, due to remodeling in the cafeteria, our usual follow-up of salmon and new potatoes with bottomless lattes and apfelschorle was derailed. When we asked at customer service, no one could tell us when the remodel would be done, real tables and chairs would be replaced, and whether the play area would be returned. I was very annoyed and next time we will head to the Spandau outlet instead. We did get the desired wooden spoons (for the above project) for .49 cents and the German had a latte while we sat and waited for the kids at the downstairs table display.

Why couldn't anyone tell us when the remodel was expected to be completed and whether a play area would be reincorporated in the design? Ineffective management.

On Sunday it was raining again, but T1 had a Maidchen party that the mother of one of her classmates was throwing and we bundled her off to the announced crafting and painting party. We had hoped to get some quality time with T2, but she fell asleep in the car and we carried her home and let her nap: it's tough having a sister who is an early morning bird and wakes her to play, while T2 is definitely a late owl.

The crafts were great- a pot with a flower (for Mutterstag:)), a little box painted in acrylic, and they had pizza. Lots of fun.

We were sorry to miss the final opportunity to see the Keukenhof (it's closed after next weekend and we have other plans), very sorry to miss our friends (T1 was very sad- she is in love with the baby!), but very glad not to have a 14 hour road trip with intermittent rain, especially since the volcano canceled flights again and the German needed to take the train back to Munich this morning.