30 September 2010

What I am reading: September 2010

  1. At the Foot of the Rainbow by Gene Stratton-Porter:(M)
  2. Her Father's Daughter by Gene Stratton-Porter:(M)
  3. Laddie; a true blue story by Gene Stratton-Porter:(M)
  4. A Daughter of the Land by Gene Stratton-Porter:(M) I really love Gene Stratton-Porter. I very much enjoyed reading these except for the tremendous shock I got when reading the second: it was full of a white supremacist and anti-Japanese "yellow peril" demagoguery that I have never seen before. Written in 1921 and the latest of her books that I have found to read, I had never seen such arrant racism and belief in "white supremacy" in her works before and wonder if it is evident in her later works. I hope not. I understand that this may be evident of the tension of the times and I now have a greater understanding of the environment that allowed the internment of Japanese-American citizens in California: I did not realize how intense and how long the incitement against the Japanese had existed.
  5. Outta the Bag (a preview prequel) by Maryjanice Davidson:(M) Ah. It was free. I use to very much like Davidson, but now I feel, each time I buy a book (which I haven't recently), that it was just a puffed up chapter of what the novel really should be. Too much fluff, too little story, unmemorable. Even though I enjoy her characters, they dissolve in my head leaving a feeling of nothingness.
  6. Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris:(DT) Sookie Stackhouse book 10. I waited a very long time to read this because I wanted to buy it on Kindle and the brice was several dollars higher than buying it in dead tree form. that ticked me off. In fact, as you can see, I waited and purchase it in HC from the UK because that price was still cheaper than buying the Kindle edition. If I didn't like the series as well as I do, I wouldn't have bought it at all and I'm still resentful. In addition, although I am still enjoying the plot (very different from the HBO Series True Blood and I am truly angry that this HC has pictures of the cast on it), I am finding that there has been a definite veering to the overt sex and less plot development side. CH is not yet LKH (whose books I no longer buy), but her books have been better and I definitely miss her other series, with their more detailed character development and plots. This is a bridge book between the massacre of the last and a change in Sookie's loyalties , it has a lot of external development and goes more deeply into Eric's past.
  7. Interstellar Patrol by Christopher Anvil:(MB) and
  8. Pandora's Legions by Christopher Anvil:(MB) I'm shocked to realize that somehow I completely missed Christopher Anvils works, both when I was reading through my library's collection of books with atoms on their spines and as an adult while Baen was re-issuing his work. I expect to remedy this situation over the next year and take advantage of Baen's wonderful DRM-free and well priced e-book collections.Very EF Russel-like, very 1950's can-do, space-opera. In other words, I loved these collections of short stories.
  9. All Cats are Grey (novella) by Andre Norton: Charming pulp short story with a woman and a cat as heroine. I think I read it originally thirty years ago and wandered across it as a free download on line.(M)
  10. The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett: I was charmed to read this most especially because of this:
    "No one could have suspected them of carrying a strange and vital secret with them as they strolled along together. They seemed only two ordinary boys who looked in at shop windows and talked over their contents and who loitered with upturned faces in the Marien-Platz before the ornate Gothic Rathaus to hear the eleven o'clock chimes play and see the painted figures of the King and Queen watch from their balcony the passing before them of the automatic tournament procession with its trumpeters and tilting knights. When the show was over and the automatic cock broke forth into his lusty farewell crow they laughed..."
    This was delicious because I actually did exactly this last weekend in the Marienplatz. Perhaps I would have had more of a sense of wonder if I had read this first, from the perspective of a century ago. But one of the reasons I love to read stories with travel is to see places that I have been as they were and think of places I may one day be.(M)
  11. Pollyana and Pollyanna Grows Up by Eleanor Hodgman Porter: The late 1800's and early 1900's are a period I grew up reading about. I find the books charming and generally unexceptionable, with morals that are not cloying and still true. THe Glad game is one that I could stand to play a bit more of.(M)
  12. Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan:(M) I haven't read this in years, but when I recenetly had the chance to download it, I enjoyed it. It was interesting how thoroughly I had forgotten it and how the sexist tropes had gone fwoosh straight over my head when I first read it. I had been interested in picking up some more of Hogan's works as I had vagely fond memories of his books, but I was distressed when reading his wikipedia entry (after hearing of his death, to read that he had been a Holocaust denier. I have too many books waiting to be read to deal with those two issues, I think.
  13. Divorced, Desperate and Dating by Christie Craig:(M) Another free download. Fluffy romance with a writer as the protagonist (I always enjoy books with writers as characters:)). Her life is being threatened in a way that's been lifted from not only the pages of her published work, but also unpublished. The police detective who is afraid of committment is the one that believes that she is in danger.
  14. The Goddess of Fried Okra by Jean Brashear: (M) Although I would never have picked this up if it hadn't been a free offer, I really liked this story.The protagonist is trying to deal with the loss of her sister by seeking her reincarnation through the dusty highways of Texas, picking up other strays as she keeps moving, when a car failure makes her stop moving long enough to in teract with others. Charming story.
The (M) stands for Mobipocket (the generic form of the file that Kindle Reads) as well as AZW and PRC, the other forms readable by Kindle. Let's leave DT as Dead Tree books. I think it's clear what percentage of my reading is becoming e-format. The vast majority are also free, either as public domain or as promotional offers through Amazon and the other online sources I frequent. B stands for Baen, the best of the on-line stores by so many orders of magnitude there is no comparison.

28 September 2010

From many to few.

These are the bags of shredded documents that are the result of finally putting together our '09 taxes: that extension deadline is coming right up (US, that is. Germany is not due on regular filing until the end of the year).
It's amazing how many documents can be shredded into two bags. I took the opportunity to discard as many other documents as possible while I was looing through the pertinent folders.
Another expat assures me that this can go in the paper recycling (after being dumped out of the plastic, of course) but I'm afraid that the neighbors will not appreciate it: it seems that the only recycling that goes in those bins is newspaper.
Do other people need to deal with this stuff? It seems that my in-laws have no paperwork issues at all. As I finish up going through the medical claims alone(which I know that my in-laws don't need to deal with), I have 218 lines in a spreadsheet with back up documentation, about 20% of which is resubmissions because the company in question likes to deem the paperwork "illegible".

25 September 2010

One of the benefits of living in a city

We decided that there was no place in the apartment for this rather attractive clothes hamper, but I hate to discard something that still serves its purpose,a lthough no longer my own. So we put a note on it saying that we would discard it on Monday if no one wanted it and put it outside our building under the roof overhang (it's Berlin, it's raining).

It was gone within the hour. Win/win: someone has something to use and I don't need to add to the waste stream (although recycling of metal in Berlin is pretty easy)

Oktoberfest 2010

Here are a few pictures from Oktoberfest 2010. I'm pretty awful at grabbing pictures of myself, so I hope that I can get a few of myself in the Dirndl and the German in his Lederhosen from the friend with the camera.

We dropped the girls with a friend on Saturday evening after services and breaking Yom Kippur fast because we had a 6:50 train to München on Sunday morning. It was a bit stressful because, although the German does this every week, he had forgotten that Sunday schedule in the early morning is a bit different than during the week: we had two long delays as we waited for our U-Bahns and I was a bit stressed that we wouldn't make it, even though I had us leave 15 minutes earlier that he had wanted (I had tried for 30 minutes, but my reach exceeds my grasp). We ran through the Hauptbahnhof (not easy when carrying a rolling suitcase down to escalators at speed) and got there at 6:50. Luckily, our train was actually at 6:52, because we took off on time.

We arrived timely in München and went to check in at the hotel. Because of Oktoberfest this wasn't the German's regular hotel, but a Westin a bit further out and which I liked even more than his standard. After we checked in, the German decided that we were on the wrong side of the hotel,called the desk and had them rebook ous on the side with the view of the city (I had thought the greenery view was quite nice): he was right. The other side had a gorgeous view of München with the Oktoberfest Ferris wheel in the background.

We showered and changed into our Trachten and grabbed the U-Bahn back to the Theresienwiese to meet M at his table at the Weinzelt. I have never seen so many people in Trachten in my life, starting at the Hauptbahnhof and continuing until I left the city. It took us a bit of asking, and a little dodging of big men who were unsteady on their feet, but we found it and our table and joined the party. We stayed from about 3:30 until about 8:30, when we bid our new friends good-bye. The food was lovely and the drink was fine— no beer in this tent except .5l of Hefeweizen!

We walked round a bit on the way out, peeking in several tents and enjoying the sights (for me, the fabulous different regional variations on Trachten).

On Monday, after the German trundled off to work, I met up with some of M's friends who were looking about a bit before they left to various parts of the globe. We had coffee and then just wandered about a bit. I finally watched the famous clockwork automatons in Marienplatz and then we just walked, looking in shop windows (good heavens, my Tracht was cheap compared even to department stores!), looking at the Viktualenmarkt (wonderful "ancient tomatoes") and, after grabbing a tea, looking at the Residenz. It's too bad they needed to return to M's for a trip to the airport, because that is at the base of the English Garden and the weather was wonderful: perfect for walking through the gardens.

I met the German for lunch at Vapiano, a fast food Italian place that we also have here in Berlin and which I like very much: we split a Penne Arrabiata and a Salat with balsamic and beef.

Then I wandered back to the hotel and put my feet up (figuratively) while drinking Lattes and tea in the executive lounge, enjoying the view of München.

I went back into the city to meet the German and his co-workers for dinner at an Indian restaurant and it was good! The waiter gave me a warning when I asked how spicy the food was, which was echoed by the Brits that I was with,and I am glad I listened: the Jalfrezi was spicy enough for me and spicier than vindaloos that I have in Berlin.

Tuesday was more aimless walking in the fabulous weather and then a return to Oktoberfest and Trachten. Strangely enough, it was far busier on a weekday night than it had been on Sunday night and we had trouble finding a spot at the tables in a tent. We wound up in the Hofbrauhaus tent and it was nice: I had a 1/2 liter of Apfelschorle and the German had a Maas. We listened to a amazing percussion band up by the stone buildings that you see on the left and looked at the large statue of Bavaria, although we were too late to climb her and look out over the Wiesn from her head.

The Olympic roller-coaster (I didn't take it myself- I was still a bit queasy the next day. Not from drinking, but I'm starting to suspect that the food that we ate at the Weinzelt, although tasty, had quite a bit of MSG, to which I have a severe sensitivity.)

On Tuesday I decided that I needed to take an earlier train back to ensure that I would be on time to pick up the girls and re-booked the earlier (7:43 am) train. In the event, I was definitely right in doing so: although we moved in a timely fashiona nd I had good luck with the S and U connections, the traffic ws snarled on the way to the school, with a tunnel being closed and the usual Messe issue (the police should crack down on what Messe visitors do to the surrounding neighborhood in their cheap desire not to pay for legal parking) and I would have been late if I had taken the train one hour later. With my in-laws leaving immediately after dropping the girls in the morning, I feel a lot of stress even planning to be early.

This shows my nicely reserved seat from München to Berlin: I actually didn't sit in it until Leipzig because I wanted a window seat. However, my neighbor in the window actually wound up not showing and I just spread out a bit.

I got quite a bit of reading done this month, with two 6.5 hour trips to fill.

17 September 2010

Well Used

Here in Germany, the coins are worth a lot, there are many of them, and there are no coin rolls. Even if one overcomes that issue, standard banks won't take coins (they had one a plastic bag and the address of a central bank in another kiez and suggest one run along). So change purses get a good work out.

This one has reached the point where I am embarrassed to pull it out of my purse, so it goes to the garbage and I visit Claires for another 3€ special. (Yes, in the US that would be Claire's: welcome to Deutschland.)

15 September 2010


What does it mean when my husband is at the store whose on-line catalogue I am perusing, at the very moment that I am longing for sold out items?

It means that I am a bit jealous, that great minds think alike, and that we both wait too long to get what we need: when he asked if they had any other color than black, the salesman looked at him with hauteur and pointed put that two days before the start of d'Wiesn he is lucky to find anything.

The salesman was right: every decent dirndl I looked at was sold out. I hope that, in a very non-German way, they actually order in during the season. The German also tells me that although on-line was sold out he thinks the store location has more in stock (they must: there was only 1 (ugly) item in stock in the childrens' section and that's just not possible). Otherwise I'll need to stick with my slightly too large and not very special already owned one.

12 September 2010

Gaily wrapped and passed along

I love re-gifting. We had another birthday party this weekend (finally one that was not ours) and I had the chance to regift something given to T1 three years ago (and carried along to Germany from the US in our container, never opened and never given to her).
Although I forgot to take a picture, inside the larger gift is a Barbie set of dress, shoes and bag: I'm not a Barbie fan (although I think the animated movies are in some cases very well done, I dislike the doll) and my girls always had more than enough costumes. The smaller package is new and is a Princess-themed school set, with calculator, ruler pencil sharpener, pencil and eraser.

08 September 2010

Hand me downs

Going through another bag of hand me downs (for which I am always grateful), washing them all and examining them: T1 doesn't like these and they move along to the Kleiderspende.

06 September 2010

Passing things along

When I was at Discworldcon it looked as if someone (perhaps Sir Terry) was unloading piles of DW novels in just about every language they had ever been pubbed in. The English were long gone, as were the French, so I grabbed Deutsche for the German (started with 2, but as the con progressed and they languished I took one of each— he's now on the second) and Polish for a friend here in Berlin. I've just passed the bag over but I thought I would share the covers: they are pretty great (though the Estonian and Latvian ones were also pretty nifty!).

05 September 2010

On the walls

As we consider staying in Germany even longer, I am bringing some of the personal possessions that we left behind back in suitcases each time we visit the US. I always liked these two.

03 September 2010

It's not just getting rid of things

The thing about de-cluttering is that it's not just about getting rid of things. It's also about finally getting things done and organized, about finding ways to display things one wants to display and store things that one wants to keep.

It's only been about 7 months since we moved in and we have finally gotten the last two lights up. There's a bit of a story to go with that: it's not that we have been stumbling around in the dark for the last half year: we have standing lights.

We had a lovely 3-light halogen for over our dining table, but it just didn't work in the new apartment: rectangular and the new room was already wired to a central point. In addition, the bedroom had a (bare— I know!) bulb hanging from the ceiling so we did have some overhead light when desired. The ceilings ranged from 12 to 14 feet and our ladder was a bit low, the German doesn't do electric and we didn't want to spend real money on a dining room/living room light when we couldn't find a buyer for the old one.

This summer was pretty darn hot for several weeks, though, and I was panting. There aren't a lot of good looking ceiling fans in store here in Germany, as I have noted over the last few years.I'm a person that likes air, so we also have standing fans but this spring's heat wave simply overpowered them. I found a ceiling fan/light combo that we liked on Amazon, set up an installation date with our handyperson, got it in, and then C blew us off twice. We set a new date for after the summer and then we left the country and came back 7 weeks later. When C couldn't make that date, we gave up on him, which is too bad: he was hreat for a while.

However, one electrician later, we have a great ceiling fan/light and a new (only 2.99€) light and cover in the bedroom. I'm really glad that we used a professional, because the living room ceiling is dropped (from 14 to 12 feet, don't ask me why people do this) and he was able to affix it properly, something I am always concerned about with ceiling fan.

Yeah! If you look carefully, you can see a gap: that's because the lights in the apartment were originally gas-fed and the fittings are a bit different. It really makes a difference that we hadn't really noticed as lacking before.


A friend just handed me two bags of clothes and shoes as hand-me-downs.

First, I go through a preliminary sort to see if anything is damaged beyond repair. Nope, D has already done that. Then I wash everything (because T1 gets contact dermatitis from scent and other laundry detergents). Then I take a look and decide what she won't like (sometimes I check in with her on that) and that goes into the donation basket.

01 September 2010

As I was packing

for a weekend away, what could be better than getting rid of a broken suitcase?

This is not only de-cluttering, but also a comment on something I really miss: specifically, American-style customer service.