30 April 2011

What I am reading: April 2011

  1. Fatal Feng-Shui (2007) by Leslie Caine: I'd read a few of the prior mysteries in this series (how could I resist Death by Clutter?) and I enjoyed this one as well. Fluffy but fun, not a tremendous amount of character development, but an enjoyable read.(DTM)
  2. Oath of Fealty(2010) by Elizabeth Moon: I've waited an awfully long time for Moon to continue her fantasy series, started with Sheepfarmer's Daughter. Rather than Paks being the lead in this new trilogy, we follow Kieri Phelan in his new life. Great book. Can't wait until the next is out. Moon always has strong, interesting women (as well as male) characters and it's just a relief not to need to always be glossing over the lack of same. An author I generally look forward to reading and I've pre-ordered the next in the series.
  3. cross bones (2005) by Kathy Reichs: It's strange that I love the TV series Bones so much and yet had never read a book that it was based on. I'm a late comer to the series (it was in season 5 before I saw my first), so I'm also a late comer to the books. Not the gory series I had thought when I first read about a forensic anthropologist (before I'd heard of the series), this was an interesting dabble into the "Jesus family" controversy that I actually remember reading about almost a decade ago. Nice light read, with lots of interesting detail on the archeology and situation. And Brennan is much less "relationship challenged" in the book than in the series.
  4. The Stepsister Scheme (2009)
  5. The Mermaid's Madness (2009) by Jim C. Hines:A grown up take on some of the classic fairy tales. I preferred the 1st to the second, but I will probably still get the third.
  6. Juliet, Naked (2009) by Nick Hornby: Another ARC. An enjoyable light read. Does Hornby always do "chick lit" or is it called something else when it's a male writing it? I did like it, though:-). I've also just sold it on Amazon, which I also am glad of. (DTARC)
  7. A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life (2010) by Steven Kotler: This is not my general type of book, but it was a very interesting true story. The protagonist discovers a sense of enlightenment and transcendence while opening and operating a dog rescue operation. The cites were also interesting to read. I don't believe that all species are of equal value, but I do strongly believe that animals and all living beings do have the right to be treated humanely and with respect, even if we are using them as food sources and it was interesting to read some instances and discussions of how thought on these issues has changed and evolved, especially in the years since I studied biology and evolutionary biology. I'll pass this along to Alice. (DTARC)
  8. the imperfectionists (2011) by Tom Rachman: I'm not a huge fan of "interesting" type setting (except for that in The Stars My Destination) and so this book started with a mark against it for me, but as I read through it, I started enjoying the stories that were being told. The over reaching arc is the birth and life span of a newspaper and perhaps of journalism, told through the lives that shaped a specific overseas paper. (DT)
  9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2003) by Mark Haddon: This had languished on my shelf for so long that I did not realize that I had borrowed it from a friend, who saw it on my car seat when I was visiting and recognized it! I liked it. Strangely enough, also with the typography, but I really found this insight into the never named world of autism fascinating and I will research how accurate the portrayal was. Heart breaking and fascinating and moving. (Now I'll be able to send it back to A.)(DT)

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. (And perhaps I should add M for books borrowed from my mother:).)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.

The Tooth Fairy

I just watched The Tooth Fairy with Dwayne Johnson and it was absolutely hysterical. With several uncredited riffs by Billy Crystal, whom I adore, as well as Julie Andrews as the Fairy Godmother. Not to be missed and my girls will be able to watch it this week (the German and I were pre-viewing), unlike Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (pre-viewed earlier in the week).

The former had a great story and one that I want my children to learn: that hard work and practice and good will can help one to succeed. The latter was (beside being far too violent for my girls) all about how one's success is solely determined by who one's father (or, secondarily) parent or relative is. Not the ideology I want my children to take in.

One could look at this in the context of the Royal Wedding, or the American ur-story versus the European, but I'll leave it at the simple: one is appropriate for my children at this stage and the other will not be, even with explanation, for many years.

19 April 2011


So we are off to Birmingham next weekend and this time I would actually like to see something rather than simply go to the convention.
Last time, I asked the shuttle driver what he would suggest, and he couldn't give me anything that he felt I should, as a tourist, visit. Which I thought was very sad. So we had a great meal at a gastropub recommended by a friend.
This time however, I would really like to see something cultural or architectural: anyone have any ideas?

14 April 2011

French Google Spam/Social Engineering/Phishing

It's almost cute when the spam/phishing attempt is in a foreign language:-)

Gmail ID / confirmation de votre messagerie (Champs obligatoire)
L'équipe Gmail messagerie
Add to Contacts

Cher(e) utilisateur.
1. En raison de la congestion de tous les utilisateurs de
Googlemail, l'enlèvement de tous les compte inutilisés Gmail et l’amélioration du service Gmail messagerie vous devrez confirmer votre adresse en remplissant les information de connexion de votre compte ci-dessous, au cas ou le formulaire n'est pas totalement rempli
votre compte
systématiquement suspendu dans les 48 heures pour des raisons de sécurité.

2. Confirmation de votre identité. Vérification de votre compte


Nom :.........................................
Compte Gmail ID!:........................
Mot De Passe:...............................
NB: Tout en nous excusant pour ces désagréments.

Service Google Mail Vous remercie pour votre compréhensions.

Gmail messagerie

12 April 2011

Happy Birthday!

It's been a busy week and it's going into a busy week. The middle of this two week period was T2's birthday party. We had a party for her and her friends (and T1 got to bring a friend along) on the weekend.
They seemed to all enjoy themselves.
We aren't quite certain why Germans will not RSVP, no matter how one asks, but at this point we are used to calling to confirm attendance (important because we also saw a puppet show Rumpselstiltskin and therefore it was necessary to be timely and for us to have a headcount). I made my standard chocolate cake with the requisite pink frosting and purple and white sparkling sugar.

That was followed with Monday's cake for her class and the cake for the last day of my class this semester. I actually ran out of butter for my third cake this week and had to use sprinkled powdered sugar and sparkling sugar for a frosting for T2 and make a French Yogurt Cake (with rose water) for my cake (as it used olive oil rather than butter). I was very glad to reach the end of the baking until next month!

The rest of the week will be practice Seders and buttoning up next month's newsletter.

(Darn- I am wrong. T2 is Shabbat Mama on Friday, so I'll be baking again, I think. Unless I wimp out with something purchased.)

10 April 2011

An interesting lineage

I recently took a class at the Volkshochschule called "The Five Elements of Chinese Cooking". This was a mistake on my part, because what I thought I was taking was a Chinese cooking course. Instead, I was taking a cooking course that was based on the Chinese Five Elements of Fire, Water, Iron, Wood and Earth.

I enjoyed the course, in its slightly woo-woo, perhaps one also believes in homeopathy way, and I found the food that we actually cooked interesting because it was really German. In fact, I was able to use it as a discussion with my mother-in-law later.
Here above, however, you see a quite nice freshly made vegetable soup with Grießmehl Knödel. The recipe appeared very similar to that of matzoh balls, but they were as thick and heavy as cannonballs. I had always heard of matzoh balls tasting like cannonballs, but my mother's recipe (the Manischewitz recipe often made with soda water and then cooked in chicken soup) is light as air. Now I know whereof they speak and now I know whence matzoh balls derive. Truly these things barely increased in size when cooked, while matzoh balls more than double, but all the mass was as a ball of iron.

09 April 2011


Generally, I don't like people who vandalize my environment. I think taggers are idiots who should be punished for defacing other people's property.

This, however, is art. I enjoy walking by it (and not the ancillary vandalism) every day. The question is, however, whether this piece of art being allowed to remain is what drew the vandals to tag around it?

08 April 2011

Now, this made me laugh.

It was a busy day today, but let's put that aside.

I came home from swimming lessons with T2 at about 18:00, always a difficult time to find parking. We were still in our swim shoes and her hair was sopping wet. There was only 1 open spot close to our apartment, but there was an auto parked across two spots preventing its use. I pulled up next to the spot, because the car was running and there was someone reading, but that person didn't move, although he saw me.

So I went down the block, we put our regular shoes on, and I walked back to our building. After crossing the street and passing the running car, I thought. Then, holding my wet 4 year old's hand, I knocked on the window. He looked up, ignored me, looked down. I knocked again. He rolled his window down. I begged his pardon and asked if he knew that he was blocking two spots (and yes, I was speaking German). He responded in his native German, that he was perfectly aware. I pointed out that it was impolite for him to do so (unhöflich) and he agreed and said he didn't care and rolled his window up. As he was doing so, I thanked him for displaying such perfectly German behaviors.

That's not what made me laugh. What made me laugh was that after I went home, I was still so annoyed at this flaming a****l**h that I grabbed my NikonD50 and went down to take a picture of his car. If he had asked, my response was going to be that I wanted his picture on my wall, so when I wanted to know what a perfect a****l***h looked like, I could look at him. Or I would look for a website that posted pictures of such, like we have for pervs in NYC.

However, for some reason, he was so frightened of my camera that as he saw me approaching he ran away. I'm not certain why, because being an a* is definitely not illegal in Germany (there are many perfectly open and self satisfied such here), but perhaps he felt that parking in a spot marked Artz was (it's not).
Here you see him fleeing.

I chuckled for the next hour.

When I discussed this with the German when he got home from München, he asked me why I felt this was such German behavior, rather than just that of any old a**. Because he stated it right out, I said. In NY, the answer would have been (even if not true): "Oh, sorry, I didn't notice. Have a great day."
After he thought for a second, he agreed: it was indeed a particularly German interaction. Here the rudeness is straight out and direct, as a German would say.

06 April 2011

Family Photos

We haven't taken a real set of family photos since we moved here from the US. I've really felt the lack, but at least we have had a few school photos for the children. When T2 didn't have a smile in this year's lot, my tremendous dissatisfaction came to a head and I tried like mad to find the equivalent of Sear's Photo Studios: decent to good shots at a decent to good price. I am happy to pay a sitting fee and to commit to purchasing a series of photos, but I want to have the data burned on disc. I don't believe in "binding the mouths of the kine", but to be told that I should expect to pay 14€ and up per print and then, if I wanted the data, 25€ per shot, blew my mind. And that's with an affiliate verein discount!

No way.

I found a fabulous woman who has a wonderful way with children. She has opened a new studio in Berlin and I can say nothing but wonderful things about her. We paid a fair sum and we are satisfied and we have our data. Her fees are for her skill and her time and those are worth the money we paid. Rosa Reibke's prices for prints are great and to be able to own our data at the end makes us very happy. I hope her new business is extremely successful, because it deserves to be.