31 July 2011

What I am reading: July 2011

Oops- I was in Rome over the end of the month and forgot to hit publish. Sometime soon, when life is less hectic (or the kids go back to school) I will finish my posts on what a great time we had there and what we have been doing over the summer.
  1. Heartless (July 2011) by Gail Carriger:4th in the series starring Alexia Maccon (nee Tarabotti), a preternatural (someone who causes supernatural entities to become mortal and can totally disperse ghosts or poltergeists, thus considered a threat by many supernaturals) living in a Steampunk Victorian parallel world, married to a Scottish werewolf member of the Ton, and friend of a Vampire Rove. I like the series very much, finding it light, amusing and charming. I enjoy it more than the Regencies I read so many years ago, because the plots are more interesting. Unlike a friend who can't stand the "incorrectness" of some of the terms used in address and so forth, I think that if the world is paranormal, I won't hold the author to the niceties of actual forms of English social address.(DT)
  2. Cast in Chaos (2010) by Michelle Sagara: The sixth book in the Chronicles of Elantra, following the maturation of Kaylin Neya, a human Hawk (police officer equivalent) in a world ruled by Dragons and with multiple immortal and mortal species, of which humans are the fastest breeding and least powerful. As in Nix' Abhorsen series, words are reality in a very literal way and Neya is, literally, covered with words. Well put together, always interesting, with a world I find fascinating and consistent yet always with new facets. Worth starting at the beginning: it would be a terrible shame to miss the character development and relationship and world building by starting out of order or skipping a book. This novel sees more development of both major and lesser characters and the introduction of a new species and thus validation of the "Parallel Worlds" theory that suggested Humans and other non-Immortal species are not originally of the world. (DT)
  3. Twilight's Dawn (March 2011) by Anne Bishop: A collection of 4 stories in the world of the Black Jewels. The last, The High Lord's Daughter, brings Janelle and Daemon's love story to a conclusion that had some fans very angry and which resulted in my not reading it for a few months after getting it. But, with a few weaknesses in plot, I think it was good and also satisfying. I enjoyed the stories and I hope that there may be a few more out there, waiting to fill in the plot points that we read referenced but not described.
  4. Dead in the Family (2010) by Charlaine Harris: I reread this story prior to packing it away with another box of books in the cellar and all aflush with the happiness of the 4th season of the HBO series starting. It's always interesting to see the difference between the books and the series (which I find extremely well done). I'll have to pick up the next one soon but I have put it off (for more than a year now) because I am so annoyed that the Kindle price is as high as that of a physical book. I may wait to pick it up in PB in the US in the fall.
  5. River Marked (2011) by Patricia Briggs: Also reread, before packing. I like Patricia Briggs. Like Ilona Andrews, her work just keeps getting better (and she has been doing it longer). Her world is closer to ours and her protagonist (in this sixth book), Mercy Thompson, mechanic, new-bride to Alpha werewolf and neighbor Adam, coyote avatar and Blackfeet, is just neat: her development as a person and a woman has been realistic and all the characters are well-done.
  6. Pale Demon (2011) by Kim Harrison: Another re-read, before packing it away. Who would have known, when I first read Kim Harrison writing as Dawn Cook, that she would become a huge seller under her pseudonym. That is, I loved her original series but at the same time I was reading her as herself, I was also reading and enjoying her as Kim Harrison. Both series have a basic underpinning of science and genetics, with her Harrison series riding the paranormal wave and bringing her to NYT bestseeler stardom. This is her 9th The Hollows novel starring witch with a genetic twist Rachel Morgan and I enjoy each one of them. Strong and interesting female characters, interesting world, worth reading. What's not to like about a world partially emptied of humans due to a pandemic caused by genetically mutated tomatoes (attack of the killer tomatoes:)), leading to the revelation of the paranormal (and immune) witches, vampires and other species living in our midst? (DT).

26 July 2011

What I see from my kitchen window...

The wall that I look out onto in my Hof has been a rather dreary sight: dark and stained and with cracks. This year there are tax incentives for weatherization of real property and the owner of the apartment building I face has taken advantage of it.

It has taken several weeks (the contract clearly allowed the insulation, refacing and painting to not be a priority for the company) but the wall is now finished and painted a gleaming and beautiful cream, over the repairs, insulation and stucco already applied.

It looks just beautiful and, I have read, improves the energy utilization by up to 40%. It even improves the energy utilization in my apartment as the light that it reflects into my kitchen allows me to not use electricity for lighting for a longer period every day.

I also enjoyed seeing the process of building the infrastructure and then the deconstruction of the scaffolding and the machines as they slowly gathered their equipment to leave.

24 July 2011

Fall in North Rhine Westphalia

Our Spring and Summer in Germany apparently came in April and May so now that we are in July, we are in Fall (almost winter).
Last week T1 told me that it wasn't summer and asked for her long pants back and this week T2 is out gathering apples from my parents-in-law's front garden tree (yes, we ate them).
It's hard to imagine what blue skies and warm weather might be like...

22 July 2011


One of the things I like most about Germany is the recycling. This may seem a little odd, but because I live in a developed country and consume my share of resources and create my share of junk, I feel pretty guilty. I am watching the end of the world as I know it, seeing the ice caps melt and the glaciers disappear, fish are being wiped out in the wild (and I still eat tuna) and the climate is whipsawing from one extreme to the other.
The least I can do is to not use air conditioning (I have a ceiling and standing fans, when necessary), hang my clothes to dry (although not sheets and towels) and recycle. This is what I have accumulated since Tuesday.

The first picture is paper, magazines and a shirt: the magazines will go to friends interested in catching up on US news, the shirt in orange recycling and the paper in paper. The next photo is 4 days worth of Grüne Punkt. That is plastics and metals and foil and certain packaging (like juice and cartons).
Below you see 5 days worth of ordinary paper recycling. Not pictured are the bowl of organic (bio) waste and the glass containers that will go, respectively, in Bio and Glass recycling containers.
It's not rocket science, so I wonder why so many people don't participate in recycling?

19 July 2011

Decluttering the Kellar

The thing I miss most about the US right now is having a garden. This was a bit sublimated when we had the roof terrace, but now that we have been here in our 3rd (4th) floor apartment for over a year, the cellar is a bit crowded with all the pots and garden things that used to be in active use and no longer are. One of the things that we did this year was till an area at the kita because they wanted to start a garden. We also gave them a few of our pots for the back area and I enjoy seeing them put to use.
There are actually "Kleingarten Kolonies" here in Berlin, but they aren't the community gardens that I am used to in the States, leased at a nominal fee and actually used for gardening. The ones here seem to be permanent temporary summer residences, usually with a building taking up much of the square footage and where Germans sleep and grill and live during summers (electricity, water and satellite dishes seen on the roofs). They range from 6,000€ to 34,000€ and really are not possible if all one wants is to raise some tomatoes. If we actually stay in Berlin long-term and don't get a small place back in the US for summers, we will probably start looking at one of these.

(crosspost to other blog)

06 July 2011

Pop Up Books: Bücherbox

July 6/I was walking back from a meeting with some friends when I ran across this movable art piece. I saw one at Grünewoche, but this was the first I have seen "in the wild". This is a BücherboXX
and it's both a piece of art and a usable "lending library"— one can take or leave books.

04 July 2011

Selling stuff in Berlin

I keep on reading about other expats (and Germans) who are successful at selling things on-line in Germany and I wonder how they do it?
We have sold a few things, generally for very little, but it seems that (in Berlin at least) many Germans like to sell their used items for 95-120% of the original price, but hope to buy used items for 5-10%. This is a bit annoying. In my quest to declutter, I have been doing an awful lot of actually putting things outside with a sign saying that it's free for the taking (and it seems to get taken) or running it to libraries (books) or the recycling hof (where folks stand outside to take the electronics).
I had been trying to sell my Nikon D70s for months, priced at quite a bit below lower-level DSLRs and I just kept being spammed or having offers for ridiculously low prices. I tried to sell it for credit at a local high-end camera store and they offered me 60€ while they had the exact same camera, with a lower level lens (I was offering the whole kit) for 350€.
Posted it in Munich, had two messages within a day, first person to make appointment bought it for my requested 200€ ( a very good price, I think, for the whole kit and accessories).
The difference between Munich and Berlin.

03 July 2011


I was chatting with a friend yesterday about decluttering. She is a tremendously busy woman, with a tremendously busy family and they have been running at full pace for years, at a pace I can't even imagine keeping up with. She has a large house and three kids that keep getting bigger and busier, and she needs to declutter but can't find the time.

So I started to tell her what I do and a lot of what I do I take from Flylady. And it's a constant and ongoing struggle for me. When the kids stay home from school, it's like the whole apartment takes two steps backward. I can't keep up with all the water colors drying on top of flat surfaces, on top of the books that I have stacked on those surfaces, the toys that migrate to the living room and office/playroom. Most especially, I have a book problem and the recent shipment of 6 boxes of ARCs from BEA hasn't made it any easier.

Then, this week we made the decision that T2's adenoids really will need to come out and thus we needed to have this and this. And I read a review that made me think I needed this (can you imagine ll 10 books in one volume?). So, more books enter the house. I did pack up two boxes that will go into the Kellar and empty shelf space, so books can move from horizontal spaces to shelves.

The German was laughing,because all of the things I was talking about and suggesting were things that I struggle with. But the thing about clutter and housework is, one can't do it and be done. It repeats, grows and expands. The goal is to maintain and to increase the area of control and to, slowly, try to bring order out of chaos. Toward that goal, it helps to create borders and boundaries because the psychological benefit of expanding the cleared space is great. It also allows one to overcome the despair of believing that the chaos is insurmountable when one starts with the concept that 15 minutes a day is all we need to start with.

In my friend's honor, after hanging up, I did 30 minutes of the more fine decluttering, before sitting down with the German and watching the second episode of the fourth season of True Blood.