30 November 2012

What I am reading: November 2012 and thoughts on e-books

So far I have packed just on 24 boxes of books while putting about 164 out to be taken by passer-bys. I probable have only a few more boxes to pack (of books!) and about 20-30 more books to give away. We have also packed 4 boxes of clothes, which 1. tells you how many clothes we have in comparison to printed material and 2. that we actually will need to take clothes in suitcases with us for the 7-10 weeks that it will take our container to follow us.

One might think that I would be reading a lot while I pack books away, and to a certain extent I have been. But mostly, I have been reading on my reader,  A new Lois McMaster Bujold came out and after reading it, I realized that when I bought the hardback copy of Cryoburn from Baen, it inclued a CD with a large majority of her Vorkosigan books on it. So I reread them all. Then I bought one that wasn't on the compilation and reread it. Then I reread Captain Vorpatril's Alliance and then I reread Cryoburn.

This is what I mean by saying that when I buy a hardcover, I should get an e-copy included. When I bought that HB of Cryoburn, I already owned everything that Bujold had written. But all those books were (and are) in storage. The HB cost the equivalent of buying 5 of those books in e-form (Baen prices its non-DRMed books at a very reasonable $6/copy when it is out of e-ARC form). So rather than waiting until this new book came out in PB, I went ahead and bought it in HC and Baen included a mass of interesting other material (including speeches given, travel commentary, and previous books in the series). They weren't all included, and so when I went on this reading jag I re-purchased one and may go ahead and purchase another and now they have even more incremental income.
And while I was there, I bought a few monthly bundles, and thus some books I wasn't interested in (whose authors I will now give a try) because at $18 for the monthly bundle, if three of the books intrigue me, taking a gamble on the others that I get for free is well worth it (it's a great upsell). And this is what publishers should be doing, rather than setting their prices above a PB price, not ever re-adjusting prices (as the books age and the PB comes out) and basically making it cheaper and easier for me to buy the physical book when, by heavens, I (and my poor beleaguered spouse) want to stop buying the majority of non-specialized (cookbooks, illustrated books, pop up books, children's books) in physical form.

So, here is my November reading jag:
  1.  Steel's Edge (Nov 27, 2012)by Ilona Andrews: the last of her Edge series and a good read. Now waiting for her next Kate Daniels book.
  2. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance  (Nov 6, 2012)by Lois McMaster Bujold:Started off my reading jag and winds up Ivan Vorpatril's stories. Comes before Cryoburn in internal chronology.
  3. Cordelia's Honor (1999): Shards of Honor and Barrayar (Hugo winner).
  4. Young Miles (2003):  previously published in parts as The Warrior's Apprentice, The Mountains of Mourning, and The Vor Game.
  5.  Miles Errant (2002): Originally published as Borders of Infinity, Brothers in Arms, and Mirror Dance.
  6.  Miles, Mystery and Mayhem (2003): previously published in parts as Cetaganda, Ethan of Athos, and Labyrinth. This is the first unified edition.
  7. Memory (1997): Miles sabotages himself out of his Naismith life. Is it possible to find meaning afterward.
  8. Miles in Love (2008):  Two complete novels and a short novel in one large volume: Komarr, A Civil Campaign and Winterfair Gifts— which I hadn't read before.
  9. Miles, Mutants and Microbes (2008): Two complete novels and a short novel in one large volume: Falling Free, Labyrinth, Diplomatic Immunity.
  10. Cryoburn (Sept 27, 2011): The culmination of the story arch that started before Miles' birth as Aral Vorkosigan's story comes to an end. I was so sorry to see the end of the Vorkosigan saga, so glad to see that there would be another, and dearly hope that we may see another focussing on Miles and his young family and extended family.

24 November 2012

Items for sale in Berlin...

For anyone who might be interested:

Highlights are the Dyson, the Kitchen-Aid, Gas Grill, and full size/double Simmons Beautyrest mattress and box-spring.

I will be adding more pages as I go, if you go to home: http://leavingberlinnow.blogspot.de
and look through the "Pages" drop down menu you will see all the pages as I add them and update what's available (and can see what our apartment looked like:-).)





07 November 2012

President Obama's Acceptance Speech and Transcript

OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.
Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward.
It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.
Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come.
I want to thank every American who participated in this election. Whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time.

By the way, we have to fix that.

Whether you pounded the pavement or picked up the phone. Whether you held an Obama sign or a Romney sign, you made your voice heard and you made a difference.

I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign.

We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honor and applaud tonight.
In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.

I want to thank my friend and partner of the last four years, America's happy warrior, the best vice president anybody could ever hope for, Joe Biden.

And I wouldn't be the man I am today without the woman who agreed to marry me 20 years ago.
Let me say this publicly: Michelle, I have never loved you more. I have never been prouder to watch the rest of America fall in love with you, too, as our nation's first lady.
Sasha and Malia, before our very eyes you're growing up to become two strong, smart beautiful young women, just like your mom.

And I'm so proud of you guys. But I will say that for now one dog's probably enough.
To the best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics...

The best. The best ever. Some of you were new this time around, and some of you have been at my side since the very beginning.

But all of you are family. No matter what you do or where you go from here, you will carry the memory of the history we made together and you will have the life-long appreciation of a grateful president. Thank you for believing all the way, through every hill, through every valley.
You lifted me up the whole way and I will always be grateful for everything that you've done and all the incredible work that you put in.

I know that political campaigns can sometimes seem small, even silly. And that provides plenty of fodder for the cynics that tell us that politics is nothing more than a contest of egos or the domain of special interests. But if you ever get the chance to talk to folks who turned out at our rallies and crowded along a rope line in a high school gym, or saw folks working late in a campaign office in some tiny county far away from home, you'll discover something else.

You'll hear the determination in the voice of a young field organizer who's working his way through college and wants to make sure every child has that same opportunity.

You'll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer who's going door to door because her brother was finally hired when the local auto plant added another shift.

You'll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of a military spouse whose working the phones late at night to make sure that no one who fights for this country ever has to fight for a job or a roof over their head when they come home.

That's why we do this. That's what politics can be. That's why elections matter. It's not small, it's big. It's important. Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy.

That won't change after tonight, and it shouldn't. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty. We can never forget that as we speak people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.
But despite all our differences, most of us share certain hopes for America's future. We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers.

A country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation, with all the good jobs and new businesses that follow.

We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.

We want to pass on a country that's safe and respected and admired around the world, a nation that is defended by the strongest military on earth and the best troops this -- this world has ever known.
But also a country that moves with confidence beyond this time of war, to shape a peace that is built on the promise of freedom and dignity for every human being. We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America, open to the dreams of an immigrant's daughter who studies in our schools and pledges to our flag.

To the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner.
To the furniture worker's child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a scientist, an engineer or an entrepreneur, a diplomat or even a president -- that's the future we hope for. That's the vision we share. That's where we need to go -- forward.

That's where we need to go.

Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It's not always a straight line. It's not always a smooth path.

By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won't end all the gridlock or solve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward. But that common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over.

And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you've made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.

Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual.

You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We've got more work to do.

But that doesn't mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our Democracy does not end with your vote. America's never been about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That's the principle we were founded on.

This country has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military in history, but that's not what makes us strong. Our university, our culture are all the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

What makes America exceptional are the bonds that hold together the most diverse nation on earth.
The belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations. The freedom which so many Americans have fought for and died for come with responsibilities as well as rights. And among those are love and charity and duty and patriotism. That's what makes America great.

I am hopeful tonight because I've seen the spirit at work in America. I've seen it in the family business whose owners would rather cut their own pay than lay off their neighbors, and in the workers who would rather cut back their hours than see a friend lose a job.

I've seen it in the soldiers who reenlist after losing a limb and in those SEALs who charged up the stairs into darkness and danger because they knew there was a buddy behind them watching their back.

I've seen it on the shores of New Jersey and New York, where leaders from every party and level of government have swept aside their differences to help a community rebuild from the wreckage of a terrible storm.

And I saw just the other day, in Mentor, Ohio, where a father told the story of his 8-year-old daughter, whose long battle with leukemia nearly cost their family everything had it not been for health care reform passing just a few months before the insurance company was about to stop paying for her care.

I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father, but meet this incredible daughter of his. And when he spoke to the crowd listening to that father's story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes, because we knew that little girl could be our own.

And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That's who we are. That's the country I'm so proud to lead as your president.

And tonight, despite all the hardship we've been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I've never been more hopeful about our future.

I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. I'm not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight.

I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.

America, I believe we can build on the progress we've made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you're willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.

And together with your help and God's grace we will continue our journey forward and remind the world just why it is that we live in the greatest nation on Earth.

Thank you, America. God bless you. God bless these United States.

(with thanks to The Christian Post)

Tears of Joy and Relief

Four More Years

06 November 2012

More Ch.ch.ch.changes....

It's been a while since I wrote a real post and that's because we have been completely up in the air about life and what we are doing in it.

Short form:

We are having twins in the spring and we will be moving to upstate NY in late December (if the container actually gets scheduled in December and I am feeling nervous about it).

So if anyone in Berlin is reading this, we are looking for a nachmieter who would like an apartment full of furniture, lights, appliances, and a kitchen- feel free to contact me for more info. We love our apartment and our (Wilmersdorf) neighborhood.

We vacillated between NY and Munich for a long time– even checked out houses and neighborhoods in Munich over the fall holidays. But family and personal reasons cast the vote for NY, for at least the next three to four years.

That means I have been boxing books (up to #12) while waiting to hear from the moving firm as to when we will be containerized. Have put several boxes out to give away, but I think that I have overloaded the appetite of my neighborhood for free English-language books and the 50 books left over (and added to) will need to be dropped at a Buecherboxx this weekend.

So, I am well, but exhausted. Twins and being older make this pregnancy both harder and requiring more testing and resting than either of my earlier ones.

In addition, having our Internet go out for 11 days right after the decision was made made things even tougher: hard to list the apartment or address, hard to follow up on lost luggage of friends visiting from CA (and never found, though we called repeatedly:-( ). The constant calls to O2, met by menu-driven and incorrect responses, the dragging a heavy computer off to Starbucks, the new router that did not solve the problem, the complete disconnect while Hurricane Sandy was raging in my area and my dad was undergoing surgery... it was very stressful.

Finally, a third-line tech managed to fix the issue, although after we gushed gratitude, he said he had no idea how he had fixed it, because the type of problem that we had (internet down, phone working) was actually "not possible".

We were still very grateful and grateful that he had listened long enough to see the strangeness and think that some of the issue might actually have to do with the phone and its switch being in some way crossed with the internet.

While this was going on, we were running about, setting up Drs appts, making others, having exams, having field trips, being visited by the tooth fairy: life is chaotic.

31 October 2012

What I am reading: October 2012

It's clear that reading e-books significantly increases the number of books that I read. As does not taking a German class this semester, travelling for extended car trips, visiting cities without the kids (to consider moving there) and so on.

My internet was down for 11 days (fodder for another post), so I'll just get this up now- I wasn't able to write reviews while I was reading, but, without internet or TV, I did read an awful lot.
  1. Cotillion (1953) by Georgette Heyer: Obviously a re-read. (E-book)
  2. Cut, Crop & Die by Joanne Campbell Slan: Liked the free dowload enough to buy another one. Enjoyed the single mom crafter protagonist.  (E-book)
  3. Ring of Fire III by Eric Flint: Short stories filling in interim gaps in the Ring of Fire world. (Baen E-book)
  4. 1635: Papal Stakes (Oct 2012) by Eric Flint and Charles Gannon: (Baen E-book)
  5. Fire Season by David Weber and Jane Lindskold: The sequel to A Beautiful Friendship (reviewed last month) continues the introduction of tree cats to Manticorean society and the founding of the Harrington clan. Loved it. (Baen E-book)
  6. Bloodstone (A Reluctant Witch Mystery) by Barbra Annino :  (E-book)
  7. In Deep Voodoo by Stephanie Bond:  Fluffy and free- I liked this story set in Louisiana. (E-book)
  8. Longeye by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: This is the sequel to Duainfey, which I haven't read. Very different from Lee/Miller's Korval series, this is the story of a part-Fey human, taken to the world where the Fey rule. (Baen E-book)
  9. Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara:  Another in the Elantris series. Eagerly awaited, as always. (E-book)
  10. Elantris by Brandon Sanderson: I have had this floating around for a while, finally read and enjoyed it very much. Sandersin is a great writer.(E-book)
  11. Princess Paisley by Chautona Havig: A bit Christian for my tastes, but the fairy tale was nice. (E-book)
  12. Emile and the Dutchman by Joel Rosenberg: (Baen E-book)
  13. A Fall of Water
  14. The Force of Wind
  15. This Same Earth
  16. A Hidden Fire by Elizabeth Hunter: Liked this quartet of books enough thata fter reading the first (free) download, I bought the remainder of the series. Extremely well-written vampire series, with a connection to the elements.  (all E-books)
  17. Always the Designer, Never the Bride 
  18. Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride by Sandra D. Bricker: Free Amazon downloads, set in the same group of friends who find happiness and relationships. Nice, light reads.(E-book)
  19. Trouble in Mudbug (Ghost-in-law mystery) by Jane DeLeon: Free download. Light mystery with ghost, a protagonist who is a scientist, and an investigator love interest who respects her. Enjoyed it. (E-Book) 

30 September 2012

What I am Reading: September 2012

It's a weird month: I feel like I have been sleeping a lot (and I have), but reading a lot. It's amazing how much time I have when I am not taking a language class full time. I've been a bit unwell, but am feeling better and hope to be more energetic by next month. The huge number of e-books I have read make it clear that when I can bring books with me wherever I go, and start a new one whenever I want, I read a lot more. Clearly, I have also watched less TV (except the Castle season opener— va-voom! and done almost no blogging:-). Also some bunches of time spent waiting for appointments (it's interesting to see how I have become extraordinarily punctual (to far too early) whenever I don't have the dead weight of having to get the kids ready too: it's as if I lose 100 pounds and cover the distance in half the time.

  1. Making Money (2007) by Terry Pratchett: Was given a copy of this recently and (re-read) it. One of the Moist von Lipwig series, as he is recruited from the Ankh-Morpork Post Office to revitalize the financial system and the Royal Mint. Moving from the Gold Standard might be easier if he had an idea as to what the basis for his new "notes" currency might be.... Lots of fun and I need to see if I missed the foreshadowed next novel when von Lipwig fixes the tax system. This copy is a bit mildewy (and I am very sensitive to book blight) so I will be passing it on.
  2. Green Rider (1998) by Kristen Britain: I think I first picked this up when it was published and couldn't get into it. Given a free copy at Worldcon this year, I tried again. Still couldn't get through it.
  3. Invisible Pleasures (2005) by Mary Frances Zambreno: A nice collection of stories with women protagonists as the unifying theme.
  4. Stalking the Zombie (2012) by Mike Resnick: The con book for Chicon 7 collects all the John Justin Mallory shorts (and an extra for the con), starring a hard-boiled detective who falls into "another" Manhattan, where demons, leprechauns and cat people are reality. The feel is 1940's and the first of these stories appeared in 1991 (the last 2012, of course). Lots of fun.
  5. Masters of the Galaxy (2012) by Mike Resnick: Amusing to read this next to the above, as it is a collection of Resnick's short stories featuring Jake Masters, a Noir detective in the future. The last story, Real Jake, appears here for the first time (and is the weakest) but the whole collection is fun, Golden-Agey and light.
  6. A Host of Furious Fancies (pubbed in this format 9/1/12)by Mercedes Lackey and and Rosemary Edghill:  This book is comprised of Beyond World’s End and Spirits White as Lightning, originally published Jan 2001 Dec 2001. I looked those dates up on Kirkus and it was amazing how they panned the first and gave a good review to the second. In actuality, I liked them both and thought the writing level was roughly equivalent. I think there is a series related to this, but I haven't read it. These stories follow Eric Banyon as he returns, from Faerie, to Juilliard, to finish his degree and reintegrate in the human world. (Baen E-book)  
  7. Monster Hunter Legion by Larry Correia : The 4th book in the Monster Hunters series (I picked the other I have read, Monster Hunter Vendetta, up in a Baen bundle as well).  I found it, once again, light and amusing male-oriented fantasy. (Baen E-book)
  8. Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews (2012):  This should have been listed last month, as I pre-ordered it and read it as soon as it came out (on July 31), but I didn't finish it before I posted my last book list. Although this is the 6th in the Kate Daniels series, it's actually an Andrea Nash novel, starring Kate's hyena-Were partner, formerly Order Knight , Andrea. A good story, going deeper into her motivations and character (touched upon a sshe has been present in the former books), giving us Kate and Curran as side-plot, and allowing us to explore more of the interesting world they inhabit. I liked it a lot. The Magic Gifts novella, which I had already read, is included and is a stand-alone 100+page story starring Kate and Curran and a misadventure as they attempt to have a normal date night. Also wonderful. Ilona Andrews is one of my favorite authors (yes, I know she is a husband/wife writing team). (E-book)
  9. Ghost Ship (Aug /1/11) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: I'm a  huge fan of the Liaden universe and this is another set in the Theo Waitley cycle. Since Theo is growing up in this series, as a Liaden and a pilot raised in a non-Liaden world by those who don't understand pilots, I assume the cycle is aimed a bit at the YA market. Here Theo starts to see how her destiny will take her into the machinations and turmoil between the Department of the Interior and Liad and why she is entangled.
  10. Dragon Ship (Sep /1/12) by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: This is what e-books are all about. After picking up Ghost Ship at Worldcon and reading it, I looked up its sequel, saw I could get it at Baen, purchased a package (which included some of the other Baen books you see here) and was able to enjoy reading it immediately. Theo has finally formed a temporary partnership with the Ancient ship that has been looking for her, as they both decide whether to make the Pilot/Ship relationship permanent. She takes on crew, meets her relatives, and the Department of the Interior evinces determined interest. We also learn far more of the Uncle and there is news of Daav and Aelliana. Can't wait for the next! (The downside of getting a sequel as soon as I want it is now waiting more than a year for the one after!) (Baen E-book)
  11. How to Drive a Dragon Crazy (2012) by G.A. Aiken: I find Aiken (aka S. laurenston) extremely amusing. Under her other name, she writes about animal shifters (wolf, dog, bear, hyenas etc, and their clans); under this name she writes about Dragon shifters and the fantasy world of magic and gods that they live in. This is the story of Éibhear the Blue and Izzy, about ten years after we last saw them. They are both war hardened and finally ready for each other. Always fun series. (E-book)
  12. A Beautiful Friendship (Oct 2011) by David Weber:  Weber returns to his Honorverse, but centuries before Honor Harrington's time, to the original colonization of  Sphinx. Stephanie Harrington is a teen taken away from her friends and now on a far more dangerous planet, with her normal freedoms curtailed. But she is smart, has great parents and is always curious. That curiosity leads herto discover what seems to be nabbing the "celery" that the colonists are growing and the answer turns out to be a hitherto undiscovered native species. I thought this was a great book and I expect it should be great for my older daughter somewhere around 6th grade (although for SF&F reading children, maybe even earlier). I expect I will pick the sequel up next month. (Baen E-book)
  13. Opal Fire (A Reluctant Witch Mystery) (March 2, 2011)by Barbra Annino:  I picked this up when it was offered free and I really enjoyed it (not always the case). Stacey Justice is a reporter, but she is also the daughter and niece of witches and has a role to play: a role she has been rebelling against. In this debut novel, her cousin's bar goes up in flames and she needs to use both her reporter's intelligence and her witch connections to understand why and prevent her cousin from being jailed for arson. I liked it and bought the next one (showing the success of the free book program at getting readers to try new authors. (Free Amazon E-book)
  14. Ring of Fire II (ed. Eric Flint)(1/27/09): I forget how much I enjoy Flints' shared universe (from his 1632 series) until I read something else in it again. He does a very good job of editing in this collection and I am glad that it was included in a Baen bundle- to my non-professional eye, all the historical bits are reasonable (in a sideways world) and it seems the authors do some research. I like the novella by Flint at the end best, but enjoyed all the stories.(Baen E-book) 
  15. 1634: The Baltic War by Eric Flint and David Weber (10/28/08): It's actually really hard to say anything about this inter-linked series based on the concept that an unknown alien force called the "Ring of Fire" has brought a small West Virginian mining town back to the Germanies in 1632 (the starting book). The history as it starts (and then starts to change as the world reacts to the history in the libraries)is so well-researched and so interestingly moved sideways (as the world that was will never be the world that will now be, but people do things like murder individuals who would have been party to events in the future) that I just find it fascinating to read. Partly because I like the time period, partly because it is set in the Germanies not far from where I live. For instance, here  France, Spain, England, and Denmark— in the League of Ostend —are besieging the German city of Lübeck, a seaside area not far from me and a base of American naval strength. (Baen E-book)
  16. 1635: The Dreeson Incident  by Eric Flint and Virginia DeMarce (8/31/10):  In this, a significant event takes place that allows the up-timers to used the CoCs to create a Krystalnacht that tries to remove the taint from the word. (Baen E-book)
  17. 1635: The Eastern Front  by Eric Flint (11/29/11):  This really leads directly into the following book and since I read them one after the other, it's hard to separate which part is in which. Here Stearns loses the presidency to Wilhelm Wettin and Gustavus Adolphus brings him in as a general into the army, leading the USE (United States of Europe) brigades. There is more development of Princess Kristina of Sweden and Prince Ulrik of Denmark.(Baen E-book)
  18. 1636: The Saxon Uprising by Eric Flint (3/27/12): Oxenstern pulls an Alexander Haig (I am in Charge) when Adolphus is injured and attempts to destroy the political compacts binding the Empire. Rebecca Abrabenal shows her stuff and there is both a Polish incursion and a siege of Dresden (which I have visited several times). Waiting for the sequel:-).(Baen E-book)
  19. Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning:  This was another free Amazon book (and even more successful at pulling me in than the above, as I wound up buying the rest of the series and reading through it in just a few days.) (book 1)(free Amazon E-book)
  20. Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning:  (book 2)(E-book)
  21. Faefever by Karen Marie Moning:(book 3)  (E-book)
  22. Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning:(book 4) (E-book)
  23. Shadowfever, A MaccKayla Lane Novel by Karen Marie Moning: (book 5 and last) I very much enjoyed this series, which became far more intense (and triggering with a graphic and violent rape) than I had expected. Some serious end of the world activity. I very much enjoyed the growth of the characters, the description of what would happen as the Fae impinge on humanity (spoiler- humanity doesn't have much of a chance) and the writing. I read these so quickly, just to find out what would happen next, that I expect I will read them again to enjoy the story at a slower pace. But definitely not for children!(E-book)

19 September 2012

Rosh HaShonah: Potato Kugel and Honey Cake

And the salad we had.
Trying out some new recipes:

Potato Kugel- Trying this one from the Serious Eats website.

Note from Arthur Schwartz: All the old recipes for potato kugel come out sort of heavy and gluey, which is not at all the kugel taste of today in New York City. These days, the kugel sold in the take-out shops and delicatessens, not to mention those made at home by modern balabustas, are still full of good onion flavor but they are high and light.
What may seem like an inordinate number of eggs is the secret. Some recipes call for baking powder, too, but I've found the baking powder does absolutely nothing and lots of eggs are definitely the ticket to lightness. It also helps to use Russet potatoes, baking potatoes, which were not nearly as available in grandma's day as they are today. Drier Russets produce a fluffier kugel.
  • 3 pounds Russet (baking) potatoes (about 14 smaller)
  • 12 eggs
  • 2 medium onions (12 ounces), peeled
  • 2/3 cup matzoh meal
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (for a parve pudding) or schmaltz
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
  2. Peel the potatoes. Keep in a bowl of cold water until ready, but don't leave them there longer than a few hours.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, until well mixed.
  4. Grate the onions. Add into the bowl with the eggs and stir them in. Stir in the matzoh meal.
  5. Drain the potatoes. Grate in three batches.
  6. As each batch of potatoes is grated, add to a strainer placed over a bowl. With a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon, press out the moisture. Immediately, put potatoes in the onion and egg mixture.  Season the batter with salt and pepper.
  7. Pour 2 tablespoons of  oil into a 13 by 9-inch baking pan, preferably glass. Turn the pan to coat the bottom and half way up the sides with the oil. Place the empty pan in the preheated oven for 5 minutes.

  8. Remove the oiled pan from the oven and pour the potato batter into the pan. The oil will come up the sides of the pan, especially in the corners. Press the batter down near the corners to lightly to fill them with potato batter. It's a good thing when the oil comes over the top of the batter. It adds crispness. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of oil on the surface of the batter.

  9. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

  10. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving, preferably somewhat longer. Serve hot or warm, freshly baked or reheated.

  11. The kugel reheats extremely well in a 350°F oven, uncovered so the top can crisp up additionally. Reheating time depends on the size of the piece being reheated, and at what temperature the kugel is when going into the oven. It can be kept in the refrigerator for at least four days, and for several months in the freezer. It is best to defrost before reheating.
--- Review: The husband loved it. For me, it was too egg-y and not potatoe-ey enough, although the overall taste was good. Next time, I will replace the matza meal with flour, increase the onions and perhaps dice rather than grate (to give more texture), and cut the eggs by three to see how that tastes.-- we ate it for the next few days and it was still fine, perhaps even better re-heated, but I will reduce eggs next time.

Honey Cake- the last I tried was too thick, so this time I am trying Smitten Kitchen's version. (I am adding my changes/deletions directly to the recipe above, some of them taken from the advice given in updates and in the comments on the recipe.)

Majestic and Moist Honey Cake
Adapted from Marcy Goldman’s Treasure of Jewish Holiday Baking

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1  1/4 cup warm coffee
1/2 cup fresh orange juice

Fits in three loaf pans, two 9-inch square or round cake pans, one 9 or 10 inch tube or bundt cake pan, a 9 by 13 inch sheet cake or two full-size loaf pans plus two miniature ones.
Preheat oven to 350°F (175C). Generously grease pan(s). For tube or angel food pans, line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper, cut to fit.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Make a well in the center, and add oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee and orange juice. (If you measure your oil before the honey, it will be easier to get all of the honey out- very true!)

Using a strong wire whisk or in an electric mixer on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom.
Spoon batter into prepared pan(s).
Place cake pan(s) on two baking sheets, stacked together (this will ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking faster than the cake interior and top)- did not work with my German pans- they can't stack.

Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake center. For angel and tube cake pans, this will take 60 to 75 minutes, loaf cakes, about 45 to 55 minutes. For sheet style cakes, baking time is 40 to 45 minutes.

Let cake stand fifteen minutes before removing from pan. 

---Review: We all thought it was great and very moist. Next time, I will make the coffee extra-strong (perhaps 3x strength) because I caught just a hint of coffee in there and would have liked more. I hear it's even better the next day and we are looking forward to checking that out.-- It is even better and more moist for the next (several) days. A great recipe.

31 August 2012

What I am Reading: August 2012

Trying to get through more books, so that a bunch can hit the discard/donate pile and more can be sealed up and dropped into the basement:

  1. Rose Cottage (1997) by Mary Stewart: Only a few left to read in the 13 re-issued "A Mary Stewart Modern Classic" and this is the only one that I had not read before. A sweet novel, with a flashback to the earlier (50 years earlier, in 1947) life of the narrator. A redeeming story of reclaiming life after the war as Kate Herrick, a war widow, returns to the village where she was raised by her grand-parents to pack up the cottage which is slated for renovation and sale.
  2. Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes (2010) by Elizabeth Bard: Now this is more like what I am looking for in an expat story than the poseur one I read last week (although it was lightly enjoyable). A real expat, going through much the same trauma as the rest of us, with recipes (some of which actually sound worth trying).
  3. The Trouble with Chickens (a JJ Tully Mystery) by Doreen Cronin (illus by Kevin Cornell) (2011): A hard-boiled detective story with a "retired" search and rescue dog as the reluctant noir hero. A chicken comes to him for help finding her missing chick and there's betrayal, a nemesis and the "start of a beautiful partnership". Not certain either of the kids are ready for this, as my 9 and 6 year old would have no concept of what noir actually means and therefore I am not certain they could get the humor. I found it funny, but not enough. The tentative grade level is 3-7 and ages 8-12 and I'm not certain if that will work, but I will put it on T1's book shelf and see whether she is interested in the next few years.
  4. damsel (2009) by S.E. Connolly (illus by Axel Rator) (2009): A charming book. Aimed at age 8-10 and in my view exactly fitting that spot (and under and over as well: I enjoyed it). Annie Brave is a damsel-in-training, but her father, Tristan Brave, hero-at-large is missing and she thinks that she would rather be a hero and save him than wait for someone else to show. Many adventures and a friend later (whom she rescues from a giant spider), Annie finds her father and lots of other heroes, who all assume that the boy must be the protagonist. A wonderful story and it's going right on my daughters' book shelf. I only wish that S.E. Connolly had written more and hope she is taking time (between taking care of animals, as she is a vet) to write more wonderfully feminist childrens' books.
  5. Berlin Game (1983) by Len Deighton: I'm trying to read more local color books as we consider leaving Berlin this year. Reading this made me realize how very well I now the area that Bernard Samson is travelling in: he was raised in Berlin after the war, works for Britain's Secret Service, and is being called back to Berlin to attempt o rescue the Brahms 4 network. Brahms 4 trusts no one (and should not, as there is a high level leak in London) except Bernard, whose life he saved. Because this is the first of a trilogy, and the first trilogy of a set of three, this will go back on my shelf to be referred to as I acquire the others (and I will). I had forgotten how much I enjoy Deighton's work.
  6. Chalice (9/08) by Robin McKinley: This is just a re-read before I pack it away. I do love McKinley. This is basically Beauty and the Beast, but with a world where demesnes are held together with earthlines and individuals of a Bloodline and power hold the world firm.Mirasol's demesne lost its Master and its Chalice and she became the Chalice, with no preparation or training, leaving behind her woodright. The Master's brother had been sent to the Elemental Mages and there is no other left: the brother attempts to return from the path to Fire, but he has gone almost to far. Together, the new Master and his Chalice attempt to re-enforce the stability of the earthlines against internal and external stress.
  7. Nom de Plume (6/11) by Carmela Ciuraru: A who's who list of pseudonyms: Bröntes, Sand, Eliot,Carroll,Twain with many others ending at Pauline Reage. I enjoyed it very much and it was a great book to pick up, read a story (and learn something, even if I had already been aware) and put down again- for me less than 10 minutes a chapter and thus a great book to have going while reading something else.
  8. and I shall have some peace there (trading in the fast-lane for my own dirt road) (2/11) by Margaret Roach: Not unexpected that after both 9/11 and the worst Depression since the Great, there area  spate of books about being downsized/leaving jobs/changing one's life. Ms. Roach was the former editorial director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and after 9/11, she decided that it was time to make a change in her life: to make her 20-year weekend retreat her pepermanent home. It took several years because of the issues occurring at her employer as well as externalities and so she managed to "retire" into the Depression and need to worry about her freelance income. But the hardest thing is for her to just "relax" into a non-frenetic lifestyle and to become happy inside her own head.  It was hard for me to empathize with her, even as she (a non-cat person) adopts a cat and seems to exhibit some warmth. The following book was more my speed.
  9. Slow Love (8/11) by Dominique Browning: Ms. Browning was the editor-in-chief of Conde Nast (famous for its cannibalistic and back stabbing ways) House and Garden when it folded in 2007 with little notice. Unlike Margaret Roach's decision, it was involuntary and as a divorced mom she had two children to be concerned with (although both were out of the house, one in law school and one in college). As Browning learns to slow down, re-discover a sense of worth without a f-t office job, sells her Westchester home (to decrease her expenses), discovers that a long-term relationship (Mr Big-style) could only exist when she was too busy to actually value herself,  re-shapes her life and moves to her second home, she deals with her own fears and those of her children as she finds new work that allows her to have a "slow"er life, working at what she loves from home. I liked this book and what I discovered of Ms. Browning and her family.
  10. following atticus (9/2011)by Tom Ryan: Tom Ryan adopts a puppy and changes his life- going from a non-athletic truth-seeking newspaper owner/editor in a small New Hampshire town to someone who, with his small dog, climbs all of New Hampshire's 48 (over 4,000 foot) mountain peaks to memorialize a friend. Then they climb them again in the winter and again and again until it culminates in a life change. I used to hike the Adirondacks and a few other peaks and I miss it: it's great to read that someone can start (again) in his 40's and that even a puppy can do so as well! (Although I have no urge for winter camping and I love staying in the mountains, not bagging peaks, per se.)
  11. Plain Truth (2000) by Jodi Picoult: This was in a bag of books an expat leaving Berlin gave me. The alleged murder of a newborn in the Amish community in Lancaster County, PA brings defense attorney Ellie Hathaway to defend the accused girl. We get a look at some of the intricacies of the Amish, how the young are treated, how one is in the Faith and the relationship with the excommunicated or banned. Not my usual type of book, but I finished it.
  12. Cassandra Rising (1978) ed. by Alice Laurance: I ordered this from Amazon used (it's a library discard) some time ago because it includes several stories that I had not read from authors whose stories I always want to read. The foreword by the editor makes it clear how women were still on the outskirts of SF normality in the late 70's. Some of the comments on the stories also make it clear that sexism is the standard, not the exception.  The concept was (19) stories by women in the SF field, some already top names, some up and coming (think Chelsea Quinn Yarbro before the first St. Germain novel!). As one would expect from the title, the general tenor is dystopian (before that became a standardized theme), with a few exception. In the Garden by Zenna Henderson, a favorite, is the best in the book. Night-Rise by Katherine MacLean was very different than anything I remembered, The Vanillamint Tapestry by jacqueline Lichtenberg made me remember why I had enjoyed her work so much in the past, and there were many others worth reading.

17 August 2012

A pleasure to see.

Is it grafitti, or an advertisement or a charming mixture of the two with a bit of artistic allusion thrown in?

It always makes me happy to walk by.

10 August 2012


Ready for school
 Today T2 was eingeschuled.

The welcoming to the community
I went looking to link to the post I made on T1's einschulung, but I see that I have that listed as an "unblogged period". I feel so bad about that, that I will go add a few photos in when I am done with this posting. (and I added one below)

T2 chose her schulranzen and her schultüte and I filled them both up with what was on her list (for the former) and candy and games for the latter. 

We took T1 out of class to join us and all came together in the Aula (auditorium), where the leader of the community, the leader of our associated Rabbi (a lovely man who leads our school Seders and other celebrations), the principal and the head of the schulverein all welcomed us (primarily the children, but also the families) to school. Then the children were called up to the stage by name and class (this year we have three), introduced to their teacher and taken (with their gear) off to spend some time getting to know their classmates, teacher and classroom.

(The cast below is one of the reasons I am so behind in my blogging, as is the boom of my laptop, which goes in for repair next week.)

She's a schulkind!
T1's einschulung, T2 holding tight:-)

31 July 2012

What I am Reading: July 2012

It's amazing how many books one can read when one is jetlagged. I'm working my way through a backlog of books some from BEA's of several years past, while trying to clear the shelves off (and waiting for the new Ilona Andrews to be out the 31st).

  1. Apocolypse to Go (A Nola O'Grady novel) (2012) by Katharine Kerr: It's been a while since I have read anything by Kerr- this is a paranormal with the "Apocolypse Squad", a group that interfaces with the parallel worlds that have been discovered (and are the current "hot" theme). Secret Agen Nola O'Grady and her Israeli seconded partner (also in life) Ari, need to rescue a family member in a parallel and danger SF. Fun read, not very deep. (DTB)
  2. Villain School: Good Curses Evil (2011) by Stephanie S. Sanders: This book is aimed at grades 3-6 and has been sitting on my shelf since I picked it up at a BEA some time ago. I read it to see whether it was appropriate for my soon-to-be fourth grader and it is (although since it is in English, I'll say there may be some words she won't understand).Rune is the son of the headmaster of a school for wayward villains (children that have done good deeds, rather than bad), but it seems like his father is stricter with him than with the other students. Rune is given the chance to run a Plot, an evil scheme quest, with two of his friends, against a team lead by his roommate. If he wins, he and his friends will be promoted: if he loses, exiled. A very enjoyable story with lots of character and world development and I think T1 will enjoy it very much (as will other children who like Monster High figurines). There's a second out and I will read it, even if T1 doesn't;-).(ARC)
  3. Life is not a Stage (2011) by Florence Henderson with Joel Brokaw: A memoir from Florence Henderson, obviously. Not very "tell all", though she had a brief wild period between two very long marriages (and though she is very kind and lays no blame, it is clear that the first marriage was not a physically satisfying one). Very interesting to see a glimpse into how people handled family planning as Catholics in the 20-60's, to see how the abuse of children was handled (that is, ignored)  and wonderful to read how Florence survived an abusive and neglectful childhood and became a warm and confident wman, with long and strong friendships and a close family. I enjoyed the book.(ARC)
  4. Tension City (2011) by Jim Lehrer: A memoir of (a part of) Jim Lehrer's long career: that of being the moderator of almost a dozen Presidential debates, in their varying (some successful and some not) formats. Very interesting to read how someone who was there felt and what he saw. I got this at a BEA breakfast, at which he chatted a bit about the writing: a very warm and intelligent man. (ARC)
  5. Wishing for tomorrow (the sequel to The Little Princess) (2009) by Hilary McKay:  I'll talk more about getting this book in another post. But the book itself is, as billed, a "sequel" to Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1905 A Little Princess. It picks up after Sara has left Miss Minchin's establishment, leaving behind girls who were friends and those who were not. The protagonist is Ermengard, Sara's closest friend among the girls, and the subject is the lives of those left behind. I enjoyed it very much and it will go to T1 next year, after I have read the original to her. I also very much enjoyed the illustrations by Nick Maland, and I felt they added much to the period charm of the book.(DTB)
  6. Shades of Milk and Honey (2010) by Mary Robinette Kowal: I've been reading about MRK for years, so I'm not certain why I have just now picked up (and enjoyed) this book. It's an Austen homage: the reviews call it a Pride and Prejudice, but it really does feel more like Sense and Sensibility in the interactions between Jane and her younger sister Melody. There are no other siblings and Jane's father is far more loving and sensible than Mr. Bennet. The world is one where "Glamour" is lady's art, rather like drawing or composition, with tutors and masters who have patrons. Jane excels at glamour, while her sister is flighty and beautiful. It's more interesting than that sounds and is a charming romance. I look forward to picking up the second novel next time I am in the US. (DTB)
  7. Artemis Fowl (2001) by Eoin Colfer: I was wandering through Publisher's Weekly and saw that the Artemis Fowl saga is drawing to an end, with its 8th and final novel being released this month. So I thought it was finally time to read the first, which someone gave me a few years ago. The story of a criminal prodigy, 12 year old Artemis Fowl and how he tracks down, researches Faery and then kidnaps a Fairy to get a ransom is... ok. I know many children who have adored this series, but like Riordan's novels, it just doesn't appeal to me enough to want to read the second in the series.(DTB)
  8. The Reluctant Vampire (2011) by Lynsay Sands: These are my popcorn paranormals. A series of interconnected romance/vampire novels where the vampires are a result of nanos created by Atlantean scientists shortly before the Deluge (and therefore not perfected). Since the scientists did not use themselves as guinea pigs, none survived and the nanos are passed through blood (of course) and passed through birth. A light and fluffy read.(DTB)
  9. Time Cat (1963) by Lloyd Alexander: I think this may be the first children's fantasy that I ever read (I started in the "A"s in my elementary school library. From there the molecules and stars on the spines of the books lead me through Asimov (Lucky Starr) and Heinlein (the juveniles) all the way to Zelazny (what were they thinking?). I'm ready for T1 to start reading behind me and I so hope that she starts loving the books that I loved. This was Alexander's first juvenile and this edition has a lovely foreword by him discussing how he came to write it. The story of Jason and his cat Gareth as they visit nine different lives also piqued my interest in the history they discuss, leading me to Treece and Rosemary Sutcliffe and stories of Japan and really: just opened my world. It was a truly wonderful library and I had a truly wonderful time reading my way through it. (DTB)
  10. Paris in Love (2012) by Eloisa James: As an expat, I often find myself drawn to other expat chronicles, although this one is not quite expat material: Ms.James (aka Mary Bly Vettori) spent a year in Paris with her family while she and her husband were both on sabbatical from their tenured professorships. A NYT best-selling romance author and Shakespearean scholar, Ms Bly worked on both sides of her literary career as well as writing a blog/journal while in Paris and then "novelized" the experience. I use quotes because the book is comprised of separate, non-connected paragraphs under headings. I enjoyed it, but wish I had read instead David Lebovitz' The Sweet Life in Paris, which would have, I think, been a more fulfilling read. (DTB)
  11. The Inquisitor's Apprentice (2011) by Chris Moriarty: This book is an absolutely exquisite read. I cannot sing its praises enough. In an alternate New York City in the early 1900's, a world where magic is strictly regulated by the Police Department's Inquisitorial branch and where "Wall Street Wizards" are exactly that (and have driven Teddy Roosevelt, former Police Commissioner out of town when he attempted to enforce the law, Sacha is discovered to have the ability to "see" Magic. A nice Jewish boy, from a Russian emigrant family on the Lower East Side, the Police Department is the domain of the Irish and he is not certain how he can fit in. Apprenticed, with the first girl apprentice Inquisitor (Lily Astral) to star Inquisitor Maximillian Wolf, Sacha meets the dangerous James Pierpont Morgaunt, Erich Weiss (aka Houdini), the antisemitic Thomas Alva Edison, and many others from our actual history, reflected through the alternate reality glass. From the Wiccanists to the Wobblies to the Pentacle Shirtwaist Factory, Ms Moriarty's research shines through and helps us believe her world is real. In interviews, Ms. Moriarty states that she wrote this book for her son, so he could have a fantasy where a Jewish boy was a hero and I will have my children read this book not only for that feeling— that a world where they exist is normal— but also to have a feel for New York at the turn of the last century, a world where so many Jews entered the United States and how they did so. This is an inclusive book, with its characters being as much a melting pot as NYC in the early 1900's was. Although there is closure to this novel, it leads clearly to what we can expect in the next: though I may expect to hear more of the kabbalah and the dybbuk, there may also be the famous Pentacle Fire to come, more interaction with the world of Chinatown or perhaps Upstate, the Harlem Renaissance and Roosevelt's attempt to regain power.... So many exciting opportunities are possible! Mark Edward Geyer's illustrations are appropriate and add value. I can't wait to read the next book (also illustrated by Mr. Geyer), The Watcher in the Shadows, which will be published in April 2013. (DTB)

30 June 2012

What I am reading: June 2012

Another busy month: wow. I can't believe how little I am reading and how extremely busy I have been. Two birthday parties (to go to), the kids' schools winding up, summer festivals and good-bye parties, project weeks and sleep-overs, Kindergartenfreundebuchs and Schulfreundebuchs, a visit to Istanbul and  several doctors appointments, trying (and failing) to get renovations lined up in the US at two separate places, setting utilities up for take-over, my apa delayed 33 days (and then forwarded from Customs without ever being opened) so I needed to work from softcopy for a week, thinking about where we will be in the fall and still being undecided, and trying, always to get stuff out of the apartment. The weather is up and down, the girls are growing out of their clothes, I need to get rid of things!

We are leaving for the US for a few weeks in less than two weeks (that is, several days ago when this will be published), to get our house renovated and perhaps re-rented, and our apartment (and life) is totally not in order. Aagh.
  1. break no bones (2006) by Kathy Reichs: This is the last Temperance Brennan I have on the shelf (in English), so I will be taking a break after this. In this ninth Tempe novel, the action moves from chilly Montreal to steaming South Carolina. Dr. Brennan has taken an undergraduate class on an archeological dig as an emergency replacement for the class' teacher, when an "incursion" in the site is discovered: a non-historical body. Both Tempe's ex (Pete) and her current friend, Det. Ryan, are at the scene and soon another body is found, linked to Pete's investigation of a church and its finances. A twist I won't give away that is current and well-researched. 
  2. Stormy Petrel (1991/2011) by Mary Stewart: A slim novel by Lady Stewart, set on a small Hebridean island off Mull, with the wonderful scenery that she is known for. Although the protagonist is an English tutor at Cambridge, she actually writes both poetry (and under a pseudonym) science fiction. More like a novella than a novel, but always a wonderful read.
  3. My Brother Michael (1959/2011) by Mary Stewart: From the height of her power, the descriptions of the scenery are amazing. Once again, it's amazing to read in this time period and to see how Lady Stewart made her protagonists women, who changed and grew, and were strong and her male leads respected and in fact demanded that strength. After a 6 year engagement, Camilla has broken it off and isn't certain what she is looking for. Having spent that time pulled behind the wake of her ex's jet stream, she is isn't certain of her own volition and acts impulsively when told that an "Englishman" is awaiting a car at Delphi. Delivering the vehicle also brings her into a dangerous hunt, carrying violence and death forward from the war into the (1959) present. I have been enjoying reading through Lady Stewart's work: just a few more of her suspense novels to go. Then perhaps I should re-read her Merlin tetralogy.
Didn't get this sent out in time, as life caught up with me, so I'm pubbing it late.

It was a crazy few weeks, with T1 having a school sleep-over, T1 "graduating" from kita, a counseling session with the school rector, packing to leave, the German pushing hard to get his work done before vacation and therefore spending more time in Munich, cakes to bake for parties, birthday parties for the kids to attend, health certificate for the cat, as well as a follow-up on vaccinations for the kids and a dental appointment for the adults. Then following up with our kitten's plane reservations (may I say that Delta was once ok, KLM was once superb, but that the merger of their systems has created a monster where neither side seems able to make or confirm reservations on a co-branded trip). After hours (literally 3+) on the phone, I was finally assured that there was a reservation. But when we got to the airport, there wasn't one. "Luckily", they found a place for her, because I pointed out that there was no option to suspend her animation while we were on vacation. The KLM guy was extremely nice, understanding, and long-suffering: I was a bit tense myself, until we dropped ur bags and had the card showing the Darla was allowed on the plane.

More later, on our return trip;-) (though let me mention that not a person asked to see her EU Tierpasse or proof of chipping. In the US, they didn't even notice that she existed on entry.

13 June 2012

One of my favorite Graffitos

I particularly like the shadows that the sunflowers cast on the wall.
A warm and sunny scene that sustains during the many cold and grey months in Berlin

02 June 2012

What every cat needs...

Getting ready for our kitten (the carrier on the right is legal for under seat in planes—
we have a larger one for ordinary travel)

31 May 2012

What I am reading: May 2012

Another interesting month. But one thing that I want to do around all the craziness and planning and activity is to start reading through some of my physical books, to get them off the shelves (or, actually, out of the piles on flat surfaces like window sills and radiators!) and get them packed away. So I am trying to read the physical rather than be seduced into the new and e-. Interim goal is at least 10 physical books read this month and packed into a box— I'm running behind by the middle of the month.

  1. Dark Ship Thieves (January 2010) by Sarah A. Hoyt: Another book pulled from my e-book backlog and I enjoyed every second of it. I'm glad that I waited this long to read it, because it means that I am only 6 months away from the sequel. This has been my quarter to find great fantasy/sf writers who are writing from a strong woman's point of view (Martha Wells was the other) and I am very happy to have a backlog of their writing to work through. Reviews keep mentioning Heinlein and I am afraid that I need to do so as well: this is a Heinlein if he were a woman and writing today. I can't wait for the further adventures of Athena Hera Sinistra. This is available from Baen Books, my very favorite, well-priced, DRM-free purveyor of e-books and I heartily recommend that you buy this and perhaps the Web-scription that it came in, which will also get you a Karres book and one of the Anvils I reviewed last month (and a few others)
  2. A Wee Christmas Homicide (October 2010) by Kaitlyn Dunnett: A free Kindle mystery, picked up ages ago. I liked this one, with its protagonist being Liss MacCrimmon, who runs an all things Scottish emporium in a small town in Maine. Partnered with her aunt (who returns to town in this mystery to discuss selling her share of the store), she suggests a 12 Days of Christmas shopping theme to bring tourists and buyers into the town, which has been negatively impacted by lack of snow and the recession. As a draw, she and other retailers offer the "must have toy" of the season, the otherwise sold-out Tiny Teddies. But when another shopkeeper is murdered, Liss becomes involved in the investigation. Her relationships with two men, one a policeman, are a backdrop, but not really explored. An ok mystery. I might try another.
  3. deadly decisions (2000) by Kathy Reichs: I see the chronology I listed in my previous notes was a bit off: this is the third novel in the Temperance Brennan series and in it we are introduced to more of Dr. Brennan's relationships with both her Montreal associates and her family. This book closely deals with the "biker wars" that Kathy Reichs discussed at her lecture in Berlin last fall.
  4. I didn't ask to be born (but I'm glad I was) (November 2011) by Bill Cosby: This ARC has been on my shelf for a while, I'm not certain why. A quick and amusing read, but without the illustrations that were added in the final, a slim 194 page, large font book. The final page count will be (was) 208 pages, so there should be some interesting photos in the added pages. I always found Bill Cosby funny and I enjoyed reading this short collection of anecdotes.
  5. Monday Mourning(2004) by Kathy Reichs: The problem with reading my way through a series, is that when I reach the end of the books that I have in physical, I have a (very) strong desire to just order the next several on my Kindle. I will be strong! This is the seventh in the Tempe Brennan series. A plumber uncovers a body in the basement of a pizza parlor and the question is: is this a historical find, or a find requiring police involvement. A scarey twist at the end and the themes of (sexual) slavery, child  rape, imprisonment, serial murder and Stockholm syndrome are unfortunately all too recurrent in the world I am living in.
Didn't get all the books I wanted in, but it's been a busy month: I hope to get some started and not finished May posts up this week. 

19 May 2012


 While T2 had a birthday party to go to, T1 had the opportunity to do her absolute favorite thing: go to a Kletterwald (climbing park).

This is hard to do when we have both children, because T2 is too small (a minimum"reach" is required) and a bit frightened, but nevertheless really wants to go as well.

The look of seriousness and concentration is exciting to watch and her joy as she succeeds is infectious.

She is my courageous and athletic girl (definitely gets the coordination from her father).

Dancing with a Bear

Enjoying the walk home after someone-else's birthday party.

06 May 2012

And a birthday in two parts

At the MACHmit Museum
T2 had her birthday celebration broken by the holidays, T1's birthday, and some other excursions, but we finally got it all done!

First, she had her birthday in class. For once, I didn't stay to take photos and these are from her Erzieherin. I like the "Birthday train" so much that last year I bought one myself. It only goes up to 9 (do you think there is an extension set?), so I guess that it is aimed at the Grundschule set. Afterwards, they play traditional German birthday games (which have the birthday child wearing a crown and acting as master of ceremonies: is this how the bossiness is inculcate?) and each other child personally congratulates the Geburtstagkind with a handshake and the ritual "Herzlichen Gluckwunsch". I brought in the standard cake, but I also brought in goody-bags, as we invited only the girls to the later, outside, party.

The second part of the party, held several weeks later, was at the Kindermuseum MACHmit! I had heard good things about the museum, and because of the weather and the number of children (even with just girls, it was larger than any party we have had) we decided we needed a program. The girls really enjoyed the climbing area and the chocolate cake (for once not one I made myself), but the program was a little bit above their level— more for the 8 year old and her friend then a group of 5-6 year olds. I'm disappointed that one of the guides was not able to understand that giving a note to a non-reading child is a bit inutile. The other guide was great with kids, though.

We will visit the museum again, when we can be more free-form.

01 May 2012

May Day

The first of May is a holiday in Germany, both because it is Labor Day (that is, the day of the Workers, or International Worker's Day) and because the Walpurgis Nacht is from April 30th through May 1st, and the witches congregate not far from here, in the Harz Mountains.

Berlin, a former member of the Communist Eastern Bloc, celebrates it a bit more strongly than other areas, with a local tradition of riots. Recently, the riots have attracted folks from all over Germany and the rioters have been found to be such people as doctors and middle managers, looking for the chance to put on a mask and destroy property. The Berlin Police have strengthened their defense and the areas in question are not local to me, so, on this absolutely gorgeous day, we packed up the kids and went to Britzer Garten, smack in the middle of its Tulip Festival.

I had been unhappy to miss our annual visit to the Keukenhof (when we headed that way in early April, the weather was so bad- it rained every day. all day) that we cancelled continuing further in the Netherlands and grabbed the moments of sunshine to take short walks and visit relatives. So it was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to walk through a large garden on a beautiful day. Although, what a difference! The Britzer Garten is really just another green space in Berlin (although with a very small entrance fee) and, rather than a manicured and pristine spot, it is a huge, well-used, well-loved and public friendly green space. With food kiosks (all with reasonable prices for both food and - it's Germany- alcohol).

We wandered about, we climbed the viewing stations (like lifeguard lookouts) and gazed over the expanses, we swam in the sea of flowers (as allowed, through paths and walkable lawns), we sat by the side of a lake and a river, rolled down a huge hill, used several different playgrounds, looked at the water and sand play area (but did not use it- when the Germans let their small children play naked in water, I won't let mine: I see them using it as an open toilet and that is just not defensible).
It was a gorgeous day, (even losing a stuffed Armiser (ant) along the way).

30 April 2012

What I am reading: April 2012

It's a crazy month, but one of the things I have done is started clearing through my Kindle back log while doing some traveling.
Even though I have more than 600 books on my Kindle, it gets harder to get through to the older ones and then I lose track of what I want to read— it's not as easy as looking at a wall of books to go through 14 pages of them, especially when some are misformated and show up without an author to sort by. Next month I think that I will do more dead-tree reading and follow by getting rid of a bunch of books- in this case, I have cleared many of the books off my reader and now I have them only in a back-up file on my computer (and the ability to re-download them as needed from the vendor).

  1. Silenced by the Yams by by Karen Cantwell: I thought this was a funny and charming mystery. Third in the Barbara Marr mystery series, with a mom protagonist, funny kids, interesting husband, and quirky friends. It was a free Kindle download and I will read the next in this series, because the ending is a cliff hanger!
  2. Time Spike by Eric Flint and Marilyn Kosmatka: I'm wandering through my Kindle as I try to find what books are not living in the Cloud (that is, not purchased through Amazon). I bought this (and the next) some time ago from my favorite e-tailer, Baen Books, and I was glad to start reading some good, solid SF. Eric Flint first came to my attention with his 1632 books and this is in the same vein: a time slip brings a high security prison, with its contents, into the very far past.
  3. The Power of Illusion by Christopher Anvil:Classic SF from the 50's, hanging on my Kindle from a Baen package. 22 short stories and not a one a clunker, from the Baen series collecting Anvil's works and edited by Eric Flint. Since it's from Baen, it's DRM-free and readable on all platforms, as well as well-priced. Liked it very much and followed it up by reading (and enjoying) two more Anvil novels.
  4. The Trouble with Aliens and
  5. The Trouble with Humans by Christopher Anvil: Great stories, primarily from the Golden Age and just so clear in attitude that anyone who likes Mad Men should be reading them. Even though I loved all three collections, readers should be clear that the imperialistic 50's attitude is there: if you hate that, don't read this.
  6. Wheel of the Infinite by Martha Wells: Another very good novel by Martha Wells. This one with a(nother) very strong female lead. Maskelle is the Avatar for the only "god" that was not previously a human- the Adversary. Chaotic but bringing justice, Maskelle starts the story as an Avatar in disgrace, although still honored. Great story, with a Buddhist tinge (to my eyes) and strong characters and world building. Highly recommended.
  7. The Element of Fire by Martha Wells: Slightly Three Musketeers meets Elizabethan England meets Faerie, I liked it very much. Kade Carrion was a strong character, I enjoyed the world and the personalities.
  8. City of Bones by Martha Wells: These three Martha Wells were free/inexpensive downloads, which I raced into after reading her two (later) Raksura novels last month.
  9. Immortal by VK Forrest:Non-sparkly but interesting vampires, cursed in the old country. Several different "lineages", but this one works through a cycle of re-birth, with memories and powers re-emerging toward adolescence. Very interesting background, decent murder mystery foreground.
  10. Give First Place to Murder by Kathleen Delaney: Another Kindle freebie. A mystery set at the race track. Ehh.
  11. Monster Hunter Vendetta by Larry Correia: Wandering through my e-books, fell across this one which was part of a Baen Webscription and which I had never read. Fantasy war/ violence, aimed, I think, at men. But interesting and fast reading.