Friday, December 28, 2007

yeah, reckon this one is definately germany's next top model


Yesterday I went and did some modelling for SuperCoolMatti - something he does whenever there are extra friends and family around who like to ham it up in front of a camera. These weren't for anything specific, just stock photos of a couple of themes and I got to act like a model for an hour, primping and preening and pretending to be gorgeous.



It's interesting to realise how far out of Anglo saxon society I am these days: I didn't even CONSIDER putting on makeup for it. With very few exceptions I don't wear makeup - something that I was rarely without in my early twenties. I usually only get back into when in Australia again, because almost every woman around me there does their face before leaving the house of a morning. German women generally wear extremely little makeup, and I'm taking that as: a) the reason that they seem to age really well and b) a damn good excuse for me not to bother with it.



Now obviously a shot like the one above would benefit from a bit of eyeliner, a dab of eyeshadow, or perhaps just someone with SINGLE COLOURED EYES. But you know the worst thing about my multicoloured eyes? They are the MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT ME. Which is such a sad state of being that I think I shall go and sink myself in leftover plum pudding and plot cunning ways of turning into one of those über-cool people I keep seeing about the place.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

a bit of blowing my own trumpet

I mentioned briefly a while ago that one of my new time-consuming projects is cross stitch design and that I had a pattern coming out in a book.

Well the book is out and Amazon now let's you flick through a few pages.



It looks fantastic- although I'm still waiting for my contributors copy to arrive so that I can fondle it in real life, admire my name in print, lick the pages and generally just get waaay over excited by it. I also really want to see how they framed and photographed my piece. I spent a couple of weeks stitching the thing and destroyed my shoulders and neck doing so.

But... YAY!! I'm in a book!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

being put into unexpected company

Right now there's a really interesting interview with Karl Lagerfeld on TV. In german of course, which is always nice to hear. He's been talking about not using modern communication; his urge to constantly reinvent himself and destroy the old; his ability to get easily bored.

He just commented that he had about 300,000 books, with a huge table the length of his bed next to it with all the books he's currently reading. Just because stuff interests him.

"You're a bit like that," pipes up DrH. "I come home with 3 new books a year and you bring home 6 every time you're in a book shop. If it wasn't for budget considerations you'd have that many as well."

"Doesn't everybody?"

"No. It's these creative people I just don't understand. You, Karl Lagerfeld..."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

luckily for him it isn't yet -10°C

So DrH and I were walking the dog last night on his final nighttime round of peeing on every upright structure - and in a city like Berlin there are many, not the least of which are buildings, post boxes, signposts, bicycles and random bags of clothes which for some reason seem to populate our neighbourhood at the moment. So the evening walks tend to be a somewhat relaxed affair involving Leon Dog Wonder pulling desperately at the leash to reach the one small shrub or plastic wrapper he hasn't gleefully urinated on yet today and us holding stoically to the other end, shivering in the midnight cold and wishing desperately WE'D remembered to visit the lavatory before walking out the door.

Why does the cold always make you want to pee?

Anyway, last night we turned into our street at the corner where the mad, old, hat-wearing, cat-on-a-leash-walking, lets-leave-food-out-for-rats woman keeps her personal cat refuge in a few bushes. This cat refuge, by the way, comprises a cardboard box, a small foil package of cheap catfood which is changed regularly every three days, and a small dish of water. The rats love it. But on this occasion, rather than the swiftly vanishing naked rats tail, poking out of the garden bed was a pair of legs.

I called DrH over and, with much trepidation, shook the gentleman's knee and asked him if he was okay. It took a few tries, during which time my conviction that he'd departed escalated, but eventually he woke up enough to say "S'ok, I'm drunk." Only more slurred. And in german, of course.

By the time we'd got him upright, he'd worked out that he had in fact been walking his two dogs when he decided to pass out with his head uncomfortably jammed under the branch of a struggling spruce, and had no idea where they were now. So, DrH on one side, me on the other, we slowly stumbled down the street at 1am calling for dogs named Anja and Pinky.

Pinky. I kid you not.

Finally at his apartment door, the dogs barking on the inside having obviously found their own way home (perhaps having had previous practice), we left him to the gentle and nurturing arms of his wife.

"Look at you! Strangers had to bring you home! You filthy pig!"

Monday, December 03, 2007

inappropriate?

Well my last post wasn't included in this months scientiae carnival. I will go on the assumption that it was because it was submitted too late (which it was, most definately), because I'd hate to think it was simply considered inappropriate. One of the reasons I went through the hell I went through was because it was considered inapproporiate to talk about. When scientists, whatever their gender, whatever their stage of career, aren't allowed to jump up and say "You know what? This science thing isn't for me, but I fucking rock anyway" then we are doing something very, very wrong.

Edited To Add: I have been included as a late update in the carnival, so I wasn't considered inappropriate after all, just late. Which, to anyone who knows me, is not a great surprise - the lateness I mean.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

transcending the debate

Another scientiae carnival is up, hosted by kate, and this time I thought I might write something for it... although I doubt anyone currently in academic science really wants to read anything I have to say here. The topic is transcending the debate… its about what you think of the big picture of science, your life in it and about moving on.

So what did I do in this big picture?

I left it.

You know what? I love science. I do. It's fascinating and thrilling and constantly changing. It excites and stimulates me. I still freelance in basic research, I still read papers, I follow blogs, I critique my husbands papers. I love it. But I don't love BEING A SCIENTIST.

Did the earth just crack open? Armegeddon start? A scientist saying she doesn't love being a scientist - didn't the world just end?

ISN'T THAT ABSOLUTELY THE WORST THING THAT ANY SCIENTIST COULD DARE UTTER?

Isn't that giving in, giving up, selling out? I musn't be smart enough, good enough, experienced enough, tough enough. There are a number of things which still researching scientists could say about me, and most of them about my failure. I mean some are about my terrible dress sense and distressingly loud laugh, but we’ll ignore those for now.

Interestingly, some of the most critical are women scientists. Because I've let the team down. I didn't see it through. Grit my teeth and refuse to give in to this male dominated field. Fight the good fight so the next generation would have it easier. The pressure from academia is that their path is the only right one - anything less than professorship is failure. And should anyone dare, DARE, go into industry...well those are all the second class scientists, right? They can't be the best because we know that the best stay in academia.

Ooooh. Have I stepped on any toes yet?

So how did I get past this mindset? Well that was easy! Follow this simple recipe:
-spend two years depressed
-put on 20 kilos
-drink yourself to sleep every night
-almost destroy your marriage
Mix into a thick dough, knead brutally for a few years and then bake at 7000°C until you implode.

It took a lot of heartache and a lot of time for me to be able to admit to myself that, while I love science, nothing bores me more than being hemmed in to researching some tiny little aspect of some already highly specific field. That to me, doing PCR after PCR, gel after gel, purification after purification... well, I may as well just be repeatedly filling out Form 325bII in a random office somewhere for all the excitement that brought.

The grand picture thrilled me. The day-to-day work? It bored me to tears.

But to tell people that, to admit to the world that I don’t want this life, this uncertainty, this pressure, this boredom, this sexism, this poverty, this frustration, this fight? THAT was the toughest thing I’ve ever done.

Can I still call myself a scientist? I don’t know. I’m still doing occasional work, so I guess for the next two months I’m a scientist. And then maybe a few months after that I’ll be a scientist again for a bit.

But it doesn’t matter. Call me whatever you want. A scientist. An ex-scientist. A cop out. A failure. I’m more than that now. Science is a part of me, but to define myself by that alone… well, I want more than just that life. I want all the lives I can live. I want to be an entrepreneur, a musician, an explorer, a writer, an astronaut.

I want it all. And science couldn’t give me that.

So I left. And it was the best thing I did for my career.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

drowning

Have you ever tried to keep Lists Of Things To Do?

Currently, the three major projects going on in my life have extended and complex lists, which probably need to be defined in multiple dimensions, preferrably one of which is time and has the ability to go backwards. These lists have become so large and complex that they've developed their own culture and language. I caught one of them last night inventing fire and I believe it's neighbour, in a fit of "Keeping Up With The Joneses" was working well into the wee hours on the wheel. Judging by some of the things I find on my generic list of household/banking/normal living duties, I'm pretty sure they've zipped straight past discovering the concept of zero and dived right into double entry bookkeeping.

Their sublists are now multi-generational and breeding faster than recently imported rabbits. I'm worried that a mafia-style family business is developing in one of the branches and starting a protection racket on the rest. That's just what I need, to turn up in the morning and find that today's banking tasks were kneecapped for not paying up to the "picking up the drycleaning".

These have gone beyond where I can handle them and so I find myself again in the middle of the night, still sick, and still completely unable to sleep with the weight of all my unfinished business. Somehow tackling them one at a time never seems to get anything done at all.

Maybe I should just leave them all here and run off to Tahiti before they get as far as developing WMD's.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

she works hard for the money

Well that's the end of a week which saw me average four hours sleep a night and feel just about as well as you'd assume I would, knowing - as you all should by now, and if you don't then why AREN'T you pouring through my archives harvesting all the precious pieces of information about my life and loves and ice fetishes and treasuring them, scrapbooking them with little hand drawn hearts and tucking them under your pillow of an evening? -

er-herm...

As I was saying... KNOWING that anything less than seven and a half hours results in a zombified DrJ who will groan and moan about the place with all the joie de vivre of Marvin the paranoid android on a particularly depressing day.

So that bit was kinda sucky and is now combined with a cold that's got me hacking up a lung every half an hour (really, I'm not lying, I've brought four intact ones up already and I'm beginning to worry I may run out soon). However the rest of the week, that whole daytime job thing that so many people seem to do these days you'd think they actually ENJOY it, was really very fun and I only had to barricade myself away from other humans - fingers jammed in my ears and humming loudly to block out all evidence of other living beings - a couple of times.

A not-so-terribly-interesting series of events has led to me being a (very) minor expert in a particular aspect of the data that's generated in my field, and so I'm now meant to be scripting little programs to deal with it all. Which is all well and good and highly flattering, except that I have no idea about scripting and we can safely call this week a learning curve of the exponential variety.

A surprising twist is that I've discovered that this is actually more fun than a barrelfull of hyperactive circus monkeys on speed armed with minature bikes and trapezes, and that there are ENTIRE WORLDS of geekdom I haven't yet explored. Pretty soon I'm going to be getting jokes like this one and then, THEN, there'll be no hope for me ever, ever again.

Monday, November 19, 2007

maybe I should print a BUSY-BE RIGHT BACK icon on my t-shirt?

Tomorrow sees me dipping a tentative toe again into the vast sea that is science. I'll be spending the next two months working full time for a company here doing all sciencey things again. This is going to have a number of serious repercussions:

1. I'll be showering sometime before my usual time of 1pm. So the neighbours who have so far missed my underwater warbling (which for the last month has been a mix of Bonnie Tyler, Jamiroquai and Dean Martin BECAUSE THESE BASTARDS WILL JUST NOT LEAVE MY HEAD) as they leave for work earlier in the day, will now get to experience the aural joy that is DrJ in full vocal lather.

2. I'll be wearing something other than tracksuit pants. As fashion-relaxed as the world of a basic researcher is, I know that a minimum of jeans will be required.

3. This means I'll probably have to go clothes shopping.

4. I might even be tempted to put makeup on.

5. I'm going to miss the cute DHL delivery guy every other day.

6. I'm worried that my ranking in Facebook Pirates will suffer and my Zombie battles will now have to take place of an evening.

7. I'll be forced to have conversations face-to-face with people IN REAL TIME. There is no chance to ignore their little chat window for five minutes while I finish something else. I'll have to answer them THEN AND THERE.

I really don't think I can do that anymore.

Friday, November 16, 2007

geek-city

"So what were the books you bought today?" asked DrH as we were lying in bed.

"Anansi Boys, 'cause I'm on a Neil Gaiman thing at the moment, and a Charles Stross one, 'cause he´s good. Atrocity something I think."

"That sounds like a name. Atrocity. Like a girls name."

"I think you´re thinking of Felicity."

"Atrocity means not nice things, right? Hmmm, might be the wrong image. Maybe something else ending in -city?"

"Umm.. Duplicity... Publicity?... Mosaicity?"

"That´s it! We´re calling our first daughter Mosaicity."

"WE'RE NOT."

"Aw, go on. It'll be cool. We can nickname her... Mosaic.. or Mosie... or... something."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I like my manna with crunch

I'm not entirely sure why, but over the last few days I seem to have been connecting again with my inner child. I used to enjoy cooking dinner with a glass of wine in hand. Or at least a beer. Maybe a caipirhinia. Worst case - in a lack of lime emergency - a gin fizz, but really that's the extent of it. However the last couple of days as I chill into my evening routine, crying over sauteeing onions or the sheer beauty of my sundried tomato pasta sauce, I've found myself reaching for the Milo.

Milo, to you non-Antipodean's out there, is something like Ovaltine in the same way that Vegemite is something like Marmite. That is, the absolute ruler over a poor alternative. An alternative which should only ever be employed in times of famine but otherwise relegated to the darkest depths of any kitchen cupboard. It's a sweet, chocolaty powder to dissolve in milk. It's a dairy manna with a bit of crunch.

There's an art to consuming Milo which I perfected in my best friends house at the age of six. We lived on neighbouring farms on the outskirts of town, so aside from riding sheep or dressing up like princesses and dancing around the back paddock in gold dresses and gumboots, there wasn't too much else clamouring for our attention.

Large amounts of Milo should be in the bottom of the glass. A very specific glass in fact, but I'll come to that bit later. You should even pack it down a bit by tapping it on the table. Then, the milk, which must be ice cold. Absolutely ice-cream headache inducing cold. Only seconds out of the fridge when you add it to the cup. It must be poured in gently, not down the sides of the glass and not disturbing the layer of Milo at the bottom.

Here's the bit that everyone then gets wrong.

DO NOT STIR IT.

The CORRECT way to drink Milo is to slowly scoop small amounts of Milo off the bottom layer with your spoon. A dessert spoon which is then filled with cold, non-chocolaty milk with a bit of non-dissolved, still crunchy Milo. This counterpoint is vitally important. The whole enjoyment in Milo is this simultaneous experience of cold, velvety milk and crunchy chocolate.

Integral to this is keeping the Milo at the bottom of the glass, only bringing small amounts to the surface at a time. This only works with the correct shaped glass, where the milk doesn`t creep down the sides and cause the whole mass to pop up to the surface like a meerkat having a quick look-see.

Unfortunately my glasses do not have the right shape. Apparently this childhood drink wasn't designed with cocktail glasses in mind.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

the last dragon dies



This is Dragon. My brothers dog. This is also me a few years ago with long hair. Best guess is a Mastiff/Rhodesian Ridgeback cross. For the dog that is, not me. Or my hair. The loveliest, gentlest giant you've ever met to all creatures except chickens. Everyone who has ever met him feels that he belonged afterwards in some way to their own family. That kinda dog.

He had an eight kilo tumour removed from his stomach a few months ago and today my brother had to make the final decision to have him put down.

He was such a beautiful dog. Dragons do bring a bit of magic into the world.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

on the joy of marrying germans #83

DrH donated blood yesterday, coming home with a giant bandage wrapped around his arm and its tiny needle prick. Germans do take their overengineering seriously after all and why put a bandaid on a tiny hole when you can keep whole healthcare industries running by proper consumerism?

It got to 9pm, ten hours after he sufferend the horrendously traumatic jab and subsequent severe blood loss and yet he was still wearing that bandage. I pointed out that the size of the wound was significantly disproportionate to its cladding, and that now may be time to part with his badge of blood-giving honour in my typically loving way.

"Could you take that bloody bandage off please? You look like an ijit."

DrH looked at me aghast for a moment before standing and spreading his arms wide.

"But it shows I am chivalrous! I am one who donates his heart's juice!"

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

dark horse

Well I survived the critiquing. In fact, I even managed to write something specifically for it and everyone giggled in all the right places and made me feel warm and fuzzy.

Hmmm. Maybe they read this blog and were just worried I´d turn violent on them?

But the runaway success of the evening was the lass in the corner who, after weeks of calm, quiet interaction wth the rest of a somewhat rambunctious group of people, pulled out a short story which blew all preconceptions out of the water. A children´s story it appeared at first, a fairy tale.

With such amazing levels of subtext that I can say it was one of the filthiest things I´d read all year.

Around the table came disbelieving chuckles, a few slightly confused expressions and, eventually, a lot of "wow". I am going to have to put some serious work in if I want to write any erotica that comes close to that.

It´s always the quiet ones, isn´t it?

Monday, November 05, 2007

trust me, I´m a doctor

So we just finished watching CSI:NY, something which I rarely do these days as it is a) boring, b) predictable and c) has too many letters in its name.

But the last couple of weeks I´ve been watching all these CSIs and related shows again and, with 100% accuracy, picking the entire plot twist before The Who come on playing the opening theme songs.

Today´s was a goodie, with two girls being mixed up at the accident scene and the mother of one actually murdering her own daughter thinking it was the other girl. It was bleedingly obvious from the beginning that this was the entire twist, just from the length of time it took to uncover the bandaged face of the murder victim and the amount of camera time which was dedicated to documenting her acting-dead eyes staring out of the cloth.

So my success rate is still perfect and the show closed with the typical inwardly-torn physician rediscovering his talent and love for the whole doctoring trade with a bike accident victim.

"His airways are clear and his vitals have stabilized," he informed the arriving ambulance.
"You´ve just saved this man´s life!" said the emergency man. "Are you a doctor?"
A few heaving breaths and our psychologically crushed medicine man finally heals those deep inner wounds with a resounding "Yes."

The Who started playing their theme song again as DrH turned to me on the couch.

" 'That´s space group P6(5) and the mosaicity is high.'
'That´s amazing! Are you a crystallographer?'
'Yes.'"

a more pathetic creature you´ve never seen

Sunday, November 04, 2007

chocolate with raspberries

Last night we had a few people over for an evening of flammkuchen and pavlova. At first glance perhaps two dishes you wouldn´t necessarily serve together, considering the 12,000 kilometres laying between their culinary origins, but delicious nonetheless. One of our guests brought along some exquisite dark chocolate with raspberries in it, which we were able to enjoy with coffee this afternoon before running the dog in the forest.

The dog which, upon returning home, dove straight into the chocolate we´d left out and scoffed the lot, foil packaging and all.

This, in case you aren´t familiar with the inner workings of dogs, is a dangerous event. Cocoa contains a chemical which is deadly to dogs, attacking their central nervous system and heart muscle. The darker the chocolate, the more there is, the more severe the effects and our animal had just eaten some damn good dark chocolate -with raspberries- in an amount which could kill a Great Dane.

So down to the emergency vet, luckily located only 75 metres away, where he was given an injection to make him throw it up. Which he did, aluminium and all. Of course the most disgusting thing about it was that it smelled like top quality dark chocolate. With raspberries. That is, REALLY, REALLY GOOD. Only it´d just come out of the stomach of my dog. And was kinda slimy.

It was giving me chocolate cravings mixed with a bit of sick-to-my-stomach.

Leon is still there, on a drip and under observation for the next few hours, having watched us leave with reddened, accusing eyes. As sad as it is to see a loved pet ill, right now all I want to do is go and get some chocolate. With raspberries.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

fight-or-flight

Here´s a question for you: Do I write? The quick answer is: Yes, I certainly put a string of words together which may or may not be legible, interesting or intelligent.

The more correct answer is: No, I blog.

When I think of writers -when I imagine the kind of writer I want to be- I picture people madly conceiving characters and events. Ones which talk and live, touching readers, pulling them into their fictional lives. These writers, as I picture them in my head, usually have messy hair and poor taste in clothing. They may even have a white scarf draped casually around their neck as proof of artistic-atedliness. But whatever their fashion sense, the one thing they have is the ability to create something grand and complex and enthralling from nothing but their imagination.

This is something I do not do. In this blog I talk about me. Only me. The world´s biggest ego self-stroking, that is. But I do not invent anything, nor try and make it into an engaging, arcing plot which will drag readers along with it at break-neck speed, sucking them into a world of my envisioning, twanging on heart strings with the suaveness of a young Elvis in a beach campfire scene.

But I want to do this. I want to be crooning to all those chicks in hot pants, slinging my hips suggestively and wrapping all around my finger with a sexy curl of the lip. So I joined a writing group. And next week I am meant to present something of my own for critique.

Presenting science work is easy. Sure, you can be nervous about standing up in a room full of people, but usually my giant Leo-ego leapt in with a roar, feeding greedily on the undivided attention I received from the three people in the room not napping. The questions can be tough, and leave you with a feeling of "Fuck, I don´t know enough here", but it´s still just science. A problem is presented, experiments to answer it performed, results displayed. The answer is Yes, No, or Maybe and what it is is not dependant on you. It either exists or doesn´t and you´ve done your best to determine the reality of it. But it´s not personal. There´s nothing of your own heart and soul on the line.

This is different and my fight-or-flight response has kicked into overdrive. Adrenaline is coursing through my veins, my muscles are twitching with the need to get away. Fast. Now. RUN. My stomach is a clenched fist as I´m sifting through the words I´ve written - fragments, snippets, ideas, drabble - and cringing, discarding, worrying. This one´s crap. This one´s boring. This one´s childish. What was I THINKING doing this?

Get away. Fast. Now. RUN.

If I can swallow my panic and turn up next week with something, anything, I´ll have defeated the immediate flight response. If I can resist walking in, arms windmilling and looking to knock all unconscious before presenting my work, I´ll have defeated the fight response. If I manage to get some words on paper which make me slightly happy between now and then I´ll have defeated the defeated response. And that´s the battle I have to win if I am ever going to make for myself the life I want.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

dawn of the next dark age

The unavoidable winter has descended once again bringing with it somber skies, bitter breezes and the temporal uncertainty known as The Changing Of The Clocks.

There was a time when The Changing Of The Clocks was one of the most exciting moments of the year, ranking in just after The Time When We Get To Dress Up Like Colonials At School, although a fair way before The Time When We Had To Sing A John Farnham Tribute In The School Concert. I always wanted to be awake at 3am so that I could turn back the clock and marvel out how I was living the same hour all over again and wonder if I´d get to meet myself and if I did would I have a really interesting conversation or just check out how bad that fringe made me look. After reading through the xkcd archives, I´m trying to work out how the idea of making out with myself slipped past my juvenile imagination. Rest assured that should I meet a past or future version of myself due to any space-time continuum contortions brought on by archaic ideas of lifestyles lacking electrical lights, I shall MOST CERTAINLY be sticking my tongue down my own throat in the most passionate manner I can muster.

If that doesn´t give my future analyst something to work with then I don´t know what will.

Thesedays The Changing Of The Clocks has taken on a more somber note. I no longer notice where the saved hour of daylight appears or disappears from, or how it influences daily routine. I notice only the changes it makes to my friendships, the difficulties it puts on communicating with the other side of the world. Overnight an eight hour time difference has become a ten hour one. Where I previously could sit at my desk and chat to friends and family for an hour before they went home for the evening, now, by the time I make it out of bed, they´re all already away from computers and relaxing with loved ones.

For the next six months my friends are that much more out of reach again and the winter has another layer of darkness and cold. I can´t wait for The Next Changing Of The Clocks, bringing my friends back in my Skype-zone.

And perhaps the chance to check out what a fucking great kisser I am.

Friday, October 26, 2007

geek-gasming myself into a stupor

A couple of weeks ago I found the webcomic xkcd. Yes, so I´m a couple of years behind the times. Deal with it.

This comic speaks to my not-so-hidden-inner-nerd. The scientist in me loves the geek of it. The romantic in me just wants to find the author and give him a big cuddle, going "Awwwwwww" and patting his head. Geek guys are romantic in a cute, nerdy and highly innocent way other guys aren´t. Trust me, if you´ve never gotten any sweet, sweet geek-lovin´ now´s the time to get out there. Put on that Seven-of-Nine outfit and watch them fall at your feet.



The US certainly rules in geekdom, with the number of sci-fi, gaming and comic conventions around these days. A part of me is glad I never got sucked into it - squishing myself into Seven-of-Nine´s costume is not a visual even I want to work with here - and yet another part of me is jealous I was never able to fully explore my nerdiness. That I never found an environment where I could allow my inner geek free rein. Let loose at one of these conventions I´m sure I´d be geek-gasming all over the place.

"Oh My God! Wil Wheaton! I had such a crush on you! Oh! Oh! Oooh!.... errrr, sorry about that."
"Ummm, that´s ok. Happens all the time here."
"No, I´m... oops, there I go again."
"Great. Anyone have a towelette?"

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

PING! me baby, one more time

Last night I overindulged on a few shandies while out with Paul and a bunch of other recent expat additions to my life. I was exceedingly proud to note that us older members of the group had the most staying power; outlasting, outdrinking and outtalking the rest. Of course that may indicate more our desire to listen to our own voices- in all our advanced-age wisdom - than any real superiority in endurance. You know how old people get.

Well, yes, that was back when I was squatting in a flat....oh, I´ve got something SOOO interesting to say about virtual sex....did I mention I rode on the backs of sheep when I was a kid....listen up, cause my opinion is just going to blow you away....

I´m surprised they didn´t ask me politely to leave. Actually, I´m surprised they didn´t hold me down, hog tie me and gaffa tape my mouth closed to get me to shut up.

So the evening ended with Paul and I being kicked out at 1.30am and finding the U-bahn was locked. By the time the taxi dropped me home I had a pounding headache and my sleep last night was broken and disturbed. Of course I blamed the shandy for that. Nothing like hitting the hard stuff before bed to ruin a good night´s sleep.

But I was walking passed the bedroom before when my ear caught a tiny PING!. A sound exactly like the one Yahoo Messenger makes when I get a new message. I automatically entered the bedroom to check who was writing to me before realising I have no computer there. It was a stray PING!. A dislocated PING!. A PING! where no PING! belonged.

Mulling it over I realised that I kept waking up throughout the night with a feeling of disturbed expectation. Could this be the cause? Had I unconsciously woken up to answer the lost PING! of a non-existent message? Has the internet trained me so well to be at the beck and call of every chatty whim of my contacts that my brain will happily break it´s REM cycle for to do so? Is it perhaps time to wean myself from it´s tempting window of smiley faces and incorrect spelling?

Maybe. Maybe it´s time to let go. Close Skype, messenger, facebook. Get outside a bit more. But I shouldn´t make such a big decision too hastily. I think I´ll sleep on it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

bloody french tarts

You know the absolutely best thing about visiting France? It´s not the men, although they´re all apparently total stud-muffins in bed. Nor is it the weather, which was so shitty that we capitulated to the encroaching winter, gave up our campsite and moved into a chateau. This is the kind of surrender I like. One which comes with champagne and stuffed pheasants.

chateau gardens

you mean your chateau didn´t come with stuffed pheasant?

No, the best thing about France is the food. I´m sure you´re all going "Well, DERRR!" about now, but I´m not talking about the delicate palate of taste sensations bathed in creamy sauces and accompanied by quality wines and expensive bottled water. I´m talking about the ability to get yourself totally food-hammered for just a few Euro.

It´s happened before. I got so carried away that the French have these pre-determined menu´s for a cheaper price, that I didn´t stop to think about how much food it actually included. The aperitif. The hors doeuvres. Appetizer. Main. Dessert. Wine. Coffee. Chocolate.

You´d think that now, with the grace of a few more years wisdom, I would have learnt from my previous mistakes and kept myself under control. Scaled back a bit on the choice of courses. Held onto the memory of a swollen, painful stomach and an unsympathetic husband.

Of course I didn´t. Not only did I NOT scale down, I actively scaled up. Where all others chose the basic menu or an individual selection of courses, I allowed myself to be beguiled by the tempting offer of a dark chocolate tart for dessert. I skipped past basic and landed right in the Imperial menu, complete with a dozen oysters, pre-salted lamb and accompanying wines of choice.

By the time dessert appeared it was a frightening prospect even for those who´d kept their indulgence to a minimum. My dark chocolate tart, an hour in the making, sat on my plate teasing me with it´s chocolaty succulence. I fought for every mouth-watering mouthful, pausing only to temper its richness with a sip of Perrier and eventually succeeded. But lying in bed that night groaning I had to admit that it got the better of me. That tart totally kicked my arse.

this tart totally kicked my arse

Sunday, October 21, 2007

embracing your native english speaker

Since being in Germany- well actually ever since leaving Halle waaayyy back when I was still young and virginal and not yet converted into always removing shoes and only ever cutting potatos with a fork - since then I´ve avoided native English speakers. Sure, Hamburg put a bit of a spanner in the works with that, being as it was an organisation full of them, but I managed to even that out by finding a dog walking group which couldn´t speak English at all.

I had a few reasons for actively avoiding expats. The first is, I think, fair and obvious - I wanted to improve my German. Hanging around Irish Pubs with people whom the only thing I had in common was my native tongue was not going to help that aim. The second major reason is that after a year in Halle of basically living in the Irish Pub I HATED IRISH PUB MUSIC. Seriously.

Like, trooly rooly.

Just try and sing Whisky In The Jar around me and you´ll see how fast human movement can be. And I´m not talking about mine. I´m talking about yours. Through a window.

Yes, there is a violent streak in me. And Irish Pub music doesn´t just bring it up, it pokes with needles, bathes it in salt and surrounds it with thirteen year old girls laughing at it´s haircut.

Alright, I think you get the point. So the final reason I´ve avoided expats is that they´re a flighty bunch - myself included. I´ve lived in five cities in eight years. Nine apartments. Seven employers.

Re-establishing yourself every single time is hardwork. You invest time and effort into building relationships with people only to have you or them move away. Now that I´ve decided Berlin is (probably) permanent I have even less desire to make friends only to have them happily go home again, leaving me behind and having to start anew. Again.

However. There have been a couple of separate instances in the last few weeks where I´ve met expats and each time it´s been great to realise that I don´t have to journey all the way to Australia just to find someone who gets it when I throw a one liner in a conversation. Someone who doesn´t get confused and slightly disturbed at double entendres. Someone who isn´t afraid to laugh so hard in public that they snort beer out their nose.

I´m not going to dive into the expat community the way I did eight years ago, but I´ve decided a little won´t hurt me anymore. My German is very good, I´m well integrated into the society and this is the place I call home. I can handle it now without risk of frustration, loneliness and homesickness.

I no longer have anything to fear from freely spoken English.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

on war, and one little boy

I´ve wanted to post on the trip, but each time have backed away from it. It´s too hard - the sadness, the horror, the emotion. Not something I can approach with my normal style.

I´m sure anyone who´s done tours of battlefields, or even just tours of museums which have sections on wars, knows how emotionally draining it can be. We spent a week driving around the area, visiting cemetaries, memorials and museums. It was a lot to have to deal with and I spent most of the time battling a monstrous headache brought on by fighting down tears. There´s also truth in the idea that when it affected your family - although they were men I never met, men who died sixty years before I was born - it´s closer to home. I spent three months at the start of this year scanning, reading and cataloguing the hundreds and hundreds of letters, postcards, photos, diaries and documents of my three great uncles. One has the same initials as I do, which made me feel closer to him even as it freaked me slightly to see death notices with my name on them.

But even then the part that hit me hardest was finding a small envelope on which my grandfathers name was written in his shaky, scratchy handwriting. In it were carefully folded all the personal letters he´d recieved from his older brothers. The last he ever heard from them. Tucked away. Treasured. Only then did I realise that this preteen boy lost three of his big brothers. Over the space of two years. One after the other.

Visiting the graves of two, seeing the name of the third - buried on a roadside somewhere, grave lost - on a memorial... I had to turn off for a while. Make a few jokes, concentrate on taking some pretty pictures. Push away the image of my grandfather as a boy, reading and rereading these letters. The folds becoming worn, the envelope oft handled. Of young men in muddy, cold trenches, asking how the horses were and telling him to do his homework and be respectful of his teachers. While listening to shells explode and men die. Wondering when they´ll be sent over the top.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

using your anger

Just before I went on holidays I got embroiled in a forum debate on religion. Actually, more on evolution. It´s an argument I know is pointless when you´re up against a hardline believer, but damned if I can put it down once it´s started. This guy was also arrogant enough to try and take me on biology and, although I´m no longer an actively researching scientist, I still have over a decade of education behind me on that subject and the know-how and tools to discover and analyse the current state of whatever field you wish me to discuss.

A couple of people told me not to bother. I know why. I see I´ll never change this particular person´s mind. Hopefully though someone not so gung-ho will listen, think and learn rather than flatly, thoughtlessly deny. I live with the view that education is better than no education and that learning to see the world is better than keeping yourself blinkered. Call me naive.

So I keep getting involved in these discussions and usually manage to stay rather polite. Kinda tough, because it generally makes my blood boil. Friends and family know how livid I can get when certain topics (religion, women´s rights, Australian immigration and US politics are usually a good place to start) are reached, and usually tell me to calm down.

Today Greta Christina posted about anger and atheism, about why calming down and losing your anger is NOT a good thing. I agree with her. I´m keeping my anger. Maybe with it I can help change the world, even if only a little bit.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

how to catch up with friends

I´m feeling a little lost today and I know it´s just coming down off the busy last few weeks with one of the people I love dearly and who is now back on the other side of the planet. I really miss my friends sometimes, y´know.

Em and I kinda took the whole holiday organising thing pretty relaxed. Ok, I took it relaxed because from her end she had everything planned, drove with multiple maps and itinerary´s open on her lap and had fully background researched everything we could possibly have needed to know. All that she lacked was a compass, but I managed to fix that in the second week and now she can happily locate north and -should there be another lack-of-signage emergency- get herself out of Belgium.

So part of the whole relaxed approach included the general plan of how we were to meet, which we decided in a brief phone call a few weeks before should be in Luxembourg on the Sunday. Then they had a few hours to go through the Champagne region on the way there. Yep, that sounded good.

That was the absolute extent of the plan.

So Sunday rolled around and DrH and I are driving into Luxembourg. My mobile decides it´s not going to do international roaming today and we can´t reach Em´s. By the time we got into Luxembourg it was early evening, we had no idea where they were nor how to contact them so we parked in the city center and went and sat in the main square for a while. Figuring, of course, that they´d go there first.

By the way, cappucinos in Luxembourg suck big hairy dogs balls. Just in case you were planning on stopping by for one.

An hour later and I was getting SLIGHTLY panicky, which was an interesting twist as I´m not a normally panicky person, with the obvious exception of hearing the evil, threatening snuffle of a wild pig in the twilight. But while standing on a corner attempting to locate an internet cafe, DrH´s phone finally rang and Em was on the other end.

"We´re just driving in to Luxembourg! Where are you?"

"Umm, on a street corner in the city. Umm, near the bus stop and a statue of a big blue mutant woman."

"Hey! I see the statue. Oh! There you are! Hi!"

In the end a rather cool way to meet up, if I do say so myself.

Monday, October 08, 2007

life is too short for small ugly cars




Last weekend was the end of our journey (I´ll talk more about it soon I promise!) where we spent two days in Hannover at the 60th anniversary of the VW Bulli.

I am now much happier with the idea that my husband isn´t the only bizarrely fixated man in the world.

3500 buses, from the oldest (a 1949 T1) to all the latest T5´s.

And they were pretty.

Really, really pretty.

And now I think I´ll give the OK for the full respray.







Sunday, October 07, 2007

Where, upon spotting a Renault dealership in a small french village, DrH gets inappropriately excited

"A Renault garage. Le Renault garage. Un garage du Renault! Every little village has a Renault garage - Dans chaque village il y a un garage du Renault!"

"....."

"Sorry. I know you don´t like me fantasizing in French."

"I have no problem with you fantasizing in French. You can fantasize in French all you want. What I have a problem with is you fantasizing about cars BECAUSE I´M NOT GOING TO BE TURNING INTO ONE."

"You could soap yourself naked all over the car. That´d be almost as good."

"I could wash the windscreen with my breasts."

"YES!"

"But I´d need a footstool to reach it."

"NOT A PROBLEM."

"And a private garage because I´m not getting all naked in our street."

"WE´LL LOOK FOR ONE AS SOON AS WE´RE BACK."

"....."

"....."


"Can I blog this?"

"No."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

all clear on the western front

Tomorrow we head off for a two week jaunt through northern France. The aim of the entire journey (as we wouldn´t want to do something so incredibly banal as go on holiday simply to relax) is to visit the WWI battle fields. The Somme, Flanders, Verdun and the graves of three of my great uncles. Now if that doesn´t hit you as a rip roaring good time then I don´t know what will.

My best friend Em is over with her husband, whose grandfather was also in the war and who also wanted to visit it all. So the four of us, plus Leon Dog Wonder, will be camping and drinking and eating and having fun. And thinking about lots of dead people and the stupidity of humanity.

We´ll be leaving Em&M on the 5th of October and they´ll be heading back to Paris to catch a show at Moulin Rouge before flying back to Oz. Meanwhile we have a very important date with about 4000 VW buses in Hannover at the 2007 VanFest. DrH can hardly sleep for the excitement and I know that when he does drop off, that little curl at the corner of his mouth is not because he´s dreaming about me.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

shiver me timbers

Arrgh, it´s International Talk Like A Pirate Day so put on yer best peg leg and cap´n´s hat, me beauties, and do yer bit to save the planet from it´s watery grave.

And make those scurvy Ninja´s walk the plank.

Arrgh.

Monday, September 17, 2007

the car pimping from hell

You know how I mentioned that brand new kitchen we built? How it was basically finished, just a few touches needed to complete our camping dream mobile?

Well, I was wrong.

Our cosy, cuddly little "Aww, how sweet. Can I pet him?" car has turned into the snarling, teeth-baring, rotten meat breath car from hell. It is Satan´s own camper van, designed to cause pain and anguish to all who venture near. Sitting at my desk right now, I can smell the smoldering brimstone.

For three weeks we´ve had all the internal furniture of the car gracing our living room. We´ve had to strip not only the seat/bed, kitchen, toilet, gas box and storage compartments, but the floor, the walls and the insulation mattings in between. The kitchen had to be remodified to fit the emergency gas shutoffs. Extra holes, tubings, wires and all have had to be built into the kitchen block, the surrounding pieces of furniture and the walls of the car. We´ve had to cut holes in the floor and the sides of the car, derust, paint, paint again and silicone everything. And I´ve stubbed every toe and bruised both legs to a vibrant Chagall blue on the the boxes, drawers, wood and tools laying around.

At midnight last night we carried the floor plate out again and managed to get it back in. The seat bank/bed, which DrH made several years ago to be sturdy enough to support the combined weight of the Dallas Cowboys and the horses they rode in on, had to be carried out and manoeuvred into position. The kitchen and gas box have been reinserted and only now are at the specialists to fit the gas lines.

Our lounge room still looks like my father´s backyard shed, although with less jars of dead snakes hanging around and the nails and screws are perfectly sorted in the way that Germans are wont to do. Although the car is almost completely finished and ready to be a retro-campers wet dream, what I REALLY want to do right now is throw a Molotov through its windows.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

go get a life

So I went and joined Second Life to see what all the fuss is about. Don´t know it yet? It´s an online 3D world. People buy property, build houses, have businesses - the damn thing even has it´s own stock market - and people are making real money in there supplying everything your in-world personality could want. You have a 3D body you can change into any appearance: male, female, black, white, a giant ant or a slightly odd looking squirrel. It´s all possible.

Seeing as the whole thing is free to join I thought I´d give it a burl. Anything´s worth a try once, right?

If you´re not used to gaming etc, it´s not that bloody easy actually. Although being able to fly is pretty cool, I spent most of my time walking into walls or over the top of other people. I´ve never been in to chatting with random people over the internet, so just walking up to someone and going "Hi there. Love the tail. The brown fur really brings out your eyes" is not my idea of a good time.

Eventually I figured out how to use poseballs and got my avatar to recline on a beach with a poseball called Dreaming. A male avatar lay down sunbaking next to me and when he rolled over, sticking out the front of his jeans was one enormous erection.

Woah.

Welcome to sex in the modern world.

So of course, being the curious kind of lass that I am, I thought I better check this out. Because you know it may supply fodder for a blockbusting Mills and Boon. Hot Cyber Nights or Love is an Avatar. Although I´m not sure a giant animated squirrel on the cover would lead to a lot of sales.

From what I´ve seen in my voyeuristic journey, sex in Second Life is like the IKEA of porn. It´s a do-it-yourself arrangement always missing some small part to make it work right and once you´ve finally got it together the end result is slightly wobbly and not as good as a quality product. A lot of people seem to stand around a couple of avatars -who may or may not be endowed, clothed or even human- who are involved in a very awkward and jerky sex act where none of the appropriate parts seem to be interacting in biologically correct ways. Voyeurism is rife and female avatars seemed to be rather thin on the ground, which led to any number of proposals for this clothed avatar who was wandering around.

Sorry, but that tail really didn´t do it for me.

Monday, September 10, 2007

maybe half a cup

Tea forms a vital part of my marriage. A cup of tea signifies celebration, commiseration, comfort, apology, love. It is language unto itself. Is one delivered without request? Then it is an act of love. Was there a disagreement over something? A cup of tea appearing in hand is an apology, an olive branch being stretched out. If DrH is feeling under the weather it is my way of saying, I´m sorry and I want you to feel better.

If a cup of tea is made for you, but left in the kitchen without the milk added then it is a sign that you´re still not quite out of the bad books yet. If the kettle is already on when DrH walks in the door it´s saying "I know you´ve had a bad day, but let´s make it better now". A cup of tea delivered to the bedroom with a croissant on a Saturday morning? That means last night was, well, you can work it out.

Such as this, a cup of tea can be used for celebrations. Or sympathy, as the one that appeared next to me minutes after my mother told me my grandmother had died. It is a form of communication which our relationship is built upon.

But now we have a coffee machine.

Alright, we always had one, but it was unwieldy and awkward, ugly and time consuming. We used it once a month if that. This new machine is sleek and cute and sexy. We´ve the accompanying milk frother which heats and froths in a minute and all at the push of a button. The coffee is strong and tasty, the froth thick and, well, frothy. A quality espresso or cappuccino to enjoy in your own kitchen.

So what do you think has happened to our tea rituals? That´s right, gone. Of a morning DrH has a cappuccino now. I hear the machine buzz and know that for another day he´s talking in a different language. What is that meant to mean? Coffee - it´s strong and bitter, unpleasant for an early morning. The froth is light, a nothingness of hot air and promises. What is that trying to tell me? DrH comes home of an evening and makes another. He sits on the couch spooning sugar into the foam, smacking his lips in enjoyment, while I sit next to him with a lonely single cup of tea. Its subtle and gentle message is lost under the dominance of the coffee. It´s ignored, overlooked and the tea and I together are cast aside.

ve tried to bring him back to me. I offer a cup, I have one ready when he walks in the door, but he heads straight for the machine. We´ve lost our language. How on earth do you communicate without tea?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

when smoke starts pouring out her ears

I thought that this whole working for myself thing was going to be fun and reasonably stress free. I´m at home, I´m on my schedule, I can do what I want.

It bloody well isn´t.

I haven´t been sleeping well for the last few weeks, but the last week has just gotten ridiculous. I´ve been going to bed at 1.30am exhausted and unable to keep my eyes open, but my brain is still whirring at a hundred million miles an hour.

You haven´t done this, this or this yet, why are you in bed and not doing them, how dare you take a break and leave them unfinished, have you thought about this thing yet,--Oh! and what about those things you haven´t yet thought of, or what if it doesn´t work, what if it all fails, what if everyone thinks you´re a joke, because c´mon how seriously are people really going to take this compared to Science-- Oh! and let´s not forget that you´ve thrown in your entire future for this thing of yours and what will you do next when it all goes to pot as it undoubtedly will because, face it, what in all those years of lab work trained you for something like this--Oh! and then what´ll you do for money, and what if DrH leaves you then hey, because how could he take you seriously anymore if you´re a failure, then what´ll you do being jobless, moneyless, husbandless, useless?

Owwwwwww. Please stop banging through my brain. It´s tender enough in there at the moment.

I know it´s all coming up because of a major deadline I´m about to reach. I know it´s just overreaction and that DrH is certainly not going to leave me because I failed at a few products or turned out to be a pathetically dismal writer. We all know that DrH will only leave me if a younger, sexier, in-better-condition VW bus comes along and I can´t accept it into our relationship. I´ve seen the looks he throws at the shiny, newly restored bus in Kreuzberg. I´ve noticed the hungry stares at the sunvisor, the covetous glances at the safari windows. I know it´s only a matter of time before he comes home and says "DrJ, I´ve found another." And then I will have to seriously consider: Can our relationship stand another party´s involvement? Is our love strong enough for that?

So I´m in no real danger of DrH leaving me for my patheticness alone. Nor is my life over if this business fails. All I´ll have lost is time and a bit of money, but it´s not like I´ve sunk our life savings into it and of course I´ll have gained valuable experience. I mean, I just have to drive a few more businesses into the ground and I´ll have qualified myself to run for the US presidency.

Logically I know the world is not going to end regardless of the outcome of this venture. Logically I know there are a dozen things which I could, and would even like to, do. But how do I tell my brain that in the middle of the night, when it´s screaming "FAILURE!" at me?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Forget TV, SciVee is here

via KinasePro

For all you science peeps who still may hang around this blog....

It´s SciVee!!!

Why did this take so long to appear? Now everyone can hear talks even if they don´t get to conferences and maybe a bit more science can make it into popular media.

And is it just me or is Eric Sheeff, the protein kinase evolution dude, wearing a StarTrek outfit?

I don´t think my genetics degree covered it anywhere near as well

Monday, August 27, 2007

How to renovate a VW bus in just 736 complicated steps

Last week DrH and I took a week off to go and park in his parents garden and scratch rust out of The Bulli. It was a grand plan, involving lots of lying in the dirt removing and reapplying under chassis protection and replacing a rusted drivers door (the replacement door having acted as a modern art sculpture in our hallway for the last four months). A grand plan indeed and one which we started by going to our campervan-converter-man for some information on getting some underfloor tanks to hold fresh and waste water.

Well, was that a mistake. We cruised through his shop, fondling doorknobs and cup holders, exclaiming over three-way fridges and quality cookers. We decided that we needed to upgrade our kitchen block from the temporary one DrH had whacked together out of some IKEA shelves ten years ago and only worked with unwieldy plastic boxes (see here). I wanted a kitchen block with drawers and other amazingly modern and useful in-built devices. We bought a three-way fridge. We bought a new sink/cooker arrangement. We have spent all the money which we could otherwise have used for lovely hotels in great cities, so I guess it is just as well we´re now set up for camping isn´t it?

So we whiled away the week rebuilding the inside of the car and not touching a single piece of rust. I sanded what seemed like a square acre of wood to a finish so smooth your hands would glide off it without realisng you were touching something. It was a piece of art, I tell you. My skills with an electric sander are not to be underestimated.

I came to the conclusion that we needed storage space under the front seats (which we replaced last year, this car is in a constant state of flux) so I designed and built some fiddly little holders for maps and atlases and first aid boxes.



Now, with a nifty little fridge, we could remove the old cool box run off the cigarette lighter and move the toilet to behind the passenger seat. This got a brand new box as well and I´ll finish the cushion for it this week.



But it was the kitchen block itself that took most time and effort. With all the skill of the amateurs we are, we forgot that the sink needs a pipe coming off the bottom, meaning that the whole thing was 4mm too short to fit both the fridge and sink in. Hence our surprisingly thick benchtop. To save time and effort I decided to use IKEA drawers, although the sheer weight of these things will increase our petrol consumption considerably. However they work nicely and I was able to convert our lovely wood into drawer fronts. Did I mention I´m equally as skilled at drilling as at sanding?



So it´s still lacking knobs, electric and gas connections, but that will be taken care of in the next two weeks. Then it´s France, here we come!






yes, still alive

Sorry for the unexpected cease in broadcasting, but rest assured we are all well and no one suffered any lingering side affects from the pigs. To answer Bugsy, there´s definately been a huge increase in numbers this year and our current theory is that the mild winter killed off fewer than it normally would have and that hunting is down (based on the fact we´ve seen less people with big cars in the forest in the last 6 months).

And for Vailian, the best brunch place in existence is cafe Istoria on Kollwitzplatz (U2, between Senefelderplatz and Eberswalder str)in Prenzlauerberg. Belluno´s next door is also pretty good. Cafe November up the road does waffles, although the spread isn´t as big and it lacks a lot of the hot food. Otherwise, try Morgenland in Kreuzberg (U1, Görlitzerbahnhof). All cost about 8€ for the buffet which is open until 4pm (Sat and Sun), drinks extra.

Wow, do I sound like a guidebook.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

year of the pig

Most evenings we walk the dog together through the forest here. The Grunewald is a big, wild forest that reaches almost into the middle of Berlin, and survived developement as it was the only piece of nature the West Berliners could easily access in the fifty years of separation. Here´s Berlin with the Grunewald circled and some important landmarks for reference:



See? Really big and very central.

One of the things such a big and wild forest has is wildlife. We walk of an evening, seeing only the very occassional jogger (or in summer, large packs of them crossing the path in the distance). Sometimes we´ve spotted squirrels, rabbits, foxes and deer. This year, almost daily, we see wild pigs.

We´ve come across them in the past. Last year, especially when the days started getting shorter and they were coming out earlier, we´d see one in the distance and hightail it in the other direction. Sometimes they were in pairs, but usually alone. This year, for whatever reason, there appear to be far more around, roaming in larger packs, and getting bolder. It´s a daily event that we see one as close as 10 metres away or, at the very least, hear them move through the bush somewhere off the path.

Several weeks ago we had a nasty encounter with two wild sows, who barrelled out of the undergrowth about 15 metres ahead of us and took out Leon. I really didn´t think we´d get him back alive. They charged him, threw him into the air and trampled him. Both were to my waist in height and luckily not boars with tusks or they would have just skewered him. When he managed to get free he bolted back to us, causing the pigs to also chase towards us and us to run like mad in the other direction for about 50 metres until they were satisfied and retreated. It took Leon two days to recover and the bruising longer to disappear.

So we have become very circumspect walking in the forest. My ears are always straining for the rustle of leaves, my eyes scanning the underbrush for anything vaguely boar shaped.

Today I spotted one about 25 metres away. We were already passed it on the path when DrH realised that only 10 metres to the right another two were standing. They moved, setting off a few more who were on the left of the path and just as close and all of a sudden there was a huge pack of pigs running straight for us. We RAN. I have never run so hard. The path curved to the right and I saw a pig only 3 metres on the right coming out of the bush. It curved left, the pigs cutting straight through bush while we follwed the winding trail that kept bringing us directly in their path. The path straightened and there were pigs behind us, beside us.

I have never felt so sure I was about to be seriously, seriously injured. That a wild boar was about to trample me. It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I know I screamed.

We got to a large path crossing and turned to the right. I looked over my shoulder to see three, six, ten pigs dash across the path behind us. In the safety of the trees on the other side they also turned right and kept moving in the direction we were.

All this time Leon hadn´t even noticed them, had thought we were playing. Now he decided to up the game a bit, snapping at DrH´s jeans, accidentally grabbing flesh and causing DrH to fall in front of me.

Another pig ran across the path. This time in front of us. And I couldn´t run anymore.

We slowed and I was hyperventilating. The pigs apparently decided to back off now and let us move forward, watching us from the shadows of the trees. We walked another 500 metres along a narrow, overhung track until we reached a wide pathway and other people. Three hours later I´m still shaking.

Friday, August 17, 2007

gimme that ol´time-a radio

Today I started listening to the Case Closed! old time radio podcast and I am smitten. Original radio shows of the 1940´s, complete with stereotyped detectives called Blacky or Marlowe being overwhelmingly condescending and sexist to their secretaries/fiancees with "Go and pretty yourself up, doll. You got no business here with the men.". It has lines like "just an ordinary bat, but with the dark stains *PAUSE* of BLOOD" *Big Music Sting*. Beautifully overloud fake footsteps going up the stairs, doors slamming, women screaming in the background.

Growing up my biggest dream was to be the voice of a cartoon character. I think I´d change that if I could be in one of these radio plays.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

slips of the tongue

"No, I´m glad I´m working for myself now. I couldn´t do that management thing. I keep wanting to tell people what I really think of them."

"That´d make you the perfect consultant. You can just go in, tell them they´re doing it all wrong and get out without having to deal with the aftermath."

"Well, yeah. But then I´d have to work, like, stupid hours and stuff. And that just doesn´t jive with me."

Pause.

"I just said jive in a sentence. I cannot believe I just said 'jive with me'."

"I don´t even know what you mean with that."

"Let´s keep it that way. Really, don´t bother to learn that one."

Monday, August 13, 2007

another year bites the dust

So now I´m thirty-two, which officially puts me in the last period where I can claim my early thirties and soon enough I´ll be having to admit I´m in my mid-thirties and that´s followed straight with the late thirties and then the forties, fifties, sixties, nineties and before I know it they´ll be measuring me up for a coffin and discussing which sucker has to give the eulogy.

Actually thirty two isn´t that bad at all and since passing the thirty milestone two years ago I´ve really felt I´ve hit my stride in this whole weird thing we call life. The thirties have been relatively good (despite a few nervous breakdowns but let´s face it, you can get those in any decade) to me so far so I won´t go dissing ´em in case they take offense and start REALLY screwing with my life.

We were planning on spending the day in the world´s largest hanger. Come now, I know that each and every one of you has secretly wished to spend a birthday in giant airship hanger and aren´t you just spitting chips that I live so close to it? Actually, since the economic collapse of the company who constructed it in the 1990´s thinking that giant airships were the way of the future, the building has been converted into a giant water park with slides and beaches and rainforests and the whole thing is so big that it actually has it´s own micro climate, forms clouds and rains. Now it sounds interesting, hey?

But we didn´t go. Nope, slept in too long, couldn´t be bothered, decided instead to use my present of a year´s pass to all the State Museums here instead. But once we got to the latest MoMA exhibit (really, the MoMA seems to like shipping stuff to us here- with over 170 museums and galleries, do they honestly think we´re lacking for culture or what?) we decided the line was too long, it was raining and what I REALLY wanted to do on my birthday was spend money on myself so I went and bought books. Lots and lots of pretty books. With pictures. And I´m one happy not-quite-yet-mid-thirties year old.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

families and how to survive them

I´d forgotten how nice big family get togethers were. The Christmases of my childhood were filled with cousins and aunts and friends of the family and were always big and loud and action filled. I´ve missed that a bit over the last few years. So it was nice to be in the 50-odd people on the weekend who were all somehow related to DrH´s family.

The nudity wasn´t anywhere near as extensive as it could have been considering this was in the depths of the former East, home of the act of sedition against the socialist state that´s known as getting your kit off. I exposed some lily white flesh to the harshness of the German sun, but managed to not cause too much mental anguish amongst other participants. I hope.

Saturday was a christening in a 14th century church, followed by lots of cake, swimming in a chilly lake and then eating and drinking till the wee hours. Once DrH had convinced the DJ to stop playing such much-loved hits as I´ve had the time of my life and move on to more Prodigy, Toten Hosen and Die Ärzte the party really took off with several 70+ year olds up wiggling it on the dance floor with us. Even one of the 8 year olds was still grooving along at midnight. Both ends of the age spectrum certainly showed more stamina than I had.

DrH ended our evening abruptly with a sudden realisation that copious amounts of wine and beer don´t mix too well, and after a half hour conversation with toilet I managed to get him into bed. As a man who´s heavy drinking is usually restricted to sharing a shandy with me of an evening, seeing him that drunk was an amusing change. After we checked out the following morning, he put the bed up in the car and slept there for a few more hours while the rest of us went and swam some more.

Next year´s get together date has already been announced and the location is currently under discussion. Looks like England may be on the cards, but I´m pulling for Jamiaca.

Friday, August 03, 2007

a little competition never hurts

Occassional commenter Jan arrived last night. For those who may be a bit confused it´s Jan in the german way, meaning he´s a guy and it´s pronounced a bit like yarn.



Cute isn´t he? And single. Not that I´m pimping him or anything.

As seems to happen when a couple of guys get together, especially ones that are somehow related, the evening resulted in a let´s-see-how-many-chinups-we-can-do competition and a discussion of the finer points of chinup technique. This included (but wasn´t restricted to) hand grip, arm extension and bar height. The last point is of particular importance to two guys that aren´t pushing the upper limit in human height.

Today we all head down to Leipzig for a family reunion weekend. Unlike the last big reunion, this one will probably be a little lighter on the history stuff and a little heavier on the skinny dipping stuff. At least, so I´ve been warned.

However, I have no doubt that the whole event, nudity included, will be as equally well organised as the last one.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

obviously I´m addicted to tweaking things here

Welcome to August! The new header has no particular meaning, except that I had fun making it and I thought it was cute.

The second and far more important update is that I´m changing my site feed to run through feedburner. I´m guessing this means that the current site feed will no longer throw any content out. So if you are subscribed via bloglines, blogrolling, iGoogle, live bookmarking or whatever other rss aggregator you use to the blogspot address, I think you´ll have to change it.

The new feed is

http://feeds.feedburner.com/aliented

Update your aggregator now, for it shall be switched tonight!

Edited to add: if you read directly on the website, don´t worry about this. Just keep popping by the same address as always.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

delving again into the former east

DrH and I made a last minute decision to escape for the weekend and so threw stuff into the Bulli and took off for the Baltic Sea. There´s something to be said for having a car in which you are fully self sufficient.



We stayed near Greifswald (translation: Gryphonforest, and if that just doesn´t tickle your Harry Potter fancy then I don´t know what will), ate bbq and french toast (although not at the same time) and got to enjoy the best of former-East campsite hospitality (taking your own toilet paper to the toilets). We drove around a lot, visiting tiny towns off the beaten track and discovering many previously unknown (to us) cathedrals, monasteries and castles.

Here´s one at Dargun, originally a monastery founded by Swedes in the 1100´s. Coolly enough, the town´s library is now located in the only part of the building still intact (that tower in the middle).



Apparently the same bunch of monks gave up on the site and moved up to Eldena, although the thirty years war gave it a bit of a hiding:

eldena

We then found a big big castle in a tiny tiny town called Basedow. The weather had turned to the pits by now so there were no good photos to be had. However, there were lots of sheep wandering around it and it HAD A MOAT. Which was GREEN. All my fairytales have come true at once.





On the way home we detoured off the autobahn to avoid a traffic jam and found another two castles, a couple of impressive churches and a very tall monument topped with a golden angel commemorating the Battle of Fehrbellin in 1675. Sometimes I´m surprised I don´t hurt myself, tripping over all this history lying about the place.

Friday, July 27, 2007

bye nanna

When I was young I lived on a farm in a town hours away from my grandparents, meaning I didn´t really feel like I had gotten to know them until I was about nine. Visiting them was as much about the television (What, you have FOUR TV stations? How could you EVER BE BORED AGAIN?!) as it was about getting spoiled by the grandparents.

Nanna had a huge collection of china teacups and silver. At about the age of ten I discovered that polishing silver was just about as much fun as any kid could have and would spend hours rubbing cleaning solution on teapots and ornamental milk jugs. I´d arrive at her house and rush to the silver cupboard, pulling the doors open and praying that the gleaming surfaces I´d polished just two days before would already be dark with tarnish and needing another scrub. I was often disappointed. Looking back on it, I´m not just a little bit certain that this silver high was caused primarily by the polishing solution itself.

Every birthday Nan was responsible for our birthday cakes. If it wasn´t a nanna made sponge cake, then I´m sorry but it WOULD NOT DO. Mine was always a chocolate sponge cake, with chocolate cream and fresh strawberries in the middle and decorated on top. None of that icing stuff on my sponge cake, it was cream all the way. I swear she spent half her time baking an amazing variety of slices and every time Mum would say to her "Mum, you´re spoiling them too much", Nan would give a little chuckle and say "Oh, go on with ya, it´s just a little slice."

Pa died when I was thirteen. That night I stayed with Nan, sleeping in Pa´s bed. I got very little sleep because Nan could snore like a diesel powered train. In a tunnel. Going up hill. I tried calling softly to her to get her to roll over. Then louder and even louder, but without her hearing aids in she was deaf as a post considered by other posts to be particularly hard of hearing. In a fit of tired desperation I flung my pillow across the space separating the twin beds. Nan woke up and said "Could you put the cat out, please?" Overcome with shame and cowardice, I got out of bed, hunted the cat down and persuaded the unwilling creature to get out the front door.

The last couple of years have been pretty tough, especially for my Mum who lived with her for three years as Alzheimer´s and dementia claimed her. Although there were lighthearted and amusing moments, it was hard, heartbreaking work. The rest of the family are in Mum´s and Aunt N´s debt for everything they´ve done caring for her.

In a very large way I didn´t know Nan very well. Out of the grandmother role, I didn´t know what made her tick. I don´t know what her childhood was like. I do know she worked in a factory during the war. I don´t know how she met Pa. I do know she was the most perfect, loving, generous, grandmotherly woman a granddaughter could ever wish for.

Sorry about the pillow throwing Nan. I´ll miss you.


This movie is more for the members of my family who read here. Nan and Daisy last Christmas.

Friday, July 20, 2007

the bit where I rue the working for myself from home idea

DrH is away on a business trip at the moment so I´m spending a lot of time talking to the dog and checking that I´ve double locked the doors. What is it with insecurity and getting older? At Uni my housemates and I wouldn´t even SHUT the back door and many were the times that we woke up to find acquaintances having breakfast and watching cartoons in the lounge room, having just walked in and made themselves at home. And did it bother us or cause one moment less sleep? Not at all.

But now I´m back to having lived with someone full time for the last 18 months and not having him here is... disturbing somehow. The dog barked in his sleep last night and I was immediately up and checking every room and cupboard. It really is ridiculous.

I´m blaming CSI, NCIS, RIS and every other television show for convincing me that a serial killer is only moments from my door and I will die in some horribly bloody, undoubtedly painful, and highly inventive way and the forensic teams will be sifting through the minutiae of my existence to catch my killer. That the intricacies of my life will be splashed across a police incident room somewhere, complete with photos and scaled sketches and all this paranoia of mine at least has the advantage that I make sure the porn is put away neatly these days.

So all this mental anguish that I´m undergoing is a direct result of DrH´s current business trip. To Portugal. Flying via Mallorca. And I´m thinking my little one person company here does not have anywhere near enough perks.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

high fidelity

Summer has finally arrived and so DrH and I have been doing our best to enjoy it based on the assumption that it will disappear again as quickly as my patience with people who take up two car parks on our street. Everyone else can park a car in a spot 10cm wider than the car itself, so why can´t you Mr I´ve Got A BMW/Mercedes/Porsche? You´re just asking for a nasty little note stuck under a windscreen wiper.

I have so fully gone native.

The rainy weather of the last month combined with the mild winter and now warm spell has brought the mosquitoes out in force. While we were having dinner on Sunday evening DrH began looking more and more uncomfortable until he eventually interrupted my gleeful gorging to say that his feet had started burning. It turned out that after years of marital pressure to give up the whole Socks With Sandals look, DrH had ventured forth unprotected on a night when mosquitoes were finally celebrating their burst of freedom. Without socks every centimetre of exposed skin on his feet was a swollen reddened mess. It took cooling foot baths and every cream in the house for him to get to sleep that night.

However, I was the one who spent hours awake listening to the hum of mosquitoes. Although I rarely get bitten and suffer no reaction when I do, I CANNOT sleep through the noise of mozzies. Like a TV on standby it´s a worse sound than a child´s fingernails on a blackboard. Having checked it out recently, I now know that I can hear well to 16000 Hz and the 17000Hz will make my jaw clench unwillingly. I consider this sufficiently supurb hearing to call myself a cut above my 37 yr old husband and his age-damaged ears, and a reasonable enough excuse to bitch about not being able to sleep while he snores undisturbed through their high-pitched whines. IT´S MY EXCELLENT HEARING, DO YOU NOT KNOW HOW MUCH I SUFFER FROM MY SUPERIORITY?

In a bedroom with 4metre ceilings I haven´t a hope of actually killing the little bastards and so I´ve been forced to wear earplugs to bed just to get some shut-eye. This has the added bonus that I don´t hear DrH waking up scratching and swearing as the latest invader, which thirty minutes earlier HE TOTALLY IGNORED telling me instead to turn off the light and try and sleep, feasts on him and I can sleep unscathed and peaceful.