Sunday, November 16, 2008

Because staying at home is overrated

I only just realised that my lack-of-blogging-of-late means that I haven't really prepared my loyal readers (yes, BOTH of you) for the idea that I'm about to go away again. Because it wasn't enough that we were in Egypt, or the UK, or in Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia this year.

Thursday I fly out for two weeks in Japan where I expect to eat any number of strange wriggly things and abuse the eardrums of locals at karoake. Then it is on to Australia for three months.

THREE MONTHS!

Now some people may think this an overindulgence, but I ask you to consider: it is two years since I was last home; I have a year and a half old nephew whom I've never met and the next one is already due next week; my best friend has managed to get knocked up, pop a sprog and be almost out of maternity leave in the time I've been gone; houses have been sold and close family have established new relationships with people I've never met.

Plus if I have to live through another Berlin winter this year I'll go insane.

Three months is long enough that I can get to know everyone again rather than just whizzing in and having a meal together somewhere. It's long enough that I can restock my Australianness (and redevelop my accent to an extent that my husband no longer wishes to hear me speak). And it's long enough that I'll be ready to leave there and come back here again.

I need this. I desperately, desperately need this.

Friday, October 31, 2008

BRRRAAAIIINNNNNSSS

For a reason which made perfect sense of at the time but actually ends up translating into a "well it would be funny if you were there"-type episode, I just googled the phrase "what do french zombies say?".

You know, because there are a number of words for BRRAAIIINNSSS and saying MIIINNDDDS or SMMAAARRRTTTTSSS just doesn't have the same bloody, lurching, undead feel. So it was an important issue and one which I wanted to get right.

Surprisingly the first hit was for a site titled "How to say I am killing zombies in different languages translation". Not quite what I was after, but potentially useful, right? I mean if I end up becoming the Berlin Buffy then I need to be able to announce my intentions in the local language, don't I?

Unfortunately the site, howtosayin.com, seems to be automatically translated and even I can tell that the resulting phrase "Ich bin Tötung Zombies" has more than a few errors in it. So without a correct translation of this mightily important slogan I'm now going to be left either shouting it out in English as I whirl through the air, machete in hand, or risk facing German grammar unarmed. A more dangerous position to be in than you might think for German grammar has absolutely no sense of humour. And also large, pointy teeth.

However my concern for survival in the face of progressive pluperfect took a backseat when I noticed the box on the left side of the page with Popular Searches. Nestled amongst the top searches of I love you, my love, beautiful and thank you so much, were 'go to hell', 'i don't want to die alone' and 'do you have any nuclear warheads'.

Now while the first suggests tourists are just trying to get a drink in a foreign nightclub without being fondled, the second has more tragic associations and I can only assume that a large number of men are looking internationally for wives. Or nurses.

However the last is more worrying. If the translation accuracy is anything like killing zombies in German then I think we may have found the reason no one located those WMDs.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What should I do?

Can you tell my enthusiasm for blogging is currently on a low tide?

I'm not too worried. this has happened before: the last time I was in Australia I didn't blog for three months and with the next three month Australian trip on the doorstep, it's probably going to happen again.

But I would like to continue. I'm just not sure how. So what should I do with this blog, peoples? As a bit more information I've recently reserved aliented.com, so I have the chance to try something totally new there. Hmmm, any ideas?

Should it be a personal blog? An expat one? Should I start a web comic, with all of my famous inability to draw? Should I discuss procrastination, one of my strong suits?

So I'm stuck. What do I want to do with this... any suggestions?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

I was there, holding the light

Just a quick post to show you the photos of the infamous Spree photo shoot with SuperCoolMatti. It was for the gay magazine Siegesaule and the photos are on the cover and pages 10-13. And the photo with the two chicks sitting in front of a window? That was the one on the dumped boat where the cops came and rapped our knuckles.

Monday, September 01, 2008

catching up.. and leaving again

Alright everyone, I know it's been a while. It's going to have to be a bit longer...

We're due to leave for Italy tomorrow. That's probably not going to happen - after a weekend witha large number of extended family here and tearing up the town, we haven't even started packing. Luckily we're travelling by Bulli which means we can leave whenever we want to...so it's probably going to be Wednesday now.

Then I'm gone for almost all of September - soaking up the Tuscan sun.

I'll probably twitter the trip. For those who don't know it, just go along here and you can read all that I'm up to in tiny bit-sized amounts. I've also put the twitter badge back up on this page (see? over there on the right?) so that you can follow me here directly.

Ahh, I have no energy right now. Packing to go away should be exciting but right now I just can't be bothered.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sweaty, stinky and half deaf... ahhhh

I know you're all desperate to find out what my tweet meant the other day. For those who don't follow me, here it is:

Got caught on a shipwreck in berlin by the water police. knuckles are now rapped.

However you're all going to have to wait a bit longer because I want to just quickly mention that I had a FUCK'N ROCK'N weekend at the Highfield festival.

Yes, DrH and I teamed up once again with PermanentHoliDave in what has now become an annual ritual of German music festivals. This time around we dragged along SuperCoolMatti and instead of heading all the way down to the Nürburgring for Rock Am Ring, we went to Erfurt for the Highfield festival.

This was the basic lineup:

*Mud*
*Hans, where's the beer?*
*No Camping here, Sir*
*1000 PortaLoos*
*Tinned Sausages with Runny Eggs*
*3 Days Showerless*
*Am I Too Old For This*
*Nope (Thank God)*

As you can see, an arse kicking weekend. I shall now go and grab one of the left over beers and await my turn for the shower.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I Google You

Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls) singing, lyrics by Neil Gaiman.

The modern day stalker.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dirty knees - All the feathers - All the threes - Gertie Lee - Two little fleas - Sherwood forest (all the trees)

That's me!

I woke up this morning in the tiny wedge of space we call a bed in the Bulli, my husband next to me and my dog whining to be let into the bed and I thought "Yep, SOME things I've managed to do pretty well so far."

I suppose it's unsurprising that a birthday leads to quite a bit of reflection on the life led till now. I've often compared myself to those who seem to have it all together: the house, the kids, the good car, the impressive job. And of course I come up lacking. I mean, dude, I own a shitty bicycle and a limited edition signed Geiger print. I rent, have a dog and I've thrown in the impressive-sounding job.

But this past year I've found myself, through my writing group and other creative pasttimes, hanging out with more people like me. People who haven't achieved those goals and have a great, impressive, exciting life.

And I think "Yep, at 33 I LIKE me. And my life."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

nightmare

I have nightmares. I thought I'd mentioned them here before, but apparently not. Generally they're pretty bad, most of the time they happen in the first 30 minutes of sleep, often I stop breathing and always I have to wake myself up by concentrating on wiggling my toes. I taught myself that trick in high school.

I also completely rock the recurring dream style. Through most of highschool it was a dream about returning to the school as an adult with a few other women. We'd pull up at the gate in a white car, grab our walkie-talkies and disappear into the school grounds at night. What happened in between always varied - once I walked into the gym where a class was going on, once I went back to the car and found that the boot was full of dead bodies folded like shirts - but it always ended with the others dropping off the walkie-talkies and me eventually being grabbed from behind.

Ahh, teenage angst. Dontchya just love it?

I've had several other notable recurring dreams over the years, but none as good nor as longlived. That went a couple of times a week for several years. I still do some great stand-alone ones though.

Anyway I've noticed a bit of a trend - these dreams only become nightmares when one character starts getting out of control. I'll be in a situation, like last night where I was with a group of kids showing off their karate kid moves, and one person will just start acting completely inappropriately. In this case it was a guy who turned into an adult and then started getting violent. It isn't the whole dream that's nightmarish, just one character. And they ALWAYS started off nice. They start behaving oddly, it gets worse and suddenly it's a nightmare and I'm fighting to breathe.

That's the point when the real panic sets in because I try desperately to wake myself up, something I can only do if I force myself into calmness and concentrate on wiggling my toes. Which, incidentally, I'm not doing in reality just the same as I haven't actually screamed myself hoarse although my throat still feels like it.

You know, I was aiming to make this post kind of light-hearted and funny, like "check out this weird shit my brain does when it's shutting down", but it turns out I can't.

Even though I'm used to them and know how to deal with them - hell, I even know when I'm going to have one because I fall asleep in a different way - they are horrid. And mostly I manage to fall asleep again by remembering my mother coming into my room when I was about six and had had an awful nightmare (about spiders, and when she sat on my bed a giant spider sat on my legs in my dream) and she brushed my forehead and told me to think about butterflies.

So that's what I do.

Monday, August 04, 2008

german tweets

A week ago I went along to the first ever German twitter reading (Twitterlesung), and met up with jenna_ in what felt remarkably like a blind date, where I stared nervously at all tall brunettes hoping for a small signal that they were the one I was waiting for. Perhaps I should have worn a red rose in my lapel.

Anyway we met up and had enjoyable evening despite the presenters best attempts to make it cliqueish and self indulgent. The first presentation - A day in the life of Twitter - was hilarious, but after that it was just people admiring themselves and each other's ability to be clever in 140 characters.

If you do want to watch the first presentation here's a video . The funny bit is between 111 minutes and 88 minutes (the timing only seems to exist backwards there) and it is of course all in German. Here are a few gems which stuck with me though:

*Das Homeoffice ist der Tod der Körperpflege.

*Mir ist schon wieder beim Radfahren der Penis eingeschlafen. Aber fürs aufwachkribbeln lohnt es sich.

*Ich hab mein Schnitzel in Auto vergessen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

getting things done

Have I mentioned before that I'm an organisation freak?

Ahh, I can here the scoffing from everyone who knows me. I'm sure my mother just swallowed her dinner the wrong way and every housemate I've ever had just squirted beer out their nostrils. For I am RENOWNED as a messy person.

But my messiness always had a system: if I put something down somewhere I knew where it was and could always find it again at a moments notice. I had housemates who would pack everything away neatly into boxes, and then spend 20min searching for an item while I would reach into any pile and produce it instantly. It was an organisation system that worked because I was in complete control of it.

Then I moved in with DrH and have spent most of the last six years looking for things that he's moved around. The number one rule of co-existence with me is DON'T TOUCH MY SHIT, and what's the one rule that NEVER gets followed?

So seeing as my tried-and-true, worked-perfectly-for-twenty-five-years system is down the drain, I've been searching for something else. And everytime I've failed to find that perfect system which will have me completely organised and cannot be broken by a husband moving a stack of my papers.

It must be perfect. If it isn't I can't even start using it, and so there I sit, stuck and disorganised and going quietly insane.

So I've tried this geek-god David Allen's Getting Things Done and you know what? It STILL isn't perfect. It breaks to easily, the system is brittle and can't handle not being maintained with constant high attention. I like the concept of it and I've brought in various tools from it, but as a whole it doesn't work great with my personality. It's too many rules and structures and... that's something I then rebel against. Even when they're the rules I'VE set for myself.

So I'm still stuck. Anyone know anything better than GTD?

Friday, July 25, 2008

and my proof of Obama




This would've been a much better photo if I hadn't been standing on tiptoes on top of a bag, wielding a long and highly-sensitive-to-movement manual lens and THOSE TALL BASTARDS WEREN'T STANDING IN FRONT OF ME.

Obamarama

Yes I was there. In fact, if you follow my Twitter feed you would have been able to get hourly updates on the "getting through security" saga, an ordeal which took well over an hour in the blazing sun while I got to know my nieghbours rather intimately in the crush. Then, when we finally got through to the man who had to inspect everything we had on us, SuperCoolMatti was prevented from bringing in a 3cm padlock on the argument that it was a weapon, while I was allowed through with a 25cm 500mm lens weighing about 3 kg.

All I ever ask in security checks is a bit of practical and logical thinking, and what do I never get?

We managed to get into the "inner circle", meaning we were on a level with the journalists stand and just to their left. Just before he appeared we had some excitement with a spectator having a medical problem, and it was heartwarming to see the crowd work together so well to get help there. A few doctors in the crowd made it through first, and SuperCoolMatti came up with the brilliant idea that if you're a doctor or first aid person, you should be able to make yourself known at security and be given a first aid pack. This would ensure that there is extra medical aid sprinkled all through the crowd.

How's that for thinking?

Anyway, the speech itself was... alright. It was a lot full of little and although I can imagine that if it was a 100% American crowd it would've gotten a HUGE response, here it got a decent response. It could've been bigger and better than it was, so I felt vaguely let down by it.

In the end I was MORE moved to cut any tall person off at the knees and make deoderant an absolute requirement for any crowd member, than I was to get excited about the American election or what this guy would do for his country and ours. Naja.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

on the joy of marrying germans #64

The other night we were out walking the dog when the sudden urge struck to spin around in circles. You know how that just hits you out of the blue? No reason at all? Certainly not the wine I'd had earlier, I'm sure that couldn't be the reason.

So I stuck out my arms and span around a few times, got dizzy and grabbed onto DrH for support. To which he very soberly said:

"Well that's what happens when you have a drink and then rotate quickly around your vertical axis."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

my life as a TV series

So a new header has gone up, only just in time to start trying to work out what the next one should be. Life's been getting busy recently and as well as the blogging work, I've got my business starting to lift off, collaborations with others starting to take up more time and then there's my fiction writing. Which has taken a back seat to everything else at the moment unfortunately.

But I did get another rejection! Yay!

Last week I went and had a very minor operation, which wasn't in the slightest bit life threatening or even interesting, but did mean that I was given a total anaesthetic for the first time in my life. I was apparently asleep for about twenty minutes before they came and took me to the theatre, but I did realise enough to notice that I was being moved. So I forced my eyes open just to experience that ceiling-flicking-passed image shown in every medical drama.

And whaddya know? It looks just like that!

The operating room had an amazing number of people in it to my addled brain, and all dressed head to toe in green. I do remember looking over to the right and seeing a big machine with lots of blinking lights and buttons and pings and thinking "Ahh, yes. Just as it should be", before a green person held a mask over my face and told me to breathe deeply.

As that blue oxygen mask drew closer I drifted back into unconcious thinking "This is just so TOTALLY ER."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

new gig!

This blogging thing is starting to become a little bigger than I originally planned.

I am now a blogger with Europe a la Carte, a travel blog focusing on jaunting around Europe on a budget. Personally I don't think you can get much more budget than the two square metres of a thirty year old van.

My first post went up yesterday, and you'll spot me there as a regular contributor from now on. Feel free to drop by and leave a comment!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

how to depress the pants off me

I was chatting over IM to one of my best friends and realised: if I go back to Australia on average once every two years, and I live another forty years, then I am only going to see him twenty more times before I die.

Twenty times.

That's it. For my family, my best friends, mates, acquaintances, childhood sweethearts. Everything on the other side of the planet has a very limited exposure from now on and each time I'm home I know I'll be thinking only "19 left, only 18..."

DrH pointed out that we only see his parents once or twice a year, which isn't that much better statistically. But the difference there is that we know we can drop everything and be there in a few hours. We can say "Sod it, let's nick down there this weekend" at any point in time. Jetting back to Australia is not as simple, nor as cheap. The difference is the opportunity always exists and if we don't take it it's our own fault, rather than the pressure of budget or excessive geography.

Twenty times. In a lifetime.

Today I feel like it's ended already.

Friday, June 27, 2008

hey, margarita

The last week I've had the wife of an old school friend staying with me which has been lots of fun, especially as DrH has been in Boston since Saturday. Last night was her final night here and we took advantage of that to try on some Margaritas for size. They definately fitted well and I think the cut makes me look slimmer.

At about 3.30am we wandered into a bar somewhere in Mitte and ended up on the dance floor where I made the stupid mistake of talking to someone. Turned out to be a British guy who's entire conversation skills were taken up with the line "But who are you really?"

Seriously dude, you're thirty, not twenty. Congrats on getting bored with drinking and fucking your way around London and deciding to come here to do it instead. You sounded just SO world-wise and SO world-weary and that whole 'I'm cool and deep and mysterious with this one pick-up line I worked out at Uni which just makes me sound SO intellectual' thing is just SO über-cool y'know.

It's been a long time since I actively used this word to describe someone and fully meant it, but last night pulled it back into my active vocabulary.

WHAT. A. WANKER.

Thankfully there were Margaritas and old school friend's wives to keep me company instead.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Not surprisingly, I'm not a chick in skin-tight latex

Your results:
You are Iron Man
























Iron Man
70%
Spider-Man
65%
Hulk
60%
Green Lantern
50%
The Flash
50%
Robin
45%
Superman
35%
Wonder Woman
25%
Catwoman
25%
Supergirl
25%
Batman
20%
Inventor. Businessman. Genius.


Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I guess this is addiction

Last Friday I visited the turkish market here and came home with a big bunch of fresh mint. What should one do with a bunch of fresh mint? Why Mojito's of course!

Luckily our lounge room comes with a fully stocked bar which we rarely use and so an instantaneous Mojito wish is pretty easy to fulfill. Now as we all know, crushed ice is a necessity in instant-Mojito-wishes, so I trundled down to the kitchen and pulled out my manual ice crusher. It's pretty loud, so I made sure to do it at a really exciting part of the football game and have the windows wide open so all the neighbours could enjoy.

The instant-Mojito-wish was thusly fulfilled and deservedly delicious, but I found I reached the bottom to quickly. So down I went to the kitchen again, crushing more ice in the exciting part of the next football match and refilling the mint. Then I thought for a moment, and topped up the glass with water instead of rum and went and sat down.

For the last week I have been drinking virgin Mojito's and going through four trays of ice a day. I seem to have a real problem here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

hey, it's not just him!

We decided to get away for a bit of a long weekend. You know, chuck some food and a doona in the back of the Bulli, grab the dog and head for whatever wilds East Germany had to offer us.

We would've perhaps aimed for the wilds of West Germany, but our car is old. And slow.

Of course, this was the first camping trip we'd done this year which meant it took a full day to get all the gear out of winter hibernation. Fill up the water tanks and the portapotty. Fix the rack and metal box to the roof. Work out why the electricity has stopped working and spend two hours pulling wiring out from behind the dashboard. You know, normal car stuff.

Eventually we got underway but the delay meant we had only a 36 hour holiday to look forward to. This, in the grand scheme of things, is kind of cruddy.

So we stuck to the Brandenburg region, deciding that anything over two hours drive really was overkill and besides there was a Water Castle marked just off the highway and this I had to see. My fantasy-fueled visions of undersea royalty were somewhat destroyed by it being just a big building. Like, near the water. Pathetic really.

But cruising into the next campsite along the road, we stumbled across the Berlin VW Bus group on a weekend outing. I have never seen DrH's face shine so brightly as when we pulled up to the gate and witnessed a herd of T3's grazing in the nearby meadow. At home in their natural environment of open fires and beer cases and pissing in the bushes.

A nice bunch of people, even if they did drive T3's, and DrH is looking forward to going along to their next monthly meeting. I'm not sure I'll join him - I can talk more VW bus shit than you could possibly imagine, but these guys were EXTREME. Audi engines and Porsche brakes. Cruising speeds of 180km. In 4-wheel-drive T3's.

I mean, they could've at least owned T2's. Shown some taste.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

what? you don't know The Goodies?

Jan left a comment on the last post about cultural differences in relationships, whether they're a big deal or not, if it gets better with time or if it adds crispy freshness to every serve.

The short answer is: It's a two sided coin. Yes it is refr.. well interesting and is a relatively limitless source of amusement. At the same time it can be kind of frustrating and a little sad that we can't share the stories, jokes, knowledge or experiences that I have with other Australians. It's why I need to go home for such long stretches when I do and surround myself with people who knew me when I was young and why those from my hometown have become that much more important to me. With them, there are many things I don't have to explain, that I can refer to obliquely and still have them laugh. On a very basic level I know that they "get" me in a way DrH never will.

Now, I realise I could just hunt down all Aussie expats here to try and find the same thing, but I deliberately avoided that until about 6 months ago and it still isn't something I want to immerse myself in too deeply. Expats amongst themselves and integration is something I'll get into in some other post.

Soooo. That's my side of it. How I deal with DrH not being of my culture. What about the other way around - me not being of his?

This is also tough. I don't know really what his teenage years were like, for example. I've seen pictures, I know some stories, I know how schools etc work intellectually, but I never experienced it myself. I don't really know what the formative influences on him in these times were: what were the trends or fashions, music, pasttimes, local or world events which had an impact on making him the guy his is.

Do I really need to know this? No. but it makes that basic level of understanding that little bit more difficult. Sometimes I just really don't understand where he's coming from. I expect he feels the same.

Now to the point of: does this get better? Will you ever know each other well enough that these differences don't exist. I can't say for sure but I'd be betting on no. I've been here almost nine years, I've been with DrH for six of those. Sure they've lessened, but it is still always there hovering in the background.

So: Doesn't it make it refreshing? The early years most definately, and it is still useful for a laugh. Now though, I do find myself frustrated from time to time, wishing I didn't have to explain myself so often and getting snappy when I do. Again. This is why I need to immerse myself in Australia occassionally. It's like releasing a breath I've been holding onto for two years, where I can just be me and know that those around me understand it.

Okay, this has turned into a long-winded, and surprisingly negative sounding, rant and there are still a few points I haven't discussed yet: not being as home in Australia as I was, being around Australians who do get the being abroad thing, getting integrated into Germany etc etc etc.

The summary is: DrH and I still have cultural differences and that probably won't change. However I'm with him for the guy he is, and he's that guy also because he was raised in a different culture to mine. It can get annoying sometimes, but I have things in place (visits home, other expats) to temper it. We have a damn good relationship going and compared to more fundamental problems relationships can have, our cultural differences are minor.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

one of Facebook's better sides

This afternoon I was cruising through Facebook, as is my occasional wont, intent on spying out details of lives of half-remembered acquaintances of early childhood and realising again that I may as well give up on half because women still keep changing their surnames.

What is with that? I STILL can't grasp why anyone would willingly giving up their name. Unless they're entering a witness protection program, of course. But then I feel PROBABLE DEATH is a pretty good reason for a number of life adjustments.

However, I have joined a number of Facebook groups based entirely on their titles. Hence I am a member of:

▪ If you can't fix it with Gaffa tape, you haven't used enough.
▪ I FLIP MY PILLOW OVER TO GET TO THE COLD SIDE
▪ People Who Always Have To Spell Their Names For Other People
▪ Derek Zoolander's Group For Really Really Ridiculously Good Looking People

I feel the last one really connects with WHO I am. You know, on the inside.

I have cut myself out of eligibility for the Philosphy group "I Dont care How Comfortable Crocs Are, You Look Like A Dumbass", by purchasing a pair last week; nor do I really qualify for the "I only watch Eurovision for Terry Wogan" seeing as I don't get the British showing of it and I ACTUALLY only watch it for the Ukraine.

What can I say? Hope springs eternal for the return of Ruslana.

But this afternoon I found, I think, the most community service-orientated group yet, admittedly perhaps only relevant for those from my hometown...

"It shits me when people don't realise the ADDED LANE entering Torquay Road!"

Monday, May 19, 2008

I think I'll make them call me sir

A while back I was in a situation to overhear a bunch of South African boys school students beg their teacher to allow them out later to party in Berlin. Amazingly, every second word used by these boys was Sir: Please, sir? Of course sir! May we sir? Sir yes sir.

Last weekend I started teaching an embroidery course, which seemed to run reasonably well. The biggest problem was that I have really no reference points for where beginners are and how much time they need. I mean, I was about eight when my mother made me pick up a small pointy stick and stitch (actually I was about five when I got the large pointy stick to stitch with, but my baby-poo brown knitting attempts are best left to be forgotten by history). So knowing how to thread a needle, tie a knot, stick the pointy end through the fabric? These basic things are organic, I don't even realise that they're things that NEED to be taught.

So it was an interesting afternoon, but I think I dealt with it all reasonably well and everyone seemed happy with their work at the end. And because I had underestimated the time involved, I already have next weeks prepared.

But it's a little wierd to realise that after years of being the black sheep, I've been pulled into the family business. So to speak. My sister started a career in the same organisation as my father, my brother became a chef while my mother was a cooking teacher. And a sewing teacher. I guess you can't avoid parental influences after all.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

some things should not be done to the humble rhubarb

The last couple of weeks have sunk under the weight of multiple visitors. Its been lots of fun, and great to have touches of home after a year of being absent from Downunder. I even recieved the gift of Vegemite, powerful indeed in the hands of a knowledgeable Aussie.

Our most recent guest was Permanent HoliDave, again on the continent and resting up between gigs. I haven't seen the professional tourist since this time last year and its amazing how much time can pass while feeling that none has passed at all.

In deference to HoliDave's beaten up liver we spared him the worst of drinking excesses, but couldn't turn down the chance of partaking in Werder's fruit wine festival. If you've been watching my PlanetEye blog you would have seen a passing mention of this alcoholic event.



True to all I'd heard, Werder was full of fruit wine and intoxicated youth. Vats were filled with the stuff, bottles sold hand over fist and vast amounts of punch were available. I took home a bottle of quince wine and between us we had gooseberry, apple, raspberry, rhubarb and blueberry.



Today is HoliDave's birthday, which we'd originally planned to spend together at a giant water park inside an airship hangar, but as the man in question is currently standing at the front of a bus on its way to Madrid and discovering that the rain in Spain DOES fall mainly on the plain, we've had to postpone it.



So happy birthday HoliDave. There's an inappropriately large indoor island resort waiting for you and your speedos when you return.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

burny burny burny

Using high quality pear schnapps as a mouthwash HURTS.

This was a community services announcement.

Monday, April 28, 2008

anyone interested in learning embroidery?

A quick advertising post:

I'm running an embroidery course in May at Linkle . It is a beginners course running Saturday afternoons for four weeks. If there are any Berliners who are interested in learning Sticken, drop me an email at alien.ted@web.de and I'll send you the details.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

poor little bunny

I managed to come down with a nasty cold on Monday which saw my lungs once again attempt to escape my body through my nostrils. It's been an unpleasant few days, but I have braved it stoically and only very occasionally complained like a guy.

Last night, I decided that, despite my crippling disability, my heroic battle with adversity, I would go to my writing group. It had been a fortnight since I was last there and my fiction muscle had frozen up. I got through the meeting alright and even managed to get a few words on paper which surprised my own fúzzy brain. DrH, the lovely, generous caring man that he is, came and picked me up so that I didn't have to suffer through an hour on public transport in my miserable state.

By the time we were home I was a mess. Straight into bed, wearing three layers of clothing and my big, thick dressing gown and huddled under two doonas and I was still freezing. DrH cuddled me to provide more warmth but it was only when I had him rub my forehead and say "poor little bunny" that I was actually able to stop shivering enough to fall asleep. Whaddya know, I have a man cold.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

turn right. now.

One of the benefits of driving a thirty year old VW bus is that you get to enjoy life at a sedate pace. Cruising the autobahns is a relaxing affair when even the slowest Russian semi-trailer is overtaking you on an uphill slope. You just sit back and enjoy the ride, able to fully appreciate the aesthetics of road kill as you putt by.
But the draw back is that you ain't getting nowhere in a hurry.

Sunday we decided to do some high speed tourism through the former East, cramming as much as we could in a day limited by the number of hours we could leave the dog at home without a pee break. So we hired a Mercedes.

DrH was in his element, out in the fast lane with the Beamers and Audis at 180 km/hr (111 miles/hr according to my trusty online converter for all you non-metric folk out there). It was hard to get him to give up the steering wheel, although he did complain that it didn't have enough style or uniqueness. there are a lot of black merc's on the road out there, and we're pretty used to being looked at a lot in our ancient car. Undeserved attention is a hard drug to give up, just ask Britney Spears.

My favourite part however was the navigation system, something we've never used before. Now I'm not talking about using it to get around the place because it was, frankly, useless. Completely unaware of new autobahns, one way streets or pedestrian areas. We found ourselves listening to her rather than using our own eyes to read the GIANT signs above the highways. And you can't tell me that a navi could show you all the irratic boulders, Dalai Lama planted pine trees and poets birthplaces that our fantastic 1:30000 map of Estonia does. No, a navi makes life dull and uneventful, making us turn off even more of our underused brains.

So it wasn't it's navigational skill that I admired, rather the sexy, slightly British-accented voice which instructed us to get back onto pavement although we were clearly tearing down an autobahn. To my great surprise I found I could exactly imitate it and several times had SuperCoolMatti jumping in shock at unusual commands delieverd in a calm and sultry voice. Which made me realise just how much is lacking in the vocabulary of this instrument. "Turn right, now" would be so much more impressive if it was actually "Where the bloody hell do you think you're going? You call that driving? You better chuck a U-ey and go back now cause you missed the turnoff. Dickhead."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The second best thing since Choose Your Own Adventure

Apparently Penguin books is trying to be new and hip and has a web fiction experiment going on. They've got six authors to write six stories (based on classics it seems) which work with some kind of hypertext gimmick. Currently they're in week 3, althoughI'm still going through week 1, a story called the 21 Steps.

It's a spy mystery thriller which tracks the story along on Google maps. It's a little bit light on the text, and a bit slow moving over the map, but it's kinda interesting. I would enjoy it more if I was more familiar with London and Edinburgh I think.

The second story, Slice, seems to be built on a background of blogs and twits. I haven't gotten that far yet, so we'll see. It looks like there's a lot of backstory, what are blog archives but? The third story is a fairy tale and I haven't even looked at it yet.

It reminds me a bit of Elizabeth Bear's (and others) experiment with Shadow Unit, which is the episode guides, background information, etc etc for a fictional TV series. I haven't been really following it, but it has garnered a fan base. No real surprise, as a SF&F writer she has an inbuilt fanbase who love this kind of stuff. More power to her.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The end of the great official DrJ Going Grey Experiment 2007/2008

Last year I decided would be a good time to get my grey out. I had a couple of comments - I believe one was "You'd totally rock grey!" - which convinced me to let the beast loose. With the silvery shine my part would show only a mere three weeks after my last dye job I was positive I could become a ashen beauty if I just gave it free rein and let it gallop away with my scalp.

So I did. For the past ten months I haven't dyed my hair. I have let nature run it's course. Displayed my badge of wisdom for all to behold. Shown I'm not afraid of ageing.

Which I'm not actually. Well, except for the idea that old people aren't allowed to have sex anymore because that ain't something I'm giving up anytime soon, thank you very much. And I don't care how much it may embarrass any future offspring. Yes, your father and I shag. Deal.

Depressingly, however, I discovered that my much admired regrowth turned into much blerghed full growth. In the wonderful portraits of my new do I am actually as grey as it is currently possible for me to be. So, yeah, there's a few around, quite a gathering over my left eye in fact, and the back of my head is certainly not to be sneezed at by any advanced-age afficiando, but not enough to look halfway decent in a resplendent sterling sort of way.

So I've called it quits. the experiment is over. Done. You may now call me DrJ Longstocking if you'd like.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

where oh where did the nice people go

I had an interesting email exchange today with a person who was protesting a statement I made elsewhere. She had very reasonable points, is considerably more knowledgable in that field than I am and I was happy to hear her input. So I wrote back, thanked her, discussed my views a bit more, took hers on board and all was good and happy.

But what really struck me was that she responded to my response with a thank you for being gracious. Which made me think - do we really expect all answers to our critiques to be rude? Did she really think I was going to snap at her for daring to point out that I may be wrong?

Actually, yes she did. The internet and it's supposed anonymity has allowed people to be rude and snide and nasty. But it's perhaps unfair to blame it entirely on the internet. Most of us have trouble accepting when we're wrong, or when we've been heavily criticised. But even if it's tough to swallow, sometimes you've gotta take it, and take it well. I would have thought that was part of being a grown-up.

not sure if it was the best decision ever or the start of a spiral into insanity

We dumped our TV.

Okay, so we didn't dump it, we loaned it to SuperCoolMatti for an unspecified amount of time. Probably around a month, because I'm really not sure I'm going to survive this.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I tend to take my lunchbreaks in front of TV just because it's there, and resisting the siren call of daytime television is well beyond my puny self discipline powers. So I lose 30 minutes to an hour a day sucking down any amount of ridiculous rubbish and can slowly feel my brain dissolving. Evenings aren't terribly much better and I think I've absorbed all the possible crime storylines I can without starting to develop a serial killer presonality of my own.

So that was it, we decided. The television must go. And so we drove it across Berlin and lugged it up five stories, then put a big armchair in it's place with a pile of books ready next to it.

Last night we had dinner on the dining table and had a conversation - an novel experience. Apparently I married a kinda interesting guy. Who would've thought it? After working for a while, we then pulled out a board game and played a few rounds. Won one, lost one, but that doesn't really matter because we can play it as often as we want now.

But the question remains: will our marriage survive this much contact?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

fire away

So Easter here, at least in the villages, is a fun event full of flames. Every spare stick of wood gets heaped into a bonfire in a paddock on the edge of town and as the day starts to darken towards evening it's set alight. The entire village normally turns up to the event and drinks. A lot.

I was introduced to the Easter fire my first easter in Germany, way back at the very start of this millenium, and boy does this sentance make me feel old. I'd made a friend a few days before, a lovely young German chap we'll call Klaus, who'd taken pity on the prospect of me spending the holidays alone working in the lab. So he dragged me back home with him to enjoy the festivities.

Now what I wasn't aware of was that I was apparently the first girl he'd ever brought back to meet the folks before and so his parents, siblings, great aunts and various and sundry neighbours all assumed that I was THE ONE. I was greeted by half the town when I extracted myself from our piles of chip and lolly packets in the car. I was given pride of place at the table, had food constantly foisted on to me and everyone tried their best to communicate. At this point my german was still incredibly bad, but Klaus's parents had recently done some evening courses in English, so we were muddling along.

Now Klaus didn't actually say anything to dissuade his parents from their assumptions of our level of intimacy. Having known him only three days however, I can assure you that we weren't terribly close. In fact, I think he was rather happy to have produced a chick that found some approval.

So I shouldn't have been really surprised when later that night, standing around in a field observing a bonfire and getting drunk on cheap apple schnapps, Klaus's father stumbled his inebrieated way over to me and in heavily accented and broken English said:

"Klaus's mother and I, we're getting old. We want grand children."

Friday, March 21, 2008

new do



When I was fifteen I began the tortuous teenage attempt to outgrow a fringe which had, after years of my mother cutting it, slowly overtaken ninety percent of my head. It took me a good ten years to get over the trauma that induced, but now I can't really believe that I had forgotten it so completely that I allowed it to be done again. I mean it's hidden my eyebrows, and they're my best feature after all.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I don't know... is it something you're likely to say?

It was late last night when we landed back in Berlin. Oh, did I forget to mention that? We spent the last four days in the UK, going to a christening and visiting DrH's cousin in Telford. Which of course had me reciting Not from Telford after all but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelguese over and over in my head at every intersection and signpost. And if you know that reference then feel proud because your geek is AT LEAST as big as mine and certainly large enough to warrant wearing a t-shirt with a hilarious mathematics in-joke on it.

Anyway, it was 11pm and we were off to pick up the dog; cruising the Bulli through the tunnel and feeling very chipper, probably because we were back home in a country with water pressure. I can't remember which one of us started it but we began a series of loud duets. A bit of Can't Buy Me Love, segueing into DrH's all-time-favourite Offspring song and me trying to trump him with The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Because I haven't sung it since 1982, and it needed to be let out for a bit of airing again.

So we were idling at a traffic light singing loudly, scaring pedestrians and the guy in the Renault next to us with our atonal crooning. I turned to DrH and said "When we have kids we are SO going to be doing this with them in the backseat with their girlfriend." And DrH got this evil little grin and, in a voice full of expectation and promise, said "Yeah".

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Saturday, March 08, 2008

coming out, so to speak

Most bloggers understand the sense of security you get behind a blogging psuedonym. The feeling of privacy; that you can let loose with just about anything, no matter how personal. This was important to me when I was still in science and using this space to work through my frustrations. They were posts that my current and future employers and colleagues didn't need to see, and I was happy not to have my name connected to them.

However the vast majority of this blog's very small readership do actually know me in real life, and I've written nothing here that I wouldn't say in their physical presence. Now that I have left academic research and am organising my life as a freelancer, I don't have a problem admitting publicly to those periods of depression I went through as I decided to change everything I had planned for my life.

So, the big moment. I can be found in a couple of places around the web with my name attached and I will no longer shy away from telling you guys about them. I won't put my name here directly, because I don't want Google to pick this up that easily and I would appreciate it if you didn't leave my full name in the comments.

Here you go: my new job as a blogger on Berlin for PlanetEye. Feel free to check that blog out- it'll be updated a few times a week and full of juicy tidbits about the best city in the world.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

oh right, THAT was the reason we went away

the ANNIVERSARY thing! I KNEW I forgot something.

So because it was our fourth wedding anniversary, and because two years ago I posted a teaser of one of my wedding photos, today you get the whole thing. Green pants, long red hair and all.





Happy Anniversary DrH.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

walk like an egyptian

Well that was a holiday which involved a lot of sitting around, a topic I'll get into in another post. We did do a couple of day trips out of our tourist ghetto though, including a Jeep sarfari into the desert east of Hurghada.

This meant a lot of time being banged around the back of a Land Cruiser, on bench seats without seatbelts, as our driver attempted to emulate the Dakar Rally with the other sarfari jeeps tearing across the desert. Note to self: In planning for my own entry into the Dakar in a suped up Bulli, must remember to pack a REALLY supportive bra.

hanging in there

The desert was deceptively flat (it looked that way, but my boobs felt every damn bump) for a few kilometres, before rising into jagged hills. These were strange up close: not very large and each hill stood alone. It wasn't a continous line that we had to climb over, instead we just had to swerve around them.



The aim of the trip was a visit to a Bedouin camp. About 30 people lived there, apparently having thrown in the drug and arms running trade which supported them in the past, for the equally lucrative business of towing sunburned tourists around on camels.

going home

I had the village elder guiding my camel, at an incredibly sedate pace which had the others lap us twice before we turned and headed for home. Not that I'm complaining, the man walked with a stick and I have a feeling that walkingslowlyatthepaceofdeath is the most comfortable way of experiencing camel. It was surprisingly easy to mount and dismount, even with the surliest creature in the pack. Funniest Home Videos makes it look a lot tougher than it actually is.



We ate flatbread cooked by a widow and her two year old daughter, who sat there staring silently at us with big brown eyes, rolling small amounts of dough back and forth between her hands. We had dinner heated over a fire of camel dung and watched a dozen young men sing and clap and dance. It was a strange, disjointed experience of silent people with whom we couldn't communicate, acting out the expected roles for the foreigner's baksheesh. And all of us felt so guilty, so filthy rich and obnoxiously voyeuristic that we gave them what we had with us. Took our piece of flatbread and chewed in silent shame.

bedouin

Thursday, February 14, 2008

on the road again

I haven't been a particularly productive blogger recently, but even that is about to go on a fortnight's hiatus as DrH and I are off. Tomorrow morning we're spending about 6 hours in a car without heating to visit the parents-in-law and celebrate DrH's father's birthday. After a weekend of being spoilt and overfed, we're leaving the dog there and flying out of Frankfurt to Hurghada for 12 days in an all inclusive resort on Egypt's Red Sea Riviera (as all the CNN ads call it).

So now I'm digging under the bed and trying to find all my neatly packed away summer clothes and wondering if I should try and hunt down a new pair of bathers today.

I suppose I should also think about getting DrH an anniversary present as well.. anyone have any ideas?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

cartoon skeletons

I found this while trawling through Google, as is my wont. Its a few years old, so undoubtably hit the blogosphere (blogoweb, blogonet, blogoblag?) then, but here it is again.

A fantastic sculpture display of the skeletons of cartoon animals. Roadrunner was great, but I did love Huey, Duey and Louey, and the sketches are brilliant on their own.

Friday, February 08, 2008

this is me, pretending to be important

Last night SuperCoolMatti took me along to a photoshoot he had of H&M and Chicks on Speed, who were performing at the Maria am Ostbahnhof. You know this big campaign of musicians designing fairly boring, yeah-whatever t-shirts? That thing.

So we got to hang out in the VIP bar, getting fed extremely good fingerfood in extremely small amounts and sucking down free beer. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be a single Important VIP, well at least of the recognise-them-walking-down-the-street-and-gush variety, but the free beer made up for it.



I spent the evening pretending to be SuperCoolMatti's assistant, so I got to boss people around and tell other photographers to fuck off while we were shooting, and I got to do some more modeling while we were setting up. I don't wish to blow my own trumpet here, but man, I'm fucking hot.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Lakai Fully Flared Intro

Sorry I'm not writing anything at the moment, but I hope this video makes up for it. If you don't go HOW FUCKING RAD WAS THAT? after seeing it and wanting to grab a skateboard, a pair of baggy jeans and some explosives then you guys just aren't the readers I though I had.
via Dooce.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

mwhahaha

A wonderful Tom Cruise spoof done by one of my teenage crushes (I mean come on, he had super powers!), found via another of my teenage crushes (and he flew a spaceship!).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hello Deer!


Hello Deer!
Originally uploaded by gms
I added gms to my Flickr contacts last year after randomly running across him and finding his photos awesome. What can I say - they just keep getting awesomer.

Monday, January 14, 2008

so I admit it, I'm not immune to reality tv

Not entirely anyway.

DrH and I, if you haven't realised it so far, are pretty big DIYer's. The entire car has been rebuilt by hand; we put up an amazing amount of shelving at every chance; and DrH went and bought a hammerdrill JUST BECAUSE IT MIGHT ONE DAY PROVE USEFUL.

His tools have pride of place in the study shelves while important parts of our memorabilia, including childhood photo albums, have been relegated to waterproof boxes in the cellar. THAT'S HOW SERIOUS DIY IS IN THIS HOUSEHOLD.

So, you can imagine that the entire genre of DIY house fixer-upper reality tv goes down pretty well here.

Tonight, another house was redone, filled with IKEA furniture and the appropriate "visual highlights" and "plenty of stylish storage space". Emboldened by the speed and ease with which this twenty member team redid an entire house in three days, I jumped on ImmobilienScout24 and started looking for a weekend house. One not too far away. A little getaway in Brandenburg or Meckenburg-Vorpommern. Perfect, romantic examples of the former East, or the "German Toscana". No, really, that's how it was described.

Needless to say there were many prime East-architecture houses coming at the under 15,000€ price, but none were particularly convincing. Even for an over excited dreamer such as myself. Then I found the house described as "perfect for a cat and/or dog" and, upon investigating the photos, realised that very little human habitation was currently available within the price range of an unemployed foreigner.

So instead I went over to mobile.de and found this great little 1960's Fiat 500 which just needs a loving hand, a bit of welding, a coat of paint and a serious mechanic to shine again.

What the hell, I always wanted to learn how to weld.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

the way to a man's heart

I was lying there, vaguely bored, while DrH was engrossed in his novel. I started poking him in the stomach just, you know, to pass the time.

He asked me to stop.

I didn't.

He kept reading, but with an air of determined ignoring about him.

I lay there a while longer looking, occasionally poking, but my heart wasn't really in it.

A thought struck me. It wasn't a thought of Nobel Prize winning quality but, hey, none of mine have been so far.

"Belly buttons are really weird looking things, aren't they?" I framed it as a question, but it was more of a statement. My way of saying Check out my cute and quirky observations, now put the book down and talk to me. I want attention.

DrH breathed noisily out through his nose. "It is when you think we spent nine months eating through it." He rolled over and kept reading.

"I had never thought of it like that," I exclaimed with a certain amount of humoured surprise. "I mean I know what it was for... like getting nutrients, supplying us with what we needed for development....but... EATING through it? Not a word I would have ever used." I paused for a moment. "Now I have this picture of people running around with belly buttons going MMmnnnyumm MMmnnnyumm MMmnnnyyumm." I made open and closing motions with my hand to emphasise the point.

"It would have been more like Sllluuuurpp Sllluuuurp Sllluuuurp," he pointed out, sucking loudly through his teeth. He turned back to his book.

I lay back and gradually drifted off to sleep. Visions of people with giant belly buttons laced my dreams.

Belly buttons lined with small pointy teeth.

Talking with American accents and ghetto attitude.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

sp3 baby, you and me

A number of things have fallen by the wayside in the last two months, most notably my writing. Even my grand aim of three pages a day has met with intense and silent failure, although I do have a well-meaning aim to write 5000 on the weekend and so catchup on average.

Before christmas work was sucking most of my energy because it was so detailed yet repetitive - it required a lot of attention but not much brain power and it would get to four o'clock in the afternoon and I'd be sitting there trying to stop my head slamming onto the keyboard, even if I had been intravenously injecting coffee for six hours by then.

Now I'm onto the second half of the project - which is moving MUCH faster than I thought it would and even have the hope of delivering it by the end of next week, two weeks earlier than expected. This is also the more thought-intensive part of the project, although with far more chemistry than I'm accustomed to. Ok, so if you're a pure chemist then what I'm doing is no big deal, but I'm a BIOCHEMIST which means that you can lord your advanced chemistry knowledge over me as much as you like but I'M the one who can rant on about proteins and DNA and diseases and evolution and unpleasant bodily functions until you start to BLEED FROM THE EARS.

But the bonus is that it is so intellectually consuming at the moment that at I am working straight through the day without realising it and the oft-observed imprint of the spacebar has left my forehead. I've also required far less coffee in the last two weeks to get through that long, dark teatime of the soul, which has stopped that unpleasant old man shake I'd started to develop and I no longer leap into corners with my back raised like a shocked cat at loud noises.

Yet I find myself, come evening, even more exhausted and last night managed to stay awake a whole two and half hours after getting home. Long enough to cook roast carrot soup, answer some emails and watch Heros before I collapsed unconcious.

Yep, this weekend. 5000 words. Right.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

it may be a new year, but we'll be reliving the past

DrH and I decided that this year we shall take his leftover holiday days (which have to be used before March) to have a real anniversary get-away. Something we haven't done since our first anniversary, all those many, many , er herm, three years ago. At that time we went to the German coast, an extremely idiotic choice of destination in February.
This time we have decided to relive half of our honeymoon and go back to the Red Sea resort where we spent a week relaxing and overeating after our week cruise down the Nile where we relaxed and overate. Oh, and saw lots of temples and stuff.
We just booked the tickets and now have twelve days of relative warmth and massive overindulgence in Egypt ahead of us. It gives me a small ray of warmth to get through the miserable Berlin January.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

bum on seat, hands on keyboard

I realised only fairly recently that I'd been going about this whole writing thing entirely the wrong way. I'd always thought you needed to be inspired, ideas searing white hot across your brain so that you could do nothing but sit down and write. Let the words flow like lava from your pen - burning, consuming, unstoppable.

It really has only been in the last 6 months that I've recognised that writing, if you want to do it seriously at least, is not like that. Or only rarely. Normally it seems it is a battle with your own brain. Dragging words out and putting them down. Fighting your own conscious which is saying "This Sucks!" in the arrogant whine of a fourteen year old.

It means getting up every day and writing and writing and writing no matter what you feel like, what your mood is, whether the muse is whispering in your ear. Or not.

So to encourage myself to do it more I have decided to blog my prgoress on a novel I've started. And by started I mean REALLY ONLY JUST STARTED. If you were trying to relax with my current manuscript you'd have barely had time to make yourself comfortable on the toilet seat before the words ran out.

But to save all of you normal blog readers from the tedium of my daily word counts, I'm going to use my LiveJournal account to do it. This has the added bonus that I have joined some LJ communities, including one called Novel in 90. This calls for members to write at least 750 words a day for three months. Resulting in 67500 words after ninety days. And if you do not reach your daily recommended dose you shall be mocked.

Yesterday I was mocked. I shan't be tonight.

But for anyone who wishes to follow my writing progress, feel free to add my LiveJournal to your blogroll, or to pop over there now and again. I can't promise it will be overly interesting, but then again, I can't promise that about this blog either.

Except for the eyebrows of course.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

getting organised, like everyone else in the world apparently

DrH and I have taken the last few days of freedom from work and family christmas events to get our flat into a bit more order. Finally we have curtains in the bedroom, which has the nice side effect that we don't have to drop the heavy wooden shutters every night, but the somewhat annoying side effect that without them DAYLIGHT actually comes in. Like, at 11am when you're trying to get a bit more shut-eye.

I now also have some brand-spanking new venetian blinds in the study, which makes it that much more difficult for every passerby to observe my daily activity, but also means that I'm rapidly turning into someone who'll twitch at curtains while trying to work out what's happening with the neighbours, rather than just staring outright which is what I always used to do.

I think I just aged forty years overnight.

Right now both of us are going through our desks and the piles of paper, sorting, stapling, hole-punching, filing. We're not actually THROWING anything, oh no not us. We're hoarders from hell and should we ever be audited by the tax office I think DrH's manic collection, labelling and filing of every receipt, bill, bank statement - any piece of official documentation ever received from any institution, actually - will send even the most anal of tax collectors into information overload.

But it seems we aren't the only ones taking the beginning of a new year as a chance to get organised. John Scalzi's office has received a going over from his wife, who he described as being made of awesome.

"Hey look!" I called to DrH. "he said his wife is made of awesome." DrH looked at me blankly, but I think that was because I interrupted his enjoyment of rereading a four month old bank statement. "Like, awesomeness in flesh."

"You think I'm awesome?"

"No," I replied patiently, "you should be saying stuff like that about me."

"That you think your wife is made of awesome?" Sometimes it can take a while for DrH to work out nuances of English.

"NO! You should be saying that YOUR wife is made of awesome. That I'm, like, awesome personified."

"Oh. You cute one," he said deadpanned as he turned back to the next VISA bill to be filed. Yeah, I think that attempt to improve the local recognition of my impressive level of awesomeness failed entirely.