Saturday, December 31, 2016

Reading: Unmentionable

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady's Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners, by Therese Oneill, uses the same conceit as The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century, by Ian Mortimer: the author accompanies us back to a certain time period (here, the Victorian era) and explains how you would be expected to live in order to fit in. In the case of Unmentionable, the focus is on upper-to-middle class women and the expectations and prescriptions particular to them.

Info-wise, I found the book interesting, even though I was familiar with quite a bit of the general outlines. The explanation of how forceps (or the lack thereof) may have changed the course of British monarchy was fascinating, though. I also found the quotations well chosen and well "interpreted".

Style-wise, I generally enjoyed the tone, especially in the more straightforward explanations and in the ironic commentary, but sometimes the book veered too far into "humor blog" style for my taste, especially in places where I had difficulty parsing what was meant because of the fragments used, mostly in the first half of the book.

All in all, I found it a quick, enjoyable read for the holiday break,

Nee in Germany has a big To Be Read pile

Friday, December 30, 2016

Trying something new

"There's nothing new under the sun", as the saying goes, but I am going to try something new for me. I have avoided politics and social commentary here for the most part, except to occasionally snark on people, but I need a place to think about things, so to speak, so I will do some of that thinking here.

Today's article that resonated with me:
"The lesson of Trump and Brexit: a society too complex for its people risks everything", by John Harris in the Guardian

John Harris touches on some aspects of modern society that I have been noticing myself:
Complexity, after all, is a 21st-century leitmotif, captured in those news-channel screens on which scrolling tickers and stockmarket data combine to create the impression of a world so elaborate it is beyond anyone’s control.
I can't bear to watch American news channels anymore when we are in the States because of this. I find it overwhelming. It is almost impossible to focus on what is being said, and it feels like I am being flooded with information, yet most of that information is of no interest or use to me. I imagine that might be the case for lots of people.

For a lot of us, in fact, modernity is a mess: not just of multiple user accounts, passwords, contracts for smartphones and Wi-Fi, and the generalised insanity of consumerism, but working lives that now have to undergo endless peaks, troughs and reinventions.
I've been feeling conflicted about consumerism for a while now. On the one hand, I am very practical, so I am often loath to buy anything that is not useful; John is also aesthetically opposed to knick-knacks, for the most part, so our decorating style might be called 'spare'. On the other hand, I am not immune to the lure of fandom merchandise or craft supplies, so I have my share of those things, both things I have bought and things I have received. On the third hand, I realized this xmas that once I had bought the things I had earmarked throughout the year because I thought certain people would enjoy them, my enjoyment of xmas shopping went straight down the crapper, and it became a chore, just a way to funnel money into the maw of capitalism.

Moreover, I cringe every time I peel the plastic packaging off a gift (given or received) and look at the mounds of packing material required by modern modes of producing and selling goods.

But sitting down and trying to think my way out of these conundrums is difficult. If I lived closer to my loved ones, I could figure out a way to give more of myself, but I don't, so I feel kind of trapped in my current system. This contributes to a base level of anxiety that doesn't ever seem to completely go away, at least for me.

I found myself wanting to quote whole paragraphs from the rest of the article, it made so much sense to me, but instead I will summarize a few key points:

  • When there are no longer increasing returns from increasing complexity, people turn against it, hence the type of voting we saw this past year (Brexit, Trump), where people were essentially voting for simplification of complex systems.
  • There is historical evidence for increasing complexity playing a role in the collapse of civilizations. I'm adding the book cited, The Collapse of Complex Societies, by Joseph Tainter, to my to-read list.
I know people who are basically preppers, and I can see the attraction when you are afraid of (or excited about, in some cases) what will happen when the complex system around you collapses, but I try to remember that there are alternative solutions to howling barbarism and apocalyptic upheaval, such as technological advancement, but now I wonder if technological advancement might automatically bring increasing complexity with it, if only because it means more options to have to differentiate between and choose from.

Nee in Germany is getting her think on

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas, y'all!

We're at the stage of xmas where we are watching the videos we gave each other, but since I am not that interested in John's favorite absurdist German comedian--Helge Schneider--I am up here trying to decide what to do with myself.

First things first:

Hannah got a set of luggage from us, and now it is upstairs in my office, offgassing, which makes hanging out not so fun. As a matter of fact, I'm getting a bit of a headache, so I think I will cut this short for now.

--Nee in Germany is breaking the tradition of the all-cookie holiday diet, and it sucks

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Break out the Bollinger, sweet chops

The semester is over! I have already finished my grading for 3 out of 5 classes, and I should be able to finish the other two this week. I feel like a kid on pixie sticks and Red Bull let loose in an arcade.

I'm starting to look a bit worse for wear. I had an allergy test on Wednesday--no allergies found, thank you very much--so arms were covered in red pricks for several days, then I managed to punch myself in the eye last night trying to pull up the covers with a hand that was asleep, and today I spent a good hour picking blackberries, so I'm scratched and poked just about everywhere.

But I feel good anyway.

And that is despite watching The Graduate last night. Somehow I've never seen it, and watching it pissed me off. Ok, there was some interesting stuff with the cinematography, but it was basically Exhibit A for a certain type of American male narcisissm. At one point, the cuckolded husband wanted to know what he had done to be so disrespected. Same thing for the whiny college grad. Not one word about the two women involved. And the college grad was a total creeper. Blergh. Everything but the soundtrack was gross, and even that threw me off because it was all Simon and Garfunkel, and now I can never listen to one of my favorite songs--April, Come She Will--the same way again. Damnit.

Nee in Germany is dipping her toes back in the water

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Loony alert

I had the weirdest experience today. I was putting together my shopping list and heard a slow, persistant knocking at the front door. I go down, and a very odd British woman was at the door, wanting the phone number for the man who renovated this house in the 80s. Nope. Then I was treated to the story of how she knew him, and by the way, wouldn't I like to invite her in for a cup of tea. Sorry, I'm on my way out the door, but why don't you have a seat here on the front stop with me for a minute. Then I got grilled on my religious leanings, and she told me all about how her ex-husband ripped her off to the tune of 100,000 euros and was a Nazi she was going to have drug before the tribunal in Nuremberg and shipped off to America to get executed in the electric chair. Oh, my!

I told John I should have had a spine and told her to get lost, but she was just odd enough that I was concerned she might turn on me. Anyhow, I finally got rid of her, but I felt I had to watch her all the way to the front gate in case she faceplanted on our weird steps. When I left the house about 10 minutes later to do my shopping, I thought, "Please don't be lurking at the bottom of the stairs..."

Nee in Germany seems to attract the loonies, without even leaving home

Friday, May 20, 2016

Burning off nervous energy

I just sent off a letter to my employer demanding a permanent position. Now I am trying not to die while waiting for a response. Oh, can of worms, what was I thinking? I am not a very confrontational person, so doing this has turned me into a bundle of nerves. As a favorite tv character has said, I'm a balloon in a world full of pins.

Otherwise, I am just chipping away at the pile of work I made for myself.

Nee in Germany is made of work

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Reporting from the past

I am trying to clear away the drifts of paper that have taken over my desk and came across the notes John and I were writing to each other during a play put on by Hannah's class in the 11th grade. I'm typing it up here for posterity, so I can get rid of the paper and also share the absolute WTFuckery of it all.

Me: Very sensual for our daughter's 11th grade play

John: phallic fruit salad

Song: "Silence is Sexy"
Me: as death?

Me: Where's Gallagher when you need him?

Me: Was [classmate] the pink-haired girl?

Me: short dresses and the dance of love

John: too much sexy

Me (from here on out): When did they get masks?

You call that a sense of musicality?!

[Music to prove the theater teacher is still cool.]

broken gaydar

It's my bedtime. :(

Inappropriate therapist! Quacking! With a ukelele! This play is getting better and better.

Now is the time on Sprockets when we dance

[Hannah's giving it her all!]

Fruity confusion Where's the fruit-based violence?


--loony bin!

--square dance!

Hannah is flumpy. Pinkie has the same posture as Hannah.


Hannah's inner voice is a dick

Silence of the lambs`

hep ghost is hep
or is it a musical gorilla?

baby Nihilist


Conspiracy Theorist--too late!


someone's going to lose a finger

Hannah is probably hating this--she never looked up

[weird music accompanying
  • dancing
  • toothbrushing
  • tedding mauling
  • front and back masks and yelling
  • scratching--note: lay off the smack, girls? chatos?
  • suggestive rubbing
  • petrified
  • he's a zombie!
  • Wormtail!
  • child abuse
And that is how we spent one evening in a German institution of learning, ladies and gentlemen.

--Nee in Germany is tidying herself into an early grave

Thursday, January 21, 2016

So cold

We've had proper winter temperatures this week, with the overnight lows going down into the mid- to low-20s (F). No, sir--I don't like it. Luckily our office at the university is well-heated, and I have the space heater to put under my desk at home. Still, it is chilly willy in our house.

All of which makes me wonder why I was so surprised at the amount of snow still on the ground yesterday. Maybe I just don't pay enough attention.

John accompanied me to a friend's reading Monday evening. I joined a book club last year, and one of my book club friends has now published two political/detective novels, and she was invited to read from the newest one as part of a series on local authors hosted by the local German American Institute. I'd never been in the library there before, and it made a lovely backdrop for the event, with lots of old-fashioned furniture and floor-to-ceiling wooden shelves.

We drove in to work on Tuesday because John wanted to give a hands-on demonstration in one of his classes using a chainsaw, and it doesn't really fit on the back of his bike. I wonder if the department's insurance covers course-related injuries...

On Wednesday, there was a departmental meeting in the afternoon, so that meant getting home much later than usual. Luckily, we have lots of leftovers at the moment, so no one had to cook.

I've been trying to track down a term for one of my courses, and I think I am going to just have to give up soon, because every time I think I have come up with a possible solution, it turns out to be useless. I've almost given up and gone downstairs for a nap twice already, but then the obsessive need to know has overcome the frustration at being thwarted at every turn.

--Nee in Germany does tend to fixate on things

Friday, January 15, 2016

Let it snow, and so forth

Got some snow overnight, and we're supposed to get a bit more over the weekend, and then next week the temps are supposed to drop to the point we'll need to protect our pipes (well, just the one in the kitchen, which was installed too close to the outside wall). Ah, the glamorous life of the homeowner.

Which actually is rather more glamorous than the life of the mildly depressed teacher. I was talking to John about my problem, and it is not merely that I have high expectations of myself, but that I am holding myself up to some really excellent instructors I had at university. The problem there is that they had many years of experience behind them in one field, while I have (been) bounced from department to department. One of the things I have done is to make the firm decision to quit teaching once my contract is up. I think I can manage to maintain and expand my freelance translation business with the contacts I currently have.

That's basically what is on my mind at the moment, so I haven't been a barrel of fun lately. Wow, this is boring, sorry.

--Nee in Germany is a real downer today

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Back on the chain gang

Survived the first week back in the classroom, but now John and I seem to be coming down with something. He's getting more and more congested, and I've got a bit of tummy trouble and headache. As I always say, stupid bodies. I'll be happy when humankind finally evolves to be a brain in a jar or a blob of pure energy, although I don't imagine I'll be around to see that.

Most people get up, drive to work, and drive home again at the end of the day, but for John and me, taking the car is a rather big event we have to talk ourselves into. John prefers to ride his bike, for both the physical and mental benefits to himself and the environmental benefits to our corner of Germany, but it has been raining pretty steadily (he got soaked through, coming and going, two days in a row, despite his rain gear) and he strained his knees biking against a head wind one day, so it wasn't too hard to talk him into the two of us driving yesterday. Nevertheless, we went back and forth about it several times before we even got in the car, and even after we had already left, but our decision was really only cinched as the best choice when we hit a horrible downpour a couple of miles from home in the evening. I could see John in the driver's seat, imagining what it would feel like to be out in that on a bike, and he was pretty thankful he had dodged that bullet. Later, lying on the couch in his warm, dry clothes under a warm, dry blanket, he looked really happy not to have to be drying off and warming up like on Monday and Tuesday.

Actually, he had it pretty good last night. It was my turn to cook dinner, and empty the dishwasher, and scoop the cat box (which I still need to do), so he could basically lie back and wait for the food to come to him. I tried out a recipe that is basically broccoli-rice casserole, with quinoa substituted for the rice, and then baked, and it was very tasty, even though the mini-muffin format was a flop. So I made a note on the recipe and will file it away to try again in a different form.

--Nee in Germany is dead boring at the moment

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Monday-est Monday in a while

I didn't have high hopes for today, seeing as it was my first day back to work after the holidays, but it turned out to be even more Monday than expected. Everything was going fine until I got off the bus and crossed the street. Five feet from the corner where I needed to turn left, a bus splashed a gutter full of water all over my legs. Two blocks from my office. One hour before teaching. Two classes to teach with gutter water in my pants. Urgh.

After work I came home and put my pants in the wash. Then I got a reminder that my bank had blocked my credit card because they couldn't read German and didn't know that that big charge was from a travel agency when we bought tickets to Texas recently. So I spent half an hour on the phone, at direct dial rates, getting bounced from department to department because they couldn't find my phone number in my account info. Finally someone at my actual bank and not the credit card fraud office was able to get it taken care of because he could actually see all of my info. Bleh.

Then I broke down and looked at facebook, and the first post was about David Bowie dying. Sigh.

It's not even 6 p.m., and I'm about ready to go to bed.

--Nee in Germany has to take her turn cooking

Sunday, January 10, 2016

So much tidying

The junior firemen came around on Saturday to pick up our xmas tree, so that has meant putting our xmas stuff away, vacuuming, etc. Since Hannah wasn't here for our usual forced labor convenience, I was a bit lazy and didn't put out every last bit of the xmas decorations, otherwise it would have taken a lot longer. Now to polish off the last of the gingerbread men, and xmas will be ovah!

The weather cleared up on Friday and I made it outside to run errands for about an hour, ending with a trip up to the garden. Here's one of two stupid hyacinths that thought December was March.


There are a bunch of other bulbs sending shoots up elsewhere in the garden, but no flowers yet. Saturday was also clear, but several degrees colder. We almost reached the freezing point overnight, but this morning we woke up to warmer, wetter weather again, which is supposed to continue throughout the week.

I hate when I oversleep, and the last hour in bed is just endless variations on anxiety dreams. Trying to fight my way somewhere, but unable to make it there in time, or unable to keep track of some item, or unable to accomplish a particular task. At least when I wake up I can see the underlying pattern, but it still sucks to have your brain attacking you on your weak side when you are unconscious.

--Nee in Germany still has to clean all the cat off her office rug

Friday, January 08, 2016

Out of practice

I tried to sit down and write something 2 days ago, and I found myself staring at the screen with not a single idea in my head. It felt like mental constipation, and I could only wish that my brain were that empty when trying to fall asleep. *sigh*

It probably doesn't help that I haven't set foot out of doors since I helped John carry up our groceries on Monday. The weather has been shit, and I have a lot of computer-based work to do, having caught up on a lot of my household chores during the holidays, so there hasn't been a lot of incentive to get outside. The sun is out right now, though, so I'm considering running a few errands before it turns rainy again.

One of the things making me grumpy, besides the lack of crafting due to the aforementioned work, is the lack of creative writing. I've had one story circling in my brain, more and more insistently, for a while. It's a story I stole from my seestor, and have started, restarted, made an outline, made notes, and thought about while semiconscious. A few days ago, I sent what I had previously written to my kindle so I could see what I had come up with so far, and I wasn't happy with it. At the time I wrote it, I was pleased with it, but rereading it cold after so long, it feels technically accurate without having much heart. (That's probably what my clarinet playing sounded like back in high school as well.) Yesterday, I happened across a quote (allegedly) from one of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett:
“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”
When I read that, something clicked for me. Rather than try to describe explicity what it is I see in my head, I need to write more like I talk. I also need to try to loosen up and not make everything perfect as I go. So I’m giving myself permission to barf out onto the page whatever occurs to me. Sort of like I do here. *g*

--Nee in Germany hates to admit she collects quotes

Sunday, January 03, 2016


Finished my knitting project. (You can tell that I've already put this dishcloth to use, so I would call that a successful  project.)


Then I got depressed because I realized I didn't have time to do any more sewing/crafty projects over the holidays, and I also won't have time to work on any once classes resume. As we say in our family, that sucketh.

I did manage to get a bunch of family photos onto an SD card, though, while John was driving Hannah back to Frankfurt; now I can save them onto my new digital picture frame and enjoy them any time. (And John thought I'd never get around to it.)

--Nee in Germany doesn't know how to relax, also wisdom from John