28 October 2013

In 1973 I was mostly bored and lonely. My grades started to drop and I think I spent a lot of my time after school listening to AFN, pretending to do my homework and fighting with my sister.
Copying someone's homework on the bus in the morning, trying to stay awake during lessons and so on. All that time wasted on Latin irregular verbs, the finer aspects of the Thirty Years' War, morphological traits of the European swifts and that black hole called maths. Never enough money. 
Lou Reed's Transformer was one of the first albums I bought and I remember holding it in my hands on the bus home, reading the track list on the back cover and the curious looks from the person sitting next to me. Well, I was 14. And since my English was very poor I hadn't a clue what he was singing about. It was the doo-doo-doo, doo-doo chorus that got me hooked. But within a very short time, Lou Reed provided education, valuable, seriously needed and liberating education. A glimpse of a strange, mad, wild freedom. 

26 October 2013

my life of luxury

The week that started with rain (here and - more importantly - on the Italian slopes of the Alps) and a variety of physical calamities which I will not dwell on as a matter of principle but which for a change affected R more than me (and when I say affected I mean affected because that man is hardly ever sick and clearly hasn't developed my superior suffering skills - nor will he ever do so) has been full of wonderful twists and turns. First, we cancelled our trip to the upper Italian lakes. Obviously. It would be far too straight forward for us to actually travel to the fancy destinations we book weeks and months ahead. And as I mentioned some time previously, I am quite good with all that cancellation business. This time, someone called Paola from the Italian hotel apologised to me and promised a discount should we want to come when the weather forecast is a bit less rainy and stormy. Maybe she confused us with someone rich and famous. Or maybe she is simply a nice person. 

And so we sat over breakfast, contemplating the possibly rainy week ahead, midterm break, no work, a cancelled Italian holiday and cheered each other up with nice little suggestions (museum, maybe a short bicycle trip, composting, library, jam making and general anarchy). 
And then...

Less then 24 hrs later, this is what we looked at: 


And all the Bavarian cliches were in place, the blue skies, the white clouds, the clear water, the people so full of themselves. We talked our way into the opening ceremony of a local film festival, were offered fancy drinks and even fancier finger food and when one of the local head honchos in his traditional Lederhosen gripping his Porsche key ring began to wax lyrical about this being the best place on earth, we ran, giggling, into the night and the head lights of the fast cars in endless traffic jams were shining all along the lake like a string of pearls. 
The rest of the week involved a good bit of cycling, a panic inducing trip ontop a mountain in a tiny two seater swinging (!) gondola which took almost forever (and I seriously contemplated walking back down until someone pointed out that it would take me four hours at least), more lakes and tiny Baroque chapels, cows with bells grazing on very green meadows and all the hills were alive with the sound of music. Well, almost.

20 October 2013



19 October 2013


In the early 1990s, the New Scientist asked its readers to send in examples of aptronyms, or so-called nominative determinism (when people have a name that fits their profession) and it was always a good read.
"We recently came across a new book, Pole Positions - The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet, by Daniel Snowman. Then, a couple of weeks later, we received a copy of London Under London - A Subterranean Guide, one of the authors of which is Richard Trench. So it was interesting to see Jen Hunt of the University of Manchester stating in the October issue of The Psychologist: "Authors gravitate to the area of research which fits their surname." Hunt's example is an article on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology by A. J. Splatt and D. Weedon. (This really does exist. We've checked it)."

Think of William Wordsworth being a poet and you get the idea. Obviously, there is Freud (joy) and Jung (young) and Adler (eagle).
And today I found a paper by Dr. Doolittle and Brumm (hum) on the musician wren (cyphorhinus arada) which is this shy and gorgeous bird in the Amazon rainforest. (I know, a bit far fetched, but listen.)

17 October 2013

Nobody owns life but anybody who can pick up a frying pan owns death.

William S. Burroughs

As quoted in a death notice (for nobody I know) in one of big national newspapers. Maybe a cook?

10 October 2013

Back home in my prison of convalescence once again and I am trying hard to stop acting the spoilt child, whining and feeling sorry for myself. Get a grip, woman. It's a virus. Yes, only that. That and all those tedious precautions that come with it. 
Of course I never wanted this part of my life at all. I don't welcome any of it. I could wail and scream, how unfair. Right now, I am not one these saintly people who gracefully and gratefully accept their fate and pretend it's all an opportunity for - seriously - growth. Oh, it is fun to pretend I am one of them when I feel healthier than today and I am the first to admit that I love the vocabulary: survival, blessings, mindfulness, embracing the shattered self, letting go...
It goes on and on until my mouth feels all sticky as if I've eaten too many sweets.
Well, I am done with growing. The only growth that's left here is growing old and that seems to be happening at a rapid pace. The drama of it. All in my head.
Honestly, I am my own worst enemy at times like this. I would even fight with the couch I am forced to lie on. Maybe I am just bored. Bored with this pretence of you look so well or - worse - you are such a strong woman. Stop admiring me, I want to shout out. But instead I smile, showing off my ability to suffer gracefully. This is the movie version.

And yet.
And yet.
There are a million of ways that it's possible to live a life. A delightful life. Even with an illness that came out of nowhere, unwanted, uninvited. (But of course, no illness ever is.) What choice do I have? Who said there was ever a choice, anyway?

07 October 2013

in laws

The feeling of chewing on cotton wool. After three days of polite conversation and pretending that we like each other. Still, family and memories to share. But I am getting better at this. I have not raised my voice once and occasionally I actually couldn't give a damn. And quietly moved the milk carton from under the sink into the fridge. She loves her comforts and after I showed her how to watch Downton Abbey online all was well.
Tonight the bonus of eating out by the river with the lights twinkling in the water and the chuck chuck noises of the barges, even crickets. A salad of wild lettuce, figs, walnuts, pear fried in butter and cherry tomatoes. 
It's over 20 years now that she spat in my face, I don't care about the will, you will never get any of it.
But I can be a really mean bitch, too.

06 October 2013

We humans, we preach compassion, we sometimes even act compassionately, we raise our children one way or another, we brush our teeth and obsess about nutrition and weight loss, we get mad when the noises from the new bypass disturb our evenings in the garden, sometimes we are concerned about the working conditions at the industrial plants in the far away countries where our electronic gadgets, our cheap t-shirts and running shoes are made, and no, we would never buy a carpet made with child labour, we are very conscientious, we read and we discuss and we are well informed, oh yes.

But we don't read last week's IPCC report (the what??), not even the easier-to-read versions. Not now. There are more important things going on right now. As always.

copyright: Joel Pett, USA today

The report basically confirms what has long since become a truism: Climate change is THE biggest problem. Once the Himalaya glaciers have melted, 1.4 billion people in Asia will be without drinking water. Once the acidification of the world's oceans has reached critical levels, first the mollusks than all fish will die. And when the sea level rise in Europe continues, 70 million people will lose their homes along the coast and the salty swills will destroy our inland farming areas in the not too distant future. 

Believe me. Every other problem is minimal in comparison. Whatever we are concerned about right now, it really has only to do with the way we humans live together, as communities, as nations, internationally, while climate politics will decide how much of this shared human life will actually remain possible. 

Right now, there is a heated debate in my local newspaper about the authority's intention to introduce one-way streets in a populated suburb with about 15000 inhabitants. The main complaint is that for many the short drive (!) of 300 m to a shopping mall will now turn into a drive of 1 km. The obvious question - why drive at all - doesn't figure. 

The Green Party just suffered huge losses after it suggested that we all cut down on meat and have at least one vegetarian day per week. The outrage, who are they to tell us what to eat! So what if one third of the grain produced globally is used to feed animals, who cares about the rain forests in South America (that old caper) and the greenhouse gas emissions from the fertilisers. Politicians who insist on informing us about stuff like that must not be surprised if we don't vote for them. No wonder.

When we think that freedom implies we can drive 300 m to a shopping mall, eat meat every day of the week, we are in fact absolutely rational. Driving is comfortable and not driving would not change anything right now. I think economist call this the rationality trap. I happen to believe that politicians should show us the way out of this trap. But they don't, because this is 2013 and the trap hasn't killed any of us, it doesn't even hurt us - yet. We can ignore it. Ah bliss.

We want the politicians do something about evil bankers, the fixing of petrol prices and taxes. 
Climate change is boring.  And politicians are just like any middle of the road business men, all that stuff about adapting supply to demand and low risks. 

In another context, one of the big and powerful politicians said earlier this year: Politicians will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks. You must create the change you want to see. 

All well and good, but this is just another rationality trap. Instead, I would find it most rational for politicians to confront their people with the impositions of realistic climate politics.

But that's irrational.

And I give up.

03 October 2013

It's Happy Reunification day here, also known as: a day off for what was it again?
My dead mother would be in tears today and my very much alive father would probably say something meaningful and prosaic but I have no intention to spoil his day and call. He had his share of historic dramas and memories.  Let him enjoy the sun and the football match on TV. No doubt he will fight his own demons at some stage today anyway.

I don't spend much time thinking about it but when I do the effect is enormous, way beyond my scope of understanding because you see I ran away in disgust not only from my family but from this country and all its mess and I had no intention to ever return (ha and bloody ha).
We forget. Of course we do and for all the best reasons. We forget that on the 9th of November (due to a couple of convoluted reasons we are commemorating this on a 3rd of October) in 1989, close to midnight, a handful of border guards (who were also members of the GDR secret service) no longer wanted to protect their failed state from its own people and opened the gate at the Bornholmer Strasse border point in Berlin. And so WWII was finally over.

Watching it here (start at 4:18 with the shouts of open up and we'll be back and no violence up to 7:18 with the bewildered face of the border guard) I am reduced to my mother's tears.

But otherwise it's glorious autumn and the Irish visitors are out there climbing hills and medieval castle towers, tasting the new wine and generally having a ball. 
While I am supposedly editing something urgent and almost past its deadline but thanks to events across the pond where a gang of renegade morons, so it seems, is spitting venom and fighting life and reason, I cannot access the Medline database to verify the references. Instead, together with people involved in medical research across the globe I get to read this message:

PubMed is open, however it is being maintained with minimal staffing due to the lapse in government funding. Information will be updated to the extent possible, and the agency will attempt to respond to urgent operational inquiries. For updates regarding government operating status see USA.gov.

It feels like a Disney movie in comparison.

01 October 2013