Sunday, April 22, 2018

One Sentence Book Review: The Power

The Power by Naomi Alderman

When girls in the modern-day world suddenly gain the power to electrocute through their fingertips, their actions repudiate most gender stereotypes and set civilization on a crash course that, five thousand years later, looks starting similar to our own with one small exception...

Buy, borrow or don't bother: Borrow.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

One Sentence Book Review: Journey

(full title) Journey: Based on the True Story of OR7, the Most Famous Wolf in the West by Emma Bland Smith (Author),‎ Robin James (Illustrator)

This almost non-fiction book charmingly tracks the adventures of OR-7, the first wolf to cross into California in almost a century, and the campaign to protect him from aggressive farmers and other humans.

Buy, borrow, or don't bother:  Buy.  This would delight your favorite five-, six-, or seven-year-old paired with a stuffed animal wolf! 

Monday, April 16, 2018

One Sentence Book Review: Beyond Sleep

Beyond Sleep by Willem Frederik Hermans
Overly self-conscious and self-important young geologist, carrying the weight of his father's too-early death and resultant failure to achieve greatness, goes on remote site visit critical to his thesis completion yet is painfully unprepared for any aspect of his journey.

Buy, borrow, or don't bother: Don't bother

Thursday, April 12, 2018

One Sentence Book Review: New York 2140

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

This book will delight anyone who has ever wondered just how will the world look in about 120 years when no entity on Earth seems willing or able to do anything to slow the pace of climate change;  the author fits in descriptions of extreme weather, human scientific and social ingenuity, and political showdowns in between the stories of the small group of fellow megalithic-city-within-an-apartment dwellers who change the world.

Buy, borrow or don't bother: Buy - and keep checking back over the next 120 years to see which predictions come true!

Monday, April 9, 2018

One Sentence Book Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This children's book first appears as a thriller - the protagonist's entire family is murdered in the first few pages - but instead turns into an adventuresome coming-of-age story (albeit under unusual circumstances) that has both children and adults constantly wanting to know what happens next.

Buy, borrow or don't bother:  Buy

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

One Sentence Book Review: A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Imagine your favorite Russian writer got himself a good editor:  reminiscences about the scent of lilacs in the Alexander Gardens or waxing philosophic about why Russians took to duels so quickly still happen, but within one rather than 20 pages.

Buy, borrow or don't bother: Buy

Saturday, February 10, 2018


I took myself to Köln for the day today (Cologne, for the not-German-speaking).  It is well known for its totally crazy Carnival celebrations, and for some reason the train ticket was unnervingly inexpensive. Admittedly, several museums, and the Cathedral, were closed. I was saving the Chocolate and Mustard museums for when the whole family was here anyway, so not such a big problem.

Although the inside of the cathedral was closed, the outside obviously wasn't. I took a lot of photos. Here's just one:
My first order of business was to figure out what was going on and when and where. I basically accidentally found the "Battle of the Bands, 1790's style"

Around the corner was this delight:
Apparently, all the marching bands end up in one large park where there's a stage and the redcoats got to play more modern music (ABBA, among other things, no joke). I should have taken photos but in addition to the tents where one could buy food or beer, there were people with their own little beer-keg-on-red-wagon looking contraptions, most of which had signs proclaiming "PRIVAT"

Most of the spectators also had costumes, and if one came unprepared there were plenty of stores and kiosks ready to kit you out.  It was raining, and the city actually has quite a few good looking museums.  I hit an art museum that was actually open today and that nobody in my family would be interested in visiting - although they did have a decent program for keeping kids engaged, with certain artworks hosting extra signage especially for kids, some commentary and jokes, and a room with enormous bean bag chairs to hang out and chill out before venturing back into the art. Unusual for me, I spent more than 2 hours in the museum.

Another order of business was to find Kölsch to drink, as that is Köln's special beer.  I had been reading up on Carnival in the city and kept reading about having a "Früh" beer was an important part, and I kept thinking "OK, they drink beer early in the day, it's Carnival, that makes sense."  Nope. Früh, which means early in German, is also the name of the brand of beer. D'oh. So I had one. It was OK. All the Brauhauses were full past capacity with lines out the doors, so I got mine from an outdoor stand.  This was nearby. I liked the colorful houses on a gray day.
I had some time, so hit another museum that was right by the train station before heading out. It was interesting, but I was heading toward exhausted so didn't absorb as much as I might have.  As I headed back to the train station, there was this. I have no idea why:

And last but not least, in honor of my husband who adores everything pig, in the train station was this cafe:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Oh, Maryland

When we hired our nanny when I started A-100 we jumped through a million and a half hoops to be sure we were paying all the taxes we needed to be, all kinds of insurances we needed to have or at least find out whether we needed to have it, etc.

One such hoop was Maryland state taxes. We dutifully filled out the online application form and waited to receive the tax rate we should pay and the necessary form to use when submitting quarterly taxes. Instead we received a form saying that we didn't need to pay Maryland taxes for the first quarter as we didn't meet the minimum threshold. I thought we had paid more, but it was only a couple of weeks in March before the quarter ended so maybe they were right. I cursed them because I knew it meant I had to do it all over again for the second quarter, because if they didn't think I owed taxes they probably wouldn't be set to send us the necessary forms three months later.

And this week I received a notice that our first quarter taxes are delinquent and we are being assessed a penalty for failure to pay. And because I lost the first letter (Ironically, it got lost because I carried it around with me trying to reach the person who sent it to confirm, because I didn't think it was right. My voicemail was never returned so I had to keep trying to reach a human being and never managed.)

I called the Maryland Comptroller's office and was basically treated like a liar. If I don't have the letter I don't have proof.

Somewhere in the computer system of the Maryland Comptroller's office a copy of this letter must reside. Unfortunately the office is backlogged and a response to my inquiry could take as long as 5 business days.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

My first big outing

I've been in Frankfurt more than three months,and although I have been back to the USA twice and taken another trip by plane within Europe, within Germany I have barely left Frankfurt.

Today I took advantage of the holiday (500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door and thus ushered in the Reformation) and took myself to Heidelberg.  There is a weird thing with the Deutsche Bahn - ticket prices to places that are within about a 2 hour drive are ridiculously expensive, so it doesn't make any sense to take the train even when one would prefer to do so. So, my first road trip.

This is the Academy of Sciences building, with the Heidelberg Castle lit up through the fog behind it. I am sure Terry hates this photo. I love it. The photo was taken basically right where I found a parking garage for the car.

I first hiked my way into and around the Philosopher's Way, so named because the university professors of old would come up into these woods and wander.  I had thought the name referred to a particular path, but soon changed my mind. The trails kept splitting off, signposts existed yet directed to places I had never heard of and none of them said Philosophenweg ... so I guess the term refers to all the forest paths.
This is the path up the mountain to the start of the Philosopher's Way. This path is called the Schlangeweg, or Snake Path.

The views were amazing, but hard to capture. This is Heidelberg's famous "old" bridge leading up to the Church of the Holy Ghost.

My morning in the mountain air caused (as the Germans say) a bear's hunger, and I managed to find a little pub-like restaurant a tiny bit off the main touristy area. I intended to order schnitzel  - they had three different kids that weren't pork as well as about 6 different kinds with pork, but then they had venison goulash with a berry sauce and spaetzle. I was sold.

After lunch, off to check out the castle. I didn't plan to actually go in, wanting to save that for a time when Terry and the kids are with me.  The entrance fee is actually due at the courtyard of the castle, so I only walked around a bit. It looks like it's half crumbling and there's plenty of nooks and crannies. The kids will love it.

There it is, looming over the town.

 The last part of the adventure was getting gas for the car. There's this perk where when we use a special card at certain gas stations, we can get gasoline without extra taxes. These extra taxes add up to about half the cost of the gas. I wasn't completely convinced on how this was going to work, so I didn't fill the tank all the way. But it worked! Unfortunately it also entailed a detour that added 20 or so minutes to my drive home. Driving in Germany is a bit harrowing, for example I'd be driving 80 mph and have cars FLYING past me. That takes some getting used to.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

SaTOURday in Frankfurt

[DISCLAIMER:  Terry has not seen or edited any of the photos shown here. He is not to blame for poor quality]

My days are not normally quite this busy ...

It started, Saturday morning, the day after the new curtains in my apartment were installed. Now, instead of hanging an inch or two above the window sill (and thus letting in first and all other light), my curtains hang several inches below.  And I slept past 8:30am.

After going for a run in which I successfully re-created the first few steps of a previous bike ride to Nidda Park, I made breakfast and got ready to hit the museums. The last Saturday of the month is free admission for most, but not all, of the Frankfurt museums.

The Children's Museum is located just steps away from the Hauptwache U-Bahn exit, so I went there first. The exhibits are very cool and interactive, but the place is tiny and it may be a bit young for my kids. I don't think I spent more than 20 minutes inside.

The Museum for Modern Art (yes, I went there. It was free!)  was about what you expect for modern art.  Some of the exhibits were thought-provoking, many just begged to be touched although that was frowned upon, one installation with bench seating did in fact allow viewers to sit so of course I did.
 This is one of many things I hold against modern art. How does this title relate to this work?

OK this one was cool. They are not dogs, but some kind of soft furry material shaped to look like them.

I tried to get into the Museum for Angewandete Kunst (Museum of Applied Art), which I had visited previously, but it looks like it is being prepared for new installations and any way the only door I found was locked.

Across a sweet little park from the Museum for Angewandete Kunst is the World Cultures Museum. The exhibitions focused on south America and Africa and art reflecting on the legacy of slavery.
This mobile is hanging from the entrance and along the two stories of stairs

My last museum stop was the Archeological Museum, located in an old church. There's an exhibit that unfortunately ends before the family comes to visit, all about prehistoric peoples. This was the winner of the day and the one I think the kids would even like. It definitely goes for breadth rather than depth, but I found value in the series of pottery that, in the course of a hallway, brought the visitor through nearly a millennia's worth of change and development. 

By the time I got home it was way past lunchtime and I was hungry and tired. After a brief rest and refreshment, I put my German license plates on the car and hit the road. Selgros is a membership-warehouse-type store, and I went to check it out. Three months into living as a single person, I still have trouble purchasing fresh produce with enough variety that I don't get bored during the week, but that doesn't rot when I can't eat it all. Needless to say, I bought little, although it isn't only full cases of stuff and I did go home with red curry paste and coconut milk.

Back at home, it was time to prepare dinner. When I returned to Frankfurt  last Sunday I took the whole chicken out of the freezer, planning to roast it later this week. My oven hasn't worked for 2 days, the chicken is now fully thawed, oh no, what to do?

Kenji, the culinary genius at Serious Eats, explains precisely how to grill a whole chicken and why one should do it his way. Without a meat thermometer and with the sunlight fading (it was full darkness when I pulled the chicken off the grill) it did entail a few risks, but the result was delicious and we'll find out tomorrow whether it was properly cooked.