The Man from U.N.C.L.E

The only night we found time to see a movie with our friend in Lund was tonight, so we couldn't see Jag är Ingrid, which starts tomorrow, drat. As WiseMan or I have seen this or that movie (Woman in Gold is fabulous, didn't manage to write about that one, it's a must-see), the only thing left was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I wanted to see it because I loved the series as a kid (boy, that dates me, doesn't it?) and WiseMan has vague memories. Our friend was curious as there were so wildly different reviews of the movie, from crap to fantastic.

So we, and 12 others, found ourselves in the 120-seat theater in the early evening to see what was up. And hey, it was fun! Okay, maybe because we got lots of the references (we really raised the average age in that room....), but the dialogue was downright witty at times. Of course everything was implausible spy stuff, but hey, that's what the TV series was like, too! The only real bitch I have is them calling the computer tape a "disk", but whatever, can't have everything. I don't want to give away the twists and turns of the plot, but there is English, German, Russian, and Italian spoken, much was shot on location, and there's a bit of silly World War II footage in there that doesn't really make sense, it's the Cuban Missile Crisis, for crying out loud!

The film is entertaining, you get some laughs, and not too much blood-and-gore. And some smashing dresses the women are wearing! Go for it!


Cutting down trees

Where did July & August go? Okay, end of semester, then vacation with the princesses in Japan (which should have been worth lots of posts) and diverse other excuses for not writing. Back in Sweden, I have some time to write.
This afternoon our neighbors had some trees taken out. It should have been only 6, but it ended up being 8. WiseMan and I stood around with the neighbors watching in fascination how the process works. Here's a picture book story:

The truck has a lift arm on it with grabber pincers that grasp the tree.
Right below the pincer there is a chainsaw mounted, that cuts off the tree.

The lift arm is controlled by the truck driver with a little
remote control thingy that looks like a big Wii control.
This is an actual job that you can do
if you are good at computer games, I suppose!
Grab and saw

And lift that branch up and over the telephone wires!

Bang it on the ground to break off the branches.

And now go back for more.

This is the prize piece - a 3 meter trunk that can be sold for building wood.

All neatly packed on the truck flatbed and ready to go.
In about four hours, he was done. He then had a look at our trees, we have many old birch trees that could possibly fall on the house in a storm. I love the trees, but I also like the house. So tomorrow he's coming to take 4 trees in our front yard. To think that another neighbor spent and entire summer and fall taking down some 35 trees in his yard all by himself with a chainsaw. This is much faster - and safer.


Those foreigners....

At the hairdresser's this afternoon the woman to the right of me started complaining that there just aren't any German restaurants in the area anymore. Thai, Greek, Italian, Turkish, Chinese -- all sorts of foreign stuff, but you can't even get a good Currywurst here. The woman doing my hair said that she had heard that the foreigners get a special deal on their taxes for the first year or so, so that's why so many open up and then close after a year, in order to get the special deal for every shop they open. The woman to the right muttered "those foreigners, they get all that special treatment."

I rather exploded (although I was in the process of getting perm liquid washed out of my hair) and pointed out that this is a very typical rumor that people pass around that supposedly supports the arguments of those who are against all these "foreigners" in Germany. I explained that every person who starts a business gets a special deal the first year to help them get their business going. And that those restaurants that go out of business mostly have trouble generating enough business to pay the sky-high rents.

Oh yes, the hairdresser had seen the sign down the street, a landlord wants 2100 € a month for a 70 square-meter store that's been empty for a few months. That's 300 € a month that has to be generated by every square meter, in addition to paying for the merchandise and for the store owner and sales tax and what have you. It's the greedy landlords, I noted, curious to see if they would pick up on this and continue bitching.

They didn't. Silence, as the water kept rushing through my hair. Then the elderly lady on the left changed the topic: when she was young, you used to get a schnapps with your perm instead of just a cup of coffee.

And then they both went back to their gossip magazines.

These are your average Germans, I'm afraid.


It's me now

While spending a few days with my son, his girlfriend and their daughter, some poetry assembled itself in my mind and needs to be written down.

It seems.

It seems that I am now the mother-in-law
Who cooks and cleans and smiles and doesn't say much.
My world and theirs of YouTube and What'sApp and TV just don't
   have much in common.
Their conversations about rappers and TV starlets don't interest me
So I speak with the grandchild.
No deep conversations, but I do get smiles and kisses out of it.

It seems that I am now the mother-in-law
Who is there to push the pram and buy ice cream and drive the car.
My views of the world are so antiquated and out of touch that they just don't
  fit well with their modern way of life.
So I mind my tongue
And spend my time thinking.

Thinking that maybe my mother-in-law was just the same.
She cooked and she cleaned and she smiled and didn't say much.
Her world and ours, a political world, and intellectual world just didn't
  have much in common.
Her interests seemed to lie with TV singers and stars in the magazines instead
So she spoke with her grandchild.
No deep conversations, but she did get smiles and kisses out of it.

I do wonder though.
Did she spend her time while silently smiling
Doing math problems or writing poetry in her head
As I have been doing these past few days?

Driving home

Driving home after a swim -
son, his girlfriend, granddaughter -
are all sound asleep.

Crazy Easter

Yes, I know. I'm crazy. I have 5 days over Easter, and am spending them in Sweden. That is a rather normal thing for me to do, as it is only a leisurely 8-10 hour drive each direction. But this year I have lots of company. To be precise: WiseKid, WiseKid's girlfriend, WiseGrandkid, and two dogs. WiseMan decided that he didn't want to ride with this circus, so he would stay home, start the taxes, and spend time at the spa. To each his own.

We got an early start, so that we would have something of the first day in the cabin. Amazingly, they all slept for most of the way. We have a two hour ferry ride in the middle, we had a nice place away from the crowds for WiseGrandkid and the dogs to bounce around. I pretended not to notice the poop they had to scoop away.

We unpacked, unloaded the dogs, and set off shopping. Oh my, they were loading the cart like as if we were staying for a week! All this cooooool Swedish stuff we just HAD to have.

They decided to have a family room in the guest house, as I flatly refused to have the dogs in the house. That was actually kind of nice, I had the house to myself evenings.

We went to the zoo the first day. It took ages to get the show on the road, getting everyone up and dressed and fed and lunches made. But the zoo in Höör was just so worth it! Not only did we get to feed the wild boars and pet a horse, we were able to both pet and feed a moose! That was really the attraction of the day, or as WiseGrandkid says: "Super!"

Petting a moose
Day two we had the usual problems getting going, then made our way to Aq-va-kul in Malmö for swimming. It was smaller than I had remembered it, and not all that exciting I thought, but it was just the right size for WiseGrandkid. We first sat on the edge of the wave bath and enjoyed the gentle waves. Then WiseKid loaded her on a floating raft and paddled her around. What glee! We sat in the "hot tubs" that were the same temperature, just bubbly, used the baby elephant slide about 1500 times, and WiseGrandkid went swimming with me. We enjoyed the "whitewater" chute many times.

Easter Sunday we kept the dogs locked in while we hid the eggs. WiseGrandkid didn't quite get what it was she was supposed to be doing, but eventually she figured it out. And she was enchanted with the plush hippopotamus that her parents had hid in the willow tree. We then just chilled, ate chocolate, and went shopping. Grandma went to church in the late afternoon, surprise, no one wanted to come along.

Tomorrow we head back home - wish me a sane and safe trip!


Murder on the Orient Express

Yes, I know. This is not a new film. "Murder on the Orient Express" was released in 1974, over 40 years ago. And they already had color movies way back then, imagine that! What a star-studded cast was assembled for the filming of an Agathe Christie novel! I had devoured all the Hercule Poirot books as a girl, but I don't remember ever having seen the movie. Lauren Bacall as Mrs. Hubbard, just perfect! Ingrid Bergman playing the mousey Greta to such perfection that she won an Oscar for it.

Even though about halfway through I remembered enough of the book to know "who done it", it was still suspense-packed until the end. That scene (lasting almost 28 minutes, IMDB tells us, and because of technical difficulties had to be shot numerous times) in which Poirot lays out two possible explanations for the death of Mr. Ratchett, is truly the best of the entire film.

So don't just see newer films - the old classics are really something to enjoy. 


The Imitation Game

The English film "The Imitation Game" about Alan Turing was released this week in Germany, so we picked up the film in English at Odeon with some mathematically inclined friends. The theater was well-filled, a good sign, as I like having a movie theater close by that shows English-language original films. And has SALTED buttered popcorn.

A review on the radio was positively gushing about the film, while the Wikipedia article in English has a long section about various controversies, the short German Wikipedia article is completely dominated by criticism. Turing is portrayed as a traitor for not exposing a spy! He never worked with the guy! He wasn't that close to June Clarke!  The maths are wrong! There's an error in the machine! He was arrested in 1952, not 1951! Etc. etc.

Just ignore all this. It's not supposed to be a documentary and they only have two hours to tell the story so that people can sort of begin to understand what drives some people to spend hours and hours pouring over mathematical formulas and computing machinery. And that some of these people have issues understanding social cues and relating to people. They're odd ones. Maybe he was an Aspie and maybe he wasn't, it is still a wonderful film.

The actor Benedict Cumberbatch gives quite some insight into what it might have been like to be Alan Turing, to have had this mad idea of building a machine to break codes, and to have had his contribution to ending the war kept secret. His homosexuality, gently woven throughout the film, which caused the country he saved to put him on trial and have him chemically castrated, is well-treated. It's not in-your-face and it's not something mentioned off-hand. It is part of him, full stop. And it is a disgrace to England that it took until 2013 for Queen Elizabeth to pardon him.

The last few minutes of the film flash cards noting how the story plays out. They call Turing's death a suicide, although there are any number of alternative ideas from inhaling fumes from his chemical experiments to GCHQ having their hand in it. From what we have heard from Edward Snowden the past year and a half, that is actually starting to make a lot of sense. Turing understood the art of cryptography and cryptanalysis, the GCHQ doesn't want a lot of that going around.

Anyway: a film that makes people think about how gays are treated, about how deadly secrets are kept in a war, and about math being important gets a thumbs up from me. I shall recommend it to my students. And I suggest reading Andrew Hodges' book "Alan Turing: The Enigma" as well as Turing's publications. Oh, and learn cryptography while you are at it.