Master Cheng

Ooooh, haven't written much. Not too much happens when you are sheltering in place, except binging on Netflix. I've seen 1 1/2 seasons of the Gilmore Girls, it's kind of funny but wearing thin.

When the movie theaters opened back up, we went to see Parasite. Strange film, weird that it won all those Oscars, nice to see a Korean film. And WONDERFUL to be back watching a movie. There ware five of us in the late afternoon showing.

This afternoon we went to see Master Cheng. There were six people there, so it was nice and comfortable, although I am afraid the theater can't survive on these numbers. We bought extra cokes and ice cream to help them make a buck.

This is a Kaurismäki film, but by Mika, the older brother of Aki, who is know for his bizarre Finnish films. It is a sweet story with some fun Finnish wierdness. It is almost Icelandic in presenting the Finnish landscapes in summer as the main character! 

A nice mellow afternoon film - it won the audience award at the Lübeck Film Festival last year. The trailers were rather disturbing, films I don't think I want to see, scheduled to "open soon, April something". Uh, right, they couldn't re-do that bit of the trailer? Anyway, nothing interesting.


Plane vs. Train

WiseWomanGrandkid spent her first week's holiday away from her mom with us in Sweden. She had a ball and didn't want to go home, but I had already booked a flight 2 weeks earlier. I decided to fly to Berlin with her, but take the train back so that I can compare plane vs. train travel for such a long distance.

On Wednesday we started out from Skåne in the afternoon at 1:15 pm after a bit of lunch.  We drove by car to Copenhagen Airport over the magnificant bridge between Sweden and Denmark. There is a special lane at the airport called "Kiss & Fly", no way to park because there are cars coming behind you. You pull up to the front, the fliers get out and give kisses, get their bags and the car is on its way. Really, a sensible way to set about it.

We made our way through security, there was a special counter with a human being for dealing with children, everyone else had to go through the machines that checked the boarding cards. The woman at the security screening couldn't believe that I only had a laptop, didn't I have an iPad for the child? No, I do not. We looked through the duty-free and got some chewing gum for WiseWomanGrandkid, and were at the gate by 3:30 pm. We bought some pastries to eat, and since I noticed that they were being really picky about only having one item each, I stuffed WiseWomanGrandkid's mouse ears backpack into mine, which I had purposly left rather empty. Other than that, we just had her suitcase.

Boarding was not until 4:10 pm and passed without incident for us (others had to pay because they had two things with them). I had splurged paying for chosen seats on EasyJet, so that we could have a window seat. We got seated easily, left the gate at 4:25 pm, and landed on time in Berlin at 5:25 pm. We were picked up by WiseWomanGrandkidMama at 6:00 pm, and I was home by 6:45 pm.

That makes it five and a half hours door to door. The plane was packed, but we had no checked baggage. I paid 40 € per person, and had planned lots of extra time to deal with a child perhaps not wanting to walk fast. It was without stress, the only negative point was not being able to take my own liquids with me and having to leave my pocket knife at home.

On Friday I went back the other way by train. I purposely left the booking to the last minute, and the train I wanted to take in the afternoon was already sold out. As I later saw on Twitter, it was a good thing, since it was full and completely without air conditioning the entire way. As there is construction between Nykøbing and Næstved, the normal route would have extra exchanges, getting off the train, onto a bus, off the bus, and back on a train. So I was taking the other route north, via Fredericia. I settled for a train two hours earlier with changes in Neumünster, Flensburg, Fredericia, and Copenhagen.

I had a good breakfast at home (luckily, as I planned on having lunch on the train) and left for the local train at 9:30 am. The train to Kiel via Neumünster left Südkreuz at 10:24, and was already jam-packed. I chased a woman from my seat (I had also purchased a reserved seat on all the trains possible) and settled in. At least we had Internet, so I got some work done, although the train was overfilled from Hamburg. I do not understand people who travel without making seat reservations this time of year.

In Neumünster at 1:30 pm there was a train change to a local train from the same platform - but the train was jam-packed. People had lots of luggage with them, and children who were screaming. It seemed like an Indian train, every square centimeter occupied, at least there were no goats and chickens along. I manage to snatch a seat, but with my backpack on my lap there was no chance to do anything while the train lumbered along, stopping at every station on the way.

At 2:45 pm we changed trains in Flensburg to a train on the same platform, with people pushing and shoving, trying to get a seat. Again, I chase people from my reserved seat, they end up standing in the aisles with dozens of others. When we cross the border into Denmark, we are told that all the aisle-standers must get off the train for passport control. They are unsure if they will be let back on, so they pull off their luggage as well. They are checked outside, then a policeman comes through the cars. A woman across from me had remarked that she doesn't look like her passport, she had long red hair when the picture was taken, now she has short grey hair. She passed muster, one wonders if this is just done for show.

We were now running 10 minutes late, the conductor announced through the PA system that the standers could get off in Tinglev and get a train 45 minutes later that would go through to Copenhagen. Some did, some didn't, the women sitting at my table were worried if we would make our next connection, as there was only 12 minutes scheduled and 8 tracks to move. I later saw on Twitter that those who changed trains found out that all the empty seats on that train ended up being reserved seats. Apparently, many people had the DSB app and were able to reserve a seat. I used the available internet to check that the next train in Fredericia still had empty seats and I could buy a reserved seat if necessary for it.

There was no chance to move to any sort of dining car, if there was one available, as all the aisles were blocked. Luckily, I had some bananas and cookies with me, and actually get some work done, as the Internet worked. 

The train in Fredericia actually waited for us at 4:26 pm, but the conductor said to everyone: run, run, get on the train as fast as possible. So no one checked which wagon they were entering. It was a fight, as not everyone had reserved a seat and those that had were in the wrong wagon. Luckily, I had a reservation and I checked the wagon before entering, so I made it to my seat, again chasing off squatters. The air conditioning, however, is not working, luckily I have my Spanish fan with me, as it is 29° C and getting hotter.

After the train gets going I manage to climb over people sitting in the aisles and go to the bathroom. Some crew is sitting in the wagon next to the bathroom with some unaccompanied children. The door is locked, and no one is being let through to their proper places in the car behind it, so they are stuck camping out in front of the bathroom. It is absolute madness that we paid good money for this - I spent 120 € for the one-way trip flexible ticket. It would have been only about 80 € if I had booked weeks in advance, but then I would have had to take exactly this train. The whole point of train travel should be flexibility, and the ability to get off and wait for a next train, if one wants to.  Why are there no extra cars on for a Friday afternoon when they know that people have to take this way around to get to Copenhagen?

Did I mention that there was no Internet? 

At 6:00 pm it is 30° C in the compartment, no fresh air, haven't seen a conductor until just now, climbing through with a coffee pot, probably to refresh it. She has been sitting in the children's compartment, which is locked. She obtained two bottles of cold water and climbed back past us, without saying a word to anyone.

We made it to Copenhagen on time, and I now had 45 minutes before the train to Sweden. There were far too many people for the escalator, it took some time to get up to the station. There I got a salad and some cheese and something to drink at Brugsen, and sat at a hot hot hot table in the back of the store eating. Finally, real food!

The train to Sweden arrived on time, although it was not marked at the track board at station level, only on the big billboard and down on the track. Whatever, the air conditioning works, there are plenty of empty seats, and the bathroom is easy to reach. We are on time, and I am home at 8:30 pm. 

I needed 11 hours for this trip, and am rather suffering from people overload and am a bit dizzy with motion sickness, I feel like I am still on the train. I was only able to eat my snacks until I reached Copenhagen, no real lunch, but I was able to take my knife and lots to drink with me, as well as my backpack and a suitcase.

The plane was one third the price and took half the time.

One third of the price in half the time. The plane wins.

I wrote a complaint on Twitter to the DSB, the Danish train system, and was sent back a link where I can lodge a complaint. I did, asking the following questions:

  1. The Danish train system knows that people are avoiding the busses from Nykøbing to Næstved on the Hamburg--Copenhagen line. Why don't they put extra cars on the trains that run via Fredericia? People paid good money to travel and ended up standing or sitting in an aisle.
  2. Why do they put broken cars in service? They should have enough in reserve for such situations.
  3. Why doesn't a conductor care about the people on the train? We could have waited another minute or so in Fredericia and had people sort themselves out on the platform. It would still have been jam-packed, but not so chaotic. It would have been nice to have been welcomed over the PA system, or given some information about the trip, but there was nothing, in any language.
  4. Internet would have at least given people something to do, why don't they get this working? They probably only have to give the router a reboot.  
  5. What on earth would the train system do if even more people decided to take a train because they want to be environmentally sensible? The train system is broken now, they have been "saving money" for ages. How can it cope with more passengers?



As WiseWoman, I recently purchased a WonderWoman T-Shirt because I liked the WW. I knew nothing about the comic book character, but was given a DVD with the WonderWoman film. It's been on one of my get-to-someday piles for a while until today WiseGrandchild found it.

She immediately wanted to watch it, although she is just shy of 6 and the film is rated 12+. I decided we would watch a bit of it and see if we want to watch more.

She was enthralled with the first scenes of women training to be fighters. She jumped up and down on the couch "That's what I want to be when I'm big!!!". I found it strangely comfortable to have so many active women in major and minor roles, and so many strong women around. And of course, Robin Wright :)

We broke for dinner, but WiseGrandchild insisted that we continue. I was a bit worried about all the violence scenes, but she assured me she watches stuff like that at home all the time. Every time WonderWoman (who is actually never called that, but Diana) would deflect a bullet or cross her arms, or use her sword, or jump high in the air, WiseGrandchild imitated her and insisted many times more that she wants to be like Diana when she grows up.

Hello, Hollywood? Could we have some more movies starring women in strong roles? Real quick? I have this young woman who needs a lot of good, strong role models, now.



We went to see Shoplifters this evening, a film that won the Golden Palm in Cannes this year. In Japanese. With Swedish subtitles. And the film was just lovely.

Okay, I enjoyed picking up the odd word in Japanese (I had a semester's course decades ago). But there was not much in the way of words that we needed in order to understand that we were rather voyeuristically watching a presumed family that lived in very cramped quarters and did things that may seem morally reprehensible in order to survive.

At first it is just Mom, Dad, Auntie, Grandma, and Son who live together, eat together, and steal together. On the one hand it is a bit jarring to see how they live and sleep in the same room, how they slurp their noodles, and needle one another. On the other hand, they would probably find our way of living jarring as well.

On the way home from stealing stuff for dinner -- Dad explains that things in a store don't belong to anyone, so it's okay to take them -- they come across a child of about five, out in the cold of a balcony, frozen and hungry. They take her home and share the food they have with her. They are going to take her back, but discover that she is bruised all over, and when they are at the apartment, they hear loud shouting going on. They decide that she can stay the night with them.

And she stays longer, becoming part of the family, and also learning how to shoplift.

I don't want to spoil the story for you, so I'll stop there. Suffice it to say that there are lots of interesting twists and folds to the plot. But it is really a wonderful film, expertly filmed and edited, with a host of excellent actors. The actress who plays Grandma, Kirin Kiki, is apparently very well know in Japan. She died of breast cancer shortly after the film was aired at Cannes. Both of the children, especially the youngest, were just magnificent. They must have had a very patient producer who was able to draw out the thoughts they were to be having and have them be readable from their facial expressions.

In a way, it was very fitting to hear it in Japanese, I think I prefer it that way to a dubbed version. But of course, it it better to see it dubbed than not at all. Because you start thinking after the film: What exactly is a family? How do we choose the people we live with, the people who are important to us? And why does such a rich nation not care adequately for its people? The latter is a question we have to also ask ourselves in Germany, as well as in many other countries.


Ocean's Eight

So there were lots of bad reviews about "Ocean's Eight", but I assumed that this was because all of the leads were played by women and anyway, Sandra Bullock was playing in it and I need to see all of her films. So the usual suspects gathered and we managed to find a theater showing the film in English (and German and a few other languages I couldn't identify) with German subtitles.

My expectations were exactly zero, I was tired and afraid I would fall asleep if it was boring. It wasn't. I only looked at my watch once towards the end of the film! There were, of course, some tired references to the Ocean's 11/12/13 films, but there were lots of interesting quirks to the film. I really loved the guerilla scene in which they place a female version of "Washington Crossing the Delaware" at the Met (the Germans didn't understand this reference).

It was a lively film (nothing to ponder, just summer fun) with some great acting. And fascinating to see so many women in major roles, including Rhianna as the superb hacker Nine Ball. A couple of things didn't quite ring true, but it was a nice night out on a hot summer day.



The Twitter hash tag #BadStockPhotosOfMyJob has me in stitches at the moment. These stock photos are trying to transmit visually what we as scientists do all day. It is boring seeing people think or write, so they try to come up with some ideas - and of course, this gives the general public a rather strange view on the world.

I surfed over to Shutterstock to have a look. "female computer scientist" gave me lots of men in lab coats with colored water in beakers next to computers, so I tried "computer scientist" next just to see. Oh my, still a lot of lab coats around, but some mighty strange stuff.

And some of them are cartoons of this state:

An old white guy staring at a screen looking over his reading glasses. Uh ha. Lots of glasses, by the way:

One might think that computer scientists are camera shy. But oh, no, here they are with neural nets projected onto a bluish screen next to a map. This is machine learning, and the bosses all wear ties!
This one does, indeed, convey a bit of the frustration one feels at times:
and I just love the caption: "Angry man businessman male scientist hipster smashes laptop furiously in office with board for copy space on white background." He has pens and pencils, an ancient book, two newer ones, a microscope, some paper, a laptop and a white board with nothing written on it. Hands up, who has ever seen a whiteboard in a scientist's office with no writing on it or things held on by magnets? I thought so.

Men in suits staring at blackboards are quite a thing:

It hurts my back just to think how I would have to get down on my hands and knees to write on the bottom of this blackboard. Okay, it might be one of those movable thingys, but it's already about 4 meters wide, so it must weigh a ton.

Oh, I see, it's the same guy, it's just the graphic designers going wild with Photoshop:

I'm impressed - even though there are few women (and they are kind of silly, wearing lots of makeup or postits with their short skirts), there are a number of persons of color and even a few hijab-wearing women (although one woman has a hijab in one photo and a sari in the next while they are using the same red book)


This guy looks real tired from typing with just one hand while holding his laptop in the air.

This is getting closer:

but I've never really had the ones and zeros fly off my screen at me:

But I think this guy is the winner:

His battery just caught fire while he is still balancing the laptop on his right hand, and afterwards, his brain is fried:

Now, here's a picture of my real home office (many years ago, it's gotten worse):

CC-BY-NC, WiseWoman

And here are some real computer science students in a real classroom:

HTW Berlin, Nina Zimmermann

and this is what is on their screens:

HTW Berlin, Nina Zimmermann
and sometimes we even don't work with computers!

HTW Berlin, Nina Zimmermann

Okay, enough fun. Back to work.


The Shape of Water

As a reward for finishing our taxes today we went to see the Oscar-winning "Shape of Water" film.

I probably would have left after 20 minutes, if it had not won all those Oscars. I mean, best film and all, surely something wourd turn for the better.

In my opinion: not. It was trite. Lots of clichés that I didn't find amusing. Woo-hoo 60s science fiction. Continuity errors (light outside while Elisa bathes, but when she is on the bus it is dark). Unnecessary sexual content and violence. The profanity got lost in the German translation, which was very wooden. And come on, in the 60s a starving artist has money for a color TV set?

I was wondering about the sign language, if it was American Sign Language or an adaptation.

One commenter at IMDB has it right: Guillermo Del Toro does "Amelie" meets "Creature from the Black Lagoon."  Octavia Spencer was, as always, stellar, and the cinematography and costuming were well done. But I could have made better use of my time.