The porcupine

Now I know what that strange scratching noise is that I hear when I am working. WiseMan was cleaning out the weeds and dead flowers from the flower bed, when he saw a prickly nose sticking out under a pile of leaves. So he left off taking those leaves away, and I've been seeing that the little fella still lives there.

Today is cold and rainy, and I realize why he is there: he's right next to the fireplace. Chrr, chrr, there he is again, turning around in his little nest. I suppose it is this guy I found one early morning a few years ago, but if I catch him with his nose out again (and it ever stops raining), I'll upload a new one.

I bet he's ruining the wood siding, though.


Oh dear, we owe you more money

Grumble. Just got an email from the Human Resources Department. "We just figured out that you are entitled to a pay raise effective August 1. However, the guys who do payroll for us have been on vacation for a year are not finished yet with reprogramming the payroll system. We will give you the raise retroactively with your October paycheck."

Oh. Like the government decided on this months ago, but didn't pass into law until just a few days ago. So we let it lie in case it gets changed again.

Note: The last "raise" we had was a negative one, when we took an approximate 10% pay cut to "save" the government. No raises since 2003, although the cost of living has been striving ever upward. Gas, electric, newspapers, food, clothing - everything is going up. Good job we have a fixed monthly mortgage.  How much is the raise? 1.5 %. The current cost of living has increased by 7% vs. 2005, according to the Federal Institute of Statistics.

I suppose it could be worse. But not paying us the increase in August just adds insult to injury.

1222 över havet

And another book report! This time from Norway, read in the Swedish translation, although I have read a book of hers in Norwegian, it just takes longer.

Anne Holt: 1222 över havet (Norwegian title: 1222). 2007
Translated by the master thriller writer herself, Maj Sjöwall, she must be about 70. Yes, indeed, just checked the Wikipedia (and got mad that the highlights of the article are her relationship with Per Wahlöö and that she is a Marxist....).

Anyway. Anne Holt, trained as a lawyer, briefly minister of justice in Norway, now a journalist and thriller writer, has written another great one!

I was just getting a newspaper when I saw this on the shelf. I like Anne Holt, the last one I read, Presidentens Valg, was really great. So I got it, and mentioned it to a friend the next day, who writes book reviews on thrillers for a living. She gagged, saying that the books were soooo boring, they made her want to vomit. Harumpf. So it goes on the top of the pile.

Hanne Wilhelmsen, former cop, is now confined to a wheelchair after being shot in the back during a previous thriller. She's on her way by train to Bergen in winter, when the train derails. And since Murphy was an optimist, it's at the worst possible place - the highest point of the journey, 1222 meters above sea level, 40 km from the highway on skis, if one was able to ski. The only other way to get here, other than train, is by helicopter, and they don't fly in weather like this.

People fly about, get hurt, and are pulled out of the wreck and taken to the local hotel, as there is a horrible storm brewing. It doesn't take long for a murder to happen, and since all communication with the outside world is cut off, it is up to Hanne to overcome her aversion to police work and letting herself be helped up and down stairs (doesn't Norway have accessibility laws?) and starts to figure out who-dunnit.

It's rather Miss Marple-like, and really quite charming with all sorts of diversions thrown in. Just as it was about to be solved, I put it down and went out to hose down the house. I deliberated who the murderer might be. I chose two people, and at least one of them was right, and part of the reason I chose was right as well.

It was another page turner, I had to put off making dinner until I was finished with it. The chapters are introduced with the Beaufort scale, the wind picking up as the book heads for the solution. So just ignore the gagging - it's coming out in English in December, just the thing for a winter's read in front of the fireplace.


"A voice like an angel" - and here he is, dead as a doornail, wearing a Santa Claus suit in a Reyjkavik hote.

Arnaldur Indriđason: Engelsstimme. 2002. (Icelandic title: Röddin, English title: Voices)
Another Erlendur thriller, but it's rather boring. Or maybe it's me watching these Beck films while reading this. Police officers my age and a bit older are overweight, noticing their age, missing female companionship, and have cases to solve.
I pretty much had to force myself to read a chapter each night. The plot is a bit thin, although it does lurch nicely back and forth. Maybe the melancholy just got to me too much. Anyway, I finished it, check, on to the next!


Die Hirnkönigin

Book report time!

I have this large, large pile of books that I have been planning on reading for years. I am trying to work my way through them, and report on each one, mostly to remind myself which ones I have already read.

Thea Dorn: Die Hirnkönigin, 2001
(Okay, so it's been on the pile for a long time).  Brrrrr. Scary. Constructed like a Greek tragedy, filled with allusions to what I assume are famous Greek stuff (like Homer and so on). Bloody. Bizarre. Berlin.

It was a quick read, couldn't put it down, and it will give you nightmares for days. What a shame it's not in English yet.


How did I ever live without this?

It slices. It dices.

How did I ever live without a high-pressure cleaner?

WiseMan got one becuase he got irritated at all the moss growing on our roof. WiseKid owes us money, so we set him up with a special deal: we'll pay you a normal rate for cleaning the roof, but we'll keep half for debts. He agreed, and spent 3-4 days cleaning the roof.

We also needed a new hose in the middle. Roof tiles are abrasive. Holes in high-pressure hoses can't even be fixed with duct tape. But we wrapped the new hose in duct tape first, so that that is what wears off first.

I finally got my hands on the thing this morning. I washed down the deck. Nice! I washed down a wall - pretty nice, except it takes the paint off where it was a bit blistery. More work for me.

Now I had to wash down the deck again, but whatever. Looks nice. I wondered if it would do the job on that throw rug WiseKid walked on with dirty shoes when he got something in his eye. Yup!

I wondered if it would clean the paving stones up to the house. Indeed it would! And oh, my, they are white, not black! The step up to the front door now shines, as does the little planter out front.

You get soaking wet from all the spray, so you need work clothes on. But there are so many things here need cleaning! It says on the machine: not for use on people, animals, cars, and electrical outlets. Okay, but everything else is on my cleaning list for the rest of the week!


We could easily feed 60 or more

Cutlery. Piles of cutlery. Boxes of cutlery. Nice stuff. Silver stuff. Horrible stuff. Cheap stuff. My mother-in-law had boxes and boxes of the stuff. One large set is very nice and is almost just like ours. We can replace the stuff at the cabin, give the kids a set, expand our own, take some to work, and we still have cutlery left over.

If we had kept all the plates, we could feed 60, easily.

What cutlery did she use everyday? The horrible, wartime stuff. Large, unwieldy, uncomfortable to touch. I used to offer to set the table so I could dig through the drawer looking for a knife or two I didn't shudder to use. But this stuff wasn't broken yet, so she kept using it, while having all this nice stuff in her drawers.

I don't think I'll take the silver spoons to work, though. People don't wash MY cups when they drink MY coffee. I don't want them thinking the spoons are for the taking, too.


Free Sakinek Ashtiani!

The column by Mely Kiyak in the Berliner Zeitung this morning (online at the Frankfurter Rundschau) has stuck in my mind all day. She describes death by stoning - from the perspective a a woman being stoned.

The column gets under your skin as she describes how the sand gets under the white sheet wrapped around you as the stones come crashing in. You can't see the men throwing the stones, only hear them, chanting verses from the Koran.

What is particularly worrying is that a 43-year-old woman in Iran, Sakinek Ashtiani, has been sentenced to death by stoning. Her crime? Adultery. And even though there are two who participate in this, only she has been sentenced - to die by this brutal method. In 2010.

The death sentence (apparently also being demanded in the USA for whoever leaked the Afghanistan Papers) is an abomination. Who are we to decide who shall live and who shall die? And why is a woman not allowed to decide who she wants to spend her life with?

Her children have set up a site: freesakineh.org. They are collecting signatures there, although I'm not sure that that will do anything. If you read German, read Kiyak's column. Then add your name to the list.