The Latest Novels

Just because I haven't blogged about them doesn't mean that I haven't been reading! I've just finished the third book that needs blogged about, so here's my take on them:
  • Daniel Suarez, FreedomTM. I *loved* Daemon, so I was very eager to get started on the sequel. The Daemon now has control of pretty much all of the world, but it turns out, Pete isn't dead, that was part of an elaborate plot by the Daemon. Multinational companies have taken over the world, and it gets nasty. Really nasty and bloody. Violence to the point that I actually considered putting the book aside. I slogged through to "End Game", but it wasn't very satisfying. The best thing about it was the idea of the thread that the in-people from the Darknet can see in their fancy glasses. Not much else I liked, though.
  • Next up is Jeffery Deaver with The Burning Wire. I love his fast-paced writing, and I really like his Lincoln Rhyme character. Even though he is in a wheelchair and paralyzed from the neck down, he's a great forensics investigator. And the method of killing people in this book is quite novel, to say the least. This is so much of a must read that I've already given a copy to a friend. But psst, don't tell WiseMan how it turns out, he hasn't read it yet.
  • Last night I finished Kirstin Warschau's Fördewasser, a German Krimi set in Kiel. It was given to us by a friend from Kiel (we lived there for 15 years). Inspector Olga Island (what a horrible name, every time the author refers to her by just her last name I first thought of Iceland, then of and English Island, and finally of the inspector. The story could have been original, but the ending is quite puzzling with a Chinese student popping up and all sorts of other surprises. Most of the figures are very flat, and there are lots of questions that remain unanswered. Why can her artist friend afford to spend days in the Hotel Astor? How on earth can she really get him into an archive on a Saturday and have him do all that research including driving to and from Hamburg in just a few hours? What happened to the diabetic cop? She gives heaps and heaps of local color, naming all the streets they drive down. She describes the forensics department at the hospital in vivid detail, and since I've actually worked there, the description is quite exact. But it doesn't really help the story much. And if people don't really understand the geography, they get confused. What happened on the East Side (Ostufer)? Where the hell is Westensee and is that close to Diedrichsdorf? Only if you know Kiel is this maybe worth reading.
Now, what next? Shall I get started on Jonathan Franzen?


It's spring, the kamikaze bicyclists are out

Yesterday and today I was trying to navigate Berlin's streets with my car. I had to drive from Oberschöneweide up to Prenzlauer Berg yesterday and today from home to Oberschöneweide.

The part-time bicyclists have gotten their bicycles out of the cellar, but they forgot to get bike helmets out and they forgot to check if the lights still work. They've also forgotten how the traffic regulations work. I've had all of the following happen in just these few days:

  • Bikers ignoring red lights (too numerous to count)
  • Biker cruising diagonally over the crossing, where at least one arm was a red light
  • Biker coming down the hill faster than the speed limit for cars (who are slowing) so that they can just maybe make it across the light
  • Bikers swerve around a car parked in the second row without looking
  • Bikers scooting between two parked lines of car and stopping with a big yellow bus right of them that will be turning left into the normal traffic lane. This biker had no helmet on.
  • Bikers telephoning while biking
  • Bikers having a nice chat with each other while biking side by side in Prenzlauer Berg
I know that the car and bus and truck drivers are worse, but the rules do actually save lives, I assume. 


The Stockboy

Woo-hoo, WiseKid got a job! WiseKidGirlfriend kicked his butt for months on the topic, and finally his excuses ran out. So he managed to get a cover letter written, and asked Mom to help him write a CV. I dug out the dates of starting this school, getting kicked out and going to that school, military service, etc.

It looked bad. Who in their right mind would hire a kid like this? However, I included spoken languages on the last line, as he is very good at languages: German native, English and Swedish good, smattering of Turkish. We printed up some copied and WKG dragged him up and down the streets, putting in his resume at various shops.

Indeed, the next day a store called and made an appointment for an interview at 11.00. That's a great time, easy for him to be out of bed. He went to the interview, spoke with the manager for a bit, and then the manager asked him "Why did you put Swedish on your resume?" - in Swedish. WiseKid says it took him a second to switch gears, and he replied - in Swedish - "I wrote it because I speak Swedish."

The manager was duly impressed - turns out he's Norwegian. So the next day he got a call that he got the job as a stock boy. It's a great schedule for him: 3 days a week, 9-3 (that is, when the aisles are not full of paying customers).

He insisted we go shopping there today, and he went along. Instead of dragging behind me and whinging for me to buy him this thing or that thing, he snatched the list out of my hand and marched off, getting all the items on the list to show me that he knew the store cold. And he pointed out every pile of stuff that he piled up. Of course, the manager saw him and came up to greet him, he apparently sees everything that goes on in the store.

Keep your fingers crossed that the job lasts!


A liter is a kilo?

On a train trip I couldn't help listening in to the group sitting across from me, chilling from a long day doing something in Berlin.

Young Turk pulls a big bottle of water out of his bag.
Blonde Lady exclaims: "What? Do you carry all that water with you?"
YT: "Sure, I like to drink a lot of water"
BL: "But that's one and a half kilos you carry around with you all day!"
YT: "What?"
BL: "The bottle is one and a half liters, that's a kilo and a half. Respect, carrying all that weight."
YT: "Does a liter weigh an entire kilogram? I don't think so. I think it's less"
BL: "Well, I thought so, but I don't know for sure."

The young Turk is 10 years her junior, why does she back down? She's completely right!


Berlin, the Small Town

I finally had a Saturday for going grocery shopping at a normal time and not 15 minutes before the store closes. And oh my, you really see what a small town Berlin is. First up was a woman I recently did a project with, hadn't seen her since the project was over - we had a nice chat, including making a man trying to get some stuff we were standing in front of smile when we noted "Guys are so stupid, looking only at the short term return on investment and not the long picture".

Then a woman we know who had kids in kindergarten and school with WiseKid shoved by, she didn't see me because she had her eyes down on the bottom row, scanning for what she needed. I called her by name, and she looked up: "Oh my, I saw you on TV the other day!" And we had a lovely chat about the kids and how hard it is for them to figure out what they want to do in college. A beautiful young lady, smartly dressed came around the corner and I realized this was her middle daughter, a year younger than WiseKid. She is all grown up and full of plans for the future!

And as we were talking a house neighbor pushed by, and we laughed that I was never going to finish shopping at this rate and so we all said good bye and I concentrated on getting the rest of my list.

That is what is so charming about Berlin - the little neighborhoods where you meet people you know while shopping, just like in the small town Kiel I studied in many moons ago. I really like that!