On forgetting my own BlogDay :(

I didn’t write anything yesterday. I went to bed at 7:30 with a headache instead.

Yesterday was the 23rd of November 2016.

I started writing here on 23rd of November 2012.

That means the blog turned 4, and I didn’t even acknowledge it :(.

Luckily Claudette came to the rescue and congratulated it for me..

Thank you ­čÖé

***

4 years are a long time, but also not very long.

It’s gone fast, but also very slowly.

I am the same, but also very different.

My writing’s changed (a bit), but my subjects haven’t changed (much).

My blog hasn’t changed (much) since then, but my knowledge has (a lot). Since then I have made a very basic website for DB’s company, a very basic website for my molecules, and started to make one for a committee I’m part of, until they decided they didn’t think it was necessary to inform anyone about what they do. I have tested adding forums and making comment forms and polls and making page templates and even tried a tiny bit of code (which I have abandoned for some time in the future when I have more than a handful of spare minutes).

I am nowhere near close to being ‘good’ at making websites, but I am getting ‘better’. I noticed how much time I must’ve spent on here over the years when I was writing to a group of people yesterday who are trying to create a website, and having most of them think I was talking about flying to the moon when I used words like WordPress or themes or PlugIn or WordFence or multiple editors or posting-by-email.

Here’s to the next four(+) years and the next part of the learning curve :).

Incidentally, I wrote 444 posts in those 4 years.

On learning to use libraries – part 1

One of the guys at school on Tuesday said they’d never been in a library before. (!!) Ever. Not as a little kid. Not in school. Not during his apprenticeship or Meister training. Not accompanying someone else. Never.

I can’t imagine a life without libraries, but I know DB doesn’t see the the benefit of them and I hadn’t been to a library for a couple of years (= until recently) either – since moving here. On a potentially related note, I haven’t been aware of as many bad spellers or semi-illiterate/dyslexic people en masse anywhere else I’ve lived.

Having said all that, I have to admit a lot of ignorance about libraries in Berlin…

The rest of this post was mostly written on the train while I was supposed to be reading reliable sources to use in my essay. I added to it gradually over the following weeks, and then pushed it to the back of my mind for a while. I’m dragging it out again because I need NaBloPoMo content and don’t have much time to write completely new posts.

***

I am (back in September) trying to write an essay. According to the lecturer, it is expected that these essays are not only of highest quality but are substantially grounded in facts, figures and quotes from clever people. We are expected(/=required) to use libraries and ‘proper’ sources, instead of relying on ‘people-on-the-internet’ to tell us the basics in easy to read articles.

A couple of weeks (= now months) ago, I would have sworn I knew how to use a library.

Now, I’m not so sure…

***

It started when I could barely find my way into the first library I tried to use since moving to Berlin. (I still can’t believe it took me almost 3 years). I’m not at all used to libraries being upstairs, above residential flats. After browsing the sale-table and waiting for the librarian to finish talking to the people before me in the queue, it turned out I couldn’t get a library card without not only proof of identity (which I had on me), but also proof of registering to live where you live (which I didn’t).

I went home with an application form and a couple of books I bought in the sale.

***

The second, steeper, learning curve presented itself in the second library – one on the way home from one of the places I work, in a building that would be better suited, from the outside, to a museum. This time I was better armed with all the paperwork I could think of.

I wasn’t armed with the knowledge that libraries sometimes have unattended back doors. I stood at the desk for the best part of 10 minutes before deciding to investigate. Three people-empty rooms later, I found a couple of incredibly helpful library-ladies.

I was issued a library card and a password and a card number and henceforth expected to scan my books in and out by myself. I don’t remember ever having to do that before. They do have a very cool machine to do it with though. It looks like the kind of scales you sometimes get in supermarkets – the kind with a stainless steel plate and a touch screen – but it must have some kind of scanning device hidden away somewhere because it knows what the books are as soon as they land on the plate (and displays their titles, authors and publishers on the screen). Also, the label it spits out when you poke the right buttons isn’t sticky… but having a list of the books is a very sensible idea!).

The library is part of a Berlin-wide collection* of libraries, but is very small, in a residential area, so books about obscure academic subjects don’t take up much room on the shelves. As the librarian said, “They’d be out of date before they’d been read twice”. She did find me a book about laws and a couple of ‘personal experiences’ books though.

***

The third curve was hideously steep, and I’m pretty sure I still haven’t reached the top yet. Probably not even half way.

There are at least 3 universities in Berlin. Each has a number of libraries. One company I work for has some kind of agreement that I can use them too. I say ‘can’, I probably mean ‘am allowed to’** – there was very little ability involved.

For starters, I had no idea the uni had so many individual libraries until I’d followed signs to one and been told I was in the wrong place for the kind of books I was trying to find. The second one I came to was appararently also wrong, and the third one was only approximately right because it was “cental” and had a bit of everything in.

I wandered round the foyer of a deserted-looking university building for a while, looking for the library. I would probably still be there if the man in the sentry box hadn’t taken pity on me and pointed me in the direction of an even more deserted-looking staircase, mostly hidden behind a dividing wall.

Luckily the sign on the door said Library, because the first thing that struck me when I finally arrived, was the severe lack of books. There were tables and fancy reading lights and sofa-chairs and computers and a help-desk, but no books. I decided to act even more helpless than I felt and plead innocence to the librarian-students behind the desk.

Trying to get a library card was a joke, although not nearly as funny as trying to take books out turned out to be. There are boxes to tick if you are a student or a professor or probably a travelling monkey, but not if you are me. I was stumped and the librarian was stumped and after a lot of discussion and a phonecall, it was agreed that I would be considered a student because that was easiest way to convince the computer to give me a library card number that wouldn’t give me the rights to all the forbidden books.

In the middle of all this, I phoned DB to tell him I might be some time and to eat without me. That was good, because I have never spent so long achieving so little in a library***.

I grew up with the Dewey system. For anyone who didn’t, it’s a system for arranging books by subject. Each subject is allocated a number from 0-9, with each specialisation (i.e. nature -> animals -> mammals -> dogs -> dog training) getting an additional digit. It is usefull and used, in varying degrees of complexity, by practically every library I’ve ever used, EXCEPT FOR THIS ONE! This one has decided, for whatever reason, to sort its books by date-of-purchase.

The only way to find (=look for) anything is to use the search function on the library computers. Once you find something, or in my case approximately 3000 somethings, you have to go through the list, clicking on individual entries to open the drop-down info box, trying to figure out which you want to borrow. This decision can be based on the title, occasionally a brief description or a chapter list and the author, although since I don’t know anyone famous for writing about unemployment the author was unimportant. Once you’ve decided it might possibly be interesting enough to look at, you have to click through to get the 12-digit-number and write it out on one of the many stacks of precut scraps of paper littering the tables.

Armed with a list of long numbers, you can ask the librarian for permission to go into the book, get sent back to the locker room to lock your bag away, go back to the desk and be shown to a corridor leading to a long, narrow room jam-packed with bookshelves – far closer together than in any ‘normal’ library. So close that two people couldn’t stand back to back and look at the books. Anyway. The shelves are arranged by year. Helpfully, the years are written in HUUGE lettering on the floor. The last couple of decades (from 2000, with space for the next few years ;)) were crammed into the top floor, all previous years were on lower floors.

The 12-digit-numbers are each stuck on the spine of the books, the way Dewey numbers often are, so at least that much was familiar. What wasn’t, was the way they started on the top shelf of the first bookcase and continued along the top of the next 4 bookcases before snaking back along the second shelf.

A long time later I emerged, fully phased, with a grand total of 3 books.

Sometimes, it seems, you shouldn’t judge a book by its contents page either.

 

To be continued…

* collective term for libraries, anyone?

** or ‘may’. However, despite the best efforts of multiple wanna-be-hilarious teachers, I have so far successfully refused to establish ‘may’ into my active vocabulary (except as a month), and I don’t plan on doing so any time soon…

*** not quite true ­čśë I spent/d a lot of unproductive time in a lot of libraries. It just wasn’t as frustrating as in this one.

On driving across Berlin with a fridge

While it wasn’t nearly as cool as hitchhiking round Ireland with one’s miniature fridge, I’d argue that driving accross Berlin during rush hour with a nearly-full-sized fridge on the folded down back seats of your car is slightly more nerve wracking, especially if it’s dark, drizzling, and the rear windscreen wiper doesn’t clean the top third of the window and the fridge covers the bottom half. Even more especially if you usually park under a lime tree and the entire car, but most notably the mirrors and windows, are slightly sticky, dusted in yellow grit and decorated with bird poo.

The fridge, the car and I all made it back in our respective one pieces* and that was the end of another educational day.
*as in, ‘got back in one piece’, except there were three of us. Not to be confused with onesies. There is no way I am going to dress either my car or my fridge in a onesie. The chances of me wearing one myself aren’t much greater.

Advanced warning

Baby-Essay is finished and handed in. Presentation has been presented.

I now have excess writing capacity and two months of repressed ideas – you have been warned ┬á­čÖé

On discovering under-used words

Reading old scientifical papers is hardgoing, but occasionally it makes up for it by throwing me a delightful new word..

 

 

Any guesses what “quinquennium” means?

 

 

 

 

no?

 

 

I had no idea, but it was too good not to look up…

 

 

 

 

Turns out it’s a period of 5 years (or a 200th of a millenium :))

According to Wiktionary.org you can also say quinquenniad or quintennium.

The plural is quinquennia or quinquenniums

 

Related terms:

  • (adj.): quinquennial, quintennial
  • (4-year period): quadrennium
  • (6-year period): sexennium

 

Isn’t language awesome?! ­čÖé

On writing my fingers to the boneskin

I have “Daumenknochenhautentz├╝ndung”.

“Thumb bone skin inflammation” sounds pretty impressive, but German is a whole lot cooler :). I think the Latin is periostitis but I may well be wrong.

I didn’t know that was even a thing until yesterday, I just knew my thumb hurt.

Apparently, all bones are covered with a very thin, very delicate layer of “skin” responsible for connecting them to the ligaments and nerves and blood supply and who knows what (ask someone medical). If you repeatedly bash a part of your body where the bone is close to the surface (like your shin, or your fingers) there’s not enough flesh to cushion the impact, and you run the risk of damaging the aforementioned boneskin (which presumeably has a fancy Latin name like periost).

According to the internet, this kind of damage is generally caused by running in the wrong shoes.

According to my doctor, it can also be caused by writing too much. The repeated pressure of holding a pen, when you aren’t used to it, is enough to disturb the boneskin. Seems there was a reason behind my year 2 teacher’s constant critisism of how tightly I held (and still hold) “writing implements”.

My thumb, the one that hurt when I wrote all those revision cards, is suffering from accute Daumenknochenhautentz├╝ndung. That basically means it really hurts and I shouldn’t use it for a week or so.

Be warned.

­čÖé

 

On eyesight and hindsight

My brother says hindsight is a wonderful thing. I think eyesight is better. Which doesn’t at all negate the wonderfulness of hindsight..

I am currently in the joyous position of having both.

The hole in my eye has healed itself (with help from the drops and gel), and I have survived the exams. Both of which are Good Things, even if the waiting, both for the check up and the results was and is (respectively) a nuisance.

In future, I will aim (as I routinely promise myself after almost every exam) to start revising earlier, and to actually learn the parts I want to (and unfortunately usually do) flip past, dismissing as, “not exam-worthy”.

I will also orientate myself around the questions we work on in class. I don’t appreciate rote learning, but it seems thats what’s expected here. When in Rome and all that…
Here’s to 4 schoolfree weeks! ­čÖé

On “re: vision”

I have an exam on Saturday.

Actually. That’s not true.

I have 2 exams* on Saturday.

The date’s been set for several months, but somehow I managed to ignore how fast time slips away when you’re not looking properly.

A month ago I made a list of topics we’d covered, and topics we still needed to cover in class.

A couple of weeks ago I started going over my notes and flicking through the text books.

At some point last week I realised I hadn’t really got a clue about any of the things that were going to come up in the exam. A mild panic later, and I made up my mind to get down to revising “properly”.

I revise best when people ask me to tell them about whatever I’m learning. People ask better questions (and can check if I’m talking rubbish) when they can read them off revision cards. As a bonus, writing things down helps me remember them too.

It seems revision in general, and writing cards in particular, is something that needs practising. ­čśŤ

I’ve written masses of notes in class without any problems, but writing revision cards seems to be a different kind of stress. My hands ache. My wrists are sore. My fingers are tired. My thumb’s so tired it’s almost gone to sleep completely (I hope it wakes up soon – I need them both!).

Today is the umpteenth day of staring at the heap of ex-forest on my desk (and ignoring the heaps invading the surrounding vicinity, and the dining room table, and the sofa ….). I am thoroughly bored of writing revision cards. I can’t stop though, because I have no time. I don’t remember ever starting to revise this late before, and I can’t remember it taking so much time up, but I think that’s just selective memory loss ;).

***

I was originally planning to write a post about how it must be a sign you’ve done too much revison when getting-up-to-clean-the-toilet-because-the-cleaner’s-been-on-for-10-minutes becomes a highlight of the afternoon. Then I thought about writing about how tragic it is to run out of whichever coloured cards you were using for Topic A and have to use Topic B’s colour, just when you were starting to think you were actually the slightest little bit organised. Then I thought about how dangerous coffee is, and how fizzy you get when you drink the first full cups ever, and how I am going to have to stop as soon as the exams are over before I can’t imagine a life without it.

I say “planning”, but I really mean the ideas were swirling around the back of my head because I wasn’t going to give myself time away from the revision cards to write any of them down.

This is what you’re getting instead.

***

This morning I got up with DB, prepared to sit at my desk and inflict more pain on my writing-thumb.

And then I had to go to the doctor’s.

Nothing like a good adrenalin kick first thing in the morning.

***

I am a glassblower. I am trained to look at reflections in shiny objects. Especially round shiny objects. You can tell a lot about how round things are when you look at the patterns the reflections make.

This morning, once DB had roared off on his motorbike (leaving me in a bleary sleepy haze, to have a bath and get dressed and write lots) I innocently looked in the mirror.

I shall have to make a mental note not to do that anymore. It’s dangerous.

You know why?

I don’t either.

***

My eye had a dent in it.

<insert silent swearing here>

After blinking and looking again didn’t make it go away, I put eyedrops in and phoned my optician. She said I was welcome to come in and see her, but that she’d rather I went to see a doctor.

So I did.

I sat in the overcroweded waiting rooom and wrote revision cards in front of shuffly old people and loud, wriggly, small children. It’s got to be good for me though – Kate says one should learn in as many places as possible….

***

It seems there’s a hole in my <insert germanised latin name for front-of-eye here>.

Apparently it’s not visible unless you dye the surface yellow and shine very bright lights at it.

Maybe eyedoctors should do glassblowing training before going to doctor-school? ­čśë

Anyway. I don’t know how it got there, and neither does the doctor, but at least when you know it’s there you can do something about it. I have a new sort of eyedrops and a gel. WHOO!

***

And now, after a very pleasant interlude I’m going to get back to those revision cards – I have an exam to learn for afterall!

 

*on the content of 4 Textbooks

On using the wrong strap

Backpacks, like suitcases, are something I ought to know more about than I do. I have carried some kind of backpack/rucksack/satchel/shoulder bag/handbag/bookbag/shopping bag/sport-kit-bag/…. almost every day for the last 25 years, on average probably multiple times per day.

Having said that, and considering how long quarter of a century sounds, I haven’t actually had that many different bags.

This is mostly because I get attached to them but also because I don’t like shopping much. This means I wear (/use?) them until they wear out or fall to bits, whichever comes first.

My latest is no exception.

It was one of the last in a box in Aldi. It was (and is :)) purple and perfectly tined to coincide with finally having to admit that a bag with 2 broken zips is more than defunct. It was perfect, in the way that only Aldi-backpacks can be perfect.

I bought it and ignored the small voice telling me it was probably sewn together by small Chinese children, pacifying my conscience with the knowledge that if I bought it it would almost definitely get more use than leaving it for someone else (which admittedly is no excuse for child labour).

That was a couple of years ago.

These days, as a result of daily maltreatment, 3 tonnes of textbooks and a couple of bottles of water, it looks like this:

image

image
This is a very good example of not heeding the stitch-in-time proverb. I am now looking at a whole lot more than nine stitches! ­čÖü

My bag is in the process of losing a strap, and I am in the process of coming to terms with the fact that I will need to mend it.

 

 

In the meantime I am learning, or at least trying to learn, to use the other strap instead. It’s a whole lot harder than it sounds.

***

I wear my backpack on both shoulders if I’m walking any distance, but I heave it onto my left shoulder first, and leave it there if I’m only going a couple of paces. If I need to take anything out of it without putting it down, I’ll swing it off my right shoulder and rummage through the contents, leaning the weight on the left strap.

I think this left-shoulderism stems back to a black leather shoulder bag I inherited from a friend (who goes through bags at an astounding rate of knots (or bags) in year 8 or 9. It only had one strap and I had to choose a side. I don’t remember what I did before that.

Moving to Germany meant multiple flights (and other journeys) made with a wheeled suitcase and a laptop bag. I, probably automatically by then, wore my laptop bag on my left (although strangely, often with the strap on my right shoulder), leaving my right side free for a suitcase. Having the suitcase on the right also meant that it was usually between me and the road which I think is generally a good thing.

After 5 or 6 years I had a fight with a suitcase . Now, 11 years on, I am almost incapable of changing sides. It feels so wrong, and my entire stance┬á unstable,┬á but I suppose that just means there’s more reason to practise.

Apparently, according to an article I read a while ago (and which I can no longer find), using the wrong hand to do routine activities (like brushing your teeth) can improve all kinds of things like memory or creativity etc. Here’s a link to a different but similar article. Maybe it works with carrying bags too…
…then maybe I’ll remember to mend it at the weekend (and be creative enough to get a load more revision cards written. ­čÖé

On going back to school – part 2

So….. that was harder than expected.

4 hours is a long time to sit still and listen (never mind learn), especially after a full day at work*.

After filling in a million forms and going through the details of what happens when and where, and introducing ourselves, and collecting our textbooks, and filling out yet more forms, we were taken on a whirlwind journey through the course content. It was intended as an overview, but the teacher/lecturer got carried away and gave examples and asked questions and made me (/more likely all of us) realise how rusty my knowledge is after not-quite-3 years on standby.

Also, that I am unable to explain the difference between terms** without giving examples.

* and it wasn’t even a strenuous day at work…. I hate to think about summer when it’s hot and the workshop’s full of people wanting things.

** in this case renting and leasing.

On going back to school (again)

In half an hour I go back to school.

You would have thought that 13 years of normal school, followed by 3 years of glassblowing-school, followed by several months of Meister-glassblowing-school would be enough for anyone.

You’d be wrong.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that, but you’d still be wrong.

Although it depends, I suppose, on what constitutes ‘enough’, really. Maybe it would be enough for most people. Probably.

Thing is, I’m not most people, and I don’t like not knowing things I ought to know. Which is why I’m going to add another 680+ hours (spread over 15 months) to the above list.

At some point in the distant future, there is a chance of my taking over a glassblowing company. Legally,┬á anyone with a “Meister” in glassblowing under their belt can own a glassblowing company. Theoretically anyone who feels brave enough can run a glassblowing company. Practically, I feel a lot out of my depth. Especially which it comes to things like planning…

Despite knowing that it’s not going to happen for a while, if ever. Learning-by-doing is fine, but I’d like to learn by learning first, so that I know what to start doing…

In a few minutes I start a course of practical economics and company management (or words to that effect, I think it translates as “business studies”).

I even have a pad of lined paper and brand new biros with me…. ­čÖé

On who I am and where I’m going.

That’s approximately the first assignment in the zero to hero series. Most of the info is known to the people who read my ramblings regularly, but putting it all in one post seemed like an easy post ­čśë

I am:
– 27 years old
– a glass blower
– a girlfriend to the bestest DB
– English
– a German speaker
– the oldest and shortest of three children
– a Christian
– a stone thrower
– Jesskawrites…..
…….and this is my blog about not throwing stones (and occasionally about glass or snow or any number of unrelated other things).

I’m going:
– to spend the weekend skiing
– to move to Berlin when I get back
– to use moving house as THE opportunity to become an organised person ­čśë
– to resit my┬ápractical glassblowing exam at the end of January
– to paint my entire flat before I can move out, collecting something like ┬ú1000 as I go past my landlady
– to start work in February
– to learn to drive at some point after that
– to [hopefully] set up a company making small Glass Things
– to write more often.

On facing the music

– or not as the case may be.

When I first handed my notice in, I thought there’d be a whole lot of trouble – my soon-to-be-ex Colleague is a grumpy git at the best of times – but he didn’t have anything to say when I said I was leaving and everyone else was upset but totally understanding.

I think there are probably loads of things where real-life paints a much better picture than your imagination does.

I mislaid a project for a customer in about June for instance, and came across it again while tidying up the workshop. He hadn’t phoned to ask about it or complain, so I figured it couldn’t be too urgent, but it was still embarrassing not to habe done it. I decided to apologise and ask him if he still needed it anyway, and he was luffly and said he did still need it, but that┬á he’d been working on something else and would ask my soon-to-be-ex-colleague next year.

So thankful not to have to try and fit it into my last week here… ­čÖé

* (also saw it a couple of times while working on my Meisterst├╝ck but couldn’t do anything about it and so ignored it)