On the magic of new books

Nothing like a brand new book or two to cheer one up, even if they are ‘only’ school books.

This pile of brand new school books arrived today. I received them in exchange for a small fortune.. 

They contain – I hope – the knowledge I need to pass the next lot of exams AND – at least theoretically – figure out how to advise companies to keep improving…. That’s pretty magical.

Now I just have to read them! ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ I spent/d a lot of unproductive time in a lot of libraries. It just wasn’t as frustrating as in this one.

On dead flies and sherry trifle

I haven’t written lately.

You can blame Geoff from TanGental.

I don’t really have a lot of time to spare for either reading or writing when I’m at home, so I use my commute for both.

The commuting time for the whole of the last week has been taken up with reading Geoff’s book: “Dead flies and sherry trifle”.

I’ve finished now, so I can get back to writing (and reading more posts by other people).

I don’t really do book reviews, but if you have a need for a book you can’t eat read quickly enough, and/or for insights into teenage boys’ thoughts, you could do a lot worse than this :).

My verdict?
Go and see for yourselves. (You can read a chapter or three on his blog)

On bookshelves

I moved to Berlin in January.
Most of my things moved in after me.
Most of them still live in the boxes we moved them in.

For the last few months my bookcase looked like this:
image

No[t much] longer!

First, the DB chose a good space for a bookcase.

image

Then we measured it.

Then I used Draftsight to make a plan of the space and of the way I wanted it to look and a separate plan of how to get all the lengths into the fewest number of planks (with the least waste).

Then we (the DB, his Dad and I) went wood shopping. We got the people in the wood shop to cut the planks for us, because we spontaneously decided to buy oak instead of pine* and would’ve burnt our way through it instead of cutting it.

After all that, we spent the weekend sawing, glueing, drilling and screwing. DB’s mum spent her weekend cooking for us and making sure we remembered to eat.

I would love to say I had to tragoon them all into it, purely for the sake of the word, but they were willing victims. I think wanting their respective houses and cellars back helped.

First we built this:

image

Then we built this:

image

And then it was finished. ๐Ÿ™‚

image

And that was the end of another good weekend.

Now all I have to do is oil it, sand it, oil it again and wait for it to dry (or soak in or whatever oil does) and empty my books into it.

No rest for the wicked, huh?

Still. My mother says only boring people get bored…..

* it was half price ๐Ÿ™‚

Quote: dreams

“Dreams are illustrations from the book your soul is writing about you”

Marsha Norman

(If this is true, mine’s going to be a very odd book..)

On crisis cleaning

< or chaos to passable in something like 40 steps >

I Crisis Cleaned as mentioned in my last post. This is “how to make your house presentable in lots of hectic steps” – I’ve grouped them roughly by room/area even though they definitely weren’t done in order. It’s probably not an interesting read (unless you have a good imagination and want to be horrified by how far away I was from having a guest-friendly home), I just wanted to be able to remind my future self how good I can be if/when I get unmotivated:

Balcony – I think starting with the worst and/or most important is generally sensible, especially when you have a deadline to meet. The balcony was therefore top of my list – you can’t barbecue inside, even if you can sit on a sofa in a sea of books and other ‘stuff’.

  • carried plant pots off one balcony, through my house and onto the other one to make space for an unspecified number of barbecue guests, trying not to drip water on the sofa or step on anything with my less than squeaky-clean boots as I went. The floor needed washing anyway, right?
  • swept the dead-plant-debris into a corner. Having dropped several months’ worth of dead flowers straight onto the floor (too lazy to gather them up each time I deadheaded) it was covered in a thinnish layer of dead brown mush.. I’d also torn out the old plants (deadplanting?) in order to put the bulbs in. And seemingly spilled quite a lot of compost in the process…
  • washed balcony – dry sweeping really didn’t help much – by tipping 2 buckets of water out and splooshing it about with the broom
  • washed table and chairs – how does plastic garden furniture get so gross when you’re not watching??
  • scooped all the plant debris and grott out of the drain and into a bag
  • emptied the rejected birdfood and rotting apples into the bag
  • peeled most of a Theraband off the tiles and threw it away – it smelt funny so I put it out there last year.. Apparently they stick to the tiles and disintergrate if you let them

Bedroom – okay, probably shouldn’t feature next on the list of importance, but it’s furthest away and had the least icky floor, so I figured it would save mop-washings… it didn’t really, but it was fairly quick to do.

  • put rug/mat, under-bed-boxes and the washing basket onto the bed
  • took the washing to the bathroom
  • binned tissues
  • piled books/papers/pens onto bedside table
  • mopped floor without sweeping it first. I have one of those rubber brooms. They’re fantastic things – not only do they get into all the groutlines between my floortiles, they also don’t seem to create dustclouds the way ‘normal’ brooms do. And you can use them wet as well – super. What didn’t occur to me until it was too late, was the fact that using the broom to wash the balcony meant I couldn’t use it to sweep my house – they take a while to dry and while they’re wet you can’t really sweep with them, not without making thick wet dust trails anyway.. Doh! I got my mop out and mopped without sweeping first. I’m not sure if I recommend it. It obviously means you don’t have to sweep and wash the same area separately, which saves time. On the other hand, you use at least as much time as you save washing the mop-head because it gets covered in all the things you would normally have swept up first. Swings, roundabouts and learning curves.
  • picked the drawing pins out of the wet gunk and put them somewhere I was unlikely to stand on them
  • once it was dry I put the boxes, basket and rug back and made the bed again.

Kitchen

  • washed up all most of the stuff I don’t trust the dishwasher with
  • threw away bag of mouldy breadbuns. I am against buying too much food only to throw it away when it goes off, but I am also against eating mould even if the ‘best before’ date is still valid. They were the sort you finish baking yourself and I’d bought them in anticipation of my return over New Year when everything would be closed. In future I’ll have to freeze them instead of trusting the bbe date.
  • emptied dishwasher
  • washed cutting boards – I have a stack of them and it’s soooo tempting to take a new one instead of washing the last one ๐Ÿ™
  • mixed a new batch of muesli.ย I probably wouldn’t have spent the time mixing it during a crisis clean if it hadn’t meant I suddenly had a whole load more space on my kitchen counter ๐Ÿ˜‰ I love crunchy muesli, and I love chocolate muesli, and muesli in general really.. What I don’t love is how much sugar there is in the crunchy and chocolate varieties, and I don’t really need so much chocolate or crunch-per-mouthfull so I mix a box of each with a bag each of finely and coarsely rolled oats into a huge plastic tub. There’s just enough room in there afterwards to shake it up. Makes my day when I have decent muesli for breakfast ๐Ÿ™‚
  • washed floor. Twice.

Dining room – I really need to do some ‘decluttering’ in here. It’s basically my ‘storage’ room. And the room I spend most time in. My bedroom’s for sleeping, my sitting room for sitting, my kitchen for cooking and my dining room for everything else. My desk is in there too and the papers, cables, pens, envelopes with random ideas scribbled on them, mice, webcams and other computer paraphernalia multiply and spread out from my computer as if it was being paid to do so… The tops of all the cupboards double up as shelves as does the dining table. My ‘real’ shelves with their carefully balanced shoeboxes are a lifesaver but will soon need some me-input to prevent them collapsing under the weight of their responsibility. My plants drape themselves from any remaining horizontal space and my books block each other from view in double-rows on my bookshelves. The whole effect is more that of a creative scrapyard than anything else. Given that I was working under pressure I could only hope to scrape the surface.

  • rearranged the plant rack; emptying the various plantgraveyards into the bag and making space for the bulbs I still need to plant, as well as most of the empty pots I’ve rescued
  • got rid of the bag of mouldy compost. I have less than no idea how compost goes mouldy but it’s very annoying that it has. It was seed compost. I don’t have a car and I live far enough away from the busstop to make fetching heavy things a nuisance..
  • cleared the table by putting the files back in their cupboard, shuffling all the remaining papers into a pile and all the ‘small stuff’ into a shoebox and plonking them both onto my desk. Wiped it down and dried it. Empty tables are astonishingly motivating – there’s so much potential for putting things on them (for some reason kinetic energy comes to mind; the only thing I still remember about it, is that the higher something goes up, the more energy it gathers to come down with.. Transfer the idea to the table, and the emptier it gets the more space there is for other stuff :))
  • shook out doormat
  • washed the floor

Sitting Room

  • shook out doormat
  • moved all the sofas, plants, tables, stuff aside; washing the floor before moving everything back again. It took 4 or 5 attempts to do the whole floor
  • made the guest-bed look good, or at least useable. I’d stacked my unvarnished picture frames on it. They landed on the table in the dining room. So much for having an empty table.
  • binned the dead plants, took the dead flowers to the kitchen, watered and dusted the leaves on the living ones

Porch – was so good I didn’t need to do anything.

Hall – was still good from Wednesday ๐Ÿ™‚

  • emptied my workbag and banished it to a better corner
  • swept up all the leaves and other bigger stuff I’d mopped into a heap (the hall is in the middle of my house) and binned them
  • washed the floor.

Bathroom – I do this last. Something about not wanting to wash the other floors with too many germs I guess. Not that there should even be that many more germs on the bathroom floor than on any of the others seeing as I don’t share with small children or a bloke ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • loo and sink were already sparkly thanks to all the swishing and swiping I’ve been doing ๐Ÿ™‚
  • picked up all the washing and put it in the basket. I have no idea why I don’t put things in it straight away but there we are. If I’d known I wasn’t going skating I’d’ve put the washing on to wash, I didn’t because it probably wouldn’t’ve been finished before I’d had to leave and since my cousin burned his house down with a duff washing machine I’m not too keen on leaving it running when I go out…
  • put the washing basket in the bath with the bath mat and the dustbin, balanced the scales on top of the washing, and the loo brush on top of the loo
  • washed the floor. Why is it mops don’t stay where you put them? I leant mine against the bath for a moment to move something and it promptly slid down knocking the looroll into the slightly damp bath and almost unbalancing the scales from their perch on top of the washing. When I tried to catch it I bashed the loobrush, thankfully not quite knocking it onto the floor
  • once the floor was dry I put everything back where it belongs
  • wiped the inside of the bath down. It’s amazing how much hair I lose every time I wash! I know I ought to get rid of it each time but sometimes I just don’t…
  • washed the mop out thoroughly and put all my cleaning stuff back in its corner.

So that’s it. Chaos to passable in something like 40 steps. I would like to say I got it all done in 2 1/2 hours but that would be a lie. I cheated and did some more once I’d phoned to say I wasn’t going out.

On the danger of helping at Jumble Sales

My new stool rocks! ๐Ÿ™‚
Someone apparently thought I was responsible enough to sell lunch tickets..

I have just got back from the church bazaar. I set out to help sell lunch tokens (which I think I already mentioned ;)) and since I was offered a lift home and a meal as a reward, I stuck around to help out with tidying up.

As a result, I’ve ended up with 40 books, 4 boxes of “stuff”, 2 tubs of leftover “Linsen mit Spaetzle” and a new rocking stoolย  (fantastic things – apparently good for your back muscles too).

Once the official selling time ran out, everything was sorted into boxes to keep for next year or to throw away. Boxes of ceramics and pottery, boxes of glassware, boxes of wood, boxes of plastic, boxes of books. I’m not nearly as heartless as the professionals, so I wasn’t really a lot of help on the scrapping front. After half an hour of standing aimlessly in the way and asking busy people if things were to keep or throw, I decided it’d be more useful if I swept the floor and moved the boxes other people had filled. So I did that. Sweeping floors is brilliant. Not only do I quite like doing it anyway, cuz you can see it has an effect, but it also makes you look like you’re really helpful and efficient when all you’re really doing is wandering about.. *grins*

My fir cone men

I was given a jar of apple jelly, a couple of pieces of cake and 2 cups of tea. I bought some ueber cute fir cone men made by the kids at an outdoor Kindergarten.

In between wandering and sweeping, I ‘rescued’ quite a lot of things from certain ‘death’ or at least from the bin. This is where the boxes of ‘stuff’ appear on the scene.

Things like picture frames can be tarted up (I have LOTS of as yet unframed pictures), plant pots are almost always good, as are serving plates (the sort you put biscuits on when people come over for tea).

On the other hand, some of the stuff is quite obviously anything but Jessish. So why bring it back? Mostly because it would have been thrown away otherwise and I’m pretty sure I can sell it or give it to someone who’ll appreciate it. Hopefully. If I can’t, I can always throw it away myself. That’s the long-term plan anyway.

The short-term plan is to sort my kitchen out (which I still haven’t done), and find homes for all my new things, though probably not in that order…

YAY ๐Ÿ™‚

P.S. I walked down to the church hall with this amazing sky:

I love sky ๐Ÿ™‚