My madcap adventures in Germany during my year as a Fulbright Scholar.

27 June 2007

Finally, a not completely asinine meme!

I swear I have about a half a dozen interesting, thoughtful posts simmering in the back of my mind. Unfortunately none of them are writing themselves, so I present to you instead a meme.

Apparently this is a list of the "top 100 books as voted by the public," whoever "the public" may be. The books I have read are in bold, books I've never heard of are in italics, and my comments are in brackets.


1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King) [I've not read it, but I have seen three of the four segments on tape. Clearly, I wasn't that impressed, or I would not have stopped six hours in.]
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien) [I hated it, and I wasn't a huge fan of the LotR trilogy, either. All of you Tolkien groupies about to object to my dislike can kiss my ass; Tolkien needed a damn editor.]
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) [I highlighted part of it because I have only read part of it. I got a few chapters in and had to stop. I can only count on one hand the number of books I've started and not finished, so this should be interpreted as a sign of how truly awful I found the book.]
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) [I love Ayn Rand. As someone more witty than I once said on television, "She may be a political nut, but nobody can write a forty-page monologue like Ayn Rand."]
34. 1984 (Orwell) [Shockingly, I haven't read it. I don't plan to, though, since I need to have something to name during games of Humiliation.
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) [Loved it and had a minor freak out when I met Jamie George, a good friend of Bradley's and the man who spread her ashes at Glastonbury Tor in England.]
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) [I read one chapter of Veronika Decides to Die but had to put it down because I felt extreme loathing towards the author. Not the book, the author. That hasn't happened either before or since. Perhaps I was being unfair to Coelho and mistook his insufferably pompous narrator for him as a person, but, regardless, I have a message for him: Unless you are Kurt Vonnegut, you are never allowed to write yourself into your book. Period.]
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom) [That man needs to stop writing schlock.]
45. The Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens) [Does listening to an audio recording count as reading? I think it does.]
53. Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough) [That's a book?]
59. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller's Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) [I have read The Posessed.]
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy) [Someday.]
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davies)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) [I know I've read it, but I have absolutely no recollection of it.]
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones' Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez) [I don't think I've read it. I've only read one Marquez, and I think it was the 100 Years. I intended to read them both and even checked them out of the library at the same time, but apparently I didn't find it worth it to read the second.]
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. Tigana (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard's First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer) [Well, I've heard of Jeffrey Archer, just not this book.]
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch) [I think Oprah has pretty good taste in books. Sue me.]
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

I think it totals up to 40-something, which I think is pretty respectable, given the list is biased in favor of new literature. And full of crap. I try not to read crap.

I realize my reading tastes don't match those of the general public, so I was not surprised to see there was no Fanny Burney, Willa Cather, Salman Rushdie, Günter Grass, David Lodge, Nick Hornby, Glen Duncan, Heinrich Heine, Virginia Woolf or the other books by C. Brontë and Austen. But what about Shakespeare? Edith Wharton? Jack Kerouac? Mary Shelley? Bram Stoker? Mark Twain? Toni Morrison? Kurt Vonnegut? How did Slaughterhouse Five, Beloved, Huck Finn, Dracula, Frankenstein On the Road, The House of Mirth and frickin' Hamlet not make it on that list?

24 June 2007

field work

Berlin is a very weird town.

I love to walk around with my camera just to see what I come across. Lately it's been lots of nature-y things.

Notice anything?

It may not seem like much to you, but this is the first squirrel that I've seen in Germany. It was so novel I had to take a picture; I only had to chase it around the cemetery for ten minutes before I could get a clear shot.

I also spotted a diplodocus at Hauptbahnhof.

After taking a picture of the massive dinosaur in the massive train station, I turned around to see a woman with an absolutely massive purse.

Seriously, have you ever seen anything like it?

After several days with late afternoon rain storms I came across some snails and slugs.

It's not quite as cute, though, when the creepy-crawlies follow you home. The hot weather combined with the lack of air conditioning means I keep my windows open 24/7, and because windows here don't have screens on them, I've had to deal with a lot of this:

Massive, mosquito-y-type bugs flying around my apartment. This is the third one I've had to kill. Or actually, come to think of it, it could be the second. I whacked one with a newspaper only to have the carcass disappear by the time I came back with the napkin.

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18 June 2007

What's wrong with our country?

I have a really hard time feeling sorry for the pornography industry.

14 June 2007

Xenophobia at work in the GOP of California.

The state party and its 58 county operations face several challenges, Hanretty said, including "redistricting on the ballot, uncertain legislative races ahead of us ... and a number of Republican congressmen who are under federal investigation and are going to be challenged by Democrats."
"Who will help these candidates?" she asked. "A couple of foreign transplants who don't know the political landscape and don't know the history of the complicated politics in California?"

By the way, both "foreign transplants" have many years of experience with the Republican party, and one of them is actually a permanent legal resident of the U.S. who plans to become a citizen.


"[I]t is not a sauropod, it is not a tyrannosaurus, it is a tyrannosaurus-sized oviraptor. We have a gigantic chicken!"

13 June 2007

Well, I guess that's not a meme that's going to catch on. I can't believe no one has anything weird in their refrigerator? No batteries, film, angora sweaters? Huh, what a boring bunch you are.

Regardless, I think I can safely say that I would win a "weirdest item in your refrigerator" contest. Take a look:

Let's go in for a close-up:


That's a Twinrix vaccine.

This is where you might ask, "Maureen, why in the world do you have two doses of the hepatitis A and B vaccine in your refrigerator?"

The state of Massachusetts has some fairly strict vaccination requirements for students at their universities, so I have to spend the next two weeks getting jabbed in the arm every three days. I had my tetanus booster and can go back any time for my polio booster, but my doctor doesn't stock the meningitis and hepatitis vaccines since they are not covered by the national health plan. The nurse gave me a prescription and I walked to a pharmacy, very confused and the whole time wondering how it would work: do they just send the vaccine to my doctor? It didn't add up. At the pharmacy (almost 18 months in this country total and I'd never been to a pharmacy until yesterday) I handed over my prescription and waited, only to have the attendant come right back with two small boxes. I paid (€134! Yikes!), and he handed them over, "Be sure to keep them refrigerated. Would you like a bag?"

I couldn't believe that was it.

Keep them refrigerated. Would you like a bag?

I walked out of the pharmacy with two syringes filled with hepatitis vaccine in my purse. I couldn't believe they would just trust me with it. Talk about culture shock.

If I only knew how to administer intramuscular injections I wouldn't have to go back to the doctor at all. But because I can't there they sit. In the refrigerator. Next to the butter.

I have the hepatitis vaccine in my refrigerator.

What's in your refrigerator?

Just out of curiousity, what's the most interesting thing in your refrigerator? Post in the comments, and I'll post my answer later in the day. Trust me, it'll be funny.

10 June 2007

Spring ?

These pretty, green works in progress make me think it's spring.

Of course, the 85° weather would seem to indicate "summer."


09 June 2007


My wild Saturday night consisted of a trip to the laundromat, and I couldn't even manage to do that right.

Halfway through the machine just stopped, full of water and wet clothes, with the display blinking E07.

It then drained the water and reset, and I loaded my wet clothes into my bag and left in a huff.

Of course, the wet laundry weighed a ton (23 pounds!)...

...and dripped all down my pants on the way home.

Everyone on the bus noticed me and my bag of laundry that was soaking the floor of the bus. Luckily, no one in this town gives a damn, and I didn't get a single comment or even a second look.

Like Hänsel and Gretel I left a trail behind me...

...only instead of bread crumbs it was water droplets.

And I was forced to finish my laundry in the bath tub.