And Gutenberg Lived Here: Two Tales And A London Cabbie

Today started,

as days often start in my world,

with me with my hand stuck in the coffee machine.

Actually, it is not all that wild of a story,

infinitely logical even-

Harald the mathematician’s comment when I told him about it-

Thank you Mr Spock.

So anyway,

there I was with my hand in the coffee machine,

trying to check the water level

since I hadn’t slept well,

and didn’t want to wake others in the household

by turning on the lights-

open circular floor plan-

the kitchen light floods the bedrooms-

but still wanted to get the coffee on

before I sat down to write.

And watch the sun come up.

You get the picture.

So there I am,

with my hand caught in the water container thingy part of the coffee maker,

coffee scoop in the other…


it all worked out.

There is coffee,

even though I only drink tea,

(the coffee was for the others when they get up, so they don’t stop me writing by asking where the coffee is)

and you can’t really get your hand caught in a teapot.

I actually have known cats,

and small children,

who have gotten their heads stuck in there-

just butter them up good.

And throw a blanket on the cat

so it doesn’t decided to smear the butter on the nearest curtains.

So where were we?

Oh yes,

the fact that I’m about to tell the tale of the London cabbie adventure.

And if you think that London cabbies aren’t something pretty marvelous,

about in the same category as Jhins,

or ghins,

or maybe gins,

depending on how you want to spell it…


by proven scientific study,

probably Kings College London,

where they trained the computer specialists whose sole job it is to  make Lara Croft’s breasts wiggle

I kid you not,

so in this study,

they discovered that London is so massive,

and difficult to manage driving in,

that the cabbies  have developed extra brain parts,

lobes, synapses, you figure it out,

just to handle it.


Which was probably why,

when Harald and I got into the cab,

because there was a murder going on,

well, not actually when we got into the cab.

But there was a murder.

On the tracks.

Of the Dockland Light Railway.

The one we had to take to get the plane.

Back home to Gutenberg Land.

And no bus went there.

And so,

we bit the bullet,

or actually,

more like the wallet,

thin enough already we easily got it into our mouths,

and got in the cab.

Which, in my opinion,

was the best spent money for the whole trip.


Now, I am a story-teller.

From a long line of scops, bards, whatever you want to call them.

We see the world as it really is…

Not computerized,

or nasty

and full of stalkers,



who want you to see the world their way.

There are still some of us out there,

the scop and bard people,

who see that the world is full of glory

and joy,

and that you have to choose who and what you want to be connected with.

And, at the moment,

Harald and I were in a cab.

Connected to one of the great seers,

in the sense of he who sees things right to the core in seconds,


who can really tell a story,

and scops,

who know the entire lineage and history of a people,

and can extract,

and extrapolate,

at will.


Hats off to the cabbies.

Or actually this cabbie.

Who told us,

Scheherazade style,

the story of the docklands,

the bombs found there that people had been living on top of since the war

(and didn’t explode!)

the bravery of his family,

who called each other across town every day from a phone booth

since their houses had been destroyed

and they were living rough

and not allowed to leave the area.

The story of how he liked Germans anyway.

Since they both drank beer and watched football,

and what else is there that is really important in life,

although he didn’t really like the French much.

Then he told us of the tower,

tossed in a couple of thousand years of English history,


just as we arrived at the airport,

explained the British attitude to Brexit-

his dad voted to not join,

he voted to join,

now both of them voted to leave.

Because they were just fed up to the gill slits with politicians,

who were often so privileged,

or so busy working their way up,

and maintaining their positions,

that they never listened to real people,


even if the situation really is that complicated,

and they really do need experts to understand it,

might just once in their lives like to take a look at the situation,

not what the politicians want them to know,

because politicians go by polls,

that tell them the votes of the people of London are enough

to balance the entire rest of the country.


And that on the weekend, the disenchanted,

and a large percentage of the younger voters,

were going to vote for an old-time liberal-socialist

just because they don’t see him as a politician.

And that he probably might even win.

(Which he did.)

And somehow,

as he talked,

weaving his magic tale

of  the past,

the present,

murders, taxes, riots, uprisings,


and basic truths,

deeds of great honor,

and even worse dishonor,

and politicians who think the people are too dumb to understand…

this all started to feel

in a sort of mystical,


here we are in a situation I never would have thought us to be in,

in a marvelous traditional black London cab,

a sort of flying carpet

where someone reads our wishes

and drops us at the door,

enabling us to go to another continent,

and even entertains us,


with magical stories

of magical lands

that don’t exist.

Or do they….?

And somehow,

in that most magical of all magical moments,

just between cab from reality to plane to reality,

this all started to feel,

to an American,

just the teensiest little bit familiar.

Ps. According to Harald, coffee tastes better when it has a personal touch.

More on the magic of London tomorrow.

copyright 2016


And Gutenberg Lived Here: And All Points West

I know-

actually I’m hoping-

that some of you have wondered why my blog was not up in the last couple of days-


busman’s holiday.

Make that:

a last-minute secretive midnight-ish invite,

a crazy three-day preparation period,

during which I had to handle the usual-

and unusual-

things everyone goes through in this biz

like buying daily contacts since the regular ones bog down in the city dust,

actually not so bad this time,

a plasticized raincoat that is not only anti-peasouper,

but also warm,

I didn’t need either,

heavy-duty black hiking shoes that aren’t too disgusting when being introduced to one of the ones who invited you,

when traveling as a musician to:




Land of mystic,


Michael Caine accents,

the mouth of the Thames,

and the weighted feet of the South Bank book-sellers’ tables,

Cleopatra and her lion-watched Needle,

mothers and prams at Kew,

marvelous comedies-

recycled from the sixties since the backers know they are about the only thing that will run right now:

carefully redone, of course,

to massive hoopla

and “three days only” advertising-

until they extend it for another half-year run:

in the “every detail exactly like the original historic premiere night in 1969”,


Once you see all this again,

you  really start to miss that old yellowed polaroid-snapshot-style scenery,

the paisley hippie clothes,

high-heeled courage boots,

wide paisley ties,

and mutton-chop sideburns

And then, of course,

there were the massively speeded up versions,

to prove how good the actors are,

and they are,


just to keep us all hopping,

the oddly modernized classics,

where the most serious dramatic action suddenly stops dead,

as someone,

(with VERY impressive actor/producer credentials

breaks into traditional vaudeville song and dance-

(the Bollywood effect?)

apparently meant to dehumanize the actor to the purveyor of his trade only.

(Anyone remember the actor as puppet in “Chicago?”)

Not that it wasn’t fascinating-

especially when Branagh is involved.

Now I’ve said the name.

And playing John Osbourne, no less.

Just more than a wee bit unexpected, unfortunately.

And unnerving.

But with a brilliant and laser-like concise focusing on the meaning of the play.

More about it in the next blog.

And then there was the fact that there were musicals everywhere-

all consisting of the autobiography of the creative process-


what was this person doing at this time in their lives that they wrote Pleasant Valley Sunday.

And for whom they wrote it.

As I said-

more in the next blogs.

And then there were the outer-limits-like confrontations

with a continuous series of mysterious markings-

a sort of dead sea scrolls type of ranking system on anything being sold,



methods of transport,

music in the tube station-

and all in a language that sometimes resembled,


on a good day,

the one the majority of  Americans speak.

(The closest is North Carolina, where they still speak the Queen’s English-

the queen being Elizabeth the First.

(This was told to me by a wonderful gentleman named Dewey,

a real North Carolinian of the old school whom I once taught German to.

And who was actually quite brilliant at it.

He said it was because he had to listen intently when talking to anyone who didn’t speak the Queen’s English.

From the intensity of how he watched me teach,

I must have learned mine watching Flipper.)

At least the Brits,

you have to give them credit,

are wonderfully kind while laughing at you-

sorry, but we Americans have no level stress in our language, all you Londoners,

ie the stop Mansion House  is, to us, Mansion house,

and not Mansion HOUSE.

(By the way, in London, it’s Peanut BUTTER,

which doesn’t matter anyway,

since they usually eat Marmite on toast.)

(And if you really want a laugh, read the Vegemite Diaries,

written by an Australian playwright living in London at the time he wrote it.)

Thank heavens I have a husband who had ten years of British English at school.

Still, it was wonderful in London,

and grand,

and somebody else paid a part of it,


thoughts on London:

it has changed.

It has  changed.

It has changed.

We were last there two years ago,

and in the intervening time,

the prices are madly up,

and also down with a crash.


we paid less for a theatre ticket, by a long shot, than we have ever paid before.

Just don’t ask what the stall seats would now have cost

had we been so intrepid.

The biggest change, though,

was that we saw fewer people on the streets than ever before.

And we have been doing this for a while.

The trains were more or less empty,

with seats to be had, even at rush hour.

And no one had packages with them that smelled of take-away curry.

Not that there is a shortage of junk food-

just that all of it is highly sugared.

Like flap jack for lunch-

un-baked oatmeal cookie dough, for you uninitiated.

Not bad,

but I now know why meals here are served with mushy peas.

They don’t roll off the fork,

and after eating a flapjack for lunch,

anything with protein is like water in the desert.

(with one exception and one exception only-

I’m not a picky eater, unfortunately-

the one exception:

a quarter of a head of lettuce,

a quarter of a ghastly white naked boiled chicken,

and a bottle of salad dressing we were once served as “chicken salad”

As my Dad used to say-

“It’s clean, it’s food, eat it.”

On the other hand…


it’s not really the same language.

So anyway, meanwhile back to the lack of smells in London-

except for Herman Ze German and his sausage place in Villier street,

there are almost none.

Or maybe  there is a problem with taking packages on the tube?

(There are no signs)

Or perhaps there is a general forbid of food,

since we saw no one munching-

or drinking-

this time.

Not even the tourists.

What we also didn’t see,

thank heavens, I think,

and I don’t really know the reason for this,

no one we asked was able to tell us,

were as many homeless on the streets at night.

The answer, when asked, seems to be “really?”

Although perhaps it is still warm enough and they are sleeping somewhere else?

Instead of over the heating grills.

At the same time,

there were demos outside of embassies,

and one,

outside of Charing Cross every night-


from the point of view of the fact that there was a,

sometimes two,

complete trap sets,

ie drums and cymbals,

a thudding bass guitar line,

and a huge lot of yelling.

And that’s all I’m going to say about the streets,

except for the beauty of the trees,

even if some have been weeded out and bushes removed-

for safety reasons?

And the fact that nearly all  of the little places we have been having tea at,

or a cheap chinese meal

seem to have vanished.

The Italian family that bought the Stockpot and called it Nonna

in honor of their grandmother,

are now are no longer there,

the Chinese family that ran a small place for four generations at Bayswater,

the booksellers who knew so much about books it was a thrill just to talk to them,

and Lovejoy’s,

now extinct,

run by three fascinating gentlemen who knew everything about everything.

Yes, of course things change,

and modernize,

and move on,

but is it only me who thinks that,

as much as I adore Dr Who,

with its bizarre and creative who-niverse,

brilliant writing,

and what it stands for,

it is the people of London,

like the kind gentleman who showed me how to open one of the new bag carriers you have to  rub four times,

blow into,

then pull apart

before you can use it,

who then grinned,

handed it to me,

and said,

“new world, Luv. Got to keep up-”

he looked about eighty-

who make this great place what it is.

And you can’t get that on a cell phone.

More tomorrow.

copyright 2016

And Gutenberg Lived Here: Sunday, Sun Day, Son Day-An Eco Of Gutenberg Land

Yesterday was thirty-three degrees hot here in Gutenberg Land.

Meaning the entire populace was underway-

eating ice-cream while dangling feet in the town fountain,

looking for a store to browse in that just happen to have air-conditioning.

And today being Sunday,

And the churches here definitely NOT air-conditined-

although the older models-

like the oldest in our area,

which has buildings started about four hundred A.D.-

several-feet-thick cool stone walls-

and a series of Swiss guards

with pikes,

to enforce the rules:

“two-quick songs, a seven minute sermon, the feeding (communion) of the well over a thousand” who show up for each service,

one each hour all day,

who are marched the length of a cathedral with football field  dimensions

handed a wafer,

and marched right back again…

At least the organist is good.

The Catholic Church here in Gutenberg Land has been doing this for nearly two thousand years-

the Mac Drive people could learn a lot from them.

And then there are the fifty-percent “minority” of  state-supported and sanctioned protestants:

“entire service fifty minutes no more, sing Sister Act or Blues Brothers, don’t mention social issues, quote lit not Bible”-

And first and foremost: serve coffee.

A group characterized by the great Bavarian comedian Ottfried Fischer as a congregation of feminists, baby rights advocates, and wicca practitioners and their “pastor hip-hop”


But he IS of course Catholic.

And, of course, although there are only the two “official” churches,

there are an absolute myriad of other belief groups stationed here in Gutenberg land:

from druids,

to new age cloistered living,

Baptist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Apostolic, Mennonite,

and that is just the beginning.

One of the biggest groups, however,

and, in my opinion, the most telling for most Gutenbergers,

are the pantheists,

and those who follow Sunday morning  pantheistic nature-worshiping practices

without actually believing in them.

What our godson, now a preacher after much searching,

calls the “Mozart and milk coffee crew”

Sleep in, slow start to the day, milk coffee and Mozart,

then a long fast march across the fields,

and a stop at a “restoration”-

a place that serves “decked bread”

ie open-faced sandwiches,

usually a thin layer of white baker’s cheese

like Philadelphia cheese, but not so fat,

topped by the grease,

usually goose,

and pan droppings that cook off when you make a roast.

The renderings are very carefully saved in a rendering jar all year,

to be served with a glass of wine-

the real income for these places,

whose “waiters” are  normally the owners, and living from the proceeds of,

very small vineyards.

Head cheese and summer sausage are also possibilities.

An alternative, of course,

are those who drive out to places known for hiking through beautiful scenery,

like Cloister Eberbach,

the place they filmed The Name of the Rose,

Umberto Eco’s neat trick homage to Sherlock Holmes,

fleshed out with a real knowledge of how they wrote then,

ie stories were meant to be told at the pace they lived them.

About sixty heartbeats per minute.

Somber walking tempo.

Put on anything in your classic collection marked adagio

and start reading Eco.

(Once you get past the “begots”

ie the list of all the books known at that time,

taken from a book list known to anyone who works with ancient books,

or book studies,

you get a medieval telling,

in my opinion,

of Agatha Christie’s

“And Then There Were None”

fleshed out by tons of academic discussions of the philosophy of the time,

which I personally like,

and marvelous little details of life in a medieval monastery

all being told at the pace of a walk around the buildings in a cloister,

which, of course, is marvelous fun,

but still….

Mozart and Milk Coffee,

Dress up for fast elevenses church,

large, or heavy, midday meal,

walk through the woods,

or a tourist place,

coffee and fancy cake

at a place with heavy old silver and damask table cloths,

more hiking to work it off.

NCIS on television at eight.

Sunday, German Sunday.

copyright 2016

And Gutenberg Lived Here: Live Long And Prosper

Yesterday was not only a big day for sci fi in America-

the Gutenberger went all out-

from first light,

with a camera team and wacky reporter from the second television

dressed in full Star-Trek regalia

and terrorizing the town with costume department tri-corders

to questions to trapped passers-by  about what Star Trek means to them,

and midnight showings of all of the Star Trek movies.

Often viewed in groups

ie church confirmation groups

who normally prefer the blues brothers.

And what the physics department here is up to,

after what they do on pi day,

I don’t even want to think about.

To me though,

Star Trek has always had a very special meaning.

My Dad,

someone whose family survived the great depression by working at least three

jobs per family member,


among other things,

a fourteen year-old usher in a movie house.

In a town about the size

and mentality

of Walton’s mountain,

you could get by with things like that.

But he loved his job,

except for having to run home through the cemetery at night,

and most of all,

the science fiction films.

Flash Gordon in particular.

And when Star Trek came out,

we watched as a family.

The hopes for the future,

goodness to others (species,)

the prime directive.

Do no harm,

don’t interfere.

And foremost,

a personal code of honor and decency.

Which showed in the fact that my Dad,


in looks and action,

could have been the older brother of Leroy Jethro Gibbs,

once told us that if we each took our suitcases out of the car,

and promised to unpack the minute the show was over-

we had been on a two-week visit to grandparents in Arizona-

we would be just in time to watch Star Trek.

And then carried us upstairs and unpacked for us himself,

after we fell asleep on the floor from excitement and exhaustion.

We had to do extra chores the next morning instead.

And as we weeded and watered the garden,

and got ready for the fall,

and school start,

that were only a couple of days away,

we talked about  the meaning of the  show:

creatures without salt, willing to kill to survive.

really looking at people, and trying to understand why they are doing what they are doing,

the true meaning of friendship.

And family,

like the Star Trek family.

And the Germans?

Most trekkies here are in the north and the east.

Berlin, Brandenburg, Jena.

Although Cologne actually gave a series of cooking courses based on a star trek cook book.

The Rhinelanders are so hooked on the show though,

preferring James Tiberius to everyone else,

the amusement park

“Movie Park Bottrop”

is building a whole new set of  rides and specialty items,

based on Star Trek:

a show featuring the son (Nimoy) and grandson (Shatner) of rabbis,

with story lines, and an entire race (the Klingons)

based on the Nazis.

And that is the new Germany.

Much (too much?) time spent in working out and correcting the wrongs of the past.

(A “privilege” –

which it isn’t-

acceptable only for Germans-

as a foreigner, keep your mouth shut on the subject-

past wounds are very very deep)

But the vision of the future here is very important.

And the constant social issues no one here wants to address

seen as keeping Germans from that vision.

Or, as an ESA scientist (European version of NASA) once told me

“we are your rivals”

Why would we be rivals?

Just get on with it.

Besides, you may have invented Star Ship Orion,

but WE

(ie Gene Roddenbury)

invented the one and only Star Trek.

Oh, did I mention that the Deutsche Welle,

the station that,

like the voice of America,

sends German news in a huge variety of foreign tongues,

also has a time slot for current news in Klingon?

Happy Birthday, Trekkies everywhere.

Live long and prosper.

copyright Dunnasead. co 2016


And Gutenberg Lived Here: And The Beat Goes On

Yesterday was one of those days you hope for all summer-

twenty-seven degrees,

pale blue sky,

just a hint of a breeze.

(Did I mention it was wet, wet, wet here all summer?

Or roasting hot and full of things that buzz and sting and make noise all night?

No, not the neighbors.)

So anyway, this meant,

for me,

after taking my significant other half to the U-

for a “most serious tri-lateral math conference,”

populated by top Russian, Ukrainian,

and of course German,


(conference language: bad English)

all out to enjoy the balmy weather-

apparently it rained in their countries too-

ie at the moment of our arrival drinking coffee on every bench, low wall, grassed area, and shady corner of the U-

Which only worked,

with our 37,000 head student body count,

because none of the students had arrived yet-

the German semester starting in October-

after the “potato vacation”-


we get off here in Gutenberg Land U-

and the schools, churches, etc

so the students  can earn their room and board bringing in the potato and wine harvests.

A thing a non-German just really can’t picture,

but if you consider how big a part of German life the potato is:

the average German eats his weight in potatoes per year-

and pays studious attention to the  hundreds of potato categories,

all dividing, basically, into:

the floury kind, for dumplings, and dishes where the spuds have to stick together,

the mostly solid-cooking kind, for boiled or fried potatoes, hash browns, etc

and the solid-cooking type, for salads.

And are Germans ever picky about their potatoes:

size, color, consistency, biologically grown, imported or not.

And when it comes to wine:

don’t even think about it.

There are so many kinds,

and so many competitions,

and wine-tastings

and premieres,

there is actually even a university professorship for wine thingys.

Which has a super fancy name I can never remember,

and contains studies in landscapes,

and the make up of the ground it grows in,

and the history of wine growing and drinking,

and the trends and marketing patterns.

And does excursions to the wine areas each semester.

Wine-ology or whatever, is even more popular than geography,

which does all of the above,

but doesn’t elect a wine queen

and princess,

and huge court of ladies in waiting,

who wear crowns,

and hand around hand-blown twisted foot glasses,

about the size of a football,

and filled to the brim with the local hooch.

(Carry two of those for a while, and you quickly have the muscles to compete in a Mrs Universe body building contest.

And have to compete in a knowledge face-off

the required depth and technical basis of which knowledge would make most presidential candidates look dumb.


(and all that that “other state capital” across the river has is new Beaujolais- nya nya nya, Wiesbaden)

Sorry, you have to do that occasionally here, or you lose your permit to live in Gutenberg Land.

So anyway,

having dumped “the mathster” among his own kind

“I am Harold topology, of the clan the topology”

I headed “downtown”

meaning the center of our tiny about ten thousand size village,

a winding labyrinth of one-car-wide streetlets,

circling and circling

since almost everything is one way only

and, since the city has decided to put in a “light” train system

that probably will,

as soon as it gets going,

vibrate down all the historically preserved stone-work and wood-beamed houses

from ancient Roman times,

including aqueducts they had to build the train system tightly through the middle of-

(don’t put your head out the window at the wrong moment)

So there I was,


and doing what I,

as one of that strange breed called writers always do-

people watching:

the road-working types all sitting on the high seats of their cranes and steam-rollers,

drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes,

and apparently not much else,

a young man in a white shirt, tie, plaid short shorts, and flip-flops

(I sincerely hope he works at a high standing desk, like those of a bank teller)

a group of young mothers in long black face-covering headscarves,

pushing prams,

and taking their youngest to school,

the grandmothers with their “potato mercedes”-

a kind of standing on end suitcase on the kind of trolley

stores use to move cases of water or drinks.

(the groceries go inside to pull home)

the pastor, flapping black robe over his arm.

(since it’s not Friday yet, the day of weddings here,

he must be on his way to a funeral-

you never know-

we have a lot of elders here,

and this summer we lost a couple of younger citizens to traffic accidents,

(the highways are notorious here)

and one to terrorists in a hotel in Turkey.

And then, just as I saw one of the most unusual sights I had seen while people-watching over here-

and that takes some doing,

since I once followed a motorcycle for several miles,

unable to get around him,

since he had mounted a settee on the sidecar,

which stuck out quite a bit,

on which sat,

or rather lay,

a large dog,

in world war I flying goggles and leather helmet,

tethered by seatbelt to the sofa.

But, as I said,

there was the most fascinating sight,

but before I could get closer,

a parking spot opened in front of the bank.

Sometimes moolah and peaches are also important.

C’est la vie

here in Gutenberg Land.

More next time.

copyright 2016

Little Box Of Horrors: It’s Baaaack

In case you didn’t notice,

my computer George

(he won’t tell me his real name)

is once more collecting spam and insults,

and secretly sharing it

(behind my back)

with all his friends and ex-classmates

at Boxbook.

That is to say,

after over a week offline,

my usually barely controllable box of chips and bolts

has decided to come back from an unscheduled visit to La-La land:

also known as Lazarus laughed,


“this computer had so many viruses”

even the computer lab people had to take immunization shots.

Or to put it in a nutshell,

it all started on a Friday.

So when else?

As in:

Strange bell noises,

strange blips,

and flips,

strange communications that made no sense.

By Saturday morning I gave up-

hey, you can only do so many non-screwdriver operations on a box.

Unless you want to drive a borrowed steam-roller over it.

And I WAAAS tempted, believe me.

Only the cute collection of piano playing cats,

dressed like Elton John,

which suddenly appeared  from the ether,


smiling winsomely at me,

sang candle in the wind,

before scampering off to sell virus insurance

kept me from walking down to the corner,

where they are building a new light-rail system track,


So, to make a long story short,

Saturday I went to see the gents who had,

apparently with great malice aforethought,

sold me my “modern communication tool”

which by that time had additionally acquired a series of digital clocks,

in four time zones,

none of them mine,

which ran backwards.

They, in turn, looked at me like I had personally created something from the film “the Exorcist”

just to bug them,

(if I wanted to bug them, I would turn my head around backwards-

something I learned as a classroom teacher)

who then sent me to talk to their “help me, help me, help department,”

twelve brave men and true,

all on a two-hour coffee break to spy out the competition at another store downtown.

And one fabulously trained computer specialist,

who lives in a town in the Hunsruck mountains

smaller than where my husband Harold is from,

if that is possible.

And since the specialist is so well-trained,

he spends his life setting up the computer systems for locals in his town,

and everyone else within a one hour radius,

who drive hundreds of miles to buy a cheaper computer than the price he can sell one for,

and then ask him to set it up.

And quibble about the price.

Which is apparently why he works on Saturdays at the store which sells all the cheap computers.

Which is where,

a sort of computer hospital

and senior citizens home,

I was asked to bring poor George.

“Ready by eight tonight when the store closes…at the latest.”

He left a note on my phone that he was terribly sorry,

but at least George was now flattened,

and the updates were running.

Arnold…. would take over for him.

Monday morning, no one had heard of my computer.

And no one knew who Arnold was.

At which point I asked if it would be possible to visit George.

I found him lying in a bed,

part of a system of space-saving bunk beds

for those whose family had left them there.

There were wires and tubes hanging out.

I touched his screen with my hand, to show him I was there.

He flimmered, just for a moment.

I then decided no matter what happened, I would save George.

I started daily visits.

Mornings, I brought the technicians cokes,

so they would have the energy to repair George

without going out for a break.

For four o’clocks, I brought coffee and brownies.

Was it my imagination, or was he starting to look better.

I kept it up.

Too few technicians, too many hours,

the result of the computer health insurance system here.

Each day I checked his wires,

brought more food,

left messages for him when he got running again.

George, I need you back.

You have to write a blog for me.

Then, on Friday, came the big day.

George could come home.

All I had to do,

said my, by now high on cola and brownies, tech team,

was plug him in,

give my security system my passwords,

and not overstress him until he had gotten used to his old environment.

So I plugged George in,

called up my security system,

and discovered you can’t go online

until your security system works.

Saturday morning two,

exactly eight days after Friday morning one,

George and I gathered more cola,

picked up the remains of the brownies,

and went in search of the Hunsrucker.

Who panicked when he saw me arrive,

held out his hands in a gesture of infinite sadness,

and then announced,

“There’s no problem. It works fine.”

Which it did.

In the shop.

And, due to the cola,

which I think he was thinking seriously of dumping on George,

or more likely me,

he called up my security system,

watched me enter the password,

hey, if you have struggled with someone to save a computer,

you assume they won’t steal you blind, right,

and then celebrated, as George,

humming the Chinese national anthem,

spit out all my old details,

an update to the theory of relativity,

and the answer to all the mails I sent him

during reconvalescence.


Sometimes at night, now, I hear him.


and typing.

And then I find bits and pieces of legal documents.

And technology handbooks.

And I think to myself,

George is probably studying law.

And computer medicine.

Good for you, George.

Less for me to do.

(PPS this blog was actually written by me.


copyright 2016

The Day The Pants Fell: Or, What Is Humor?

Today I decided I would write something humorous.

Bad news, right?


trying to write humorous(ly) when you are writing about what is humorous

is like dropping your baggy pants

at a librarians’ convention.


that was funny.

Or was it?

By which I mean:

someone once wrote,

probably John Cleese,

or maybe it was Joe Biden?

that certain words are just funny.

Like kumquat.

Now that is a funny word.

Or take Hugendubbel.

A bookstore here in Gutenberg Land.

Huggendubbel is funny.

Much funnier than Foyles of London.

Well, maybe not.

Especially if you are thinking of the situation of pants dropping,

one of the classic routines

that has to be done just right.

For example,

a huge pair of droopy drawers dropped for a moment and whisked back up

usually gets a laugh.

I assume with a Speedo the dropper would have to work harder.


dropping it slowly,

back turned,

to give an entire ring of outraged Keystone Cops

and old ladies with umbrellas

time to get into place to cover the action

as the Speedo-ed dropper is surrounded

and whisked off stage.

Then there was the case of the live model –

in a topless bathing suit –

on the Johnny Carson show years ago.

No one mentioned the live model was going to be a monkey.

And male at that.

My uncle stayed up until well after midnight waiting for that one.

And then, of course,

there are the dropped pants

in conversation:

Sorry old dear….pant…just out running….pant…what do you mean you are leaving me….pant.


Nothing compared to “Run For Your Wife,” but still.

And of course, there is the schtick where:

late at night

the woman is digging in her huge handbag,

looking for the house key.

The man impatiently pulls the bag away from her,

and starts rummaging.

A large book,

even better is a set of encyclopedias,

an umbrella, expandable if possible,

a large submarine sandwich,


a rope,

to be pulled and pulled and pulled on

until it becomes a wash line

with an entire line of clothes

from dainty frillies,

to a summer hat,

woman’s dress,



or course,

with the ubiquitous vw beetle sized

knee-length bloomers.

After which,

of course,

no one really needs to hear the final words,

do they,

as the gentleman tips his straw boater and disappears:


from a safe distance,

so your mother lives with you?

This blog was inspired by the Speedo company

dropping an athlete.

copyright 2016

Hooray For Crusader Rabbit

Reading a blog today,

by a mathematician called Joseph Nebus

who writes about, among other things,


especially cartoons about math,

my wheels suddenly started rotating.

And not the kind you have to have weighted and balanced at a garage.

No, this was one of those sudden deja vu things.


the fact that

mathematicians are usually the life of the party-

(always invite at least five, and you never get bored guests)

at least until someone finds out they are mathematicians

and starts the stories


“I flunked high school geometry. Hey, it just ain’t logical, man.”

Somehow, you expect them,

like the party stories m.d.s  tell,

where a normally sane person suddenly starts taking off their shirt

and expects them to look at a wart on their back,

to suddenly take out a piece of chalk and start a discussion on why their high school math teacher was wrong.

(It actually happened to us. Not once, but twice,

and with a felt tip-

in public,

and on those paper doilie coasters, thank heaven,

but when someone with a skewed look,

and a felt tip comes at you….)

so this is probably why mathematicians like math cartoons so much.

Actually, my husband Harald has one on his office door,

probably a far side,

of a muscle man at the beach

being ignored by a horde of gorgeous young women in bikinis,

all sitting in a circle around a blackboard

and drooling over a somewhat skinny




And that’s just the beginning.

But actually, the topic today,

since I sometimes get the feeling,

as a musician in a world of math geeks,

great people,

but math geeks,

I’m Penny on Big Bang Theory,

and the others are looking for someone to read the theorem, or lemma, or corollary,

of the day to…

So anyway,

yes, I do love cartoons.

Especially far side.

(My favorite is a lobster being held over a pot of boiling water,

and trying to click its ruby slippers

as it intones “there’s  no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

And again, hmmm…

As to the ones on tv,

I haven’t really watched for years.

Although, embarrassing as this is,

we actually went to see the  relatively recent film version of Mr  Peabody and Sherman.

Which were my favorite as a kid.

This wasn’t.

Maybe it’s because cartoons were basically forbidden in our “education first” house,

except for Peabody, and Crusader Rabbit,

who taught us history.

(Maybe that’s why I find history so funny today)

Or, of course Rocky and Bullwinkle,

who I used to sneak off to watch, only to find my Dad standing in the doorway laughing too.

And if you can find a better joke than a university called whadzamadda U*, let me know.

I actually thought for a while as a kid that when I grew up, I wanted to go there.

Little did I know I would grow up to be a P’can- University of the Pacific-

(Aka whazammada U? Bullwinkle would be proud)

copyright 2016


*it’s actually wossamotta- see comment below.


And Gutenberg Lived Here: How Do You Learn To Sing Ancient Chinese?

Sunday night was one of those moments musicians live for.

The concert venue’s atmosphere was perfect:

St Augustine’s:

A gorgeously renovated true baroque of a baroque church

(even if the local fire ordinances insisted the pyramid for lit votive candles,

right next to the ancient filigreed wooden railings,

has to have a smoke hood with exhaust fan that hangs over it

a bit like the one  over the grill of a large Argentinian steak house)

At least it was modern and tasteful.

The church, not the steak house.

Anyway, so this beautiful Augustinan Seminar church,

originally built for the Order of hermits of St Augustine,

(better pictures on wikipedia than I could shoot)

right near the main cathedral,

and only a short walk from all the templer order churches,

was last night the home of what serious vocal music lovers dream about:

After many nights of freezing in modern churches with flat sound or no atmosphere,

in this perfect perfect church was:

Singer Pur-

a sextett-

make that a singers’ dream sextett,

one female soprano,

five males-

(THREE Tenors- be still my heart- baritone, bass)

correct dignified concert black

and some of the best voices anywhere.

From Palestrina to Schutz to Bach, Brahms, and Richard Strauss,

from ancient Chinese-

sung in ancient Chinese-

to the American folk song Shenandoah,

in correct Engslish, of course,

they wowed the audience.

Who found it hard not to clap between linked pieces.

And to sing along to Sting and Billy Joel.

And most in their own arrangements.

German readers: it will be broadcast on SWR on the 11 of Feb next year.

Sad was only that the church was so small.

(And the organ gallery off limits due to a historical Stumm organ)

And perhaps also that the church was the right size for the number of those willing to show up.

Which was reflected in the fact that:

on the home we were stopped and asked,

by a very young and friendly team of police,

to take part in a drug and alcohol control inspection.

When they saw our clothes, and heard that we had been at a Singer Pur concert,

“church concert?”


and we were waved through.

And the best part was that,

on the way home,

I suddenly remembered.

The policewoman in the team had sung for a couple of weeks in the police choir I conducted

before she was transferred to Frankfurt

for further training.

Voices reaching out to voices.

Hey, you never know when a singer is going to cross your path.

copyright 2016

And Gutenberg Lived Here: Hey, Guys- So Which Genius Invented A Parsley Anniversary Already?

Today is our anniversary.

And a so-called round anniversary at that.

No, not parsley

which is twelve and a half.

(yes, I know, but believe it or not,


as apparently the only ones in the world,

I sincerely hope,

celebrate 12 1/2 by tacking a pound and a half of parsley on the bride

with a hatpin the size of a small sword.

And if you wonder where Dr Who got the idea for the celery boutoniere…)

So back to the anniversary.

Which also isn’t aluminum

(thirty-seven and a half.)

And what exactly does  that mean?

A box of aluminum foil?

the wing off a plane?

One of those aluminum pots

which can’t be used in a micro.

And which supposedly causes Alzheimer’s.

(So you can’t remember how many dishes you have washed in the last …..years?)

Not that it’s about things.

Well, sometimes it’s about things.

Like the famous toothpaste tube cap.

But mostly,

It’s about memories.

Like washing dishes.

After a party with forty friends.

And singing at the top of your lungs

while your husband sleeps the sleep of the host who keeps up with his guests in cups of the good stuff.

But it is also about cups of tea,

served, if you are lucky,

by a naked butler,

named Harald,

when you are too exhausted to get out of bed.

Or are celebrating a special remembrance day

with the good tea you dragged back from a trip to London.

Which reminds you each time you brew

of the bizarre little things that make up a marriage.

Like a huge lightning storm in a park where you took shelter in a tea room

and almost drowned in the stuff,

good as it was,

while trying to wait out the storm.

Working an extra concert you don’t really want to do

to pay for a present for a fifth anniversary.

Or taking a walk in the snow,

trying a shortcut,

and being chased through waist-high snow

by huge German shepherds

the dogs, not the people,

although the others also exist,

as you try to climb a fence to get out of a lumber yard

before the dogs make wood pulp out of you.

Or all the funerals,

and operations,

and cheap vacations as students

that turned out to be pure gold in the memory department,

and drew you both closer over the years.

And the math conferences where you are seated by languages you speak

and end up confused in six languages at the same time

because you don’t know the French for a Cauchy sequence.

Or the concerts, concerts, concerts.

In freezing churches,

freezing cathedrals,

over-heated halls,

standing in front of a huge majestic altar in long ski underwear,

(under floor-length black, of course)

since you are standing on an air vent leading to the unheated catacombs,

and hoping against hope you get done in time before something down there decides to explode.

Or one of the bishop’s hats (with skull)

drops on you.

Interesting, exotic, bizarre, weird,

sometimes tedious,

often at the edge of my strength,


all in all,

I think I’d do it all again.

Happy anniversary, love.

copyright 2016