And Gutenberg Lived Here: Coffee, Chalk, And A Mountain Of Cards

Have you ever ruffled a deck of cards,

missed your timing,

and had them come flying down,


on you and everyone else unlucky enough to decide to play cards with you?

Alice in Wonderland like?


in a much milder form,

that was happened to me this morning.

Only they weren’t playing cards.

They were coffee bonus cards:

buy nine get one free-

or cheap lunch tickets

same deal-

at the Mexican down the block.


I write a lot in coffee shops lately,

since I find the sound of a barista calling

“Dunnasead, your coffee is ready”

much more stimulating than the sound of a washing machine

calling ”

Hey, Lady, no more clean socks in the house.”


ever since I heard a great writer at a conference talk about how he writes at



too loud and too expensive for my taste.

But that’s just me–

I’ve been trying to sell

to all and sundry

the “necessity of a truly artistic background for my creative



So  anyway,

there I was,

getting ready to go to work,

and stuffing all the non-necessary

car driving and bonus stuff I always take out,

as a good and proper

“don’t bug the airport or concert hall people with non-to-be-used junk”


back in my  already monstrously heavy handbag,


if I sit on it,

will just about fit in my

already monstrously heavy

laptop filled

messenger’s bag,

or at least would,

if I didn’t put my wallet in,

which contained-

Mexican dinner tickets,

cards for coffee from:

subway, Mccafe…


count them


sets of coffee cards,

many of them double,

since my husband is often along,

working on a theorem,

writing in imaginary chalk

on an imaginary chalk board,

while I hide my head

under an imaginary May West size hat,

and pretend I’m not with him.

Why he does that…?

He’s a mathematician.

I’m just glad he doesn’t have friends along,

since they usually end up writing on drink coaster,

and then table cloths,

and then…

one of them, seriously,

at a formal dinner,

ended up paying for,

and taking along,

the table-cloth.

Afterwards we asked him why he didn’t just pay the cleaning bill

and photograph it.

He didn’t think about it.

Hey, there is a guy who comes with a shepherd’s staff,


and his own homemade clothes.

Kind, sweet, good people,

involved with another world.

I like mathematicians.

But meanwhile, back at the  cards…

so when you are out with a man,

at the kind of places mathematicians often favor,

where you can use coffee tickets,

you have to be prepared for the fact that,

when they take off for Bobaqui land,

you get stuck with the coffee bonus tickets-

two to an infinte number of infinite sets.

Which you one day,

when returning from a  journey

to a realm where you really aren’t supposed to be drinking coffee,

because you are in training,

or you are at a conference,

where the coffee,

and often donuts,

are free,

ie without tickets,

suddenly discover your tickets don’t fit in your wallet,

which doesn’t fit in your handbag,

which doesn’t fit in your messanger bag,

which is overfilled by a laptop,

which you need…

to write a blog about….

too many coffee bonus tickets.

copyright 2017

And Gutenberg Lived Here: Of Presidents And Precedents

One of the most fascinating facts about living in Gutenberg Land

is that when anything happens to do with the US of A,

here called usa,

five minutes later,

the German people have formed an opinion.

Most of the people in our little town have never met an American-

perhaps to shake hands-

but certainly never to ask questions.

They don’t need to.

It is all in the media.

And they have all had English at school-

British English,

usually taught by Germans,

or a few English,

in one case,

even Scottish,

exchange teachers.

A few weeks per year are spent talking about the differences

between England

and America.

With England as the starting point-

after all, we Americans left England to come to America.

English, as a European language,

is considered “better”

ie more cultivated.

Even the Glaswegian I once took over for

was considered easier to understand than we Americans.

And not just from the standpoint of the language.

My standard answer

to things learned here from tv, newspapers

and even high level professional journals,

always judging things starting  with the Gutenberger standpoint


start with the concept that Americans have about as much in common with Europe

as Asians do.

And considering how many Asians study

or work,

here in Europe,

probably even less.

And surprisingly,

once you explain the historical background for something,

and the alternative thinking patterns,

you find a lot of understanding.

But first you have to get through the anger.

Which brings me to yesterday’s inauguration.

I am very very proud of a lot of things that President Trump said.

Not so happy about others.

That is democracy.

But since five minutes after the inaugural speech,

the German press made a statement

reminding people

that the largest market for sales in the world

is still Europe-

I think I will probably be spending the next couple of days explaining things-

and hiding out whenever I can.


due to all the time I spend as unofficial US speaker of the press

here in Gutenberg land,

I often thought I should perhaps collect things.

And write a book.

Or maybe a blog?

I could call it: “And Gutenberg Lived Here”

copyright 2017

And Gutenberg Lived Here: TV or Not TV: The Case For Training Farriers.

Every morning my husband and I put on the coffee,

and the stand -up- the -spoon

super black


plunk ourselves down in front of the tube,

and watch the news for a quarter of an hour or so.

Or used to

At the moment

here in Gutenberg Land,

the “news”

is available as:



the RTL private stations,

based  in Luxembourg and more entertainment based than anything else-

think National Enquirer as film clips on a screen,

and the German government regulated-

(by committee of all major forces

ie political party, churches, education, etc)

first and second networks.

The result,  for us, is that we laugh more than we learn.

This morning, for example,

CNN spent a lot of time talking about the White House chef’s chief fear-

in this world of poisonings,


stolen data,

that the new President  prefers KFC, McDonalds, and well-done steak-

I wish I had his problems-

the BBC is in the middle of a story about the world’s most influential people-

all under thirty years old-

don’t I seem to remember something like that from John Lennon?-

John Lennon ?

You know-

the Beatles

The Beatles?-

Sorry, you have to be over thirty to understand the remark-

And then there is Radio Television Luxembourg-

featuring an interview with a woman who feels her biological clock

is ticking,-

I hate to mention this, folks, but everyone’s biological clock is ticking-

a bit faster every day of our lives-

and that a five-year old ran away from kindergarten because he was bored, and took a

train back to his mama.

Personally, I think the kid deserves a medal for finding a tram that is actually running on


For that alone,  he deserves a spot at the local university.

Maybe they could borrow a booster seat from the local movie house.

And, of course, the German national tv is worried,

or not,

that Angie is running again,


more important,

brings continual up-to-the-minute standby  reports that:


the pilots of Lufthansa,

the national carrier,

are threatening another  strike.

We haven’t slept in over five years, here in Gutenberg land,

due to the constant upping of the number of “essential” plane travel trips to Asia-

in the middle of the night.

But now that Lufthansa could actually start losing money,

and we might be actually able to sleep one single night-

although, the actual flight-cancelling worry

is much more about daytime

than nighttime,

the Lufthansa biggies,


are doing  a major boogaloo-

Boogaloo ?

For anyone out there under thirty-

you can surely find an explanatiion for boogaloo

at some museum.

Or in a


dictionary from thirty years ago-

to be found cheap-

at a flea market-

or book fair-

0r, like we did,

inherit one-

a dictionary, I mean-

Ours is from 1920.

I love reading in it.

Amazing the knowledge that has gone lost.

And is still useful,

like when you have neither butter nor oil in the house,

but have whipping cream,

you can put in a bottle,

and hand it  to your husband or one of the kids

to shake for a few minutes

to make butter,

and fry your heart out.

Butter ?


(It’s only for when your  mother-in-law visits

and you had the whipped cream any way

since you can’t feed a German mother-in-law without cake with  whipped cream.)

Oh, and a second use of the dictionary-

beyond putting it under a wobbly chair-

try that with an online dictionary-

you can use it to actually save about fifty to one hundred bucks

fixing the strap on a large leather book bag,

using an article about, and for,

draft wagon drivers-

that’s people who drive  dog, pony, or horse wagons,

and used to,

if they didn’t buy them from harness makers,

make their own  reigns…

and harnesses…

and book bags?

My favorite shop over here

is a guy so old,

he can fix anything.


We actually have a record player.

And 33 rpm records.

Jan and Dean take Linda surfing.

Hey, it was really hot back when I was a pre-teen.

And I’ve sock-hopped to Help Me Rhonda,

It was a teen-age wedding-c’est la vie,

and wipe out,

so there.

And when you think that,


you may have to play by manually turning the wheel,

and holding the needle in your fingers…

while opening your mouth for the sound to come out…

Which, now that I think about it,

like pianist in a movie house,

or calliope player on a river boat-

may one day be such rare trades,

and the only way to do such things,

you will have to pay at least two hundred the hour

for a specialist.

And when that day comes-

us whackos with the 1920’s dictionaries under the armpits,

fingers clutching a diamond needle,

and mouth open,

to let the sound out,

are going to be laughing at all of you.

So there.

copyright 2017


And Gutenberg Lived Here: Of Movies, Vampires, and the Industrial Revolution.

Yesterday we and some friends decided to go to the movies.

Nothing controversial,

nothing too chick flicky-

these are Hunsruck mountain men-

no Transformer hero Action men

we are intelligent, thinking, modern working women,

and besides, we, les girls,  are all already married,

so we don’t have to put up with Bruce Lee meets Wonder Woman-

(anybody else out there wonder how she manages to keep everything in place?)


to put it in a nutshell,

I went through all the films now playing,

and found:


count them


vampire pictures.

(I was outvoted on wanting to see the only other thing available-

the chipmunks)

So there we were,

looking at ads for four vampire friends,


or three vampire girls,

also teenage.


there was even a vampire dog.

probably also in his teens.

And just as I was standing there,

wondering if I would get smacked down

for wondering where the vampire androids were-

how do I know-

maybe they drink each others’ motor oil?

when it hit me.

Of course.

Vampire legends,

in the form of ancestry worship,

have been around since ancient Mesopotamia et al-

the ancestors, of course,

being dried out in the mummification process

and needing food

and beverage,

no, not just blood,

milk from cows,

who suddenly appear to have dried up,

apparently weren’t.

Only donating to the local vampire coven.

(Just don’t tell that to the milk council-

“every mummy needs milk”)

And, of course,

the sexual neck biting bit is nonsense,

as vampires,

having been gone for a while,

are totally dried out,

and in need of liquid,

but also are missing their old life,

and are thus rabid sex fiends-

so say the research papers

at the more progressive universities,

that give vampire courses for English majors,

or anthropology buffs-

preferably during a semester on Hawaii,

or in London,

home of Bram Stoker.

The real crux of the matter, though,

pardon the pun,

is the fact that the vampire legends suddenly reappeared

in mass,


sorry for the pun,

at the time of the rise of the  plague.

Which was supposedly brought by the undead dead.

Or cholera,


Or any of the other major causes of death in the middle ages-

like rotten teeth,

which may have something to do with the vampire biting bit.

And then,

all is quiet for a while…

minus the occasional story

or legend,

usually in southeastern Europe…


ta da,

the industrial revolution appears,

and the women are incarcerated at home,

and encased in corsets,

and are supposed to be pure

and chaste,

but maybe not really chased,

by vampires, I mean,

as brought to the home cinema

by Bram Stoker.

Who if he had had his way,

would have probably stabbed all deviant,

ie sexually active,

females of his time,

through the heart.

With a stake.

Or a steak-

vampires are always hungry, remember.

And those steak bones can be prettttty darned sharp.

Especially if you use the rib bones,

which do indeed make very nice little crosses.

So there we were-

discussing stakes,

and steaks,

and feeling dried out.

And  how the morals of the society determined what was aberrant behavior-

ie vampires and women giving in to their desires really just weren’t the thing,

or that the cure for the above

was Christian symbols-

only the symbols, please note-

as an antidote for good old-fashioned druid and pagan love of life….


the end of the story was…

we found a Thai place with an exotic drinks happy hour bar,

and spent the rest of the evening discussing vampire legends,

now apparently coming to full fruition in the android age,

and whether mojitos or blue swimming pools would ward off vampires,

and whether the chop sticks they gave us

could be sharpened,

just in case the mojitos didn’t work.

And whether holy water works on vampires of other religions,

and most of all,

what one does to ward off vampires

that were mathematicians in previous lives-


sing the ballad of poor little epsilon,

chant the eulogy of Bobaqui,

and if,

and only if,

that doesn’t work,

haul out the small bottle of chalk dust water

all mathematicians carry  with them at all times-

in case they get withdrawal symptoms-

and throw it on the undead.

Who then become  so involved in their research

they don’t need to drink blood any more.


should any of the above not work,

and as an absolutely last resort,

pull out your abacus,

and …


no abacus?


here’s what you do-

pull out your computer,

dial-up the latest Ted talk explaining what core math is,

throw the entire mess at them,

and run.

copyright 2017

And Gutenberg Lived Here: Death in Causton, Stars Hollow, and Gutenberg Land

We have been in the middle of a blizzard the last couple of days here in Gutenberg Land-

wintry white trees,

twisting in the breeze,

and sighing “oh why didn’t I go to Florida in October,”

squirrels throwing snowballs at anyone who tries to get at their nut supply,

dogs making the snow yellow

so the snowmen , and hopefully the houses behind them,

can be seen in the dark,

when the snow plow drivers

finally get around to ploughing the streets.

And through all of this,

my only consolation has been death.

Dead heaters.

Toll house cookies.

(Death by death by chocolate)

Mahler’s dead children songs,

Bach’s Oh Sacred Head Now Wounded,


of course,

the latest Barnaby series-

incredibly popular over here in Gutenberg Land,

series number 19,

to be exact.

With a Barnaby who isn’t a Barnaby,

so to speak.


John, Not Tom.

A man who just doesn’t play by the rules.

Which means:

when you’re originally from a small town on the Mississippi,

like I am-

picture a cross between the Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow,

which my birth town’s  locals are immensely thrilled to be compared to,

and Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn,

which is only a few miles from us.

So now picture how people there die-

not murdered,

but, blessedly. old-age,

and healthy to the last,

due to the constant hard work of raising a family,

or even bringing in the harvest on time.

Sad, but somehow, after a long satisfying life,


And then, there is Carolyn Graham’s wonderful entertaining world of the abnormal.

A member of a sun worshiping cult shot with a golden arrow from a barrow burial find,

Ritual beheading in a film company,

Pregnant nuns falling out of windows.

And suddenly,

when it is all so absurd,

and bizarre,

and has more to do with local color,

and the fact that the much aligned inspector’s wife

is one very bright,

and very observant local,

who gets back at her husband

by not being able to cook,

and always being up on the local absurdity of the week,

the classical Miles,

the soldier or servant, or helper

brighter than his master,

you get joy,

and fun,

And Tom, Joyce, and Calley.

But then,


the times change.

More people live in cities than villages,

manners are no longer soft.

Murders are no longer part of the murder game,

as defined by Agatha Christie and the Detective Club


no one in authority ever kills some one-

no mysterious Chinamen,

the only reason to kill is money,

or dishonor,

or to save someone.

Murders are not planned by leagues of computer gamers,

or virtual reality players,

or dungeon and dragon players,

or if they are,

at least they are never really carried out.

In reality.

Because the game of kings,

or, actually Queens,

as Elizabeth II is a huge fan,

is to enlighten

and entertain,

and thus is a game,


Enter John Barnaby-

degree in psychology,

wife a head mistress of a school-

and still,

the only one bright enough to give clues is the dog-

“woof, woof, he’s in the well, you idiot.”

And it is  not DCI John, but  Sykes the dog, who rolls winsomely on the floor,

paws over eyes.

thus giving the all-important clue

when the baddy enters the room.

And the murders-

even the spark-shooting roulette wheel was boring,

in my opinion,

in comparison to over-seventy year old hippies

poisoning the locals with their Alice B Toklas brownies.

Or the murders in an old-folks’ home-

Can Tom save his aunt on time?

Or the incredible lengths someone will go to to win a cricket game.

Buried treasure-

a fake painting with pictures of the four Beatles instead of the four apostles.

I laughed at that one till I cried.

So what is the point?


Local color.

And under no circumstances,

does anyone but a  really really Vile Nasty Perils of Pauline type villain,

deserve to be done in.

Oh, and of course,

mosst important is  recognition that,

if you turn something we all face,


into something so bizarre, weird, strange, and exotic,

but vampire-and-supernatural free,

it is taken from the realm of the  bizarre

into the realm of the fairy tale,

or, in this case,

The Game,


a game where the reader,

or viewer

can face the ugliness of reality,

and supersede it,

for just a few moments,

before going back to shoveling the car out,

cooking according to a new diet book,

or paying taxes.

Or have you ever seen a victim,

eating a fat-free rice biscuit,

as he shovels his car out to get to the post office,

to pay his taxes on time,

being suddenly killed by trained assassin squirrels,

throwing iceballs with poison-filled acorns,

in order to steal the documents,

that would show that the victim’s occupation

is actually head of a zombie ring,

who have as their goal

the internet robbery of one tenth of one cent for each bank transaction,

in order to buy the blood necessary

to lure vampire extraterrestrials

from the planet Sirius,

to collect the few remaining citizens of


Midsommer Worthy,

Badger’s Drift,

Or even Cabot Cove-

a town where.

in my humble opinion,

they must reproduce like rabbits

to balance the effect of Jessica Fletcher living there.

Has anyone else noticed that the only safe job in Causton

is Police inspector,

or that the name of the town where Jessica Lives

on the city limit sign,

is now

Cabot Cov ?

Or that this helpless little schoolteacher-

who can’t drive a car-

keeps inheriting houses

from her dearly departed neighbors?

Or that with Cousin Cally now married,

and Tom Barnaby off playing Christmas Pantos,

and Joyce all alone in the house in Causton,

with nothing but heavy as  lead biscuits,

or cement hard-baked chicken

to save her..

Maybe we need a new show…

“Sykes To The Rescue?”

copyright 2017

And Gutenberg Lived Here: New Year’s- Bring On The Medal


Bring it on

Haul it out

Polish up the gong

and ring them bells.

In the last couple of days,

I went to three rehearsals

where no one came-

it was clear,

at least to me,

we were working,

but here in Gutenberg land,

they take things a bit slower.

As in:

nothing functions but hangovers

until the sixth of January,

when the camels and wise men

who have to be marched over the tabletop every day since day one-

the day of the partridge-

reach the manger,

along with the Star of Bethlehem singers

from the Catholic church,

who appear,

write CMB

for Casper, Melchior, and Balthasar,

the three kings,

(or some bizarre corrupted latin form of Christ bless this house,

if you are the more or less scientific type)

and the date,

over the door-

in chalk-

did I mention this is a Catholic city?

and sing songs that,

to me,

have a definite semblance to the sound of camels dropping

uhm-camel droppings,

but are blessedly covered up by the sound of a very young and energetic priest,

and three small children in fake beards,

and turbans made out of fancy towels,

diversely playing a loud acoustic guitar-

with metal strings no less,

and shaking a can-

for the donation you have to give,

for charity,

so these faithful servants may depart in peace.

And you can get back to clearing up the pine needles,

and discovering what it is in the living room

somewhere near the rubber tree,

that smells distinctly

of unwanted salted Christmas herring

in onions and cream.

(No, I don’t like herring, but I also don’t kill rubber trees.)

So what is the gong for-

aside from all of the above-


there were lots and lots of very nice family style tv shows people wanted us to watch with


live and on the tube,

with lots and lots of very nice people,

who just can’t sing-

and I didn’t say a single word.

Not one.

I just ate my three-year old gingerbread,

(over here they are kept for years,

to spice the sauce of a strange local meat concoction,

called “sauerbraten-”

a roast made of horse meat)

and smiled,

and enjoyed being among people who I like.

I did notice that Harald drank more than one glass of egg nog, though.

And I sent out lots, and lots, and lots of Christmas cards,

cooked a couple of birds,

with things like one cup salad so no one notices that it still has pin feathers,

because it was still more than slightly frozen when it went into the cooker-

and I thought I would have time to remove them when it had slightly defrosted,

which I didn’t-

Let’s just call it deko, shall we ?

(Ps- one cup salad:

take a large cup-

fill it with pineapple, orange slices, almonds,

anything you can find that looks remotely colorful,

then toss on a cup of sour cream,

so you can’t see it is plain old fruit salad,

then a cup of coconut,

so you can’t see it is plain old fruit salad

under a layer of sour cream-

then you toss on a sprig of parsley,

in the hope someone thinks it is mistle toe,

and starts kissing people,

at which point you can put the pies on the table,

turn the coffee maker on,

and leave them alone for a while

and go off to help a friend directing a Messiah,

who has only three tenors-

one drunk,

one a woman who yells,

and one a diva who can’t hit a single tone if someone doesn’t sing in his ear.

Easter is only a few months away.

Ho Ho Ho

So where is my gong?

copyright 2017

The After-math of Christmas

Yes, that’s  a pun.

I always pun when under stress.

Like Christmas.


from the top,

I have

redded the house,

traditional word in our family for everyone runs like a chicken

to make the house look presentable,

(I even put a few salt grains in the four corners of the house,

as I was taught as a child)

washed, packed, sung in London-

what a joy that was,

met with old friends,

sung for the church,


bought the third turkey,

the second,

and third,

necessary because guests suddenly arrived,

eight and one hour, respectively, after a phone call saying-

get ready-

“we thought we’d do ourselves something good this year and let someone else cook.”

And bah humbug to you too, people who,

even if we love you,

it is good that you are family, because if you were friends…

So I bought the birds,

two and three,

(you can only get small ones over here-

slightly larger than a large chicken

and usually raised in France-

watch out for the ones stuffed with chestnuts)

because the first bird,

sold by an otherwise reputable store,

had an expiration date of Jan 2014.

Then we decked a tree,

to a LOUD version of the Messiah, while singing along,

picked up pine needles,


after the math of all the “madness? you ain’t seen nothing yet, ” deductions,

Took fabulous walks at night through our subdivision with my husband

to look at the Christmas deco

and across the snow-covered fields,

ploughed and waiting for spring,

sang, together and with others,

Laughed, although this was a year of severe trials,

Watched shows full of meaning and beauty,

(yes, and, I admit if, the Man From Uncle Christmas story

and Margaret Rutherford and Robert Morely in Curtain Up)

at a time when everything is STILL politics,

and fighting

and hideous news programs,

full of violence,

and attacks on holiday markets

and discos,

and we prayed.

For peace, finally,

and the coming together of family members far from us,

and I baked all the old recipes I only bake once per year-

(And made Harald do all the chopping for the many loaves of fruit cake he,

and  unfortunately, his entire family,

love so much)

And we finally had a couple of days for us alone,

even if the house does now look like a tornado went through.

And, finally, one after another, our electronics went out.

My computer was attacked, the technicians were all off on ski holiday,

then my phone went out-

my idiot of a “personal hacker” sent a “personal note” that if I was so smart,

why did I leave my cell phone next to the router.

Nyah nyah nyan.

And do you know what?

It was the best thing that ever happened to us.

No computer,

no telephone,

so we put out candles,

yes, I know-

not totally logical,

but it was right some how,

and wrote up our experiences for the year,

as we drank tea bought in London,

and ate Irish fruit bread from a recipe of my great grandmother,

and made plans for the new year,

and had the gift of time with one another.

Just to talk.

And finally, to pray together and think about the true meaning of Christmas.

Hope your holidays were happy.

copyright 2016