Thursday, July 28, 2011


Puuuh, some time again since I bothered my little world with my thoughts. Loaded with a lot of work and the desire to at least make one thing a habit, I chose to work out and the past weeks I hardly did anything than working and working out. Still I was pondering about what to write in my next blog, but nothing came to mind. My brilliant friends suggested to write about housing in the different countries I lived in so far. I thought it was a great idea, because I could not only compose one post but several. So here is the first one.

I grew up in East Germany. The predominant form of housing in East Germany is "Die Platte". The dictionary translates "Plattenbau" to "industrialized apartment block". Hmmm, maybe this is kind of correct. Die Platte is build from preformed concrete plates that are put together to big apartment buildings. The walls are very thin and so one is blessed to share many intimacies with the neighbors. All apartments are basically uniform consistent with socialist egality. Never knowing anything else, I liked to grow up there. Although I mainly had a small room, I never had the sense of too little space. A funny incident comes to mind: my room was only accessible via another room, which was for some time my brothers residence. Now it happened that I was sleep walking and it also happened that my brother chose to sleep on a mattress directly in front of my door (maybe he thought there was too little space, but for some reason my siblings and I thought it also fashionable to sleep on mattresses instead of beds for some time, at least in my memory). Anyway, so it happened one night that I was sleep walking and during my wanderings I stumbled over my brothers head. I cannot remember a thing from that episode, it is here reconstructed from his complaints afterwards, maybe it was also one of his jokes. 

With an apartment block usually came a playground, which was home to the children during the day and to the teenagers during the evening. Having lived in city centers, I often wonder where the children go. They probably have to be inconveniently accompanied by adults to reach the playground somewhere at the other end of the city. 

My parents still live in the same apartment and my mother knows to vary the interior with fanciful handcrafting and decor. Now that all the children left my parents also completely rearranged all the rooms so they could have a big kitchen. Still we gather with about 13-15 people at holidays, cramped on 60 square meters. The town once housing more than 50 000 inhabitants in these industrialized blocks gets emptier and emptier, because people, mainly young people are fleeing to West Germany in the hope for jobs and better income. So complex by complex gets demolished leaving only bare grassland behind. Seeing these vast areas of land it seems that "Die Platte" was extremely efficient. A relatively small field of grassland stays behind, were once hundreds or thousands of people lived.  

Now a global player, I know that apartment complexes are home to people everywhere. My home now might be surrounded by palms and other exotic plants, but the walls are still thin and the neighbors still noisy. Already my mother used to complain in her unique anger after the reunification and the first visits to West Germany: I don't understand why everybody is complaining about the East German housing, here they also have apartment complexes. And she is right, however "Die Platte" might remain a leftover from East Germany in the German mind.

I hope I did not blabber too much about my family and they will apologize the indiscretion. But it is really difficult to talk about the places one lived in, without talking about the people one lived with....

Friday, July 15, 2011


One of the main arteries at the west coast is the I5. At around LA the I5 actually splits into the I405 to release the weight of the traffic a little bit and to service the west part of town (that is just my interpretation, but I think it sounds good). This weekend officials decided to close the I405  for the weekend to widen one of the bridges I believe. Actually while I am writing they are probably closing off the first parts. 

This decision will probably put LA into a chaos for the next three days, at least that is what everybody is afraid of. National newspaper write about the CARMAGEDDON, celebrities appear in PSA (personal service announcements) and one airline even offers $4 dollar flights to bridge the close off. Shops offer reduced prices for all kind of things that you can do this weekend, get 20% off for a photograph of your pet, for example. Or reduced prices for tattoos. Typically American everything will be commercialized. I am curious about the Carmageddon here in LA. Some people speculate that it will be like the Y2K change (year 200 change, I had to think a little while first). Everybody will stay home and there will be actually less traffic than usual.

I actually cheated the chaos and drove up to LA already on Thursday night. The roads were perfectly free and I had a smooth ride. However, again I am fighting my own carpocalypse. Since I bought the car I have problems with my cooling system. now almost every part in that system had to be replaced and I made my mechanic really happy, while I just feel like a stupid woman that pays a lot of unnecessary mechanic bills. But still the car is not okay and actually gets worse. So again I will have to bring it to the mechanic on Monday, provided I make it back to San Diego in one piece.  This time I will bring it to somebody else, who did my smog check last week and actually noticed that it s still not okay. So let's see. Basically only the Thermostat is left to be replaced and now I even know how it works. Anyway, I wish I could repair my car myself....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

North Torrey Pines

On Sunday I had a long walk at North Torrey Pines. Becoming more and more americanized it has been some time since I took a walk. Still foot-disabled but yearning for some activity I decided to take a long walk. I also ate too much so it was a good idea to walk it off. 

At first confused about where to go, Mission Beach, The Cove, La Jolla Shores, Encinitas, I decided to take advantage of the free and available parking spot I already possessed at TSRI. Falling out the lab I took a turn north on North Torrey Pines Road along the scenic route passing young golfers busy with their tournament into the Torrey Pines State Reserve

This Park is relatively small but pretty and the planners did a wonderful job designing the trails in serpentines, so one would walk a long trail by actually covering only a small distance. I was amazed by all the joggers that did not only take the challenge to climb up the steep hill to the reserve but were also running under the burning sun. On the look out for ever new wild flowers and warmed by the sun I made my way down to the beach. 

At first I doubted that I could make my way back to the Gliderport at the shore because the tide was high, but as always there was a hidden way that opened up just around the corner. So I took of my shoes and stepped into the cooling ocean to make my way back.

All the locals might know that between Torrey Pines and the Gliderport is Black's Beach. For all the non-locals, this is a nude beach (or clothing optional). Making my way towards the nudes an older man comes up to me to warn me of what to expect and recommending to watch the ocean and not the population at the beach. To his guess there were mainly homosexuals. I told him, that I would not think so, being hit on at this beach (fully clothed or in a bathing suit) a few times before. Now he probably felt bad, because he suddenly realized that I might think he was also hitting on me, but maybe that were only my thoughts. Because of my previous experience at the beach, a bunch of naked man walking up to me to talk, asking for pictures and even giving me and my friend a miniature american flag as a souvenir, I never even anticipated that Black's Beach was mainly used by the gay community. For me the majority of visitors there were old naked man hitting on young girls (the majority of people there are indeed male). But who knows what that old men's experience was. Because I grew up in East Germany, which enjoys the prejudice that everybody is a nudist swimmer, I would not really mind the nudes. Also I am pleasantly surprised to find such a thing as a nudist beach in a country that lists people as sex offenders so easily. However, not in the mood for any nudist chatters I took the old men's advice and watched the ocean instead.  

When I arrived at the Gliderport I had to take the challenge of climbing up the cliff. When I just wanted to climb up, two teenage boys made their way down, gesticulating and vocalizing that they were happy to still be alive. I remembered the first time I made my way down there, turning around after 80% of the trail because I was too scared to make the rest. Full of awe I admired the surfers that maneuver not only themselves down these steep cliffs but also their boards. However, this day I had to go up, which is challenging on the physical strength but requiring less virtuoso balancing. Still I had to use my forelegs a number of times to make it up the hill and finally arise red-headed on top. 

Happy because of having used my time so elegantly I returned to my premium parking spot to drive home to relax from my venture.   

Friday, July 8, 2011

Alles Kaese (2)

Also this Holiday weekend, I took the leftover Quark from the fridge and made another cheesecake. This time more wise I called up my Mom before to ask for her recipe. In parts the recipe is very similar, but the experimental design is somewhat different. So this time determined to follow the recipe step by step (and although I am a scientist and this should be easy for me, it is rather challenging) I wanted to avoid the bubbling soup in my spring form and have a nicely baking cake instead.

Et Voila, it worked out fine. The mix was not all liquid and no bubbles dared to surface on my yummy yummy cheesecake. I was happy. So here is the recipe, for anybody who wants to try again or for the first time or the second or third....

1 kg Quark 
200 g sugar
125 g butter 
1 pack vanilla sugar
2 pack Vanilla pudding
5 eggs
juice of 1 lemon
baking powder

Mix the Quark with the sugar, egg yolks, vanilla sugar and juice of the lemon. Add the pudding powder and a pinch of baking powder while stirring. Add the melted butter when other ingredients are mixed. Whisk the egg whites and carefully mix with the rest using a spoon. Bake at 175C (350F) for about 1 hr.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I guess I am a few days late, but I had a couple of not-in-the-writing-mood days. However, trying to avoid large gaps in my blog again and making my friends cry out for more tryout, I will try to put a short thought down here.

When I was here in San Diego for my job interview about 3 years ago, it was around this time. I surmised that July 4th would be an exceptional day in every American's life. So my excitement about being here at July 4th was disappointed. No crowded streets and celebrating people. Even though there are more flags out in the streets than usual, at least on this National Holiday, the American pride I experienced so far cannot in the least compete with the flooding orange bursting in Dutch streets on Queens Day, the Dutch National Holiday. 

Instead of large celebrations, San Diegans gather at the beaches or in yards, leaving the rest of the city even more quiet and empty than usual. But at the beach you find big tents and barbecues, large family congregations of ten, twenty, thirty people from one clan that make me somehow feel isolated on my towel, by myself with a book. A little Mexican girl maybe of 2 years age with curly hair walks by and decides to spend a few minutes with me and I deeply regret not to speak a word of Spanish. But she gives me a broad smile and my heart melts anyway. Just when I wonder if she ran away and I try to ask her about her Mommy and Daddy, she decides that I am useless company and runs off, fortunately to her family. 

In the evening, as so many others, I await, with mixed feelings, the fireworks. Mixed feelings because also I like gaping at the colorful explosions in the skies. Mixed feelings because of the hard toll fireworks take on the environment. Mixed feelings about the high financial cost of fireworks in an impoverished world. Experiencing the explosive echos in the bay makes me feeling sorry for the seals that are the reason for the year-long debates of politicians of whether to stop the whole spectacle or not. This year fireworks won.  

Giving up hope to save the world's problems I decide to enjoy the fireworks except for a few nagging comments about the evilness of fireworks. Stationed in La Jolla we can witness 4 long fireworks, the Country Club, La Jolla Cove and from far Del Mar and a fourth spot but I don't actually know where it is located. All four of them have in common that the sparkling wonders are barely visible. Although being lucky and missing out on the famous marine layer this night, every new red/blue/white explosion can just be anticipated, because it is buried in the smoke cloud their predecessors left behind. So again I am left disappointed and reminded even more now of the environmental catastrophe. 

I retreat inside and spend the rest of this peaceful day sheltered and content with my boyfriend watching some TV shows before I dive into the endless snake of cars trying to get home even two hours after the fireworks stopped.

The next day, performing my routine internet browsing in the morning I discover at least a small sparkle from my friends blog. And I decide to make my peace with fireworks.