Archive | February 2010

Some of my Books

Some of my books. Photo: Ulla Hennig

When you take a closer look at this photo (and at this part of my bookshelf) you will learn a lot about me:

  1. I like to dive into strange and mysterious worlds. You’ll find two of Marion Zimmer-Bradley’s books: “Firebrand”, which is about the fall of Troja, and “the Mists of Avalon”.
  2. I like historical novels: Two books of Jean M. Auel, “The Valley of Horses”, and the German translation of “The Clan of the Cave Bear”. One book written by Ken Follett “The Pillars of the Earth”.
  3. I like any kind of suspense fiction authors – Stephen King, Wilbur Smith, Patricia Shaw and Barbara Wood.

The selection doesn’t sound very high class, does it? Not very intellectual. In Germany we have a differentiation between “Serious literature” and “Entertaining literature”, and the latter is frowned upon as sub-standard literature.Academics read that kind of literature as other people do, but they often pretend to read them only “because they have to write about them” – funny, isn’t it?

I think however, that a book which entertains the reader, which does not bore him, takes her into other worlds, makes her forget the world around her, is an excellent book.

My way of reading fiction is quite a strange one – I scan the book in order to find out if it is worth reading sentence for sentence. The second time I read the book wthout noticing how time goes by. And I have some books which I read more than once. These are the ones I keep, and some of them are among those on the shelf – the others I give away to a store where they are sold again for one Euro.

Of course I read non-fiction as well – software handbooks, biographies and autobiographies (although I would say that there is some part of fiction in autobiographies), and blog posts. But when I am dreaming of a reading retreat I dream of reading fiction.

How to do Something for your Health without spending Money

I like to watch the Olympian Games 2010. I like to watch soccer, too (although the local Berlin team, Hertha BSC, is on one of the lowest places of the first soccer league in Germany). My own sportive activities however are – shame on me – rather limited. I like walking, but the icy sidewalks have kept me from doing that. I hate gymns – I don’t like the “Look here, I am the prettiest man / woman / girl in town” atmosphere.

But I know that I must do something. It is good for my heart, my brain, my bones. And then, some days ago, I had that famous aha! experience: I live on the fourth floor, and I work on the fifth floor. Of course there are lifts, and up to yesterday I had been using them almost automatically. Well, some people spend a lot of money in the gymn for having a workout on the stairmaster. I got one for nothing.

So yesterday I stopped in front of the lift, turned round and went up all the stairs to my office. I was breathing heavily when I entered my room, but at the same time I felt full of energy. Coming home from work and not taking the lift up to my flat was a bit more difficult, but I managed to overpower my inner lazybones. And then I knew: I can do it! I can integrate my health activities into my life. Taking the stairs instead of the lift is not a big thing, but I know I can stick to it and get my daily successes.

What are you doing for your health? Tell me about your successes, please!

Friends – Online and Offline

Yesterday I was invited to a late breakfast at one of my friends’ house. I hadn’t seen the six people I met there for a long time – some of them for over one year. We sat there, ate delicious food, drank coffee and green tea and talked till 4pm in the afternoon.

It sounds funny but somehow it seemed that we had sat together the last time just a week or so before. We talked about education, the dangers and the advantages of the internet. We talked about what everyone of us was doing at the moment, and in the end someone took photos  of all us. It was just great, and I deeply enjoyed those hours of friendship and appreciation.

Sometimes, when I say goodbye on Twitter, I say “There is a life outside the Internet, and I going to live it!”. Yes, there definitely is. There are friends, colleagues, people you meet on the street or in the restaurant. Now spring is only around the corner, and there is sun on your face and the chirping of birds. I don’t want to miss Online life and the friends I have found there, but I will enjoy Offline life as well!

Why You should use Flickr

I write blogposts. I tweet ( I now only occasionally write Squidoo pages. I have a facebook account. So I am quite active online.

One activity however I did neglect the last months – shooting photographs and uploading them to my Flickr account. During the whole winter I have been telling myself: “Well, the weather’s bad, so there’s no proper thing to take a photo of”. Most of the time the weather was bad, yes, But today I had a look at some of Robert Rhuzek’s photos at Flickr, and I can only hang down my head in shame. What an amazing collection of pictures from everyday life!



Look at that photo – Blinds! I must admit that I had never thought taking a photo of the blinds in my flat up to now. Do you notice the blue color gradient? And the way the blinds change their direction?

I would not have seen this photo without Flickr and without Robert Rhuzek having an account there and sharing his photos. I still would think that you cannot take photos when the weather is bad.

So if you don’t know what to do with your camera – visit Flickr! You will see loads of inspiring and motivating photos!

The crazy days are over

Some regions of Germany celebrate “Fasching”, “Karneval”, “Fassenacht”. It is difficult to describe it to someone who is not from Germany, but I will try.

It is a time where people dress up as pirates, sheiks, cowboys, clowns, knights and monks or as princesses, she-devils, spanish ladies – only to name a few examples. They go to events where funny songs are sung, a lots of drinks are consumed, and some people on the stage make witty remarks about politicians.

Last Thursday was the first highlight of the crazy days – it was “dirty Thursday” or “Weiberfasching”. ( “women’s carneval”). In Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz (cities situated at the Rhine) work stopped at 11.15am. Ladies, young and old, rushed into the office of the mayors’ of the three cities and got the city’s keys as a sign for giving in to the “crazy people”. Then they cut off the ties of every male they could get their hands on. (Those men of course knew what was going to happen that day and wore the ties they wanted to get rid of). Then everybody went out into the streets, having a glass of prosecco, of beer, or whatsoever, and moved about, singing and dancing.

On the following Monday there were big parades through the streets of Cologne, Mainz and Dusseldorf. I enclose a photo taken in Mainz which gives you an impression of the parade.

Of course the crazy days are over now. It is Ash Wednesday – time to fast and prepare for Easter…

This is a wagon with a political statement: a locust devouring money (bankers were compared with locusts in the hightime of the financial crisis).

Learning Journal

Since a few days I am using a learning journal. It all began with participating in one of Ruzuku’s challenges. In the beginning I was just curious. I had the slight feeling that I was learning more than I really was conscious about, and I hoped that the challenge would help me to realize my learning processes.

The first step was to find the appropriate medium for a learning journal: What kind of learning  journal would that be? Another wordpress blog kept private? Or would it be a simple notepad to write in with a ballpoint pen? I had tried a private wordpress blog, and I found out that I hadn’t used it regularly. Hmmm. I have a journal where I write down what’s happened on that day and the other. It is a nice book-like notebook with a colorful cover. I discovered, however, that my hand is not suited for writing down longer pieces. I was looking for something electronical.

And I found it – at

Springnote is an online web application which is free. It is not only free, but easy to use and you can adjust it to your needs.

So I had my learning journal. The important point is that with writing down regularly in my learning journal I noticed how many things I learned and how they connected with my goals:

  • I wanted to put up a page at scribd to promote some of my squidoo pages  (private) = so I had to download Scribus and install it and learn to overcome the fear of doing something wrong in the process. I had to learn how to do desktop publishing with this program (I am still learning)
  • I had to create an animated banner for the webpage of the University of the Arts (job) = so I had to learn how to do it with imageready and photoshop
  • I wanted to create a focus for my various online activities = so I had to learn how to do it with tumblr which includes to look at other people’s way of working with tumblr

These are only three examples, and they concentrate on learning when solving problems.

I have no difficulties to write down that kind of learning process. But what about the things I am learning when reading a blog post or a book? This seems to be much more difficult. I haven’t written anything down which covers those kind of learning processes. It seems to me that there is still a lot of learning to be done…

Do you write notes when you read a blog post, an article or a book? And if you do, do these notes contain what you learned by reading them?

Tumblr – what is it good for?

Today I had one of these aha-moments. I had been quite busy at work and gave me the permission to tweet a bit. One of the links I followed was the link to Rosa Say’s tumblr. In my opinion she uses tumblr as it should be used: she announces her new blog posts, directs the reader to interesting and inspiring posts on other blogs, presents interesting videos.

I was so inspired by this that I rediscovered my tumblr for the second time. Sometimes in the last months I had got the impression that I was participating in so many social media activities that I was losing the “red thread”, as we say in German. I was creating squidoo pages, I was blogging here and at crabbysbeach and writing a weekly classical music column, I had openend a zazzle store, and of course, I was tweeting. I was hopping from one activity to the other and had the impression that all these activities were not connected with each other.

As far as I can see it by going through Rosa Say’s tumblr (I highly recommend reading it!) tumblr is used here as a kind of focus, a means of connecting her online activities. I now declare: I will try to do that for the next 4 weeks with my tumblr also. And after those four weeks I will evaluate my tumblr activities. Of course I will keep you posted!

What do you call it?

What do you call it?

I have a colleague who works in the department of International Relations. She is a very communicative person, and she is from Scotland. Every time I meet her I take the opportunity to talk English with her in order to get some practise with the language.

Today she used the color printer in the room next to mine. She had to wait for the copies, so I said “hello” and we exchanged a few words. My eyes fell on the object displayed in the photo above, and I asked her “How would you call that in English?” She looked at it and shook her head. “I don’t know,” she said.

You must know then that she has been living for a long time in Germany. She communicates in German for most of the time. “Well, let’s have a look at the dictionary, then”, I said. “Hole puncher” was the result a few minutes later. “Hole puncher? I can’t imagine that it is called hole puncher.” We then went to together. The said object was called paper punch there. She was not very satisfied with that either and declared that she would do some research later on.

And now I ask you, my dear blogging friends from all over the world: what do you call it (How do you call it? – I am not sure here either)? I am looking forward to your answers!

Living Here and Now

Sometimes, on my way home, I watch mothers with their young children. Obviously they have fetched them from kindergarten, and now both are on their way home, or on their way to the next supermarket. Mom looks on her watch. You can see that she’s got a certain schedule in her mind (“must get food for dinner. Dinner must be ready at 7pm, otherwise hungry husband gets angry”). Little boy or girl is lagging behind and stops. A little dog has caught his attention, and he squats down to pat it. Mom has discovered that her child is not with her anymore, turns around and grabs her boy.

The little boy is making noises at the dog, and the dog is obviously enjoying his attention. The boy doesn’t want to go away. Here is a sweet little dog, swishing its tail, even throwing itself on its back in order to be patted on its tummy.

His mom is not stone-hearted. She notices the way her boy is acting – carefully patting the dog, making calming noises, and is proud of him. But she’s got that schedule in her head and wants to keep to it. So she says “Come on, we’ve got to go, daddy is waiting at home and wants to have his dinner”. No reaction. Her boy doesn’t care about the future. He’s focused on the here and now.

Here my story ends. We adults have our schedules. We go from A to Z in order to reach the office, the bus, to do the shopping, to meet someone at a certain time. We don’t want to get lost in the here and now. But I think that is something we should learn from children: to get distracted  – to get distracted by the song of a bird, by the color of a flower, the tail-swishing of a dog.

This is a contribution to Robert Hruzek’s Group Writing Project “What I learned from Children” over at Middlezone Musings.

Coping with Change

It looks like February 2010 is a month of change. The Blog Joyful Jubilant Learning closes down, and Joanna Young over at announced in a blog post that she’ll give her blog a break till the end of March. I have been following both blogs for quite some time, and enjoyed reading the inspiring posts and the comments. I also tried to participate by writing comments myself, but often I only lurked.

In both cases my first reaction was that of feeling a grave loss – as if somebody would have taken something away from me. But now my feelings tend to go in another direction. What a great time we had together! And how much input and energy Rosa Say and Joanna Young invested in their blogs with their regular postings without making a big fuss about it. When I first arrived at Confident Writing, Joanna made me feel welcomed; I have never met such a friendly atmosphere before. Joyful Jubilant Learning exuded the same friendliness and warmth. So a big thanks to you, Rosa, and you, Joanna!

And now both have decided to focus on other things. They have been giving for a long, long time, and now: who could say that they are not entitled to take? To do what they think is good for them?

So, instead of sulking and feeling bitter and left alone and whatever, I will do two things: as the blogs still exist and are treasure troves full of important, interesting and innovative blogpposts (many of which I haven’t read yet) I will go there and read.

Having read them I will try to learn from them – and put into practice those things that matter for me.

And one important sentence at the end: You can meet Rosa Say at Talking Story with Rosa Say and Joanna Young at flickr!