First snow yesterday.
Don't know if I've mentioned this, but we live in one of the coldest corners of Germany. Other than the actual, you know, Alps? And some godforsaken places way up in the northeast by Poland, where the windswept marshes of Pomerania sink slowly down to the cold, grey Baltic? After those, this is the coldest bit. It's a funny little microclimate that's just, you know, cold. The last snowfall was back in early April, so we're talking around five months of winter here. I'm just saying.
So Carlos was here visiting us. Now you know why he's been so quiet lately. Part of the time he was here here, meaning he was very distracted by little boys. Part of the time he was here in Europe but not with us -- he took a few days to look at art and architecture down in Italy. It was wonderful having him here, and the boys loved him. They used to occasionally pine about "when's Carlos coming back"; I suspect we'll be hearing this again, more, in months to come.
Last night he and the boys carved pumpkins on the kitchen table, which was fun for all concerned (though Jacob got squicked out by the pumpkin guts and wandered off). Halloween is just catching on in Germany, and jack-o-lanterns are not really a tradition here yet. So German pumpkins are still the hard-shelled ones. Carving them requires some serious muscle. Carlos carried this off with aplomb and the boys are delighted with the results.
I had to drive Carlos to the train station in Gersfeld early this morning. We had to leave at 6 am. Claudia's still in America, so I had to ask grandmother A____to take the boys last night. Which she very kindly did. (This is one of the nice things about having the grandparents a few minutes away.) Carlos and I were thus able to have a wild single guys night out -- viz., pizza and a single beer in downtown Ostheim.
So up early for the drive to Gersfeld: that road goes up over the Hochrhoen, the High Rhon, a sort of ancient volcanic blister that sits right where Bavaria, Thuringia and Hesse come together. The road tops out at an altitude of around 3,000 feet, which doesn't sound like much but is enough to make a very noticeable difference in climate -- the snow that had mostly melted here was still lying thick on the ground up there, and there was dense fog that had us creeping along at half speed. (Or less, when Carlos saw a deer. I hit a deer up there a while back. It was a glancing blow, so both car and deer were okay, but I have no desire to do it again.) Fortunately we started with time to spare, so we made it.
Coming back I took a different route -- through Ehrenburg, which is longer but avoids the highest part -- and, by the early morning light, I could see the fog in a thick, well defined cloud, a mile or two away and a few hundred feet up. I stopped in the village of Seifert (whose name always makes me think of Seyfert galaxies, yes I am a nerd) and got a coffee and an apple pastry. Then I took a detour to drive through a couple of little towns, Birx and Frankenheim, because I've always vaguely wondered about them and I've never before had time.
Now it's morning and I'm doing work stuff and wondering if the weather will get warm and dry enough to let me finish raking the leaves.
Meanwhile, it's Friday, so here are a couple of random links.
Here's a rare overview of the statehouse races. I say rare, because the national media seems to be almost entirely ignoring these. I'm especially surprised how little attention the NY State Senate race has gotten. That's like three seats in the House, right there, in the next redistricting. -- But also, state legislatures are petri dishes and farm teams; if you don't have enough of them, it's hard to build a good national bench.
Claudia is a huge Terry Pratchett fan -- she got a prize from him once. So this is particularly sad for her. But then, it's just sad.
Most of my readers read James Nicoll too, so you probably know already about the gold-footed snail: "the existence of iron sulfide as skeletal material is unknown from any other animal." But the rest of that list is worth reading too. My favorite so far has to be the xenophyophores. Up until now I'd never even heard of these guys. We're talking single-celled organisms that can grow as large as a pancake or a rose. As Paleaos says, they "brazenly ignore all requirements of general microbial decency by attaining sizes not merely macroscopic, but positively enormous". They lie around on the silty beds of the deepest ocean floors, just hanging out and being unicellular. I find this awesome.
Right, back to work.