Archive for April, 2012

Sonderling Sunday – Chapter Four, Part Two

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

It’s Sonderling Sunday again — loosely translated as Nerd Sonntag. Once again, it’s hitting the end of the day, so I’m not sure how far I’ll get. I’m using the German translation of The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy, as a bizarre phrase book and having fun making conclusions about language and words.

It’s been a crazy day. I wore my prime factorization sweater to the US Science and Engineering Festival yesterday, and apparently the Math community got the word. As of 11:04 pm, my site has gotten 24907 hits today. Yesterday, it got 156. Can I just say that I think a lot of Math geeks like me will also enjoy looking at these translations? So I decided to do Sonderling Sunday anyway. (Mind you, I also think it’s time to start querying agents about the children’s book I’ve written using the ideas behind the sweater to make codes and patterns and messages with math.)

We’re on page 38 of The Order of Odd-Fish and on Seite 52 of Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge.

Here are the first two intriguing paragraphs of the next section:

Jo, Aunt Lily, and Korsakov found their way to the kitchen. It still hadn’t been tidied up: crepe paper hung from the ceiling, dirty and damp, and half-filled glasses and stale desserts scattered the tabletops.

Jo opened all the windows to clear the air. She was too shaken to think straight. A package falling from the sky, a talking cockroach, Mr. Cavendish’s head flying around, and now this . . . Aunt Lily stood at the window, looking shell-shocked, and Colonel Korsakov openly wept, overflowing his chair, panting and wheezing.

Here’s how that reads in Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge:

Jo, Tante Lily und Oberst Korsakov erreichten schlieβlich die Küche. Sie war noch nicht aufgeräumt worden; Krepppapier hing von der Decke, schmutzig und feucht, halb volle Gläser und Schalen mit abgestandenem Dessert stapelten sich auf den Tischen und Ablageflächen.

Jo öffnete alle Fenster, um frische Luft hereinzulassen. Sie war zu erschüttert, um einen klaren Gedanken fassen zu können. Ein Paket, das vom Himmel fiel, eine sprechende Kakerlake, Mr Cavendishs Kopf, der durch die Luft flog, und jetzt das . . . Tante Lily stand am Fenster und wirkte wie vom Donner gerührt, und der Russe weinte ganz ungeniert, während er versuchte, seine Körpermasse auf einen Stuhl zu bugsieren. Er keuchte rasselnd.

Some fun things to notice:

Krepppapier is a real word with three p‘s in a row.

“stale desserts” = abgestandenem Dessert (Basically these desserts have been standing there.)

Hmm. A little discrepancy. In English these stale desserts are just scattered on the tabletops. In German, they’re piled (stapelten) on the tables (Tischen) and shelves (Ablageflächen).

I like that there’s one word for what the air’s supposed to do, and it describes it well. “Jo opened all the windows to clear the air.” becomes Jo öffnete alle Fenster, um frische Luft hereinzulassen. She opened the windows so the fresh air will hereinzulassen, be let in here.

“shell-shocked” = vom Donner gerührt (“from thunder stirred”)

“overflowing his chair” is translated versuchte, seine Körpermasse auf einen Stuhl zu bugsieren, which as far as I can tell means “tried, his body mass on a chair to tow.”

“panting and wheezing” is translated keuchte rasselnd, which Google in turn translates as “gasped rattling.”

Now I’ll go on a little farther and try to limit things to the especially interesting bits and the ones that are fun to say.

Here’s one for the fun-to-say category: “There was a shuffle of footsteps in the hall.” = Im Flur waren schlurfende Schritte zu hören. (“In the corridor were shuffling steps to be heard.”)

“sauntered” = schlenderte

“crop duster” = Düngeflugzeug (“fertilizer flying thing”)

“be neighborly” = mache einen Nachbarschaftsbesuch (make a neighbor-business-visit)

“exterminating” = Insektenvernichtung (“insects destruction”)

“generous piece” = groβzügiges Stück (“big rapid piece”)

“scoundrel” = Schurke

“knave” = Schluft

“rapscallion” = Halunke

“rogue” = Ganove

This calls for one last paragraph to finish off the section:

“A cur, a reprobate! A blackguard, a villain, a rascal! No, silence! There is nothing more between us, sir, but honor and the sword. As for now — I must find my partner.”

In translation, I think you can pick up which word stands for which:

“Ein Schweinehund, ein Taugenichts! Ein Lump, ein Bösewicht, ein Schlingel! Nein, schweigt! Uns beiden steht nur noch eines offen, Sir, Ehre und Schwert. Jetzt jedoch muss ich zunächst einmal meinen Partner finden.”

There you have it! Lots of ways to insult someone in German. I think my favorite may be the easily understandable Schweinehund (pig-dog).

Perhaps the most practical would be saying, “No, silence!” by shouting Nein schweigt! Don’t you think that will get people quiet?

It’s hard to pick favorites from this section, so I think I’ll go with the “Sch” words: schlurfende Schritte, schlenderte, Schurke, Schluft, Schweinehund, Schlingel, schweigt, Schwert

Tune in next week for more fun! And let me know what happens if you shout, Nein, schweigt!

Prime Factorization Knitting Revisited

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Yesterday I went to the US Science and Engineering Festival in DC, and made sure to stop at the Mathematical Association of America booth. I knew they’d be there because every day I make sure to do MAA Minute Math.

I was hoping it would be cool enough (weatherwise) to wear my prime factorization sweater (For the explanation, follow the link!), and to my joy it was. I was happy to get a picture taken at the MAA booth.

Well, that got the attention of many more math people, and today I found four new comments on my blog post about the sweater and a page about me on Hacker News!

Now, the good people at Hacker News did misread my age, so I will post something I just realized that will be true this year after my younger son and I have our birthdays. (I was so delighted when I realized it, I ran to tell my son, not realizing he’d just gone to bed.)

My age will have five prime factors.
My oldest son’s age will have four prime factors.
My youngest son’s age will have three prime factors.

A picture of the three of us should enable you to narrow it down. (I am not 72, and my youngest son is not 8.)

I’ll add one more cool set of facts to definitely set our ages:

In the year my oldest son was born, my age had four prime factors (as his does now).
In the year my youngest son was born, my age had three prime factors (as his will this year).

Let’s see. My youngest son’s age is still ambiguous. So I’ll add the clue that there are only three distinct prime factors in all the expressions above. That should do it.

So, all this establishes that I was thinking about prime numbers yesterday. And, yes, I think it’s time to make a prime factorization cardigan, which I can wear in warmer weather.

Some have said I should sell these. But let’s be honest. Having to buy all those shades of yarn costs around $100. Then it was definitely not my only knitting project, but it took me more than a year to knit. (Fun time, but not worth spending if it were for monetary gain and not for the fun of it.) Then it took me more than a month just to sew in all the yarn ends. Granted, if I made more with the same color scheme, that would spread out the cost. But by the time I finished, I’d had quite enough of the project. It has taken ten years for me to be at all interested in doing anything similar, and I’m NOT going to use the same yarn and color scheme as before; you can be sure of that.

With a cardigan, you wouldn’t have room for a chart on both sides. So I was thinking about how else to express it. Last night, I ordered some Plymouth Encore yarn from to make a scarf.

Why Plymouth Encore? Well, first, it’s on sale right now. Needing 26 different colors to go up to 100, any savings per ball helps. I also decided that my cotton sweater (the original was made in Cotton Classic), while soft and comfortable, is a little bit droopy, and wasn’t the greatest choice for the intarsia work. Wool by itself risks being too scratchy. Most of all, this had enough colors, which I hope will be distinct.

This is my plan this time:
I think I’ll use a black background this time. I don’t look good in black is the one reason I didn’t use that on my sweater. (The original partial picture of a blanket that gave me the idea used a black background.) But in a scarf, the background won’t be as prominent.

I’m thinking I’ll use garter stitch, with two rows and one ridge for each factor. I will probably put two stitches of black (one) along the sides, in order to (I hope) hide the two and three factor colors being carried along the edge of the sweater. (I absolutely WILL sew in ends as I go this time. I will. I WILL!)

So here’s how it will work. I’ll start with however many rows of black looks good at the beginning. This is 1. Then I’ll choose a color for 2 and knit two rows (one ridge) in that color. Then I’ll do two rows of black. That represents a factor of 1, and also tells you that we’re starting on a new number. 3 will get two rows of a new color. Then two rows of 1. 4 is 2 x 2. So 4 will be expressed with four rows (two ridges) of the 2 color. Then two rows of 1. Then a new color for 5. Then two rows of 1. Then 6 = 2 x 3, so two rows of 2 directly followed by two rows of 3. Then two rows of 1.

Get the idea? Numbers with lots of prime factors will take up more space than prime numbers.

Mind you, I’ll swatch it out, with some different color choices, and see what looks best. (You definitely want your favorite colors as 2 and 3.) I will post pictures when I get there.

Once I have a scarf done? Well, what I might try with a cardigan is a chart like the old sweater on the back (in new colors and yarn) and maybe stripes as in the scarf on the front sides. Or maybe I’ll be sick of it and give it a rest for awhile.

Based on the new comments, it’s time for me to design a t-shirt! Stay tuned. I have written a children’s book which I called Colors and Codes that talks about using these ideas to make cyphers and patterns using colors or shapes combined with math. As part of the book, I made several charts on my computer. I will see how hard it is to transfer these charts to a t-shirt in Cafe Press.

By the way, I haven’t tried to sell this book yet. I had been working on selling a middle grade novel, and lately I’ve been letting both efforts rest while I dealt with some medical issues. But if anyone knows of an agent or a publisher who’d like to take on something a little unorthodox but extremely cool to math geeks, let me know!

It’s been about ten years since I designed and knitted the sweater. (So I was WAY young then!) Let me stress that the idea of visualizing the prime numbers through colors in knitting was not my own. By all means, spread the word! The article I read (and I should definitely track it down. It was in Interweave Knits in the late 90’s or 2000 or so.) talked about how the blanket that had been made inspired kids who didn’t think they were good in math. As I say in my book, you can attach the numbers to the letters of the alphabet and use these ideas to knit or color messages into things. The sky’s the limit, and it’s lots of fun.

Once I have some swatches, I’ll take some pictures and post the results!

Edited to add: I found the inspiration! It was an article in the Fall 2003 issue of Interweave Knits, called “geekchic” by Brenda Dayne, regarding the work of Pat Ashcroft and Steve Plummer. They have a fabulously cool website at Here’s what the article said about an afghan they created:

“Across the Atlantic Ocean and far from the research laboratories and hallowed halls of Academia, a young girl, age thirteen, stands mesmerized in front of a knitted afghan displayed at the annual North-East Math Fair in Lancashire, England. Constructed of one hundred brightly colored squares, the intricately striped fabric is the creation of Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer ( Knitters, teachers, mathematicians, and partners, Pat and Steve have found that basic mathematical principles make for beautiful knitwear designs, and that knitting is an excellent way of explaining complex theorems to their students.

“Vibrating with color, and reminiscent of African Kente cloth, the Counting Panes afghan is so beautiful it’s hard to accept that it was created as a teaching tool. Within its one hundred brightly colored squares, in ten columns and ten rows, however, lie lessons in multiplication, division, pattern, and numerical relationships… If a square contains yellow, it contains a number divisible by two, if it contains red, then the number divides by three. The more colors in a square, the more numbers it divides by.”

Now, they only had a photograph of a very small part of the afghan, so I couldn’t see how it worked. That part would not work on my sweater at all — there are several squares that appear to just be dark blue, and it’s stated elsewhere that green always appears with baby blue. So maybe that quilt is just showing factors of numbers, and not the prime factorization? Maybe beyond a certain point primes don’t get new colors?

But anyway, having the fondness for math that I do, that much information made me realize that I could knit a prime factorization chart. But I wanted to wear it, not just look at it! I still can’t make sense of what, exactly, their afghan was doing, but they are the ones who gave me the idea behind my design. I graphed it out, figured out how many stitches across I needed, and then found a basic sweater pattern from the book Picture Knitting to use as my canvas. Thank you so much for the germ of the idea!

My posts on Mathematical Knitting and related topics are now gathered at Sonderknitting.

Librarians Help! – Report after Week One

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

So, last week, I decided to start keeping track of the ways I (and other librarians) help people and start blogging about them. (*If anyone out there is graphically talented, I’d love some kind of logo for this!*)

This is my first week’s report. It’s not terribly impressive. But I never said that librarians help in big, impressive ways. (Though sometimes we do get to do that.) We get to help people in small, everyday ways.

This week, I didn’t work on the desk too many hours, with a couple of doctor appointments and things like that. (I think the scheduler is going easy on me as I think I had a vestibular migraine all week.) And I won’t explain how weeding old books from the collection helps people, but will stick with ways I helped members when working at the information desk. So here are some of the small ways I got to help people this week.

The biggest activity, naturally enough, is helping people find books. This week, I helped people find:
-a reference book on estimating costs
-books about the artist M. C. Escher
-a book to review for the AP History exam
-a movie to watch this weekend
-a book on aquariums
-some educational books for a woman’s grandkids
-books on fitness
-art books
-Amelia Bedelia books
-Yu-Gi-Oh! books
-Dora books
-Magic School Bus books
-Books on Helen Keller
-Books on Susan B. Anthony
-Short stories for members of an ESL class to read

And my favorite of that type:
-Books for a mother to read to her daughter’s second grade class

Some other interesting ways I helped:

When in the Virginia Room, I helped someone research a book on local history.

I figured out how to print three chapters from the Bible, triple-spaced, for a lady to mark up and bring to her Bible study group.

I helped someone figure out how to fill out an online application that was using Excel.

I watched the Virginia Room librarian give some extra donated maps to a map-obsessed ten-year-old boy. (That was very cool and was not me helping, but was another librarian helping. That boy may well be a cartographer some day.)

I helped someone view the 1940 census within Ancestry.

And my favorite of this type: When in the Virginia Room, I helped someone find out information about a distant relative he’d lost track of who recently died in this area. He had thought the relative lived overseas, and wanted to find out if this was really him and some more information. It was. I found some information and called back and left a message. He called the next day to thank me, saying the info was just what he wanted!

So, those are some small but satisfying ways I got to help people this week. How about you? Librarians, who did you help this week? Library members, how did librarians help you this week?

Spread the word: Librarians Help!

Edited to add: I thought I should mention which books the Mom picked to read to the 2nd grade class out of the pile I pulled out for her to consider:

Happy Birthday to You! by Dr. Seuss (it’s her daughter’s birthday this week)
The Pigeon Wants a Puppy, by Mo Willems
A Visitor for Bear, by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady Denton MacDonald
Millie Waits for the Mail, by Alexander Steffensmeier

Those second graders are in for a great time!

Review of Black Heart, by Holly Black

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Black Heart

The Curse Workers, Book Three

by Holly Black

Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012. 296 pages.
Starred Review

Ah! Holly Black has done a magnificent job tying up her trilogy! I was reading this book while waiting for an appointment with a neurology specialist. I had quite a bit to go, but I read straight to the end. Then I looked up. Oh no! It was an hour after my appointment time! Had I been so absorbed in the book, I hadn’t heard them call my name? That definitely could have happened, because I certainly hadn’t noticed the time pass. No, it turned out that this particular doctor was known for spending all the time with patients that they needed (and he did this for me, too).

I don’t want to say much about the plot, because I might accidentally give away things that happened in the earlier books. And yes, this is definitely a trilogy you want to read in order. It’s an alternate world where people can curse you by touching you. Curse Workers come in many different kinds, like luck workers or memory workers. Even death workers and transformation workers. But there’s always some kind of blowback that affects the curseworker himself.

Cursing people is illegal — so families where many are born with the ability end up as crime families. The girl Barron loves is the presumptive heir to one of the biggest crime families. So it’s still an issue for Barron which side of the law he should be on. And meanwhile, a governor who was cursed by Barron’s mother is trying to institute mandatory testing and make it illegal even to be able to curse someone.

These books all have some kind of clever caper that culminates all the threads of the book. Must. Say. No. More. Since they are clever, and since Holly Black manages to surprise you each time, these books definitely make great rereading as well. One thing I particularly liked is that she made me like the second book better by the way she had things go in the third book.

This is a brilliant series. I will try to listen to books two and three in audio form to get to enjoy them again. (I’ve already both read and listened to the first book.)

So how’s that for a review that says almost nothing about the actual book? But I don’t want to give anything away from the first books! So I’ll leave you with a paragraph from Black Heart:

“Plenty of people get conned because they don’t know any better. They’re just gullible. But lots of people are suspicious at the start of a con. Maybe the initial investment is small enough that they can afford to lose it. Maybe they’re bored. Maybe they’re hopeful. But you’d be surprised how many people start a con knowing there’s a good chance they’re being conned. All the signals are there. They just keep ignoring them. Because they want to believe in the possibility of something. And so, even though they know better, they just let it happen.”

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Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of To Timbuktu, by Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

To Timbuktu

Nine Countries
Two People
One True Story

by Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg

Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2011. 492 pages.

This book reminds me of Mo Willems’ You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons. Both are about overseas adventures taken by people fresh out of college, complete with plenty of illustrations. To Timbuktu, however, has more text, since the cartoonist, Steven Weinberg, teamed up with a writer, Casey Scieszka. It’s less light-hearted because of having more text, but it also gives a lot more information about their cross-cultural experiences.

Casey and Steven met as students abroad in Morocco. They decided, after graduation, that they would go overseas together. This is the story of their adventures.

I think they had the most fun in China, where they spent the first six months and both taught English. That section is especially fun, with the descriptions of the kids and their antics trying to teach. After that, their time was a little less structured. Casey had a grant to study Islam in the schools in Mali, and Steven was working on his art.

The story is fascinating, and you’ll learn a lot about the countries they visited. Okay, I confess: I didn’t even know that Timbuktu was in Mali, let alone what living there is like. I didn’t know there’s a language spoken in Mali called Bamankan, or much about Mali at all.

I actually met Casey Scieszka at ALA Annual Conference a couple years ago when I was fangirl-ing her Dad, and I liked her very much. They said at the time that she was writing a graphic novel. This isn’t really a graphic novel; it’s an illustrated memoir. But it’s heavily illustrated, and that makes it all the more fun. After all, since they visited these cultures I know nothing about, it’s nice to have pictures to help understand.

This is an excellent book for anyone who’s ever dreamed of picking up and traveling around the world. You can enjoy their experiences without having to get hot and dirty.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Spread the Word: Librarians Help!

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

When you think of the “helping professions,” do you think of librarians?

I’m not sure too many people other than librarians themselves do.

But I’ve been thinking about my calling as a librarian. As a Christian, being a librarian helps me fulfill my responsibility to help the poor. I see my job as a ministry. As a person with a social conscience, that’s also true. We help. It makes me happy when I know I’ve helped someone, and that happens every day.

I’ve been a teacher. I taught college math for ten years. And I feel much more helpful as a public librarian. I still teach people, but it’s people who want to learn. I don’t test them! I’m not their adversary! And mostly, I help them teach themselves, which is much more empowering.

Politically, I see libraries as the good things about the ideals behind socialism. The large group contributes very small amounts (less than a penny out of each tax dollar in this county), and this is invested into resources that all can use for free. And pooling the money gives a better return than any individual could get — lower prices on materials and even specialists (librarians) to help you in whatever information needs you have.

This contrasts with what I saw when I worked in the Office for Children, helping with the bureaucracy of running the USDA Food Program. Someone had once worked the system to get money — so now it’s overwhelmed with details and regulations. We had to make sure people filled out the paperwork exactly correctly and make surprise visits to make sure our centers were counting attendance correctly. All for pennies per child per day. And you know how they make sure no discrimination crops up? Every day care provider must post a certain poster, printed by the government that says there is no discrimination here. And every parent must get a flyer about it.

Or when my husband had just joined the Air Force and we got on the WIC program for a little while. The people who worked with us were incredibly condescending, and we had to attend a “nutrition class” to get the coupons. Because college educated people would never be poor enough to need this help? Yes, it hurt my pride.

Now, any time you have to apply for help, you’re going to have to deal with regulations to make sure the program is administered fairly. And there may be a stigma, since you have to be in a certain category to get this help.

Libraries aren’t like that. They help everyone. The rich can read books for free and get information help from librarians. And so can the poor. You do not have to apply to use the library. It is there for the entire community.

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile. Last year, I went on a women’s retreat with my church. One of the speakers, who works for World Vision, was talking about our calling from God to help the poor. Later, in a small group, we were talking about what ways God is calling each of us to help. I mentioned my job at the library, which I had just gotten back to after working in the Office for Children for six months. She said, “I don’t think it can be a job.” (This from a person who works for World Vision? So that doesn’t count?)

But I do think you can help people in your job. And I don’t think that people, in general, realize how much librarians help people.

So — that’s the point of this post. I want to get the word out: Librarians Help! I’d love to start a trending tag on Twitter, so I may refer some people with lots more followers than me and ask if they’ll find reasons to use the tag #librarianshelp.

For me, I’m going to start a blog series. My plan is to post every week on my day off. That will be Friday this week and Saturday the following week, and so on. What I will do, is start writing down in a little notebook the ways I’ve helped people this week. I will keep it completely unidentifiable. For example, last week I helped a man apply for a job. He didn’t need a lot of help, but he was clearly worried about using the computer, and I got him on one of our computers and got him to the company’s website. He went from there, but I know I helped and reassured him that he could do it. (I hope he gets the job!) Of course, another favorite way I helped was helping a kid find the next book he wanted to read. So I’ll just mention a couple of episodes like that each week.

I’d love it if more people got involved. Each week, I’d love to see some comments with stories of ways you have helped someone or have seen a librarian help someone. Or a link to your own related blog post would be fantastic.

I’d like to spread the word: Librarians help!

Note: The opinions expressed here are entirely my own, and by no means should be construed to reflect the opinions of my employer.

Sonderling Sunday, Kapitel Vier

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

It’s Sonderling Sunday again! Tonight I just have time for a very short one, but we’ll see how far I get.

For those just joining me, I’m using the German translation of James Kennedy‘s book, The Order of Odd-Fish as a sort of nerdy phrasebook for all those things you always wanted to be able to say in German, like Balderdash! (Papperlapapp!) or “dangerous companion” (gefährlichen Gefährtin).

Chapter Four begins on page 37 in The Order of Odd-Fish and on Seite 51 in Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge. As usual, I’d like to start with the first paragraph. By the way, I should say that I’m hoping all these bits from the book will intrigue people enough to gain it new readers — in either language. Here’s how Chapter Four begins:

The gold Mustang tore up the winding desert highway, crashing through the storm. Jo hadn’t had time to put up the convertible’s top, and rain spattered everywhere, soaking through her clothes, blinding her. Jo still had the black box, squeezed between her knees, but it frightened her now. Even the silver ring on her finger seemed threateningly tight. A stab of lightning, the world lit up, Jo looked for the ruby palace —

It wasn’t there.

Auf Deutsch:

Der goldfarbene Mustang raste den kurvigen Wüstenhighway entlang, fraβ sich durch den Sturm. Jo hatte nicht einmal Zeit gehabt, das Verdeck des Cabrios zu schlieβen, daher prasselte der Regen ins Auto, durchnässte ihre Kleidung und nahm ihr die Sicht. Sie hatte noch immer die schwarze Schatulle dabei, eingeklemmt zwischen ihren Knien, aber jetzt flöβte ihr dieser Gegenstand Furcht ein. Selbst der Silberring auf ihrem Finger kam ihr bedrohlich eng vor. Ein Blitz zuckte durch die Nacht, erhellte die Welt und Jo blickte hoch, suchte nach dem Rubinpalast . . .

Er war verschwunden.

So, we’ll warm up with that paragraph.
“winding” = kurvigen (See? German’s so easy to understand!)

“crashing through the storm” = fraβ sich durch den Sturm

Interesting. Google says Verdeck means “hood,” so in German it’s talking about closing the convertible’s hood, rather than “putting up its top.”

“spattered” = prasselte (“crackled”)

“blinding her” = nahm ihr die Sicht (“took her sight”)

eingeklemmt is the translation of “squeezed between.” Literally, it means “clamped in.”

Let’s read on and find some more interesting phrases before I call it a night.

“arch” is translated Torbogen. This amuses me because I know that regenbogen means “rainbow,” and Tor means “door.” So an arch is a “doorbow.” Logical, nicht Wahr? (“not true?”)

Here’s a nice long German word: durcheinandergebracht, which is the translation of “scrambled,” and Google says means “messed up.” Literally, that comes out as “through one another brought.” All in one word.

“choked” = würgte (Be careful. You might do it if you say it.)

“slashing” = peitschenden

“emerald” (as in the color) = smaragdgrünem

“gabbling” = rumorten (“rumbled”)

The first section is very short, and since it’s late, I’m going to end there, with the last sentence of the section:

Ein Gedanke hämmerte unablässig durch ihr Hirn: Endlich wurde ihr Leben gefährlich.

This means:

One thought kept banging through her brain: her life was finally becoming dangerous.

So, will we find out how the danger will develop? Tune in next time to learn more bits of useful knowledge like closing a convertible’s hood and walking through a doorbow.

Favorite words for tonight: kurvigen, durcheinandergebracht, und smaragdgrünem.

Review of 1222, by Anne Holt

Friday, April 20th, 2012


by Anne Holt
read by Kate Reading

Blackstone Audio, 2011. Originally published in Norway in 2007. 9 CDs.
Starred Review

I’ve always loved a locked-room mystery. This one is a snowed-in mystery. And we’ve got even more classic feel with a train wreck starting it all and a paralyzed detective who thinks she is done with police work. But then one of the train passengers is murdered.

At first, I didn’t like the narration. She was reading the lines like a computer. But then I realized that former police detective Hanne Wilhelmson would talk like that. She’s withdrawn almost completely from people since the day when she got shot, the day that ended her career. And once I realized that was intentional, I enjoyed the narrator very much. I definitely wouldn’t have pronounced the Norwegian names correctly if left to my own devices, for a start.

The story is very atmospheric and brilliantly written. Hanne was traveling through the mountains to see a specialist about some additional difficulties. Due to ice, the train went off the tracks. Only the engineer was killed, and she describes the crowd’s reaction to the accident and how they are all brought to a hotel in the mountains and hunker down after the storm builds to hurricane force and they are surrounded by snow. That first night, one of them is murdered. Hanne is recognized as a former police officer, so against her wishes, she is asked to help solve the crime.

One thing I particularly liked: Hanne comments on how the hotel owner grows during the disaster, and the reader can’t help but realize how dramatically Hanne has grown, going from not wanting to speak to anyone to taking charge and solving the crime.

This book is gripping and fascinating and gives modern twists to classic mystery themes. I was listening to the last CD on the way to work and absolutely hated having to shut it off in order to be on time. That evening, I took the audiobook inside so I could finish without any further waiting.

This would have been fun to read during a winter storm — though perhaps that would have made me paranoid, since the book made you almost feel you were experiencing the blizzard yourself. If you want to cool off, this would be good summer reading! Chilling in more than one sense of the word. But with characters you enjoy watching rise to the occasion.

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Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Renegade Magic, by Stephanie Burgis

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Renegade Magic

by Stephanie Burgis

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2012. 329 pages.
Starred Review

I loved Stephanie Burgis’s first book, Kat, Incorrigible, a marvellous blend of Jane Austen-type society with magic and an incorrigible, irrepressible heroine. So I was delighted when I found an Advance Reader Copy of the second book about Kat at ALA Midwinter Meeting. It went directly on the top of my pile to read after the conference, and I was not disappointed.

I do recommend reading the first book first. I think you can still enjoy the second book without it, but you’ll understand better what’s going on with the Order of the Guardians who protect England and the enemies Kat has already made.

At the start of this book, Kat’s older sister Elissa is going to be married. Her sister Angeline’s beloved, Frederick Carlyle, is the best man. But when Frederick’s mother interrupts the ceremony and accuses Angeline of ensnaring Frederick by witchcraft, with the word of a member of the Order of the Guardians as her evidence, the happiness of the younger sisters is seriously set awry.

Stepmama decides to take them away from the scene of their humiliation, fleeing to Bath, along with Kat’s brother Charles, who always seems to be getting into trouble with gambling.

At Bath, Kat can sense a strange, wild magic, a magic that goes back to the Romans who founded the baths. Someone is trying to stir up a magic that can disrupt all of society. Can Kat fix things, as well as her own family’s happiness? All while learning to use her own powers without proper training? The process is quite an adventure!

These books are outstanding middle grade fantasy with plenty of humor, lots of action, some actual history, lots of suspense, and people you enjoy knowing. I wouldn’t want to be Kat’s Stepmama, but I would definitely like being Kat’s friend.

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Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting and checked against a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Sonderling Sunday – Chapter 3 and the Belgian Prankster

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

It’s Sonderling Sunday again! That’s when I discover new words in German while looking at The Order of Odd-Fish and comparing it with its translation, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge. While I’m at it, I’m hoping that the bits of the book I quote will intrigue some readers and motivate them to pick up this oh-so-much-fun fantasy tale.

We’re in Chapter Three, on page 30 in the English version, and Seite 42 in the German one, just ready to hear more about the Belgian Prankster. I find this time I have to write out four whole paragraphs:

But Jo simply couldn’t watch the Belgian Prankster — a blubbery old man who wore nothing but dirty fur pelts and a rawhide diaper, with gray hair that frazzled in all directions and oversized green ski goggles. It was the goggles that creeped Jo out most. Every time she looked at the TV, she felt the Belgian Prankster staring right back at her.

Nobody knew exactly who the Belgian Prankster was. Some said he had been an anonymous executive in an Antwerp fishstick company, where he had quietly embezzled billions for his pranks. Others maintained the persona was a hobby of Prince Poodoo, a wealthy and mysterious Sri Lankan playboy. And a few swore that the Belgian Prankster was nothing less than the Devil himself, come to unleash a new era of chaos upon the world.

The Belgian Prankster’s pranks vexed scientists the world over. Nobody knew how the Belgian Prankster caused Vladimir Lenin to rise from his grave and stroll the streets of Moscow, offering free makeovers to startled ladies — makeovers the embalmed dictator performed with expert skill. Nor could anyone fathom how (as the Belgian Prankster had threatened) everyone in New York woke up to find the entire city covered with hideous orange carpet. And it was the Belgian Prankster who, in the work of a single night, had flooded the Houston Astrodome with piping hot clam chowder.

The Belgian Prankster’s pranks could be as playful as releasing ten thousand bichon frise puppies onto the streets of Osaka, or as deadly as turning the Eiffel Tower upside down. The Belgian Prankster was as admired as he was feared, especially by children — parents around the world could discipline their sons and daughters just by saying, “Do you want me to call the Belgian Prankster?”

Okay, let’s see how they express all that in German:

Jo dagegen konnte sich den Belgischen Scherzkeks einfach nicht anschauen. Es war ein aufgeblasener alter Mann, der nur schmutzige Pelze und eine Windel aus ungegerbtem Rohleder trug, dessen graues Haar in alle Richtungen von seinem Kopf abstand und der eine übergroβe grüne Skibrille aufgesetzt hatte. Diese Brille machte Jo am meisten Angst. Jedes Mal wenn sie zum Fernsehgerät blickte, hatte sie das Gefühl, als würde der Belgische Scherzkeks sie direkt ansehen.

Niemand wusste genau, wer der Belgische Scherzkeks eigentlich war. Einige behaupteten, er wäre ein unbekannter Manager in einer Fischstäbschenfabrik in Antwerpen gewesen, wo er heimlich Milliarden Dollar für seine Streiche veruntreut hätte. Andere erklären steif und fest, ihn darzustellen, wäre ein Hobby von Prinz Poodoo, einem wohlhabenden und geheimnisvollen Playboy aus Sri Lanka. Wieder andere schworen, der Belgische Scherzkeks wäre kein Geringerer als der Teufel selbst, gekommen, um eine neue Ära von Chaos auf die Welt loszulassen.

Die Streiche des Belgischen Scherzkekses faszinierten Wissenshaftler überall auf der Welt. Niemand wusste, wie der er es fertiggebracht hatte, Wladimir Lenin aus seinem Grab wiederauferstehen zu lassen, der daraufhin durch die Straβen von Moskau schlenderte und erschrockenen Ladys Stylingberatungen anbot. Stylingberatungen, die der einbalsamierte Diktator mit auβergewöhnlicher Geschicklichkeit durchführte. Ebenso wenig kamen die Wissenschaftler dahinter, wie es möglich war, dass — genau wie der Belgische Scherzkeks gedroht hatte — die Bewohner von New York aufwachten und feststellen mussten, dass die ganze Stadt mit grauenvoller orangefarbener Auslegeware überzogen war. Und auch das war das Werk des Belgischen Scherzkekses gewesen: In einer einzigen Nacht war das Houston Astrodome mit kochend heiβer Krebssuppe überflutet wordern.

Die Streiche des Belgischen Scherzkekses konnten so verspielt sein wie zum Beispiel damals, als er zehntausend Bichon-Frise-Welpen auf den Straβen von Osaka ausgesetzt hatte, oder auch tödlich, als er zum Beispiel den Eiffelturm auf Kopf gestellt hatte. Er wurde ebenso bewundert wie gefürchtet, vor allem von Kindern. Eltern überall auf der Welt konnten ihre Söhne und Töchter ganz leicht zur Ordnung rufen, indem sie einfach nur sagten: “Willst du etwa, dass ich den Belgischen Scherzkeks rufe?”

Let’s look at some fun ones there:

“blubbery” = aufgeblasener (“inflated.” I think it’s more literally “blown up.”)
“diaper” = Windel
“rawhide” = ungegerbtem Rohleder (“untreated raw leather”)
“fishstick company” = Fischstäbschenfabrik
“embezzled” = veruntreut
“wealthy” = wohlhabenden (“well having”)
“no less” = kein Geringerer
Just fun to say: “unleash” = loszulassen
“vexed” = faszinierten (Hmm. I think “vexed” is a little stronger than “fascinated.”)
“caused” = fertiggebracht hatte (“brought to finish”)
“strolled” = schlenderte
“makeovers” = Stylingberatungen (“styling consultancies”)
“embalmed” = einbalmsamierte
“expert skill” = auβergewöhnlicher Geschicklichkeit
“hideous” = grauenvoller (“gray full”)
“carpet” = Auslegeware (“overlaid wares”)
“clam chowder” = Krebssuppe (“crab soup”)
“flooded” = überflutet

Hmm. I can tell this is growing on me, because more and more of it seems perfectly normal. But aren’t you glad you know how to say “fishstick company,” “embezzled,” and “embalmed” now?

I’ll read on and list some words that strike me:

“sulked” = hatte geschmollt (I like this one. I think next time I’m angry, I’ll have geschmollt)

“frail” = gebrechlich (“prone to breaking”)

“had seen murder in their eyes” = hatte ihre mordlustigen Blicke durchaus bemerkt (“had marked murderlust through their views”)

“volunteer” = Freiwilligen (“Free will-er”)

“fragile” = zarten (“tender”)

“panicking caterpillars” = in Panik geratene Raupen (“panic advised crawlers”)

“The chattering in the room died down.” = Der Stimmengemurmel in dem Raum verebbte. (Don’t you like that for chattering in a room? Stimmengemurmel is basically “voice murmuring”)

“punched in the stomach” = in dem Magen geschlagen (another one that’s just fun to say)

Here’s a good paragraph. Can you get the idea of what they’re saying?

Jo war sprachlos. Und im Café brach die Hölle aus. Jeder, der konnte, sprang auf und rannte zur Tür. Tische kippten um, Teller zerschmetterten am Boden, der Belgische Scherzkeks lachte ohrenbetäubend im Fernsehen. Mrs Cavendish saβ fassungslos da, Mr Pooter ging unter dem Tisch in Deckung und Mrs Horpness schleuderte entzückt Waffeln durch die Gegend. Jo hatte alles Mögliche erwartet, was passieren könnte, wenn man die Kurbel drehte, aber nicht das — nicht, dass Tante Lilys Zaubertrick tatsächlich funktionieren würde.

In English:

Jo was floored. The café erupted into pandemonium. Those who could, leaped up and bolted for the door; tables overturned, plates smashed, the Belgian Prankster laughed deafeningly; Mrs. Cavendish sat gaping, Mr. Pooter dived under the table, and Mrs. Horpness was rapturously throwing waffles everywhere. Of all the things that could’ve happened by turning the crank, Jo least expected this — that Aunt Lily’s magic trick would actually work.

Some notable translations in that paragraph:

“pandemonium” = Hölle (“Hell”)
“overturned” = kippten um
“smashed” = zerschmetterten (Oh, fun to say!)
“deafeningly” = ohrenbetäubend (“ear numbing”)
“sat gaping” = saβ fassungslos da (“sat there stunned”)
“rapturously throwing waffles everywhere” = schleuderte entzückt Waffeln durch die Gegend

Going on, we have important words to know, such as:


“bobbing like a balloon” = wie ein Luftballon durch die Luft hüpfte (Try saying it! It’s fun!)

“Great galloping Gorbachevs!” = Beim groβen Galoppierenden Gorbatschow! (Okay, English wins that one.)

“doubled over” = krümmte sich (“curved himself”)

“hanging loosely” = hing schlaff

“whooping” = johlte vor Vergnügen (“hooted for pleasure.” Of course, we all know Vergnügen from the Volkswagen commercials.)

“struggling head” = widerspenstigen Kopf (“recalcitrant head”)

“rumpled” = zerknitterten

“a big, shambling pudding of a man” = ein groβer, schlurfender Bulle von einem Mann (“a big, shuffling bull of a man”)

This one’s not nearly as good in German: “Heck! What’s all the hoot and holler?” = Was zum Teufel soll dieses Gebrüll? (“What the devil is this roar?”)

“squeezed” = quetschen

Okay, that’s it for Chapter Three! Tune in next time as we start in on Chapter Four.

To review:

Fischstäbschenfabrik! loszulassen! hatte geschmollt! Stimmengemurmel! in dem Magen geschlagen!