US Elections

I prefer not to write about politics in general, but it’s very hard to ignore the outcome of the latest presidential elections in the USA. No matter what Trump will do, it will affect lots of people worldwide.

I’m more of a liberal myself, European liberal that is, I have no idea why this word is so vilified across the big pond. Live and let live is one of my mottos. My view on the outcome can be explained with a high school image: The Americans wanted the school bully to be the validictorian because they didn’t like the girl who had worked hard for that honour.

However, I should not indulge too much in Schadenfreude. First, because this will affect lots of people everywhere, as I said above. And second, because it is not impossible that we’ll have a similar bully as our own president in Austria within a few weeks…


Does anybody know whether this Mars mission is still looking for astronauts?


In 2013, I left academia to pursue my dream of living in Japan. I haven’t looked back since; I have never been nostalgic and I do not regret my decision at all. Sporadically, I talk to an ex-colleague, so I do hear about things going on in my old scientific community, albeit with much delay sometimes.

For example, only last weekend I heard “news” about a certain professor. I knew that he had died back in 2014, but I didn’t think much of it then – after all, sometimes people just die. However, now I know that he had killed himself, and I am truly shocked.

He was one of the big names in the community, in his early 60s, hence, close to retirement. Although he appeared a bit shy, he always had a smile on his face, and he was warm and welcoming towards everybody who approached him, whether another big name or a brand new PhD student.

I will always remember his encouragement right before my very first talk at my very first conference – and we had just met that moment. To me, he was one of the kindest souls in the community. Unfortunately, they always seem the most tormented ones as well…


I’m back! I had wonderful two weeks of travelling in Europe. I went to see friends in Germany (and delivered the yukata – my friend liked my choice very much, thank goodness) and I spent a weekend in Berlin. It was my first time sightseeing there and it is an amazing city indeed. I also visited a number of old friends in Austria, and I have to say that while I had a great time altogether, I am also quite exhausted. I would be best to take a few days off now, thankfully yesterday was a holiday.

Of course, I also stocked up on Austrian goodies, mostly sweets, chocolate, and alcohol. My friends will get Mozartkugeln (of course) and special Austrian liqueur produced in my hometown. I hope they like it – Japanese alcohol is much weaker than the stuff we make in Austria.

Unfortunately, my shopping spree led to some unpleasantries on my way back. For the first time ever I travelled with two checked suitcases instead of one – and the smaller suitcase was promptly lost at Beijing airport, where I had to change planes… Thankfully, things were solved quickly and I received it this morning already. Interestingly, customs did not check the other suitcase as all – I should have bought cheese and sausages after all…


When I wrote about my inventory list here, I could not have known that this would become one of the most popular posts on here. Besides the comments, I also received a number of emails from friends about it. One of them was inspired enough to start counting her own things – and she claims she owns even more T-shirts than I do…

Anyway, since that post was so successful, I thought I would share one more of my organising tricks. Have a look at the photo below. It shows the hop half of my closet. Notice anything?

My colour sorted closetYes, I mean no, this is not all of my clothing, just the things I am wearing at the moment on a daily basis when I go out. There are a few dresses that are too long for this closet which are stored elsewhere, as are my jackets and my black suit. Socks and underwear are stored in drawers at the bottom of this closet, and my winter clothes are tucked away completely right now. So, this is not what I mean.

Look again – notice the colours? Yes, the contents of my closet is sorted by colour, black on one side, white on the other, the other colours in between; shirts to the left, pants to the right, and the T-shirts below are similarly organised. The same holds for my socks and lacy underwear (nope, no pics here ;-)) and even my jewelry. In case you are wondering, it’s not a sign of OCD (I hope), and it is not a requirement of living in Japan either; in fact, I have been doing this for years.

The reason is that in the mornings, at the time when I get dressed, I run on autopilot. And the last thing I want to do in this state is go hunting all over my closet for my favourite *insert colour* T-shirt. The way things are sorted by colour means: If it is not on its pile, it is in the laundry somewhere, so I have to wear something else. This simple organising trick makes my morning routine very simple, stress-free, and autopilot-able.

A side benefit is that you see what you own. And if you have 15 red T-shirts already, it is not quite so easy anymore to buy number 16. Mostly, that is. Why don’t you try it out – maybe on a small part of your closet only? Just pants for example, or just T-shirts. The sorting can be maintained easily, once it has been established; and even the first sorting does not take that much time, promised! As long as you don’t have as many T-shirts as me or my friend, that is…


Over Golden Week and in the days after I finally had time to finish my inventory list. During unpacking, I counted and listed everything I own with the exception of consumables. Whenever something new enters my home now, I update the list. For a single woman it’s not too bad I think, but there are certainly some rather interesting things that I forgot I had ever packed… Let’s have a look:

stack of colorful towelsAltogether, I own more than 3000 items, large and small. The top five categories are:

Clothing (538 items)
Kitchen utensils (432 items)
Books (378 items – and counting)
Jewelry (162 items)
CDs (91 items)

This must be the first time in my adult life that I own more clothes than books; but this is somewhat understandable since I gave away at least two-thirds of my library (and yes, I am still grieving…). I honestly did not know that I had that many kitchen utensils (including cutlery, dishes, etc.) because I don’t really cook that much. However, I definitely need my 41 tea spoons: I eat a lot of yoghurt and Nutella (bread really is optional here), so they are greatly valued. Running out of tea spoons is a sure sign that I need to do the dishes.

Taking a somewhat closer look at all the piles of things I own, I have a wide range of stuff from the normal to the somewhat interesting. For a woman I don’t think that 21 pairs of shoes are excessive, especially since they include everything from my 10-cm emergency high heels, to a pair of rain boots, and several pairs of flip-flops. 80 t-shirts only sounds a lot really, but there are also some with sentimental value I will never wear again, for example the one that says “I wü wieda ham…”, which is a bit complicated to explain.

Things where I should not have brought quite that many are summer pyjamas: 11 are definitely overkill in a country where even summer nights are above 30 degrees. And although girls like variety, I do not change my wallet every month… 24 cloth shopping bags and 85 clothes hangers will only come handy if I ever open my own shop; and why on earth I have 12 pairs of black pantyhose when I wear one at most once a year is beyond me.

And let’s not talk about the cowhide, shall we? I’m glad I brought the toy car that goes with it though. But that’s another complicated story…

Austrian President

Last Sunday saw the latest edition of Austrian Presidential Elections. They happen every 6 years, and since the incumbent was not allowed another term of office, we needed somebody new. In fact, last Sunday was only the run-off ballot between the two candidates who gained the most votes four weeks ago, in the first ballot with six candidates.

What was left over were the right-wing candidate and the one supported by the green party; and the elections could not have been any more exciting. On Sunday, the projection of the votes stood at 50 : 50 percent, and it took the whole Monday to count the absentee ballots (among them mine) to come to the final result of 49,65 : 50,35 percent, a difference of ony 31.026 votes (more than 4.8 million Austrians voted).

Austria now has – as the first country in Europe – a president with a green, left-wing background and I am quite relieved about that. While it never happened in Japan (yet), I have been asked about all the “Nazis” in Austria before… Anyway, I think I will call it a night early today, since I didn’t sleep much the last two nights because I was waiting for the results. Last night alone, I spent a whole hour watching somebody walking up and down before cameras while he was waiting for the Austrian Minister of the Interior to announce the final results. I obviously don’t have anything better to do…


I have an upset stomach. It doesn’t happen very often here in Japan, but still I must have caught some bug. I stayed in bed all day (except for some rather hurried trips to the toilet), but it feels like I am getting better now. It’s really no fun being sick, especially when your apartment is freezing… At least, there is only one more month of winter ahead.


Just before the end of last year, on December 28th, 2015, the Japanese government has issued an apology to the Korean comfort women of WWII:

“Prime Minister Abe expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.”

The words are accompanied by the payment of 1 billion YEN to a Korean fund meant to support the less than 50 surviving victims. In return, the Korean government will consider the issue as “finally and irrevocably solved”, and will refrain from criticising Japan any further about this.

I’m not sure where I stand on this issue. On one hand, this apology (the last one of a number of similar official apologies, by the way), does not seem very sincere, given that in Japan many people don’t see the problem behind the whole issue. Also, the sum appears rather symbolic to me, and its payment reeks more of hush money than an acknowledgement of guilt or at least responsibility.

On the other hand, I understand the desire to put an end to things and to start with a clean slate. I do not apologise for whatever happened in Austria during WWII either. And I don’t get it why the holocaust is used by the Israeli government to exempt them from criticism for their treatment of the Palestinians.

So, I am obviously on the fence with this issue. Maybe a gesture like this is all that’s needed to move on? Once again, I am glad I’m not a politician…

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year of the monkey everybody!
May the new year make all your dreams come true!

New Year's Card 2016I continue to embrace Japanese traditions. The above is the nengajo New Year’s card I sent out this, or rather: last year. I cannot ascertain this, but apparently the long stroke leading to the right symbolises the tail of the monkey… It was hard to find a card that I considered serious enough, monkeys obviously inspire people’s silliness. For example, I found a nengajo showing a banana – and nothing else… A bit too much silliness for me, to be honest.

Since this year I also (had to) send nengajo to business connections (essentially my lawyer and my accountant), I asked a Japanese friend how to do them properly. Well, the right hand corner of the front has to show one of the standard phrases, and the addresses on the back (both mine and the one of the recipient) have to be written in Kanji as well… I only wrote eight cards this year, but for these reasons I laboured for more than 2 hours! I have received some nengajo today as well, and as I can see that my business connections printed their cards, I will consider this as an option for next year.


christmas15Happy Holidays to everyone!
I hope you’ll have a nice time, regardless of your plans.

Once again, my plans are to visit a friend over the weekend. I will post again next week.