School’s Out for Summer!

Hello folks!

School’s officially out since last Friday and I can tell you. I’m very fine mush. First of all, the last two weeks are some of the hardest, contrary to popular belief. For one thing, my school wisely decided to turn those last two weeks into project weeks under the “Education for Sustainable Development” goals of the UN, which are so broad that you can basically do whatever you want (though each year has one topic they need to touch).

I absolutely love those weeks. Instead of watching one movie after the other because the grade are written and the books have been collected, we do fun things that are really, really good for our underprivileged kids: visiting the library, the zoo, planting, painting,… It also means long days, not just for the projects, but also for the conferences at the end of the year, but lots of activities outdoors, with a pretty heatwave (that thankfully broke this week). As a result a bone deep physical exhaustion came on top of a bone deep psychological one.

You may remember that after my teacher training, I basically stumbled into special ed. I discovered that I like it and that I’m good at it and that I could imagine staying there. Unfortunately, the ministry of education claims that there’s no shortage of special ed teachers, I was just filling a temporary vacancy. For 5 years in the same school… I kept trying, the union kept trying, but the last phone call with the nice woman from the ministry made it clear that while I could probably always get a temporary contract, I’d not get a permanent one. But she’d send out a new temporary one. That was weeks ago, I kept waiting. Now, since I didn’t go to university for nothing, I kept applying for the regular teacher jobs, though me and my fellow “totally only temporary long term regular ed turned special ed” colleagues suspected that the two departments were keeping us in a loop.

On Monday I got a mail from the department overseeing regular teacher placements that they have (another temporary…) position for me. It would have been at a comprehensive school quite near, which doesn’t only have a bit less underprivileged clientele, but which also would knock off 2/3rds of my commute. But…, you know there’s always a but, they also have a joined high school branch* with the school my kids go to, the high school branch my kid enters next year, a high school branch I’m qualified to teach. Also, I like my school and I know that the principal there is fighting tooth and nail to keep me. Give her another year and the ministry will give me a permanent contract just to get rid of her. That’s an asset you don’t give up easily, so i texted her that unless she was able to work a miracle, I would have to take the offer. Well, she did work a miracle, I could switch with a teacher who was due to start at “my” school. So goodbye KWS (our school Instagram Account), hello, KWS! Another 6 months safe, and at least now I have a prospect of getting a permanent place. Also, I’ll be turning 45 next year, that’s the upper age limit for tenure, so I’ll become cheaper to hire, staying an eternal employee (no problem there). Oh, do I need to mention that my position as special ed teacher there is now vacant?

And with all those good news, I’ll fuck off to Ireland on Monday. Let’s see if I manage to post some sightseeing pics.


*Germany doesn’t have middle and high school. We have primary school (1-4 (6 in some states)) and secondary school (5-13), though some teachers are only qualified to teach until year 9 or 10.

Halfway Through the Summer

The time flies again and I feel like I managed to do exactly nothing. This is not true, of course, only I managed to do just enough to be ever so slightly behind what needs to be done. I was in part hampered by the extremely hot weather, but mostly by the fact that I only have two hands, and by now I do all heavy work around the house solo. Thus I am in a perpetual state of frustration and a feeling of inadequacy.

At least I have managed to repair half of the walkway to our house.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The tiles sunk in the middle about 2 cm over the years since it was built in 2017 so I need to dismantle it piece-by-piece, add some gravel underneath, compress it, and re-assemble it. I have finally some use for the stones that I managed to collect in my garden over the years as well as the leftover gravel from house renovations. Here you can see two buckets of fine stones and a wheelbarrow full of gravel, all collected from my vegetable patches and flower beds and sieved from the soil when preparing the substrate for bonsai. This gives you some idea about the natural state of topsoil around here and why fields were replaced by meadows as soon as centrally organized agriculture stopped being a thing. I can run out of a lot of things, stones not being one of them.

The other thing that is half-done is firewood for winter.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I wrote about this wood last year, these are offcuts from making palettes and furniture, and it is a lot of work, and I mean a lot of work now as well as in winter when I will need to carry each of these sacks down to the cellar. But it is very cheap – about 1/10 of wood briquettes or paletted firewood. Since I am not good at selling knives, I can more easily afford to spend time doing this than to spend money on better fuel. Even though I spend with it about two months’ worth of labor, at this price it actually saves me about two months’ worth of living wage, so it is worth it. I really do not need to go to the gym, I get my workout at home – I just bagged 3700 kg of firewood in three weeks.

I do not know when the other half will be delivered so today I took a little break from all my work and I made shrimp for lunch. I like shrimp, but they are a treat that I eat only a few times a year. I did not do anything fancy, just french fries, deep-fried shrimp, and some steamed vegetables. The steamed vegetables were from the first harvest of this summer, the first pattypan squash and a few bean pods.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I planted five different kinds of beans this year to get some variety. Shame, really, that the red pods lose color in steaming, they do look quite appetizing and colorful when raw. The result was good anyway – each type had a slightly different texture and taste, so the final dish was quite delicious.

I do hope to manage to do some work on knives before the next batch of firewood arrives. I would also like to take a few photos of my bonsai trees for the Bonsai for Beginners series. We’ll see.


A pro-gun Leftist?

I encountered Vaush on YouTube through his pro-LGBTQ+ videos and it was I guess just a matter of time before I stumble upon these as well:

I am torn on this issue. I have argued in the past on this blog that overzealous weapons regulations and indiscriminate bans are nonsense (-click--click-). For example, there is no practical purpose to be served by banning the sale and/or possession of some knives. I have also argued that liking firearms for their aesthetics or technology or enjoying exercising the skills needed for their use is not, in itself, a sign of a pathological personality (-click-). But I am also a proponent of proportionate regulation of weapons – the more dangerous a weapon, the more difficult it should be to obtain it for private use, and the barriers should not be financial ones or at least not purely financial ones. There should be some basic proficiency and background check for guns, as well as mandatory psychological exams and licensing for them. I do consider my home country (Czech Republic) to have a good and sensible legislature in this regard.

On the other hand, I do recognize that in the USA there are two strong barriers against the implementation of such laws and Vaush mentions them both.

  1. Guns in the USA are so ubiquitous that any ban or legislature will have negligible practical effect. They might stop impulse-buying a gun just before a mass shooting, but not much else. Anyone wishing to get their hands on a gun and ammo will probably be able to do so for a looooooong time in the good’ole USA. I do not have a response to this argument. The USA might well really be beyond the tipping point when the issue can be reasonably addressed.
  2. The problem in the USA is not the availability of guns alone, but mostly the culture surrounding them.  I wrote about this too in the past (-click-). The USA is in dire need of a culture shift. The current fetishization of guns and violence and of gun violence is harmful and it can only get worse if nothing is done about it. I do not know what to do about it though, the gun culture in the USA is extremely pervasive and strong.

So it is not simply possible to look around the world at what works there and implement it in the USA. The issue is, unfortunately, much more complicated than that.

If Vaush likes guns and wants to shoot them at the range or enjoy them aesthetically or both, I have no issue with it. Those are perfectly valid reasons to own guns in my book, and I think mentally healthy people should have lawful options to indulge in.

I also agree that some amount of packing heat on the left is reasonable, otherwise, there is nothing to stop the American right to have their version of Nacht des langen Messer and eventually Kristallnacht in the near future, it’s not as if parallels to these did not happen in the American history ample times in the past. And the armed right needs to be counterbalanced with something and flowers simply won’t do. Although I do fervently hope that it never comes to actual shootouts between neonazis and leftists in the USA. If the situation deteriorates that much, there probably won’t be a way to stop the civil war and the odds are that the police, army, and judiciary would side with the nazis – there are recent precedents for that too.

I do completely disagree, however, with one of his stated reasons – that having a gun might be useful in the case of a widespread societal collapse. In my opinion, in case of a widespread societal collapse in the USA or EU, not having a gun would be the least of the problems for most people. The topmost will be keeping yourself fed and warm, and guns can only help very little with that. Our current society is heavily dependent on infrastructure, logistics, and division of labor. In case of societal collapse, no electricity, no food and medication distribution, and no clean water will probably kill most people. Having a gun in such a scenario might marginally increase one’s short-term chances of survival, but without farming the land and distributing the food, any modern country will quickly starve. There is not enough wildlife left for those with guns to get sustenance by hunting. And stealing from others by force will be only of very short-term benefit. Bushcraft is a nice hobby but it can’t keep alive dense populations of hundreds of people per square km. Not to mention that I won’t live long without prescription medication and no amount of gun-waving will give it to me if pharmaceutical companies stop producing it. And in the case of Vaush personally, as well as millions of others – if he breaks or loses his glasses and there is no infrastructure to get him a replacement, his guns won’t help him with that either.

Other than this one thing I find his videos, especially on LGBTQ+ issues, reasonable.

Froot Seezun Continues

Last week I finished with strawberries. I spent two-three hours working on them for a day for nearly two weeks and in the end, I harvested over 30 kg. 22 kg I managed to dry, and the rest converted my mom into marmalade (-> cellar), pies (->freezer) and puddings  (->immediate consumption). And just as soon as the strawberry season has ended, the raspberry season has started.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

There is a huge patch of wild raspberries just outside my garden. My neighbor cannot mow the meadow this close to the fence, so they thrive on a strip of land approx 1 m wide. And the law in CZ is that wild fruit on publically accessible land can be picked by anyone, so I can use it – I just need to go out of my garden and walk all the way around, about 100 m. Last year we did not have any because I took a chainsaw to the whole growth to rejuvenate it – which it did.

Since these are wild raspberries that grew there from seeds some decades ago, the fruits are relatively small. They are even smaller due to seven consecutive drought years, but they are still tasty and I managed to pick over 600 g yesterday in just half an hour. I will pick a few kg over the next few days, try to dry some, and make others into jam since we run out of raspberry jam some years ago.

And to post something pleasing to the eye after a long while, the first sunflower of the year has blossomed.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

It is not particularly big sunflower, in part due to the drought and in part because I did not buy F1 seeds this year and I simply planted some of the surplus seeds that I fed to the birds during the winter. But it is pretty and the sunflower patch looks promising.

Intersection of DnD and Social Justice

Today I was etching blades and listening to the YouTube channel LegalKimchi and I must recommend it so far. I especially liked his last video:

But his other videos that I managed to see today were good too. I haven’t yet seen everything and I am unlikely to see everything he has made, but so far he seems to be on the side of social justice, especially with regard to people of color.