Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Place

Well, having finally gotten the new computer set up and hooked up to the internet, I borrowed my mother's digital camera and got a couple of pictures snapped of the apartment.First is the view from the entrance: CD-shelf on the left, some box left from the moving process, and then the desk, with various stuff on it. The new Mac mini is practically invisible in that pic, barely visible on the right next to the 19" CTR screen I got for cheap from a school-mate. I'm also going to get a retractable shelf to mount under the desk to keep the keyboard on, freeing up some space, and allowing me to have the MIDI-keyboard more centered. I've also got a poster coming that I'll put up on the wall behind the desk. (The desktop pic is Nagato Yuki from The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi, for those who are interested; vectored by yours truly.)
Here's the view from the corner opposing the door. Unmade bed on the left, a poster of a woman in kimono with a red umbrella on the wall, bookshelf on the right. Next to the bookshelf is a closet, which isn't that interesting. (The big shiny sphere is the lamp which is hanging a bit too low; I've lost count of how many times I've bumped my head into it.)

I must say that I'm really pleased with my new setup; the Mac mini is performing nicely thus far, though the real test will be when I start fooling around with Garageband. I haven't really felt inspired to do anything with it lately, but I'm guessing it's a side-effect of just having moved, getting used to the new surroundings. I'm also going to order a new piece of gear soon, a pair of headphones, the AKG K240S, which will hopefully allow me to get a better idea of how my tracks sound in the low end, and which also might come in handy for late-night music making/listening.

So far, living on my own has worked out splendidly.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Moving

Long time, no post.

After 25 years of living in the same place, I've finally moved out. In hindsight, I probably could have done it earlier, but better late than never. It's been quite an interesting experience so far, even though I've only "lived" here for a couple of days. I'm still lacking some small details, like curtains, umbrella and computer, but I've got all the essentials like clothing and food.

Spending the days without a computer has been... boring. You only really realise how much you depend on it when it's gone. But luckily, I've been offered economic assistance from my parents with it, so hopefully, I should be in the possession of a new Mac mini sometime in the near future. (Having no computer of my own yet, I'm posting this from my flatmate's box.)

It's an interesting location in that I have my classmate Aino next-door, a couple of other Japanology-students a stone-throw away, and yet another couple across the street in another building.

Pictures will be posted after I've borrowed a camera to take them with.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Edited

Well! I've just had the experience of having my text edited and put in print, and I would certainly want to meet the person who thought it appropriate to edit my text using a chainsaw and duct-tape.

Now, I don't mind editors as long as they know more than yourself, but if they don't, it's like letting a dog perform open-heart surgery.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Boring

I've been feeling boring lately. Life goes by. Days float into each other, turning into weeks and months. Sitting here at my window watching the leaves change colour and fall.

School has switched gears. Classical Japanese is a bitch, but the translation-assignments are really fun.

I've watched some anime recently, some aired on SVT, others downloaded on recommendation. The one with the greatest impact on me being Voices of a Distant Star (ほしのこえ). If you haven't yet been desensitized by the world/television yet, then watch it. I'm going to order the region 3 DVD (I'd like the region 2, but the R3 is cheaper), not anytime soon, but after I've gotten the essential new computer (which will hopefully be a Mac mini).

Some people can't seem to understand why I use Mac computers. I don't mind their incomprehension as long as they don't try to "convert" me; I've been in more arguments on the topic than I care to remember. Yes, they're more expensive, but why does that matter? Is that so important? Yes, I could get more bang for the buck with a standard or build-it-yourself PC, but I don't really need more than what the Mac mini has; heck, I'm satisfied sitting on what I have now (except for the fan-noise), which has a great deal less power than a Mac mini. I could get a PC with the latest hardware and extras, and force myself to use Windows or learn Linux. Or I could just spend 100 or so more on the Mac mini, being more than satisfied with the power it has, and have a user experience I'm guaranteed to like, having spent many years now with Mac OS X. But I guess personal preference doesn't matter in a world where everything needs to be the same square size fitting into the same square holes, just so other people can feel ensured in their choice because "everyone else has it."

I've been meaning to write something meaningful here, but failing.

It's autumn.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ten years after

When standing in line at the supermarket the other day, I happened to catch a glimpse of a former classmate of mine a couple of registers over. He was with his significant other and their daughter, perhaps five or six years old, and it hit me that the last time I had seen him she had been in a stroller.

Now, this wasn't just some random classmate. I'd say that this guy was the most similar to me that there was in school (upper level compulsory school, attended at ages 13-15, for the record). Quiet, teased, bright, dreamer, a bit of a rebel, and with a lot of potential. I remember we were both in the more advanced math class, and he used to always sit in classes staring out the window, dreaming himself away. (I will always remember our math teacher, Jeanette West, since she was one of the first teachers to ever really spur me on and encourage me; my math grade during those years rose from around six up to a nine, on the 4-10 scale.)

Seeing him like that, shopping with his family, it made me think. That two so similar people would lead so different lives, ten years after.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Abilities

As a result of aging, people always feel like they somehow know more than everyone younger than them, through experience or simply the privilegie of having spent more time on earth, no matter if those years were lived completely differently to how people live now. I am no exception to that, but I would like to think that I have at least some distance to my own mind, and I therefore realise that this is not the ultimate truth. It is now 25 years that I've lived on this earth, and I have indeed formed some thoughts on life, the universe, and everything. I will try to write these up, as I can get them formulated in a way that don't seem like the work of a schizophrenic.

Abilities.

Humans and chimps share about 98% of their DNA. Isn't that interesting? Those remeining 2% of the DNA constitutes all of what is different between man and chimps. Now think about how little the difference must then be between humans. We all carry the same components in us, the same building-blocks. The same "hardware", so to speak. Counting out any severe developmental oddities, we are all born with the same prerequisites. What makes humans differ from each other is largely the upbringing, and how they use the "hardware" that they're given. So if we're all equipped with practically identical "hardware", we should all be able to load the same "software" (if we'll continue with the computer-metaphor). This is why I don't believe in that you need any inherent "gift" to do anything that some might think is out of the ordinary: like playing an instrument, composing a song, or learning a foreign language.

This means, of course, that every time I fail at something, it feels like I'm incredibly stupid; but on the flip-side, I have the power to change.

This is why I also don't believe in "racial superiority" and similar garbage.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Birthday

And so, soon, the earth will have revolved 25 times around the sun after I was born. As it happens, I was asked for a list of things I would enjoy recieving to mark the occasion.

Savage Garden - Superstars & Cannonballs live DVD
Serenity DVD
Firefly DVD-box
Can of Tommy spray
Late addition: a Guy Fawkes mask, as worn in V for Vendetta

Some more DVDs:
Sympathy for Mr Vengeance
Lady Vengeance
Kung Fu Hustle
Run Lola Run (released 8/8 according to CDON...)
Leon (The Professional)
Infernal Affairs

I will try to append it as I think of more.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

1 month of nothing

The last test of the season was last month, 18th. After that, I have done pretty much nothing, and it really feels like I should start doing something. Has a month of nothing been enough? I don't know, but I'm guessing it has been too much; whenever I get into a rut of inactivity, the days just flow together, making it difficult to even know what day it is.

I bought a new "game" today, if it can be called that, Electroplankton, that I found for 14.90€!I played around with it a bit, and quickly realised that calling it a game is slightly misleading. Yes, you can have a bit of fun with it, but it doesn't play like a game: there are no real levels, no score, and no ending. What there is, is "plankton". These plankton make sounds, notes, when put into action or employed in a certain fashion. It's strange, and it's not easy to get something particular out of it. Mostly it seems like the sounds are decided completely by random, but I do get the feeling that it can be controlled, perhaps utilized, somehow.

***
So it seems that albums aren't quite dead for me yet, even though random play is the most used setting in my iTunes. In my eagerness to have more music in my iTunes library, I dug out some old CDs the other day, among them the two albums that Savage Garden did, and Affirmation has quickly become well-played compared to some of the other tracks. Another album that I got added was the Russian edition of t.A.T.u.'s debut album, 200 По Встречной; I bought it largely on a whim after discovered it in a store one day long ago. (Really, judging by the release date, it's about half a decade.) The premise for a unit like t.A.T.u almost guarantees bad music is certainly a bit dodgy, as even their producer admits.
I saw that most people look up pornography on the Internet and of those, most are looking for underage sex. I saw their needs weren't fulfilled. Later, it turned out, I was right. This is the same as my own desires. I prefer underage girls.
–Ivan Shapovalov
But I still have to admit that it's one of my favourite albums. Perhaps I'm just a sucker for pop in foreign languages.

Speaking of Savage Garden, I'd really like to see their only live DVD, Superstars and Cannonballs... *wink & nudge*

Friday, July 06, 2007

It's summer

Summer has arrived in full, and I've gone into nearly full summer-slacking mode. I have managed to do some productive things, though. I've finished the first two chapters of the Japanese HP1, and I've been weeding a bit in the strawberry-field.

Reading Japanese is difficult, because I have some problems deciding what approach I should use: I can either read through and when I come across a new word look it up, or I can just plow through the text, ignoring the new words. Using the first approach makes the reading very fragmented, and I often forget what came even in the previous sentence. The second approach is a bit more natural, but I might learn less that way...

Anyway, with summer, a lot of blood-sucking creatures have also arrived. Especially the horseflies are a major pain in the behind when weeding...
That's in inches for those thinking I have a really tiny leg.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

iTunes

I finally took the step into the 21st century music-listening by moving my music collection, previously spread out over two harddrives, to an external drive and letting iTunes handle the library.

The biggest difference is that I listen to music a lot more often now. It's just easier to load up iTunes and having it on random play than thinking what I want to listen to, navigating to the correct folder and then dropping it on the playlist of the player app. (The one I used previously didn't have a library feature.) Having thousands of songs available a click away is somehow a really powerful feeling.

The second biggest difference in my listening is that I listen to fewer albums now. Previously I'd drop a whole album folder on the playlist, play that and repeat if I wanted to listen to something more. With the random play feature I listen to a lot fewer full albums.

Having delegated the position of music-player to iTunes, I also tried its encoder, which was quite a shock. Having done my encodings to MP3 using the LAME front-end LameBrain, it always took me quite a while to rip a CD. But the LameBrain was last updated, wait for it... 4 years ago, to the day, yesterday. So the tech in it might have been a bit old. Using iTunes was incredibly snappy in encoding in comparison. I'm really itching to rip some more just to have more accessible, I can really see now how people end up ripping all their CDs. Perhaps after the prices go a bit lower I'll buy a new HD and swap out the old 160GB in the LaCie Porsche FW (which might be interesting since they seem like a bit of a challenge to take apart).

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Summertime activities

Summer, a time of relaxation and freedom from worries. Or at least it used to be.

The recent exam went about as badly as the previous one, which means I'll probably fail it. I drenched my sorrows in cider and regained some of the sleep-debt from not being able to sleep at all the night before the exam. I had an appointment at the 'cutters in the morning, so I figured I'd go to sleep early, except that didn't work because my daily rhythm had already gotten into "vacation-mode". So, I'm guessing I got perhaps one or two hours of real sleep. Eventually I got fed up with it and got up at 6AM or so and watched the last episode of My Boss, My Hero, a great J-drama starring that guy from Tokio.

I might have been able to take it easy after that if it weren't for the fact that an essay I wrote came back as failed. So I have a couple of days to re-write that...

But after that I can hopefully relax with a couple of the dozen or so books I've gathered, first of all I was thinking I'd try to trod my way through the Japanese HP1 that I got the other day. I'm looking forward to it since I've read it in English already, and I think it could be educational to see English translated to Japanese (since that's the most difficult part for me). After that I'll try to get down to the books recommended by our teacher.Other than that, it's just vacationing. Besides the two history-essays I should write. But besides the literature-essay and the history-essays, I'm completely free. Well, if you count out making the plan for the bachelor's thesis we got as assignment to do. But other literature-essay, the history-essays and the plan for the bachelor's thesis, there's nothing. Apart from the extra assignments we got for summer. But if you count out all that, then I'm free to rehearse the kanji and maybe start studying the ~700 general-use kanji that we haven't had yet.

Ah, summer-time relaxation...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Slipping Away

I know I said I wouldn't link before I got some vocals recorded, but it turns out I have a crap voice and no other vocalist handy. So go to The Vankov Brothers' space and have a listen. The synthetic vox is the vocal line. If you think you've got the pipes for the job, send a squirt to thevankovbrothers(a)gmail.com.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Epilogue

I forgot to mention that a few days after I had come home from Stockholm, I noticed an extra withdrawal from my account, which now stood at minus ca. 10€. Which was a bit odd as I only have an Electron, which should block transactions if the account can't cover it...

So, off to the bank the following Monday to straighten it out. After a while of checking things up and making phone-calls, we were told to send a fax (to Visa, presumably) explaining the situation along with bank-statements. The fax was sent, and a couple of days later I found the account balance to be normal again.

***
Having come home and done the test, I decided to kick back for a couple of days before starting to study for the re-test (since I most likely failed it), so I went to the library and borrowed William Gibson's Bridge-trilogy, which I read under the course of three days.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Stockholm syndrome

So I was to Stockholm last week. Which was nice. It was a study-visit to the Institute for Oriental Languages at Stockholm University, just a quick couple-of-days drop-by.

We left Sunday the 20th, taking the ferry during the night. The beds were horrible and I got only a couple of hours sleep, but I survived. We arrived in Stockholm at some ungodly hour, and right as we stepped off the ship we had to hump all our luggage a couple of kilometers to and from subway stations, on our way to the hotel where we were to dump it.

Subway in the morning
Having disposed of our luggage, we headed back to the subway for more subterranean adventures. First we went to Stockholm University and checked out their stuff (campus, library, etc.) and tried some calligraphy.

Having done that we headed off to a street called Tegnér-gatan where there were a couple of Japan-related shops. I got some reading material (a book and a newspaper, not tentacle-porn), a writing pen (for practicing calligraphy... hopefully I'll use it someday, too) and some candy (Pocky). After that we went pretty much our separate ways, I tagged onto a group heading for some sci-fi bookshop, which turned out to be a wild-goose chase as we never got there. Hungry from all the walking we found a couple of others and went to this Korean place and got some eatin'. And that was pretty much day 1. Headed back to the hotel and the bed there.

Day 2 we went to visit a couple of museums, the Ethnological Museum and the East-Asian Museum. At the Ethnological Museum was a little tea-house that we got to see. Which was nice. In comparison, the East-Asian Museum was quite a let-down as they had a higher admission price and was crappier. They were doing some renovations and not all exhibitions were available. After that we were free to roam the town again. We wandered about a bit, eventually figuring food would be in order.

Sergel's Square. All the people there are drug-dealers
Having eaten at some mongolian thing, time was getting short and I finally figured I might be able to check out some synthesizers. So I headed for the nearest store, but it turned out that they didn't have any Juno-Ds or X50s. I got mad and punched the guy in the face. Ok, not really. Time was running out fast, and we had to get back and meet the rest of the people to get back to the ship, so I couldn't visit any other stores.

Finally, we had a little party on the ship, celebrating a pleasant journey. When I got home, I failed the test we had the following day.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Unusualities

Today I burned a pair of my brother's underwear. But that's getting ahead of the story a bit.

I'm leaving for Stockholm tomorrow, capital of Sweden, home of a lot more music shops than are in Vaasa. This means preparation, which brings with it searching for clothes to cover my otherwise naked body with, in order to spare others from the sight of my nakedness. During the process of searching, I came across an old pair of underwear belonging to my brother, discarded due to the being holy. You know, full of holes.

So they weren't being of any use, an idea was formed. Why not burn them? It's wet after the days rain and relatively risk-free... And so, after checking with all the authorities (that is, pa' and the bro'), it came to be that I stood in the yard burning my brother's underwear. That probably filled up the crazy quota for the month.

It's a bit exciting to be going; I am after all quite unused to travelling outside of the country... I think it's also a slight indicator of how I've grown: if this was five or so years ago I don't think I would've gone. I was way more timid then. Of course I'm still quite quiet and careful, but I've acquired a certain hang of just going with the flow and not worrying as much as I used to. Maybe that's what they call "growing up".

PS: I won't link to the Vankov Brothers space (in a post) until I've gotten the first vocal recorded and (sloppily) mixed. (Hopefully it won't sound too bad when run through a vocoder.)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Potter, etc.

I don't really know why I watch the Harry Potter films as I'm constantly thinking of how different from the book(s) they are. I found the fourth for 5€ the other day, which I bought on an impulse. (Of course, since I hadn't seen the third yet I felt compelled to download it... I guess it evens out in the end.)

***
I always start feeling a bit queazy after having spent the whole day studying kanji. Perhaps it's just lack of fresh air, but I feel really sickened by it when I'm nearing the end of a ~400 kanji-session.

***
I am officially fed up with one of the music stores in town. I've been in three times in the last couple of weeks to try out Roland's Juno-D. First time they said that they just sold off the last one, sorry, but they'll get a couple by the weekend that are going to a school, come in then. Second time, sorry, they came and picked them up already, come back next week. Third time, sorry, they're in Copenhagen.

Really...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The cram

Clocking in at roughly six hours of kanji today. I feel I've gotten a little bridge-head in the seemingly inpenetrable shore of kanji-land. The test is still a couple of weeks away, but I'm incredibly relieved that I had the will-power to start cramming so soon, because with all the other stuff that needs doing there might not be time later.

I've talked about JFC before, but thought I'd talk a bit more about it since that's what has saved my ass so many times. More specifically, my way of using it. I usually set it to show the English meaning, and then I rehearse readings and writing/stroke order, with focus on writing (meaning it's whether I remember how it's written that decides whether I mark it as right or wrong). When I begin a new batch, I set it to duplicate missed cards with the default frequency of 20. This means (if I've understood it correctly) that the missed card repeats every 20th card. I do this so I'll really get it burned into my head. I continue the session until the number of remaining cards (that is, including the repeating missed cards) reach 3-5000, then I quit it and start a new session (once you've gone for a bit almost every card is a repeat, which gets a bit tiresome). I continue like that until I it starts taking too long for new cards to appear, and then I switch off "duplicate missed cards" and run through the whole batch (usually in one sitting). The missed cards are now just moved to the end of the pack without repeating, so once I've cleared all the ones I know, I hunker down and start trudging through the bottom of the pack.

Once that's cleared I repeat a couple of times until I can get an accuracy rate of around 80%.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Shakespeare (and stuff)

I was surfing around a well-known torrenting site, for a reason forgotten, when I got the idea to do a search for one of my favourite shows, Slings and Arrows. And lo and behold, there I found all three seasons of it!

It's a really wonderful show, which you should check out if you have the possibility.

As I have mentioned before, one of the recurring events at the "local" library (it's like 20KM away...) is the sale of used books, dirt-cheap. This year I got a total of nine books; quite a few more than I had planned for since I was mainly looking at Iain Banks' The Bridge. But since it was three for one Euro, I also picked up Stanislaw Lem's Fiasco and Margaret Thatcher's book about her time as PM (yeah, I know).

Then I went to the library a while later, searching for books by a Japanese author, IIRC, and stumbled upon a table that I thought contained children's books, but in fact it contained fact-books and educational books: intriguing! So I had a good look and left with six books: Yrsa Stenius' Makten och Kvinnligheten ("The power and the femininity"), Swedish edition of Theodore Isaac Rubin's The Angry Book, Insight Guide: East Asia, Torsten Husén's Pedagogisk psykologi ("Pedagogical psychologi"), Swedish edition of Daniel Burstein's Yen! and finally a Swedish edition of Alexandre Dumas' Queen Margot.

Speaking of books, I recently relinquished a book from my own collection as a present for my cousin (since I hadn't bought anything and wouldn't know what he'd want were I to buy anything). The book in question was Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, which has gotten much praise even though I found it relatively unremarkable myself. It was his 18th birthday, which we all know is something quite special (except in Japan, since the legal drinking age there is 20). Having decided it was best to take it easy, I went the whole evening on water and Coke. (Besides not having that much money to blow on drinks at the moment, the recovery-time from a night's drinking always seem to occupy a whole weekend.) But that didn't stop me from having fun as there was lots of dancing to be done.

In time, some pictures the party might surface.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Saturday feeling

There's something about going out after having also had something else on the schedule for the day that makes it seem like two separate days. It's like I would count only one event per day.

This usually throws off my perception of which day it is, and it gets even more obvious when I go out in the middle of the week, as was the case yesterday as I was invited to a small gathering followed by a visit to the highest located bar in town. When I've gone out in the past, it has most often been on the weekends, so I've had the odd feeling that it's Saturday or Sunday the whole day. (I kept expecting my brother to come home and checked the TV-schedule for when the usual Sunday-programing was on.)

I also got an opportunity to practice my Japanese as there was a Japanese exchange student there. It actually went pretty well, which was good, because talking is the one thing I think I feel most nervous about. I still had to use quite a lot of English; I think the end result was something like 70% English, 30% Japanese.

Another good thing about yesterday was that the dance-floor was wonderfully unpopulated (even though it was small). I was driving, which meant it took a while for me to loosen up, but I did, and dancing felt just as good as ever.

In my past I've often had situations where I was under quite a lot of stress due to the supression of the "fight or flight"-instinct. When I started going out I discovered that dancing was a great release for the pent-up ; so much that I came to see standing at the bar or chatting to friends merely what you while taking a break from dancing. Since dancing is so closely related to running, the connection was obvious.

I guess that this, in turn, is also the reason why I like DDR (the dancing game, not the German Democratic Republic).

The only bad thing was that I had had so much Coke (the soft drink, not the drug) that I couldn't sleep properly 'til around 7 AM...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

New entertainments

I bought the best of Faithless album Forever the other day, almost purely on the basis of "Insomnia". Being a long-time listener to club/dance music, I'm a big fan of the song. Anyhow, listening to the CD, I got the feeling that I was just listening to a dozen variations of "Insomnia"... I think the main reason for that is that I started noticing how little change there was in the rapping from one song to the next by the vocalist. That combined with the repeating of certain rhymes and it just started to seem that way.

Something that I've enjoyed far more is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It was one in the line of games that were given high scores by Edge that I had set my eye on, and I picked it up from a net-auction quite long ago, but haven't started playing it until now. (As regular readers know, I've been picking up games for cheap like crazy the last couple of months. Between my brother and me, I think we've picked up around 10 games in less than half a year.) I'm always a bit ancious when starting to play a high-scoring game, because I'm worried that I won't like it and it'll just have been money in the lake; this happened most recently with Metal Gear Solid 2 for Xbox, I just couldn't get into it... But since I also bought that for cheap, it wasn't such a big loss.

Back to PoP. The controls didn't feel 100% (games that have that good controls are rarities, Super Mario 64 springs to mind), but with time I got used to them. The first couple of fights were a bit... wobbling. Unfamiliar controls meant I often ended up putting away my sword instead of attacking. I managed to hack, slash and limp my way through the first encounters, and reached the first real puzzles. And then I knew I was hooked. In front of me were huge, delapitated rooms that I had to find a way across, using all of the Prince's abilities: jumping across chasms, swinging between poles, running along walls. Let me say that again, running along walls. If I hadn't been won over by then, I sure was the moment I learned you could do that.

Another big part that drew me in was the story. Just like with Broken Sword, it seems like Prince of Persia has a pretty strong story behind it. Another similarity with Broken Sword is the use of voice-overs using the past form; in BS it often appeared in interaction with items (eg. "I used the metal rod to hit the old bird's nest, dropping it to the ground"), while in PoP the Prince himself is the one telling the story (and when you run out of health and die, saying "no, that's not how it happened", allowing you to retry). While this use of the past tense might only seem like a story-telling mechanism, it also serves to encourage the player: the impression that it has already happened stops you from thinking that that certain, tricky area is beyond your abilities.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Spot the faulty ingredient

First measure up 100 grams of margarine. (I chopped it up to prepare for the mixing; you can also heat it a bit in the microwave if you want.)Things you'll need next: sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla sugar.Put in 8 table-spoons of sugar, 4 table-spoons of cocoa, 2 tea-spoons of vanilla sugar, and one tangerine (for taste).Next, you'll need porridge oats (that's the word I got from the translator) and milk (not pictured), which you add as needed (really, that's how I do it too, I've never taken note of the exact amounts).Mix and stir into a dough. Be conservative with the milk, if you put too much it'll start looking more like porridge than chocolate balls. The dough needs to be sticky enough so you'll be able to roll it, but not stickier.Prepare two plates, one with shredded cocoanut meat.Next, start rolling.Roll the balls around in the shredded cocoanut meat. (Does anyone have a better word in English for this? It really bothers me to use long phrases like that for something that simple.)Keep going until all the dough is used, then put in the fridge and eat.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy Ending

I sat around plink-plonking the other day which resulted in this tune, which for some reason I chose to call Happy Ending. For those who want to save a click, here's a direct link to the MP3 (VBR).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I died when I was 22

Not literally, of course. But it does make for a good title.

When I was around 20, I went through a couple of rough years. Not rough in the sense that I had problems surviving or that I had to search for food in garbage cans, but mentally difficult years. It was a time of great uncertainty, full of doubt of myself and my place in life.

After having finished civil service in year 19, I didn't really know what to do. I was given the advice to apply to a polytechnical school in the area, studying Information Technology, which I did. I've always been an introvert person in life, but I thought I'd really try to be outgoing this time. For some time, it worked all right. Then, I started hitting bumps. The classes were not really that interesting, the literature likewise, and programming, while it appealed to a small part of me, just wasn't my thing. Add to that the incredibly brainless practical lessons I had to go to, since I didn't have any work experience to cover for it, and it was just a matter of time. 6 months.

After that, I entered the University, studying Swedish. This was a choice I had made myself, and in addition to that, it's something I'm pretty good at, and that I like! I like writing (though I'm not so fond of deadlines), so I thought it would be perfect for me! Alas, it wasn't long until an all too familiar pattern emerged. I started skipping classes, again feeling as if I just couldn't deal with it. I felt pretty hopeless. If I couldn't manage this, studying a language that I liked and was pretty good at from before, then what..? What was then left for me, where could I fit it? That was the second time in my life that I've considered suicide. (Now, there's no need to be alarmed, that's all behind me now. Let me get back to the story.)

So, as I was sitting on the couch, thinking how useless my life was, and if I was going to off myself or what, I made a list. You see, I figured it was no use in killing myself as long as there were things I felt I had undone, things I wanted to do before my life was over.

I don't remember the exact contents of the list, but a couple of the points were:
  • Learn Japanese
  • Go to Japan
  • Write a book
And after that, I set out to learn Japanese. I found a simple computer program to learn the hiragana and katakana. I went to the library and found a book, called something like "Japanese Grammar and Syntax". It was ridiculously complex for someone just starting out, but I read through it, trying to make notes as I went along. Instead of classes, I used to go to the University library, just sitting there with that book. Eventually, after many reminders from the library, I realised I had to return it. Luckily something else came along...

I think it was from my sister that I first learned that there was an education in Japanology, right here in town. I was hesitant. Two schools I had found myself uncomfortable in (though I was still registered at the University). What if this turned out the same? And the lectures were all in Finnish, too...

But, I applied. And I got in.

Images from the first day are now coming back to me. We're in a really small class-room (main building, #3). "Man it's hot. Some of these people sure are dressed pretty flamboyantly..." Our teacher-to-be talking about Japanology. Now out in front of the school, someone (was it the principal?) mentioning that there's a 50% drop-rate. "Woah, sounds like it's pretty difficult..."

Snap back to present day. I'm more than halfway into second year, we're talking about our master's thesis and all the work we'll need to do. We've got buttloads of kanji, more advanced grammar and literature assignments. But I'm loving it. I'll be getting back to studying Swedish sometime, next year perhaps? But right now, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else than here, at this school, studying Japanology with the group of people that are my classmates, under the linguistic genius that we have as our teacher.

Friday, March 09, 2007

I love Thursdays

In some odd, masochistic way, I really like Thursdays.

I feel some backstory is in order. When we started the second year of Japanology, our classes were now to be in the morning, rather than in the afternoon as it was in the first year. I've never been a morning-person, but I've managed pretty well thus far.

Of course, it was never going to be just morning lessons. On Thursday afternoons we now also have lessons on Japanese classical literature. And after that we might have some movie to watch (that ties in with the literature) or a course in Theory and Methodics to prepare us for our eventual Bachelor's thesis. Now, there are a couple of hours between lessons, but having half an hour by car to school means that it's pretty much useless to go home just for a short hour or two, and then drive right back; so instead I've been spending the time in school, reading, studying or doing the homework for the next day (in case it needs doing).

This means that in Thursdays I now spend around twelve hours away from home. In one way it's really hard, but there's just something cool about it: going away in the mornings, for lunch I just hop into a store and get something simple, then back to school to eat, and after a long day finally come home and drop dead in bead. Very student-like of me, no?

For lunch, I've found a convenient little chicken-sallad box that I've started buying. The only thing in it that I don't like is the tomatos, but it doesn't bother me that much. Coupled with a piece of rye from home I can manage for a while. I've also realised that it would probably be much easier to eat the sallad-box with sticks rather than the spoon I usually snag from the ice-cream dept., and I will see how that goes next week.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Matters of the heart

Sometimes I do wish that I, like Terry Lin or countless of other bloggers, could write freely without inhibitions about the details of the more sensitive parts of my life. It is, however, an extremely conscious choice not to do so; already from the start I chose to try not to bring up anything that can be "pinned" on me, so to speak.

I would speak a lie if I said that there are not human beings in existence that interest me. It is an undeniable fact as clear as the approaching spring. But that doesn't mean that there is a clear way forward.

Often there are obstacles, questions and doubts. Deep down there's a romantic part of me that wants to think that love can conquer all, but the practical side of me says otherwise. The attraction might be one-sided, there might be mutual attraction with neither of the parties taking the crucial first step, and two peple might be attracted to each other at completely different times; one person hot while the other is cold and vice versa.

Besides that, there might be other factors such as age-difference, other significant others or geographical inconveniences.

A tangent: I remember speaking to one of my friends long ago at an informal event (ie. alcohol was available), and he made the remark that it didn't specifically matter if the other person had a significant other if they didn't prove to be of geographical vicinity. But I disagree, I do believe it matters, in that there is a kind of social responsibility, and not just thinking of your own needs and wants. If the two have a good thing going, I think that you have a certain obligation to stay out of the way.

Matters of the heart are never easy.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

One sentence

The only thing more beautiful than creation, is creation and destruction in equilibrium.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Naming a harddrive

I've been running critically low on HD space lately, partly due to recently having discovered the network you're not supposed to talk about.

Which is actually a story that deserves its own paragraph (or three).

Through PM at a Jpop BT tracker I got word that an upload of great importance to me could be facilitated through the previously mentioned network. Having heard of it, but never used it before, I knew partly of its potential; however, having had no reason to use it before, it had slipped under my radar. But now that fruits oh so sweet to me dangled before my eyes, I felt compelled, urged, to seek out more information. Indeed, I was overjoyed when I discovered that through my ISP I had access!

Alas! My joy was shortened, as I discovered that due to the great amounts of data transferred across this previously mentioned network, not everything could be retained on the local server. But a glimpse of hope still existed. I knew of options. Commercial options.

Having long suffered the path of the credit-cardless, I knew that there still might some roads were open, even though most gate-keepers demanded the taste of plastic. I searched, and I found. And so it came to be that I purchased my first service over the intarwebs.

But! Back to the issue at hand. Having too much data, and too many files large enough to make splitting up for CD-Rs incredibly unwieldly, I decided the only way forward was to acquire another external drive. The options were many, and the price to size ratio had roughly doubled since I bought the previous external drive. I had long thought about buying a separate drive and enclosure, to ease transition to even bigger drives, or even backing up and buying new drives. Looking at the options, the allure of the all-in-one drive was strong... Both the Iomega MiniMax and the LaCie Porsche drives appealed strongly to me, with the Mac Mini-like appearance of the MiniMax, and the LaCie being stackable with the Porsche I already have. But I had already been burned (pun intended) by an Iomega CDRW-burner that gave up one day. And I'm of the conviction that a system where all parts function the same is a system with a fundamental flaw (points to those who can spot the movie quote), which worked against the LaCie.

In the end, I chose what I had been thinking about since the start: a separate drive and enclosure. For the drive, a Samsung Spinpoint 300GB (around 280 formatted, I guess), and for the enclosure, a Mapower KC31C1. Both relatively well-reviewed products.

I haven't recieved them yet, but when I do, I will be faced with one of those eternal problems: what to name it? I got my first external harddrive at a time when I was extremely into a Japanese band called Do As Infinity (now disbanded), so I named it Tomiko after the lead singer. But I'm not really that madly obsessed with any band at the moment, apart from TM Network, but none of their names really fit except for "Takashi", perhaps. Well, I still have some time to think about it before it gets here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Things

There's nothing like updating your blog when you're downloading something big and need to waste some time. Whenever I write, it seems like it always takes longer than I had expected. But I digress. (And I haven't even started yet!)

It ocurred to me that I haven't really talked about my Christmas loot yet! It's been a while, so there's a risk that something will forgotten.

Movies:
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and House of Flying Daggers.

The Hitchhiker's Guide I can only say was mostly disappointing. There's no point in me yabbering on about all the points I didn't like since they mostly mirror the popular opinions of the interwebs.

House of Flying Daggers, on the other hand, I really liked, as I guessed I would, having enjoyed both Hero and Crouching Tiger in the same genre. (I guess this completes the "trilogy" of movies with stylized martial arts starring Ziyi Zhang.)

A gift-card for books.
Might come in handy for the "Japanese literature" course.

A Slinky.
Probably the most popular present in the household this year. It seems like noone can resist the slinky.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. book.
With my like for old spy-shows fairly well documented, it was interesting to get a glimpse at the making of the show.

Money.
Money makes the world go round. I've managed to hang on to my allotment from the festivities, but it seems like some sort of decision would be solidifying. I still haven't set anything in stone, though.

Monday, January 22, 2007

〜ながら, and the English word-weight

In the text-book we use, in the 〜ながら-section, it was explained that the second action is the more important action, and it gave the examples:
コーヒーを飲みながら、手紙を書いた。
I wrote a letter while drinking coffee.

アルバイトをしながら、大学で勉強した。
I went to university while doing a part-time job.
Now, while I understand the Japanese sentences, the English sentences seem to me flipped around. I see the use of "while" to refer to the first action, with basically the first action happening only during the timeframe of the second action; just like in Japanese, I feel that in English (and Swedish) the focus in the sentence lies on the second action. So in the first example, if going by the English translation in the book, the character was sitting down to drink coffee, and just started to write a letter as a side-thing.

I did a search for the word "while" and came across this informative Wikipedia entry, which says the primary meaning is "during the time that". Now, with that in mind, let's see the example sentences from the book again, with "while" replaced with the whole phrase.
I wrote a letter [during the time that I was] drinking coffee.

I went to university [during the time that I was] doing a part-time job.
I think that it becomes clearer there how the 'weight' of the action lies on the second part.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Metal Gear Solid 2 & Half-Life 2

By most accounts, these should be two excellent games. At Gamerankings.com the Xbox versions are currently at 86.6% and 89.5% respectively. Edge magazine gave the PS2 version of MGS2 an 8 while HL2 for PC got a 10!

Yet I couldn't stand playing either for any longer time.

I got MGS2 on Thursday, thinking I'd start it up after I finished Broken Sword. Which I did. And I noticed quickly, besides the cheezy voice-over for Snake, that me and the MGS gameplay do not get along. I had wasted half a clip of tranquilizer ammo before I realized that there was no specific way to see where the fuck you were shooting. Except for entering the first-person mode, of course, which means you can't move and it seems the weapon is only raised when you press the button to shoot, and there's no cross-hair, which means you will basically always fire half a clip before you hit anything.

Of course, you could try to sneak up on the enemy, except that with the sneak-button you start crawling on the ground when you move.

Basically, the impression I got from MGS2 was that it was trying to be a sneak-and-shoot game where you couldn't sneak or shoot.

Half-Life 2, then. Selected as Game of the Year by everyone when it was released. It started out so-so; having gotten interested in first-person shooters from Goldeneye on the N64, I always preferred to have forward-backwards & turn movement on the left analogue stick and strafe & up-down look on the right. The first-person shooter I've played the most after Goldeneye is Halo, which also allowed you set the controls to mimic that of Goldeneye. Unfortunately, this is where it became clear that HL2 was a pure PC shooter, trying to emulate the mouse & keyboard combo by having movement on the left and look on the right. Fair enough, and after a while I almost got used to it, being able to walk around with only a moderate amount of bumping into things. And I thought, "hey, this is pretty cool." And then the shooting started. OK, so you're now equipped with a crow-bar and there are half a dozen guys shooting at you from elevated positions and the game plops you down in a railway-yard with blockades on either sides and you start running around looking where to go constantly being shot at by these guys. And the developers then think that you're going to be cool-headed enough to realize that of course the way forward is to go into that train and stack the boxes on top of each other to reach the hatch in the roof.

Anyway, I played until I got to a point where I found no obvious way forward, and by that point I was so stressed out from being chased around without knowing where to go that I just shut it off. It was at that time that I also became aware of a strange nausea. Motion sickness? Odd if it would be since I've played FPS games before without problems, but maybe it could be due to the unfamiliar control system? Maybe I'll give it another try later, because it seemed like a superb game except for high stress-level and the fucked up controls.

In any case, I'm glad I didn't pay full price for either of the games.

Luckily for me, I "found" the two first Broken Sword games, which I'm guessing I will enjoy a lot more than these.

Krazy Katakana vol.2

As a continuance of an earlier post, here are some more Japanese loanwords.

ムック: Combine a magazine with a book and you get a "muck".

オブジェ: An object.

スタバ: Another one of the abbreviations that the Japanese are fond of, Starbucks.

ナチスト: Nazi.

チューター: Tutor.

バン: This is one of the weirder ones, since removing the last "g" makes it so removed from the original word, "bang".

ギャラ: Guarantee/fee paid to performing artists; I had big problems with this word, because when I first came across it, it was used in a context where the English meaning of "guarantee" wasn't appropriate. Only after a bit of digging did I get the second meaning, which proved much more suitable.

イメージダウン: Ruining one's image.

タラップ: Ramp. I have no idea where that comes from...

リュック: Backpack. Equally stumped...

サンダー: Thunder. This I was incredibly perplexed by; "sander", perhaps..? But in retrospect, it's obvious that the English "th" would be substituted with a simple "s" sound.

スリーサイズ: Three sizes, refering to bust, hip and waist. Well, where in the world could I have come across this expression? *whistles innocently* Oh my, looks like rain, doesn't it?

サビ: Refrain, chorus. This was another really tricky one. I had come across it on multiple forums, most in musical context, so I had a hunch it could mean that. In the end I eventually fould confirmation on the Japanese Wikipedia, doing a search for the word.

ユーモア: Humour. Ha ha!

Bonus 1: Strange how movie titles can change across continents... Karate kid becomes ベスト・キッド, "Best Kid".

Bonus 2: Not strictly a katakana word, but something I came across, started wondering about and eventually found a meaning for: the phrase "kwsk". Seemingly random letters, no? Well, it's short for "KuWaShiKu", 詳しく.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Splinter Cell & Broken Sword

With these two games being the two latest I've finished, I started thinking about similarities and differences between them, and how they fit into the scores they were given by Edge (which is basically the single biggest factor in me deciding whether I should get a game or not), which were 8 for Splinter Cell and 9 for Broken Sword.

They are both third-person games that are clearly influenced by movies. In the case of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory it's anti-terrorism and action movies, while with Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon it's more easy-going adventure movies like Indiana Jones. But the approach of the two are entirely different; Splinter Cell goes for realism and action and guns, and it shows in the graphics. It's a finely polished game, and I would imagine that especially the Xbox version that I played has been tuned to perfection and the versions for other platforms have then been scaled back to suit the hardware.

Broken Sword, on the other hand, has more basic graphics, foregoing realism for a more stylised look (tying back to the look of the first two point-and-click adventure games, I've heard). It's interesting to compare the two graphically, because it brings forth an ever-true point about graphics in games: no matter how good (or bad) a game looks, you will eventually get used to it, and thereby it will seize to be a terribly important point.

This also leads to another thing that separates the two; a point where Splinter Cell falls flat while Broken Sword shines.

With the focus on realism in Splinter Cell, it falls victim to a long line of games that have tried the same that just ends up with characters that look like puppets. This is called the uncanny valley; we recognize the similarity to humans, but there is something there, or perhaps isn't there, that breaks the illusion and makes the characters look more like puppets. This is where Broken Sword excels. Using lip-syncing and facial animation, while keeping the characters derived from the hand-drawn original characters, keeps them on the same level as an old-style cartoon. It is this, in combination with the great script and voice-acting, that makes the characters in Broken Sword have more personality than the characters in Splinter Cell.

In the end, Broken Sword just made me smile and laugh a lot more than Splinter Cell. And that's what matters.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Clever title

24 hours back I was busy studying for a test I had today, cramming as many kanji-compounds as I could inside my little head. To clarify: the bigger of my small heads. But it turned out to be quite in vain since none of my favourites came up in the test; no "safety valve", no "stain", no "income tax" or "inheritance tax". But it went alright anyway, I guess. It could have gone a lot worse.

Though it wasn't a breeze-through by any means, I felt that it was a bit easier to get through than the last kanji-test where I basically stalled when it came to the compounds, so perhaps it did do some good to study them extra this time around.

***
And now that that's done I can do some serious relaxing! After I had come home and had some food I plopped down and played a big chunk of Broken Sword 3: The Sleeping Dragon, which is only one of the games I've gotten during the latest month. Though I didn't get any games for Christmas, I've been busy scouring local shops, webshops and online auction-sites for treasure; and I have indeed found some.

It all started after I saw Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory for around 10€ in a supermarket. I hadn't quite enough cash on me to get it that day, so I thought I'd pick it up the next day. But the next day it was gone! (As noted earlier.) Well, I was so set on getting it after having read up on it that I searched it out on an online auction and got it that way. And it continued from there...

First I searched out Broken Sword 3 from the same auction-site. After that I noticed Half-Life 2 for 17€ at an online shop. Then I stumbled upon Metal Gear Solid 2 in the same supermarket I'd seen SC: CT in, picked that up for around 10€. And now today after I came home from the test, I decided to bid on Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. That'll be five (5!) games in the timespan of one month! Crazy, but as the first Xbox is on its way out, many good games are going at great prices. For a bit over what a completely new game would cost, I've gotten my hands on some good pieces of gaming.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

An inquiry

I got a strange message on my phone today that it said couldn't be displayed. There was no number attached to it, only a name: "Kyo." (Or at least I think it's a name.) Which was strange, because I don't have any such person in my telephone-list.

The message was received at 17:39:43, so if anyone tried to send me a message, or anyone knows someone who tried to send me a message, or if you ever went to class with someone whose cousin's grandfather's brother-in-law's illegitimate bastard child might know about it, speak up.

Edit: After swapping cards with a newer phone, I got the phone number attached to the message. I sent it off to a service that tells you the name and adress of the sender, but since it was a foreign number there were no results. On a hunch I plopped it into Google and struck upon relevant results at once. It was a scam alright.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Don't Panic

Or on the other hand, why not? I've spent most of the Christmas holiday slacking off, and it's now just one week until the test. I have an eery feeling that I'm going to have problems passing this one.