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.