Tuesday, 13 March 2018

When Duolingo takes over

I roiginally started playing around with Duolingo in 2015, but didn't get into it. Then this year I decided to pick it up again to improve my French and to check if they had Finnish because knowing even basic Finnish would be so useful at work. They didn't have Finnish but I got started on French, all the way from the beginning. Now I have completed the French skill tree, but I do the strengthen skill exercises almost every day, and it has actually helped. My pronunciation is still atrocious but I understand almost everything and I can actually construct sentences in conversation without stuttering or stumbling over the words. So gold star to Duolingo.

But then I thought that I know the basics of Spanish too so let's improve that too! And so I started on the Spanish skill tree. Spanish is also going well because I had all the most basic basics hidden away in my head from before. Haven't completed the skill tree yet, but there isn't much left.

Then I realised that with all the Italians we get at work in August and September that Italian would also be really useful at work. So I started at the Italian skill tree without any previous knowledge of Italian. But with the combined knowledge of French and Spanish grammar I soon figured out Italian too. Though I do mix up some Spanish and Italian words now and again. Not even close to finishing the Italian skill tree, but it's going better than I thought it would.

And after we went to Germany I decided to add German too. Because hey, there were so many things in German that I could understand or figure out what they meant so German should be easy, right? I was so wrong. German is by far the hardest language I'm practicing on Duolingo. And it shouldn't be, right? I mean Swedish and English and German are from the same linguistic tribe. German should be easier than all those Latin languages that aren't even from the same tribe. But no. German makes absolutely no sense to me, and yet I struggle on, because somewhere down the line the workings of the language should click into my mind. It always happens at one point or another.

Then I discovered that they had Japanese and so I decided that it would be useful to practice and improve on my Japanese too. Even if it's just an excuse to keep the language fresh in my mind (as it is with French). Curiously enough the Japanese skill tree isn't as long as the others. Might be because it's still in beta?

And then yesterday I discovered that they had Korean. When I was in Seoul in 2010 I decided to try learning Korean and I did get as far as learning their alphabet (hangeul) so I can read but I have no idea what I'm reading and I'm so slow. But that's when I decided to add Korean too.

I feel like I'm going to regret doing so many languages at once, and I'm considering removing German because I'm so spectacularly bad at it. But at the same time, these languages keep me busy during low season at work and it feels like a useful pastime rather than just standing around scrolling through Facebook or Tumblr or Steam.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Dealing with backlog: The Secret of Monkey Island

The 90s were strong with this one. I played the remastered edition but the 90s vibe was still incredibly strong. The humour was childish but still made me giggle every now and then. The point-and-click aspects were old-school but worked really well once you learned how to use them.

So you are Guybrush Threepwood and you want to be a pirate! You start at Melee Island where you go to the local bar and talk to the pirates there. They tell you what's required to become one of them (the Three Trials) and you're also told a story of why they are all sitting there rather than being out with their ships - it's due to the ghost ship of the ghostly pirate LeChuck. They tell you the story of how he became a ghost and why nobody dares to even go close to Monkey Island nowadays.

But off you go to become a pirate. First step is to get a sword. To get that you need money and so you become a temporary circus act. When that is over you take your money and go buy a sword, make sure to ask the shopkeeper about the Sword Master. Then you go to train with the trainer and when he deems you ready he sends you out to practice duelling with random pirates you meet on the streets. When they start getting impressed with you, you're off to find the Sword Master who lives in the forest. When you defeat her she gives you a T-shirt as proof, and now you're off to do the second trial - find the treasure of Melee Island. When you do it's a tourist attraction and you get another T-shirt as proof. Now it's time to break into the Governor's mansion and complete the Trial of Thievery and steal the Idol of Many Hands. It goes well, except that the new sheriff catches you and throws you into the ocean along with the Idol.

When you manage to get out of the water and bring your victories to the pirates at the bar to prove you're a pirate you discover that the Governor has been kidnapped by LeChuck. You decide to go and save her so you start chasing down a crew and a ship, after a lot of running around you're finally on your way to Monkey Island.
Or so you think. Your crew isn't happy and they decide to just work on their tans and let the ship drift. Guybrush follows the recipe to Monkey Island (yes the directions are a recipe) and the result completely knocks him out. When he comes to they have arrived at Monkey Island. After some running around dealing with the locals (cannibals), the castaway and the monkeys Guybrush is finally able to find LeChuck's hideout, but when he's ready to fight and defeat LeChuck the ghost ship is gone. A left-behind crew member of LeChuck's tells Guybrush that they left for a wedding to be held in the church at Melee Island. So off we go again.

Guybrush arrives back at Melee Island and while killing ghosts he makes his way to the church where it's revealed the the Governor had everything under control and actually didn't need to be saved. But in the end Guybrush defeats LeChuck with root beer and then the Governor and Guybrush watch the ensuing fireworks together.

The game had its annoying moments, but mostly it was a lot of pretty straightforward fun. I did use a guide for some of it though. I liked this game and I'm looking forward to play the sequel (at some point).

Saturday, 10 March 2018

My last 5 books: YA, horror and a Pulitzer

1. Eld, by Mats Strandberg & Sara Bergmark Elfgren. I loved the drama, the intrigue and the whole investigative element of finding out who's evil and what the ultimate goal is of the demons this time around. If the first book was disappointing in holding everything back, this is the book where the story truly kicks off and the story unfolds and nothing is held back by the authors anymore. I loved to read about Linnea and how Ida starts to grow. I loved how Anna-Karin starts to become a bit more comfortable in herself and how Minoo finally dares to start explore her powers. This book is all about growth and self-exploration, and while the characters explore themslves the reader finds out more about the magical aspects of the world.

2. Nyckeln, by Mats Strandberg & Sara Bergmark Elfgren. Yes! This is how you end a trilogy! With a bang! Quite literally as the school blows up... This whole book is the climax of the story and it never gets boring. Minoo's self-sacrifice is enormous and yet it leads to them all ultimately getting together. All seven of them. The whole Circle together at last. Finding out what the Protectors really were was something I didn't see coming. I loved how the girls decided to open up about what was going on and the ending was perfect.

3. Färjan, by Mats Strandberg. This book has been hailed as a Swedish Stephen King novel. Not sure I agree... First of all it was a long time since I read a book where I wanted all of the characters to die. I didn't root for a single one of them (only the children grew on me towards the end). Second of all the threat and horror-aspect was so incredibly obvious that when it was revealed that there were vampires on the ferry I just rolled my eyes - yes, I know, what else? Nothing about the story was unexpected, the author left so many obvious clues throughout the story that when the events that he had hinted to actually happened they were so obvious that nothing was shocking. And the ending felt completely unresolved. Ok, so the vampires can't get to you now, but you're aware that they don't need to breathe at the bottom of the ocean and they can still move about... So how long before they get to a shore and the whole business starts again?

4. Hemmet, by Mats Strandberg. The second horror book by the author hailed as a Swedish Stephen King... This time the nature of the threat was left ambiguous way longer, which was better in a way, but it was also left ambiguous and unknown to the characters for most of the book which made it seem like they either didn't care or were chasing question marks. While his other book was extremely obvious this one was just flat. I'm just happy it was short. The only thing I really enjoyed with this book was the subtle hint that this one and his other horror book (Färjan) take place in the same universe, which could possibly mean that the author is building up to some major supernatural horror event that could turn out great if done right. Once again nothing was resolved towards the end, and the characters just shrug and move on with their lives.

5. The Gold Finch, by Donna Tartt. A book blogger I follow set this book as her favourite book of 2015 (I think, could've been 2016) and she talked so much about it and praised it so highly that I decided I wanted to read it too. Now, lots of the reviews on Goodreads categorise this book as Dickensian, but I would rather go French and call it Balzacien. Why, you ask, since Dickens and Balzac were in the same genre? For me there's a huge difference, mainly that I liked reading Dickens but I definitely didn't enjoy Balzac. Dickens has a plot and there's always something going on, Balzac is mostly just a huge monologue of someone's messed up life. In simpler terms - Dickens shows, Balzac tells. And Tartt also tells. Until Theo becomes an adult (in the last third of the book) The Gold Finch is just a huge monologue of Theo's messed up life. The famous painting who gave the book its name is mostly just a figment among Theo's thoughts and while he thinks about it a lot it doesn't really have any bearing on the story until the last third of the book. I really enjoyed the language of the book, she has a beautiful way of writing, but for the most part it didn't really seem as if she had a story to tell and rather she just rambled (beautifully) about this not-so-lucky-in-life boy. Halfway she seemed to have lost the thread and didn't really find it again until Boris shows up when they are adults and something finally happens! The book ended on a high note for me and as I watched the pieces come together in the end and see everything played out and resolved I actually felt rather content and to my surprise I can actually see myself re-reading this in the future.

And here are my current TBR:

Friday, 9 March 2018

Videos we watched on the Internet before Youtube existed

Remember 2002? No? Let's go back in time! Here are a bunch of videos that 11/12 y/o me watched all the time (and not on Youtube because that site wasn't even created yet).

Loved that song. 

And then we have the baby videos. Remember these?

I leave you with this one. Enjoy :P

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Game completed: Distraint

This is a short indie horror game that I picked up only becauase it seemed cool. The ambience was really creepy at times, but mostly the whole game was "wtf is going oooooon?"

The story is about Price and young man who wants to prove himself at work to become a partner. His job is to evict people from their property for different reasons and he feels so bad about doing it that his mental state slowly deteriorates.

The first person he needs to evict is Mrs. Goodwin. An elderly widowed lady who hasn't been doing so great financially since her husband died and now she's being evicted for not paying her rent. Price is already losing control of his mind as blood starts to seap through the doors and gorey things start walking past outside windows. He convinces Mrs. Goodwin to leave her apartment and then leaves.

The next morning Price is woken up by a nightmare and as you get ready for work in Price's apartment he gets a surprise visit from his parents. Which seems normal, except these guys are dead. And Price is having a conversation with them in his kitchen while drinking coffee and they're trying to convince him to quit his job.

The next person he needs to evict is a hermit living alone in a cabin in the woods. But the city wants to build a new highway right across his land. So they're evicting him since he doesn't want to leave. Price gets there and the hermit has pretty much given up anyway. But he asks Price to help him find his dog before he leaves. Price looks around every inch of the house and the grounds and finally finds a starved dog eating a fox. Bring the dog to the hermit and they leave together.

Afterwards Price has another nightmare that Mrs. Goodwin has had a stroke and is in a home and she's asking him to come visit because she doesn't have anyone else. When he wakes up there's another visit from his parents before the phone rings and exactly the conversation that happened in his nightmare plays out. He decides to go visit her and the retirement home is probably the creepiest environment in the whole game.

When the visit is over and done with it's time for the third eviction; a junkie who can't afford his apartment anymore. This was by far the trippiest part of the game and I actually had to use a guide to get me through this part.

When the third eviction is done you're back in Price's apartment and you get a nighttime visit from his parents who are in the kitchen. They're busy killing the "elephant in the room". Literally. And then Price gets a phone call from the retirement home that Mrs. Goodwin has passed away. That makes up his mind that he shouldn't be doing this job anymore and he decides to go into the office and resign. But first a trip to the cemetary to visit Mrs. Goodwin.

After the visit to the cemetary there is some time spent at the creepy office annoying the poor reception lady. Price goes looking through his bosses's offices and find out some things about them which only reaffirms his decision to quit. When you're done going through the offices he heads through the main doors... and straight into a surprise party for him for his promotion to partner. Which makes him stay on the job.

Fast forward and an older and alcoholic Price is sitting at his kitchen table talking to a young man who's there to evict him for no longer being able to pay the rent. Price warns the young man about the dangers of his job, but the guy goes on to finalise the eviction and Price does the only thing he feels he can do at this point. He shoots himself in the head.

Funnily enough, there's a Distraint 2 in the works.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Dealing with backlog: Far Cry 2

The original Far Cry was a huge disappointing mess when coming directly from Far Cry Primal. Far Cry 2 on the other hand was lightyears better than the original. It's the only Far Cry that I know of that let's you choose a character at the beginning, but afaik it doesn't matter what character you choose. The story is straight-forward: you're a mercenary in Africa tasked with killing the warlord called The Jackal who's been arming both sides of the civil war.

Five minutes in you get malaria and the Jackal is the one who saves you. Your first priority becomes to find medicine for the malaria before even attempting to go after the Jackal. Throughout the game you continuously have to find more medicine for the malaria and the illness becomes quite the nuisance as you can get a malaria attack mid-fight or while driving (causing you to not being able to steer and quite possibly falling off the edge of a bridge or a cliff).

With the malaria (mostly) out of the way you start picking up quests from your buddies (people you save along the way), weapons merchants, assassination points, and both sides of the civil war (the UFLL and the APR). What originally annoyed me was that I couldn't have one quest of each type active at the same time i.e. one buddy quest, one weapons quest, one assassination quest and one civil war quest. That would've made my trying to drive away from enemies less of a hassle and I wouldn't have had to go back and forth between quest pick-ups and the airfield like four times in a row.

Something else that annoyed me was that the weapons always started jamming after having used the same one for 20 minutes (even with freshly bought ones) and that caused me dying more often than not. Also the ridiculously slow healing process that's always interrupted if a single enemy shot hits you when trying to heal also caused me to die several times. Or the times I was in my car trying to outrun enemies but they followed me with another car and shot at me (because they're always at least two so they can drive and shoot at the same time and I cannot) and so many times I got run over as soon as I got out of the car. Or even better. I jump out of the car start shooting towards the other car who's shooting at me and behind me comes a second car who runs me over. Greeeeeeeeaaaaaaat -.-'

Anyway the first act ends with me being screwed over doing the last APR civil war quest. I rush to save my buddies (you get a choice: your buddies or the Underground) and I watch my friends die around me. Then my character blacks out. He wakes up on the back of a truck with a bunch of dead bodies, falls off the truck and proceeds to wander the desert in a sandstorm. Once again the Jackal saves you, and you're then picked up by familiar faces from the UFLL. And after getting back on your feet your next mission becomes the assassinate the APR person who screwed you over.

The game then continues in the same way as before, but on a new map. You gain a bunch of new friends and get a bunch of new quests to do. Unfortunately all the meddling with both sides of the war and assassinating their leaders on the request of each side, they end up joining forces to drive all foreigners out of the country and start murdering civilians. You're thrown into prison with your new best buddy Hakim. You escape the prison with your buddy and then start making murderous business. The Jackal wants you to help him kill the civil war and tells you to go back to the prison and follow the route behind it. This is it. No turning back now.

The Jackal has requested you to kill both leaders of the new joined UFLL/APR, and also to pick up the diamons needed to get the civilians out of the country. You first go to pick up the diamonds (the path leads you there first), and your best buddy Hakim meets you there. He greets you and then a familiar face shows up - Warren, your original best buddy who was killed in act 1. All your friends come out and start shooting at you. Warren said something about "We made our deal. He's on his own." And that's all the explanation you ever get for how your friends are suddenly alive and shooting at you. So there I am killing Hakim and Warren and Josip and Michelle and several others, for what seems like no reason at all other than the developers wanting to create some sort of omg moment that fell completely flat.

When you get the diamonds you move on to kill the leaders. Easy enough since they both trust you and they let you walk right up to them and shoot them in the face. And afterwards you move on to the Jackal's cabin. He tells you that to kill this cancer that is the civil war it needs to be contained and destroyed. One of you has to blow up the pass to the border so ensure the civilians can escape, and the other needs to get the diamonds there to pay off the transport and then shoot himself in the head. No active part of the civil war gets to escape. I chose to blow up the pass (and myself).

And that's the whole game. It felt very repetitive and every mission (except for the very last part after returning to the prison) works exactly the same every time. There was almost no variety to anything and towards the end I just continued to play it because I wanted to complete it and get it off my list so I could move on. It's a lot more open world than the original, and as much as I complain Far Cry 2 is actually less repetitive than the original. But the game left me with a pretty meh feeling when it was done. I was happy it was over, but the story didn't have enough momentum or interesting characters to actually make me interested in anything that happened. For me it was simply a case of getting through the next thing and then the next thing and the next to complete this extremely repetitive thing and move on to the next game.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Dealing with backlog: Bioshock 2 Remastered

Just as with the remastered original I played the original Bioshock 2 years ago. I remember I liked it back then, but this time it felt completely flat. The story wasn't engaging and it seemed more like an excuse to get back to Rapture than anything else. The whole city was falling apart and being flooded (doesn't help that they keep flooding areas and breaking protective glasses on purpose) and it's completely insane that any sane people at all remained or even came back to Rapture. (Maybe the sanity of even the sane people there can be discussed).

In any case the game worked fine for me until I arrived at the lab where Gil Alexander is stuck in a tank. That session had lasted for 1½-2 hours and then the game crashed for the first time for me. When I restarted it I was back to the point where I had started my session and after that I just didn't feel like playing. I just lost up to 2 hours worth of playing! Really didn't feel like going through all of that again. I hadn't thought of manually saving or quicksaving while I played because it's a new game and new games generally autosave all the time. Pausing at the menu, bringing up the map, changing locations... New games usually autosave.

So after two weeks of just not feeling like playing this game anymore, due to having to do so many things all over again, I've now decided to just drop it. I know the story anyway. I know how it ends, and there's no incentive for me to continue playing it.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Dealing with backlog: Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles

The next game on my backlog list was this Sherlock Holmes point-and-click game. After only playing Nightmares from the Deep for 1½ days, this slightly more serious and less cartoony point-and-click felt slightly odd. And after being used to BBC Sherlock's Watson and Sherlock this old style classic Sherlock and Watson seemed even more odd. However any sense of oddity passed within the first 30 minutes when I got to completely bury myself in investigative puzzles and hidden object scenes.

I knew the story of the Hound of the Baskervilles before. Who doesn't? But it was still pretty fun to play. The one thing that was jarring to me though were the trips into the past, I'm pretty sure they made it like that for the game because otherwise it's just Sherlock mentally reconstructing the image of what it might've looked like. This actual trip into time and the odd amulet thing that gave them superpowers just felt jarring in the logical-explanation world of Sherlock Holmes.

But the atmosphere took me in anyway and even though I knew it was a point-and-click and I 100% wouldn't need to fight anything in the end I still had to remind myself of the fact when the time came to summon the dog.

When the game finished I got the same feeling as when I have just finished reading a really good book; sad that it's over but really happy how it turned out.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Dealing with backlog: Pirate-y point-and-click trilogy

Next up on my backlog list was Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart. It's a point-and-click hidden objects game from Artifex Mundi so I knew it would be decent. But I ended up enjoying the story far too much. The voice-acting could've been better but the story was good and the puzzles were nice and I loved the hidden objects scenes.

The story is about a female curator at a naval museum. She's putting together an exhibition on the infamous pirate captain Remington and has actually managed to get his corpse fished out of the ocean. A corpse that's remarkably well-preserved. All his depictions show him with three very specific accessories and as you put them on him he's awoken. He calls his ship which crashes into the museum and kidnaps the curator's daughter. The curator sneaks on board. The ship is full of undead pirates and as she tries to find her daughter and rescue her she slowly uncovers the story that leads up to captain Remington's untimely death and also discovers his motives for kidnapping her daughter. Now she has to stop Remington and save all the pirates from one of Davy Jones' curses!

Because I liked the first game so much I decided to buy the other two in the bundle on Steam. The second game is calle Nightmares from the Deep: The Siren's Call. In this the voice-acting has improved slightly, but the story has degenerated somewhat and some of the puzzles were more annoying than fun. I still loved the hidden objects scenes though!

The story this time starts when a man knocks on the door to the museum saying that it's vitally important that the curator gets his delivery tonight. The package is discovered to include a statuette. But when the package is opened a ship crashes into the museum again and the statuette is stolen. The curator and the man chase after the ship in a row boat, and the man reveals his identity. He's part man, part fish! They arrive in Kingsmouth where the curator just has time to meet Calliope the Siren before she's taken prisoner by the mayor. What follows is a quest to save the mermaid from the mayor and return her power to her by breaking another of Davy Jones' curses. The curse envelopes the entire island of Kingsmouth and is the reason why the population have started to look fishy (literally). During this quest she discovers the story of Kingsmouth and how it came to be the way it is.

The third game was probably the best one in many ways. The voice-acting had definitely improved. The story was also great and this time didn't include a sappy romantic love-story, and it seemed to me as the whole game was more detailed than the previous two.

This story starts at the museum. The curator and her daughter is giving a presentation on Davy Jones. The curator found a book about him in her previous adventure and now suspects he's more than a mere legend and actually a historical figure. When the presentation has only just begun the power goes out and then a great big tidal wave crashes down on the museum (you really ought to build this museum somewhere else) and Davy Jones himself appears and kidnaps both the curator and her daughter. They escape from the cell and try to flee from Jones' ship, but are caught. To save her mother's life the daughter agrees to sign pact with Jones, but Jones tries to kill the curator anyway claiming that it was the ocean that would kill her, not him. The curator survives and follows the ship to a mysterious island. There she has to save her daughter from Davy Jones' pact, but in order to break a pact she must figure out Jones' own story and free him from himself.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Dealing with backlog: Two old shooters

Last month I decided to slowly start working on my backlog again. First up was the original Far Cry. I really liked Far Cry 3 and I loved Far Cry Primal, so I was hoping I would like the original too. The reviews on Steam were pretty divided between "This game has aged so badly omg don't buy it" and "I love this game! I played it when it was new and omg the memories ♥♥♥" and I wasn't sure which "faction" I'd end up in. Would I hate it or love it?

I played the game for a little over one hour before I gave up and placed myself in "This game has aged so badly omg don't buy it". I appreciate that the new Far Cry titles respect their heritage and I can see a lot of similarities between the new games and the original, however it really has aged badly. The first thing I noticed was the voice-acting. Every line was delivered completely flat and whoever voiced Jack Carver tried to make him sound like a very macho man. Think G.I Joe meets the Terminator. The second thing I noticed was that the "armour" I get is just a vest that can take about two hits and then it's gone. Character health is about 5 hits until dead. The third thing I noticed was that the sneak mechanics are so broken that I wonder why they even implemented them into the game. You know in the newer Far Cry if the crosshair tells you that the enemies are starting to notice you - you hide in the bushes or behind a large rock until the crosshair goes down? Doesn't work in the original. If the enemies spot you, you're spotted - no use hiding. You can't sneak up to enemies and silently take them out by choking them because Jack Carver seems about as skilled at sneaking as a great big bear, so the enemies will see you before you even get close enough to poke them. All the enemies carry AKs so your petty armour means absolutely nothing - I might as well not have had it. Also the enemies can shoot through trees (without harming the tree) while I cannot.

I got as far as the stranded navy ship base. Which isn't very far at all. There I tried to pick off the enemies from the distance (with an AK because sniper rifles either hadn't shown up yet or they weren't in this game), but the game is so old that you can't see very far into the distance. Mostly I was aiming at whatever black dots I could see against the sky. I got through the first part on the inside of the ship pretty well, but then whenever I got to the outside I got swamped no matter what tactic I tried. First I tried sneaking around but the weapons don't have silencers so sneaking isn't very good - also the enemies are hawk-eyed. Then I tried "fuck it guns blazing" and ofc that didn't work out. Then I tried to lure them into a tight passageway so they'd have to go at me one at a time, but every time I had to reload my weapon they gunned me down (I assume Carver's head is visible above any and all cover so that the enemies can shoot him either way). I tried learning from my deaths where the shots had come from and take out the enemies one by one that way, but there was always one more somewhere who hadn't shot at me last time who took me out this time as if they were neverending or just immortal and kept getting up again after I gunned them down.

Also there was no map whatsoever so I had to guess where I was going. There also didn't seem to be any levelling or experience gained so no way to improve upon the player character.

So I gave up.

The next old shooter was Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi from 2003. I bought it because vampires. However I couldn't complete it, mainly I think because it was too roguelike for me (without actually being a roguelike). The castle you play in is randomised every time you start a new game. That's fine. But the game drops you in there without any hint on what to do and how to do things. It's like here's a game go play it. So I did what I usually do. Explored the area. I got a nice sword and then I started picking up all the health packs in the courtyard thinking they were saved in my inventory because the game didn't say otherwise. Then discovered that they weren't a realised I had probably messed up already less than 15 minutes in. Got a quest from a half-dead priest. But there's no questlog and after running around the castle in as many directions as I could I had soon forgotten who I was supposed to bring to this half-dead guy so I could save him. Because the game throws like ten names at you in a moment without anything to really remember them by.

Then I realise that the sword only works on ghouls, not on vampires. I found a text about shadow vampires which said that only the crucifix could banish them so when I found a shadow vampire I held the cross up against it using it as I would a weapon. The shadow vampire recoiled from it but it still kept attacking and took half my health before it died from the cross. I came across a portal spewing ghouls but I couldn't figure out how to close it so I just ran past it. Then I found this old lady in a room with a coffin. I talk to her (though first I considered shooting her because she looked like a vampire and the game made no indication that she wasn't) and she asks me to bring her back to the courtyard where she will give me a revolver. Shiny! I need a better gun that this centuries old one-bullet-at-a-time thing. When I agree to help her the coffin lid flies open and I see a vampire lying in it staring at me. I equip a stake and try to stake him, but no matter how I do it it doesn't work. Vampire gets up and starts attacking me and I try to stab him with the stake. Doesn't work. I hit him with my sword until he stops moving and then try to stake him again. Doesn't work. What am I doing wrong?!??! Then the vampire glitches through a wall and disappears. I bring the old lady with me to the courtyard (so very happy that enemies don't respawn) and she gives me a revolver. But the only way still open to me is the wing I just came from. So I had to go back in there. I knew where there were enemies but at this point I had like 25/100 health and I knew I had used up all the health packs in that wing leading to the enemies. I virtually had no chance to survive any longer. I didn't want to start over. So I quit the game and gave up. One thing I specifically didn't like was the weapons wheel which was very clunky and not at all a practical way to change weapons mid-fight

The main thing that got me and made me make mistakes over and over was the game's complete lack of information. Which is what makes it sort of kind of roguelike in my book, but maybe it really just makes it old.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

My last 5 books: Fantasy and sci-fi

1. Stockholms Undergång, by Boel Bermann. This is a short story collection all about the apocalypse and Stockholm. I got pretty odd looks on the train for reading this :P But it was a fun read. There was everything from vampires and zombies to a rainbow which sucked the colour out of the world and turned emotional people to ash. There's one where rats take over the world and another where people fall asleep without warning. Another one how people lose all inhibitions due to a brain virus and turn into cannibalistic maniacs. There's something for everybody. I'm used the apocalypse scenarios only being in America or possibly the UK so to read about it in Stockholm feels almost too personal, too close, too realistic... And I love it. I love how I know exactly where all the characters are and I can see their surroundinds exactly how they look inside my head. It gives the story a bit of realism that makes it so much scarier.

2. Dracula, by Bram Stoker. I tried to read this once when I was fourteen or so and I just thought it was so extremely boring. Now it went a lot better and I really liked it. The only complaint I really have is how Jonathan treats Mina, but that probably just reflect the time period when it was written. What struck me the most was how different Dracula looks in the book compared to the Hollywood version. Nosferatu's Count Orlok is actually more similar to the books' description than Bela Lugosi's Dracula. There's really no need to get into the story as everyone knows it, but it's worth mentioning that it's a story told in letters, diary snippets and newspaper articles. I found it really difficult to follow the story due to this when I was fourteen, but now that was no problem. And one more thing. Miss Lucy's blood transfusions made me facepalm so hard. How great are the odds that miss Lucy and five men all have the same blood type? Your frickin transfusions could very well be what's killing her, Van Helsing!!! 19th century science *rolling eyes*

3. The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson. I'm going to a wedding this autumn and the theme was set to Mistborn. Which meant I had to read the book. I had avoided Sanderson for such a long time because an ex of mine really liked his books and it felt a little too close. But I had surprisingly no issue with it. I absolutely fell in love with Kelsier's persona and throughout my reading this I kept thinking "Why isn't this a game?!" In my mind Kelsier looked exactly like Garrett in Thief and whenever the book described him using his Allomancy I got images from Thief and Dishonored in my head. This book would make an amazing game. I have a few issues with it though. This book was too vague about the fact that metal piercing the body or inside the body couldn't be used by Allomancers. I actually didn't realise this until the final battle and throughout the whole book I thought the Steel Inquisitors must really be at a disadvantage. Also the introduction of Allomancy was a mess. The first mention of it was: "Kelsier burned tin." I read that sentence several times trying to understand what it meant. But it wasn't actually explained until Vin showed up. All in all I really enjoyed this book, the issues aren't big enough to make me think any less of the story.

4. The Well of Ascension, by Brandon Sanderson. Since I liked the first book so much I decided to have a go at the second. But the driving force (Kelsier) of the first book was gone and the whole thing felt flat. The Well was barely even mentioned in the first half of the book and most of that was Elend whining and Vin whining and Sazed being confused and Tindwyl being exasperated. It was too much of the teenage romance bs that I hate "Oh I like him but I'm not sure he really likes me and how do I know I'm in love and should I stay or should I go he really deserves someone better but I like him so much" *siiiiiiiiiiigh* My favourite part of the book was when the battle actually started and the whole action of that because something was finally happening. And the ending was so extremely obvious. Sanderson has spent two book grooming this character and showing his readers how this character grows. No way is he going to die he's going to miraculously survive to grow a little bit more in the third book. This book was a disappointment after all the expectations the first book gave me, still the action in the end and also the sheer existance of Zane made me still somewhat enjoy it.

5. Cirkeln, by Mats Strandberg & Sara Bergmark Elfgren. This book was so hyped up a few years ago and I've been planning on reading it for ages but never got around to it. Until now. The hype was just that imo. This book was boring and it felt flat, as if they were keeping the story to a minimum so as to not be confusing, as if they had been forcing themselves to not divulge too much of the coming story and instead ended up with something that felt flat and stilted. To the point where none of the deaths even felt shocking. As for the characters I absolutely love Linnea (no surprise there) and Minoo. Vanessa I was just indifferent towards for the most part of the book but I 100% ship her with Linnea. Anna-Karin on the other hand is exactly the way I was back in high school (minus the dysfunctional family) and my heart breaks for her, because I know what it's like to want to be able to turn invisible. I know what it's like to get so good at being quiet and unnoticed that you actually get surprised when someone talks to you. My feelings to Anna-Karin may have contributed to my feelings for the book, because every time I read about her I got so sad.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Germany 2018 - day four

Last day in Germany! I got up early and packed my bags and then went down to have breakfast. The past two days we've had a British pair sitting next to us, and today they were talking business during their breakfast. Serious business; delivery, numbers, costs etc. Both my dad and I were like: guys, you have the least anonymous language in the whole world, maybe you shouldn't talk about these things where anyone can hear you?

After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and went to the fair. We did mostly the same things again, but also checked out a few areas we hadn't previously been to (yes, ISM is big enough that you can miss entire sections of it). One of the Spanish companies my dad buys from had been slowly diminishing over the days. According to his contact there was a flu epidemic going around in the city they're from and apparently they had brought the flu with them. So slowly over the days more and more people had to stay home sick, and by this day their area was pretty empty compared to the first day :P Even our contact hadn't come to the last day. Talked a bunch with some other Spanish companies and when it was time we picked up our bags and went to the train.

That's when we proved that German efficiency is a myth. There were only two ticket machines at the station. I got the tickets easily enough like last time. Then we went to check the tracks. Found our train, went to the right track. Why were tracks 1-2 and 11-12 pointing to the same place? We deduce that our train is late after a combined "I heard that part what did you hear?" conversation concerning the German announcement, because ofc "the whole world speaks German and so we only do all announcements and information in German" is the standard attitude in Germany (not even the information desk at the main train station in Cologne spoke any English). The train finally arrived and we got on. After just a little while there's another announcement over the speakers in very fast and very slurred German. We kind of understood that the train wouldn't be stopping at two stations. We arrived at Düsseldorf Hbf 20 minutes late and there was another announcement in very fast and slurred German that mentioned flughafen and for a second we were all very concerned that we had to change trains because we only heard flughafen and didn't understand the rest (English pretty please?). But we noticed that nobody else travelling with suitcases was getting off the train so we also stayed put. We arrived at Düsseldorf airport 20-ish minutes late. And got on the sky train for the terminals. We got there and were transported 10 years back in time. Because self check-in apparently isn't all that common in Germany and so we had to do it the old-fashioned way and queue up by the bag drop. We go through the security check and then go have dinner.

After dinner we have a look at the board and it says gate 49. We go to the gate and wait around. When the boarding pass says that boarding should have started, but there's no sign of any staff we have another look at the board. Gate switched to 48. No announcement about the gate switch whatsoever. Go to the new gate and everyone is lined up to board although the screen says only priority boarding. Turns out everyone is boarding they just haven't put it on the screen. We get on the plane and then ofc there's a queue to the start off strip. Four planes before us. So we just sit around. The plane is late when we finally get up into the air, but the view sort of made up for it. Clear skies all the way to Copenhagen, it was brilliant.

We arrived back at my parents' place around 9pm. Tomorrow I'm getting up early to catch the train home to Södertälje.

Good night :)

Monday, 29 January 2018

Germany 2018 - day three

Earlier start than yesterday because dad had an early meeting. I spent most of the day doing the same things as yesterday - following my dad around and not talking much. The most wtf moment was when we went to the display for brand new items and I found lollipops in the shape of fidget spinners! That's when you know a trend has gone too far...

In the evening we met up with friends again at Dominkaner and had another laugh at the bartender there. His mannerisms made him ressemble Mr. Bean and we had an ongoing discussion whether he was drunk or just really hated his job.

After several beers at Dominkaner we finally went to Haxenhaus and ordered up one metre of beer (three times during the course of the evening) and then I got my first introduction to Haxe. It was so delicious. Perfectly cooked pork that just fell off the bone. Nom!

After dinner we continued on to Papa Joe's, but that place was very different from last time. The bartenders were rude and the Germans were inconsiderate and kept trying to squeeze in between me and my group. So we decided to leave after only one beer - but we did get to hear the live band play Always Look on the Bright Side of life, which actually got some sing-along going among all of us.

We went past the cathedral on our way back and there was this stunning moment with the full moon shining between two towers. My picture doesn't do it justice.

We went by the train station to figure out which train we'd have to take to Düsseldorf tomorrow so we'd know when we'd have to leave the fair. Took a picture of that too just in case we'd forget.

And then we went back to the hotel. I thought about whether to pack now or do it tomorrow morning. But I'm so tired that I'll just do it tomorrow. Nighty!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Germany 2018 - day two

Woke up at 8am to go have hotel breakfast by 8.30. One of the things we noticed was that while they served scrambled eggs they didn't serve bacon with it. Instead they had meatballs. My dad went for the scrambled eggs with meatballs before I did and he discovered that the meatballs were extremely spicy. As if they had dropped the entire pepper container into the mix. I decided to not have meatballs.

Afterwards we went back upstairs for a short while and I tried to make myself look more adultlike. Not sure if I succeeded or if my face still says that I'm 16...

Then we went to the fair. We're in Germany specifically for ISM, which is the biggest fair for sweets and confectionary in the world, and my dad is one of the biggest sweets dealers in Sweden. We weren't exhibiting this year and instead mostly just walked around looking at other people's exhibits, collecting hand-outs and free samples, tying new contacts with people who looked like they might be manufacturing things my dad could sell, and talking to already established contacts getting to taste new flavours and comment on consistency of the sweets and the packaging and labelling. I didn't really do much else but listening, but I did offer up comments here and there and my dad always let me have an input if the contact person asked him a question. Last time I was here it was mostly as an interpreter for my dad's friend who isn't very good at English, but my dad knows English pretty well and I very very rarely have to help him on that front.

We also went to visit the Swedish pavillion. I was surprised at how many people there recognised me. It's been two years since I last saw most of them. It was kind of funny to be there though. It's very common in Sweden to sell sweets in bulk, even in the supermarkets. There's always a wall of containers with bulk candy and you grab a bag and a spade and scoop up whatever you like into the bag and then the price depends on how much the bag weighs at the end. But I've come to realise that that's something very very Swedish. It was packed with people checking it out. Welcome to ISM - where bulk candy for private citizens is exotic!

We had buckwurst for lunch, which is basically a boiled sausage in a bread bun. An actual bread bun, the kind you usually have for breakfast.

The fair closed at 6pm and we went back to the hotel for a quick freshen up and then met back downstairs in the lobby. A couple of minutes walking from the hotel is the pub Dominikaner where we met up with friends from Stockholm and had several beers. We had planned to go to Haxenhaus this night, but one of our Stockholm friends wanted to see the handball game. Sweden was playing against Spain and apparently it was pretty important game in a Cup (don't remember if it was European or World). They had TV screens and a pretty decent menu at the hostel where they were staying so we decided to skip Haxenhaus tonight and instead have dinner at their hostel while watching the handball game. The hostel staff was amazing. They quickly found out that their TV package didn't include the channel which aired the game, but instead they found a stream online and connected a laptop to a TV screen so that we could watch the game. Their menu was also really impressive. My dad and I decided to share a Colognian style tapas plate as a starter and then almost all of us had steak for main course. I was pleasantly surprised and actually impressed that the rare steak I ordered actually came our rare. For some reason it's not uncommon to get medium when I order rare :/
Colognian tapas plate. What looks like spring rolls actually had black pudding in them. What looks like fried sausage slices are actually liver. I liked everything but the liver.

Sweden lost the game (although we were in the lead in the first half) and after dinner and some wine three of us ordered Irish Coffee (except it came back as black coffee with whisky in it and then they had to mix flat cream into it themselves).

With a pleasant buzz we went back to our hotel and now it's really time to sleep.