Thursday, 19 May 2016

Royal Stables and Jamie's Italian with work :D

Two days ago I was invited with work to do some things in Stockholm. First off was a private guided tour of the Royal Stables, which proved very interesting (and the information is potentially something I could use in my writing later). Secondly we went to Jamie Oliver's restaurant in the fancy part of Stockholm, where the food was so delicious I was so full I felt like dying when we left. 

At the Royal Stables we started off in the - you guessed it - the stables. The stables have been around since the 16th century apparantly, but the buildings we have today were built in the 19th century. Before the introduction of cars the stables used to have over 200 horses, today there are 16. We were also told that Sweden is one of four states in Europe who still have their Royal Stables, the others have been disbanded in favour of cars. Kind of sad imo. The horses are only used during ceremonies. For everyday transport they have cars like everyone else. One of the horses liked to nibble at people, which he showed immediately by nibbling at the coat of a colleague and when she moved away tried to reach far enough to nibble at the guide. 
 Mr. Nibbles in the left picture.

One portion of the Stables is a garage today, and while we're not showed the modern cars (because they look like any car you see on the street), we were shown the only two old cars left. One from the 50s and one from the 60s. 

Then we moved on to the horse carriages. I immediately recognised the centrepiece of the room :P And we were told stories of all of them. We were also shown an old carriage that are not used today because it has never had any brakes installed. The only brakes for that carriage were the poor horses. It was fairly obvious that it wasn't being used even before we knew the reason - the carriages used today had rubber on their wheels, while the ones who aren't still had the original iron. 

After an amazing fika with delicious muffins we started moving towards the restaurant. But not before we realised that princess Estelle and crown princess Victoria were at the Stables riding. I felt really cool to see them IRL tbh. Since we were 50 minutes early to the restaurant we decided to go to a bar nearby and have a beer before going to the restaurant. When dinner started at 6pm we had no idea what to expect. It started off with a selection of antipasti, which really felt like tapas Italian style. Proscuitto, mortadella, salami, roasted vegetables, buffalo mozzarella, root vegetable salad with yoghurt and mint, and little crackers with cheese and chili marmalade. All of it absolutely amazing. We were then presented with three main courses: carbonara, a vegan pasta dish with tomato sauce and vegan cheese, and a truffle risotto with gorgonzola. The carbonara and the risotto were absolutely amazing. I wasn't a fan of the vegan dish though others liked it, and I forgot to take a picture of the risotto. Then there were a bunch of desserts to try: brownie with caramellised popcorn, cheesecake, triamisu, and another thing which name I've forgotten. All positively delicious. Loved the cheesecake as always, but could've eaten a lot more of the brownie too if it wasn't so thick and I was so full. My plate during the desserts gave me a flashback to Sweets Paradise in Tokyo :P
 And that was the whole evening. We decided to walk to our respective metro stations as well as the central station to ease the pressure of the food. I was home around 10.30pm and immediately sat myself down in front of the computer and played ESO until 4.30am. Oops ^^;

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Eurovision Song Contest 2016

Yes. I love this shit. Be surprised.

So now that that's out of the way, here are my thoughts of this year's show.

I only watched the semis half-heartedly, just to get a hum of what was going on, what the countries were doing and who would qualify for the final. And also to see the hosts and the usually funny opening and interval acts :) I was a little sad to see that no other Nordic countries qualified (that must be a first, right?), but then I thought that hopefully that would mean we'd get 12s from all of them since now they couldn't vote on each other :3

Yesterday I was ready in front of the TV with a big bowl of popcorn and Coca-Cola, and with my phone and all the social media (Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr for me). I had been on a buzz all day waiting for the show :3

This year soon turned into the most boring one, though. Where were my aluminum foil aliens, sexy sax guys, vampires, monsters, baking grandmas, burning pianos, men in hamster-wheels, flamboyantly gay people, bearded women, and blonde ladies sexually churning butter on stage? At least there was a Pokémon, a girl giving us a potato, and some men in cages :P Most of the songs were generic pop songs or ballads (seriously, no more ballads please?) So at the end, of course, my favourites were none of the generic ones. I liked Belgium's funk number, I loved the Netherlands' acoustic style, I've grown to like Sweden's simple yet pretty song, I liked Germany's song but more because of the cute girl and cool stage, France's song was ok, and Georgia's song was one of the best of the year.

I couldn't understand why the world was so hung up on Russia and Poland and Australia. Fair enough, Australia had the most polished number of the bunch and it somehow came off as the most professional one. Russia had the coolest stage show but the song was seriously boring - totally flat voice fromt he singer imo. And Poland had... a good-looking guy dressed in something inspired by British military uniforms from the 18th century? If you're looking for stage shows, though, along with Russia, Germany and Italy were the most memorable. (And honestly, Italy's song is growing on me.)

I wasn't expecting Sweden to win again. Winning two years in a row seems implausible no matter how good the song is, and this year (imo) we had a song that takes a few listens before you actually really enjoy it. The first time you hear it it's kind of bland. So I didn't expect Europe to get it on their first try. We did well, though, a fifth place! (And apparantly If I Were Sorry is now the most downloaded song of all of them all over the world - so take that!)

Justin Timberlake was invited to perform a song during the voting period, because for the first time the show was being broadcast in the US. I had a hilarious time on Twitter reading Jesse Cox's (an American let's player on youtube) tweets. He was watching it for the first time and didn't understand squat.
Justin didn't go over great though. He mostly looked like "where tf am I?" and people on Twitter called him Justin Timberlame and Justin Toiletbreak. And while I thought most songs this night was boring by Eurovision standards, Justin's performance was so generic that it made all the boring Eurovision songs seem good.

The real stars of the night were the hosts. I loved the opening act of semi 2 (a Eurovision themed version of My Favourite Things) and the interval act of the final was just as amazing. How do you get the ultimate Eurovision song? The Swedish hosts are here to show you! This interval number included basically everything I missed in this year's show - including previous winners Alexander Rybak and Lordi :D (Just look to the neighbours for prominent Eurovision guests to invite for the number).

Then there was the voting, which was all messed up this year. Well, messed up in Eurovision. The system they have converted ESC into is the same system we've used for the Swedish selection competition for years. But it screwed up ESC! Sitting through the results was always one of the highlights of the show. Now we get a quick view of the points and a member of the jury handing out a 12. It was over before it hardly even begun. And since it was jurys handing out the 12s and they're supposed to be unbiased, there was no longer any bittersweet joy in guessing which country would give a 12 to which. And then the people's votes were delivered in bunched points so there's no way to know how many 12s they got. The 12s are sacred! I want to watch them being delivered and being bitter about Finland giving their 12 to Russia instead of Sweden. All of that was taken away by the new system. Everyone hates when the neighbours vote on each other, but it's become a tradition. I want it. And then the results were all messed up. The jurys gave the most points to Australia - so according to the jurys Australia was the winner of ESC16. The people gave the most points to Russia - so according to the people Russia was the winner of ESC16. And then Ukraine ended up winning?! What the actual fuck?! O_o

I didn't like Ukraine's song. I know that it won because of the message. A song about her grandmother having to leave her country during WWII works well in today's Europe, where so many refugees now live having been forced away from their countries because of war. And some older generations may connect with that too because of older wars. It works. I get it. But the song wasn't good. Maybe I would've liked it better if I could actually hear her. (Actually, listening to the video on Youtube I could hear her better than on my TV - probably because the sound is closer to my ears in my headphones. I could grow to like it tbh.)

But for the second time in the last three years I've been living in Eurovision town. In 2013, when it was in Malmö I lived there. This year it was in Stockholm, and while I don't live there exactly I work there so I got to live Eurovision town again :D It's been great! Can we win again next year? The rest of Europe seems to think the same way judging by the comments section on YouTube:
And also, BuzzFeed agrees.

All in all, a pretty good year where the hosts were more Eurovision than the competitiors. And it also had a wtf ending which is a nice change from most years where the favourite of the polls always seems to win. That I didn't like the winning song is beside the point. It made good TV.

And now the ESC nerd in me will go to sleep until May 2017.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Harry Potter day today :) Have a quiz

Celebrating the Harry Potter day with a quiz I found ages ago :D

1. What house will you be in?

2. If the sorting hat was on you and it said you'd be great in a house you didn't consider before, will you follow his advice or choose what house you want?
At the age of 11 I was convinced I was a Ravenclaw. If the hat told me otherwise I'd still say I wanted to be in Ravenclaw. 

3. What kind of animal would you bring to school?
Do I have to bring one? I don't like cats. I don't like birds. And I'm not really a fan of amphibians either. 

4. If you were in class, where would you normally sit?
First row in the middle, or second row to the side, preferably next to the wall. Being next to a window gets uncomfortably hot when the sun's up. 

5. What do you think you'll be doing right now?
Probably studying somewhere or hanging out with friends. 

6. What's the core of your wand?
Unicorn hair, according to Pottermore. 

7. Do you think you'll be part of the quidditch team?
No. I'm crap at any and all physical activities. 

8. Will you be part of any organization?
Possibly. I was in several when I was younger, but I quit them all once I was a teen. 

9. Will you go home during holidays?

10. Do you think you'll have friends from other houses?
I'd like to think so, yes. 

11. What will you pack for school?
Books and notebooks. Lots of both. Also muggle pens. I've tried writing casually with ink. It's a bother. 

12. How about when going home for holidays, what will you bring home?
School books, and magical items and sweets. 

13. Would you consider studying in another wizarding school?
Considering what we know about the schools now, and answering this question as if I'm British and Hogwarts was my actual school. I'd still say maybe I'd try an exchange year at Mahotokoro in Japan. That would be cool.

14. Do you think you'll be a prefect or head girl/boy?
I'd prefer to be neither. I'd probably be nominated though. I was good in school. But I hate responsibility and I don't like being the boss of crowds. 

15. Are you going to be a pure-blood or half-blood or muggle-born?
Half-blood or muggle-born. 

16. Will you be related to any wizarding family?
If I'm half-blood, well duh.

17. Will you be a student who gets into trouble a lot?
Not to begin with. Poddibly during my last two or three years. 

18. Do you think you'll get a lot of detention? For what reason/s?
The only reasons I could think of would be skipping class and roaming around the school during night. I don't think I'd do it a lot, though. 

19. On hogsmeade visits, what shops will you go to?
Honeydukes. I also wouldn't be surprised if there's some kind of bookshop in Hogsmeade that Harry didn't notice because he's dense. So I'd probably hang out there a lot. 

20. Will you be supportive of your house's quidditch team?
Probably. On Hermione's level. 

21. Will you read Hogwarts:A History?
Of course!

22. Do you think you'll get a lot of letters from home? How frequent do you think you'll get them?
Yes. When I was in Tokyo for 4 months my parents called me on Skype at least once every week. And I was 19 then. Imagine me being away for months at 11. I'd get letters back as soon as I'd written a reply :P

23. Will you subscribe to the daily prophet or the quibbler or other wizarding world media? 
Nothing at 11. Maybe at 16 or something I'd subscribe to The Daily Prophet. Never liked magazines. 

24. Which part of the castle will be your favorite?
The library. 

25. When sleeping in your dormitory, will your four-poster bed's curtains be drawn or closed?
Closed. Privacy, please!

26. If the team your house played against wins, do you think you'll be bitter towards the other team after the game?
No. Sports aren't important enough to me :P I may be a little sad that we lost, but not bitter. 

27. Do you think you'll be a fan of wizard music?

28. Will you be curious enough to try and explore the whole castle, even if you know you can get in trouble for visiting some parts of it?

29. How frequent will your visits to the library be?
Possibly daily. 

30. If someone was to form an organization similar to dumbledore's army, will you join?

31. If you were to get detention, what task would you prefer? Would you want to scrub cauldrons or clean trophies or sort through unlabeled books or…?
Did you say books? Yes. That. 

32. On your o.w.l.s, what subject/s will you get an O in? Which ones do you think you’ll get a T on?
Answering realistically; seeing how I like to read I'd probably manage an O in History of Magic, despite Binns' lousy teaching. I think I'd be a decent student in most areas though. I never failed anything in muggle school :P 

33. How about in your n.e.w.t.s?

34. If you were a pure-blood, would you take interest in reading muggle literature?
Yes. I'm curious by nature. I'd like to know about that weird culture :P

35. At what time do you think you'll go to bed on weekdays?
Before midnight, but after 10pm. 

36. Would you prefer firewhiskey over butterbeer?
Never liked whiskey. 

37. What wizard snack would be your favorite? Or which one would you like to try?
Chocolate frogs and licorice wands. I'm not a fan of Jelly Beans, so I wouldn't want to try Bertie Bott's. But most other sweets described in PoA seem cool, and I'd like to try most of them :P

38. Will you collect chocolate frog cards?

39. Will you keep track of which flavor of beans you already tried?
No. I wouldn't be in to them. 

40. What quidditch team (excluding hogwarts houses) will you support?
Quite possibly Holyhead Harpies. 

41. What classes will you take for n.e.w.t.s?
As many as possible tbh. I did try to max my points in high school. I'd probably do the same at Hogwarts, 

42. What will your boggart be?
If we're talking about the sort of fear that gives me nightmares, then something out of a Japanese horror movie, like The Grudge. If we're talking about actual life-ruining fears, then that everyone I love told me they want nothing to do with me anymore. 

43. Will you stay in the hog’s head or the three broomsticks?
Three Broomsticks. 

44. If you are of age, will you try to enter the triwizard tournament if they ever host one again?
No. I'm not suicidal. 

45. What do you think happens during graduation?
During? Probably the same as in the muggle world. You get your grades, your diploma, and you have some sort of party. 

46. Will you see the thestrals carrying the carriages?

47. If you were invited to join the slug club, will you accept the invitation?
Yes :P

48. Will you consider becoming a professor in hogwarts after school?
No. I don't like talking in front of people. That's kind of imperative when being a teacher. 

49. What would your patronus be?
A rabbit, most likely. 

50. What memory will you think of when making a patronus?
I don't think I'd look for a specific memory. That's hard. I think I'd more likely think of a person or a place or an item that has made me very happy, and the memories associated with this thought would come on their own. 

51. What year are you suppose to be in right now?
I'm a 7 year alumn :P

Saturday, 30 April 2016

April favourites 2016

Can't believe this month is already over! Where did it all go? :o Tonight's Walpurgis night so let's hope our bonfires scare the winter away and make room for spring. Sköna maj välkommen~~~

Books: I managed to complete five books in April. Only four of those did I begin to read in April. The last one was my breakfast book that finally came to an end. This month it's a tie. I can't decide which book I liked best out of Welcome to My Nightmare: The Alice Cooper Story by Dave Thompson and J.K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter by Marc Shapiro. So I'm gonna put both as this month's favourite!

Music: There's been so much ESO this month that most of the songs forever in my head have been the bard songs from ESO. Luckily they are very well-made (much more so than Skyrim's). Another favourite is an original bard song from the Skyrim quest mod Falskaar (which also is more professional than the base game's own songs). I've also found a new love for Three Days Grace.
• Elder Scrolls Online - "Stagger and Sway"

• Elder Scrolls Online - "Three Hearts as One"

• Elder Scrolls V: Falskaar - "Heart of the Gods"

• Three Days Grace - "I Am Machine"

• Three Days Grace - "Human Race"

Games: Do you need ask?

Tv shows: I discovered a new show a couple of weeks ago, that for some reason hasn't been able to leave my head. It's weird, because it wasn't amazing and it wasn't a new scenario, but it's still stuck in my head. Containment.

Other things: Hanami in Stockholm, and me and Toni celebrating our 4-years anniversary :)

Friday, 29 April 2016

My last 5 books: Biography, Dragon Age, and Japanese

1. Deadman Wonderland, vol 1, by Jinsei Kataoka.
This is the first volume in a Japanese manga series. It was really cool. This ordinary school boy gets accused of murdering his entire school class after being the only survivor of the onslaught of an entity only he could see. Because he's so young he's sent to prison for life rather than being sentenced to death. He comes to the prison called Deadman Wonderland, which has a very specific hierarchy, its own economic system, and if you don't take your meds you'll die. Definitely looking forward to reading more of this series!

2. Welcome to My Nightmare: The Alice Cooper Story, by Dave Thompson.
The first biography I've ever read. It was really cool, actually! In the beginning it was kind of slow, because I already knew all that about his religious ties in the family, and how he moved around a lot as a child. The fun part started when the band that formed on a whim in high school started trying to get signed. So many ups and downs. I felt really tiny there for a while, because the author listed all the bands they were up against that were really cool and popular in the 60s when they started out - and I knew maybe 1/4 of them... But the most interesting part was that while this biography treated Cooper's musical career it also told the story of how the musical industry has changed from the 60s all the way until recently. I'm young enough that I don't know any specifics of what the industry was like before the new millenium, but it seems like then and now are lightyears apart. I love how Cooper's managed to stay with the times, like he still keeps the feeling from the original band, but the tunes change with the times (I give you some songs to compare). I'm really looking forward to reading his other biography as well!
1970s - Ballad of Dwight Fry. 1980s - Poison. 1990s - Lost in America. 2010s - Last Man on Earth

3. Dragon Age: The World of Thedas, vol 2.
Honestly, I started reading this book on January 2nd. But it's such a big book that I wouldn't be able to bring it with me on the train, so this book was banished to be my breakfast reading, and since I only have about 10-20 minutes a day (and work days only) to read for breakfast it took me over 3 months to finish. I wouldn't say that the second volume was as good as the first volume, but I still really liked it. It's a lot of background fluff for fans of the games, things that you may not know if you miss a comic, or a novel, or some piece of dialogue, or a codex entry. Everything we've ever been told about the world of Thedas is found in these two books. And they're so worth reading ♥

4. Tsuji-chan no Ribbon Days, by Nozomi Tsuji.
This is one of two books by her that I bought while in Tokyo. Back then I bought them both with the goal to be able to read them some day, because I certainly couldn't back then. Now I can! So to clarify: Tsuji Nozomi is a 4th generation member of Morning Musume. She started the group in 2000 and graduated in 2004. For 2 years she was in another group with her best friend, until her best friend caused a scandal that broke her (the friend's) contract and the group was disbanded. Tsuji continued with other activities until 2007, when it was announced that she was pregnant. She quickly engaged and married the baby's father, and for the next 1½ years nothing was heard from her. Then she showed up again. This book basically tells the story of her early life, how she came about auditioning for Morning Musume, some of her memories from that time, but mostly what happened after the press conference that announced her pregnancy and marriage. The book was released in 2009. I bought it in 2010, and since then she's had two more babies. Tsuji is one of my favourite members of the group, for her personality, voice and comedic talent. This book was very interesting and actually told me a lot I didn't already know :)

5. Non Piisu: Tsuji-chan no Hibi Smile, by Nozomi Tsuji.
The other book by Tsuji that I bought while in Tokyo. While the first book was very interesting and well worth a read, this one was a disappointment. Named after her blog, I should probably have realised already by the time I bought it, but this is simply a collection of her blog posts and photos collected under different headlines and transformed into chapters. Not a lot of text and not really in a format that I enjoy reading (seriously, Japanese blogging really "sounds" like a child speaking - no full sentences and lots, lots, lots of emotes). So I mostly skimmed through this one, read a few sentences here and there and looked at the pictures. I mostly enjoyed the cooking chapters ♥

So there we go :) Mostly positive this time around!

Hanami in Stockholm - 6 years since last time!

Every year since I got back from Japan (can't believe it's been 6 years!) I've missed hanami. It's not a big deal in Sweden so it's possible to miss it. But every year I've wanted to go. This year for the season, I have a job in the centre of Stockholm and the office is very close to the Royal Gardens. So this time I decided to take a trip there after work last week.

I was sort of disappointed tbh. There are one-day festivals of cherry blossom viewing at different places in Sweden too, and particularly at the Royal Gardens they tend to make a fuss as soon as the flowers bloom. But it was so small. I thought the whole place would be pink, instead it was just one corner of the area. Also it was Spring showers that day so it rained every five minutes.

Here are some pictures from the day:
 The last picture is a shot of the whole area. Not very impressive, is it? Still, it was nostalgic to walk around the sakura again :3

For nostalgic purposes I'll also throw in one picture from each time we went hanami in Japan. There was more than one occasion!
 First time (10-03-20) in Kyoto. Second time (10-03-30) at Meguro-gawa, Tokyo.
 Third time (10-04-01) at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo. Fourth time (10-04-06) in Ueno, Tokyo.
 Fifth time (10-04-25) just outside the metro station in Sakura shimmachi, Tokyo where I lived. Sixth time (10-05-03) at Namsan outside Seoul, Korea.

 And also two songs that inevitably makes me think of those times we went hanami:
miwa - "Megurogawa"

Morning Musume Sakura Gumi - "Sakura Mankai"

Monday, 18 April 2016

The world stops when you enter an MMO

It really doesn't, but I wish it would. For the past 2-3 weeks I've been living and breathing ESO, which is also why my weekly posts died out.
I started playing a Skyrim quest mod called Falskaar at the end of last month, and while I was exploring I started to feel the need for ESO. I picked it up and continued on the character I created some weeks earlier. I had a lot of fun with it and decided to stick around, so I asked for any casual guilds in the chat. I got two hits very quickly. One was a very small guild with a very enthusiastic guildmaster, and as soon as he realised that I was a veteran in this game he made me second in command. I have a lot of fun with those guys :) The other was a big bustling trading guild with over 200 members. They are very active in the chat and we're always engaged in odd conversations (most recently I promised to tickle Molag Bal's belly when I took him down. Another night we learned that pizza is a vegetable, but also that it kills your soul). Chatting with those guys is now half of the fun I'm having. And I love not having to look in the zone chat for random people to do dungeons with - I just ask my guildies and 99% of the time someone is willing to team up. I used to avoid the group dungeons because I dreaded LFGing in the zone chat, now I volunteer every time someone mentions dungeons. For the first time in the two years I've played this game I've found guilds who are casual and fun. I don't like serious guilds who analyse everything, it takes the fun out of it imho.
And now I'm back to trying to talk my IRL friends into playing the game. I can't believe it's been two years and I still don't have any IRL friends who play. I can't believe I'm still trying to convince people two years later -_-
But hey, I'm having fun and I don't even mind that they keep calling me "he". I haven't been very obvious with me not being a guy. I've mentioned the boyfriend a few times now though, so I guess most of them have figured out I'm a girl, or they just think I'm gay. I don't mind either. And tbf I also assume that everyone I talk to is a guy before he says otherwise. They just tend to be mostly guys :P

Friday, 1 April 2016

March favourites 2016

Books: I managed to complete 7 books in March. Tbf four of them were manga volumes and thus didn't take too long to read although they were in Japanese. My favourite book from this month is easily the last book in the Hunger Games series: Mockingjay. Impossible to put down, I finished it very quickly.

• Tommy february6 - "Little Red Forest"

• The Pretty Reckless - "Burn"

• Simple Plan - "In"

• Three Days Grace - "Fallen Angel"

• Morning Musume - "One and Only"

Games: Half this month consisted of Fallout 4, the other half was Portal, ESO and Skyrim. I must still say that Fallout 4 was the best game of the month. None of the others made me feel withdrawal symptoms for being away from the game :P

TV shows: I've watched a lot of shows this month as per usual. But the best one is X-Files. Can't stop watching that show!

Other things: Easter was fun. I also saw the first butterfly of the year which was nice.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

My last 5 books: Japanese & YA

The Almost Nearly Perfect People should've been at the top here, but I felt that book deserved its own space.

1. Drug & Drop, vol 1, by CLAMP.
The first volume of manga in Japanese this time around. This is a remake of an old series by CLAMP that I read in English way back. Back then it was called Legal Drug and as far as I know it was put on hiatus after only three volumes. Maybe it's because the manga contains a lot of difficult, different, and odd words that you don't really learn unless you travel in the correct circles, and because of that I maye not have understood everything correctly, but was it always this jumpy? I'm missing the context, the connections between scenes are subtle to non-existant. The best part of the whole thing was when Watanuki from xxxHolic showed up (and what I hope is a regenerated Yuko). I used to love CLAMP to bits, I collected everything written by them that I could get my hands on, but this is not very good. Too stereotypical characters for one. Did they lose their touch or did I grow up?

2. Watashi no Suki na Hito, by CLAMP.
This is a short story collection in manga format and also in Japanese. This book has 12 short stories, all about different girls experiencing love in different ways. If I had read this when I was 14, and if it had been available in Swedish or English back then I would probably have loved it. As it is now, I found the stories too sugary sweet, too girly, and mainly too kawaii. Most horrible realisation of my reading life - Have I grown out of shojo manga? O_o I finally start to read CLAMP again after 7-8 years, only to discover that I don't like them anymore? This is awful :(

3. Code Geass, vol 1, by Ichirou Ohokouchi, Goro Taniguichi & Majiko!.
This volume of manga (in Japanese) is based on the anime of the same name. I haven't seen the anime, but I'm really excited to after reading this! Damn this was good! Some sort of post-apocalyptic world war setting, in a Japan that has been converted into a part of the world spanning empire known as Britannia. Lelouch is originally indifferent to both the empire officials' deeds as well as the rebels' loud opinions, but after finding a girl hooked up to a machine and locked inside a see-through tank, and also watching his childhood friend get shot by the empire, he decides to destroy Britannia. When freeing the girl in the machine he recieves some mystic power that enables him to influence people to do his will. As the story unfolds, he becomes a sort of avenger, while facing doubts when discovering that friends and classmates are on the side of the empire.

4. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins.
Last part of The Hunger Games! I can't believe I've waited this long to finish this series! The first two books were amazing and this one was no different. To be fair I did figure out some of the plot before that part came around, but thanks to the amazing writing my realisations didn't make the book boring, far from it. It was exciting all the way. Emotional ups and downs. Before I started reading I saw that several of the reviews on Goodreads began with; "What kind of an ending is that?!?!?! ahsghs D:" But I didn't mind the ending, I thought it was kind of fitting. Best goddamn series in a while! (I have only seen the movie based on the first book.)

5. Maze Runner, by James Dashner.
That could be my whole review. Just a no. I read this in Swedish, so it could be the translator, but the language was boring, even the trying-to-be-inventive-slang was boring. There was not even the slightest shade of character development in anyone. For being the smartest kids in their post-apocalyptic world they were incredibly stupid. I figured out what they needed to do in the maze about 100 pages before the characters even get to it. And - because there was no language to hold on to, because the storytelling was flat, and because the characters never grew - from that point on it basically became just waiting for them to catch up. The telepathy thing was stupid (I sincerely hope that will be explained more in detail in the other two books, because here it was mostly 'oh this is a thing we can do, let's roll with it'), the Grievers seemed like something a five-year-old would paint if asked to imagine a monster: a big blob with arms and needles, and the sins of the main character were in no way left to mystery when very early on the girl starts ranting about what they did and how this is all their fault.
Actually, throughout most of this book I had the same feeling I have when I read through my own manuscripts from a few years back: cringe.
This book was too predictable and too flat. (I haven't seen the movie.)

Mostly disappointments this time around. Hopefully that will get better by my next batch!

The Almost Nearly Perfect People - Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia

As soon as I saw this book I knew I had to buy it. I've seen plenty of posts, especially on Tumblr, where Americans and otherwise make out the Nordic countries as some sort of haven for education, health care and social liberty. The author, Michael Booth, is a Brit who's married to a Dane and lives in Denmark. He has travelled a lot in the Nordic countries, both for pleasure and for research, and so I decided to try to find out why this legend about the Nordic utopia exists. The author ventured to do the same and so this book was made. I love the quotes on the back of the book:
"The Danes are the happiest people in the world, and pay the highest taxes.
'Neutral' Sweden is one of the biggest arms manufacturers in the world.
Finns have the highest per capita gun ownership after the US and Yemen.
54 per cent of Icelanders believe in elves.
Norway is the richest country on earth."
The book paints a pretty dark picture, actually. What he finds out about all of us is that we're all basically balancing a very thin thread each and it could go either way - either total collapse or continued welfare. The country that takes up the most space in the book is understandably Denmark, and the smallest part is Iceland, and while reading I realised how little I actually know about my neighbours. I knew some of it, but far from everything. I can't say how accurate any of the other countries' depictions are, but when it comes to Sweden he paints a pretty correct picture.

He starts with the crayfish party season, and also touches upon graduation celebrations and Midsummer, which are some of the days when Swedes actually allow themselves to let loose and become crazy. We are partying Vikings just like the Danes, but we usually keep it under tight wraps. He describes Swedes as being shy (because we honestly don't talk to people we meet on public transport or on the streets), reserved, boring, and a little rigid. I recognise that picture. He also talks about the fact that Swedes love conformity (which we do) and if you don't fit in to the pattern you're going to have a hard time. I find it funny that he realised the conformity problem for non-conformed people when he basically only visited the major cities. I wonder what he would've made of the small villages. Because for myself who never fit into the rigid conformity of my home village, Malmö and Stockholm are areas of liberty. Because the way I percieve it no one looks twice at me or thinks I'm weird in the cities, while that's the impression I get all the time when I go "home".

The most interesting chapter in the Sweden part was the discussion upon immigration. This book is written and published before the immigration crisis of last year, and it seems like he gathered his information on Sweden before the last election (2014), so some of his information isn't correct anymore, but even he realises that the media is blowing the issues way out of proportion. He visits the immigrant neighbourhood of Rosengård in Malmö (well-known for violence throughout Sweden) and talks to the people he meet there as well as the people in charge of the area, and an imam. And you know what he realises after all this? That they are the same as "native" Swedes, same hopes and dreams and worries. He walks across the big road to the area next to Rosengård and talks to the people living there - mostly well-to-do "native" Swedes and their responses to his questions about immigration problems and violence and what they want and hope for are mostly the same.

Some things irk me, though. He complains a lot about the weather. You're British! You hardly have exceptionally good weather in your own country. And he also complains about the monarchies of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Again: You're British! If any country is known for loving their royalty, it's you. In Sweden the attitude is mostly: we don't mind having them there. They don't really do anything and they don't have any say in anything anyway. And having them there sort of blocks the way for any crazy dictators :P Heirs to wealthy conglomerates have more power than our royal families. Keep that in mind. I'm not a royalist, but I'm not really a republican either. I just don't mind having them there.

But the overall feeling I get from this is something I've known for a long while to be true: we are family; Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are brothers, Iceland is the cousin, and Finland is the adopted brother (Faroe Islands and Greenland are foster children). Since we are family we've had our squabbles (wars, culture oppression etc), but nowadays when we're all grown up we've reduced our squabbles to joking about each member's stereotypes, and we're all ok with that (as far as I know).

The rest of this post will be quotes from the epilogue:
"Of course there are downsides even in almost nearly perfect societies: there are historical skeletons in every closet, and yes, countries with homogenous, monocultural tendencies do tend to be a little too safe and dull, and insular. Looking to the future, the Nordic countries are also facing some serious challenges - aging population, creaking welfare states, the ongoing integration of immigrant populations, and rising inequality. But it's still Scandinavia. It is still the enivably rich, peaceful, harmonious and progressive place it has long been."
"To achieve authentic, sustained happiness, above all else you need to be in charge of your life, to be in control of who you want to be, and be able to make the appropriate changes if you are not. This cannot merely be a perception, an empty slogan like the American Dream (the Us came way down on the LSE's social mobility scale, incidentally). In Scandinavia it is a reality. These are the real lands of opportunity. There is far greater social mobility in the Nordic countries than in the US or Britain and, for all the collectivism and state interference in the lives of the people who live here, there is far greater freedom to be the person you want to be, and do the things you want to do, up here in the North. In a recent poll by Gallup, only 5 per cent of Danes said they could not change their lives if they wanted to. In contrast, I can think of many American states where it would probably be quite an uncomfortable experience to declare yourself atheist, for example, or gay, or to be married yet choose not to have children, or to be unmarried and have children, or to have an abortion, or raise your children as Muslims. I don't imagine it would be easy being vegetarian in Texas, for instance, or a wine buff in Salt Lake City come to that. And don't even think of coming out as socialist in any of the fifty states. In Scandinavia you can be all of these things and no one will bat an eye."
"I didn't mention it but the day after the Malmö crayfish orgy, the city's annual festival continued with more al fresco feasting - mainly of Turkish, Indian, Arabic and Chinese food - but this time the streets of the city were packed with the most multiethnic crowd I have ever seen on the streets of a Scandinavian city. The atmosphere was terrific that day; it felt to me like there was a genuine sense of community and that, contrary to much of what I had heard about Malmö in the Danish media, this was a city at peace with itself."
"Though there has been increasing discussion about this in the Scandinavian media in recent years - with some suggesting a Federal States of Scandinavia as a northern alternative to the faltering EU - it is still unlikely. Just in case, though, my plea to the Nordic people is this: please don't. For if you ever really did band together in such a way then, truly, the rest of us would not stand a chance." 
One of the most interesting reads I've had in a while. Be sure to pick it up!

Monday, 28 March 2016

First Seed, week 4

Monday was work. It went very well and I was done and leaving by 1.30pm :) When I came home I watched X-Files and then went to sleep early.

On Tuesday I went downtown and bought a birthday gift for my mum. When I came back I started playing Portal. It's my first time and I only played for a little over an hour. All the portals made my head spin xD But I'll finish it soon and then move on to Portal 2. I'll try to deal with my humongous backlog now that I don't have any big amazing games coming out soon. (Or maybe I do but I don't know about it yet). After dinner and X-Files I started up Skyrim instead. I have downloaded a new quest mod called Falskaar and as soon as I'm done with Dragonborn DLC I'll get started!

On Wednesday I mostly spent the day watching Toni play Uncharted.

On Thursday I met up with Anna in Stockholm. We went for coffee at Espresso House in Old Town and then walked across the road to spend some time in the Sci-Fi bookshop. Hadn't seen her in over a year I think so when we started talking (getting past the initial awkwardness) we talked about what we had been doing since last time and also a lot about TV shows that we both like (she got me into Once Upon a Time, I got her into Doctor Who - fair trade :P), and also about books and authors in general. She was the one who recommended me John Ajvide Lindqvist and I recommended her Neil Gaiman, also a fair trade. While there I bought two new books (Half a War by Joe Abercrombie (finally!), and Agnes Cecilia by Maria Gripe), the original Harry Potter colouring book, and a Garrus Pop Vinyl figurine (finally! that one has always been sold out when I've been there before). After a quick trip to Comics Heaven a short walk away and some time sitting out in the fading Spring sun we went back to the Central station and went our separate ways. It was a really nice day and I hope it won't be over a year until we meet again :)
When I got home I watched Toni play some more Uncharted and then we watched the new episodes of The Walking Dead and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

On Friday we got on the train to Malmö. Due to construction/reparation work on the tracks we had to wait for a transfer bus from Stockholm before the train could depart from Södertälje, and thus we were 20 minutes late. But by the time we arrived in Malmö we were only 7 minutes late so they made good time :) Arrived to my parents place and got delicious dinner and then spent most of the evening reading on the sofa :)

On Saturday the family arrived for Easter dinner. Easter still means Easter eggs for my sister and me from our grandparents, and they always include our SOs. So that meant 2 eggs each for all the "children" (of which the youngest is 22 and the oldest 31). When all the grandparents and sister + her bf had left we watched The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared on tv. I haven't read the book, but the movie was fun so it seems promising. Maybe a new Swedish author to discover this year? :)

On Sunday we got on the train back to Södertälje. Originally the trip takes about 4 hours, but due to the train being redirected because of construction/reparation work on the tracks also in the south the trip was now estimated to take almost 6 hours :/ On top of that we were 20 minutes late from Malmö. Awesome. But I had my books and the train managed to catch up to those 20 minutes and we arrived right on time in Södertälje. Toni's mum picked us up at the station. She was going to get Chinese food on her way back so we decided to get some too since we hadn't eaten on the train. So ride home + Chinese food = win :) When we got home I watched Toni play some more Uncharted and then I went to sleep.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

First Seed, week 3

I don't even remember xD Let's see what I can recall.

Monday was work, and everything went well. I know me and my colleague talked about some game or other, but I can't remember what it was xD When I got home I watched Grey's Anatomy and Once Upon a Time, as well as some X-Files. Went to bed early.

Tuesday I mostly played Fallout 4.

On Wednesday I read some in my book and then played Fallout 4 until it was time to go downtown and have dinner with one of Toni's friends who'd asked if we couldn't meet up. It was alright. The food was great, but I still felt a bit like a third wheel :P When we got home I continued to play Fallout 4 and finished the game. Such a great game! :D

On Thursday we had our cosy thingy with The Walking Dead, The Big Bang Theory and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. I also watched Toni play Uncharted most of the day. Feeling a bit like I don't know what to do next when I had finished Fallout xD

Friday to Sunday were mostly the same. I spent the day working and the evening watching X-Files and reading my book. I also did laundry on Saturday and when Toni got home we watched an episode of The Strain.

I've had this song on a loop since Friday. The translation in the video is slightly off, but the song is still good :3

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Game completed: Fallout 4

Man, I loved this game. It was amazing. I imagine this is what Fallout 3 would've been like if the game wasn't fucked-up and broken and forced me to rush through it if I wanted to play at all. Fallout 4 was perfection.

I had stayed away from hints and spoilers and trailers completely before I picked up the game. I was extremely confused when the game started and I found myself in 2077, before the bombs fell. But the rush to the Vault to get there in time before the bombs fell was exhilarating, and then realising that the pod I entered was cryo... Fuck, shit, fuck. And then waking up and watching my son get stolen from my husband's arms and him getting shot... Fuck, shit, fuck. Finally waking up, and realising that I'm the only one left in the entire Vault was extremely creepy. Then I got out of the Vault, picked up my old robot butler Codsworth and went on my way to Concord. Found Dogmeat on the way :3 Met the Minutemen at Concord and helped them out of their pickle. The new design of Power armor was badass (though I had to google how to get out of it, because I missed that info bubble). But why was there a Deathclaw in my first ever battle in the game?! That's not fair!

After I got the Minutemen to Sanctuary and joined them, I started to slowly travel down to Diamond City and by slowly I mean exploring every location I happened upon on the way. It took a while xD Joined the Brotherhood of Steel on the way. When I got to Diamond City I heard about the Freedom Trail and followed it all the way to the Railroad. And then I joined the Railroad.

Having joined every faction available to me at that time, I began my personal mission to complete every single side quest, misc quest and unmarked quest, as well as discover every location. It went really well :) I picked up every companion on the way and gotta say that my favourites are Nick, Hancock, Deacon, Cait, and Piper. Codsworth is cool too, but I dumped him as soon as I got Dogmeat, and then I dumped Dogmeat as soon as I got Hancock. My lovely Hancock ♥♥♥ I romanced Hancock :3

Out of all the side quests and misc objectives my favourites were: The One with the Chinese Submarine, The One with the Ship Stuck in a Building, The Silver Shroud, The One with a Kid in a Fridge, The One with Cabot House, The One with Pickman's Gallery, The One with the Museum of Witchcraft, The One with the Treasures of Jamaica Plain, and The One with Nick Valentine's Past.
1). The captain of the Chinese submarine. 2). The ship in the building
1). The Silver Shroud! 2). The kid in the fridge
1). Pickman. 2) The treasure room at Jamaica Plain

Out of all the locations in the game my favourites (mostly due to the back stories) were: Dunwich Borers, Boston mayoral shelter, Cambridge Polymer Labs, Jamaica Plain, Libertalia, Parsons State Insane Asylum, HalluciGen Inc, Hubris Comics, Swan's Pond, Vault 81, Diamond City, Goodneighbor, and The Slog.
1). Flashback scene at Dunwich Borers (yes, this is Lovecraft). 2). Libertalia
1). Entrance to Vault 81. This became my home. 2). Diamond City

When I had completed my personal mission I started doing the main quest. After meeting everyone and doing all their side quests I had decided on beforehand that I was going to side with the Railroad. So I followed their story and got inside the Institute, and that's when all the figurative bombs started to drop and I became seriously conflicted on whether I should go through with the Railroad's plan or dump their asses and join the Institute. But the more I went back and forth between them, the more I realised that I liked the Railroad's goal more. I had to ignore the feelings that being at the Institute stirred and focus on the quest. And holy shit the main quest got epic! Epic ending :3
1). One quest with my boys all together :3 Hancock, Deacon and Tinker Tom ^^ 2). The Nuclear Option

I played for all four factions (Minutemen, Brotherhood of Steel, Railroad, Institute) for as long as possible and I have created separate save files at the specific moments when I had to make a choice. All to make it possible for me to go back and experience the main quest another way but not having to play through the entire game again. I may do that at some point or other.

I'm also happy that I did take the time to play the two previous Fallout games, while New Vegas was hardly mentioned, Fallout 3 references popped up often enough. Everything from a certain little Lamplighter and a certain Rivet City doctor, to Liberty Prime and aliens. Then there's also the fact that Bethesda likes to re-utilise voices. The voice for Nick Valentine is also the voice for Belethor/Mercer/Enthir in Skyrim. The voice for Desdemona is also the voice for Legate Rikke in Skyrim. And then there's the fact that more than half of random unnamed NPCs in this game have the same voice actor as Garrus from Mass Effect.

This has been an amazing ride :3 I loved some of the new weapons available (like the Broadsider and the Junk Jet), and I loved how I could customize my armour. I hardly ever got out of my vault suit, I just modded the suit and the put armour parts on top of it. I never used a helmet, only different kinds of hats and by the end I really loved the look of my bowler hat :3

I'm really looking forward to the DLCs, first of which will arrive next week! :D