Friday, 30 May 2014

Summer songs

I don't listen to the radio so I don't follow what song turns into the summer hit of the year. But here's a list of my own summer hits for the past three years:




Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Meeting Neil Gaiman

I'm still all jazzed up.

About a month ago I discovered that Neil Gaiman was coming to Stockholm for a signing in connection with The Ocean at the End of the Lane being released in Swedish. As soon as I saw it I decided I was going. I was not going to miss a chance to meet him.

Today was the day and the Sci-Fi bookstore had warned us on before-hand that there was going to be a lot of people so they had put in place a queuing system. Namely an old calendar and then they let people go upstairs to his signing table by month. They started giving away queueing tickets when the shop opened at 10am and I wasn't able to be there until about 3pm. The signing was going to start at 4pm. I still managed to get a ticket, October, but was warned that since Neil could only be there signing until 7pm, I might not get my book signed.

But Neil was quick. After 45 minutes they had called up May, and around 5.45pm October was called up. Most people had brought their copies of The Ocean at the End of the Lane with them (both Swedish and English), but I saw some American Gods, Fragile Things, and Good Omens. The guy just in front of me in the line had brought with him The Sandman Omnibus which was huge and looked really heavy. The shop employee standing next to Neil's signing table remarked on how tough it must have been to stand in line for all that time carrying that big thing.

I had originally planned on asking him to sign the book with my favourite quote of his: "Growing up is overrated. Just be a writer." But as soon as I got up there and after we had said our hellos and how are yous, he remarked that he liked my t-shirt.
Neil: "It's Alice, isn't it?"
Me: "Yes, it is Alice."
Neil: "The first time I was in Stockholm was actually to see him."
Me: "That's great. I'm going to see him again this summer actually."
Neil: "If you get the chance to meet him tell him I send my love. He's one of the sweetest people."
Me: "I will. Thank you."
I was wearing this T-shirt:

Neil Gaiman is an Alice Cooper fan! Now I love him even more! *fangirl moment*

I was all smiles for the rest of the evening. And here's my book all signed and pretty:

Something I really liked about him was that although he had limited time he actually took some seconds to say something to each and every one of us rather than just saying hello and signing the book and send us on our way. According to the Sci-Fi bookstore staff Neil thought it was a lot of fun to meet us all, and thinks warmly of his Swedish fans. And as for myself I thought this signing went a lot better. I wasn't starstruck at all when I stood there in front of him and I could actually both speak and think coherently. But just before the signing started and I saw him walk to the table and waving to all the people I felt a little like: "OMG he's really real!" Like the feeling you get when you've only ever seen pictures of someone and then they're suddenly there right in front of you and actually really real.

So that's my third signed book. While I was there waiting for the signing to start I also bought two books: American Gods and Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Anthology.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Swedish social things

With foreign friends I sometimes find that what I think is completely ordinary they find really strange. There's the other way around too ofc. My latest argument has been queueing.

I've seen people wait for the bus in the UK a straight line starting right next to the bus stop sign. To me that looks ridiculous. In Sweden we go down to the bus stop and then stand around wherever we want until the bus shows up and people start heading for the sign and somehow automatically form a line. It doesn't matter if you were at the bus stop first you'll still get on the bus.

Apparantly ticket machines is very Swedish. I had no idea. We have ticket machines at the bank, at the service centres for public transport and also in some shops. Some British guy apparantly classified the ticket system as queuing, which I couldn't agree less with. You grab your ticket and then you have a looksie in the shop, or you go to stand a bit outside or just sit around playing with your phone while waiting your turn. I don't consider this queueing, basically cause there's no line anywhere to be seen.

I've never seen a "Queue starts here" sign in Sweden. Not even on airports. I don't understand the point of them. I guess it's supposed to show you where to form a line to the cashier? But don't you do that automatically? Say I have found the items I want in a shop and I go to the cashier point. Then I check which cashier seems to be the fastest one and I go to stand in the line for that one. There's no need for any sign to help me realise where I should go. I want to pay I go to the pay place.

Then I had the argument over queuing to venues for concerts or events. In Sweden you just go there and mill around outside. When the doors open or when the time gets close to when the doors open that's when people slowly starts to form a queue. It doesn't matter when you got there cause you will get inside anyway. And if it's a concert and you want to stand at the very front you don't have to arrive super early. Just get to the front when you get inside. Most people tend to hang around in the vestibule buying merch and drinks and using the toilet before going into the concert room. If you go to the concert room directly you'll get to be in the front. And if you want to hang around in the vestibule and still want to stand in the very front then all you have to do is make sure you get there. In Sweden you get your place at concerts by using your elbows. There's no "I was here first I should be in the front!" Just push your way to the place you want to have. It's that simple. Why turn everything into bureaucracy?

There's no queueing at the merch stands at those places. I've noticed that it actually works very similar to a bar. You go to the counter with a card or money in your hand. Then you try to get to stand at the counter until you get service. There's no line here either.

This guy complains that there are queues on the outside of shops and then again on the inside. The only place I've ever seen having a queue on the outside are street food places where you buy your food off the counter and then stand around on the street corner while eating your food out of a container. Those are the only places I've seen with queues on the outside.

Let's move on to dating. We don't date. Dating is a strange ritual foreign people use. How do we meet someone? How do we fall in love? How do we have children and get married? (Well, a lot of us don't even do the marrying part anymore.) This girl describes dating and relationships in Scandinavia way better than I could. So read her post! It's really good! And 100% true.

Then we can continue with the social stigma that you don't sit next to anyone you don't know on the bus/train unless all the other seats are taken and you have to if you want to sit. We sit alone or with people we know. It's that simple. And we don't have conversations with strangers unless we're drunk.

Then there's alcohol. Alcohol is a very social thing. Wednesdays and weekends and holidays. Especially holidays. There's alcohol involved in New Years, Easter, Walpurgis, Midsummer, Lucia and Christmas. And now we're not talking wine. We're talking spirits. Liquor. We don't celebrate Thanksgiving, but we do have a holiday connected to eating goose (or any big bird, turkey works too) and there's alcohol involved there too. Sure we have people who don't like drinking too, but in a lot of conexts they are considered the weird ones.

Most cars in Sweden are stick shift. Driving a stick shift isn't an accomplishment, it's ordinary. People who drive automatics are either considered lazy or not very good drivers. And we have roundabouts. Lots of roundabouts. Everywhere roundabouts.

At Christmas we watch Donald Duck. At 3 pm on Christmas Eve (we celebrate Christmas on the 24th) every year, the whole family is seated in front of the TV looking at a program that has been almost exactly the same since the 60's. No one calls you at 3pm on Christmas. And although the TV company broadcasting the show has talked about cancelling it for years they never do, cause the show is always one of the most watched programs of the year every year. It's Donald Duck along with Eurovision Song Contest that always make the list. Cancelling it would be like not having a Christmas tree. You can't do that.

We're big on equality. Actually you're not going to find more equal countries than those in Scandinavia. The man isn't expected to support the house. The woman isn't expected to be a housewife. Those roles are sometimes swapped completely and no one thinks less of anyone for it. The guy doesn't always pay everything and a girl can't ask her boyfriend to buy her something just cause she wants it. You want it, you buy it. Unless it's your birthday soon and he might take the hint.

That's all I could think of. None of these things are weird to me. That's just how it's done.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Europe, I'm disappointed

So elections for the European Parliament yesterday. I'm not surprised at how it turned out, but I'm disappointed that my predictions came true. All along I suspected that the slight rise of racist, nazi and xenophobic parties all over Europe would become an avalanche for the elections. I wasn't wrong. Front National in France was elected and since France is one of the big countries in the EU, Front National alone will get more seats than all of Sweden combined. Also in the UK (UKIP), Greece (Golden Dawn), Poland (Congress of the New Right), Germany (NPD), Denmark (Dansk Folkeparti), Finland (Sannfinländarna), Hungary (Jobbik), and Austria (FPÖ) the same kind of xenophobic racist nazi parties have been successful. The parties in all of these countries make the Swedish "version" seem like a cute little kitten.

What happened the last time Nazis were elected in Germany?

Next year it will be 70 years since the end of World War II, not many remain who remember it. Is it alright that we seem to be on our way to recreate all those horrific things again? Why don't we learn from history? Why are we always so convinced that "this time it will be different"? Am I the only one to realise that the persecution of Muslims and Romanis today is frightfully similar to the persecution of Jews 80 years ago?

I'm generally positive towards the EU. I like the thought of open borders and friendship and cooperation between countries, cultures and people. But after these results I'd rather Sweden left the EU to create a neutral point of view. Stay out of it and don't get affected.

Never again...
They had a frightening desire for genocide
They wouldn't stop til what was left of my family died
Hell-bent on taking over the world
You couldn't hide in the shroud of conformity
We can't forget how we were devastated by the beast
And how we pleaded with our captors for release
We were hunted for no reason at all
One of the darkest times in our history
All that I have left inside
Is a soul that's filled with pride
I tell you, never again!
Their depraved society didn't end up killing me
Scream with me: "never again!"
Not again
A generation that was persecuted endlessly
Exterminated by the Nazi war machine
We will remember; let the story be told
To realize how we'd lost our humanity
You dare to tell me that there never was a Holocaust?
You think that history will leave their memory lost?
Another Hitler using fear to control
You're gonna fail this time for the world to see
All that I have left inside
Is a soul that's filled with pride
I tell you, never again!
Their depraved society didn't end up killing me
Scream with me: "never again!"
Not again
All that I have left inside
Is a soul that's filled with pride
I tell you, never again!
Their depraved society didn't end up killing me
Scream with me: "never again!"
For the countless souls who've died
Let our voices fill this night
Sing with me: "never again"
They aren't lost, you see
For the truth will live in me
Believe me - never again!

My standpoint remains: People are people. Skin colour, religion and sexual orientation don't matter. People are people. And it's always a minority that destroys opportunities for majorities. It's always a minority that confirms people's prejudices. There are assholes and idiots in all the corners of the world. There are assholes and idiots of all religions and all skin colours and all sexual orientations. Your skin colour doesn't define you. Your religion doesn't have to define you. Your sexual orientation doesn't define you. The sooner people understand this the better off we'll all be. 
"Ebola would solve the immigration problems in three months." - Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of Front National in France.
"Women shouldn't have the right to vote." - Janusz Korwin-Mikke, leader of Congress of the New Right in Poland.
"Register all Jews - they are a risk to our national security." - Jobbik in Hungary.
"These degenerate sexual species aren't normal and will never be normal." - Björn Söder, parliamentary group leader of Sweden Democrats, about homosexuality.
"I understand if one doesn't want to live next to Romanians." - Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP in the UK.
"All of our respect to Dominique Venner, whose final and ultimate political action was an attempt to awaken the people of France." - Marine Le Pen, leader of Front National in France, about a man who shot himself in protest against homosexuality.
"Reading aloud from 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion' in parliament". - Ilias Kasidiaris, member of Golden Dawn in Greece.
"Most people above the age of 70 have a problem with gay marriage." - Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP in the UK. 
"Rape is an expression of Islamic culture." - Richard Jomshof, criminal political spokesperson of Sweden Democrats. 
"What Auschwitz? Where you there?" - Nikolaos Michaloliakos, leader of Golden Dawn in Greece.
"The Holocaust was just a detail in the Second World War." - Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of Front National in France.
"Send homosexuals and Somalians to Åland." - Teuvo Hakkarainen, member of Sannfinländarna in Finland. 
"You will die here!" - Jobbik demonstration against Romanis. 
"Gay marriage caused floods." - David Silvester, member of UKIP in the UK. 
"The Muslims are our biggest foreign threat since the Second World War." - Jimmie Åkesson, leader of Sweden Democrats.
"Stop Muslim immigration." - Martin Henriksen, member of Dansk Folkeparti in Denmark. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Four books done this past week

I always get a lot of reading done when I'm on trains and when I'm staying with my parents. I find that if I don't have the computer as a distraction I get a lot more reading done :P So here are the four books I've finished these past days. Thursday - today.

Burton & Swinburne in The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack, by Mark Hodder. It's the first in a steampunk series and it's the first time I've actually read a proper steampunk novel (not counting Jules Verne cause he wasn't intentionally steampunk). I loved the book to the point that even before reading 200 pages I bought the sequel. If not counting the steampunk genre the book falls somewhere on fantasy/sci-fi/mystery/detective. The main character is, despite the series name, Sir Richard Burton, who is a very intriguing character. He becomes the King's Hand (Queen Victoria was assassinated and Victorian England is now called Albertian England) and is tasked with investigating the werewolves that have abducted young boys all over London. At around the same time he's assaulted by a creature that can only be described as the Spring-Heeled Jack, the bogeyman of this universe. He discovers that a detective inspector of the Yard has been ridiculed for claiming that Spring-Heeled Jack exists and from him Burton is also tasked with finding out the truth about Spring-Heeled Jack. As the novel goes along, Burton starts to suspect that he's not working on two cases, but one...

The Undertaken Trilogy: Mistle Child, by Ari Berk. It's the second novel in The Undertaken Trilogy. I previously read Death Watch and it was really good albeit a bit slow at times. But while reading Mistle Child it became obvious that Death Watch had worked as some sort of prologue for the series. There's a lot of action going on in Mistle Child and it becomes impossible to put down. The series is filled to the brim with mythology and folklore concerning death. Ghosts, living dead, shadowlands, Watcher of the Threshold etc etc. I love the characters and the scenery in this series, which is the reason why I continued reading it after Death Watch. The only thing I don't like about this book is the name. Mistle Child is only mentioned once in the beginning and then not again until the very end when suddenly everything is about this Mistle Child. I'd rather the book were named Arvale or Janus, but I can see a theme of naming every book in the series two words, so I guess that's why. In this book the main character Silas Umber has settled into his role as the new Undertaker of Lichport, a role carried down throughout his family for generations. Out of the blue Silas is called to Arvale, the ancient family house, which he discovers is neither here nor there, but rather seems to be it's very own shadowland host to several of his ancestors one of whom called him there. He is tasked with becoming the new Janus, the Watcher of the Threshold and during the ceremonies an ancient evil is let loose.

De Sära: Särskild, by Nene Ormes. This is the second novel in the Swedish urban fantasy series De Sära, which takes place in Malmö, very close to my hometown. The first book sadly didn't impress me, but I'm acquainted with the author and felt that I should buy the second book too (and I got it signed!). I don't regret buying it. This second book is leagues better than the first one. It takes place in August, two months after the first book, and it's during the annual festival in Malmö. The main character, Udda, who has only just gotten to know the underworld of special people in Malmö is pulled into a territorial fight amongst shape-shifters. She is forced to find herself a master and in the midst of all of this she finds herself fearing for her life as several factions don't seem to want her alive due to her abilities. While most books tend to make you love the main character the most, my favourite character in this series is the shape-shifter Hemming, who (quite literally) takes Udda under his wing and becomes her protector. While the first book was in a generally confused state due to Udda never fully grasping what is happening, this second book focuses more on the workings of the society of the special people and we get to know a lot more about their different abilities and what they entail.

Necronomicon, by H.P. Lovecraft. I've finally finished Necronomicon! Lovecraft is the father of modern horror and fantasy (mostly horror) and anyone who likes Stephen King should definitely give Lovecraft a chance. There isn't much that scares me into nightmares, but Lovecraft succeeded with one specific short story in this collection: At the Mountains of Madness. This makes At the Mountains of Madness my favourite out of them all. But then there are the ones that have made me either queasy or uneasy like Herbert West - Reanimator, The Music of Erich Zann, The Colour Out of Space, The Dreams in the Witch-House, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Shadow Out of Time, The Thing on the Doorstep, and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. Above those any short story containing Randolph Carter is practically bound to be good: The Statement of Randolph Carter, The UnnamableThe Silver Key, Through the Gates of the Silver Key, and The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. Despite it making it harder to read and making me a slower reader, I love Lovecraft's language and his usage of odd words. I love how he can make a single sentence into a whole paragraph. And I love how he, with his odd words, creates terrifying and weird landscapes out of otherwise ordinary towns. My top five favourites in this collection are 1) At the Mountains of Madness, 2) The Colour Out of Space, 3) Through the Gates of the Silver Key, 4) The Shadow Over Innsmouth, and 5) The Shadow Out of Time.
"Lovecraft opened the way for me, as he had done for others before me."
- Stephen King
"H.P. Lovecraft built the stage on which most of the last century's horror fiction was performed."
- Neil Gaiman

Monday, 19 May 2014

Weekend in Skåne - Sayonara party and more

A month ago I recieved an unexpected email from one of my Japanese teachers, Murao, at the university. She told me that another of our teachers, Kayo, would be retiring later that year and Murao and our other teachers wanted to throw a suprise party for her at May 15th just after this year's students had finished their final exam. I decided to go there only for that event, but it turned out to be for so much more. It's been an eventful weekend on all accounts. It's also been a very warm weekend and this song always shows up in my head during beautiful spring and summer days:

I went down on Thursday. It all went fine until the station before "my" station. No power between those two stations. No trains could leave and none could come in. I got off the train there and hopped on a bus to my hometown instead. The train was still on the platform when the bus left the station ten minutes later, and the delays were piling up on the arrival boards. Got home to my parents' and had a nice meal with my mum and finished reading a book.

On Friday I got up relatively early. The annual Spring market was in town and I went down to have a look at it and talk some with my dad who was organising all of it this year. Around 1pm I got on the train to Malmö, but this time there was some huge computer problem in the City tunnel and no trains could go there, so my train had to go via the old tracks to the central station in Malmö. It was a nice change to actually see some scenery instead of just a tunnel, but slightly annoying that another train problem happened the day after the first one. In Malmö I went and looked around the station to find the place where I could advance vote for the EU parliament and got that done. After that I had about 5 hours to kill before the party. So I got down to a platform where there were going to arrive some trains bound for Lund. The one I had planned on was supposed to be on time, but a couple of minutes before arrival the speakers announce it's 30 minutes late (probably due to the problem in the tunnel), on the track next to it another train bound for Lund was already waiting for its departure time and I got on that one. By some kind of a miracle that train didn't have to wait around very long until it could depart and I got to Lund after a while. When I went down for the retirement party I had had no idea that the Carnival was on. The Carnival in Lund happens every fourth year and last time it happened it was while I was in Tokyo. I had planned on spending some time there before the party, but then I saw the queue for the tickets and decided against it. Instead I walked around the city in the early summer heat and watched a one man orchestra. I walked around the city centre two times and then I decided to walk up to the university building and walk around there for a while. That's when I bumped into an old course mate from last year's Japanese course. He was also going to the party and since I had nothing to do and he had to head back to his place for a short time, he asked if I wanted to come along and I said yes. We talked and had dinenr at his place before going back to the party. There I saw a lot of familiar faces. Both from when I studied Japanese for the first time in 09/10 and when I studied it last time 12/13. It was a lot of fun to talk to some old course mates again.

We were about 40 people there when Kayo finally came down to the room. She had had no idea about this event and when she came down the stairs and found 40 people applauding her she was very surprised and happy. She went around and talked briefly to everyone. She recognised all of us, even the ones she had taught Japanese almost 10 years ago. There were some appreciation and thank you speeches from students, one pair had even made a song for her, and then there was the scrapbook with messages from all of us that a couple of students from almost 10 years ago had put together to give to her. There was a buffet for all of us, and Anastasia and I went to get a picture each taken with Kayo from our Polaroid cameras. We also grabbed the chance and got a picture with our other two Japanese Japanese teachers :) After Kayo's improvised thank you speech to our show of appreciation I and Anastasia left and stood around outside chatting for a while before we headed home on separate ways. I got home and watched TV with my parents and read a book.

Saturday I met up with an old friend and we had a nice talk and some lunch that was unfortunately cut short, by a girlfriend problem on his part that seemed big to start with so he felt like he had to leave and sort it out. No hard feelings, I completely understand that. So I got home sort of early and could sit with my mum on the terrace and chat and read a book.

Sunday I had planned on just hanging out with my parents and maybe finish a book or two. But I also got to make my very first rhubarb pie. It turned out really great and I was really happy with it :) And my parents both suggested I'd take some rhubarb with me to make Toni one when I got home, and Toni also seemed to think that was a great idea xD So I'm gonna do another one tomorrow :P I did finish one book too however and got well into a second one.

Today I've mostly been on trains. Train from hometown to Malmö. Train from Malmö to Södertälje and then train from the station to the centre where I could take a bus home. Since I got home at around 6.30pm I haven't done much. I haven't even unpacked yet. All I've done has been to watch the season finale of Grey's Anatomy and some new episodes of Mad Men. I have a lot of blog posts planned since the weekend and a lot of writing too. Promises to be a good week :)

Monday, 12 May 2014

Elder Scrolls Online

Not counting the 4 beta sessions I've now played ESO for about 1½ months (that's including 5 days early access) and most of the time I love it, but as with all games there are some frustrations and some things I really don't like at all.

So let's start with the things that continuously bug me.
Fighters Guild and Mages Guild Quest Lines. Seriously. It's exactly the same whether you're in Ebonheart Pact, Aldmeri Dominion or Daggerfall Covenant. How can Guildmaster Sees-All-Colours be in Morrowind at the same time as she's in Glenumbra and Auridon? How can Merric and Aelif get into trouble with the same demon in all threee places? How can Valaste be in all those regions at the same time? I understand that the Main Quest Line is the same everywhere, it's the main quest so it should be, but why are the Guild's quest lines the same thing no matter where you are?

Enemy levels. Honestly. In the wild I can easily defeat enemies that are two or three or even four levels higher than me. But then I run into a boss-character who's three levels lower than me, and I get killed over and over and over. I can't wait for someone to come and help me, cause those bosses I'm referring to are private ones. Like Doshia. Like Balreth. Like Fake-Lyris. Doshia was level 8. I went up to level 13 before I defeated her and even then it was a really really long fight. I recently tried to defeat Balreth with a character on the same level. At least my character didn't die, but I didn't do enough damage to be able to kill Balreth before he ran off and healed himself. I think that stubborn fight lasted for about 45 minutes and no one got out of it victorious. On my main I fought Fake-Lyris yesterday. She was level 30 and I'm level 33. Fake-Lyris still killed me way before I could even half her health, and that was despite me chasing the Feasts around and healing myself while stopping them from healing her. She still killed me way too easily. So right now I'm thinking I should get to level 40 before I go after her again. Just to be on the safe side.

But that's basically it. That's everything that bugs me with this game. Sure there's the occasional bugged quest or item. But most of the time all I need to do is relog or reload. The game's only been out for a month. It still has some childhood diseases. And as far as I've heard WoW had very similar, if not the same problems, when it was released 10 years ago. Yes, it's 10 years ago. I've seen many people in ESO's chat saying that they really enjoy ESO and that WoW has gotten old. I don't really have any other MMOs to compare with. I played WoW for two hours before I was bored and that's my entire experience with MMOs pre-ESO.

Things I love about it.
Group Dungeons. I never thought I'd actually like this. I'm such an out-and-out single-player that I never thought I'd enjoy playing with people. Yesterday I tried to be a tank for the first time in my life. It was awesome :3 I played with a group of French people. They all knew English and I know French so we talked in a combination of French and English xD I think I did alright as a tank, they didn't complain anyway and after our first dungeon together they invited me to do one more. So I take that as all positive. Sure I did die a few times and sure sometimes I was hesitant to just go barging in. But I did what a tank was supposed to do. I think.

Crafting. I pick everything I find everywhere all the time. I research traits, learn motifs, craft, deconstruct etc etc. I love it. Mostly I love Provisioning and Blacksmithing. But I practice all the crafting skills on all my characters. Not that it's necessary. I just think it's a lot of fun xD And yesterday I found my first purple (Epic) item, which only so happened to be a recipe for Provisioning :P

Quests. The quests are not all the typical MMO-quests "kill that", "bring me that", but they are actual epic single-player-ish quests. There are ofc some typical MMO-quests, but mostly I think they're epic single-player-ish quests. This is a huge plus for me.

Mini-bosses. You come across these every now and then and they are always way too hard to manage on your own. So I always stand a bit to the side and ask in the chat if anyone is nearby and could help me. I usually don't have to wait long before someone shows up. Sometimes I don't even need to ask in the chat as someone shows up right after me. People are generally nice in this game. The loot from the mini-bosses are great too and usually comes with a trophy of some kind and always an Achievement.

Public Dungeons. These always come with an Achievement and a Skyshard, which I find very convenient. And they are never empty. You're never alone in these and you can always just hop in a team and fight alongside people. The final boss provides the Achievement and there are always a whole crowd of people waiting for the boss to re-spawn, but all you need is to manage one hit to get the loot and the Achievement. You don't need to deal the killing blow as long as you manage one single hit. You still get the Achievement, the loot and the experience points.

Exploration. I really enjoy doing nothing but exploring in all regions. But this far Summerset Isles and Valenwood have offered the best view while exploring. Valenwood is stunningly beautiful and I'm hoping that Elder Scrolls VI will take place there. As much as I love Skyrim and Morrowind exploring there isn't as fun as exploring in Valenwood. Skyrim is alright, but in Morrowind it's so grey and if it isn't grey you have to watch yourself or you'll fall into a lava pit. That kind of ruins exploration. I kind of enjoy exploring in High Rock and Hammerfell, but thus far it's mostly desert and I get thirsty running through all that sand.
Auridon of the Summerset Isles and Greenshade of Valenwood

Achievements. There are so many and I want them all. I love Achievements.

Dolmens. Or Anchors. These are respawning fighting points, connected to the main quest but not part of the quest line. You get Achievements for them :3 They start off with Worm Cult Priests sacrificing people to Molag Bal, the Daedric Prince of schemes. That's where all the assembled players rush in and kill them. Then it starts to literally rain Daedric creatures that everyone has to help kill and at the same time destroying the anchor pinions. There's experience and a lot of intense and fun fighting here.

The game is really good-looking for an MMO, people are nice and despite the occasional gold farmer there isn't much spamming in the chat, which is nice. People always help you if you ask for it, whether it be help to kill a mini-boss or help to find something or someone for a specific quest.

I have a Wood Elf Nightblade in the Aldmeri Dominion called Loyna. I have an Argonian Sorcerer in the Ebonheart Pact called Tar-Jei Gloomscale. I have an Orc Dragonknight in the Daggerfall Covenant called Guligul gro-Bash, although I'm planning on replacing her with a badass male Orc Templar :P My userID is Secchan there and you're free to add me.

Just to show how epic you feel while fighting at Dolmens here's the trailer for the game:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Eurovision Song Contest 2014

Originally I had planned on cosying up in the sofa with a bowl of crisps and watch it like a fangirl, but then we decided to have people over and then go out to drink. So I thought my plan was totally butchered. Turned out a new person I hadn't met before showed up along with some of our friends and she asked if anyone was curious about ESC, so we snuck off into the bedroom where we have a second TV and started watching it there. So we watched almost every country's performance and just before the voting started we went out. So when I got back home around 1 am I went online and checked who won. And now here I am, slightly hungover and typing all my thoughts about ESC.

I don't watch the Swedish competition to choose our song. I'll know who won anyways. So after I found out that Sanna had won I listened to the song and I thought it was incredibly boring, so I didn't expect anything for her semi. But she was amazing, 100% better than the clip I saw from the Swedish competition. And I started to think that maybe we had a chance this year again.

I'll just say right now that my favourite songs of this ESC have been: Sweden, Latvia, Estonia, Austria, Finland, Switzerland, Germany and France. So it's a very wide spectrum, both in regards of genre and in regards of doing well and doing badly. Latvia and Estonia didn't even get to the finale and France came in last place in the finale. But since I really liked Austria I was very relieved when Austria won. And a third place for Sweden isn't too bad. Maybe the concept "pretty girl sings beautifully alone on stage" still works?

And I'll just say this right now. Many people accuse Austria of winning for the wrong reasons. That they won because of Conchita Wurst being drag and not because the song was good. Those people love to point out the fact that it's a music competition and nothing else should matter. I see Conchita Wurst as a person. No different from any other person. I loved Austria because I thought the song was amazing. It gave me chills and it sounded like an intro song to a James Bond movie. Conchita's voice was incredible and the song was powerful. Apart from Cake to Bake I find Rise Like a Phoenix to be the most memorable song from this year's competition. I also want to point out that Conchita winning ESC also was a huge win for HBTQ+ all over Europe. Her win reeks of acceptance and a better future.

Something else I've noticed this year is that 90's music seems to be making a comeback. Iceland, Denmark and Belarus all had songs clearly inspired by 90's music and clearly inspired by boy bands. And we all know that the 90's was the Golden Era of Boy Bands. I don't understand why Iceland's song was so popular. To me the whole thing looked and sounded like the Teletubbies singing Hanson. And with Denmark it was to the point that I for a split second thought they had hired Backstreet Boys.

I don't understand how San Marino, Poland and Armenia could get to the finale. San Marino's song was boring and I had forgotten about it as soon as the music stopped. And Poland's song was sexist and bad. Her singing was screeching and lyrics about Slavic women liking to please their men and using what God gave them, come on! What century is this? The only thing Poland had working in their favour was that the singer was good-looking. Then there's Armenia. The guy had absolutely no charisma and the song had lyrics a 5-year-old could've written. What was that song doing in ESC at all?! I also don't understand why the Netherlands did so well. I thought their song was mostly boring, though it was a fresh breeze in the mass that was hysteric electronic music or boring ballads. The only thing I remember about it today was that it was a country-ish song. Nothing more.

Then there's the politicis. Ukraine always do well in ESC and I sort of liked their song this year. But there was really no need for the audience to boo the Tolmachevy Sisters. They have nothing to do with Russian politics or Putin's scheme to re-conquer Europe. Politics have nothing to do in ESC, Conchita's victory proves that. The fact that Russia managed Top 10 proves to me that those of us watching at home aren't stupid enough to let our views of a country affect two little singing girls. I do however appreciate the irony. Last year Russia had a song about peace and love. This year Russia had a song about peace and love. At the same time Russia is waging war in the Ukraine. The people aren't the politics and the people chose the songs not the war, but there's irony in this.

Finally some words about the host country: Denmark. I had a lot of fun this year too, when they guided us around Copenhagen. I've been there and there and there and there and... I missed the intermission acts of the finale, but I really enjoyed the intermission in the second semi with people from all over Europe going out on stage to dance. Especially little 8-year-old Megan and 86-year-old Kit :D I also loved the history throwbacks. And the stage itself was amazing! Actually, the only thing I can complain about is the fact that Lise's English sometimes was so heavily accented by Danish that I couldn't understand her English. But anyway, amazing show Denmark!

ESC really isn't my type of music or what I generally listen to. But ESC is also a party and a tradition. Something I've watched every year for as long as I can remember. ESC is a European tradition. I don't know about the other countries, but you can't be Swedish and not have an opinion of ESC, whether good or bad or "I don't care". You can't be Swedish and not know about it. It's been on for almost 60 years, just that is an achievement. Sweden has won 5 times. This is our thing. 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Escaping reality

When I was little I always loved Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Partly because of the beautiful dresses she got from the Beast, partly because she had a whole library, but mostly because she loved to read. I could see myself in that.

When I passed 9 I was one of those children who rather stayed indoors reading a book than playing outside. Books are still my favourite element to escape reality for a while, flying away, and when I finally have to put the book down I come crashing back down. If the book is really, really good I usually get a dizzyspell from putting the book down. I'm that far away. The same thing can happen if a I get into a really good flow while writing. I just disappear from the world and emerge again several pages later.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Crush the stereotypes!

Long hair isn't feminine
Short hair isn't masculine

Skirts aren't feminine
Pants aren't masculine

Make-up isn't feminine
Shaving isn't masculine

Cooking isn't feminine
Tinkering isn't masculine

Tears aren't feminine
Violence isn't masculine

Caring isn't feminine
Aggression isn't masculine

Unicorns & rainbows aren't feminine
Superheroes aren't masculine

Romance isn't feminine
"Just the sex" isn't masculine

Marriage & babies aren't feminine
Sleeping around isn't masculine

General fiction isn't feminine
Sci-fi isn't masculine

Deference isn't feminine
Strength isn't masculine

Timidity isn't feminine
Rashness isn't masculine

Pink, red and purple aren't feminine
Black, blue and green aren't masculine

Kindergarten teacher isn't feminine
Military isn't masculine

Fashion interest isn't feminine
Sports aren't masculine

Sushi isn't feminine
BBQ isn't masculine

Wine isn't feminine
Beer isn't masculine

R&B and pop aren't feminine
Punk and metal aren't masculine

My Little Pony isn't feminine
Pokémon isn't masculine

Gossip isn't feminine
Gaming isn't masculine


Estrogen is feminine
Testosteron is masculine

That's all.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Happy Harry Potter Day - 16 years since the Battle of Hogwarts

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts when Voldemort was finally and ultimately defeated. 2nd May 1998. And I promised myself that I'd do a remembrance post.

My very own Harry Potter journey started the next year. November 1999, when I on my 9th birthday, got the first Harry Potter book in Swedish from my parents. I still remember thinking that the book was huge and that I would never be able to read all that. But 9 year-old me devoured it and from that point on I recieved Harry Potter 2, 3 and 4 continuously every year. Either on birthdays or Christmas. I remember that every time I got a new book I had to re-read the ones before it. So when I ultimately got Goblet of Fire I had to re-read Philosopher's Stone, Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban before finally being able to read Goblet of Fire. This has resulted in my first four Harry Potter books in Swedish being very, very tattered.

I remember the excitement when the first movie was announced and how I and my friends finally learned how to pronounce the British names when we saw that movie. I remember the long, long wait for the fifth book and how I scoured the Internet for rumours. I remember the Harry Potter merch you could buy in ordinary supermarkets before the release of the first movie (licquorice wands, Bertie Bott's beans, chocolate frogs, cauldron cakes) and I'm disappointed that I threw those old chocolate frog cards away when I, in my late teens, had a bout of "I have to grow up now". I remember that the second movie premiered close to my 12th birthday and my parents took me and a few of my friends to see it for my birthday. I remember that I watched the second movie so many times that the video tape became jumpy. I spent all my days pretending that I was at Hogwarts. I re-made my school timetables so they had Hogwarts subjects instead, cause it made school funnier. I continued doing that 'til I was 16. I remember how much I loved the first Harry Potter computer game and how I and a friend played the Quidditch World Cup game on her computer. And the Trading Cards! And the card games!

I remember all those countless hours I used to spend at A Swedish Harry Potter community where I had all my friends. I remember sneaking online on our old modem Internet, before broadband when the phones didn't work while online, so that I could talk with my friends. I remember that I cried when the announcement came that the site would close down in December 2006. I remember going to my first Internet meet-up in Lund in 2006. A goodbye meet-up.

I remember the Barry Trotter parodies and the very first toy wands and the earliest Harry Potter trivia books. I remember the agonising wait for the fifth book to be released in Swedish. The Swedish version had just over 1000 pages and I read it in two days. Couldn't put it down. The sixth book was the first I read in English and I bought it during my first trip to England. I read it by myself long into the night and cried my eyes out when my hero, Dumbledore, died. I had to re-read the paragraph where he died 3-4 times before I realised that Rowling wasn't joking and that it had actually happened. I was sad for days because of that. Then I spent 2 years wondering how in the world she'd manage a book without Dumbledore in it.

I was queueing in Malmö for the midnight release of the seventh and final book. I wanted to read it slowly to savour the last book and not quite letting it end, but I couldn't and had finished it the next day. So many tears because of that book. All the deaths and the realisation that it's over. I also felt relieved because I had worried about Dumbledore not being in it, but instead the entire book was about Dumbledore and no matter what was revealed about him in Deathly Hallows, it couldn't make me love him less. About the same time I discovered Wizard Rock in Harry and the Potters.

But it wasn't over. In early 2011 I discovered Mugglarportalen, which became a substitution for Summer 2011 was the premiere of the final movie and I was there for the midnight premiere and also the premiere for Pottermore where I signed up for the beta. In 2012 I went to another Internet meet-up along with a Potter party, in 2013 I went to London and The Making of Harry Potter, 2 ½ months ago I was at Amortentia, and this summer I have planned on going to Harry Potter: The Exhibition on it's European premiere in Norrköping. It will never end. Harry Potter is like The Wizard of Oz (published in 1900) or Alice in Wonderland (published in 1865): 100 years from now people will still read Harry Potter and love it, and I'm grateful that I was there from the very beginning and watched it unfold.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

20 questions about books

On one of the Swedish blogs I follow there was a post with 20 questions about books. They were in Swedish ofc, but here are my translations and my answers :)

1. Which book has been in your bookcase the longest?
I'd say it's probably Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in Swedish, which has been in my bookcase, continuously, since I was 8 or 9. I would've said Philosopher's Stone in Swedish, but my first issue of that one fell to pieces so the issue I have of Chamber of Secrets is now actually older than my issue of Philosopher's Stone. I have one Chip n' Dale book too, which I saved from the trash when my grandmother moved from her house to a flat. I adored that book as a small child and couldn't watch it getting thrown away. But although I've probably had that since before Harry Potter, it wasn't in my bookcase. I only had it at my grandmother's house. So Harry Potter takes the spotlight on this one.

2. What are you reading right now, what was your last read, and what are you planning to read next?
Right now I'm reading Burton & Swinburne in The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder. It's a steampunk/fantasy/mystery/detective novel and I really enjoy it. Before that I was reading Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper, which is your classic medieval setting fantasy novel, and it was totally amazing. Next I'm not sure but it will probably be Mistle Child by Ari Berk, or Ten Little Aliens by Stephen Cole. Mistle Child is a fantasy/horror novel set in the present. Ten Little Aliens is a Doctor Who adventure featuring the First Doctor and his companions Ben and Polly.

3. Mention a book that everyone seems to love but you hate.
This is a tricky one cause I'm very slow on reading the books that "everyone reads". I have Hunger Games, Cirkeln, A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Hobbit in my bookcase but I haven't read any of them yet. But I think I'll have to say The Fellowship of the Ring. I tried really hard to read it when I was 14 or 15, but it was so boring that I just stopped after their visit to Tom Bombadill. I just couldn't take it anymore. And I'm a person who finds it very hard not to finish reading a book after I've started.

4. What book are you telling yourself that you will read although you probably never will?
Anything by Asimov. He's the father of modern sci-fi and I have a lot of friends who read his books and love them, but I'm not a huge sci-fi fan and although I keep telling myself that I'll read Asimov at some point, I probably never will.

5. What book are you saving 'til "retirement"?
I think I'll have to say the final two volumes of Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children. I read the first 4 while I was in high school and since then the final two have been released.

6. Last page: do you read it first or last?
I don't really read it, but I have a strange habit of wanting to see what the final word is. I don't do it all the time though. So I guess I read it last.

7. Author's Acknowledgements: waste of paper or do you read them?
Sometimes I read them and sometimes I don't. Sometimes the acknowledgements are really heartfelt and that's when I read them. Sometimes they're just a long long list of names and that's when I don't read them.

8. Which character in a book would you want to trade places with?
Maybe Rose Weasley? That way I could go to Hogwarts without the constant threat of Voldemort, but the stories would still be really close since my parents would've been in the midst of fighting him. And I'd be a Weasley and Molly would probably be an amazing grandmother.

9. Is there any book that reminds you of something special (a person, a place, or a specific time)?
I bought Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on my first ever trip to England in 2005. I read it all there and it will forever remind me of how 14 year-old me sat in my bed at my host mother's house and cried my eyes out in the middle of the night cause Dumbledore had just died. Similarly, Stardust will always remind me of sitting in my pajamas in my room at my host mother's house in Tokyo, and Fragile Things will always remind me of my trip to Seoul and how it got cheap Korean beer all over it cause I forgot to put it away before the party started.

10. Is there any book that you've acquired in an odd way?
I have a Bible in my bookcase. I'm not at all religious, but this Bible I recieved from my grandmother. It's from the late 19th century and it was her mother's confirmation gift. I have my great-grandmother's Bible in my bookcase and it is printed entirely in gothic lettering.

11. Have you at any time given a book to a specific person for a specific reason?
Yes, several times. I find that books make the easiest gifts.

12. Which book has been with you to the most places?
Fragile Things has been with me to Tokyo, Seoul and then around Sweden.

13. Any book that you were forced to read in school and hated, but isn't that bad ten years later?
In 3rd grade we read Solstenen by Maj Bylock. I hated it back then cause I thought it was boring. So boring that it's still vividly imprinted in my mind. But when I was a teenager I fell in love with the historical fantasy series Häxprovet by the same author. I think I'd probably like Solstenen now, if I gave it a chance.

14. What is the strangest thing you've found in a book?
My mum enjoyed to press flowers in books when I was younger and she was young. I took after that and also pressed flowers in books as a child. And to this day I still find flowers between the pages of certain books at my parents' house. It might not be strange, but I'm not a fan of second hand books unless they're really very very old, and I don't use libraries anymore cause I always want to keep the book after I've read it. So flowers it is.

15. Brand new or second hand?
Preferably brand new unless it's antique. I want to bend and batter a book myself. The more battered, the more loved.

16. Stephen King - literary genius or crappy author?
I've only read a few of his books and I've enjoyed what I've read so I wouldn't call him crappy, but neither of the books I've read by him has had me on clouds all day or given me a book hangover. So I wouldn't call him a literary genius either.

17. Have you ever seen a film you've enjoyed more than the book?
Easy. The Fellowship of the Ring. I don't particularly like the first movie either, but it's leagues better than the first book.

18. On the other side - which book should never have made the big screen?
Harry Potter 4-6 are blasphemous.

19. Have you ever read a book that has made you hungry (not cook books)?
In many fantasy novels they usually eat stews. Several different types of stew. I love stew. Especially my dad's stews. So reading about them eating stew makes me long for autumn when my dad will make stew again.

20. Is there anyone whose book tips you always read?
I wouldn't say read, but at the Sci-Fi bookstores in Stockholm and Malmö there are usually small shelves called "The Nerds Recommend" and I always take a look at those shelves to see if there's anything that interests me.