Thursday, October 30, 2008

I think it's safe to assume it isn't a zombie

Things like this, to me, is the reason for the Internet's existence. I shall build an altar to the glory of Angry Alien Productions. Glory, glory, hallelujah!

And so it continues

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Something I wrote

Some people expressed an interest in reading something I've written. Below is one of the few fictional pieces that I'm actually happy with. There are others, but this is the only one I will post, for now. I'm too tired to fix the formatting, unfortunately...


I guess I have always had problems with women. That’s a typically male thing to say, I know, but it goes both ways. Any woman who claims to understand men is a liar. I’ve always been misunderstood, on some level. And I wouldn’t be surprised if women have problems with women as well, and men with men.

The whole man-woman thing has to be in a different league altogether, though. At least it is for me. Women are from Venus, men are from Mars, and all that crap. And no, I don’t live at home with my mother, and no, I don’t wear Star Trek uniforms all the time, and yes, I have a steady job, and no, it’s got nothing to do with computers. But all that is just a façade, attributes we think matter but that don’t, really. If you have a problem in your relationship and think you can solve it by changing jobs or something mundane like that, then the problem isn’t yours, but your partner’s.

Anyway. Now I’ve met this girl. She is a real looker, and I want to do things just right. Fix the problem, break the streak of no-hitters, to use a typically male term. That doesn’t even sound right. I hate sports. Not hunting though. That’s a man’s pastime. My uncle used to take me hunting when I was a kid. Taught me how to appreciate the skill required and the loneliness of it all. Just you and your prey. Still, that’s the whole damn point of hunting. Doing it alone.

So I have a date with her this weekend, and I don’t want to mess things up. I went shopping for it today. I’m a sucker for planning, and I basically had the activities for the weekend planned on Monday. Hell, I’ve been thinking about it almost two weeks. How could I not? She seems to be just the kind of girl I’ve been looking for, and I want to make the right impression. Get the proper “wow” effect.

So I went shopping. Two rolls of duct tape. Ten feet of half inch rope. A roll of plastic bags. A pack of latex gloves. A new hacksaw. She sure is a looker. I hope she’s a screamer too.

Writers are made, not born

A few years back, I took a creative writing class in Swedish, online. It was horrible. Awful. Pathetic. No criticism from the teacher, at all, just encouraging words for everybody, about everything. How the hell are you supposed to learn anything that way?

So it was with some doubt that I signed up for Creative Writing in English, at Gävle Högskola, the year after. I shouldn't have worried. It turned out to be an excellent writing community helmed by a passionate and knowledgeable teacher/mentor, with so much talent among the writers I experience a dizzying combination of inspiration, awe and inferiority complex every time I meet them.

The class is completely online, aside from one meeting per term, and has moved to a folkhögskola (kind of like a community college, for any non-Swedes out there) since I started. I have completed my four terms, but still hang around, as do many others.

If anyone is interested in participating in our community, let me know. The term is in full swing, but you can sign up for next year. There are four deadlines each term, with a selection of reading and writing, some obligatory, some voluntary.

In three weeks, it's time for this term's meeting, at Storvik outside Gävle. I really look forward to it, since it's always an inspiring (but exhausting) weekend, but I'm also dreading it, since it will be two years since my friend Henrik passed away on the Thursday when I'm supposed to go up there. Perhaps I'll use the feelings that day will no doubt spawn as some sort of inspiration too.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

And all the sweet serenity of books

I'm reading Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs right now. I was supposed to be reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, but I couldn't read it. It was too powerful. The grainy image of a man falling from the Twin Towers on 9/11 was just too much, right now.

So it will have to wait until another time. Because it was a very interesting book, and the main character, Oskar, is fascinating. I don't recommend it to the faint of heart or...whatever it is I am right now. Stressed out? Depressed by the fall? Angry at the world in general? All of the above? Probably.

Klosterman has some interesting views on pop culture in the 90s. I'm not even halfway yet, but I think I like where Cocoa Puffs is going, though I have some issues with Klosterman's use of the word “fucking”. I'm not against it as such, but I see no need for throwing it into a text just for the fucking sake of it *grin*

What are you people reading right now, and what do you think about what you're reading?

My plan for the coming week is to write. Maybe not finish but at least start two separate texts, one to post as part of the second fall deadline for my creative writing class, and the second to bring to said class' meeting at Storvik outside Gävle in early November.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's better to be barefoot than without books

I realized like/don't like sort of fizzled out and died. I will now attempt to resurrect it. Rise...rise...RISE!!! *thunder in the background. A hunched-back servant throws a switch*

beardonaut likes:
JPod, by Douglas Coupland. I finished this book a while back, and wanted to write something about it, but it just never happened. So here goes.

So far I've only read three of Coupland's novels, Microserfs, All Families are Psychotic and JPod, but I need to read more. Microserfs was good, Families was so-so, and JPod was great. Hilarious, well-written, exceptional characters, and with a nice meta-plot twist, since Coupland himself plays a minor part in the story.

My gut feeling is that you need to be at least partially a geek to appreciate JPod (and Microserfs) fully. There are geek references throughout, and most of the characters are geeks. However, since it is very well-written, anyone with an appreciation for witty contemporary literature should be able to appreciate it.

Now go read it.

beardonaut doesn't like:
Undisciplined dogs. Or rather, their owners. While walking home from the grocery store today, I met a woman with two dogs. I rarely pay attention to dogs, unless it's a pitbull straining at a leash held by a punk with too many heavy gold chains around his neck (wait, what am I saying? One heavy gold chain is too many...). So today I paid them no attention, and just walked on, headphones on, cut off from the world.

Until one of her dogs decided that whatever I had in my bag was of interest. Not like it bit me or anything, it just lunged at me and careened into me. The woman pulled it back from me, and started screaming at it.

Now, here was a person that obviosuly shouldn't own a dog at all. Why? Because she couldn't control it, and because she screamed at it.

I have no problem with dogs in general. My grandfather had dogs when I was younger, but they were well-behaved, well-trained dogs.

I could make all sorts of parallels here between dogs and children, but I won't. For now.

Who will be the strongest thumb?

I lost two thumb wars in a row this morning. What. The. Hell. I have a powerful thumb. Meaty. And I lost. Twice.

Did you know that there's a Thumb Wrestling Federation?

Friday, October 24, 2008

And so it begins

Tick tock. Tick tock.

*the sound of sheep hooves in the background*

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Doth thou speaketh English?

Last night my boss called me, and said "You should go to the Nordic Telecom Summit" tomorrow. I said I had too much work to do at the office. For some reason the fall is always the busiest time of the year. He told me that didn't matter, and that I really should go. So I did.

There were some pretty good speakers, highlighting issues like the future of mobile broadband, developments in radio network interfaces, and the evolution of 3GPP networks towards LTE. All very interesting.

The highlights of the day were more on a personal level though.

1. I realized as a guy from Google was speaking, that if everyone worked at Google (megacorp, anyone?), or all companies worked like Google, the world would be a better place. For nerds.

2. I got to ask someone from a competing company (that shall remain nameless) uncomfortable questions about their presentation regarding the future of services in IP backbone networks. She evaded the questions like she'd been in politics for twenty years. Cop-out.

3. All the presentations were in English, and some truly awe-inspiring Swenglish was heard from the speakers. My personal favorite, that wasn't really Swenglish either but just plain wrong and hilarious: "Everyone wants a pie of that business". Eh...what? I see what he was going for, but it misfired beyond description.

In all, a good day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I wish that just once people wouldn't act like the clichés that they are

I'm a bona fide TV junkie. I'll give most shows a chance, and I can watch some stuff over and over and over.

I acknowledge that TV is a real time stealer. I acknowledge that perhaps it numbs my soul. I don't care. It's entertainment, baby! and sometimes that's just what I need.

The Best Show Ever is, of course, Six Feet Under. I watched it sporadically when it was shown on Swedish television, and was always drawn to it's dark humor and flawless dialogue. I've since bought it and watched through it all with Mah Girl a few years ago. It's awesome, in the true sense of the word. Spectacular.

I want this on a t-shirt

Shows of that magnitude, that are that well-written, transcends entertainment. They become something more profound, a mirror in which we see something of ourselves reflected back. That might sound like pseudo-religious ramblings, but it's the truth, at least for me.

As I'm writing this, Grey's Anatomy is on. That show has become a real train wreck of soap opera intrigue and drama that is completely uncalled for, filled with completely one-dimensional characters. And just like Prison Break, it had such promise, that it never delivered on.

But really, I shouldn't be watching that much TV, or spending that much time slouching around on the Internet either. I should be writing. I should be structuring that novel I so very much want to write, or resurrecting one of the countless short stories that lurk in the depths of my hard drive.

One of my favorite authors, William Gibson, said (or wrote, not sure):
I suspect I have spent just about exactly as much time actually writing as the average person my age has spent watching television, and that, as much as anything, may be the real secret here.

I should listen to him.

This blog was supposed to be an inspiration for me to start writing again, after sort of a hiatus. It has helped in a way, since I'm writing here more than I've done in a long time, but it hasn't really helped me finish any stories. I need to get my bearded ass in gear and write more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent

So now is later.

Lately, I've been considering what the hell is wrong with the world and people.

Over the past two months three people I know have been assaulted in one way or the other. As I've expressed in previous posts, I'm not a real believer in the inner goodness of man, but I still think that it takes a certain kind of person to beat up someone without a reason.

This is where you go “A reason you say?”.

Yes. A reason. I know I have the capacity within me for violence. I know that if someone close to me was threatened or attacked, I wouldn't hesitate to step in and deal with the situation. With violence, if need be. I know this might seem hypocritical, and that may be, but I have little doubt this is the way a lot of people are wired. For me, that realization came when my then-girlfriend was attacked by her stepfather. The rage I felt when I found out was terrifying. The realization that I would have thrown myself at him had I been there, with no regard for my own safety, was terrifying. The fact that I would do it again, for anyone close to me, is terrifying. But still true.

I felt the same way when my now-girlfriend was trapped inside the entrance of a club between a locked door and a guy gone berserk on anti-psychotics and alcohol. Good combo, that... He was about as tall as a Smurf, and managed to throw a 200-pound security guard around.

So yes. A reason. Then again, that's the only reason I can think of.

That situation aside, to me normal people don't hurt other people. Here's where we need to define normal. Normal as in “functioning properly emotionally”, nothing else. It has nothing to do with normalcy regarding looks or political views or race or whatever (the middle one sometimes fits, though that's a topic for another post). The urge might be there, those primal fight or flight instincts, but normal people don't let the urges get the better of them. That's what's called “civilization”.

I consider the three people (I won't dignify them with the term “men”), and any other people really that do the same thing, to be below me on an evolutionary scale. Yes, all men are created equal, but again, those degenerates aren't men.

Those are my two cents.

Game over, man, game over

Today was one of those days where things move from good to bad to good again in the blink of an eye. Well, not really the blink of an eye, but a fairly short time.

It started off well enough, even though I shouldn't have been feeling that well, considering I was up too late last night and what with the stuff that's been going on lately. More on that later.

Then it all went sideways as a problem at work just grew out of proportion. It was all about a process gone horribly, horribly wrong, and about some people standing on the sideline not really noticing that it had gone wrong, and about some people on another sideline overreacting when it did. Through some well-aimed diplomacy (I have a piece of paper tacked to my cubicle wall that says “Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to 'Go to Hell' in such a way that they actually look forward to the trip”) and a lot of running around, I managed to at least partially defuse the situation, and above all sort of who had done what wrong when.

My workday continued to be less than spectacular, and I felt compelled to complain to Mah Girl. As always, she cuts straight to the point.

“Think about good food and good company later. It's going to be LEGEN...wait for it...DARY!”

Instant smile.

So I left work on time, and went downtown to meet the Almighty Steelwheels. The plan was to eat meat and speak nerd. I ate salmon, which wasn't quite right, but others ate meat. And we spoke nerd.

Quote of the night:
“Bill Paxton is the only one ever to have been killed by both an Alien and a Predator. I think about stuff like that all day...”

All is well with the world.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

More metal than your grandmother's hip replacement

I saw Cult of Luna play live on Thursday. I meant to write something about it, but the text kept growing and time kept shrinking, so I had to postpone it. Until now.

The opening act was Kongh. They're one of those bands that I've been meaning to check out, for quite some time now, but haven't gotten around to. I have heard a few songs from their debut, "Counting Heartbeats", and liked what I heard with the exception of the vocals. So I was expecting to nod along to some tunes and then cringe as the vocalist opened his mouth. How wrong I was.

Kongh came on to samples from the classic King Kong movie. That alone was enough to put a smile on my face. Then they proved that three people can sound like a dozen, which made the smile even wider. Kongh moves somewhere in the region between doom bands like Yob and faster, more progressive acts like Mastodon, and they do their thing really, really well. Slowly droning doom blends seamlessly with amazing drumming and intricate guitarwork, without it ever veering off to guitar solos. And the vocalist sounded a lot better live than what I remember from the CD.

Kongh gets seven beards out of ten.

The second band was Lowood. I had never heard the name before, and was expecting something along the lines of the other two bands, that is moody men in their 20s and 30s, more likely bearded than not, churning out slow, ten-minute metal tunes. Again, how wrong I was.

Lowood turned out to be two women/girls, probably in their twenties, with nothing but two microphones, a synthesizer and a guitar. While their music, which was in the singer/songwriter vein with great pop melodies and Duran Duran-ish squeals from the synthesizer, is about as far from the other bands as you can go and still be a guitar-based band, the mood they conveyed was very appropriate and fit right in with both Kongh and Cult of Luna.

Unfortunately the din from the bar almost drowned their low-key songs, which made it hard to listen properly.

For now Lowood gets five beards out of ten, but I expect that to change if I can get my hands on some of their songs.

On to the main attraction then. I've seen Cult of Luna quite a few times now, and they've managed to be both exceptional and as dull as watching paint dry. Last night was more towards exceptional, but still not anywhere near the best I've seen them. They have two main problems.

The top one is the singer (screamer, really), who manages to contribute just about nothing every time he's on stage. His voice goes after a few songs, and his stage presence is about as exciting as another microphone stand. The one time I've seen them and they have been exceptional, he wasn't there, and the guitarist, who screams on some songs anyway, did all
the screaming.

The second problem is not as big now as it used to be. A few years back they probably had some guy walking around before the show, nailing all their feet to the stage and inserting metal rods down their spines. They've been moving around more and more over the years, especially some of them, and now they did a fairly good job of pulling up those nails and breaking those rods. I expect they have fired that guy by now.

If they had peppered their playlist with stuff further back than "Somewhere Along The Highway" (they might have, but being the old geezer I am I left before they were done) I might have been more enthusiastic, but I completely understand the urge to only play newer stuff.

Cult of Luna gets six beards out of ten.

It's alive, it's alive, it's alive! It's ALIVE!

Yes. The laptop is finally alive and kickin'. No channeling of thunderstorms or bodyparts from corpses needed. Instead, the undescribable voodoo that is a fresh OS from a CD.

I however, am only barely alive today. Last night began with a formal shindig, where we (as in The Company I Work For) gave out awards to the best sales people from the various companies we employ to sell our stuff. I wore a tuxedo. Yes, it's true. Pictures were taken. After food and some free beer and wine there, it was off to my brother's place for his going away party. He's spending a year in New Zeeland, starting Thursday. I'm not envious at all...

Various beverages where consumed. A good time was had. A shelf was destroyed. By me. I have Godzilla aspirations, and thought I would start off small-scale.

Today will consist of: fatty foods and couch potatoing (it's what I do best). Writing. If I can summon up some energy I might get around to installing some stuff on the laptop, but right now that looks very unlikely.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes is one of my favorite movie sites. It gathers reviews from all over the BBI and from American newspapers, and displays an average percentage (the Tomatometer) to give you an indication of how movies have been rated.

Some examples from their list:
- Toy Story. 100%, on 49 reviews. My 50th wouldn't change that one bit.
- Jaws. 100%, on 34 reviews. Again. No change.
- The Usual Suspects. 89%, on 45 reviews. The best movie experience I've ever had. Should be a hundred, but what do critics know?
- The City of Lost Children (La Cité des Enfants Perdus). 82%, on 33 reviews. The most visually stunning movie ever. A fairy tale for grownups.
- Fight Club. 81%, on 124 reviews. One of my favorite films, but still not much off what I would have said.
- 28 Weeks Later. 71%, on 173 reviews. POS. POS POS POS. So lame I don't know where to begin...
- Daredevil. 44%, on 202 reviews. This should have been a ten. Five. One. But then again, I can't be objective when it comes to childhood heroes.
- The Number 23. 8%, on 181 reviews. I thought this rating was very unfair after seeing the movie. But then again, I read a lot reviews on Rotten Tomatoes for this movie before seeing it, so my expecations were significantly lowered.

Can you find anything you really disagree with on their site?

I'm on their email list and get updates regularly. Today my eyes were drawn to the result for Max Payne. Zero. I repeat. Zero. So of course I had to go look. Turned out it was seven percent, but still. Seven. During the day it has gradually increased, and now stands at 15.

My favorite comment:

The film's best line sums up my feelings on it perfectly "Stay away from Max Payne." But they probably don't mean it the same way I do, huh?

Hilarious. I expect it to suck. I bet it could suck a golf ball through a garden hose. And I dare all of you to name a movie based on a video game that doesn't.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn

I like the fall. I'm not a heat person. At all. At maybe 25, 26 degrees Celsius I just shut down. Headache, fatigue, the whole thing.

So September, October spells relief for me. Especially since all the windows in our apartment are facing south, and air-conditioning is very much a no-show in Swedish apartment buildings. I bought a portable one a few years back, but it's kind of noisy and not really a proper replacement for the real thing.

Then again, I'm not a rain person either. And so not a snow person. So, yes, mistlur, I am a complainer. A whiner. Weather is rarely right for me. If I had my way, we would have late summer evening weather, all the time, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Now the leaves are turning for real. I wish I had the time and peace of mind to just go out and walk around for hours, looking. Maybe next weekend. Or maybe the one after that. Or...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Also like a human receptionist, it is not possible to impress her

Conversation today, while walking back from lunch.

Me: Maybe I should aim for some kind of coordinating role.
Coworker: Yeah?
Me: Yeah. Someone who has all the right connections, and can sit around all day just telling people who they should talk to, to get things done.
Coworker: There's a name for that sort of job.
Me: Yeah?
Coworker: Yeah. Receptionist.


Not that there's anything wrong with being a receptionist. I just know that I would seriously consider bringing some sort of lethal weapon to work if I had to sit around and be nice all day long, everyday. Receptionists of the world, I salute you!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

To a good approximation, all species are insects

I went to a museum on Saturday, with the Girl, my parental units, my soon-to-be-in-New-Zeeland brother and his girl. It was a pretty interesting place, though we failed to bring a proper camera.

In the gift shop, they had all kinds of nerd toys, and I couldn't resist.

Yes, it looks like a mechanical insect. Yes, I am a geek. Yes, I like clockwork mechanisms. Yes, that is my hand.

It (the toy, not the hand) skitters around on any flat surface if you wind it up. Pointless. But a lot of fun. And my geek score just went up. Yay!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The stories of my death are highly exaggerated

In response to EGE's question on my last entry, and just to dispel any rumours that might be flying around out there on the BBI (Big Bad Internet), I am not dead. The laptop, however, remains so. Though not really.

Without going into mind-numbing detail about all the trials and tribulations surrounding the laptop, I can say that I am not a happy camper, and that a CD with a new, proper OS is on the way from LG. I expect to be up and running sometime next week.

So. My absence is mostly due to that but also due to a general lack of time. I will be back, though.

And as an observation: scraping ice from the windows of the car on October 6th is not OK.