Etikettarkiv: 2012

Life, part III: 2013

2013. It always feels weird when facing a new number, every year the same number. I’m enticed to say that the years feel more and more science fiction and futuristic in the 21st century, but I’m sure it felt exactly the same when predicting the near future or facing new years in the 1900s, or for that matter long before that.

2013-01-01 14.12.35
I took a self portrait last year, I have to do another.

Almost exactly one year ago, I made a rather personal post with my hopes and predictions for 2012. I now know the end result. I wrote about being excited for the new Hobbit release, which I have yet to see (but I have bought tickets to see it tomorrow, in HFR and 3D). I wrote about the so-called 2012 Phenomenon, and exposed my worries for a second Heaven’s Gate suicide disaster. I’m glad to know in hindsight that I was wrong, and that the prediction had a small number of true believers.

I wrote about graduating, which I did, and starting a new programme, which I did. But I did not write about changing from an engineering programme to a bachelor one.

I wrote about finalising my first novel, The Tempest, which I did. I wrote about submitting it to publishers, which I did. I did not write about them all refusing it.

I wrote about getting my own apartment, which I did.

I stand by the summary one year ago: ”All in all, it is the year I grow up. Let’s hope I don’t crash and burn while escaping Earth orbit.”

For 2013, I am going to be much more concrete. I like making check lists, so I have decided to make a check list of things to do this year.

  • I will finish all my 2012-2013 school courses.
  • I will finish at least one of the two novels I’m working on (”Home” and ”Loneliness”).
  • I will try at least ten new board games.
  • I will read ten of the best books ever written according to that arbitrary list I found.
  • I will watch ten of the best films ever made according to that arbitrary list I found.
  • I will continue training fitness a little every day, and at least once a week at the gym.

2013. It’s gonna be a good one.

Gul Jod

Lots of stuff are happening. I’ve become the secretary for the board of the Swedish Pirate Party (starting after New Year’s). I have lots of school stuff, with two exams in January.

And, lots of other stuff. Christmas was just a few days ago and in two days New Year’s is here. I will probably make another post in the beginning of January like I did last year, summing up 2012 and making my personal predictions for 2013.

Can the Dutch Pirates get into parliament?

So far, none of the over 40 pirate parties throughout the world have gotten into national parliament. Sweden got into the European Parliament in 2009, Germany has managed several state elections throughout 2011 and 2012, and there are some pirates spread out locally (full list).

Next week marks the national election in the Netherlands, in which the Pirate Party might actually enter parliament. Several polls now show between one and two pirate seats in the parliament.

TorrentFreakPirate Times. Picture from www.piratenpartij.nl.

Books of May 2012

These are the books read in May. Hasn’t gotten much read due to a lot of school and work.

  • Mignon Fogarty: “The Grammar Devotional” (2009)
    • Filled with some great tips on using proper grammar, some already known and some new. I’m not a big fan of the day-to-day structure (read a tip a day), but it works. I felt the quizzes took up a little too much space, but the tips and the background info was all useful.
  • Stephen King: “The Wind Through the Keyhole: a Dark Tower Novel” (2012)
    • I’ve been waiting a long time for this midquel of King’s Dark Tower series (which finished with the seventh book in 2004). This book takes place in between the fourth (“Wizard and Glass”) and fifth (“Wolves of the Calla”) books of the series, and features Roland retelling two stories from his youth, one from his teen years and one a fairy tale his mother used to tell him when he was a sma’ one. The book basically fulfills everything I hoped for – it’s not an epic exciting story liked the original Dark Tower series, but rather a softer storybook. It’s nice to return to these old characters again, and it’s hard to part with them towards the end, knowing what shall come. I hope King considers producing any future such material, like more stories from Roland’s youth.

Amberian Dawn – Circus Black (2012)

For one reason or another (or perhaps for no reason at all), I have missed out completely on music for a while. No good. Until this weekend I hadn’t heard Nightwish’ new ”The Crow, the Owl and the Dove” single with the previously unreleased ”The Heart Asks Pleasure First” b-track (cover of the theme song of the awesome film ”The Piano”), and I have yet to hear the new albums of both Epica, Eluveitie and Amberian Dawn. I suck, I know.

After going through Nightwish (which wasn’t a big surprise since I had heard a crappy live version recording before, but it’s nice to have it in good quality along with the lyrics and an instrumental version), I come to Amberian Dawn.

Last time AD released an album, ”End of Eden” in 2010, I was a huge fan after ”River of Tuoni” (2008) and ”The Clouds of Northland Thunder” (2009), and the result was me waiting like crazy for the release date, going through the forums day and night, staying home from school and waiting for the CD to land in the mail. The CD was awesome, and I wrote an extensive review of it immediately.

When the new ”Circus Black” comes, all is different. I know it’s been out for ages, yet I somehow haven’t bothered. I want to set aside time for it, I want to listen it through carefully and then go all fanboy-y on the internetz for a few days. I simply haven’t had the time.

Now is the time.

Here comes the mega awesome super cool extra turbulent Aki review of ”Circus Black”, written as I listen, with my very first impressions. Hell, I have yet to start it now, and I’m shaking… and it’s not just the coffee in front of me. Let’s go.

[Edit: I listen to a download version, as I can’t wait for my CD to arrive (in a couple days!). I therefore managed to screw up and missed ”Cold Kiss” and ”Guardian” at first, realising the mistake after reviewing ”Letter”. That’s why I complain about no song being over five minutes at one point. The ”Cold Kiss” review was thus done out of order and added afterwards.]

 

1. Circus Black (03:48)

I dislike starting with title tracks. It feels weird. The title track should be an intro of sort – not necessarily a short atmospheric intro, but some sort of kickstarter. Not the main song, as the title track tends to be. Oh well, let’s judge the music and not the title.

Starts with a creepy but cool sound, fits with the circus theme. The metal drums kicks in alongside the background sounds. Heidi sounds great as always, dulls the track down a tad. To nitpick, the chorus sounds like it comes to early, I wanted a longer pre-chorus section. Good vocal lines though, and still great background instruments. Good unexpected drum line before the second chorus. I don’t really listen to the lyrics first time around, but I’m sure there’s some awesome story somewhere.

Unusually interesting bridge section for AD, with good guitar lines and a quick yet suiting solo. Slows down in a good way, this is probably great live. Again, I think the chorus returns too early.

 

2. Cold Kiss (03:30)

Cool beginning! Melodic yet fast, classic AD. Nice whisper effects, but I’m a sucker for even the simplest background stuff. Timo Kotipelto’s guest vocals work great, I was worried if they would feel strange against Heidi’s but they sound excellent without taking over too much or feeling out of place. Nice riffing and cool keyboard solo. Overall a nice song, the riffing was indeed cool, and it feels like one that will grow on me.

 

3. Crimson Flower (04:24)

It looks weird to have three titles beginning with C in a row. Oh well. [written after realising the existence of ”Cold Kiss”: hey, four C’s!]

Good start, doesn’t really sound like AD but it’s good to vary. The vocal lines come in beautifully. Hard not to head bang, great mixture of exciting heavy metal and simply beautiful vocals. Unusually slow a tempo, but that’s what I’ve been looking for in AD for a while.

Wow, interesting turn after the chorus, slowing down completely. Great fairy tale-like theme in the music. The choirs complement Heidi’s vocals elegantly. I like how the tracks so far have had fairly lengty bridge sections, and with a cool solo in this one. That’s something I’ve hoped for in a while. The songs seem overall longer too, at over four allover, lenghtier than the previous ones (though I’m sad to see no five or six minutes tracks like on ”End of Eden”).

Epic finale!

 

4. Charnel’s Ball (04:27)

Another slow intro? Hm, alright. Exciting start with cool tempo and good guitar-bass-drum-combo. Feels a tad weird with another mid-to-slow-tempo after ”Crimson Flower”, but it might still turn. Oh, the intro turns into chorus (or chorus-like section)? Cool, it worked better than I’d imagine. The bass lines in the second verse are unusually imaginative and cool without disturbing Heidi’s vocal lines, I’d like to see more of that in the future.

The guitars and bass really kick in for the second chorus, it works truly epically. Again, this is probably really cool live. Cool drum solo line before the third chorus.

 

5. Fight (03:20)

I’m constantly paranoid about song titles and how they work in an album listing, which I know almost no-one else cares about, but still: I am truly disturbed by ideas such as having the three first track share the same progenital letter (C), and having two one-word tracks in the middle (”Fight” and ”Letter”) and two much longer titles close to the end (”I Share With You This Dream” and ”Rivalry Between Good and Evil”). I know no-one else cares, but IT FREAKS ME OUT. Please send this on to Who Gives a Shit Inc., Penny Lane 156, Switzerland.

Judging by the intro, the title and the length this seems to be one of the speedier ones. Yep, confirmed. ”River of Tuoni” flashback! This would probably have fit better right at the start, not as a wake up call after ”Charnel’s Ball”. I need either a cool atmospheric intro (read ”Of Silence…” by Sonata Arctica) or a kick-in-the-butt super power track to start an album.

Surprisingly kick-ass guitar solo, much heavier and much more… metallic than I’m used to see from AD. Might not work on every song, but this sort of thing should come around more often. ”Fight” certainly is a good title. I find myself drumming the keyboard with my fingers towards the end, awesome stuff. More of this live!

 

6. Letter (04:31)

Is this the quick-start section of the album, with both ”Fight” and ”Letter” starting with bass drums after the other three were much slower? Weird.

Interesting vocal section, and good pre-chorus section. Good tempo, I immediately start kicking with my feet. Good mix of slow and quick music, works organically as well as keeping it interesting and unexpected.

7. I Share With You This Dream (03:36)

Starts with a nice guitar melody and fitting riffing in the background, a tad sudden in my taste but at least it’s radio friendly. I have forgotten who’s doing guest vocals, but it feels like it works fine. I just hope Heidi comes in more than just the background. Nice chorus, but a little expected and too little heavy for my taste. Speaking of which, there has yet to come a real ballad. Is it ”Guardian” or ”Lily of the Moon”? I guess the latter.

In the second chorus I find myself drifting. It’s not bad, but it’s getting a little boring, nothing new comes. An okay solo, but nothing special or unexpected. Maybe it will grow on me in the future. A third solo comes, identical to the other two, only with a slight difference in drum pattern. What? It ends? This didn’t really work for me, at least not on first listen.

 

8. Rivalry Between Good and Evil (04:00)

A little too revealing a title, don’t you think?

Starts out like a fun and melodic instrumental (as it is). AD are skilled musicians who work well without vocals as well as with, and it’s nice to have a track per album to let them show it without restraints. At 1:20 I start hoping for a tempo shift or a turn of melody, and shortly after the song quickens. The circus theme seems to show again, or mayhap it’s just my imagination running wild without lyrics. At 2:20 I start to think the melody is getting a little overused, and shortly after it changes. They seem to know exactly what I want on this one, except that it might linger a little too long on certain sections (prior to the 2:40 mark or so). I hope this goes excellently into ”Guardian”, it sounds like it might. Oops, it didn’t really, but great finale!

 

9. Guardian (05:08)

I always look forward to the longer tracks, not because they _have_ to be better than the rest, but because they often are. They often leave a little more time to get the music across than the shorter tracks. In AD’s history, a lot of the shorter tracks feel somewhat incomplete and rushed, where I would have preferred more time devoted to intros, pre-chorus sections and bridge sections. Their longer (4-6 minutes) tracks are usually more interesting than the shorter (2-3 minutes).

Sounds like I was wrong about ”Lily of the Moon” being the ballad, this one seems to be it. Then again AD has a tradition of making their ballads longer than the standard songs. Heidi’s voice surprises me, it’s almost been a tad dull on the rest of the album but this felt unique. Maybe just because it’s almost alone? The dual-voice in the end of verse one seemed a little too much, but the double choirs shortly after worked nicely.

The chorus is epic without losing tranquility to speed. Slowing down a little too much? Feels a little too much like ”Willow of Tears” in that sense. Nice slowing down to another choir section though, it feels natural before the guitar melody and the second chorus. Nice drum section at around 03:40 before the fitting guitar solo. The heavy riffing is nice and unique to an AD ballad, as is the general heavyness of the song.

 

10. Lily of the Moon (04:06)

Ah, sudden! But nice. Cool to have another quick one, they have been slightly abscent as compared to other albums (especially the first two). I overall enjoy more AD songs being mid-tempo on ”End of Eden” and ”Circus Black”, but it’s nice to keep with the classic speed too. Cool chorus, background riffing seems to be a theme on this album.

The chorus and the overall speed and melody suits excellently for a closing song in a way no previous AD finish has. I can only imagine it would work greatly as a finale live too. I find myself drumming on the table of excitement, this just might be a new favourite. Awesome!

China is taking over the space market

Tiangong-1, launched in September 2011.

China’s space programme has been increasing at incredible velocities in the past decade or so, and by all accounts it will continue to increase in the foreseeable future. They recently became number two concerning satellite launches, launching a total of 19 satellites in 2011, beating the US which launched a total of 18, but still behind Russia with 36 launches. As USA’s space program continue to drop both when it comes to budget and launches, China will likely stay in the very top, possible even beating Russia in the upcoming years.

The Chinese now estimate launching 30 satellites with 21 rockets in 2012, and staying at an average of 20 launches per year until 2015. At the same time, their Tiangong-1 space module was launched in 2011, hopefully to be followed up by larger Tiangong-2 and Tiangong-3 modules in the next few years. The real trials of Chinese manned space docking will start in 2012, and if successful the Tiangong programme will be in the size of the ISS within a decade.

The dragon is rising.

BBC (image source) · Space Daily

Oskyldig till motsatsen bevisats, ett allt mer försvinnande koncept av vårt samhälle

Ett av de mest fundamentala koncepten i global juridik, rätten att ses som oskyldig till motsatsen bevisats, har de senaste åren försvunnit allt mer. Sedan FRA-lagen infördes 2007 finns nu ett antagande om att alla medborgare är potentiella brottslingar, och att bara genom att spåra alla precis hela tiden kan vi motverka brott. Detta var ett steg i helt fel riktning, ett steg som togs trots enorma protester från det svenska folket. Den 21 mars 2012, om bara två veckors tid, kan nästa steg in i mörkret tas.

Denna typ av spårning av vanliga medborgare görs bokstavligt talat möjlig om DLD går igenom.

Den 21 mars röstar riksdagen om datalagringsdirektivet (DLD), som är FRA-lagen på steroider. Om DLD införs, blir din telefon till en spårare, och all information lagras undan. All information om var du rör dig, vem du pratar med, vem du sms:ar, vem du e-mailar sparas undan i ett arkiv, för att sedan kunna granskas och avlyssnas av statliga myndigheter.

Anledningen till att detta införs är att lagförarna tror att det ska stoppa terrorism. Men de allvarligare brottslingarna är antingen för skickliga för att luras av tekniken, eller för desperata för att bry sig om de åker dit. Den som ska iväg och begå ett brott kan kringgå detta mycket enkelt – lämna mobiltelefonen hemma. De som kommer att åka dit är småtjuvar, men om vi vill få dit dem kan vi istället lägga pengarna på gatupoliser än på datalagring.

Det är lätt att säga att den som är laglig inte har någonting att dölja. Men den information som sparas undan avslöjar inte bara brott – den kan visa vilken läkare du besöker, vilket politiskt parti du röstar på, vilken trosuppfattning du har – dessa är uppgifter som en demokratisk regering inte ska ha om sina medborgare.

I ett demokratiskt land som Sverige ska inte staten ha kontrollen över folket. Folket ska ha kontrollen över staten. Kontakta dina riksdagsledamöter – idag är alla riksdagspartier för DLD, men genom folkets protester kan mycket ändra.

Chinese proficiency report #2

Inspired by my six month report two weeks ago, I decided to start writing reports on my Chinese skills as they (hopefully) expand and evolve.

My courses in Chinese for the 2011-2012 year are the following:

  • TEKI01 – Basic Chinese part 1
    • The first of two basic courses, which take up the greatest part of the programme. These include the general grammar, vocabulary, listening, writing, et cetera. TEKI01 consisted of two exams and ten or so minor tests, and was ongoing from August to December 2011.
  • TEKI02 – Basic Chinese part 2
    • The next step after TEKI01, started in January and ends in May. Also consists of two exams and ten or so minor tests. The first exam was written on March 7, 2012, and the second will come in May.
  • TEKI09 – Translation
    • One of the two minor courses, TEKI09 consists of translation of Swedish sentences to Chinese, mainly using the vocabulary from TEKI01/02. August 2011 – May 2012.
  • TEKI10 – Practical language skills and specialized language
    • Another minor course, covering both everyday situations as well as specialized language for math, science and engineering.

My vocabulary is getting much stronger every day. By the end of February, I had gone through all words from TEKI09 and TEKI10, as well as a couple of chapters ahead of the TEKI02 course literature and several hundred added words I consider of importance from other areas – stuff like clothing, foods and other articles not covered in our literature, as well as scientific terms not covered in the TEKI10, like all the planets, a few major asteroids, some scientific theories and so on. The timing was perfect to be able to spend two weeks focusing less on new words and more on rehearsing the old ones for my TEKI02 test on March 7. The number of unique hanzi (Chinese characters) in my vocabulary are plateauing as the same hanzi can appear in many different words, but they have now reached around 1500 and continue to grow steadily. All of this is managed thanks to Anki.

Unique hanzi with March 7 as day 0, going back 180 days (slightly shorter than I've studied). The different colours reflect the hanzi's degree according to the HSK test, the standardised test of Chinese language skills. (Screenshot from Anki with the Pinyin Toolkit plugin.)

In the past two months, I’ve also started studying radicals more extensively, finding an excellent Anki deck to help along remembering the pronunciations and meanings.

Separate from vocabulary, I’ve also started working more on understanding Chinese idioms and quotes. I got an excellent idiom dictionary for Christmas and I’ve started reading up on a lot of them. In January, I bought a collection of Confucius quotes with the text in both Swedish and Chinese, with helps both in reading classical texts and in understanding the Confucian influence on China.

Speaking of reading, my reading of Chinese texts is getting better and better along. This is still one of my greater hurdles, separate from the vocabulary which is going much better. I’m reading much quicker than before, grasping the meaning and the pronounciation immediately more often, but I still need to work a lot with it. In the past weeks, I’ve made a habit of reading a minimum of two chapters in my course book out loud every day, which I think has helped a lot.

The next step to continue the habit I’ve had for a while now. I split the new vocabulary between course book words, additional words and radicals. I continue reading two chapters every day. I continue reading other stuff, such as idioms, Confucius and such, on the spare time when I feel like it. I will also ramp up my studies of traditional Chinese – I’ve already studied it half-heartedly for the past few months, but I’ll make sure to start spending more time on it and ease especially my reading, although the writing is of a lesser importance for now.

See you for a while.

The Wind Through the Keyhole

The Dark Tower novel ”The Wind Through the Keyhole”, due late April, has now been ordered from Amazon. I could have ordered it from a Swedish retailer a tad cheaper, but I couldn’t stand not having the beautiful Simon & Schuster hardcover edition which I’ve loved so much since the cover art was released (view below). Apparently only the much uglier versions were sold in Sweden.

The story looks to be an excellent addition to Stephen King’s Dark Tower magnum opus – though the original seven-piece-story was finished in 2004 (and those who read the final novel knows it can’t be resurrected), this novel will take place between the fourth and fifth novels (Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla), being a story within story within story set in the Dark Tower universe. It is advertised as a standalone novel, different from the past seven which were a continuing story.

Apparently, a five-page preview of the novel was released back in December, but I’ve resisted reading it until I get my hands on the actual book and can read it beginning to end like the past seven. Unfortunately, delivering it from the US means I won’t get it until late May or early June, but then again it perfectly coincides with passing my final school exams.