2

Dear Santa

I recognise that I have been a particularly good girl this year.

I have eaten all my vegetables and taken vitamins and everything. I also did something nice for someone else the other day, I ate all the clementines so they didn't go bad so Helge didn't have to eat clementines gone bad. That was pretty nice of me. And I did it without him asking or anything.

I never listen to rap-music (voluntarily) and I only swear because other people do it and I do like they do because I can't help myself.

Included in this letter you will find my humble wish list written in random order.
And I also wanted to say you're a nice guy!

1. Hot Hair Rollers
2. Settlers VII (PC)
3. Fable III (Xbox 360)
4. Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii)
5. Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros’ Treasure (Wii)
6. Okami (Wii)
7. DJ Hero 2 (Xbox 360)
8. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii)
9. World of Goo (Wii)
10. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
11. Ice Cream Machine
12. Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa (That's a book)
13. Dishwasher
14. Snow goggles
15. Snowboard boots
16. A pair of good dancing shoes (nice ones!)
17. Glitter
18. Mountain boots
19. A nice knit hat that doesn't itch (but keep my ears warm!)
20. Scarves
21. Moomin cooking pot

best wishes and a happy holiday!
Tora

What is your wish list this year?
0

Susan

My "Skojig" lamp and my trusted laptop, Susan!
My Susan's fans sounds like an air plane taking off. And the disc drive wont read no discs no more. She just coughs at them and keep skipping around on them until I take them out. The other day the keyboard wouldn't work until I rebooted. I guess she's getting old! She's not that old. She's only two years old actually. Or -- she's more like one and a half years old, because she broke twice before...

I wonder what I do with my laptop to make it die so soon. She's probably sick of all the writing. And all the youtubing and all the strange blogs I read.

Want some Norwegian music?
0

My Gingerbread cutters

This is my window sill, that jar with stars in are actually some really weird outlandish treats meant to be deep-fried before served. Honestly I didn't try, I put them in a jar. Was I disappointed when it wasn't colourful pasta!
Here are my gingerbread cutters! I guess they are also eligible as cookie cutters or other things cutters. Not for paper though! I've used some of the bigger ones for pancakes, they get really hot, but the pancakes turn out beautiful. To be honest some of these are actually Helge's, but I bought them for him last year because I wanted them myself and needed an excuse. What? At least I'm honest!

The fox, moose, bear, snail and hedgehog are from IKEA, the one shaped like the moomin is from the Iittala Outlet. 

Fish, dinosaurs, foot, jigsaw and crocodile are from Christiania Glasmagasin while the squirrel is also from IKEA.


Keep them in a box so the drawers don't get stuck all the time. (Well, they do - but I tried).
I also bought some gingerbread dough at IKEA. Their recipe is actually really nice and is good to work with so when I'm constructing my annual... uuum... construct... of gingerbread I wont have to do much but roll it, cut it, bake it and glue it together! But I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to gingerbread houses - I try to make sure every part of it is edible so it is glued together with hot sugar. It is deadly stuff. And I always end up burning others as well when I ask them for help. You should've seen the hand of my younger brother!

But all of that later. I do hope I get to do a gingerbread construct this year! Any suggestions as to what I should make? Are you making one this year? Any tips and tricks?
2

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - can't wait!

I can't wait! How can I wait? Look at this, what can I do? What is the meaning of life when I can't know everything there is to know about this game? Please announce a release date so I know when to wake up! Would be nice to just sleep until the moment I have it in my hands, so I could watch the intro and I can cry tears of joy and relief. Oh! How can I wait? I can't wait! I seriously can't wait!

MAKE ME THINK OF SOMETHING ELSE!


Not like THAT! It's not helping! Who is standing back to back with him?! Who are you?! What does this meeeaaan?! WHAT?! Please! I can't waaaaaaait!
2

Games for Wii - and stalking

As you all know I bought a Wii! And I finally got to give it a spin last night - I do have a lot of experience with Wii previously - but not with the games that I've dutifully played the last few days!

I tried "Eledees" first, which had me at hello with its adorable packaging and delicious colours. The game in itself however lacks charm in every way. The Eledees are electric creatures that you search for, find and collect using a "gun" of sorts - pointing at the screen with the Wii-remote. You can use the power (in Watts) from the Eledees to turn on lights and electrical appliances. And this is about as interesting as it gets. The house has zero personality, like the characters - and it has about as much depth as the vague, slapped-on story that is so extremely lame I wont even bother retell it.

I did find pleasure in wrecking the place completely in my desperate search for more Eledees. This meagre pleasure was ruined though - when the game then for no reason required me to be quiet and handle anything breakable with care. If I exceeded the noise limit or broke six things - the game ended. Thanks a lot. How to make a slightly fun game, a completely lame one. The wonderfullness of the packaging was clearly outsourced as the game reflected only some kind of nine-to-five teal-coloured retirement home.

But then I played "De Blob" and I was excited beyond reason. As the lead of a colourful revolution against the reign of the black and white, evil "INKT" - De Blob (a blob taking on any colour) bounces around the pale world and brings colour, charm and happiness with him by colouring everything -- buildings, trees and citizens. His likewise oppressive crew "Color Underground" helps him along and gives plenty of challenges along the way.

This is easy, straightforward, nothing amazing - with excellent little clips in-between levels that convey a simple story in a slapstick-charming way. This is a wonderful game for children, needless to say - a perfect game for me too! This totally sucked me in and I'm enjoying it a lot. Progress is clearly visible and you get special achievements for having coloured all the trees, all the landmarks or completing all the challenges etc. The controls in combination with the occaisonally straying camera can be a little disheartening and unprecise at times, but that usually is the fate of most Wii games - and when something doesn't work as intended - it's usually my own fault.

I kept waiting for the Achievement screen to pop up, but then I remembered I wasn't playing on the Xbox! Silly me.

So yes, there you go - one definite "stay away!" and one "warmly recommended!"

And when it comes to stalking, I was only going to say that I find myself stalking Helge almost every day. I put his clothes on so I smell like him and then I feel all warm and fuzzy walking around the apartment. Pretty scary you think? I'd be scared of me, too. Trust me. I actually am, a little bit.
4

Bleep bleep I am a sheep

I have a new hobby which is watching game developer interviews and counting the wedding rings.

It is sort of mean I think.

But I never said I was nice.

I totally came home in an influenced state one of these days and I broke that jar. Candy everywhere!
I'm also watching some awesome hijab-tutorials on Youtube. I'm sure one of these days it will come in handy to tie a scarf around my hair.
4

My phone!

I never did see the point in having a phone I was afraid to lose because it had cost me a crazy amount of money. It's not because I can't take care of my stuff (at least if I know where to find it!) but sometimes faith is out there to get my stuff. And I ain't got no spider-sense to tell me when, and that means I have to take certain precautions.

This, ladies and gentleladies - is my work of art in progress-- and for my own technology's protection:

Padding.
Oooh yes! Look it has diamonds on it and teeth and eyes and pearls and duck-chickens and stars and candy and a crazy monkey and a hedgehog and a bear in a parachute. You know what? We should make a TV-show with that cast. Because our special guest-stars -- the fantastic bling dangling from it, consists of two rabbits, an Asian couple, a dog, a chicken, a mushroom, a parrot, a cow and gingerbreadman!

Ginger Bread Man! He could be my superhero! A ginger man made of bread! His kryptonite could be soup! In which case he would bloat up and dissolve like wet bread, because you see, he is made of bread which means when it touches soup - that's what happens. You ever had soup with bread? I'm pretty sure you know how this goes. AAaaanyway I just wanted to show the world my delicious talking-machine. And I will show you again when I've finished the other side!
6

Tummy diet


Ok, so this is very weird, I know. But it is weirding me out, too (MORE than it will you) and I just need to vent it a little bit.

Because I went to the doctor because of my achy stomach, and he took a lot of tests, and will take some more next week - so until then I am on a restrictive diet.

Okay, I get it. A billion people are on a strict diet every day - but I'm not! I've never had to think much about what I eat at all, as long as it's not hairy in places it's not meant to be hairy. Hell I even eat from the ground. But I'll tell you something, it's not at all bad this diet, it is just the principle of having to check ingredients and having to mentally prepare ahead for every meal that freaks me out. The doctor also recommended that I eat small meals, but often, grazing, if you like.

And that's fine, yeah.

YES
NO
Lots of fibre (with every meal)
Red meat
Pork
Liver, Kidney
Chicken
Dark fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
White fish (cod, flounder, halibut)
Cauliflower
Cooked vegetables
Horseradish

Raw tomato
A LITTLE
Radishes
Uncooked fruit and vegetables
Melon
Dairy
Banana
Cooked meat in sandwiches
Soybeans

Alcohol

But I can't have banana!! Or melon! And I JUST bought a lot of golden bananas and a perfectly sweet melon, and some lush tomatoes. Well done.

In other news from a grown person getting totally freaked out because she can't eat bananas - I'm wondering why my neighbour is up at eight in the morning to watch the tellybox. M, there we go, just to have a fairly gay smoke out the window in his wifebeater. I get it.

I can really start to see how living in these apartments awake a primal need for slandering. I'm the worst of them. The pair across the street even got full-covering blinds eventually, I thought I looked quite inconspicuous hiding behind my curtains and scrutinizing their odd Disney-fondling (I don't know how they do it!) or their strangely romantic way of cooking together. I call them the Disney couple. There's not a lot of action going on at my wall-to-wall neighbours, especially since I can't peek through their windows without climbing the façade.

Lot to do lately? Yes, seriously. All the prepping for our Bachelor is going to wring me into a sock. I don't know how, but soon you will meet me on the street and you'll say "Tora, what has happened? You look like a sock" and I'll say -"Yes" and look at my foot, my one big foot protruding from my neck, and add "it sucks".
4

...



Rest in Peace Cleo :(

I love you so much. And thanks everyone for your support! And mama I am so sorry, I wish I could be with you and hug you all day.

2

Cleo

Cleo, the best dog in the universe

I don't know how to say this.

Cleo's liver is failing, and she doesn't eat much. She weighs less than 28 kilos now.

She is on a liver-improving diet and she's getting some pills, but she wont eat much, and she wont consistently take the pills. Whenever she gets up, Ulla gets all excited and starts licking Cleo's face as much as she can. Cleo doesn't even have the enthusiasm to tell her to piss off.

I am getting pretty certain that this is the end for her, and I wish it wouldn't be so slow and humiliating. Starving herself to death. She really was meant to eat herself to death. Salmon and waffles and all the love she could handle.

I try to tell myself that she is only a dog, but she is so much more. She is family and such a great friend, and I know she's had a good life, and I know it can't last forever. But I wish it could.


I will keep you all posted!

Violence in games

I am going to discuss some aspects on game design that I have some opinions about that I need to air. It will be about violence first, then games made for children and then about game universes. I would warn you on some strong imagery, but I rarely see people react to them anymore.

From Manhunt
All human entertainment has at some point contained a large portion of violence and brutality. The circus of the Romans was the bloody massacres of gladiator fights, and other old forms of entertainment like public executions are actually still alive some places today. Like in Afghanistan, Iran and Somalia (where a 13 year old girl that had been raped was buried to the neck in the middle of a football stadium and stoned to death in front of 1000 people for adultery. Her name was Aisho Ibrahim Dhuhulow.) And in some manner or other, whether or not as horrific as the execution of a child in public --violence has always attracted a crowd. Like dog-fights, rooster-fights, bull-fights, even fist-fights - and I could go on.

And when we humans feel sophisticated enough to rise above these primal activities, we find other ways to depict our carnal, violent desires, as such in poems, paintings, books, cartoons, songs, films or, more "recently" in games. And most violent entertainment is often a sort of game, or at least "a competition" to the death, or to the first blood. But on the other hand the most peaceful, unifying activities are also games (though I would argue not all people take peacefully to losing a round of Yatzi). And that is what I am trying to bring across here, in my own, digressing ways.

Though we have a long tradition of worshipping heinous acts as entertainment this is not at all synonymous with saying that all games have to be this way. Though I am personally still surprised to this day on creativity brought into "action"-games (that usually means you are meant to kill things in it) - like a complex and well composed story (Like in the first-person shooter Max Payne!)
From Postal 2
Violence is often brought into games if they lack interesting gameplay, or lack meaning altogether - a lot of gamers appear content smashing things (I think I've played so much Soul Calibur II it might have had permanent effects on me). But there is a difference here, I think designers need to have more respect towards their audience, and most of all - themselves. If you are sitting in a meeting when collaborating on the game concept and idea and decide that it's going to be a shooter game with zombies because you don't have any other interesting ideas that contain any sort of substance. I hope you will have the integrity to reconsider.

And I am not saying it necessarily is a bad thing with violence in games. It can be a very powerful tool for creating an immersion for your audience. But I am definitely not saying it is a good thing either. I know 14 and 11 year old kids that play Modern Warfare 2, and more surprisingly - with their parents blessing. "Because it is less violent than a lot of other games". And I partly agree to this of course, MW2 happens to be a very well-composed game, I admit. And though it really is a lot less violent than a lot of other games... It is still a lot more violent than say - at least a quarter of all the other games on the market.

So what we need to recognise is the essence and the message of what we are trying to convey with our game. I really do hate when people try to give meaning to things that are not meant to have a meaning. Like paintings. It really gets to me sometimes. But if your game is meant to be "a mindless shooter" then I will have respect for that, it is all the mind that is being put into it eventually that scares me. You can't deny that any game will contain some kind of message, whether intended to or not. Tetris, Bejeweled and Pacman not included. So when creating a simple-minded game it is important to remember the complexity it eventually will hold when it is being played by your audience.

You have to weigh every battle and every drop of blood on your conscience and think just how mindless this will appear to the 11 year old child of some "open-minded" parents* and just how much meaning it is going to give to the seasoned 33 year old gamer. Your message is going to be given out to all of those who are up to the challenge, and it can be ever as subtly glorifying violent behaviour or condone acts that in society are unforgivable. The shock-value of extreme, gory violence is down to a nil. Throwing intestines, brains, unborn children and still-beating hearts above your head by a chainsaw will give about as strong a reaction from today's audience as a crab taking a shit on another crab, on a beach. It is worth absolutely nothing. So we got to ask ourselves, when violence only work as some sort of "filler", is it really necessary?
From Postal 2
I applaud the minds that find new ways of making videogames interesting and still not include any violence whatsoever when running out of ideas for what the game should contain. Games are to me one of the most incredibly versatile and powerful mediums we have today - you don't deserve to create them if all you do is to slip into a pattern as old as mankind - that the best entertainment is served hot, with a lot of sticks and stones.

* I will clarify here that developers can't be responsible for their content when it's not viewed by the appropriate audience as stated by age-limits and approvals. What a child brings into a household is completely the parent's responsibility.
2

Me and my stomach


I did get your attention. Thank you Kronk!

My stomach and I are not friends.

We have a very bad way of communicating to each other. I can't really understand what it is trying to say when it is aching, expanding and making me feel horrible. And it certainly doesn't answer when I am trying to figure out what is making it upset.

It is like having the most cryptic girlfriend communicating only through domestic violence.

I know I have a very varied diet, and especially for being a student. I eat a lot of vegetables and a lot of whole wheat bread and other stuff that is meant to be good for you like green tea, fruit and a lot of snap n' crackle.

Seriously though, It must be some sort of allergic reaction, and it occurs more often on Fridays than on any other day of the week. Which doesn't make a lot of sense, and I assure you it is certainly not stress-related. You might know me, and because of that I wont have to explain. I don't have very well-developed stress glands. So it must be something that I'm eating. But what? I'm not consuming anything now that I haven't always eaten every now and then.

But yeah, this weekend my diet will consist of toast and Biola until I get better.
4

My trip to Istanbul

Some delicious looking mosque
Okay, flay me alive and call me a suitcase! I actually came home from Istanbul on SUNDAY, which is several days ago. And I am so sorry for not telling you "all about it" and posting pictures, or anything at all. Accept my humble apologies!

But yes. I wont bore you more. Here are all the juicy, not so juicy and all the dry details!
Dad and stepmum enjoying some  Lokma Tatlisi
I travelled with my dad, my stepmum and Helge last Thursday like at the crack of dawn. The trip was originally a gift from my dad for my 18th birthday, which is three years ago. And now we had finally found the time to go! We had a flight connection through Riga, Latvia and landed at the Ataturk airport in Istanbul where we sat and watched our own perspiration for half an hour because the driver was stuck in traffic. They really do drive like mad men those Turks! I tell you that much. But somehow he got us to our small hotel close to Sultanahmed on the Golden Horn (which we may consider the "old" part of town, even though most of the city is so old anyway that it really doesn't make that much sense).
Balik Ekmek! Nom nom!
The staff at our hotel were so strange. During a power cut one night we approached the hotel doors and the receptionist pretended to give us a sci-fi face scan in the dark with sound effects and all to see if we would be allowed to enter. It was hilarious! And the waiters at the rooftop restaurants were so animated and gesticulated so wildly that we were entertained every minute we sat there. It would appear the Turks have a really inclusive sense of humour.
All over Istanbul there were old Hamam's (Turkish baths), mosques, remnants of Byzantine city walls, fantastic wooden palaces and parks, pavilions, side walks the size of dachshunds, and stalls selling assorted Turkish fast food. Of which I loved the most the Simit (the skinny bagel-shaped breads covered in toasted sesame seeds),  Lokma Tatlisi (sweet, deep fried doughnuts smothered in syrup, cinnamon and ground pistachio), and the Balik Ekmek (fresh grilled fish sandwiches with onion).

They also had stalls all over selling grilled or boiled sweetcorn, roasted chestnuts and their famous "stretchy" icecream, Dondurma. Of which the latter the Turkish eat a staggering 2,8 litres each a year! This strange icecream is made of a product derived from orchids called "salep" and also arabic gum ("mastic" - not the same as gum arabic!), which is why it is so stretchy. I thought it was quite nice, but as with all other Turkish desserts it is intensely sweet. I wonder what they think of our desserts.
The Bagdad pavillion inside the palace
Detail from a door inside the harem
Anyway, we visited the Topkapi palace which was the home of the Ottoman sultans for 400 years. It was extremely big, and we got to hear of the grand viziers and the concubines - which was exotic to say the least. By the way the audio tour is a grand ripoff and it basically just reads you what it says on the plaques positioned around the palace. Actually - it doesn't even do that. It said less. Anyway. We didn't get to see the treasury because of all the crazy tourist people that had formed a line the length of the great wall of China. We did however get to see the relics - including a golden cast of the hand of John the Baptist, the turban of Joseph, the sword, a cloak and some of the Prophet Mohammed's beard(!). Oh, and of course the staff of Moses - which if I may add - looked very springy despite being about 3500 years old.
Detail from one of the harem windows.
The view from the palace was grand, the harem was the most interesting bit, we saw the guards gigantic mirrors that allowed them to keep watch around corners - the hamam (Turkish bath) of the concubines, the sultan's mother's quarters and even the sultan's toilet! We also visited the large swimming pool "where the dwarves did tricks" according to the audio guide. The dwarves were not mentioned before nor after this statement was made during the tour. But apparently it was probably good entertainment when you were sick of toying with your 300 concubines. 

We also saw the Blue Mosque which wasn't really as impressive as I'd expected. First of all it wasn't nearly blue enough, and though the grand dome and the intricate iznik tiles were very splendid indeed - the spectacular mosque seemed somewhat smaller on the inside because of the low wrought iron chandeliers that hung low above the floor. But now I've been there and at least that's one more thing checked off my list!
One of the gold streets in the Grand Bazaar

We did spend hours traversing the Grand Bazaar which is one of the largest indoor markets in the world. They mostly sold a lot of junk to be honest, we did buy Turkish tea, teacups and a gunmetal hookah that is quite awesome if I may say so myself. I also got a longer gold chain for my opal necklace. The carpets and the jewellery was simply amazing and among the things that are definitely worth purchasing when in Turkey.

Iskender kebab. Really nice!
I would've bought tons more myself, I am just not cut out for haggling it appears. And being a naive Norwegian I absolutely hated to make purchases. They were always trying to rip you off, quite nastily. And because everything is so sickeningly expensive where I come from - then how could I possibly tell? Luckily my stepmum is a badass haggler and dad drove a carpetseller to the edge of madness. He wanted to sell his 250€ carpet for 50 because he got so desperate when dad didn't want it. Giggle.

So the haggle culture was what I disliked the most, definitely - that and that it felt as if I couldn't trust anyone, they would take my tourist money without blinking if the situation allowed it.

Constantine's Pillar was really nice, and positioned quite near one of the Grand Bazaar entrances. Constantine himself had it brought over at around year 330 to mark the transfer of the seat of the Roman empire from Rome to Istanbul (Constantinople). He also supposedly buried some relics beneath the fantastical porphyry pillar, like the axe Noah used to build the Ark. Yay!

The Bosporus strait
We went on a boat trip up the Bosporus (the strait separating east from west) and saw all the fantastic luxury hotels and houses, the old fortress, a graveyard and countless amazing mosques and wooden palaces.I will definitely recommend such a trip to anyone who wants to see as much of Istanbul as they can if they don't have a lot of time on their hands.

Hagia Sophia from a distance
But there you go. We saved the Hagia Sofia (Aya Sofia) for last. Thank goodness, or nothing else would've seemed impressive. The huge structure is a 1500 year old church that served as a mosque during the 1500s and is now a museum. Kind of both, but neither. Underneath painted plaster are amazing, ancient mosaics of Christ and standard motives - while the world's biggest calligraphy plaques are hung in four corners of the dome. The stained glass are with calligraphic motives, there is a mihrab, minbar and outside is an Islamic washing font. A religious fusion cocktail. At the southern entrance there are Byzantine bronze doors that were added around year 800, really beautiful.

The dome of the Hagia Sophia, if you enlarge it you can see the masked and unmasked angels - the faces were discovered earlier this year!

The dome which is almost 60 metres above the floor took my breath away. It was created by some Greek architects that also decided that the centre of the earth was within the church, slightly to the right in the main hall. It was seriously huge. From the outside it looked like a city all in itself, and it still holds many uncovered secrets as a lot of the original mosaics are still plastered up. It was built with a lot of stolen goods from plundered pagan temples such as some incredible Hellenistic porphyry columns. You see the Byzantine were incredible at recycling. It was the most amazing thing we visited that didn't include food on this trip!

Hagia Sophia seen from the side
We ate insane amounts of kebab and köfte (Turkish meatballs) and drank litres of Turkish apple tea whenever possible. We journeyed home, had some depressing "Soviet-pizza" at the airport in Riga (although it tasted nice!) and when we came home our house wasn't on fire. That's nice.

So yes. I don't think I could've made that any more informative and dry. Sorry. But it's all true what happened. And I am thoroughly fascinated, so forgive me. I am guessing it is TLDR anyway.

Sunset over Istanbul.
Thanks for a fantastic trip everyone!
5

Help needed!

Err, this is an old (quite disturbing) doodle I found that I did in Paint.NET in its day.

I absolutely love snailmail! It is so amazing! It is almost as good as lights, or as lights in different colours. But yes. You people need to help me out some, and I mean it this time. I need a good concept for my NaNoWriMo in November (and I am totally planning ahead, as usual - even though it has helped me SQWAT! before) But there you go. I am a person of irreversible bad habits, like craving sugar first thing in the morning, always cross the road looking both ways (even though I KNOW it's a one way street). But there you go, again. I can't help myself.

I just better never start smoking. Sorry, I'll stop raving -- now, to the point. Yes! I need a concept, ladies. That's what I'm saying. I am usually never stripped for ideas, I have a couple on hold, but none that seem deep enough if you get me. It has to be a 50 000 word-proof idea. And that proves easier said than done. Every year. It has to be novel material, and I guess that shouldn't be all that hard *cough*TWILIGHT*cough* but at the same time we can't all write swooning romantic vampire novels. I guess that would make us all senile.

So yes. I'm happy to take ANY idea, please. Be it funny, sad, fantastic - yes, or even romantic, if we have to. And usually, the more psychedelic the better. It is easier that way. Please you guys, I really could use some input if you hear me, and it can't be more True Blood, because we all know where that'll take me *cough*. Yes.
5

My Fable II Adventure

I never thought I was going to be one of those puny nerds that sat drooling over Fable for long, intense hours. It's the roleplayinggames I have ever played - but on steroids. And I am completely obsessed with remaining pure and good. At least as much as I can. And I wouldn't have thought - either - that I was going to get married four times, of which twice to other women, become an artisan blacksmith (which took hours of mindless grinding) - or a parent. Twice.

But there you go. I married a villager that I bought a pleasant house for, and we had a son together. I then went off and married a thug in a dress with a club. I gave her her own house, but I was an idiot and didn't pay enough attention to detail. I'd put them in the same city district. so of course they found out about my bigami, took it very personal and divorced me. AND took the child, too, which I haven't seen since, and that I am still slightly sore about.

Then I married another thug with a coarse voice. She had big earrings and dark, soft hair - and a sword. Built like a carpenter. But it was love. And I gave her a ring, and my lush summerhouse. I paid her an outrrrrageous upkeep of 30 gold a day, and gave her a life way beyond her dreams. I gave her some new clothes, but she wouldn't wear them. She wanted to be my sturdy, slightly greasy and damp monsterwife.

I went away for ten years on a mission to save the kingdom, and my precious thug waited for me! I came back and she was there in our home! With a present! I could cry. The brute just loved me.

But I was hungry for more, I wanted kids, again - though having one womb each didn't make things easier it appeared. And so I married the noble Andrew. Funny and romantic. Gave me books for presents, wore a top hat, even on mondays. I'd just bought a new place - and I was extremely excited. But nerves from the past had me in a jitter, I was terrified they would find out, and it would all end in divorce once more. But even when they met (as I by mistake took Andrew for a romantic weekend in our summerhouse) - he wasn't at all surprised, he didn't even say anything. But my thug, she was furious and unforgiving. She divorced me immediately and left the region. She, who had waited for me for TEN YEARS. I'm a bitch.

I learned my lesson and remained true. I worked hard and bought us a manor that I decorated with luxurious items. We then had a child together and all was well. At least so far. You never know. I want more kids, but Andrew is slightly afraid of me, because I keep hitting the "cast spell" button when I am only trying to find out what his favourite present is again. But there you go. And that just about sums up my summer outside work. Well, with the exception of a few trips to the movies, some pints a concert and some dinners out.

What about you? How was/is your summer?

Happy Birthday!

Thank goodness there is nothing good on tv in the middle of the night. If the distractions of the insanely addictive internet weren't bad enough - well let's just say I'm grateful. And I should be sleeping.

Today has been my birthday! And my 21st. one at that! Turns out my boss had given me the day off because it was my birthday, even though I hadn't asked for it! It was a lovely thing to do, but I should've known sooner and I could've made more exciting plans for the day!

We had a lazy morning, then met Tink for lunch at a Korean-Thai (Asian fusion) place. (No wonder everyone get so confused by the differences in Asian cuisine when all the Asian places serve food from all over their continent but are usually only named after one or two random countries). But either way - Helge and Tink had sushi while I had some really nice spicy green chicken curry with lots of mysterious vegetables. Tink and I then shared a fried banana for dessert, which was luscious. Nom nom!

We then proceeded to do pretty much nothing. I fell asleep at some point. Then I was awoken by Helge and that we had to leave for our table reservation at six thirty. It was a completely random idea grown from the discovery of a tiny restaurant called "Smia" ("The smithy"), which is not far from us and that we found randomly once when on a walk. It was the menu that got us interested. A very short, seasonal menu with some very ... different flavour combinations. And, obviously - covered in snobbery, serving desserts like "Pineapple carpaccio" which was raw pineapple thinly sliced on a plate (but delicious!).

And yeah, so - we had dinner there! Helge had the entrecôte, while I had whale, he had the carpaccio for dessert while I had the pavlova. Honestly - it has been a long time since I've eaten something so expensive, but at the same time it was a lovely place, the mood was right, the service was great. And the food was different, but delightful. Very inspiring. And because it was my birthday I was given a wrought iron rose! What do you know?

When we came home we were so full we wanted to die, seriously. I played Deathspank! Which was awesome, and I got to answer all the greetings on Facebook and we listened to the rain outside. Thanks everyone for having my phone buzzing practically all day, absolutely lovely.

Happy birthday, Tora!
0

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Oh delight! Oh Joy!

There is definitely a lot of The Wind Waker in this one, the cell-shading, the bright colours and something about the lightness of atmosphere. But still all we can see here is gameplay related and there's nothing on the story yet! The puzzles in Zelda have always been the best bit, but solving them wouldn't have felt so important if the story hadn't been so immersive. So I am very excited about that, the story in Twilight Princess was stunning and beautiful and I cried at the end :(

I am so happy they are going along with the cartoonish cell shading, I loved the theme and the freedom of The Wind Waker, I spent hours just roaming around in the boat on the massive seas - feeling the wind in my ears. And I totally fell in love with the look - it was a very daring move at the time - as far as I recall it wasn't very popular, even with the fans, but most were able to set the graphical appearance aside and still appreciate it for the excellent game it was.

Skyward Sword has already received a lot of praise for its graphics, especially from Vooks.net that seems pretty in love after giving it a go hands on at E3. Crystal clear, sharp cell shading, with divine colouring. I'm excited about the music as well, nothing makes the cockles of my heart jiggle like the intro to Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The psycho theme of Major Mask can really make me shiver. And so many of the tracks for Twilight Princess were breathtaking too. Zelda is always a full package for me. Interesting level design, great puzzles, weird characters, polished gameplay, wonderful music and a delightful atmosphere.

Now we just have to think of a way to make the time pass while we're waiting....
0

Zomg! Brink and Distant Worlds... and Deathspank!!!


Goodness me, does the gaming world offer a lot of goodies indeed. Even I am slightly excited about the single-multiplayer combo "Brink" - which has an incredible trailer (please go enjoy here). And what can I say? It's a highly customizable shooter, a shooter! I can't explain why, but this just looks very very good. And if I'll ever work up the nerve - I'd gladly give it a go! So smooth! And I love the graphical style a lot, it's got a little "Team Fortress" - maybe a splash of "Borderlands" I figure it even catches some "Mirrors Edge" - because of the consistent theme of the scenery.

There'll be character appearance customization, weapon, class, skills customization - there'll be factions and lots of level-based tasks to perform. It just seems to me they are really on to something when combining classical shooting with more mobility ("Mirror's Edge" kicks in here too!), strategy, class and faction specific tasks - more interaction with the actual levels (opening up new paths, hacking computers etc.) and of course its futuristic, catastrophic setting. And back to that bit on character appearance - the size of your character will mean something to the game, if you're small you can traverse more difficult terrain, climbing and jumping. While if you're a big guy, well, you get to play with the bigger guns. Finally, a touch of sensible logic (not harming gameplay (hopefully)) might kiss this genre. Mmm! *rubs hands* I hope they nail it!

And good news for all Wookies: There's yet another Star Wars MMO coming out, this fall. It'll be closely related to the animated "The Clone Wars" and will be free to play. I don't know what to say to that. Something along the lines of: Good for you - I'll be over here.

Splendid weather today! I bought a porcelain cupcake that I can put things in. I really needed it, so don't come here and tell me anything else. Such a practical household item, you wont do without it, sir!

Also for being the only creature on our planet (I am sure) that loved the space-exploration part of "Spore"! I might dabble in "Distant Worlds" an immensely complicated space-based real-time strategy game (actually graphically described by gamer.no as "a science fiction-version of Microsoft Excel and a reasonably unstructured collection of marbles") But I am not put off by that at all - I must say, honestly, it intrigued me! It is known to be vastly complex and refreshingly dynamic - and though it looks really ugly (really) I wont judge this book by its cover. No sir. "Distant Worlds" here I come!

And then there's "Deathspank".

Now I'm really sorry, but I don't even know where to begin with this one. I am so excited I might cry. I really could cry right now. *Gasp* Cry. Really. But... Well, here goes, I will try and keep it nice and short for you, so we don't get any inappropriate dribble on your desk.

"Deathspank" is the odd cousin of all the games we've ever loved - "Psychonauts", "Grim Fandango", "Curse of Monkey Island" and "Secret of Monkey Island", even - all the LucasArts gems. Brilliant, intelligent, stunningly funny, random, captivating. I might need a pause to breathe. And "Deathspank", ladies and gentlemen is an action-adventure of massive proportions - told to be about 15 hours of insane gameplay. Lots of hack n' slash - strange enemies hitting you with fish, even more strange quests given to you by locals - a witch, an artefact - and a humour that has been told (as well) to be closely related to that of our beloved Terry Pratchett.

The hero, "Deathspank" himself - wears a purple thong beneath all his armour and is described as such: "Charming. Intelligent. Enigmatic. These are just a few words that nobody ever uses when describing DeathSpank. He doesn't shoot first and ask questions later. He doesn't even realize there are questions". This is not a game that takes itself seriously - and not because it is trying to excuse why it sucks - but because it is just too flippin' awesome to be pompous. Even their newsletter is called "Deathspam" - I mean, how is that not funny? There are tons of different weapons and armours to use, a gigantic map with bright pop-up book scenery with lots of purple in it and hopefully - the game story of the year. Do enjoy yourself with some madness on their website - Deathspank.com while you're waiting, but I can't wait. I really can't wait. And all I know is that "it is coming soon". GAAaah!

I just have to stop there, and I'll go shake a pigeon out the window until the abstinences pass for a bit. Because this will be so much fun! Too much fun, really. I might die, that's how fun it's going to be.

"So why do you need orphans anyway? Build a house?"
2

Oslo Expansion Pack

"Barcode" in Bjørvika, a series of new buildings, both office space and apartments in Oslo.
"Nordenga" bridge, crossing the railway from Bjørvika to Grønland.
"Tjuvholmen" at the very tip of Aker Brygge.

"Kværnerbyen" apartments (that's the creek with stepping stones! I'll have to take a picture myself it seems).

Oslo is halfway in many aspects. We have half a good public transport system, we have half of a good shopping centre, we have a half a green city with parks in it, half of it is dead ends and half is shabby. At one intersection down the street - the road is lined with four different kinds of fences. It never seem to have occurred to anybody to build this city consistently, new bits are just being slapped on without much thought to what was there before, or what surrounds it.

Just like those new blocks that are across our street. They're all modern and square, painted in a communal barn-colour - with as much charisma as a car crash. There are lots of ugly blocks here, including ours, so to say, and they're surrounded by all those delicious wooden houses that are traditional of this area. Some blocks are really nice, and have been done up really well, but most are no. It's all over "old-town", and it's weird that they haven't been able to find some kind of middle-way between unflattering modernism and impractical nostalgia. It just looks weird and half-assed.

Major parts are under construction, and the bits that are not are often quite messy or unfinished as it is. Helge and I took a walk down to Kværnerbyen the other night (literally, night. We were home at 4 in the morning) just to look at the apartments down there. Kværnerbyen is literally a ditch, seriously, it's down in some dent, surrounded by hills, and filled with lots of concrete and roads and trains. It hasn't got a lot of appeal in other words.

The apartments are just blocks of brick, set in concrete - hardly very charming. But then it's not finished yet - and the renderings online look as usual very promising. How they are going to turn the place into what they are imaging I don't really understand. But that's the way with these sexy architectural illustrations, they always contain about twice the amount of trees and happy children to what will eventually exist. There was, however, one nice thing about the area, a constructed creek of water with square stepping stones that went along the east side of the buildings. This sizzled magically, especially at night, when it was so quiet elsewhere. So I really fell in love with that, but the rest still needs a spark of allure - it's hardly very homely there at the moment.

Oslo is really changing though, the buildings along Bjørvika are all really futuristic, so are those on Tjuvholmen. The massive bridge ending in Schweigaardsgate, "Nordenga" is anything but Norwegian, and the new Nationalmuseum at Vestbanehallen will be very modern too. It's called the "Forum Artis", I would tell you what I think of it, but it's really hard to tell from those crappy renders they have released, it does as far as I can tell - look square and angular, so I guess that's why we're going for it. As usual.

But I will stop whining now, sorry. I really hope Oslo will be more whole one day, as it is oddly unfinished right now. We are lucky to have some visionaries who are at least trying to create something better out of what we already have, especially in Bjørvika.
11

Luxurious poverty


There is just so much that has to be safely acquired and stored within the four walls of our apartment right now.

There is "Alan Wake" and "Red Dead Redemption", we do have our precious toaster now - but what about all the films we need? We need "Avatar" for some safe get-away, there's both series and the special episode of "Green Wing", and I haven't actually BOUGHT Keane's "Night Train" either. So this'll be crazy! And I need a phone, because I am currently exploiting the kindness of my younger brother by borrowing his old one. And I should get some new summer shoes... And a shelf for the DVD's and a dresser in the hall, and snowboard goggles and boots for next season. That alone could shake you thin!

But then when I have all these things. Who needs money? :D I will be very busy, and very very happy for a very very long time. Exactly the way I am now.
4

DUGNAD!

One of the truly Norwegian traditions that are still upheld today, is the spirit of "dugnad".

And I am a little surprised I haven't mentioned all this before, as it is a significant part of our national identity. It's all really selfless and philanthropic, maybe with a small pinch of communism stirred in with it honestly - and a very good indication of how Norwegians like to see themselves.

Dugnad is unpaid labour done for the cause of the community or an individual. Sports clubs usually have them, so all the soccer mums have to rake the field or sell waffles to buy more balls, or whatever the sport club can benefit from. It is also common that apartment blocks have dugnads, and they usually mean raking dead leaves, hosing, planting new shrubs, washing, clearing - whatever, in the good spirit of working together. AND, I left this for last, it is obviously closely linked to our national day on May 17th.

Because it is in this good humoured, giving spirit that we pick up cigarette butts and dog poop unveiled by the melted snow - to make sure our homeland and homes look their best for our celebration. And this is I guess just like the tradition of spring cleaning. (Cleaning the house after the winter to prepare it for summer) and so it is really logical. I suppose that it is different here, because I have heard from other countries that people hire other people to do these things, or host a fancy fundraiser or simply just donate money so they don't have to bother with it in person. And I suppose that's a lot easier and also probably way more convenient -  maybe even quicker! But if a simple Norwegian can't invite his neighbours for a dugnad around the neighbourhood - what have happened to our country and our people?

I know we all hate them, deep down, we despise them. We hate them for all the reasons there are - like, "this is awful, and I'm not even getting paid to do it!" Or, "this was a really good idea, why didn't I think of it first?! I am more of a Norwegian than that pompous bitch!" Or perhaps even, "oh so he thinks he can just dibs the lawnmower and that means he doesn't have to climb the apple trees to cut them? EH? I'll show him." Right. And some host a barbecue and bake cakes without telling anyone so they can't help them bake and cook - so they can take all the credit for themselves.

So there are just a select few who just instantly ignite when they hear the word dugnad (of enthusiasm, it is frightening). So for that reason dugnads are a Sunday thing - even though we are a Christian country (on paper) and God has clearly stated several times we ain't to work on Sundays. We bypassed this some time ago, probably by adding "paid" to "work", which was very convenient for the crazy curly people who love to do something for the community. So they wouldn't feel so bad about torturing the common man to get up, go outside and rake until he's bled dry on church day.

Dugnad is a nice tradition, and I hope we never stop having it. I know we hate it and we never make the best of it. But at least we can pretend like we are doing it from the heart, and not because we don't want to be sneered at by the mailboxes.

OOooh Suuundaaay

Yeah, I'm sorry, it's just so awfully funny.

My closet has performed ritual suicide again. A perfect seppuku that could pride any samurai. I would take a picture for you, but there are levels of decency. It's all been put back to normal though, it's just that the shelves cave in on themselves sometimes because they're held up by these tiny pegs that they are just barely touching on each side because they're a little narrower than the cupboard. But anyway!

Hey! Trysil-Knut is on tv! Too bad I have to make pie. Haha! It looks bad, even from here.

Yes, today we are having dinnerguests! What do you know? That's only like the ... err... fourth time or something! So that ought to count for something. Such beautiful weather today, really stunning, sunny and delightful and all the leaves are starting to pop. Looks like it might be summer here after all. In other neeews, next week is the last for our annual project at school - we're lagging behind so it's going to be dirty, but there you go - it's not so easy to make games as what you might think! But then, we are hopefully finishing it one way or another, which means in turn, you can play it too! If you want.

Now where was I? OH! Yes, I have been so busy interneting that I have completely forgotten about breakfast. Can't survive on tea alone you know! Aaaand last but not least - before I go and ravage the fridge, here are the books I've bought this week:
(Of which, I have started three, but not finished one of 'em!)
"The Satanic Verses" by Salman Rushdie
"The Unbearable Lightness of Scones" by Alexander McCall Smith
"The Careful use of Compliments" by Alexander McCall Smith and
"Mistress Oriku, Stories of a Tokyo Teahouse" by Matsutaro Kawaguchi.

Slipper Cushion Shares Their Heart

He was a dusty old slipper, the kind of slipper a dog would favour for its developed bouquet and for all the right fraying around the toe and heel. But with a good sole, definitely, oh yes, the kind that could handle the linoleum, but also catch all the delight of a happy dog's drool. Those are important qualities in a slipper.

And his wife, she was an embroidered, beige cushion, filled with rice for weight because down was too expensive for her pallid appearance. Her edges were covered with faded, ruby frills, some threads loose. On the front she had redwine stains, blurred from a night of intense scrubbing with every possible remedy, salt, mineral water - white wine, shampoo. But the cushion was not to be saved, her presentation made even sadder by the fact that the stain wouldn't go away.

They rarely met on weekdays. She spent her time lodged between two moss-green pillows (to hide her decay) in the plastic covered sofa that creaked when sat on.

While the slipper travelled a lot. On a good, floor-cold day. he could be pulled out from under the bed (who put my slippers under the bed?), travel all the way to the bathroom, visit the kitchen, go out for the newspaper, watch the weather on the tellybox, visit the bathroom again and be kicked off in the hallway. On particularly difficult days the dog would feel like having something to do, find the slipper and dig him down in the yard. However dreadful - this was not exactly the worst bit about the dog predicament. It was the washing machine that wore him thin.

They met in the sofa, naturally. The lady of the house was in Paris, and the owner of the slippers enjoyed a full weekend alone on the plastic covers - feet up, resting them right on top of her, the cushion. They both blushed. He was funny, she was even funnier, they fit like a jigsaw puzzle.

They rushed it. that's what everyone said. The house rules would never allow their relationship to last, slippers on the sofa. There was no way. But they were all proved wrong, all the way to the end, because they loved each other so much they didn't care if the house heard their whispers. Or that the sofa or the rug constantly witnessed their feverish kisses. Their life was a passionate one, their hearts made even more tender by all the longing.

They were destined for each other. And there was nothing anyone could say to prevent it.One day, the lady of the house scooped them both up in a cardboard box together, she turned around even, when the ashtray of the coffetable made an indiscreet gasp. She took them away, and nobody in the house ever saw them again. But that is not the morale of the story, because - what truly mattered was that they could be together.
0

The End of Mr. Y


So yes, I have just finished "The End of Mr. Y" by Scarlett Thomas and I am just going to start by recommending it to all of you. At least all of you who feel like they are in for (and I quote): "... A thrilling adventure of love, sex, death and time-travel". Intrigued? Yes! So was I!

It's surely the best parallel universe since I don't know... Maybe Harry Potter? I couldn't put it away, even when it got scientific and philosophic. It's been glued to me for the past day and night. The humanity of this book is so intensely tangible, so frail, yet probably one of the strongest assets of this book, the characters. They are so brave, and so affected by emotion and compassion. Beside its tremendous theory - that will change your opinion on thought, and what thought is - this book is also absolutely packed with morale and love - all wrapped in a shell of her popping creativity. We get to discuss the youth of society, the effects of having a broken family, theories of language, faith and science - intertwined closely with the captivating narrative - a thrilling plot!

What a pleasure it has been, bobbing up and down in the refreshing waters of "The End of Mr. Y" and as I am happily still soaked in its cleverness - I hope this is not truly the end!
2

New Books!

The Oslo Tiger on Jernbanetorget.

Yesterday I want completely crazy and bought some new books after school. I just went into the bookshop and started browsing really. And I had just been looking for shoes in a shop further down, so torn not to have found a single desirable shoe. And then there were all these stories just piled up, all the way to the ceiling I suppose - and it was so easy to find something that I went scurrying from shelf to shelf, from crime to poetry to fiction. Though I did end up with a pile of only the latter - the freedom of reaching out and finding something nice was delightful.

So (you might not call me crazy, but I thought I was) I bought five new books. Because I needed to. I had to, in fact, I bought new books for all the good reasons for buying books that exists! I bought books because I deserved to, because I need something to read on the bus to work, because I love to read, because all the books I have I have read at least once (if I didn't like it) and some I've read six times! And I bought books because I am hungry for them, I look at other people reading and I envy them, you know. I wish I could sit there and dwell into a different world too.

Only this Easter I read three books, of which one of them I read for the third time. So the time was right. I can justify my insanity! Anyway - if you're interested, here are the purchases.

"After Dark" by Haruki Murakami (in Norwegian), which I've already finished, by the way, it was a little strange, and it was an interesting journey.
"The Swallows of Kabul" by Yasmina Khadra - which was brutal and horrible, it was good, very sorrowful though.
"The End of Mr. Y" by Scarlett Thomas
"20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth" by Xiaolu Guo, which I've read by now, too. It wasn't particularly ravenous, but it gave an interesting insight of Bejing and the Chinese.
and "A Fine Balance" by Rohinton Mistry (in Norwegian).

What can I say? I better hurry up and read before I have to start to revise for exams! How are you, anyway? Here I am... Babbling about books! Please, do tell! :)
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