Sunday, 25 June 2017

I've read: 77 shadow street

by Dean Koontz

I've read several Dean Koontz books before, a few in his Odd Thomas series and a couple of other ones as well. With Koontz I expect easy read, suspenseful and supernatural mysteries.
Perfect to read by the poolside, that is.

This story fulfilled all of these expectations. The setting is an old fancy mansion turned luxury condominiums -  the Pendleton - where strange things one day begin to happen. Strange, scary and deadly things. The various inhabitants that we get to know, like the single mom with an autistic daughter, the ex military now stockbroker, the old attorney, all come in to contact with things that seems to be ghosts, or monsters or maybe something worse?

This is one of those books where you can't really tell too much of the plot without revealing too many spoilers, but to summarize: it's scary in a good way. A few of the creatures the Pendleton inhabitants meet was described in such a way I could really see them in my mind, and it was not a pleasant experience. The story is told from the point of view of all the different people living at the house, and it is cool to see the plot develop through all of these different people eyes.

I liked it! Didn't love it, but liked it. Go ahead and read it if you want a modern scary story.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

expat life, one year in: things I think about

There are two issues that have been on my mind more and more lately. The first is that I am homesick and in a way long for living in Sweden again. All of the photos of and stories about Swedish summer that I see on social media make me nostalgic and a bit sad. Maybe it's just FOMO, but I think it goes a bit deeper. The other issue is that I feel should try to reconnect with my "old" profession in some way.

I'm not sure if the feeling of  homesickness have influenced the idea that I might want to be an architect again, as some kind of nostalgia? Or if it's just the fact that I have now been here a while and have had my fun with the graphic design courses and now it's time to "get serious" again? I'm not sure. 

The homesickness is funny in a way because these past few months I have felt more established here. I have a few friends to hang out with - even though I don't do it very often - I have hobbies and meaningful projects and I like our home and routines. But I also think I am in the third stage of culture chock. (The first stage is: Aaargh, everything here is so strange! The second: No, actually it's not so strange after all. The third: What was I thinking, it IS strange! ) This makes me long for things that are "normal" and safe to me, and miss my friends and family.

Luckily I have decided to do something about this. I'll be going home in the middle of July and stay for two about weeks. The original reason for this is actually not my homesickness - I hadn't planned to go home until September - but my dear grandfather passed away in May and I wanted to go home to see my grandmother. I'll also be visiting my mom, my dad, my brother and a bunch of friends so I hope the homesickness feels better after that.

The other part of this, the profession thingy, is in a way more complicated to do something about, since I can't work here. But what I will try to do is to get back into the architect-mindset and get myself more up to date about what's going on in the business. I couldn't find any suitable online university courses within my field for next semester, but I'll be taking one short online course. Plus, I have decided to not take as many other courses this semester and set aside time to sketch, develop my software skills and read some of the many architecture books I have here at home. I might reach out to one or two of my old friends from uni, to see if they can give me feedback on my sketches. 

All of this will be something I'll start planning more seriously for in August, when I'll be back here again. For now it just feels good to have some sort of plan. I'm still not a hundred percent sure I'll be working as an architect again, but I don't want to become too distanced from all the things I actually (used to?) know.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

I've read: hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world

by Haruki Murakami

Let me just start by admitting I've never really understood the hype about Murakami. I'm sure the books are well written, and maybe I've just not read the best ones, but... no. This is not for me. I read my first Murakami book - Norwegian Wood - while vising Japan in 2004. It made me feel unhappy and lost. Well, to be honest, my whole trip to Japan I felt quite lonely and sad, and maybe it wasn't the best time for reading it... So... but what about this book then?

This is a very strange book. When I had finished the first chapter and began the second I was totally confused and wondered if this was a collection of short stories? The reason for that was that the second chapter took place in a completely different world. After a while I realized that the book continues this way, with two parallel stories, one chapter you are in Tokyo, following this 35 something man that work for an information company. The other story is about another man, a newcomer to a small town, isolated from the rest of the world by a giant wall. Strange things happen to both men. After about 4/5 of the book you are let in on the secret, how these to two stories are connected.

Oh, let me just stop here for a sec. As I was writing this I wanted to write the name of this Tokyo-man. Couldn't for the life of me remember it (and I finished this book today). So I pickedit up and after some careful browsing I'm pretty sure you never get to know it. And I haven't even once reflected upon this fact the whole time I read it! And I think this signifies one of the things I don't like about this book, the fact that I just don't care. None if the characters are described in a way that make me feel much sympathy for them, or really care what happens with them. They feel, maybe not one-dimensional, but I just can't identify with them. The rest of the characters in the book - pretty much all of them - are in my opinion just that: one-dimensional. 

Yeah, I didn't like this one either. 

I still have another Murakami-book - Kafka on the Shore - in my bookshelf, so at some point I'll have a go and give him another chance. Norwegian Wood was published 1987 and this one 1985, maybe a more recent book (the Kafka one is from 2002) is easier for me to relate to...

Sunday, 18 June 2017

long time no cat

Looking at these photos I doubt they actually qualify to be blog-worthy when it comes to quality... I sooo need to become more confident using my DSLR and not just use my iPhone all the time. But. I also don't want to apologize too much for posting them because I truly believe that for every posted photo of cat-paws and fluffly cat bellies out there on the interwebzz the world becomes a better place... And sometimes the exquisiteness of the subject is motivation enough for posting, right? So I give you Hugo, lurking behind the sofa so I almost tripped over him.

why don't I just DO this?

How come there are things in life that you know you should do, that they would make you happier, healthier and better at coping with everyday life, but just still just don't do them? For many people I guess it's a question about time, but I have all the time in the world and I still don't do these things, however many times I set my mind on doing them. In my case I have defined three things that I know would make my everyday life better, but I also just ignore doing most of the time:

physical activity in the morning
It doesn't have to be a super heavy workout or an hour of running, even 20 minute walk before breakfast makes me happier the whole day. There is more of a chance that I'll be productive, that I feel calm and happy and not bored. I have done this routinely for some periods this past year, but eventually something (small) comes up and I stop. So stupid!

get properly dressed
I don't mean properly in a fancy way, but just in normal clothes and not the same sweats and t-shirt as yesterday. Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror and thinking "hello pretty!" makes any day better, in my opinion. I fall back on thinking it's a waste to use my favorite clothes and that i should save them for a more eventful day, but I don't have that many of those and my "good" outfits just lives in my clothes without ever seeing the light. It's sad really.

leave my phone alone for a while
Browings through Facebook, Instagram and Bloglovin to catch up takes up so much of my time. And mostly I don't mind, these are great ways of keeping in contact with friends and family back home, and to get updated on what is going on in the world, but when i just keep returning, doing the rounds again when nothing is new, that's when it just becomes a waste of time. And since I actually have a bunch of other hobbies that I know would make me feel better, more creative and happy, why don't I just go do those instead!?

I obviously don't have a lot of self-discipline. I'm not going to make any promises that either of these things will change in the future. But I am aware, at least...

Saturday, 17 June 2017

beach mystery

I saw these tracks on the beach the other day. And I'm stumped! What the hell can make tracks like these? What? It looks like a pretty big foot (?), but the steps are short in relation to the size of the mark. And the footprint itself rather look like it is made of several small things. Not to mention the fact that the creature making the tracks obviously have one big and one small foot and limps?


Friday, 16 June 2017

spring term, 2017

As I've mentioned several times I have now finshed my semester and the three course I took. I thought it might be fun to summarize them and have a little look at what I've done! First, though, I just want to say how incredibly lucky I feel to have access to the Swedish educational system, where I can study for free, for as long as I want. It's not something I've even reflected much upon before, but something that becomes obvious when talking with people from other countries. Go Sweden!

OK, so this semester I took three stand-alone courses, Digital image editing and Images and graphic design for the web (bild och grafisk design för webben) at Linneaus University and Vector graphics at Uppsala UniversityLast semester I was introduced to graphic design and typography, this semester the courses were within the same theme, with some overlapping content, but also with a lot of new stuff. I'm obviously not taking part of a set program, but choosing independent courses from different Universities within this field that I find interesting. The total of credits sums up to what would be full-time studies in Sweden.

Digital image editing, 7.5 credits
This course was held by the same teacher as my Typography course last semester, and he continued with much of the same structure on this one. Every month a new "chapter" - or theme - is covered, with short, prerecorded video lectures and several shorter assignments. You have to deliver all of the assignments and you get feedback on each of them. This is a set-up I find really easy to follow, and encourage you to keep up with work and not just wait til last minute. The prerecorded lectures are a good way of feeling like you are actually in contact with a human being, but becomes way more efficient than a live lecture. The content of the course, image editing with focus on using Photoshop, is something I knew a little bit about from before. I have worked with Photoshop every now and then since I was thirteen, but being self-taught, there are just so many things I don't know, and my work-flow has definitely not been optimal. I learned a lot of new features and methods during this course, and as knowing Photoshop is useful if you are an architect this has absolutely been useful.

Here are a few of my assignments in this course:

Program used: Adobe Photoshop CC

Images and graphic design for the web, 7.5 credits
This course was built up in three sections, with three assignments. The first focused on images, editing and adapting for web-use, the second and third on webdesign, HTML and CSS code, ending up in creating two homepages for fictional clients. This course had a different set-up than the first, with all of the assignments and information posted in the beginning of the course, so you pretty much had to work for yourself with very sparse contact with others. There were no video-lectures, and even though we were encouraged to chat with fellow students and teachers on various forums, I never really did.

The first part of the course obviously overlapped a lot with the other course I just described, and even in the second and third part there was (for me) repetition of graphic design and typography principles. But there were also parts that were completely new to me. I have never written code before, but I immediately liked it! I liked the logic and the structure. The second assignment was to create a webpage to spread information about the tiger, where we only had to create CSS style-sheets as the HTML, text and images was provided by the teachers. The third task had us constructing a site for a spa, completely from scratch. I was so proud when I managed to create a webpage that looked pretty much exactly as I had imagined it, not particularly advanced, but looking totally OK. I didn't think I would be able to do that in the beginning of the course!

 As none of these sites are "live" I can't link to them, but here are a few screen-shots of what they look like.

Programs used: Brackets, Adobe Illustrator CC, Adobe Photoshop CC

Vector graphics, 15 credits
Funny thing, two thirds into this course I decided not to finish it. I had waited for feedback from the teacher on the first parts, but never got it, plus I was very busy with the final stages of my other courses. I wasn't very impressed with the set-up of the course, which was similar to the Graphic deisgn for the web-one, but with less reliable feedback and a slightly confusing homepage. I think I might have found all this acceptable if I had been more motivated and not so occupied with my other courses. So, after delivering two out of three assignments I decided to drop the last one. But then, suddenly, I had two days over after delivering in the other courses, so I decided to give it a shot and just hand in something.

The content of this course was how to create illustrations, design and graphic profiles using vector graphics. It also covered some of the basic themes of graphic design, such as basic understanding of colors. I have worked a bit in Illustrator before, and to be honest I don't think I picked up that many new things in this course. The course in graphic design that I took last semester was more informative, but that is mainly because I decided to skip a lot of the exercises in this course. So mostly my fault. Anyway, I picked up a few good ideas on workflow for when designing a graphic profile for a company and it was a good opportunity to improve my Illustrator skills.

Here's a sneak peek on a few things I worked on in this course:

I haven't received my grades for these courses yet, but I have pretty good feeling about the first two. And I am already looking forward to next semester, hopefully the courses I'll be taking then will be equally inspiring and useful as these.

I'll write more in an upcoming post on what my plans are for the foreseeable future, by the way. I have some new thoughts.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

I've read: Ariadnis

by Josh Martin

I bought this book in Singapore earlier this spring. It was a quite spontaneous purchase, I wanted something similar to what I usually prefer reading, i e, something in the category monsters, magic and mysteries. I liked the cover and the blurb seemed at least somewhat intriguing so here we are. I didn't have super high expectations, thinking this would be one of the regular YA novels.

And well, it sort of is. With a few fun quirks. The story is set in a time when the world has ended,  and two new - rivaling - communities has been established by the survivors. Two girls, Aula and Joomia, have been chosen by a prophesy to compete on their eighteenth birthday in a mystical trial to decided prevent a war between the two communities. Only one will survive. That's the plot. And then you'll get to know the two girls and how they struggle with this task and with the powers they have. Oh and one of them is a mute. 

I thought this book was totally OK. I read a lot of YA books and I usually don't mind reading about younger people, but sometimes I felt a bit too old for this book. And I was hoping for a bit more darkness and action in Hunger Games style, but even though it was exciting it wasn't perfect. I liked how Martin writes, I liked the illustrations of the complex new world and I like how he introduced gay and bi characters without making a big deal out of it, just completely natural. But there will be another book in this series and I'm not sure I will need to read it... We'll see. 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

my 34th birthday

I realize it's been almost a month since my birthday on May 19th, but I couldn't just let it pass without mentioning! It turned out almost exactly like planned and predicted  except maybe for the fact that Andreas actually did wake me up in the morning, I wasn't already awake... The sad part that even though I had a great day, with no pressing course work, I ended up not taking too many photos. I didn't snap a single one of the evening when we celebrated with a bunch of friends on the patio... I took a few with my phone but the quality is just so horrendous I don't want to show them here. What i will share is this collection of gifts my awesome Andreas surprised me with in the morning! Shoes, skirt, dress, cat-cup, and headphones from ASOS (delivers to Brunei....) and DVD's I can't wait to watch! Just waiting for the right time.

Plus there are a few books on the way as well, that didn't arrive in time! Which reminds me I should
start shopping for his birthday in August as soon as possible...

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

May review

I'm back in front of the compute after a week of summer holiday and a pretty lousy weekend where Andreas have been quite sick and I haven't felt all that good myself. My better half is still home from work but I'll try to get back in to some kind of routines today... So, why not start off with a delayed review of how I did on my new year's resolutions in May?

  • Paint my toenails often. Because looking down on brightly colored toes makes me happy.
    Still just going on red here... Boring...
  • Run 10K, once. Like without stopping for a rest
    I actually had my first run in several months just today! It was just a 2K run, and my knees hurt but still! Might be a sign that my motivation is on its way back!
  • Take an online photo course and start to use my camera on "manual" setting
    I'm thinking I might makes this activity a part of the second half of my summer-break from my university online studies. We'll see if I find something.
  • Bake my own bread, at least once
  • Find one really good friend in Brunei
    I have at least two or three people here now that I feel comfortable calling my friends, which feels really good. 
  • Take 60 kg in bench press
    Uh, this month has been bad when it comes to going to the gym so I don't even know where I'm at with this. I felt pretty good about this goal in the beginning of the year but now I'm not so sure.
  • Make one new proper friend via Instagram or a blog
    I have reconnected with some of my old friends via Instagram, that is pretty nice!
  • Start an online portfolio
    Not yet. And no projects to put in there either.
  • Grow my hair long and learn how to make a Dutch braid.
    I actually feel like cutting off like 10 cm of my hair now, to get rid of some of my tired old blond hair. So that might happen. It still might be long enough to practice the braid though. 
  • Read 20 books, 5 of them non-fictional
    I've been reading a lot these past few weeks since I finished my courses but I still haven't finished any non-fictional books. 
  • Be nicer to my skin: use lotion on my dry hands and legs on a daily basis and develop some kind of skin-care routine for my little face. Plus use at least SPF20 on my face, every day
    No really improvement here really. Except that I moved my face-scrub from the bathrooms cabinet to the showers so now I have started using that more often! Plus I invested in an nice shower cream from Body Shop, that feels luxurious. 
  • Only eat good candy, not boring candy. And enjoy it. 
    No more Swedish candy in my cupboard.. :( I have enjoyed a lot of Mentos recently, those are always a hit! But the disappear sooo quickly. And I got loads of Ferrero Rocher chocolates for my birthday that I have thoroughly enjoyed. Delish!
  • Try to reduce my screen time a little bit.
    No. Not even a little. Also, this weekend had been spent mostly Netflix binge-ing, because of illness.

Friday, 9 June 2017

One year in Brunei-anniversary

Hey people! Today, the 9th of June, I celebrate one year living in Brunei. Just today I feel pretty bored and a bit home sick, but otherwise I'd say things are very good. I wish I'd written a long post about my year here, but this week, since we came home from Hong Kong, I have felt totally uninspired when it come to blogging. I have several post in my "draft-box" but I haven never gelt like spending time in front of the computer. Probably got an overload after all the course work before out trip. Plus, since I last upgraded my iPhone my Blogger app stopped working so now I can't really blog from my phone either. Oh well. I decided I have "sommarlov" (summer holiday) this week with no obligations, so next week when I'm back to more normal routines again I'm sure I'll blog some more.

Anyway. I hope you all have a good weekend people!