Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year

As it seems that I was wrong and really do have some readers somewhere out there in the vast world wide web (at least my counter seems to suggest it, as it doesn't count every time I check on my blog [except the first time, so I was number one], but has counted 4 hits as I write this), I want to wish you all a Happy New Year - even though I realize some of you may have had a new year while I was still sleeping on the morning of December 31st.

I will, as I've already promised anyway, continue writing my blog. I've got three posts on my hard disk right now ... and until January 2nd I might add one or two to them. They're all about serious issues, but nothing serious enough to stop my "no bitching between Christmas and New Year"-policy.

For now: enjoy the year 2007 while it's still fresh, it'll get old by itself ... just wait until December and you'll see.

If there really is a 'you' out there and you enjoy reading my posts and have a blog yourself, be kind enough to include me in your blog-list. Leave a comment or e-mail with your blog address and I will look at it as well and - most likely - include a link in my blog-list. In my experience thoughts spread a lot faster if people have an easy way to find them; I for example, found most of the blogs in my list through the lists of others. Yes, I know, that's shameless begging, but I think what people speaking their mind - whether about their own lives or about the world - need most, is networking.

I got myself a counter

... and I'm probably going to regret it. As far as I can say, I don't have visitors on my blog - and whether or not this thesis of me is proven right, I'll go on blogging anyway. Of course the counter will get higher over time - I have to check my site myself whenever I upload a new post ... or a couple of them. But I'll keep track of my own numbers, this way I might be able to see whether or not I'm talking to myself here. I like talking to myself (just enter joke about "the only way to talk to an intelligent person" here). No, really, by telling my ideas and wording for a new post to myself I see whether it's good or not. (I already mentioned I need help, did I?)

Anyhow, I'm a little proud of myself, being able to stop bitching until the 2nd of January (I'm not going to loose this tomorrow for sure, I can wait another day before putting on the two bitching posts I've written already).

Ah! Reminescence...

What is the thing happening each year around Sylvester? Yes, it's the retrospectives. No matter whether the year was good, bad or mediocre, around the 20th of December all TV- and radio-stations suddenly decide it's time to look back on the past twelve month.

This year, it seems, Germany has a lot to look back to ... but I'm saving most of the comments for next year, because of my policy (you know, the "no bitching"-thing). Nevertheless on the whole it was a good one, this year. No really big catastrophes - at least none I can recall at the moment, the football world cup (which we didn't win, but we got close enough, if you ask me) and a German becoming the next pope (even though I personally disagree with his views on most things ... but then, I disagree with the views of my own church on most things anyway, so it's not his fault). We've on the whole managed to get by without bad publicity ... and that's good as well.

Personally I look back on a mixed year: had surgery on my knee in January, lost my job in September, worried about my father a lot, but also had a good summer and a lot of fun. On the whole I would say I've had worse years in my life than this one.

What I find even more important than looking back, though, is looking forward. The next year will surely bring interesting news. I'll start learning for a better job ... and that's good. I'm sure I'll soon find a job for the next one and a half years (while I learn how to be a web-master). I'll be visiting my best friend Heike again in January and I'm sure that some time during this or the next year we'll manage to take a holiday together to visit Neu Schwanstein in Bavaria.

I'll also continue to write this blog - I've already got two posts for after January 1st. I'll try to write some more positive posts next year, the short span between Christmas and now has taught me I can do it. I'll do my second homepage as well.

Things are looking up at the moment and I hope that they'll continue to get better next year, for me in person and for Germany on the whole - and the world as well, of course.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Creativity is fun

And another positive blog for my "no bitching until after New Year"-resolution. This is getting easier on one side, but on the other side I've started telling a lot more about myself than I usually do. But as probably nobody out there will ever link this blog to me - or recognize me on the streets -, I think I can risk this. Some people might wonder why I don't, for instance, just stop writing until January 2nd. Well, that would be the easier solution, but not the creative one ... and I just loooove creativity.

I like reading, as you might already have gathered from my posts about books and my little private library. I also like writing and always have. But apart from that I also use my creativity for other things:

  • first of all there are my homepages - which I've written about already
  • second I sometimes feel the need to draw - even though I'm not that much of an artist
  • third I work with the Game Maker to do little games - nothing complicated up till now

In addition I also love using the editors you get with certain computer games, building my own neighbourhood with "The Sims 2", creating my own amusement-parks and roller-coasters with "Rollercoaster Tycoon 2", trying to build my own little module for "Neverwinter Nights" and creating maps for various strategy games (mostly "WarCraft III" at the moment). And I love playing games which give you the possibility to create your worlds which is why I'm currently waiting for "Spore", a new game in which you can create your own species, and play "Anno 1701" at the moment.

I know a lot of people are just happy with watching movies, reading books and surfing the net ... doing more or less 'passive' things instead of creating new things. This is okay for me ... as long as nobody wants me to live my life like that. I like being creative and make new things. I like thinking about new games or new homepages to build. I like writing and spending a lot of time building up a new story. Creativity is fun ... and it doesn't get boring either, because you always do new things.

Why forums are cool

And another post ... I'm really kicking them out like no tomorrow, don't you think?

When I first got internet, I didn't use it much, maybe two or three hours a week to check on my emails and have a look at a couple of websites. Then I discovered FanFiction (about which I've already written my share) and started browsing those pages for hours. But even though I like ... and write ... FanFiction, I've gone through most of the interesting sites by now and only check them for stories I still follow.

My main interest while browsing the internet at the moment is blogs and forums. I write my own blog and follow various others (listed on the right side of my blog). But most of the time I spent online these days is spent in various forums. I post regularly in the forums of the MangasZene, a German magazine about manga and anime which I also buy and read regularly, and Gespensterweb, a website dedicated to ghosts and other supernatural phenomena. In addition I sometimes post in the forums of Giga and

What I like most about forums ... especially those which are rather specialized as MangasZene and Gespensterweb ... is the fact that you're dealing with others who are just as interested in (some may call it 'mad about') the topics you are yourself. While most homepages are written and maintained by a little group of people, the forums are full of loads of people interested in the topics. This makes sure you get loads and loads of different opinions to ponder over or answer to. That's where the fun lies for me.

Homepage Design and it's problems

Actually this post fits well with the last one, about my future career - or what I hope will be my future career. As I want to be a web-master soon, I have good reasons to go over my homepages and re-design them. For the homepage I still have to update, it'll be a first anyway, because I've just registered the domain about a week ago. Currently I only have an "I'm still building this, come back later, please"-page online.

The last re-design of my homepage "Night-Shade" was done in three days - including writing all the texts, creating the GIFs for the buttons and the banners to put on the sites as headlines and searching the net for a couple of pictures to go with the texts. But then, it was "just a little comedy for people to laugh" while the other page will deal with my most important hobby: writing.

I'm still in the planning stage, trying to figure out what to put on the page and how to design it. I already know I'll have to put in a few hours (probably) with a pencil and paper in order to draw a picture for my index-page. Lets see whether watching cartoon characters getting hit by anvils has taught me something about drawing them. As "Geschichtenschmiede" could be translated into "Story Forge", I need an anvil, a book and maybe a hammer for the picture. I'm not the best of all artists, but I should be able to do this. (I already had serious reservations about using pictures from other sites for my last homepage, so I'm surely not going to use a picture from another page as the symbol for mine - no way.)

So I'm going to do this the old way, drawing a picture on paper (because I definitely draw better with a pencil than with a mouse) and scanning it before using a program to make it look better. Hooray to my mother for teaching me how to draw when I was a kid - and keeping me interested in improving my abilities over the years. In addition I'll be needing lots and lots of different buttons, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Most of the texts are written already this time, so at least this should be more easy. And if things were too easy, they wouldn't be what I call 'fun'. I like a challenge and doing everything in order to meet it.

Therefore I think despite the fact that it will be challenging, despite the fact that there are problems to overcome, I'll surely enjoy building up this homepage - and I'll be proud the day it's uploaded and all is working the way it should.

Changing my profession

Currently I'm working as a telemarketer ... and I have done so for a little over three years now, ever since I had to realize that I couldn't earn a living by working as a freelancing editor. I've been to university, but studying literature and history doesn't get you a ticket for a really good job...

So I've finally made a decision: I'm going to become a web-master, per corresponding course. It's the perfect job for me, combining my interest in computers and programming with some creative work. In addition it's surely paid better than telemarketing (but a lot of jobs are, actually) and you have to deal with less unfriendly people (just ask a telemarketer you know about it, they all have a couple of stories about customers to tell).

My plan for the next 18 month is this: working 8 hours for 5 days a week and studying at least 15 hours a week to prepare for the finals around June or July 2008. I know I can do it, I'm still a fast learner and I'm really interested in this subject. I have an internet connection and I have two domains to practice my skills on ("Geschichtenschmiede" und "Night-Shade", both can be accessed via the links in my blog). And once I'm finished with this course, I'm probably going to take a course in flash-programming to enhance my possibilities. Those two areas fit well with each other, I think.

I know it's probably a strange job for a girl (or rather a woman), but I'm not an average woman anyway (just check the header of my blog) and I know I'll like it. I'll probably put an update on this blog every now and then after I've managed parts of my course.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My best friend, her new computer and DSL

I've got one best friend; not two, not three, not twenty, just one best friend: Heike. Unfortunately we don't live in the same town or close (as I would define the term 'close', that is). So we usually communicate by writing letters, sending emails and chatting over the phone for an hour or more whenever we've got the time. About once every two or three month we actually meet in person - either I'm travelling to see her or she travels to see me, we need about two hours or so on a train to reach the other one. It's a lucky coincidence we both like reading or listening to music.

Recently she told me she was getting her own internet connection (well, I should probably say 'their' own internet connection, as she lives with her boyfriend). She's got it now which means we can write more emails, as we can both check them at home. She also wants to get the Yahoo! Instant Messenger ... she's already got an account and it will be easy for her to get the messenger. I've got it, too … but then I've also got ICQ and (as you can see on the right side of my blog) Zwinky. Unfortunately until now I mostly got bugged by guys who wanted to date me. But with Heike being online now as well, we could have a quick chat every now and then. So when we meet again in January, I'll help her install the messenger ... and hope she goes online quite often, so we can have a chat.

I'm quite happy she's got internet now (over DSL, that's what broadband is called in Germany) and we'll have a new means to communicate, but I also see quite a lot of work coming up while she learns about her new computer and the internet. After all, most people I know consider me their computer advisor.

What my blog already means to me

I've had this blog for two month now, as I started it in the end of October and it is the end of December now.

To be frank, in the beginning I thought it was going to be a fad. Why, you might ask? (If there is any you to ask, I'm not really sure whether anybody is reading this.) Well, when I was about thirteen, I tried to start writing a diary regularly, but I didn't do it for long. It was easy enough while I was travelling with my parents (I started during our holidays), but after I was back in my normal and rather boring life, I didn't see the point in writing in it something like "nothing of interest happened" every day. Part of me expected this blog to be just like the diary: something to use for a short time and then discard. But it's quite different: it has become an online-diary not for my daily life, but for my many thoughts and ideas. My daily life still is quite boring, I'm not some sort of hero or adventurer after all ... even though working as a telemarketer can be quite adventurous. But I've got a lot of thoughts I'd really like to share with the world in general and my blog just is the way to do it.

Even this month when I spent two weeks or so without writing a single post, I've made up for it by now (easily, I've already got more posts this month than the one before, even though I did post more regularly in November). So it's not just a fad.

Having your own blog really can be great. I can write down all the things I get angry about (that's why I bitch that much, usually) and vent them off this way. I can put in my two cents about everything that goes on around my; from my crusade against Size 0 right to my crusade (um, is it allowed to perform two crusades at the same time?) against politicians and journalists who don't know anything about computer games, but criticise them. I can tell people (provided there's somebody reading this) what I like, too. You'll get more posts about novels, games or movies I like, don't worry too much (the post about "Pirates of the Caribbean" is still missing because I'm too busy drooling over the DVDs).

Addicted to Wallpapers

I have to admit it: I'm an addict. I simply love wallpapers for my desktop.

I know that a lot of real geeks say wallpapers just slow the computer down ... but hey, I'm not a geek like that myself and I don't mind my computer getting slowed down by the fraction of a second just because of a pretty wallpaper on screen.

So I collect wallpapers like other people collect stamps (and whenever I get my hands on a stamp without paying for it, I collect it as well) and put them on my hard disk. I probably could almost change my wallpaper each day for a year without using the same motive twice, but I won't do that. Actually most of them rarely get to be 'on screen' anyway - but I keep them because I like how they look ... even though I prefer others for my desktop. Sometimes they come in useful, too. For example I found a wallpaper on a couple of month ago (sometime this summer) with the characters of the game-sequel to "The Nightmare before Christmas" on it - and this year before Christmas I put in on my desktop.

But on the other hand, those wallpapers usually just sit on my hard disk and wait ... most likely until forever (or until I'm dead and my last hard disk gets destroyed). A lot of people might say now "think about the space on her hard disk she could clear when deleting those - or at least putting them on CD". But I don't mind that space either ... I've got enough of it, anyway.

So I just go on hunting down good-looking wallpapers and storing them on my computer, just for the fun of it. At least I'm not hurting anybody...

The Joy of Gossip

I'm pretty happy at the moment ... because only a couple of days ago I heard the title of the - probably - last "Harry Potter"-novel. This is an important stage in waiting for the new book to come out. It's what I call "The Gossip Stage", the time when virtually everything is possible.

"The Gossip Stage" starts with the first announcement of the new book (or movie or CD, enter the media of your choice here) and goes on until the very beautiful moment of the first selling date. You know that there's a new one coming up and it will be done soon enough (summer of 2007, as current gossip has it), but you still don't know what's going to happen - that you only can find out once the book is on sale. So gossip about the contents blooms.

Who's going to die in this novel? Ms. Rowling has announced that two people will die - and logic dictates one of them should be Voldemort, as this is supposed to be the last novel and he's the arch villain. I've heard two other names thrown in already: Severus Snape and Ron Weasley. I personally could also imagine her killing two birds with one stone (as the saying goes) and have Harry and the Dark Lord kill each other, but that's probably just my cynical way of thinking. Most others in the forum I read about it think Harry should live and be able to enjoy his life after seven years of danger and death - which I would really allow him to do, but it's not how real tragic stories work. Instead half of the people in the forum favour Severus Snape who could sacrifice himself in order to make up for killing Albus Dumbledore in the last book; the other half favours Ron Weasley, because this way he would once be in the centre of attention (talk about me being cynical...) and step out of his role of the sidekick.

I've got other questions I'd like to get answered. What happened to Draco Malfoy after the end of the last novel? Can he still be on Voldemort's side after a year of trying to live up to the expectations of a man like him? He surely must have realized himself he can't kill in cold blood. And what use is a Death Eater who can't kill in cold blood? Are the Dursleys going to realize how hard their 'freakish' relative's life really is? Not likely, if you ask me. How can Voldemort be killed for good? And what is really going to become of Harry after his enemy is dead? It wouldn't be the first time a hero goes over to the dark side after killing his enemy.

You see, in my mind the question of who's going to die isn't very important. I'm going to see that once I've got the book in my hands - which will be right after it came out in English, you can bet on that. Sooner or later the gossip will reach those questions as well.

But why do I think that "The Gossip Stage" is so important? Because it shows a lot of people care about what's going to happen. The books still have a lot of readers. For somebody who usually is not reading much mainstream, this is a thrilling feeling. I will enjoy every word of gossip written about the new novel ... knowing pretty well that probably most to all of us (people have, for example, prophesied Ron's death since the first gossip about a person dying in novel four, but last time I checked, he was still alive) will be wrong about what's going to happen. That's a good thing, because what use would it otherwise be to read the book?

About half a year until we can read the truth about it ... oh, glorious gossip.

Listen to Literature

After the last two posts with games, I'll return to something different. So the topic of this post will be 'books on tape' - or rather 'books on CD' in these times.

Admittedly at first I wasn't a fan of this idea. To a reader like me the idea of people just putting a couple of tapes - or CDs - into a recorder and listen to them in order to absorb the story of a book seemed quite pointless. To me half of the fun usually is to imagine everything in my head. But in recent weeks I've bought two books on CD, both German (though one, "Miss America" by Gayle Tufts isn't really completely German as Ms. Tufts is American and the mistress of 'Dinglish' - a mixture between German and English). I haven't regretted it at all.

Unlike the radio plays of my childhood (there's a whole market in Germany for plays on cassette, or CD these days, for children), those CDs were just like a person (actually both times the person writing the book, as both books were written by comedians) reading them to me ... something of which I have fond memories from childhood as well. I have both of them on my computer now - I've got a whole host of CDs on my computer, not because I don't own them, but because this way I don't have to change the CDs and can listen to them whenever I want ... and load them on my mp3-player as well.

I'm listening to "Miss America" at the moment, enjoying the very unique speaking patterns of Ms. Tufts, and writing this post (I always write long posts on my word processor before uploading them, it's easier for me). That's a comfortable way to absorb thoughts of others while working ... or for example while taking a long trip in a car. Judging from my past experiences with radio stations and their reach, it would be better than to search for a new station every twenty or so minutes. But maybe I just enjoy this because I was born to do multi-tasking ... I don't really know.

I still enjoy reading very much, but by now I know that listening to books on CD between two books to read can be fun...

Monday, December 25, 2006

One-Word-Answering Game

This is another game I stumbled over while browsing a new blog. You only get one word for an answer and no explanation. You might think I'm raving mad when you finished this ... so be warned:

Yourself: complex

Your partner: non-existent

Your hair: dark

Your mother: practical

Your father: philosophical

Your favourite item: books

Your dream last night: indescribable

Your favourite drink: water

Your dream car: blue

Your dream home: apartment

The room you are in: living-room

Your ex: huh?

Your fear: injury

Where you want to be in ten years: around

Who you hung out with last night: nobody

What you're not: skinny

Muffins: sprinkled

One of your wish list items: inspiration

Time: afternoon

The last thing you did: blog-posting

What you are wearing: comfortable

Your favourite weather: stormy

Your favourite book: lots

Last thing you ate: cake

Your life: strange

Your mood: cynical

Your best friends: wonderful

What are you thinking about right now: Christmas

Your car: green

What are you doing at the moment: blog-reading

Your summer: okay

Relationship status: free

What is on your TV: movie

What is the weather like: cold

When is the last time you laughed: today

21 Christmas Questions

I've stumbled over this little quiz-game in two interesting blogs and decided to play it myself ... as it's Christmas and I'm still trying to keep my promise about not bitching until January 2nd.

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate?

Definitely hot chocolate ... I don't like eggnog and I simply loooooove hot chocolate.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just put them under the tree?

He just puts them under the tree, my parents and I came to an agreement about this years ago. Besides, it saves me from the trouble of learning how to wrap strangely shaped presents.

3. Coloured lights on tree/house or white?

None actually, as I don't have a tree or a house (I live in a flat). But if I had a tree, they would be coloured (blue for preference).

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

No, because that's not a tradition in Germany - and I would a) not know where to get some anyway and b) not have somebody around to kiss underneath it (boohoo).

5. When do you put your decorations up?

Never, as I don't have any (see question 3). But when I still lived at home and we had a 'proper' Christmas, we would put up some stuff at the beginning of December (like the 'Adventskranz', a wreath made of spruce-branches with four candles on it, one for each weak before Christmas), some around the last week before Christmas and the tree on the morning or early afternoon of Christmas Eve.

6. What is your favourite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

My mother's cooked rabbit, it's always delicious. Plus, I don't have to cook it, because it comes with spending most of Christmas with my parents.

7. Favourite holiday memory as a child?

The years before my grandmother died when I was ten. It was so great when we would go around the house (my parents and some of my mother's relatives live in one house) and visit all the others, finishing with my grandmother on the ground floor. After she died, the family started to break apart.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

Well, first of all we don't have Santa Claus in Germany, we have either the 'Weihnachtsmann' (who's very much like Santa, anyway) or the 'Christkind' (in the area of southern Germany where I live). I guess I was about seven or eight when I realized my parents actually bought the presents and put them under the tree. I wasn't really told, but I think that year I stumbled over some presents when I was playing hide and seek with somebody.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

All of them actually, that's the way it's done in Germany. We do get our presents on Christmas Eve.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

Not at all (see questions 3 and 5). When I was younger and we used to have a Christmas tree, we decorated it with a lot of old stuff handed down mostly since my early childhood or the first years my parents were married. We always had a green tree (duh!) with multi-coloured ball ornaments, silver lametta, two silvery stings of some fuzzy material, very pretty wooden ornaments (little toys, angels and suchlike) and white electric candles. I liked the way it looked and would decorate my tree the same way - maybe without the lametta, it's a bitch to get out of a carpet afterwards and I do have carpeted floor in my living room.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it?

I love it from Christmas Eve to New Year, but not before or afterwards when I do have to get to work and a lot of other people do as well (a lot of people in Germany do not work between Christmas Eve and New Year).

12. Can you ice skate?

No, but I can slitter across the ice with my normal boots ... does that count, too?

13. Do you remember your favourite gift?

Absolutely. It was a book my parents wrote and drew for me themselves. I still keep it and remember fondly how jealous my friends were...

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you?

Spending time with all the people I love and trying to make their lives a bit more happy. But on the whole I try to do that during the whole year (at least while I'm not cynical).

15. What is your favourite holiday dessert?

My family's very special brand of Christmas cookies, you can't get them anywhere and nobody else does them like my mother.

16. What is your favourite holiday tradition?

Spending the afternoon of Christmas Eve with my parents.

17. What tops your tree?

Again, nothing (see questions 3,5 and 10). But my parents had a very beautiful glass top that looked like a turned-over ice-cream cone with a hole cut in.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving?

Giving, not because it makes me look like a nice person, but because I like the challenge of finding the right gift for everybody. It's not easy, as I've written before. But I would be the world's biggest hypocrite if I said I don't like receiving, wouldn't I?

19. What is your favourite Christmas song?

Everything but "Last Christmas" by WHAM! No, honestly I like "White Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland" a lot.

20. Candy canes?

I like them, but I don't eat them very often. They're not part of traditional Christmas in Germany anyway.

21. Favourite Christmas movie?

First of all "The Nightmare before Christmas", I just love the story. In addition I enjoy watching two Austrian TV-movies every year: "Single Bells" and "Oh Palmenbaum".

My personal library

Books are a great thing, really!

I've always loved books, even before I could read them myself. One of my fondest childhood memories is a collection of cassettes my father recorded for me because he couldn't be there every evening to read me my favourite books before I went to bed. They've disappeared a long time ago - unlike another treasure I've still got from my childhood, a book my parents made for me, my mother drawing the pictures and my father typing the story -, but I still remember them fondly.

I guess I have to thank my father for introducing me to books. When I was a small child, he used to take me to the public library every couple of weeks on Saturday to pick some books for himself and one or two books for me - which he read to me, of course. When I was seven, I got my own library card and was allowed to check out books for myself. During my early puberty I used to go to the library every second week (because on Saturday I had school every second week, so I could only go to the library on Saturday when I didn't have school), during the holidays sometimes even twice a week. I used to read very much the same things I prefer today: adventure stories, crime stories, fantasy stories and a fair amount of non-fiction books about interesting topics (such as movies, sharks or the supernatural). I've still got a fond memory of the various Time Life books about fairies, wizards and witches, magic, monsters and other stuff. They had very beautiful pictures inside couple with texts that were easy to read and understand.

Today I usually buy books instead of checking them out at a library. For one thing I prefer to read English or American novels in the original language and there aren't that many English books at the public library of my hometown. And I tend towards rather special topics whenever I look for books as well. So I buy them ... and have build up my own personal library over the last ten or so years. I've got more than 1,000 books in my little library at the moment, most of them novels of various times, but also with a fair amount of manga and non-fictional books thrown in. Sometimes I sort out books for sale, because I still buy new books regularly and there's a limit to the amount of books I can keep at home.

I love having my own personal library and can hardly imagine a life without them ... even though I know, of course, that there are a lot of people out there who live a happy life without books. I love TV and DVDs as well, but my first and strongest love are books - and they will ever be. I could live without a TV, without DVDs, even without the internet and a computer (provided I get enough paper and ink in exchange), but I couldn't live without books ... pretty much the same way I can't live without air.

It's Christmas

Now it's Christmas ... finally. Or should I say 'already'?

I can still remember how it was when I was young. Every day I would open a little window on my calendar (I don't know whether other countries know the tradition of 'Adventskalendern', advent calendars, as well) and receive a little piece of chocolate shaped like a star, a little teddy bear or some other thing you'd associate with Christmas. So the days slowly ticked off and Christmas was drawing closer. Like every other child in a country that celebrates Christmas, I was waiting for the day I would get my presents (in Germany children get their presents in the late afternoon or evening on Christmas Eve instead of the morning of the first day of Christmas, it's traditional). Admittedly, ever since I was old enough to read, a lot of my presents have been books of different kinds - and I liked it.

But behind it all was the magic, the magic of the dark time of the year - which I still feel is the real time of renewal, not spring when everything comes back to life. It was the magic of the shortening days, nicely counteracted by the lighting of more candles than during the rest of the year. It was the magic of the Christmas cookies I would help my mother make ... even though as a kid I couldn't really do much. It was the magic of waiting for this date, for Christmas Eve, the 24th of December. It still is, to a certain degree.

I can still remember how long it used to take - at least in my mind. The 24 days of December seemed to last longer than any other days of the year - except, maybe, for the last week before the summer holidays. And today? Sometimes it seems to me as if we just had the 1st of December yesterday. It's even worse a couple of days before Christmas Eve, while I'm still trying to figure out what to give to my parents. The problem these days it not money, not really, it's finding the right thing. My mother is a hands-on person who likes building things, tending to her gardens and trying out new things to create. Getting something for her is never easy, because in the middle of the winter I can hardly buy her some sort of plant for the garden. My father on the other hand is a little bookish just like me. But he doesn't read as many different books as I do and has a good library to himself already. In the end, though, I always manage it somehow. It must be guidance, whether from God or another form of divine force, I can't say. Once I've got all my presents, I'm quite relaxed and the original Christmas feeling returns.

No White Christmas this year ... that much is obvious by now. I don't mind, even though I still think it's romantic to have White Christmas. But it's gotten cold which - while not exactly what I like most about winter - is a good way to get me into the right mood for Christmas.

Now it's Christmas ... and that's wonderful!

Woohoo! I've got "Hellsing Ultimate"

Another good thing I want to talk ... or rather write ... about is the new "Hellsing" OVA. I've been a fan of the TV-series (and the manga as well), but the original series breached off from the story told in the manga after volume 2 and finished "Hellsing" off in a different way (actually the manga is still running and currently 8 volumes are out in Germany). The new OVA-series will - as far as this can be seen already - follow the story of the manga.

The basics of "Hellsing" are thus: "Hellsing" is the name of a secret organisation which hunts down the undead in Great Britain and the Commonwealth. It's also the name of the family leading the organisation. The current leader - and last living member of the family, as far as I know - is Lady Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing, about 26 and since her 16th year of life in the leading position. Lady Integra does not just command a small army (armed better, if I may mention it, than many regular armies in the world), she also commands one, later on two, undead. The vampire Alucard, also know as the "No-Life King", has been under her command since her 16th year, when she was almost killed by her uncle after her father's death, because the man wanted to take over the organisation and she had been chosen to become the next leader. At the beginning of the story, both in the manga and in the old TV-series (and, of course, in the new OVA-series as well), Alucard is forced to deadly wound a young policewoman while on a mission and offers her to become a vampire herself - an offer which she takes. Seras Victoria is still rather caught between her old life as a human and her new life as a vampire, not drinking blood and not sleeping in a coffin while she can help it. Nevertheless more than one episode of the manga show she's quite powerful already ... whenever she looses control enough to let the vampiric side take over.

The second volume of the OVA-series deals with a story already show during the TV-series: "Death Zone". The story of the TV-series mostly differs from the manga after this episode (or rather episodes, as this was one of the two-parters). It's a turning point in the manga, because with this episode the real enemy of Hellsing, the organisation "Millennium" is named for the first time.

As someone who has seen the 'original' animated version of the story before, I can tell that this new version is much better. The story has become a little longer ... the TV-episodes were about 20 minutes long each, the OVA-episode has 45 minutes ... and is retold a lot better and more true to the manga.

As far as the voices are concerned, it seems to me as if they've gotten the same voice talents (in Germany) they've used for the TV-version as well. All the voice fit quite well with the personalities of the characters and - unlike in some other animes for adults I've seen - the actors obviously took their job seriously and did it as if they were working for a normal series with real actors.

The graphics are different as well, especially as far as Integra (longer and less straight hair) and Seras (still blue eyes after the change and larger breasts) are concerned. On the whole the looks of the characters are closer to the manga and less the 'average' anime-look (the manga doesn't have the average look as well). The pacing is faster, especially in the fight scenes. Both the fight of Jan Valentine (one of the enemies) against Walter and Seras and the fight of Luke Valentine (the other enemy and Jan's brother) against Alucard are faster and shown from less regular perspectives.

I already like the OVA a lot, even though I have only seen one episode this far. It's better than the TV-series, not just things as animation frequencies (which are always lower for TV-series in Japan than they are for OVA- or movie-productions) or the size of the screen ('movie' 16:9 instead of 'TV' 4:3). The way the story is told is much better, the characters look better and the whole presentation (including music) is better as well.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

"Fairy Cube" and why I love it

As I've mentioned before, I love the manga by Kaori Yuki, each and every of them.

So you can probably imagine how happy I was when I found her new series, "Fairy Cube", at my favourite bookshop. I bought it on a whim - and because I knew I'd probably like anything written and drawn by her - and wasn't disappointed.

I can't tell too much about the story at the moment - I've just read the first volume of a multi-volume series -, but it's already getting interesting. For one thing the main character has already died and become some kind of wandering spirit, just to come back into another body, just to get his own back.

Then there's the evil spirit which has taken over his body after making his own father stab him. It's a changeling - there's a lot of European and especially Irish/Celtic mythology in it, something I like a lot as well - who has chosen the hero's body when they were both little.

Then there's a strange man who can see fairies and lost souls and can also do magic. He's behind both the hero loosing his body (because of a cube with a lizard in it which he gave the hero, in the story those cubes house the spirits of fairies and other supernatural creatures who want to have their own human body) and getting a new one. His eye-patch reminds me of 'One-eyed Cross', a character from "Neji", another of Kaori Yuki's stories.

Then there's the grandmother of the boy in whose body the hero returns to the world of the living - after the boy died because the fairy trying to take over his body could not control it. She's blind, but she can see more than one might expect - as the last scene of the first volume shows.

Then there's the girl he loves and who has - in her youth - also believed in fairies. She's in danger because of the changeling in the hero's body who wants her - because he knows the hero watches over her and loves her.

Then there's the hero's father who has to live with almost - as the body is not dead - killing his own son ... and suddenly being treated completely different by him.

Then there's a little fairy living with the magician with the eye-patch. She wants a human body, too, but she also wants to help the hero after seeing how completely he's focused on his goals.

Finally there seems to be a third party in the magical department, a seemingly young boy who turns up a the site of the burned down shop of the magician and will surely - if I know anything about the way Ms. Yuki writes - play an interesting role in the future.

As always there's beautifully drawn people and other creatures (like the translucent fairies you can see in some panels whenever the hero calls up the other world) and loads of blood. As always there's Kaori Yuki's style with a lot of grey and shadows. There's the horror coming right after a comedic break. It's a very promising first volume and I'm sure I won't regret buying and reading the series.

Update on "Anno 1701"

I've written about "Anno 1701" quite some time ago, about how great I found the game and about how little it was like those violent games everybody was talking about at that time.

Now I've got a few happy moments in "Anno" which I want to share with you.

The first is the very happy moment when I gained independence from the queen and she came by to celebrate it. The game I was playing ended after that ... I had set 'gaining independence' as the goal for my game. This is how it looked close up:

This is my Palace ... well, the first part of the Palace I build, it's gotten quite a bit larger. I mostly have noblemen living on my main island now and they pay a lot of taxes - for a lot of stuff they want in return:

This finally is my lighthouse. Building a lighthouse in the game allows to toggle the night-mode, meaning you can see the streets of your city and the farms and everything else by night, a very charming sight. It's also important for gaining independence, because the celebrations include a very nice firework which can only be seen at night:

And I can proudly say to anybody who still thinks all computer games are evil: I didn't fire a shot, from a cannon or otherwise, or let any of my people wield a sword to achieve this. I've gotten along with everybody else around, too.

Happy Christmas To Me

Yes, I know, Christmas is for being nice to other people, but how to do that if you don't feel that 'Christmas Spirit' in your soul?

Slowly I get into the right mood for it now, even though we still don't have snow - and aren't going to get any for Christmas, unless a miracle happens, of course. It's getting very close now and I start wishing people I meet - and will not meet again before Christmas - "Happy Christmas" and "A Good New Year". I've also managed to get all the presents together, so I don't have to worry about it any longer. I've planned the whereabouts of myself and my parents on Christmas and Sylvester as well.

And, of course, the first movies I associate with Christmas are being show on TV. That's a very good sign in Germany, because it means everything will go on as it should. Unlike a few years ago, there's no tragedy looming over us ... at least none can be seen looming right now, some tragedies happen very suddenly. I get cheerful ... and if you'd know me, you'd also know I rarely am cheerful ... and less inclined to moan and bitch a lot - meaning I will be able to keep my promise to write positive stuff until after January 1st.

So happy Christmas to me!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas is approaching

Christmas is approaching, but this year I've got some difficulties in getting into the right feeling. It's not the idea of the holiday as a such, I'm pretty content with the Birth of Jesus Christ and Peace on Earth. It's the weather.

Last year around this time we've had snow - lots of snow, far more than I deemed necessary, actually -, this year we've had temperatures usually associated with early spring even in December (while we've had snow until late in March). Only currently - and I'm writing this on December 18th - the temperature has dropped to the normal level, more or less.

I can still remember the past couple of years and how thrilled I was (even though I'm hardly a kid any more, nor am I a teenager) when I woke up around December 20th and could see the snow on the roof opposite to my room through the window (I can't any longer, though, because I no longer live at home and due to the street lamps have to draw the curtains at night). I still remember one rather funny Christmas when it seemed as if we were not going to get "White Christmas" and I played "WarCraft II" on Christmas Eve (even one of the snow maps) and suddenly looked up to find the roof opposite covered in white snow - it was almost magical. That might look like a childish behaviour to you - and probably is -, but it's not the worst case of childish behaviour I have to offer (I can still spent a long time watching a spider build up its net or other things most grown-ups don't even notice). To me snow coming unexpected on Christmas Eve is a little bit of magic in a cynical world - even though I usually am a member of the cynical fraction myself.

So deep in my heart I still hope we'll get "White Christmas" - though preferably not before December 24th, because I have to mind the street this week and am not thrilled by the idea of shovelling snow every morning. What I also hope (because it slowly gets on my nerves by now) is that someone will 'mislay' all the copies of "Last Christmas" by WHAM!.

What is FanFiction

I've become quite addicted to FanFictions recently.

For those out there who don't know what a FanFiction is, it's essentially what the name suggests: a fiction about a certain movie/novel/comic/game written by fans. As you can gather from this short description, the characters used normally are not invented by the writers themselves (though quite a lot of them put in original characters as well), but come from the movie/novel/comic/game in question.

Even before I knew what a FanFiction is - or ever thought of writing them myself -, I liked thinking up my own ways of how a story could have ended, especially with long-running series where you have a lot of time to speculate about the end until you finally see or read it.

When I read an article in a magazine ("MangasZene", a magazine about Manga and Animée I read regularly) about FanFiction which also included some links, I tried them out and got interested.

Currently I'm following some "Harry Potter"-FanFictions (namely the second edition of "The Deception of the Vindictive" running under the title "The Rise and Fall of the House Black" and the sequel to "Mirror Image" titled "Blurred Reflections") and I am browsing regularly through the sections for Animée/Manga (for "Gorgeous Carat", "GodChild" and "Yami no Matsuei"), TV ("Smallville" - I know I need help) and Novels (usually only "Harry Potter", but I've also browsed through the "Sherlock Holmes"-section).

Even though it first seems a bit pointless - writing stories about stories, essentially -, it's quite interesting, because the writer's ideas usually go in a completely different direction. The stories portrait people in a different way (sometimes very different, that's what is called OOC [out of character]) and show different points of view. In addition some of the writers are pretty good.

Another Update

I have been very busy lately - though not with writing my blog. Especially the last weekend was a very productive one for me. I've finished my new homepage-design, I've finished a short story and started what could become a novel - though I'm not sure about this at the moment. I've also registered a second domain for an additional homepage ("Night-Shade" is the page I've already had, "Geschichtenschmiede" is the new one, but currently there's nothing of interest there) - talk about being lazy... I've got to warn you, though: currently "Night-Shade" is in German only and I'm not sure whether I'm going to add an English version.

I'm going to write more new posts for my blog again from now on ... at least until I figure out how exactly to build up my new homepage under the second domain. I surely need some inspiration for this.

As Christmas is coming up, I'll try to stop or at least minimize the amount of bitching until after January 1st. The way politics are going, it's going to be easy, as most politicians already seem to have gone on vacation. Good for me...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The pointless discussion strikes back

I guess I might have declared the discussion about 'Killerspiele' over too soon. Given the fact that two days ago a student somewhere in Baden-Württemberg, the country I live in, announced an amok run for yesterday, the discussion flamed up again.

Bavaria and Niedersachsen, two German countries, want to pass a law which will, in essence, outlaw games with 'excessive violence against humans'. Those who produce or use them will then possibly be punished with either fines or even up to one year in jail. The traders and - in the case of adolescents - parents will probably not be punished at all.

The funny thing - in a very un-funny way - about this is that most violent computer games (ego-shooters mainly) are not produced in Germany at all - and somehow I doubt that any German lawyer can use a German law against a person or company not situated in the country. The American producers will just stop selling those games in our country ... they'll loose a market, but they will not become outlaws because of this new law in Germany. Those who own the games will be forced to destroy them ... something which I personally don't really want to do just because politicians are looking for the 'easy' way to solve a problem.

Another problem I see with this law is this: what exactly is 'excessive violence' in the context of this law? Is it 'excessive violence' if I kill innocent bystanders? In that case only very few games ... most of which were never mentioned in the discussion ... will get prohibited. Is it 'excessive violence' if I shoot somebody in a multi-player game ... somebody who can in turn shoot me as the other players are armed as well? Most multi-player games do not feature a lot of bloodshed, they're about being faster and better than the other one. They often strife to be realistic - especially "Counterstrike" with it's realistic weapons -, but they're not necessarily more violent than a real-life game of "Gotcha". Is it 'excessive violence' if a digital person or creature I control to a certain extend kills other digital persons or creatures? In this case the law would also prohibit role-playing games and strategy games.

From my point of view as a gamer I also fear that if this law should pass through and become official, it would also open the door for more strict laws in the future. After you've banned certain games for everybody in the country, why not ban certain other media as well (for example literature you don't like because it's against you). This seems to be a large step from violent games to anything which criticises the government. But when you look back in history, you have to admit that such large steps have ... with some smaller steps in the middle ... happened before.

I absolutely agree with the more sensible politicians about stricter guidelines on which to judge computer games. And I more than agree with those who want the rating for computer games to be treated as a law, not just as a suggestion. I just don't think that completely banning games will solve the problem. Besides - especially adolescent boys are not above breaking a law and everything forbidden is far more interesting to them than anything legal.

Politicians, for example, never speak about the fact that both shooters we've had in Germany during the last years were members of a sport shootist's club. Those clubs train their members in using a gun, of course, but for sport competitions. And I'm quite sure that an adolescent, who's not allowed by the law to own a gun (even though both shooters were of age), could take one with him from the club one day ... as there's no such thing as complete control.

Those politicians also neglect to mention that the shooters usually were mobbed and that in current years mobbing has become more frequent than it was before ... not just in school, but at work places as well. There are more people killing themselves in Germany because of mobbing, there are more people getting ill because of mobbing and sometimes there are even people getting killed by the mobbers. And then there's the small group of people getting themselves a gun - or several guns - and then going out and shooting the mobbers.

Solving the problem of mobbing - and maybe changing the way people for the sport shootist's clubs are selected - is not as easy as just blaming the games ... whose lobby consists mainly of under-aged people. As those usually don't even vote once they've reached the voting age, it's relatively safe for politicians to take this path of least resistance.

From the point of view I have, we - that is the people who like computer games and do not want to be branded as criminals just because that's easier than to solve the real problem behind the amok runs - only have one chance to change this:

Find a political party that's not jumping the wagon of blaming computer games for everything and vote for them during the next election - provided you're already old enough to vote.

We can show the politicians that the most powerful lobby still is the voter - provided we use the power democracy gives to us.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

From "Jaws" to "Deep Blue Sea"

I'm currently watching "Deep Blue Sea" again on the DVD-drive of my computer while I'm writing this. And looking at the really terrifying and very realistic sharks - and with the fact firmly settled in the back of my mind that Sunday night I didn't even get to see a little bit of the first "Jaws"-movie, because the public channel it was scheduled to be on didn't keep it's own time-table - I've started thinking about how much those 'shark'-movies, as I call them, have changed since "Jaws".

For somebody like me who has read a lot about sharks, most of those 'shark'-movies which portrait them as either some sort of underwater demonic force or feeding-machine with sharp teeth and no brain are just laughing stock. I like watching them, but I don't believe what they tell me about sharks.

The way sharks are portrait in those movies hasn't changed a lot. They're still killer-machines with or without a grudge against mankind or individual humans (the latter serves as an explanation why the Great White in "Jaws 4" follows the widow of the Roy-Scheider-character from Amity somewhere along the American east coast to Hawaii). They can be more intelligent than the usual creatures roaming the seas, as in "Deep Blue Sea" where their brains have been tempered with. Or they just seem to have a non-human cunning that serves them well against all kinds of technological means mankind can throw at them.

I won't go into detail about the reasons why people fear sharks, because that's obvious: sharks are the most well-known predators underwater; and with their sharp teeth and fast movements they look terrifying and not at all cuddly to us. You can cuddle with a stuffed animal in the form of a tiger or wolf, but not with a stuffed animal in the form of a Great White - though I would, actually.

It's not important for the movies which revolve around a mystical shark anyway: the man-eating and man-hating beast. Statistically your chances of being struck by lightning while playing golf are higher than your chances of being attacked (not even killed) by a shark. But this mystical creature many filmmakers have created since Stephen Spielberg made "Jaws" does obviously considers anything beneath human flesh unworthy to be eaten. It's waiting right in front of the beach for anybody stupid enough to go swimming - especially late at night while not many people are watching. It's even following a woman over thousands of miles - and theoretically the shark in "Jaws 4" must have swum around all of South America, as it couldn't fly and surely couldn't use the Panama Channel either - just to kill everybody she loves. In other words: it could be swimming right up to the next fishing boat with a sign reading "I want to be killed, so please gut me and take me to the shore to gloat about the big fish you got", the results would be the same.

So what has changed over all those years?

Well, first of all the sharks have become more visible. While the more or less life-sized model of the Great White used for "Jaws" (called 'Bruce' by the film crew) was only visible for four shots in the entire movie (all other shots which show sharks were actually taken from real life footage on those animals), the Marco Sharks in "Deep Blue Sea" are visible quite often, interacting with humans or just with structures or other sharks. With the combination of life-sized, computer-controlled and actually free-swimming ('Bruce' couldn't have moved an inch without any additional equipment) models and 3D-animated, computer-created sharks it's possible to keep the dangerous and toothy animals 'on-screen' one way or another almost constantly during the second half of the movie ... and to keep them in close contact with their human colleagues.

The second point which has changed is that the sharks themselves have changed. Nobody ever claimed the first three Great White ones in the "Jaws"-series were something special - although a shark following people as far as the one in the forth movie is something special -, they just had swum into the vicinity of Amity and started feeding on humans. There were suggestions about the second and third shark wielding some kind of revenge on humans for the killing of their mate/baby, but nothing clear. And by the way: sharks don't have any long-time mates, they just mate and swim away; they don't care about their babies either, the little ones even have to take care of not being eaten by their own mothers. Later on there was quite often some kind of human remodelling behind the shark's vicious behaviour. In "Shark", a TV-movie after another novel by Peter Benchley (the creator of "Jaws"), the shark actually was a mixture between a shark, a dolphin and a human ... it even changed into a humanoid creature able to live on land as well as in the water halfway throughout the movie. And in "Deep Blue Sea" the sharks were treated to enlarge their brains so more of a special protein could be harvested from them. As a side-effect they became more intelligent - and vicious, it seems.

But why have those changes happened?

The first change has a lot to do with the changes in horror-movies as a such. Today violence and danger are far more visible than in the past. Just suggesting that there's a shark swimming nearby isn't enough any longer. And with the technological means for it, there's no excuse not to show them any more.

The second change also fits in with a development in horror-movies. Audiences today expect a reason for the things happening. It may be a stupid reason like "they created a monster and now it wants revenge", but it's still a reason. Just telling the audience "there's a large shark around who just happened to swim to the beach of Amity" does no longer work.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

What is honour?

Honour ... what exactly does that mean? This is what I ask myself every time some-body (usually a man and usually one in anger) mentions the word 'honour'.
We've had some 'honour-murders' during the last couple of month in Germany, cases in which young women who just wanted to lead a - by western European standards - normal life. They wanted to life alone, they wanted to decide whom to marry. To their families this obviously meant a loss of honour, so their brothers or cousins went out and killed them to restore the family honour. And that's something I, as a western European woman with a more or less Christian background, find very, very hard to understand. It seems to be a Muslim thing, the kind of honour that leads to those murders. Most vic-tims in Germany came from Turkish families - who are the majority of Muslims in this country.
From what I've seen and read, the honour of the family is the honour of the patriarch - the father, normally. But this honour is mainly defined not by his behaviour, but by that of the women of the family, the wife (or wives) and daughters. So in order to main-tain his honour he has to control them.
In an environment where everybody sees the world his way - somewhere in the coun-tryside in Turkey, for example - this isn't difficult as the women don't have another choice than to life the way the men want them to. They grow up with a strong and maybe sometimes even tyrannical father, they get bartered for marriage (a marriage which is organized by their family, they have no say in it), they go to another family with a ruling patriarch and a husband who will in some way one day become a patriarch himself, they have children which they raise to act the same way and one day they die. Not knowing anything else, they may even be content with their lives.
But then the family comes to Germany, a country with a different background, a country in which the women have fought - and are still fighting - for their rights, and the traditional family is in danger. The daughters go to school - better schools quite often than they would go to in Turkey - and there have contact with other girls; girls who are free, girls who are allowed to go out alone, girls who will have a job one day and lead a life of their own ... even should they decide to get married. Imagine that, as a girl brought up to think she will get married as soon as she is old enough - and not even have something to say about the man she's going to marry -, meeting girls her age who can decide whom to marry, even if they marry at all.

And so the patriarchs loose power. They are no longer in an environment where this is normal, where their kind of life is considered to be the only one. And those whose life will change most, are the women, those members of the family who define the honour by submitting to the patriarch's orders.
To a patriarch this must be a nightmare. No longer has he complete control over the family. His sons might roam this new world, but they will heed to the old traditions, because they suit them, give them power. His daughters on the other side will try to break at least some traditions to gain the freedom their female classmates already have: the freedom to go out without a brother as a male chaperone, the freedom to have a job and earn some money on their own, the freedom to have their own flat, the freedom, finally, to chose their own husband. And with each and every of those wishes the women destroy the family honour ... because this is exactly what a good and 'honour-able' woman will not do.
So, yes, you could say I understand the motives for those 'honour-murders'. What I don't get is the principle of honour.

What worth does honour have? You can't live off it, you can't buy anything with it. In a society which doesn't have the same idea of honour you have, it doesn't even exist for most people.
My father once pointed out to me that it is a man's thing... Only men, he told me, are stupid enough to value a word - and basically honour isn't anything but a word - high enough to kill or die for it. So, being a woman, I probably won't ever understand it. And I surely can't understand or accept it as a reason for killing others ... and from my point of view, nobody should.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Are you dreaming about being a school kid again?

When I think back to my time at school ... I'm really happy about the fact that it's over, because I didn't have such a nice time at school, being mobbed for about a year and usually a loner - though that was my own doing and wanted.

I know that, as a grown-up in the modern world with lots of stress and other bad things (like unemployment or - provided you're female - sexual harassment, though the latter has passed me by completely), I should look back at my time in school and think "wouldn't it be nice to be a student again". But when I look back at my time in school, I rarely think that. It wasn't as dreadful as it could be today - school has surely gotten rougher since I left -, but still it wasn't a nice time for me.

That wasn't even because of school as a such, but going back to school would also mean going back to adolescence - and which person with more than one brain cell does really want to do that. Yes, I know, a lot of people look back, only seeing the nice sides, and think of the teenage-years as "the best time of my life".

If I had to go back to my past, I would go back to my time at university, the year after I'd changed from computer science to literature. Life was relatively carefree, the courses were interesting and I had found my little niche in the wild life of university.

Those years between the end of school and the beginning of work life were great - because I was at the same time still somehow protected and free. I was legally and adult and could more or less do whatever I wanted. I could drive a car, I could stay out as long as I wanted and I could really enjoy life. It's a lot easier to enjoy life after a day or week at university - especially if you're a fast learner like me - than to enjoy it after a day of eight work hours or a week of forty. This short time span between the teenage years and the real adulthood with my own, ever-changing job would be my favourite time to go back to.

But then, what do people see as so great about going back to their time in school? What does a teenager have that's so great you want to have it again? It surely isn't the teenage body with it's brimming hormones and the pieces that don't fit together that well. It surely isn't the teenage mind, always torn between 'what your parents tell you', 'what your friends think is cool' and 'what you have to do to survive'. And for most people it surely isn't school either.

Yes, maybe my look at the glorious world of the teenager is a wee little bit tainted by my own bad experiences, but I really doubt I was the only one going through all of this. Fact is, a teenager doesn't have as many rights as it would want. A teenager doesn't have as much influence as it could deem necessary. Your parents, your teachers and your classmates seem to have more influence on your own life than you have yourself. Your parents can ground you for as long as they wish (though my parents hardly deemed it necessary, as I spent most time in my room anyway), your teachers can give you detention for the least bit of rebellion against their system and your classmates decide what's in and out in class. Freedom comes later, once you've passed your eighteenth birthday, your final exam and have left your parents behind to live in your place.

If I should hazard a guess - and this being my post in my blog, what do you think I will do, honestly - I would say the main reason for most people to glorify this time of their life is our ideal of the 'carefree childhood', of the time before the 'real life'. We forget about the bad things we've gone through and only remember the good things. And who knows? Maybe I will think like that myself in a couple of years, once I'm 40 ... or 50 ... or 60. Sooner or later you forget a lot about your past and then, maybe, you start thinking of childhood and adolescence as the best time of your life... I will have to wait and see.

My Sim and I

This post is about artificial life ... well, not about the kind of artificial life you get in the movies, the kind that goes around destroying everything or taking over the world. It's a much more simple and far less dangerous type of artificial life - a sim. My sim, to be precise. That's her, over there on the left side of this paragraph, Mara Grey, my current sim. She's at college, studies literature, aspires to be a criminal mastermind one day (that's her life wish, something the game actually decides on it's own, you just get told, you can't influence it). Mara is currently a bit smitten with a guy she's met on a trip to the shopping mall - and she's very good at college as well, will surely make it on the list of the best students. In many ways she's not like me at all, she doesn't even look like me, but I nevertheless like playing her.

So I wonder what the reason for this really is. I spent hours basically doing everything I do in regular life as well. I take care of a household, I go to work, I go out with friends, spent some (though not too much) time shopping and so on. I even do things I don't really want to do in everyday life (like raising kids, I'm not good with kids at all). In essence the whole game is some sort of speeded-up life cycle. Your sim is born, a baby, a small child, a school child, a teenager, an adult and an old person ... and dies. So after eight hours of work, why spent two or three more hours doing the same stuff you've been doing all day?

The main answer may be: because you can try out everything you've always wanted to do in real life, but weren't brave enough to do. In the game I can start again as often as I want, I can be everything and everyone I want. I can have my own shop or climb the ladder to the top positions of every career. I can have lots and lots of children. I can be a very romantic and flirty person in one 'life' and a very sombre, knowledge- or money-orientated person in the next. There's no chance to ever play the same game twice, some things will always be different, no matter how you try to do everything just as before.

Back to Mara. What I plan for her? Not sure, but she'll finish college, maybe marry Claus (that's the guy she's currently smitten with). She'll probably try for a job in the criminal career (though I'm not sure, I would favour a job in the paranormal career, but they are rare). All the other things will happen when they happen ... maybe she'll have kids - with Claus or someone else, there's more cute guys around than just him - or maybe she'll have none, I've not decided about it yet. Maybe she'll dream about having some in her future ... and maybe I'll grant her that wish. Maybe I will fulfil her life wish and she'll be the sims-equivalent of Al Capone. There's a lot of 'Maybes' in the future of Mara, but one thing is for sure: she'll have an interesting life - maybe more interesting than mine. And that's the real reason why I sometimes spent hours playing the game. It may just be a shadow of real life, but it's an interesting shadow.