Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

March 19 2018

07:21

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Whenever I make my chocolate cookies, I get a lot of requests for the recipe. A long time ago, this was a recipe that I got from the internet1. But I’ve adjusted it so much that it really has nothing to do with that recipe anymore. So here it is!

The Ingredients

  • 250 g butter (unsalted), at room temperature
  • 240 g dark brown sugar (the softer, the better)
  • 2 medium or large eggs
  • 500 g flour (regular white flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tube liquid vanilla extract/aroma OR 1 teaspoon vanilla sugar OR juice of one lemon
  • 400 g baking chocolate (sliced & diced)

The batter

  • Take the butter out of the refrigerator at least an hour before you start, better two or three, so that it’s got room temperature. Place the butter in a large bowl and cream it at high speed until it’s fluffy.
  • Add the sugar to the butter and cream until the mixture is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, until everything is completely mixed.
  • Add the vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.
  • In a seperate bowl, weigh the flour and mix in the salt and baking soda. Mix thoroughly.
  • Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture at low speed until everything is just combined – better not overmix here.
  • Slice up two bars of baking chocolate and add to the mixture. Mix until completely combined. (I prefer sliced baking chocolate because it creates a lot of tiny chunks and chocolate dust, which improves the cookies comparing to using store-bought chocolate chunks.)

Time for a break! The batter now needs to cool down and rest, so put it in the fridge for at least two hours, better overnight. Then, the next day, continue with…

The baking

  • Preheat your oven to 175° Celsius.
  • Using a spoon, scrape spoonfuls of batter from the bowl and then using the palms of your hands make little balls. Then flatten them and put them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment paper. (This step is very important. A lot of chocolate chip cookie recipes just tell you to drop a spoonful of batter on the baking sheet, but they always end up a gooey mess. Forming them makes them so much better.)
  • Put the formed dough on the parchment leaving enough room between them (they will expand a bit). With the recipe you can just about fit all cookies on two trays.
  • Put the full tray into the oven and bake for about 9-10 minutes, turning the tray once.
  • Leave in the oven until the edges are golden brown and the middle is still soft (but NOT bubbly).
  • Cool on a wire rack.

And that’s it! Enjoy your cookies! Of course you can also experiment with the flavours – I’ve tried a few variations, using lemon instead of vanilla, but so far the vanilla extract has worked best. I’ve also tried variations with different types of chocolate, like strawberry cheesecake chocolate, orange chocolate, etc., but the simple baking chocolate is still the best.

January 01 2018

10:45

Personal Achievements of Awesomeness in 2017

2017 is over, and it was one of the most eventful and life-changing years I have lived through. A ton of things happened, all of which took my life into positive new directions.

  • I received the result of my master’s thesis and graduated as “Master of Arts” with an excellent grade.
  • The supervisor of my master’s thesis asked me whether I want to do a PhD, which is an amazing accomplishment and a show of confidence and trust in me. I said yes, and I started working on my PhD project in April.
  • I ended an 8-year relationship. I started the year still thinking that I could save it, but after starting therapy around March, I soon realized that it’s the source of my depressed mood1 and it’s been a toxic relationship for years and the only way is out.
  • I was thrown out of my ex’s apartment and had to find a new place to live within a week. I was lucky to have found a really affordable temporary solution quickly, and still in 2017, I have received an offer for a new, permanent place which hopefully will work out.
  • I switched my hair care and I’m very happy with the results, and with the fact that I’ve switched from washing every 1-2 days to twice a week.
  • I travelled through Canada for two weeks and finally went back to New York after not having been there for 5 years. It was my first time travelling on my own again in a long time and it was awesome.
  • I started my career as a “real” lecturer, teaching my first 80+ person class. I had previously only taught tutorials with 10-20 people.
  • I have read 29 “books” in 2017 – I read the complete Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, the spin-off series Lucifer, and I started reading The Expanse series (I’m currently reading book six).
  • I have probably watched around 700 episodes of TV shows this year, and at least 20 movies. My TV highlights this year were Legion, American Gods, Bron (The Bridge), Please Like Me, Fargo (mostly S1), season 2 of The Expanse and rewatching Doctor Who (2005) seasons 1-4. The most awesome movies I’ve seen with year were all Taika Waititi all the time; Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Thor: Ragnarök.
  • And finally, but most importantly, I have taken board gaming to a whole new level (all thanks to my amazing friends). In 2017, I have played board games 415 times, I have played 166 different games out of which 129 were new to me this year. I have played with 169 different players at 23 different locations across two continents. I have altogether played games for 323 hours this year. Highlights were Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 and starting Gloomhaven. Some of my new favorite games that I first played this year are Sagrada, Dice Forge, Bärenpark, Pulsar 2849, Valeria: Card Kingdoms and Terraforming Mars.

I hope 2018 will bring many more new achievements for me. I will move to a new apartment in a new neighborhood, which will change my life a little bit again. But mostly I hope that I’ll get to spend just as much time with my amazing friends, and that I’ll get to travel to some new and exciting places this year.

October 30 2017

18:57

Hairy Legs

I don’t shave my legs. That may be a shocking statement to some, or an inspiring to others. What do you think? This topic is something that I thought about after watching this video.

To be honest, I feel conflicted about not shaving my legs ALL THE TIME. Western society has turned female leg hair into such a taboo that a woman with leg hair is just completely unthinkable. Nevertheless, every summer I try to overcome my fears and just go out with my unshaved legs (pictured). To be honest, my leg hair is very thin and very blonde, so for the most part, it is almost invisible anyway unless you look very closely. However, there are always situations in which I become uncomfortably aware of it, like for example when I sit very close to other people. That happened once in New York while I was sitting on the stairs of Union Square and a guy next to me gave me weird looks after looking at my legs. He turned out to be a snobby German though1.

Another situation that made me feel uncomfortable about my leg hair was when I went to see a doctor about pain in my foot2. He examined my foot and my shins, the latter of which happen to be where my leg hair is most visible. Of course he didn’t say anything, but I still felt weird about it. This makes me feel kind of angry at myself, because I shouldn’t feel weird about my legs just because society has sexualized women’s bodies so much that leg hair is completely unthinkable.

On the other hand, even though I don’t mind my legs hair and I throughly enjoy long hair, I find myself not being a fan of body hair on other parts of the body. One of those cases is armpit hair. I absolutely hate armpit hair, not only on myself but also on other people (yes, even men). However, I guess there’s a crucial difference in that kind of hair and other kinds of hair… it’s usually not very pretty at all. Head hair, on the other hand, is. And my leg hair… well, as I said, it’s fairly invisible and usually it doesn’t bother me at all.

I’m wondering what your opinions and experiences are with this. Did you ever go out with unshaved legs and feel weird about it?

October 23 2017

17:50

PTSDream: Kshor, the nightmare horse (TW)

Only a few days after blogging about challenging myself and facing my fears, my brain seems to have caught up on that topic by confronting me with one of my biggest, PTSD-induced fears. Before I go into the analysis, here is the scariest, weirdest, most ridiculous nightmare that I’ve had in a while, which woke me up this morning;

I was in a place that was a mixture of catacombs and the house I grew up in, or maybe one turned into the other. Stomping from the depths of the catacombs came Kshor, the monster horse that makes people disappear into thin air slowly when he touches them. Obviously he has quite the reputation, since everybody knows his name. He got someone in the catacombs, making them dissolve, and then he pursued me (or maybe not directly, maybe he just came in my general direction) with his ridiculously loud, slow, echoing stomps. When he came closer, I hid in the kitchen (I was now in a place very like the kitchen I grew up in), in between a cupboard and a sofa. I squeezed into a nook, trying to make myself as small as possible. As quickly and as quietly as possible, I tried to put on my shoes, as I was just getting ready to go to work and I was late. There were one or two other people in the kitchen, one of them was either Indiana Jones or my father, I’m not quite sure. Kshor was still stomping and emanated a general aura of fury, the wrath burning inside him like a fire (possible he was a bit dragon-like?). His presence filled me with an irrational amount of fear. Then, somehow, from one moment to the next, he was captured by Indiana Jones. The people proceeded to hang him up on a crane by the hind legs, and he looked much less threatening being just a pathetic horse struggling to get free from the ropes of the crane. We were now in some sort of square, and the people were throwing spears at him to kill him. I couldn’t bear to watch, because I love horses, so I mostly tried to look away. Then, when it was seemingly over, Kshor seemed to be back from the depths to pursue me, terrifying me with his wrath.

After I woke up, I realized very quickly that Kshor is my ex. Due to mild PTSD, I have an irrational fear of encountering him randomly in the city, and he is a very wrathful person1. The memory of him standing over me2, controlling every move I make, making snide remarks about everything I touch with that riduculously furious face, still haunts me. It’s very similar to what I was feeling when Kshor was approaching the kitchen.

Kshor makes people disappear into thin air, sucking the life out them. Since the break up, I’ve realized a lot of things about this relationship, and one of them was that I was mostly leading his life, not so much my own life. Constantly having my opinion dequalified and constantly having to take care of every little detail of life seems to have robbed me of a lot of my own personality.

After the trauma he put me through during the break up, I started phantasizing about punching him in the face a lot. That’s what happened with Kshor when he was captured, hung on a crane and had spears thrown at him. I’m not really sure how to further analyze this part of the dream… in general, I hate to see horses hurt, because I grew up loving horses and had a bit of a trauma when my horse died when I was 14. Possibly this part of the dream played out this way because I know that this is not a solution and in real life I would never actually punch him in the face. Also, since Kshor and his fury returned, it doesn’t seem to be a permanent solution.

With this dream, my brain might have given me a pretty good defense mechanism for my PTSD issues. Even though it was absolutely terrifying while I was still asleep, it is kind of hilarious now that I’m awake. Now when I think of encountering him, I can always conjure up the image of Kshor the nightmare horse, stomping through the kitchen. That image is kind of giving me the urge to laugh.

October 20 2017

14:12

Challenge yourself

I’m a Gryffindor – not by choice though. I took the quiz on Pottermore twice, and both times it put me into Gryffindor. I’ve never felt particularly happy with that, because I would have preferred Ravenclaw, and I’m really not much of an outgoing person, as some Gryffindors are characterized. There are some situations which I can’t really face1 and sometimes I have a hard time in social situations.

In some contexts, I’m starting to see why I might be a brave person after all. I recently went on a three week trip through Canada and the US all by myself. I’ve travelled by myself before, so this was nothing new for me, but a lot of people I’ve talked to have admired me for my bravery of travelling to a foreign country by myself, as a woman. Some people I talked to said they wouldn’t even manage to go to the Netherlands for some shopping by themselves, or that they couldn’t manage navigating a foreign city alone. For me, travelling alone is actually my preferred way of travelling… most of the time I like to have my freedom and I want to do whatever I want.

However, even for me there are situations that fill me with dread. One of those situations was when on my visit in Canada, I rented a car. I had never driven a car in Canada or the US before, and I’m generally not very good at driving in cities, so naturally the thought of driving in Toronto was really scary. Despite these fears, my brain seems to be fairly rational and pragmatic though… I always somehow manage to find the confidence to go through with these things, because how bad can it really be?! I have driven 6000kms through New Zealand, so a 80km round trip in Ontario should be manageable. And it was. I had a wonderful day in Cambridge, where I met a penpal I had never met in person before. Driving in Canada was actually quite pleasant for the most part, because unlike the insane Germans, Canadians have speed limits to which most people seem to adhere. Driving back into Toronto was a bit challenging because of all the traffic, but I managed that too.

Another scary situation that I threw myself into happened just today: I taught a class of 90 people for the first time. For someone who is super awkward and usually scared of speaking in front of an audience, that’s a bit of an achievement I guess. I have taught tutorials of 10-20 people before. It took me a little bit to get the hang of it, but eventually that went quite well. 90 people in an auditorium (as opposed to 10 in a seminar room), and teaching the actual thing instead of just a tutorial, is quite different though. I was super nervous most of the morning and tried to calm myself down. Eventually I think I did quite well – I didn’t even use my notes for most of the session, though some things could have gone better. I made it! Yay! Only 13 sessions to go!

By doing things like that, I force myself to overcome my fears. I booked a car – I had to drive it. I signed up to teach the freshmen class – I had to teach it. Doing things like that is a really great way to boost confidence. Of course I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t had experience beforehand though. It took me 6 years of studying to get this far. Especially during my master’s studies, I held a lot of presentations, learned a lot about being a good presenter, and I also took didactic classes. Without all that, I think I wouldn’t have felt as good about teaching tutorials. And teaching tutorials gave me the experience to now teach an actual university class. My next challenges will be to present at actual academic conferences, and to travel to more ‘adventurous’ places by myself…

October 18 2017

19:59

Choose Your Own Reality

About a week ago, in the depths of the internet, I came across this little video:

It got me thinking a lot, because there is so much in it that explains not only my own experiences and insecurities, but so much of the world. Sharing one’s own weirdness, thoughts or pains can only help – not only yourself, but so many others. One of the best examples currently making the rounds is #MeToo.

Am I really weird, living in my own little parallel universe, or do others have just the same experiences in live as me? I have a few ideas for really weird topics, that I’m hoping to bring to this blog when I find the inspiration1.

October 09 2017

18:08

Hair, Soap and Hair Soap

I’ve had really long hair pretty much all my life. I’m a huge fan of long hair in general, and I think it just looks wonderful when people have really healthy, shiny, long hair – regardless of gender. I’m all for crushing gender stereotypes and destigmatizing long hair in men, but that’s a whole other topic.

But let’s get back to my hair; I’ve also had really unhealthy hair pretty much all my life. Split ends have been a part of my hair ever since I started growing it when I was nine years old1. But to be honest, I’ve never really given my hair the attention and care it probably should have gotten until this year. About every 1-2 years I trimmed the ends of my hair, and that’s about it.

About two years ago, I switched to natural, ecologically friendly shampoo. I did that mostly for environmental reasons, because once you really go through the list of ingredients in some shampoos, you’ll wonder how some of that stuff is legal and why anyone would put that on their head. Anyway, those eco-shampoos didn’t really work as I had hoped – they kind made my hair go greasy faster, and sometimes it looked as if it never really dried. I now know that that’s probably because the shampoos were too much for my hair and I should have diluted them. A positive side though was that the eco-friendly shampoos eliminated my need for conditioner, because my hair was much softer and shinier than when washing with regular shampoo.

But since I still wasn’t happy with the eco-shampoo, I started doing research into hair care. I remembered that last year a friend mentioned that soap is a much healthier alternative to shampoo, but the hair needs some time to get used to it. Apparently my brain needed a year to process that information2, but this summer I finally got around to actually looking into the topic of hair soap, also sometimes referred to as shampoo bars.

And well, the internet taught me all about it, and I’ve now switched to washing my hair with soap! On top of that, I’ve reduced my washing frequency to twice a week, because as a result of using soap, my hair doesn’t get greasy as fast as it used it. I now wash my hair (usually) on Wednesdays and Sundays, and for most of the week it still looks pretty normal. It does get greasy on Saturdays, but with some creative hairstyles it doesn’t look as bad. Sometimes it gets a bit itchy as well, which I usually counter by rubbing oil on my scalp and into my hair, which has lots of extra benefits for hair care.

Doesn’t the hair felt and tangle when washing with soap? How do you comb it afterwards? These are common questions I get. So far, my hair has been softer and shinier than ever – and this is because there’s a lot more to hair care than just washing. The most important rule about washing your hair, is to NOT brush or comb it when it’s wet. Wet hair is very vunerable, and this is where split ends and breakage can occur most easily. After I wash my hair, I let it air dry (because heat is also pretty damaging to hair), and once it’s dry, I comb it with a very wide-toothed comb. I used to have a bristle brush, but those are apparently often a cause of split ends as well.

So how do you actually wash hair with soap? It took me a while to figure out a good technique. What I do now, is take the soap bar into my dominant hand and just gently rub it down my head in the direction my hair falls, and I take the other hand to gently massage past where I just rubbed the soap. This encourages the built-up of foam, which is the most important part of hair soap. If there’s no foam, it won’t work and will leave the hair looking weird and wet-ish once it’s dry. I repeat this rubbing process many times until my entire hair is full of foam. It’s important to do it thouroughly, especially at the back of the head and at the neck, because there you can easily miss a spot. I also massage the soap thoroughly into the lengths and ends of my hair. Everything needs to be super-foamy, that is the most important thing about hair soap and cannot be repeated often enough. Once I’m happy with the amount of foam, I massage my scalp and the lengths of my hair a little bit more, and then I wash it out. Washing out also needs to be done very thoroughly, because if there’s residue, it’ll make the hair look weird.

That’s not all though – once I have washed all the foam out of my hair, I rinse it with a homemade sour rinse. Due to the ph value of soap, and because soap opens the hair follicles, a sour rinse helps removing any residue and closes the hair follicles up. Especially if you have hard water, a rinse is very helpful because otherwise the soap residue might bond with the chalk in the hard water and leave your hair looking weird. Making a rinse is super easy though – I take two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar on a liter of filtered water (I use a Brita filter) in a pitcher. I also always have a second pitcher with just a liter of simple filtered water. So once I’ve washed out the soap, I dip my hair into the vinegar rinse and leave it in there for 10 seconds. Then I pour the entire pitcher slowly over my head. I usually wait another 20 seconds, and then I pour the clear filtered water over my head. Theoretically that’s probably not necessary, but I think my scalp isn’t too happy if I leave vinegar on it for too long. I’ve tried a few variations of how to rinse (including not pouring it over my scalp), and so far this seems to work best for me. And no, my hair does not smell like vinegar as the smell disappears quickly. Usually I smell the soap rather than the vinegar 🙂

So can you use any old soap to wash your hair? Probably yes, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It helps to do some research on how soap is made here – a good soap should consist of nothing but oils, which are saponized in a chemical process by adding lye. The lye turns the oils into what we know as soap. And this kind of soap is the best kind of soap for hair – one that does NOT contain added glycerin or any other ingredients but oils3.

The second important thing to know about soap is superfatting. Superfatting means that there is more oil added than the lye can transform into soap, and this is what actually nurses the hair. Hair doesn’t need quite as much oil as skin though, so typical skin or hand soaps usually have a superfatting percentage that is too high for hair. For hair, a good superfatting percentage is between 4-6%, but it really depends on your hair. Very thin, fine hair will need a lower superfatting percentage, and very dry, coarse hair might need a much higher percentage – maybe even as high as 10-15%. The only way to find out is to try it out.

Finally, the third really important thing to know about hair soap is knowing what oils your hair likes, because if there’s an oil in the soap that your hair hates, the results will be bad. Using oil as an addition to hair care beyond soap is a good idea anyway, and a good way to try different oils. My hair, for example, seems to hate coconut oil, because it gets kind of squeaky and feels dry and when I use it. Olive oil and argan oil seem to work fine though. So for me, soaps based on olive oil have worked pretty well so far. Soaps usually contain a variety of oils, and it helps to go through the list and see what’s in there. Generally, some oils aren’t generally very good for hair, like for example palm oil. I try to avoid palm oil in hair soap as much as possible. It helps to keep some notes on the different soaps you try in order to figure out what oils your hair likes.

Where do you get hair soap? Well, the drug stores sure don’t have them yet, but the internet does. There are a tons of good online shops that have really good soaps. In Germany, there are Steffi’s Hexenküche, Alles schöne Dinge, Pflegeseifen or Savion. In the US / Canada there is Chagrin Valley (hard to find soap without palm oil there though), Wylde Rose or Kingston Soap Company4. In the UK, there is Funky Soap. There are also tons of soaps and manufacturers to be found on etsy or dawanda.

If you now checked some of those sites, you’ll probably have some concerns about the affordability. I have to admit that a really good soap is a little bit more expensive than a bottle of mass-produced shampoo. Also, a bar of hair soap doesn’t last anywhere near as long as a bar of regular hand soap. I need about 5-8g of soap per wash. However, since I only wash twice a week, a bar of soap lasts about a month or two. I think it’s definitely worth it though. Eventually I want to try and make my own soap, but there’s a lot of equipment I’d need to buy for that for which I currently don’t have the money or space.

Hair soap has a bit of a learning curve, because there’s a lot you need to consider. If you’re interested in switching to soap, here are a few questions you should try to figure out; Which oil is best for my hair? How hard is the water where I live? How much nutrition does my hair need? Can I wait for my hair to air dry? Can I not comb my hair after washing it? YouTube will also provide a lot of information about hair care and hair soap, once you find the right channels.

I will definitely stick to soap for now, and I can’t even imagine going back to shampoo. I’ve learned so much about hair care and I really hope that with the proper care and attention, I might eventually get rid of my split ends that keep coming back and have really healthy, shiny hair.

April 03 2017

11:50

The Geeky Girl Tag

I saw this on Karin‘s blog and decided that it’s a great opportunity to revive my blog, which as usual is being neglected by me. Despite having a monthly reminder to blog, I continue to not have convincing ideas for not-boring blog posts at the moment.

#1: What is your must-have tech gadget?

I’m a little bit torn between my phone and my laptop… though my phone basically has everything on it that I need, I still prefer to have everything on a bigger screen, and with total control. So I’m tending more towards my laptop.

#2: Which House do you belong to in Hogwarts?

According to Pottermore, I’m a Gryffindor (and I did the sorting there twice). That was very surprising for me, because I’m totally not a bold and brave person. I’m actually quite the opposite, as I’m a total introvert. But perhaps that’s what makes me even more brave – having to jump over my own shadow takes a lot of effort for me. If I could have chosen myself, I’d have identified more with Ravenclaw.

#3: Who is your favourite Doctor?

Ten, who else? He’s just the best. I’ve watched all of New Who and the first season of Classic Who, and if I’d had to rank those Doctors, it would be 10, 9, 1, 12, 11.

#4: If you could have dinner with any fictional character, who would it be?

Such a hard question… I honestly don’t know. I prefer going to dinner with my friends and I think if I had to go to dinner with someone ‘famous’ (to me), I’d just be starstruck and it would be very awkward.

But I definitely know who I’d like to NOT have dinner with: Hannibal Lecter. 😆

#5: What is your gaming system of choice?

I’m actually not that much of a gamer, since the only games I really played in the past ~10 years are Diablo III and Skyrim. I played Diablo III on my MacBook and I played Skyrim on the XBOX. Both work fine for me, but I have to admit that the XBOX is more comfortable because you can be lazy on the couch AND play a game.

#6: If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation. It would be so convenient if I could just pop over to New York and hang out in Central Park for my lunch break, or to go to all of those places I’ve always wanted to visit without having to worry about insane flight costs.

#7: What is your favourite fantasy world?

Star Wars, probably? I like the idea of many planets being home to many different alien species, and I often wonder what’s out there in the real universe.

Similarly, I also like the world of Farscape. Though I’m still not sure if it’s a good show, the Farscape universe is just so delightfully alien.

#8: If you could be any fictional race, what would you be?

I’d like to be a witch, as in Harry Potter. Magic (and stuff like apparition) would just make life so much more convenient. (I’m not really sure if that qualifies as a race though).

#9: Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars! I’ve only watched the new Star Trek films, so I’m not really qualified to like Star Trek anyway.

#10: List your top 5 geektastic movies or TV shows.

The Whedonverse is strong in this one…

  • Doctor Who
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Babylon 5
  • Firefly
  • Spartacus

#11: List your top 5 video games.

This is hard when you’re not much of a gamer 😆 I’d much rather list my top five board games, but here’s my attempt at my top 5 video games. It’s obvious I don’t play much…

  • Skyrim
  • Diablo I, II and III
  • The Curse of Monkey Island
  • Grim Fandango
  • ….um, no idea. Overlord, maybe?

If you’re interested, you’re welcome to grab this and post it on your own blog, but I won’t tag anyone 🙃

December 30 2016

09:30

Twenty Sixteen and Me (and Games)

The year is almost over, meaning that it’s time for my traditional “what I did this year” post1. The year of 2016 is universally hated, in my opinion wrongfully – it’s not the fault of a slightly arbitrary measurement of the earth’s rotation that so many bad things have happened. Many inspirational people have died2, but many more will likely die in the next couple of years. Many bad things have happened around the world, but considering that soon one of the most powerful nations in the world will be led by a group of imbeciles, I don’t even want to think about all the bad things that will still happen.

But this blog is supposed about me, so how was MY year of 2016?! It was a bit odd, I guess. My master’s degree was nearing it’s end in February already, as that’s when I finished the last exams I had to take before my master’s thesis. Most of February and March were then spend agonizing over a topic, before I finally decided to just ask my professor for one. That went rather well, and the next couple of months were spent preparing the experiment I performed for the thesis. My professor turned out to be an excellent supervisor and was very helpful throughout it. After the experiment was finished, I started writing my thesis in September and eventually finished in November, when I handed it in. I’m still awaiting the result.

So even though I’m technically finished with my degree, I’m still biding my time at university, doing another course I don’t really need the credit for, and teaching two tutorials. I’ve been planning for this to be my last semester at university, and I’m hoping to find a job by the time it’s over (so in April). I have no idea if that’ll work out, so there is a lot of uncertainty for me ahead.

adastra_2016

What else was 2016 for me? Looking at my visual representation (generated by dailyfratze), I seem to have had a lot of fun with friends, did a bit of renovating, and went on a few very short trips around Europe3. I also started participating in Postcrossing again, and re-discovered my 20 year old stamp collection.

But I think the biggest thing for me in 2016 was board games. I have been a board gamer for a very long time (first contact was in 2005), but it has taken me this long to actually really, really delve into the world of board games. This is due to the fact that I finally dared to join a Meetup group of board gamers, and finally took all my courage and attended a meeting. I’m always terrified of going somewhere where I know nobody at all, all by myself, but I’m glad I did because I got to meet a lot of awesome people. Ever since I first attended one of those meetings this summer, I’ve been going almost every week to a board game night and I even started organizing some myself. That way, I got to play TONS of awesome new board games. I even started using BG Stats, an app that also connects to Board Game Geek, and thanks to that I have awesome statistics of the board games I played this year:

  • In 2016, I have altogether played games 173 times – a huge increase over the 24 games I played in 2015. Out of those 173 plays, I played 67 unique board games, out of which 34 were completely new to me (in 2015, I played 10 unique games, none of which were new to me). And this year, I played games with no less than 64 different people, at 10 different locations (compared to 7 people at 4 locations in 2015). Wow.
  • The #1 most played game of 2016 for me is Codenames, which I played altogether 37 times, with 22 different players. That’s probably no surprise to anyone familiar with the game – it’s a fun, lightweight party game that usually plays very quickly, so we tend to play multiple rounds when playing it. Most of the games that I’ve played a lot in 2016 are similar – short, lightweight games that are usually played at least twice.
  • As for new games, some of my favorite new discoveries of 2016 are Burgle Bros., which I played 5 times with 12 different people, Adrenaline, which I’ve played 3 times with 9 different people, Clank!, which I’ve played twice, and Lords of Waterdeep and Castles of Mad King Ludwig, both which I’ve played only once so far.

I think 2017 will be an even more exciting year for board games, since I hope I will be able to attend many more meetings and play many more new games.

But other than that, I hope I’ll successfully finish my time at the university (even though it’s scary to leave those familiar surroundings), start a new career, have more fun with friends, and travel to some awesome places, this time hopefully for longer than just a weekend. We’ll see…

October 21 2016

09:15

Stamps and Letters

Well… I’m prepared for my retirement, as I have recently unearthed my stamp collection. Though this is probably the most old-man hobby ever, I actually spend some time in my teens collecting, or rather, organizing stamps. At some point back then, I discovered bags and boxes full of stamps in the attic, which apparently my grandmother had collected. Since apparently I had nothing better to do as a kid, I started putting those stamps into a stamp album… and for a while, I collected stamps of the letters we received. I also got a bag of stamps from some store because they had horses on it, and I was a very horse-obsessed child.

In ended up filling not only one small, but also one very thick stamp album. However, I was apparently not very patient and/or organized, as there wasn’t really much of a system to how I arranged them. I sorted them very roughly by country, but most of it was just a huge mess. Especially the German and American stamps, as that’s what I had by far the most of:

My stamp album spent the last 12-14 years quietly sitting in boxes or on shelves, hardly ever being looked at. Very seldom, when I was going through boxes in the attic, I might have peeked inside. Eventually I moved them from my parents’ attic to my own shelves, just in case. So they were just gathering dust for years… until earlier this year, when one of my Australian friends asked for penpals via Facebook. She had just recently become an avid stamp collector, and was looking for someone to trade stamps & letters with.

I volunteered, as I liked the idea of having her as a penpal. I used to have a few penpals in my childhood & early teens, and I still have an entire box full of letters at my parents’ attic. But somehow, this hobby seems to have fallen out of fashion with the rise of the internet. Also, I guess we all grew up into vastly different people, so our penpalships disappeared into oblivion. But thanks to my Aussie friend, I rediscovered how much I enjoy writing letters. It feels great to write a long, coherent text with my hand, something which I hardly ever do anymore – to do lists and class notes don’t qualify. I discovered that writing a letter is kind of meditative, because it’s such a different experience from writing at a computer screen. There is slightly more time to think, but once something is on the paper, it can’t really be changed much anymore. However, I also discovered that it’s really hard to remember what you wrote in the last letter, because there just is no way of quickly looking that up like in an e-mail. How did people manage before the internet?!1

One of the positive side effects of gaining my Australian friend as a penpal was that I enjoyed having a penpal again so much that I got myself a few more penpals. I have heard back from one of them so far – actually my first “pen only” penpal in 12-14 years, and I’m looking forward to getting to know someone entirely via letters.

And the other positive2 side effect brings me back to this post’s main topic: stamps. Since my Aussie friend and I started also exchanging stamps from our collections, I had to keep looking at those insanely messy stamp albums. So eventually I just couldn’t stand it anymore and acquired a new system to organize my stamps. Those were just plain black sheets with a varying number of rows to hold stamps. They are certainly a huge improvement over the old albums, because they are clear and the stamps can be seen better, and reorganizing is made easy because every individual sheet can be moved just like a piece of paper inside a folder. They have a few disadvantages though; they are kinda thin and tend to bend, and sometimes the stamps move inside their rows. Altogether, it’s a huge improvement though. Just look at this:

Naturally, I re-organized my entire collection. My stamps are now primarily sorted by country, then by prettiness and/or series. I have finished almost all countries, except for the US and Germany, as those are SO MANY. I have started sorting the US, but unfortunately that’s when I ran out of empty sheets, and I’m currently way too broke to afford more of them. I was surprised that what previously looked like such an unseizable mess is actually not as messy as expected.

During the process of sorting them, and also as a result of postcrossing, I discovered some gorgeous stamps of planets… and fell in love with the idea of collecting space-related stamps. That stamp I got via postcrossing actually got me researching, and I actually arranged for someone from the US to get me a whole mint condition sheet of those awesome planet stamps. They are definitely the highlight of my newly re-arranged collection. But I also had a few other space related stamps, which now (next to horses) enjoy their own category in my stamp collection:

Since collecting stamps is such a bottomless pit, I decided to concentrate on planets and space as my area of interest (though I also generally like nature and animals, especially indigenous species). I hope my collection will have many more planets and stars in it by the time I retire and can give my full attention to this hobby! I’m sure my penpals will help somewhat. I’m really glad that just one penpal sparked these two hobbies – I think stamps are a pretty fascinating, as they are tiny little glimpse into the history of a country, while having penpals is just really satisfying in a digital world. And to think that it was once pretty much the only way of long distance communication…

Those are fragments that I found inside the torn off corners of letters, in the bags and boxes of stamps that my grandmother collected. Imagine how many letters she must have written and received… well, my [her] collection gives me a rough idea.

September 12 2016

18:10

A Tall Giant

Majestic mountains misted in silver,
Stand surrounding a spectacular secret
A hill, hidden among them, hedged by streams.
From afar it looks feeble and small,
Dominated by the dwarfing, distant peaks.
As I approach the apex that expands across the plane,
across the vast valley between the valiant summits,
that modest mount mesmerisingly grows.
Through rills and rushing rivulets I walk,
that weave a web, wreathing like earth’s veins,
until at my toes a tall giant stands.
I clamber and climb up the craggy path,
Through sparse grass and greenery that grows on the rocks,
Past cattle that cowers cautiously away.
As I ascend, the sun shines one me softly,
Illuming the landscape in luscious colors.
Finally I finish my flight up the mountain
And before me is far and wide a fantastic sight:
I stand on a summit that seemed so small from afar
Yet is still modest next to the marvelous mountains
That expand prodigously past the vast valley.

August 23 2016

07:15

How to improve your board game box – next level

Last year in October I wrote a blog post about the wooden box I crafted for my copy of the board game Dixit and some of its expansions. Since then, my game collection has grown even more, despite the fact that I still don’t get to play my games as much as I’d like.

Though I didn’t have quite as grave problems storing any of my other games as I did with Dixit, I am always slightly annoyed when I open a game box to a mess like this:

Look at that! Baggies everywhere, and some of the components are held together only with an elastic strap – and in my experience, those straps are broken the next time I open the game box. And for some more component-heavy games, even sorting out the mess in the box will take a long time until you can get a game going. Starting a game should be a smooth and seamless experience, not 5-10 minutes of figuring out what goes where.

So, what to do about that? Well, I spend a lot of time on boardgamegeek.com every once in a while, and during one of my BGG heavier phases, I discovered that there is a whole community of geeks who build their own inserts for board games. While some of them use other materials, by far the most popular material is foam core (aka foam board). It’s basically thick paper (used for crafts) with a core of slightly squishy foam. Yet it is very firm, while also being easy to cut and very lightweight.

To learn a little bit about the basics of foam core, I watched some YouTube videos about using it for creating board game inserts. I then went to my local crafts store around the corner and bought a bunch of foam core sheets (and a cutting mat). I started crafting my first insert right away, a rather simple one for the game Codenames. I thought it turned out rather well, so I moved on to the next couple of inserts. After my second one I had some trouble cutting the foam neatly, and eventually realized that the knife I used wasn’t sharp enough anymore. Here’s some advice if you’re interested in working with foam core: buy a new, very, very sharp box cutter, and have plenty of spare blades. After my 5th and 6th inserts, I’m already down two blades, having snapped them off repeatedly while creating only one insert.

So after these little problems were solved, I attempted my perhaps most complex insert yet; Power Grid. And this time, I even made a timelapse video of my creation process:

Rather than creating a fixed insert (like my previous ones), this one is actually a set of several removable inserts that can be used during gameplay. The bank, for example, always ends up a bit of a mess during a game of Power Grid, so that was what I created first for this insert, and then I build the rest of the insert around it. I added a tray for the resources, which can also be used during gameplay and conveniently separates the resources. Then I created one box per color for the player tokens, which can also be used during gameplay. Finally, the remaining tray holds the power plant cards (and the new cards, which are like an expansion). Here’s the final insert again:

Photo 08-08-16 16 10 10

It’s so neat and orderly! I wish all board games would just come with neat and orderly inserts, as I’m definitely not the only one who is bugged by this. There is a whole industry about this, as there are several online and/or etsy stores which sell custom inserts made from wood or foam core. But a lot of geeks are crafty themselves, and there is a huge GeekList on BoardGameGeek of people’s custom foam core inserts, who obviously all feel the same way about the rather crappy inserts that come with the games. That list a great place for inspiration, and I’ve consulted it for my own inserts and sometimes based mine on some of the ones I found there.

So far, I only made 6 inserts for my messiest game boxes and I’m very happy with how they turned out. Most of my other games are fine the way they are now, but I guess sooner or later I’ll be making new inserts again. If you’re interested, you can view all the inserts I made on my own GeekList of inserts.

During the process of creating these, I noticed how much of a waste of space most board game boxes are. 90% of the board games I have could easily use about 20-30% of the space they currently use. Sometimes even the actual board is a lot smaller than the box, which really makes me wonder why they needed to put the game in such an oversized box. However, even if the width and height of the box is defined by the board, there is usually a lot of vertical space that is massively wasted. The box for Legacy: Gears of Time, for example, would be fine if its depth and breadth was only 40-50% of what it is now. If I apply that to all of the games in my collection, I guess I could easily fit twice as many games on my shelf. But since that’s unlikely to ever happen, I’ll just have to continue saving space by crafting inserts that accommodate expansions, so at least those don’t take up any extra shelf space…

July 03 2016

08:10

Postcards All Around the World

Earlier this year I decided to sign up for postcrossing again, and in this blog post, I’d like to share my experience with this project. It’s a project with a very simple concept – first, you request an address of a random stranger somewhere in the world and send them a postcard. Once you’ve done that, you will receive a postcard in return, but not from the same person – from another random stranger somewhere in the world. In our increasingly digitalized world, this project aims to bring joy to mailboxes that otherwise only see bills and spam these days.

File 01-07-16 21 29 26

I’ve known about postcrossing for a very long time. I have been a member there before – about 10 years or so ago. Back then, I sent out about 5 or so postcards, but was very quickly disillusioned. The postcards I received in return were the crappiest I could ever have imagined; terrible tourist cards with even worse photography and excruciating typography. Sometimes they even were horrible ad cards. That’s definitely not what I hoped for – I hoped for those nice and beautiful cards that I’d seen (and send to my friends) at places I’ve traveled. The prospect of more crappy cards, and my financial situation back then (I was still an apprentice) caused me to quit the project.

Earlier this year, in some odd fit of spring cleaning, I decided to rearrange the postcards on our fridge. Our fridge is where all the postcards go that our friends send us from their vacation. And since the color theme of our kitchen is blue, I always aim to display the bluest postcards most prominently on our fridge. However, that turned out a bit problematic, as we didn’t have enough blue(ish) cards to fill the entire fridge. And an additional problem is that in many cards the colors tend to fade, making them look washed out after a few years.

So this lack of a steady supply of blue postcards to replace non-blue and washed-out ones, is what finally caused me to sign up for postcrossing again. The postcrossing community seems to have come a long way since I was active there last – many people have special requests for postcards they prefer, and many people actually take that to heart when selecting a card for someone. So in my postcrossing profile I ask people to send me the bluest postcards they can find in their collection, preferably ones with nice blue skies and seas. And so far, it worked rather well – out of the 23 postcards I received in the 3 months since signing up, only 2 weren’t really that blue. I like some of my received cards more than others, but so far, 5 of them actually made it onto the fridge.

File 02-07-16 07 35 37 copy

Unfortunately, postcrossing is not a hobby for impatient people (which I sometimes am). I have learned that it takes a ridiculous long time for postcards to arrive in some countries. Same vice versa – the first couple of cards that I received took between 18 and 37 days to arrive in my mailbox. It’s kind of disheartening at the beginning, when you keep thinking “Oh, there must be about 5 postcards arriving soon!” while opening the mailbox, and still nothing. But after about 2 months of sending postcards into the world like a maniac, the supply of postcards to my mailbox has become steadier. By now, I usually have about 1-3 postcards per week in my mailbox.

Another slight disadvantage of postcrossing is the imbalance of countries. There are certain countries that are way more active in sending postcards than others, while other countries have significantly fewer members. This basically means that the majority of postcards you will receive will be from the top eight countries; Germany, Russia, USA, Netherlands, Finland, Belarus, Taiwan and China1. The 23 postcards I have received so far came from only 12 different countries, while the 31 cards I have sent have gone to 16 different countries. This is only a minor disadvantage, as it’s still the thought of random acts of kindness that counts most in this project. But I would hypothesize that the hunter-gatherer in us aims to collect ALL THE COUNTRIES and impatiently awaits a new, unexplored country to send a card to / receive from !

File 01-07-16 21 29 12

My patience regarding the site has actually increased. There are limits to how many cards you can send at the same time, and when I was just starting out, I would immediately write a new postcard once another one I sent arrived. But by now, I’ll just wait until pretty much all the cards I have sent have arrived, and then send out a whole new batch of cards at once. That’s also a bit more economical, as this hobby is not quite cheap. While the website is free to use, you will of course have to buy postcards and stamps. For me, sending one postcard costs on average about 1,50€. A stamp for international postcards is 90 cents in Germany, while the price of postcards varies a lot. I have a whole bunch of free ad cards that I collected over the last 20 years, but many postcrossers don’t like those. So I also bought a bunch of random cards from the internet, and then of course I wandered around Düsseldorf trying to find pretty cards of the city. There’s a place in the Old Town that has nice ones for 1€ per card, and the tourist information offices also has nice ones for 1€. But by accident, I recently found that the EuroShop sells cards that are surprisingly pretty in batches of 3 for 1€. So that’s actually a very good option, as it’s the least expensive way to get very decent Düsseldorf cards. Not all people want tourist cards though, so I always try to find something suitable from my big index of cards when I request a new address on postcrossing.

File 01-07-16 21 28 47

If you play by the rules, respect people’s wishes and send out only cards that you yourself would like, postcrossing is a wonderful hobby for a world which has become almost completely digitalized. Despite occasional disappointments, it brings a tiny bit of joy to people around the world. Postcrossing is truly about getting a glimpse of people’s lives – and there are literally all kinds of people there. From children to 90 year olds, from fashionistas to nerds, from professors to housewives – so many types of people I would never encounter in my life. So far, a lot of the people I sent cards to seem to be housewives or retired, while only one or two seem to be geeks like me. It’s such an interesting hobby, even beyond the postcard aspect. I’ll definitely continue this for while, perhaps even once my fridge is freshly restocked with stunning blue skies.

May 01 2016

14:00

The Magic of The Magicians

“Hogwarts for adults” is how Syfy’s new show The Magicians is popularly described – but it’s SO much more than that. I admit the parallels are pretty obvious; both The Magicians and Harry Potter are about a guy who discovers magic and proceeds to go to magic school. Both stories have a truly terrifying, seemingly omnipotent villain. And in both stories, the school teachers seem surprisingly unhelpful in solving problems. But compared to the complexity of characters in The Magicians, Harry Potter seems terribly flat.

Actually, I would argue that The Magicians is rather the spiritual heir to Buffy the Vampire Slayer1 – fully matured. In BtVS, we got to enjoy the everyday struggle of teenagers in a supernatural high school, who underwent mind-blowing character development in expertly crafted season arcs while at the same time being delightfully quirky, nerdy and/or funny. And that’s exactly what The Magicians channels perfectly. Its nerd factor is already fully fledged, and most of its characters have already undergone dramatic developments. There is certainly a lot of potential for a brilliant series arc, since so far only one season of the show has aired.

Brakebills_Season-1-768x390

So, Harry Potter meets Buffy? Well, perhaps when watching the first one or two episodes you might still be drawing comparisons, especially to Harry Potter. But unlike its younger cousins, The Magicians is set at a university; Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, which offers a three year graduate program in magic to (in this case) Ivy League graduates. And with university come all the things that only grown-ups can handle; sex, addiction, mental illness, abuse, gore, swear words… Finally, a show that doesn’t pander to a specific rating, but rather that just bluntly does what it’s supposed to do with full force! The first season gets darker and darker as it progresses, until it finally unveils the gruesome machinations and consequences of its plot. It’s so good that this is one of the very, very rare shows which I definitely want to watch again at some point (perhaps once we’ve seen all future seasons).

Not only does The Magicians have an intriguing plot, it also has some of the most interesting characters I’ve seen in a while. It centers around the very unusual Quentin – unusual for a “hero”. He is socially awkward, he has trouble making eye contact, he is a complete nerd and full of geeky knowledge, nobody seems to get his references and actually he’s quite a fanboy, – OMG he’s me! You could argue that The Magicians puts its primary target audience in the position of the hero, because I’m pretty sure that many viewers will feel the same way about Quentin. He’s a hero us geeks can totally identify with, because many of us have lived a similar life. But at the same time he is also deeply flawed and struggles with all of life’s obstacles. I’m really curious to find out how his character develops in the future2. He is also part of a great ensemble and each of these characters has found a way into my heart by the end of the season in their own twisted way.

I can highly recommend The Magicians to anyone who is a fan of great storytelling, very nerdy, and/or who enjoyed Buffy and Harry Potter. But perhaps it would be clever to wait a year or two, because the cliffhanger that season one ended on was just brutal. How is anyone supposed to wait almost a year for a resolution to THAT?!

May 23 2015

14:49

The Future is looking Grimm

Or is it? Over its past four seasons, Grimm has established itself as a rather serene show. Despite it dark and gritty outward appearance, its serialized plots always tend towards a happy ending – as one would expect of a show that is largely inspired by fairy tales. The world of Grimm is inhabited by creatures (‘Wesen’) that cannot be seen by the majority of the population. They are sort of creatures that live inside people, but the people themselves are the creatures. They only show this when they want to or when they get emotional (‘Woge’). Some of them are harmless, others are very dangerous. These dangerous Wesen are the ones that the titular Grimm has to tackle. A Grimm is someone who, unlike most people, can see Wesen for what they really are and has superhuman strength to fight them. Nick Burkhardt, a detective in Portland (its setting in Portland makes the show feel very authentic, as it is always shot on location), discovers that he is one such Grimm and is hurled into a whole new world when his Aunt Marie dies and her powers pass on to him. As the name suggests, the Grimms are descendants of the German fairy tale collectors (and linguists), Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. This is definitely also the reason for the heavy use of German in the show, which I’m sad to say it absolutely abysmal. It seems like the writers used a dusty old dictionary to translate one word at a time, resulting in ridiculously wrong names such as “Bauerschwein” or “Leben Sauger”. Google translate does a better job than the Grimm writers, and really, why didn’t they hire a German to proofread? But eventually (as a German speaker) you’ll get used to this weirdness and just accept it as a method to tying the show to the brothers Grimm. According to the lore of the show, they were the first to publicly record stories of Wesen (however, the ‘Grimms’ have existed before the brothers, only under different names). This concept of a parallel world that is kept under control by select chosen ones is very reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, if you substitute Slayer with Grimm and Demons/Vampires with Wesen. This is not surprising, as Grimm was co-created by Buffy & Angel alumni David Greenwalt.

GRIMM -- Season 4 -- Pictured (L-R): Claire Coffee as Adalind Schade, Sasha Roiz as Capt. Sean Renard, Bree Turner as Rosalee Calvert, Silas Weir Mitchell as Monroe, David Giuntoli as Nick Burkhardt, Bitsie Tulloch as Juliette Silverton, Russell Hornsby as Hank Griffin, and Reggie Lee as Sgt. Wu-- Photo by Chris Haston/NBC.

The cast of Grimm: Claire Coffee as Adalind Schade, Sasha Roiz as Capt. Sean Renard, Bree Turner as Rosalee Calvert, Silas Weir Mitchell as Monroe, David Giuntoli as Nick Burkhardt, Bitsie Tulloch as Juliette Silverton, Russell Hornsby as Hank Griffin, and Reggie Lee as Sgt. Wu — Photo by Chris Haston/NBC.

Unlike Buffy, however, Grimm is also a police procedural, and suddenly for Nick, seemingly every murder case seems to be Wesen-related. Grimm is a very typical murder/monster of the week show, in which the monster/murder tends to take up the majority of any given episode, while minor screen time is devoted to season/series wide plots. Now, this MotW pattern has its pros and cons – its most obvious purpose is to attract casual viewers who don’t want to bother with serialized plots. However, I have long been a fan of more serialized shows, as they tend to be much more rewarding. In Grimm, the MotW plots sometimes seem very much out of place, especially towards the end of the season when stuff is getting really exciting. But they also contribute in giving the show a lightness that makes is so digestible, similar to Castle. Also much like Castle, Grimm has established a rather positive attitude towards its own characters. Unlike in other shows, which seem to be drowning in ridiculous amount of drama, the characters of Grimm are not only likeable, but they also all appear to like each other and always radiate that feeling of a fairy-tale style happy ending. For four seasons Grimm has been a relatively lowbrow show with utterly predictable plots and magical deus ex machinae that save the day.

Spoilers Follow (up until episode 4.22)

Until now. After over 80 episodes of positive outcomes, I couldn’t believe the events of the season four finale. I’ve come to expect a solution in which everyone lives happily ever after, but it seems that not only one but two characters are now dead for good. This seems surprising, as characters on the show have died before, but were brought back to life – such as Captain Renard, whose brief experience with the afterlife was a major season-wide plot point that came to a conclusion towards the end of season four. But shortly after his little problem was taken care of, the most gruesome, dramatic plot point so far has unfolded; Nick’s mother, also a Grimm who lives off the grid, came back to town only to walk straight into a trap that led to her decapitation. To make things worse, the antagonists left Nick a nice surprise to discover when he comes home; his mother’s head in a box. And even worse, all of this is a repercussion of Nick’s former lover Juliette having turned into a Hexenbiest after helping him to regain his Grimm powers, which he had previously lost due to Adalind’s (another Hexenbiest) mischievery, which again had numerous causes. This showcases that the series-wide plot is a lot more complicated than you would expect after I have praised this show for its relative simplicity in this blog post… and it seems to be only getting more complex. Not only does Nick have to suffer the shock of losing his mother, but also the loss of Juliette, who, after having turned into a murderous Hexenbiest, was seemingly unstoppable and finally killed by Trubel, another Grimm, when Nick fails to pull the trigger on Juliette (for more on her character development, I recommend the The Mary Sue).

I still can’t quite believe that both these characters are really dead. I still expect the upcoming season to conjure up another deus ex machina or a clever plot twist that reveals Nick’s mother and/or Juliette to be still alive; how could Kelly Burkhardt walk into such a trap? Throughout the episode, I expected her to jump out of the shadows, revealing a cunning plan to fool the antagonists into thinking she’s dead. But when it was revealed that the child that was with her is really Diana, I couldn’t be believe it. She really IS dead?! How is that possible on a show as fluffy and predictable as Grimm? I predicted pretty much every ‘plot twist’ from season one through three, how is it possible that Grimm is now turning into such a gruesomely grim show? I have similar feelings about Juliette’s death; there must be some way that she is not dead at all, considering that even Renard survived three bullets to the chest. Only the Grimm writers know for sure, but one thing is clear: it seems that at the end of season four, Grimm has completely abandoned its comfort zone. This was foreshadowed in the torching of Nick’s trailer, which has been his Grimm-cave for most of the show. It was the place where problems were solved and where most characters realized that there is a whole other world hidden beneath the surface. Grimm seems to finally have found itself. Much like Buffy, it needed a few seasons to get there. I only hope that I can expect some major feels in upcoming seasons (if it’s even possible to top the gruesomeness of season four).

April 17 2015

15:23

March 28 2015

10:12
Play fullscreen
Baustelle Timelapse

January 16 2015

06:56
January so far

December 29 2014

14:37

Twenty fourteen in tv show stats and other geeky stuff

Every year, I create a “what I did this year” blog post on my blog, meticulously organized by month. But this year I don’t feel like it would enrich my blog. The years are accelerating at an incredible rate. It seems only yesterday that I wrote my 2013 post, and I’m starting to get the feeling that soon my blog will only contain these posts, one every year, since I hardly find the time to blog about other things. Seriously, who still reads/writes a blog…?!

2014 and me

The year 2014 was a strange experience. It was the year I arrived at home after half a year abroad feeling like I’ve entered a parallel universe… a strange, grey place that doesn’t seem quite real. It was the year in which I was in a state of limbo, unsure what to do with my newly earned Bachelor’s degree, weighing all options and choosing the most convenient one — was that a wise choice? 2014 was very much a transitional year, from southern to northern hemisphere, from writing to gaming, from bachelor to master, from job seeking to working, from twenty-something to thirty.

The best part of the year happened at its very beginning; traveling around New Zealand. While that was definitely amazing, it had the disadvantage of not financially providing the ability to travel more in 2014. I will definitely have to travel properly again in 2015.

Another highlight was definitely the acquirement of archery skills. It’s something I wanted to do in ages, and it was a very interesting experience. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time and the nerve to do it regularly (for the reason that the location is sooooo freaking far away with public transport and that the other people there were… meh), therefore I will not pursue it further anytime soon. I hope one day I’ll just be able to have a target in my garden.

adastra_2014

Other than that, if I look at my year on dailyfratze, it seems to be a year in which I had lots of good times with friends. I hope 2015 will be the same.

2014 and literature

I have read a total of 27 books in 2014. That’s quite a lot for me, since I’m not particularly great at reading the majority of books I encounter. While I love some, others, particularly those I had to read for university, were a bit of a torture for me. I really hated Peter Ackroyd and Jean Rhys. Jane Eyre, on the other hand, was ok-ish but a bit tedious. On the other hand, I absolutely loved reading Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and Alan Moore’s Watchmen. I have also read a shitload of secondary literature and science-y books for my bachelor’s thesis, which I finished writing in June. I was utterly happy to have a break from uni reading after that, so I decided to re-read my favorite book of all time, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I’ve also been wanting to re-read all the Harry Potter books, but I just didn’t have the time before my master’s degree began. Maybe next semester break…
book2014

2014 and film

As my lovely statistics page tells me, I have seen 76 films in 2014. That’s quite a lot compared to last year, where I’ve watched only 39 films, but still not quite as much as the 100+ films I used to watch within a year back in the 2010s. A significant percentage of the films I’ve seen in 2014 were not new to me; I’ve rewatched a lot of stuff I already knew. Among those where the all the big franchises; I’ve rewatched the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve rewatched all of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, I’ve rewatched all of the The Hunger Games movies, and I’ve rewatched all of the X-Men movies.

But by far the best films I’ve seen this year were not among the above. I was totally blown away by Krugovi (Circles), Snowpiercer, The Grand Budapest Hotel and I somewhat enjoyed Edge of Tomorrow, Lucy and Boy. Quite funny was also What We Do In The Shadows. I admit that Guardians of the Galaxy was also great fun, but this ever increasing uncreativeness of Hollywood is getting a bit dull.
film2014

2014 and TV

Let’s turn to my favorite mode of storytelling: TV series. Even I can’t wrap my head around the amount of shows I watch, which probably explains why I usually forget 70% of the plot after a while. This year, I have watched 761 episodes from 62 different shows, out of which 52 were fiction (the other ten were documentaries or game shows and such). That’s an average of 2.59 episodes per day. That’s a bit less than last year, where I’ve seen 812 episodes from 48 different shows with an average of 2.99 episodes per day.

Being a geek, I have created my own statistics page for my TV watching habits with the help of Google Charts. However, it mostly for myself and is not public. If you’re interested in seeing these stats, leave a comment and I will give you access. For now, I’ll give you a little glimpse of some of the charts I have created there; my favorite is probably the calendar chart, which looks like this:

This chart plots the amount of episodes I have watched into a calendar, resulting in a colorful grid. February was a particularly good month for binge-watching, but as you can see, I don’t actually watch TV every day. This is such a pretty chart, however it’s such a shame that as of the posting of this, there are no options to change the colors or the size of it.

The same data can also be plotted by month into a nice trendline. So far I’ve been too lazy to create a Google Chart for this, but this image shows such a line from January 2013 to December 2014:
trendline

If you watch that amount of shows AND are a statistics nerd like me, you’ll probably start noticing patterns; actors, locations, writers, producers etc. I’m always particularly interested in filming locations, because after I had been to Toronto, I started noticing it as a filming location for many of the shows I watch. A lot of American shows are in fact filmed in Canada, whereas some are even shot in other places all around the world. This chart divides this year’s shows by filming location:

filminglocation

This chart only includes shows with very obvious locations; some shows just can’t be fitted into it because they’re shot all over the world (like Game of Thrones). This chart is another thing I haven’t figured out with Google Charts yet, and Excel is quite messy when it comes to customization, but I guess you’ll get the idea.

Another particularly interesting chart is the division between shows that were new to me and those I already knew but continued watching in 2014. The chart shows that this year about half of the shows I watched were new to me, whereas the other half were not. This seems to be a continuing trend (however, 2008 is not quite accurate since I just don’t have the data for 2007 to figure this out).

December 21 2014

20:20
Lake Cootharaba
Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl