Archive for the 'life' Category

Taking the time

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

I’ve been very busy at work for some time, which is no wonder considering how much my role has changed over the past half a year. I’m pulling regular overtime – not a huge amount, but something that adds up to whole days quickly.
The thing is, potential days off to compensate for the overtime aren’t helping my stress level or lack of time with my family at all. I have now decided to schedule a day off, or half a day off, whenever I’m adding up my hours and notice that there are whole days in the reserve.

I used to think that I’ll save up the days and extend one of my regular vacations by a substantial amount, but it’s no good pushing all that overtime by half a year or so. Another thing that’s been holding me back is thinking that I can’t be away for one day. In my new role I’m pretty much in control of my own schedule, so I can decide well ahead of time that I’m absent on a given day.

This situation aggravated yesterday as I put in 14 hours in one day, but I’m glad it did. As I’ve said before, it is easy to get lost in the daily grind.

Luxor, Egypt

Friday, January 12th, 2007

I was away on a two-week vacation to Luxor, Egypt. It was my first actual paid vacation. I’m 27, so I guess I’m a bit late to that train, but it did feel good and did the recharging trick pretty well. It’s the middle of the winter and very dark in Finland. It was good to get some sun in and be really away from the day to day.

I did miss videogames out there. I played some Dweller on the phone, but nothing more. Once I got sick and had to stay in for a couple of days, in the very cold apartment (+14 centigrade), I was longing for some multiplayer Soul Calibur II or Dead Or Alive 3. Something relaxing to take the mind off the boredom and the cold. I read the books I had along before craving for videogames, though, so I guess I’m not that hopeless. But I sure hope I had brought some card games along! Like Mythos, Pokémon and INWO – I was quite a bit into the collectible card game thing back when they were new.

Our group was mostly students of Egyptology. We didn’t have a paid guide, but the trip was organized by a former guide. We got to know some interesting people over there and two weeks of free time is quite enough to get to know a small city like Luxor (150K inhabitants). Some culture shock did set in, in the end, but I got to like the atmosphere a lot before that.

When I came back, I played some Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, but that’s been about it. Too much quality TV occupying the free time right now: backlogs of Shield, Survivor and Desperate Housewives. Deadwood and Galactica open this week in Finland, too, so lots of tube time heading my way.

(Re-posted from my old game blog on January 16, 2006.)

Six Feet Under

Tuesday, January 9th, 2007

Last weekend we watched what was left of the last (fifth) season of the HBO show Six Feet Under. It was something like six episodes in a row.

It left me moved – in fact, I’m still actively thinking about it, three days later. Sure, the last episodes were very emotional and there was a lot of crying and saying goodbye to dear characters, but I think it had that effect on me because of how it related to my (and everyone else’s) life. When we were watching the various characters’ funerals, I was actually thinking about the funerals I had attended to and would probably still have to attend to.

You might think that a show about dealing with death would get old, but it doesn’t really. It takes time until you know the characters well enough to see things from their point of view, but when death starts calling on the ones you do care about, it just doesn’t cease to bewilder you. What do you do now? How are you supposed to feel? How do you go on? Was anything accomplished? Was it a good life? Was it a good death? How does everyone else feel?

I don’t think that avoiding to think about death is intentional with most people, but surely it would be healthy, psychologically, to realize – and accept – at least on an intellectual level, that yes, you and everyone you care about is going to die. And most likely, some of them sooner rather than later.

I think that should make one think. For many people, it must be much easier to entirely avoid thinking about death, but wouldn’t you lead (and leave) a better life if you didn’t have to avoid the reality of it? For me, I’ve thought about death over the past few years, and yes, this thinking has had an effect on some facets of my life. While hard, that is absolutely a good thing.

TV sure has come a damn long way since the days of He-Man. Even if Six Feet Under’s fourth season was largely stale.

Winter. Or is it?

Monday, January 8th, 2007

Living in Finland, I’ve accustomed to calling winter the time of year when it’s generally white everywhere. Sure it may be a sad slush in the city, but still: there’s snow on the ground.

The last snow we had was in late October or early November. It felt like winter for a week, since then it’s been just rain and darkness. Anyone saying there’s no greenhouse effect is welcome to take a peek. The grass has been green all December!

I don’t much care about the snow per se, since I’m not into any winter sports these days. But it’s so dark without snow. And of course, regular rain is also an unwelcome phenomenon at +1…+5 degrees centigrade. Snow wouldn’t make me wet and miserable.

I’m beginning to think we’re not going to see any snow this winter, but there’s still February to go, which should be the coldest month of the year. We’ll see. On the other hand I’m glad, because our new windows at home do not keep the cold outside.

2007. Bring it on!

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

Happy New Year
So it’s 2007 already. I think I’ll spare everyone a recap, but let me just share these two last things I learned in 2006.

One, do not force open a sparkling wine bottle with your bare hands. It was bothersome noticing how I’d smeared blood on people’s glasses! It doesn’t hurt, but yes, I did get those scrapes all across my index finger and palm just by twisting open a sparkling wine bottle’s cork. The champagne we had opened so easily – don’t settle for substitutes!

(Edit: the cork was a problem because there was no pressure in the bottle to help it come off. Faulty bottle, then.)

Champagne Hand
Two, if you want to get somewhere by midnight on New Year’s eve, do call a cab well in advance. The cellular network was busted and the cab service was clogged up. I thought half an hour for the less than 2 km trip would be sufficient, but I was dead wrong. I was on time to kiss my wife only because a cab accidentally picked me up instead of the customers next door. Lucky, seeing that there were already quite a few people waiting for rides on the street when I came out to wait for mine. I don’t actually know why the cab chose me, I didn’t wave him down or anything. I was around five minutes late to my wife from seeing friends, but well in time for fireworks. Too bad the other customers had to wait the extra ten minutes or so!

Over the evening, we played with the Nintendo Wii and re-learned chess. I sucked at Wii. I was actually rather intrigued by chess, which I didn’t expect at all. I haven’t played since junior high.

Coffee

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

My wife got me a Krups coffee grinder and some fair trade espresso coffee beans to play with. Beans are actually scarce in Finland, which seems odd to me. Surely there are enough coffee aficionados around to support some beans in specialty stores? Anyway, this fair trade foodstuffs store sports some beans, but you get no selection: it’s the regular or the espresso brand, that’s it.

Luckily, I have no qualms over the bean quality. Good stuff! I do not consider myself a coffee elitist, but man, the on-demand grinded coffee is such a big thing. Of course it is simply a very fun ritual to get some beans and grind them yourself, but the aroma of the grinded beans… mmm! I’ve drank quite a bit of store-packaged espresso grind and dare say it’s a whole different thing.

I’ve used the self-grinded coffee both in an espresso machine and a drip-feed coffeemaker and it works both ways. Recommended! The basic grinder does not cost much, I don’t see much use for the fancy version with adjustable grind coarseness and whatnot.

(It was a good christmas, by the by. Can’t wait to try out the pasta machine next!)

Nine Inch Nails, Sony CMT-CPZ1

Tuesday, November 14th, 2006

Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails is coming to Finland to conclude their 2007 European tour in April. Cool, that, and I’ve got tickets with my wife (and friends). NIN was one of the really big groups in my teenage years and I like them still, which is easy, since they’ve only released good albums. I hear from last time’s witnesses that they are really very good live, which is of course a good thing, too.

Sony CMT-CPZ1

Related to music, we got a new stereo set last night, a Sony CMT-CPZ1 mini-system (weighing in at 300€). We’ve been without a set for years, settling for portable players and TV output and I have to say that it feels good to hear music properly again.

It’s only a mini-set, as I can’t fathom putting 200€-plus on just an amplifier, let alone some speakers, but an audible revelation it is, nonetheless. We went with Sony due to it sounding better than the other sub-500€ sets.

It was also the only not hideous-looking set on the shelves, which is just weird. You’d think they’d design 200-600€ worth of electronics a little more pleasing on the eyes. I see now that the set has got favorable reviews and general praise for sound quality, which is always nice. So far I have no problems with it.

Winter

Thursday, November 2nd, 2006

It snowed yesterday. I understand they already have knee-high snow to tread through further up north, but it’s often anybody’s guess if the capital area gets snow before Christmas. I think it’s the sea which warms this area so much that winter is all wet and rarely white and beautiful for more than a couple of weeks in the heart of winter. I do vastly prefer winter’s snow and light freezing to fall’s wet and cold.

While winter is the darkest time of the year, the world actually feels much lighter once it snows – simply because light reflects off the snow and illuminates the night. And it’s lovely how snow changes the city soundscape, muffling the noise. And while the absolute amount of sunlight is reduced, it’s often clear in the winter, as opposed to the permanently overcast fall skies.

My sports goal was to keep running until it snows. I accomplished that. Granted, I’ve slipped to once a week for the past three weeks, but I haven’t missed a single week and I have plenty of excuses (flu, hurt knee, hurt ankle, wedding anniversary trip) for the slower pace. Now we’ll see how I find running in the winter. It’s not an unpleasant thing to consider and the track I use should be in a running condition through the winter. Progress has been slower than I thought, but I don’t mind, really.

All in all, things are pretty sweet right now. Work is super exciting due to new colleagues and clients, I just ordered a new PC (my first in, what, someting like eight years) and there’s plenty of good stuff on the TV. Oh, and my second to last “must see” band, Nine Inch Nails, is coming to Finland for their European 2007 tour’s final gig in April.

Now if I can only figure out how I’m going to change my tires to studded ones from the slicks with roads frozen and snowed-in.

Countries I’ve been to

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Only 93% to go!

(Create your own visited countries map here)

Routine

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

While “routine” may very well become part of the “grind”, I still think it’s a good idea to establish some social routines to prevent the situation where you’re too tired to arrange meetings with friends.

My wife introduced a habit of hanging out at a coffee shop on Mondays, post-school and -work. I think that’s a great idea. Mondays always go to waste, as you’re too stressed or zoned out to really do anything at home, anyway. We did that this Monday, and it was good. We’re also thinking of hanging out regularly on Fridays, watching telly and whatnot. Most people have probably come up with similar schemes ages ago, but they feel like revelations to me. I’ve been really holed up at home when I’m not at work.

I’m thinking that maybe I could extend this to the other things I never find the time to do. Like gaming – besides videogames, that is. I’d like to continue our shelved roleplaying game campaigns and play with miniatures, but we haven’t been able to come up with dates. It might be a good idea to agree upon playing every other weekend or so. There’s still the problem of our university-going friends finding the time, but maybe the rest of us could play something else when they can’t make it.

Running

Yesterday I did the six-minute run with no problem whatsoever. It was raining properly, too – it felt absolutely great to run in the rain! My ankles didn’t hurt either, though they’re aching a bit today. Still thinking about those running shoes.