Alex's Alliterative Adventures

Thoughts on Programming, Life, and Travel

Archive for the 'Musings' Category

Priorities: the post turned into an unrelated impromptu rant

I always feel a little confused when I speak to someone who has no direction in life. Direction is different from a plan; anyone who seems like they know what the hell they’re doing is either a skilled enough actor to block out any projections of their instability or they’ve surrounded themselves with enough predictable monotony that they’re more or less dead. People with direction in life might not know what they want to do, where they want to grow old, or who they want to become, but goddammit they’ll find out if it kills them. They go to parties not to get drunk and revel in nostalgia, but to meet new faces and swap new stories. They learn not just because someone told them to, but because they have a burning desire to know. They don’t follow the status quo because everyone else is doing it, they take make stupid decisions and risk ostracization because it was their best chance at figuring it all out.

A lot of people to be completely unaware of their direction in life. You can’t stand your job, but you’ve been there for a year or so and there’s no sense throwing away that seniority. You’re driving yourself towards a nervous breakdown, but if you just study a bit harder you can really bump up your GPA, and that’s what you heard was important. You’ve always dreamed of being an astronaut, but everyone has that dream – it’s a stupid dream, and it’s a lot easier to just settle. You’re just not happy in life, but it’s because of a bunch of uncontrollable factors, so there’s no sense in trying anyways.

That’s bullshit. There’s no way you’re going to live to 150, most of us will be lucky to see 100 at the rate modern medicine is progressing, which means that most of my readers have used up more than a fifth of their time here, and some a lot more. Every day that passes by is a day you’re never getting back, and there’s absolutely no excuse for not using each one to the fullest. The only purpose that I can find in life is the pursuit of happiness. If you’re not actively working to make your life better, then you’re stagnating. I’ve known far too many people who wake up each morning and bitch about how terrible their life is, and then seemingly refuse to do a thing to change it. They’ll dance the same dance day after day, and I honestly don’t know if they’re too afraid to change things or if the thought just never occurred to them. Yes, life sucks, and everyone needs to let off some steam every once and a while, but you’re the only one who can make it better. Quit the job, reinvent yourself, move to another country, go on medication, whatever. Just do it, and never stop doing it. Wake up each morning ready to do what it takes and embrace risks, and go to bed each night exhausted, drained, and utterly satisfied with how you changed a little corner of the world.

“All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move” – Ben Franklin

That rant just came out of nowhere. Weird.


The post about residence

When I left residence at the end of first year, I remember thinking that a completely unreplicable era was coming to an end. In a lot of ways, leaving residence marked more of a “coming of age” to me than going to university did. Residence was this microcosm untouched by the real world; your meals were served hot and piping from the caf, your classes were a 5 minute walk from your front door, and you were constantly surrounded by hundreds of drunks. The standard procedure to deal with hunger was to walk into the hall, yell “dinner”, and wait no more than a minute for anywhere between one and thirty people to join you. Responsibilities played second fiddle to good times, and there was a unspoken yet fully agreed upon trend that random socialization was the name of the game. It didn’t really matter what you were planning on doing; when someone announces that they’re covering every one of their neighbour’s belongings with seran wrap, you just realized how unimportant your meaningless plans really were.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t consider returning to residence for a minute. You just can’t do it, no more than you can decide that junior kindergarten was really a peak in your life, so screw it I’m going back to diapers. The appeal of residence came not from the close proximity, not from the individuals or the parties, but from the common identity. You were discovering yourself, learning what it meant to become a relatively self-sufficient adult, and finding out how you would adapt to this strange new world, and everyone around you was doing it at the same time. When that killer assignment was due in an hour, 3 other people were struggling to finish it within 20 meters of you. When you were standing outside in your underwear waiting for the fire department to put out the microwave, you were surrounded by 100 people you saw every day. Nothing was private, nothing was sacred, and you were never alone. There’s a comfort in knowing that when you come home every day, there are going to be 23 smiling faces who would love nothing better than to share a laugh or a smile with a kindred spirit.

I never expected to experience residence again, but I’m doing it all over again here in Sankt Lars. I didn’t let myself fully appreciate it until joining a picnic party a few nights ago. We had two beach towels, a few laptops for music, the tiled floor of our corridor, and a potted branch plant, and that was all we needed for 4 hours of laughs. I’m kind of disappointed that I let work get in the way of residence until now, but I did what had to be done, and now I can appreciate the finer things in life.

In other news, apparently australian girls hang out in their underwear.


Warm, tingly feelings

I got my first pseudo-legitimate piece of pseudo-fan mail today, it was awesome. Now all I need is psuedo-legitimate hate mail; then I can call myself a real blogger.

There’s definitely a lack of stress associated with exams over here. You have five hours to complete the test, and it’s not uncommon for people to walk out after two hours or so. The generous timeframes, the low-pressure buildup, and the fact that my actual grades are indiscernable make for a relatively painless experience. That being said, the first final still smacked me around a bit.

Today’s the programming test, followed by a complete and total departure from responsibility. If you CEST folks want to join me in a bit of self-destructive consumption, give me a ring/im/mail/punchToTheFace/impersonalWallMessage and we can kill brain cells together at 22h or so.

(future post ideas, just so I don’t forget: residence, priorities, cultural comparisons, vega-tables)


Where everybody knows your name

I shared a beer with a few friends last night to give myself a long overdue break from work.  We spoke of many things: booze, academics, our cultures, gender equality, relationships, firefighting, and a cultural confusion over the word “chips”.

I really enjoy having one of my core beliefs reaffirmed time and time again: People are people, and they’re all the same throughout the world.  Sure, languages are different, cultures are different, viewpoints are different (sometimes radically so), but in the end we all really care about the same things.  We’re all just guessing our way through life, trying to make the best we can out of what we have. Some are extroverted, some are introspective.  Some don’t feel like they’re alive unless they’re a breath away from dying, and some prefer to shape their surroundings until their every need is met. Some try to experience as much as they can with every waking moment, others find their focus in life and devote themselves to it unquestionably.  In the end, though, we’re all just looking for good times, good friends, good memories, and a little peace and comfort now and again, wherever we may find it.

I also had the pleasure of witnessing the most Canadian bar fight I’ve ever seen.  A random Swede jokingly jumped in front of my Canadian friend in line for the bar, and my Canadian friend gave him a friendly shove on the shoulder.  They then turned and faced each other and insisted that the other ordered first.  I think that only a mix of Swedes and Canadians could stage such a polite brawl.


Careers, Relationships, and Cheese

Introduction: It’s a tired anecdote, recently retold by JDT: The ones who want you are crazy and knife-wielding, and the ones that you want keep yelling “just drop the knife, man, we can talk things out.”  Due to my recent blessings of an amazing job and a fantastic girlfriend, I had forgotten about this particular internet and teenager held truism; that is, of course, until I started my job interviews.  I had an interview earlier this week for a company that wasn’t a gaming company, so I was initially less than enthused by them.

Principle argument: The interview went something like this:

Interviewer: Our potentially very boring job requires a lot of C++. So do you know C++?

Me: No… but I could know C++.  I know things that are like C++.  Like, for example, not C++.

Interview: That’s great.  I’m just going to ask you a bunch of C++ to degrade your morale and make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Me: Awesome.

*a bunch of questions later*

Interviewer: Wow, you’re awesome. Here, have lots of money.

Me: Um… thanks, but… it’s just not right for me right now.  I just got out of a really great job, and I don’t want to commit to anything serious, I’m… I’m just not ready.

Interviewer: Oh… oh, that’s ok, yeah, I totally understand. No, that’s cool. Just… um… call me, ok?

Me: Yeah, that… that’d be best.

Jumping into the land of the serious for a moment, it was potentially the best interview I’d ever had in my entire life.  He made me think, but he coaxed me in just the right way to not only help me come up with the right answer, but also to teach me a lot about useful things that I didn’t know. The job itself might not be exactly what I want, but I could certainly do a lot worse than having the opportunity to work with people who can bring out the best in me and teach me more than I could’ve ever dreamed of.

Secondary argument: Fast forward to the super awesome gaming job interview:

Interviewer: Hey man, we’re recruiting for the position of Best Coop Job Ever, and we’re wondering if you’re a good match for our company.

Me: I’ll have your babies.

Interviewer: What’s that?

Me: I don’t have scabies, so I’m perfect for the job.  Let’s get started.

Interviewer: *technical questions*

Me: I don’t know that one.

Interviewer: *buzzwords*

Me: Also nope.

Interviewer: Alright, we just have one last question, and th-

Me: …

Me: Hello?


Conclusion: Dramatically retold job interviews are much more entertaining to experience than real job interviews where it’s made painfully obvious that you don’t know shit, son.  Also, I really really really want that gaming job.  I’m sometimes woken up at night by the burning pain my desire causes my soul and esophagus.

Epilogue: I fucking love cheese.  It’s like God’s gift to species that can domesticate farm animals. Also, I spoke to another real-life person who’s used VERGE.  It was like meeting my long lost brother from Singapore.



Sweden’s weather is just plain weird. A perfect cloudless day will change to a torrential downpour with the occasional airborne cat and back in the span of ten minutes. It might be because it’s a small country that’s surrounded by sea, I don’t know, but for one reason or another the clouds here fly much lower and faster than I’m used to, which explains the schizophrenic weather patterns.Living under a perpetually turmoiled sky makes for some great, if not risky, cloud watching. Shapes are fleeting and impermanent, and yet their closeness makes them more tangible, as if you could take them home in a jar or leap up and glide among them. Watching the heavens makes a part of you think that you’re stuck in one of those time-lapse scenes in a documentary, except the people around you have conveniently forgotten that they are supposed to be fast-forwarding.



Today’s choir practice was 5 hours long.  With 500 singers present, it was so crowded that I couldn’t hold my music in front of me without overlapping torsos with two people and resting my sheets on the head of a third. My knee started complaining pretty early on, we couldn’t hear or sing in time with the other half of the choir, and I generally didn’t want to be there.

Then the orchestra joined the practice.  As we sang O Fortuna to the quick bowing of the strings and the thunderous booming of the timpani, I couldn’t help but shiver.  This is what makes it all worthwhile.



A very strong argument could be made for the idea that there are two things which number among the best things in life.  One of those things is being at the absolute end of your ability, being so ready to give up that another attempt seems like it would be harder and more painful than anything else in the world, being so desolated by your failure that you can’t think of anything else… and then getting up, giving one final effort to the shouting and kind words of friends, and accomplishing things that you thought you never could’ve done.

The other of those things is free cheese.

When both of those things happen to me in the same day, I’ll be able to sleep happily tonight.  After the homemade lasagna, that is.

(ETA of rockclimbing pics: unknown.  current status: MIA.  response: draft letter of condolenses for next of kin)

I’ll actually talk about the real world as opposed to self-righteous idealism when I get home tonight.  Keep eating free cheese.

edit: I’m tired, and therefore a liar.  stories tomorrow.


9/11: Lest we forget

I realize that this is a day late, and for that I’m sorry.

Yesterday I had a great conversation with Jenn about the great tragedy that 9/11 has become. The tragedy is that honest, hard working American citizens are STILL hung up on something that happened 5 years ago.  The USA has been turned completely upside down because a few terrorists got exactly what they wanted, they caused the strongest nation in the world to curl up into a little ball and lead its citizens into a brave new world of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.  Let me make myself clear:  9/11 was a terrible thing.  Roughly 3000 people losts their lives to a bunch of sick nutjobs whose twisted mental state lead them to believe that killing thousands of innocent people was the unquestionably right thing to do. It is a day that should be remembered for those who were murdered.

One thing 9/11 is not is proof that those crazy terrorists are going to kill us all. Let’s put things in perspective.

  • The estimated number of deaths attributable to obesity each year in the US is approximately 280,000 
  • The annual death rate from traffic accidents hit a record low (per person) in 2004 at 42,800 deaths
  • 30,622 people committed suicide in 2001. Even if you attribute all of those suicides to 9/11, the article goes on to say that suicide made up 1.3% of the total deaths that year.  29% were from heart diseases and 23% were from cancer
  • The tsunami that hit Indonesia in 2005 killed over 200,000 people
  • The US Department of state reports that 56 US citizens were killed worldwide as a result of “incidents of terrorism” (you can also check out the entire report)

All of these things cause way more death and harm than any terrorist could ever hope to.  I wouldn’t be surprised if terrorists secretly worship Ronald McDonald. Yet 9/11 still has people worked up into a frenzy, but obesity is shrugged off when it kills almost 100 times more people each year than 9/11 did.

A poster on slashdot, a geek news site, ran some numbers and came to the conclusion that the average person is less likely to be killed by terrorism than they would have of winning the lottery if they played once a week for 52 years.  Now admittedly random people on the internet and their calculations are not to be trusted, but I’d say it puts things in the right ballpark.

An analysis of the recent liquid bomb scare came to the conclusion that it was completely unfeasable for anyone to do significant damage to a plane using TATP, one of the alleged explosives in the plot. The responses to these events by governments and people around the world have simply been shocking.

Anyways, that’s my rant.  Feel free to delete the past post from your brain. I should include the disclaimer: This is my opinion, it is not fact.  It is not necessarily right or valid in any way.  I got my figures from the internet, which is a dubious source at best.  I’m also an uneducated middle-class guy. Take all of this with a grain of salt.


Alex: 1 – Food: 0

There’s only one way to overcome your fears.

It’s even mildly delicious. While the water was boiling and the sauce was warming, I was being struck by creative bursts from all sides.  Chunks of sausage!  Minced onions and peppers!  Wait… that’s it! Meat and vegetables! It’s all so simple.  So terrifyingly, beautifully simple.

And kev, in answer to your question, yes, I do have a window.


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