Birthday

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blackhedge-cropThe 31st year of my life was an eventful one, even though it certainly doesn’t seem like that if you just look at the paltry output on this website; I only published five articles since my last yearly summary. Among other things, I have left Taiwan and returned to Sweden, which includes finding a new home and settling in. I have also finished all the courses of my master’s degree program and now “only” have my thesis left. I’m also trying to convert Chinese from a very time-consuming hobby into something I can live off.

Apart from this, there have also been other changes in my life, big and small, and in this post I’m going to discuss them briefly, as well as the general state of things. To make it more accessible, I have divided the content into several parts. If you want to see what I wrote last year, you can find that year’s birthday report here.

Social life

The most significant change was my moving back to Sweden from Taiwan. Zoe and I have bought an apartment in Stockholm, and we both like it and the surroundings quite a lot. It also feels great to have put the long-distance part of our relationship behind us and to be able to look forward. Returning to Sweden wasn’t easy since we were only renting a small room for the first couple of months and, added to that, ran into some other problems, but since we moved into our new apartment, things have gone swimmingly.

I will miss my friends in Taiwan, I enjoyed all aspects of my life there immensely, but this is still where I belong. I haven’t fully grown used to living in Stockholm, bu in general, all is well on the social front.

Education

My final semester in Taiwan was as interesting as the ones that came before it (I have already written about this elsewhere), but during this time, I also started doing my own research. Or, to be more accurate, I started trying to figure out what I wanted to research, and once I had decided, to read up on the relevant books and articles. My area of research is tone perception and how it can be trained in adult learners of Mandarin Chinese. After returning to Sweden, things have been going slowly, but at least they haven’t been standing still. I should be able to do start doing actual research fairly soon!

Apart from this, I don’t study much. I use Chinese on a daily basis, write about it and most other things I do are related to Chinese in some way, so I still learn, but without focused studying. Since I launched Hacking Chinese Challenges, however, I have been able to spend more time on my own studying and that feels great. I hope I will be able to keep enjoying Chinese even if I work with the language full time.

Work

Even though I haven’t finished my degree yet, I still focus much more on work than studying at the moment. All work I’m doing is related to Chinese in some way or another. Apart from Hacking Chinese, where I spend most my time, I also do some private tutoring, translation work and freelance writing for About.com and Skritter. For Skritter, I also do Chinese language support and some other things.

On the whole, the mix is quite good, but I wish I could spend more time on my own projects. The reason I don’t is not for a lack of ability or opportunity, I’m simply too slow and avoid taking risks, preferring to stick to what I’m doing and know works already. This is something I will have to work on if I want to focus more on what I really like doing!

Creative input/output

Both creative input and output have been dismal most of the year, with a few brighter periods when I read and listened to a lot of books (I finished six in January and almost as many in February) and where I worked a little bit on my novel. Still, I haven’t produced much and I still don’t have a draft of the novel ready. Creativity is something that has been put on the back burner for too long. My recent frenzy of book reading is one sign of this, but I hope to be able to find the time and energy to actually create things, too.

Physical activity/status

While living in Taiwan, I was able to practise as much gymnastics as I wanted, which was a lot. Apart from studying, I had few other obligations and enjoyed this immensely. I competed in gymnastics for the second time in May and it went slightly better than last time. It’s still on an amateur level, of course, I started just a few years ago, but it’s still fun. If someone asks if I’m an old gymnast, I usually reply that I’m old and a gymnast, which is quite different. Since returning to Sweden, I have mostly gone to the gym, along with some jogging. Not much, in other words. Until recently, that is.

Since the beginning of February, I have been able to practise gymnastics again, which is great fun. I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy it. It’s only two days a week, about two hours each time, but the facility is excellent and so are the instructors. I have also started helping out with classes for some of the youngest gymnasts. All this, combined with some strength training at home, adds up to a decent routine. I need to do this for a few more weeks to really settle in, but I’m optimistic.

Towards a brighter future

Things are going well and I’m happy with my life. I need to make sure to not let my education slip (make too slow progress on my thesis and fail to study Chinese for my own sake) and see if I can’t allocate some time to creative output. Writing this post made these two things very clear, so now it’s just a matter of doing it. Let’s see what i have to say a year from now!

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Today I reach one of life’s predefined milestones: since I was born, the earth has completed a number of revolutions around the sun equal to three times the number of fingers on the human hands. Is this worth celebrating? Probably not, but it’s an opportunity as good as as any to write a little bit about what’s been going on since my previous birthday post. Since I have been notoriously bad at writing anything on this blog (I have only published nine posts in the previous twelve months), it feels like I owe the internet a summary.

bowtie-600According to popular psychology, I ought to experience some kind of crisis right now. Thirty is roughly the age where people start asking questions like: What am I doing with my life? Is this what I really want to do? Is this all there is to it? I have so far failed to experience any of this, but that might be because my life cycle is a bit delayed compared to the average. Sure, I have a degree and so on, but I’m still studying (which reminds me that I have forgotten to write about last semester) and haven’t got a proper job. Sure, I have a girlfriend with whom things are going well, but I don’t have a house, a cat nor any kids. All in due time. Perhaps the crisis will catch up with me later, but I don’t really think it will. I have proved quite immune to crises before.

In fact, I feel very optimistic about the future and feel that I know exactly what I’m doing. I might have been able to get to where I am now a few years earlier if I had made different choices earlier in my life, but since I feel that most of what I have done is useful in some way and I have enjoyed most of it so far, I don’t think this is a problem. In accordance with earlier posts, I will talk a little bit about what’s been going on in different areas since last time. Because most things have stayed roughly the same, I have less to say than usual and will try to sum it up briefly for anyone who is interested.

Education

I’m still in the same master’s degree program at National Taiwan Normal University here in Taipei. I’m now past the time when I worried about courses being too difficult or time-consuming and feel that I can relax and invest some energy elsewhere. This is great, because I’m going to need all that time to be able to focus properly on my research. I haven’t decided on a topic yet, but I’m fairly close to doing so and might write more about that shortly. It’s related to perception and production of Chinese speech sounds and how to learn/teach these at any rate, so no surprises there.

Hacking Chinese

The main reason I haven’t written much here is that I feel I get more out of writing articles on Hacking Chinese, a website about how to learn Chinese. The site has been expanding rapidly ever since its inception in 2010 and seems to keep growing at a healthy pace, even if I only spend a limited amount of time and no money on the project. Providing quality content once a week and sharing it on social media has generated about half a million page loads in 2013 alone. The more I think about Hacking Chinese, the more certain I become that this isn’t just a side project, it has the potential of becoming a serious job. There are many, many different paths to try and you are likely to see some of them surface in the coming year, some of them directly related to Hacking Chinese, others only indirectly so.

Social life

Things are moving steadily onwards and not much has changed since last year. This is good, though, because I have now been together with Zoe for more than two years and things are going better than expected. Sure, all relationships have their ups and downs, and don’t work smoothly all the time, but ours certainly looks a lot more stable than ever. My hope is that it will settle down properly once I get back to Sweden this summer when my life abroad will be mostly over, at least for the foreseeable future. It might prove tricky to find an apartment in Stockholm immediately, but I’m not too worried about the future. If you happen to have a nice apartment in Stockholm to rent to us starting this autumn, let me know!

Creativity input/output

I have stuck to mostly reading in Chinese (I read 25 books in Chinese last year), but I have also listened to a few audio books in English and my appetite for reading more is growing. I have also continued the work on my first novel, which should have a finished draft relatively soon. My hope is to have a version ready for other people’s eyes (although not publicly) at the end of this semester. Creativity is an important part of my life and I can feel that if I don’t have enough of it, I’m not really happy. I need to find a way to incorporate creative output in my weekly schedule even if I’m busy with other things! I have some ideas for how to do this, but more about this later.

Physical activity/status

I’m still practising gymnastics more than a dozen hours a week and love it. Sure, gymnastics can be very frustrating at times, but it’s such a beautiful sport in that it incorporates so many different skills and abilities, as well as raw strength, endurance and flexibility. I competed once last year and it went considerably better than I thought (I earned two individual bronze medals, one silver and one team gold). The next competition is fast approaching (about two months from now) and I’m doing my best to be better prepared this time. I also realise that I will (probably) never have such a good opportunity to practise gymnastics again, so I’m trying to make the most of it.

Towards a brighter future

As you can see, not much has happened that wasn’t predictable last year. I have done more of the same things, which is satisfactory in one way because this is what I like doing, but I can also feel that I want to move further faster. I’m quite sure that the direction I’m moving in is the right one and I’m also sure I go about it roughly the right way, but I think I’m too cautious, resulting in a slower pace than desired. This feeling has been with me for many, many years and I suspect that it will stay with me for a long time still, perhaps forever. I simply want to learn more, write more, read more, socialise more, practise more and so on, but there’s not enough time to do everything. It’s this feeling that keeps me going.

Even if this year’s birthday post was a bit boring, I’m quite sure that next year’s will be more interesting. Even if I probably won’t graduate before then, I will still finish my courses and move back to Sweden to do my research. This will bring a lot of changes and I hope that most of them will be to the better. It’s also likely that several projects will at least partially come to fruition this year and even though I certainly don’t think that all of them will succeed, I’m confident that some of the will. I will try to write a little bit more here, both about said projects and other things, so stay tuned!

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Time flies, as they say. Another year has just gone by. As usual, I will take the opportunity to step back a little bit further than usual and look back at the twenty ninth year of my life. I do this partly because I think it’s rewarding to look at what I’m doing (or perhaps more importantly, what I’m not doing), but also because it offers a concise summary of what I’ve been up to for anyone who is interested.

If you have no idea who I am, but still want to figure out what I have been doing since 2007, reading my annual birthday articles is without doubt the quickest way, perhaps in combination with the very short biography on the about page (updated earlier this week).

Therefore, I will mostly follow the pattern from previous  years, but I will of course only focus on the important things; this isn’t reporting for the sake of reporting, after all. I want to point out that the topics below aren’t sorted according to relative importance, but are instead rather arbitrarily arranged.

Education

This is the area where things have changed the most since last year. First and foremost, I have graduated. I now have a degree for teaching English and Chinese in Swedish upper-secondary school (high school). For some reason, I actually haven’t written anything about this on this website, but I don’t consider the details very important. I have graduated and that’s enough.

Secondly, I have moved back to Taiwan, starting a master’s degree in teaching Chinese as a second language. I’m doing this supported by the Taiwan Scholarship, which roughly covers all my expenses here in Taiwan for two years. This is a program mainly designed for native speakers, but which also accepts international students. I plan to finish in 2014, possibly not including thesis submission and defence. I have done pretty well so far.

Hacking Chinese

The main reason I have only written fifteen articles on this website since last year is because I have invested hundreds of hours in Hacking Chinese. This has paid off to the extent that the website is growing quite popular, but it’s still more a hobby than a job, even though this is something I hope to change in the future. I’m very happy with how Hacking Chinese has developed recently.

Hacking Chinese takes up more time than I spend on the website itself. For instance. I have written a book which I hope will be published fairly soon. I have not decided exactly how to continue, but the likelihood is that I will split what I have written into several smaller volumes and publish them one by one over the coming year, editing and polishing as I go along.

Social life

Leaving Sweden again is complicated in many senses and I’m sure those of you who have lived abroad realise this. However, there is a huge difference between leaving this time and when I left for Taiwan the first time in 2008. It might seem like four years time isn’t much, but I have changed a lot (aged, if you will). I was never quite adventurous in the first place and I have grown even less so. I’m still very interested in discovering new things, but not in the physical sense of the word.

This means that leaving Sweden is more difficult this time. Last winter, I met Zoe, who has become more and more important in my life ever since. This change is somewhat peculiar, because it hasn’t been a gradual thing. Instead, our relationship has deepened in quantum leaps, each propelled by some kind of crisis. A major one, but neither the first nor the last, was my leaving for Taiwan. I didn’t expect our relationship to survive that, but it did. And if I didn’t think it would survive in the future, I wouldn’t write about it here.

I also leave behind a group of friends that have grown more and more important, partly because I realise how difficult it is to find friends of the same calibre anywhere else. This doesn’t mean that I can’t find friends or that I don’t value the friendship with people here in Taiwan, it just means that few people can fulfil as many roles simultaneously as those I have in Sweden. That includes social, creative, intellectual and many other aspects I consider important in life.

Creativity output/input

My creativity has been fairly stagnant since I (almost) finished the draft of my novel a year ago, which followed the publication of Magneter och mirakel in 2011. This is largely because I have been to busy with learning Chinese. I have switched most input (reading and listening) to Chinese-related content and most output towards either writing in Chinese writing about learning Chinese in English.

Thus, I feel a bit undernourished when it comes to creativity, something I have already started to change. I just received a pile of books I want to read for their content and not their language (although they are all in Chinese). I also feel a strong urge to start writing creatively again, although that might have to wait until the summer. Creativity levels are on the rise, but from a very low level. This is partly the effect of not being surrounded by people for whom creative output is a normal part of life.

Physical activity/status

One thing I didn’t expect when leaving was that I would spend more time practising than I have done ever before. Sure, I’ve been through some fairly rigorous periods of practising swimming, diving and other sports, but I don’t think any of that can match the time I currently spend on practising gymnastics. I have joined the university team and practice 15-20 hours a week. I have lots of movie clips, but I will write a separate post about this soon and will link to it from this article once it’s ready.

Apart from this, I’m also close to reaching a long-term goal related to body weight. My weight has been fairly stable at around 78-80 kg for the past six or seven years, but since I practice only body-weight sports (gymnastics in particular), weight matters a lot. My goal has been to weigh around 75 kg while retaining the muscle mass I had when weighing 80 kg.

Needless to say, this is very hard to achieve if I practice 20 hours a week. Losing weight and gaining strength at the same time requires some serious discipline. I have failed this time and time again over the past three or four years, but now I have almost succeeded. My average for the past ten days was 75.6 kg. Why have I succeeded this time, while failing my previous dozen or so attempts? I don’t know, to be honest, but I will probably write more about it once I actually stabilise at 75.

Towards a brighter future

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony (Gandhi). I am happy because I feel that what I’m doing now is very close to what I really want to do. I study the subjects I want to study in a language I want to learn and I can handle it. I am on my way to acquiring the degree I want and need to continue doing what I love doing in the future. Even though I’m physically separated from people who matter to me, they are still there.

The only area I’m not happy about is creativity, but as it’s said in Chinese, 月有陰晴圓缺, the moon waxes and wanes. This is perhaps a basic property of life itself and might be only for the good. I do need creativity to be happy, but focusing more on some things automatically entail focusing less on other things. Everything has its time and place.

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27 and counting

A year ago, I had just moved from Taipei in northern Taiwan to Gaoxiong in the south. I spend almost all my time learning Chinese in some way, sometimes in class, sometimes with friends and sometimes on my own. Sweden felt very far away and graduation even more distant. I had decided to go home to Sweden in the summer, but I had really no idea what that really meant; I had lived abroad for a long time and felt quite used to that.

Today, I’ve been back in Sweden for what feels like an eternity. Suddenly, I’m not going to graduate many years from now, but probably after the autumn semester this year. I’ve left Taiwan far behind geographically, but a significant part of my heart is still there. I’m still studying Chinese, but the only thing that my life now has in common with my life a year ago is the amount of available time and my general satisfaction with the overall situation.

Explaining what has changed since last time I celebrated my birthday would be an incredibly complex task and something I intend to do in more detail later, but not on this website and probably not in English (I’m actually planning to write another novel). Living in Taiwan has changed and affected me in so many ways that it feels daunting even to start writing about it. Douglas Adams once wrote that one of the problems with travelling is that the soul travels more slowly than the body, leaving the souls of some people hanging in the void between destinations, thus leading to much anxiety and heart-ache. This is roughly what I feel, even though I would like to add that I consider most of these things to have had an overwhelmingly positive effect.

Personal life
Education
Creativity
General
Epilogue

Personal life

I’ve already talked briefly about what has happened since last time, but I feel that a slightly more detailed summary would be appropriate. As I said, last year I had just moved to Gaoxiong, where I lived until early July when I went back to Sweden. That semester started out somewhat uncertainly, because I had just left many friends in the north and was again facing a new situation, albeit with some familiar faces. The choice to move south again turned out to be a very good one. I think the spring of 2010 is probably one of the best in my life and will perhaps remain so for quite a while. The were of course many reasons, but being able to study Chinese wholeheartedly in something close to the perfect environment, together with spending perhaps too much time with a very nice girl were probably the main contributors. I also kept maintaining several friendships that will probably last for a while, regardless of if I move back east or not.

Of course, everything didn’t go smoothly. I had to go to Hong Kong to renew my visa, which was a lot more unsettling than it sounds, although it was also nice in some regards (Hong Kong is a nice city and the company was quite good). Leaving Taiwan was also something of the hardest things I’ve ever done and nothing else have been even remotely close to being as emotionally disrupting. I haven’t written about that properly, but I did write a short post just before leaving which discusses some aspects. Most photos of my life in Taiwan are on Facebook, but those published here are tagged with photo, so they should be quite easy to find. Here are some from Gaoxiong, 2010.

If disregard the loss of Taiwan for a moment, returning to Sweden was great. I went on vacation to Latvia with most of my relatives, most of which I hadn’t met for almost a year (a more detailed account is available, but only in Chinese). Back in Sweden, I lived with my parents for a couple of months before finding a new apartment in a student corridor here in Linköping (a corridor is simply a number of one-room apartments using a common kitchen and living room). I still live here and I like it a lot.

One of the biggest differences between living in Taiwan and Sweden is that things are much less turbulent here. I can’t think of many interesting things to say about my personal life after moving back, whereas I could spend ages discussing my impressions of Taiwan. Things are steadily moving along, perhaps astoundingly well considering doubts raised about my education (more about that further down). I have kept as much as I can from Taiwan, meaning that I still study Chinese, try to keep in touch with friends and spend a considerably time with Taiwanese students living in Sweden. However, there have been no overwhelming changes for me personally since I returned to Sweden, so let’s move on to something more concrete where a lot of things have happened very fast: education.

Education

The first half of last year didn’t contain much worth noticing education-wise, since I just continued studying Chinese like the previous three semesters. The big changes came during the autumn when I changed goals somewhat. Before that, my goal was to first become a teacher of English and Swedish, and perhaps then move on. After coming back to Sweden, various things made me realise that Chinese was more valuable than I thought and Swedish was more boring than I anticipated. This made me start looking into substituting Chinese for Swedish, shortening my education with at least three semesters. I’m now on my way towards doing that and everything seems to work out just fine.

During last autumn, I launched a new website for learning Chinese, called Hacking Chinese. A lot of time has been invested into this project, but I’m still not ready to launch the site officially (this is probably the first time I mention in publicly). It’s meant to be a site about how to learn Chinese efficiently, something I think is seriously lacking in textbooks and Chinese courses. The final aim is a book, supported by some kind of online community. The website currently features around thirty articles and there are a dozen or so in the pipeline. Apart from this, I’ve also written about my overall language learning strategy.

Creativity

Regarding creativity, little has been happening in terms of finished products, but I have still been working quite hard. I have written a significant part of my upcoming novel and I’m about to publish my big role-playing project Magneter och mirakel. I’ve also been working on a new version of our story-telling game Nostalgia (the new edition will be re-written from scratch in English). As mentioned briefly above, I’m also gathering and ideas for a novel about Taiwan, which will be something pseudo-autobiographical with a focus on impressions and thoughts rather than true events.

General

The first big thing in the “general” category is my new 101-in-1001 list, which should give people a good idea of what I’m doing and what I plan to be doing in the coming years. Most things I consider important are there, so check it out.

Last year, I had a category for media, but since I’ve read only a handful of books and watched even fewer movies, I don’t feel that’s motivated this time. However, I do want to mention the Hugo Award novels for 2010, which I read and reviewed. Most of them were quite good, so have a look here if you’re interested.

When it comes to sports, I practised diving diligently during the autumn and actually partook in a competition (Aquarapid International 2010). I also started practising gymnastics, which has turned out to be even more fun than diving, probably because of the wider diversity of exercises. I feel more physically able now than I have ever done in my life, which of course feels great. Sadly, I had to quit diving in early 2011, but that only means I can focus more on gymnastics and other related activities.

I’ve also done a fair amount of cubing, solving some new puzzles such as Square-1, 3x3x5 and rhombic dodecahedron (check my cubing page if you’re really interested). Apart from that, I also explored fewest moves and blindfolded cubing in more detail, starting to look into multi blind. I’ve also steadily progress with ordinary speedcubing, now having a best single solve of 21.49 and an average of 12 of 28.19.

Here are three more or less arbitrarily chose articles that were published during the past year that I consider important or interesting:

The labyrinthine dictionary survival guide
How I handle difficult decisions
Bedevilled books

Onwards, towards a brighter future

So, another year has come to a close, and most things seem to be moving in the right direction, especially regarding education and physical exercising. The first half of the year was saturated with emotional upheavals, so perhaps the steadiness of the second half was not so bad, even though I feel that it might be time to move on.

Leaving Taiwan is one of the major changes in my life, which means that much has happened or changed since last year. I don’t know what I will write next year, but my guess is that things will continue roughly like this for the coming year. Big changes might be on the agenda, but most of them (such as moving back to Taiwan), will not take place within one year. Even if I don’t plan to do anything spectacular, I hope that the coming year will provide me with an excellent springboard and a solid foundation for future adventures. Right now, though, what remains is just to wish myself a happy birthday…

…and there was much rejoicing!

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Believe it or not, but today I’ve reach the respectable age of 26, which is, as the mathematically gifted will already have figured out, closer to 50 than birth. As usual, I’ll take the opportunity to go through what has happened since last year. As it turns out, it’s quite a lot, but I can safely say that last year’s moving to Taiwan for the first time is hard to beat. For your convenience, I’ve divided this tale into different parts.

Personal life
Education
Creativity
Media
Website
General
Epilogue

Personal life

I started my 26th year in life in Gaoxiong, Taiwan (having moved there only a few weeks before). During the spring term, I spent an awful lot of time studying Chinese at Wenzao, using a kamikaze approach to learning the language. However, since I wanted to apply for a scholarship, I applied for a real university degree program at NTNU. The decision to stay in Taiwan another year was not easy (going to Dubai wasn’t a serious idea, even though some people thought it was) and was further complicated when I didn’t get the scholarship. During my stay in Gaoxiong, I started role-playing with some a couple of foreigner friends, something which boosted my motivation to keep working on Magneter och mirakel.

I spent the summer in Sweden, working, relaxing and trying to recharge my batteries for another year abroad. I left Sweden again in the beginning of September, heading for Linkou outside Taipei. My new life in Taiwan started out in a catastrophic manner, but got a little bit better after I found somewhere to live. Bad class management from the university added pressure, but worked my way up slowly during the first week. I had lots other problems, but after a month, I felt settled in. However, life in the north was a roller-coaster ride, with amazing classmates and friends, but with everything else lacking. I finally decided to move back to Gaoxiong, where I’m currently living.

My life has also been documented in pictures, some of them on Facebook, which I joined in late 2009. Here are some of the pictures published on this website over the year:

Gaoxiong everyday life in pictures
The bright side of campus
Miscellaneous pictures 1
Miscellaneous pictures 2

Education

Even though education has always been important to me, I think it’s even more important here in Taiwan (after all, that’s why I came here in the first place). Since last year, I’ve finished two semesters, one at Wenzao and another at NTNU. Apart from this, I’ve spent a decent amount of time learning Chinese in other ways. Naturally, I’ve improved a lot and my progress can be followed through my proficiency reports (number 4 describes my starting position and number 10 my current level). See my studying Chinese page for more.

In speaking, I’ve gone from being able to communicate to being able to communicate more or less fluently as long as I’m familiar with the topic. I mostly need to correct my language, not learn it from the start. In listening, I’ve reached  a level where I can understand fairly difficult Chinese if it’s not too fast, and I’ve recently felt that I can partake in social chatting even if it’s not aimed at me specifically. In writing, I’ve developed from struggling to make myself understood to being able to write more or less formal Chinese, even though I still struggle with word usage (i.e. using a word that means roughly the right thing, but in the wrong context). In reading, I’ve progressed from being able get the general idea of stories for elementary school children to being able to do the same for ordinary newspapers. I’ve roughly tripled my vocabulary (around 10 000 words now) and can handle most texts apart from very formal or literary ones. In short, I’ve learnt a lot, even though it doesn’t feel like that since I’m so close to the learning process.

I’ve also taken the time to actually write about the learning process and the result is a number of articles pertaining to learning Chinese or to learning languages in general. Here are some of the more important ones:

Chinese regarded as a multi-layered web
Learning to pronounce Mandarin Chinese
Learning Chinese using ZDT’s interval filter
Don’t go abroad for your first year of language studies
He did there confound all the languages of the Earth
Learning Chinese isn’t as hard as you think
The kamikaze approanch to learning Chinese

Creativity

This area of my life is perhaps the one that has been most stagnant during the past year (along with physical activities). Sure, I did finish the first part of my novel and I have planned for the rest, but it’s very far from completion. Together with a friend I also launched a new text-based role-playing game with the same setting as the novel, although we have only played a dozen or so sessions. And yes, I have started thinking seriously about the setting of that story, but to be honest, I thought that I would be a lot farther down the road now. During the summer, I started writing articles to the new version of Haragada, even though that project is also far from completed.

Still, I have accomplished one thing which didn’t require that much effort (most of the work was done from 2004 to 2008 or so): I have finished writing Magneter och mirakel. I have some feedback that has to be attended to, but I can say that I’m finished with the game I started writing almost six years ago. This is very important for me and I will write more about it later. The game will not be published any time soon, however, because I need illustrations and layout to do that, but the text is completed.

Media

As usual, I haven’t only written things, I have also consumed a fair amount of media, mostly in the form of books. Since I’ve already talked about the individual books/films in their respectve reviews, I’ll just provide the best books and films I read during my 26th year in life. They are sorted roughly in order of importance.

Books (out of 61 in all)
China Miéville – The City & the City
Mark Lynas – Six Degrees
Cormac McCarthy – The Road
Tove Jansson – Vem ska trösta knyttet? and Sent i november
The Umbrella Academy – The Apocalypse Suite and Dallas
Salman Rushdie – The Satanic Verses and Shalimar the Clown
Matthew Glass – Ultimatum
Aldous Huxley – Brave New World
Connie Willis – Bellwether

Films (out of 18 in all)
Cape No. 7
Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain
Chinatown
City of God

Website

Snigel.nu saw some major changes as well. A new design was implemented during the summer and I spent lots of time creating a more organised Chinese section. I reached a total number of 1000 posts in July, which is incredible. Posting frequency has decreased a little bit since then, but is now on the rise again. I also took the time to tag all posts, making it a lot easier to find similar or related posts.

Important content has been added mainly through the Chinese section, but also in a series of reflections on life, literature and the pursuit of dreams. Here are some of my favourites:

The backside of perfectionism
The magic coffee shop
Unique reading experiences
Role-playing in English

General

There are some things I’d like to bring up that doesn’t really fit in the above categories and doesn’t deserve their own. Firstly, I haven’t spent very much time on any specific sport during last year. Sure, I’ve kept in shape and had a good time, but I haven’t reached any of my goals. Recently, I have started working towards them in a more structured fashion, but I’m still far from most of them. Next year, I hope to be able to show some real results. Perhaps I should note that I’ve decreased in weight from around 79 kilos last year to about 75 now.

Since last summer, I’ve spent quite a lot of time with Rubik’s cube. I’ve learnt a lot, although I still regard this as something I do when I’m on the bus, waiting for someone or similar situations (sometimes I do spend high-quality time on the cube, but not that often). For instance, I’ve lowered my personal best for the ordinary cube to 33 seconds, learnt to solve the 4×4 and the megaminx. I can also solve the 3×3 blindfolded about fifty percent of the time.

Epilogue

As opposed to last year, there were no major changes in my 26th year in this world, I merely continued doing what I did last year. In some areas I’ve done well (studying), others not so well (writing, physical training). I’ve also spent another year in Taiwan and generally speaking, life as been very good to me. I hope and trust it will continue to be so in the future, even after I go back to Sweden. Recently, I’ve felt a surge of energy and motivation to do get more from life, and it’s surfing this wave I enter my 27th year. I’m hopeful and confident it will carry me wherever I want to go, regardless of where I happen to be in the world! So, happy birthday to me…

…and there was much rejoicing!

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It might be hard to believe, but it seems like I made it through another year in this world, and, as tradition nowadays dictates, I’m going to write about what has happened since last time I celebrated this annual anniversary. It seems to be the case every year, but this one also brought a lot of important changes to my life and more than ever I’m on my way somewhere. I might not have a clearly defined goal in life, but I’m on my way there anyway and I feel like I’m going in the right direction (if not geographically, then in a more abstract meaning of the word).

As I predicted last year, this time it will be much easier for English-speaking people to follow what’s happened, because it’s all in English instead of a confusing blend of two languages. Below, I’ve roughly sorted what’s happened into a few categories, but within each category, chronology should be consistent.To get a more detailed overview, please check the following monthly reports:

February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
January

Personal
On the personal front, a lot of things has happened. The beginning of the year mostly progressed in a predictable manner, except for the lurking possibility of going abroad to study Chinese, which I also did last September (see my Taiwan category for more text than anybody could possible be interested in reading). It’s hard to tell what kinds of effects this has on my personality, but it’s definitely humbling to be a foreigner in another country and immerse myself in an ancient culture completely different from what I’m used to. Here, I also met Vanessa, who means a lot to me and who has affected my way of thinking about many different aspects of life.

My moving to Taiwan has also brought a lot into focus at home, especially the importance of family and friends. I’m not actively missing home, but with thousands of kilometres between myself and my home in Sweden, I realise how much certain people mean to me. For the most part, this is a good thing, though, and I’ve never regretted going to Taiwan. If I planned to stay here forever, then it might be a bit sad, but I’ve no plans to do that yet.

Physical
To be honest, for the most part, my physical activities remain the same, although I was forced to stop diving for almost five months due to the lack of a diving pool where I lived last semester (this has changed, though). I have continued exploring the world of bodyweight exercises and hand-balancing, and even though I think I’m fitter now than ever, I can feel no qualitative changes. I’m very satisfied with this part of my life now and intend to continue in such a spirit.

I’ve also added a few new hobbies, such as unicycling, juggling and volleyball, even if all three of them can be considered to be put on ice at the moment.

Education
It’s still Chinese and not much else on the menu. Of ourse, I always try to educate myself whenever possible, but more than last year, language studies have been in focus. Through a series of proficiency reports (1, 2, 3, 4) I’ve tried to describe my gradual learning of Chinese, and even though I still have a long way to go, I’ve reached a level where I can talk with people here about most things I find interesting, albeit in a somewhat limited fashion.

Apart from that, I continue using English, which is useful for my future career in many ways. Not only am I now used to writing in English, but I’ve also had the opportunity to teach English both privately and in a small class. The biggest advantage with this is that it proves yet again that teacher of some sort is what I want to be, because I really enjoy it!

Creativity
Although a lot happened last year, I produced little in way of creative writing. Sure, I have my novel going and Magneter och mirakel is much closer to completion than it was a year ago, but I’m still far from done with any of these projects. However, seeing three projects in print still makes me proud, even though they were mainly the result of work put in earlier.

In addition to this, Antioch has officially been shut down, and since it’s been a great channel for creative output over the years, I anticipate some sort of building up of energy that I plan to use on the projects mentioned above.

Media
I looked back on last year’s reviews and found, to my surprise, that no books and no films managed to acquire the highest grade of five snails (last year I listed four books). Out of 53 books and 29 films reviewed, this seems a bit odd, although I’ve come across quite a few works that have been close to earning five snails. All these are highly recommended, although it pains me a little that none reaches all the way.

For books: The Cat in the Hat, Three Men in a Boat, Look to Windward, Oryx and Crake, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union and, finally, Snow.

For films:  Citizen Kane, Memento, The Manchurian Candidate and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Apart from this, I’ve also listened to every issue of The Economist since May last year, mostly in order to educate myself about the world and to improve my English. I spend roughly five hours on this every week and so far I think it’s worth it; it’s become an integral part of my weekly routine.

Online
Apart from the shutting down of Antioch mentioned above, I’ve also withdrawn almost completely from Rollspel.nu, a Swedish role-playing site I was heavily involved with earlier. My online activities are nowadays mostly limited to chatting with friends, research and studying.

Regarding this website, nothing important has changed, although something is on the way. The site looks and functions roughly the same way now as it did a year ago. However, I have launched another blog to improve my Chinese writing ability. I have also written one fairly serious article entitled In the Country of the Blind, describing in detail my near blindness on one eye.

General
Arriving in Taiwan, it dawned on me that the 101-in-1001 list was impractical and stupid (the list itself isn’t bad, but the combination of a serious project and studying abroad is). I’m here to learn Chinese and a lot of things on the list would mean that I have to focus on something I might as well do in Sweden. The project is put on hold. I still completed a number of items, most importantly a spontaneous marathon, which I’m still proud of. To replace the 101-in-1001 list, I decided to create a project page, along with continuing the system of monthly reports.

Epilogue
My moving to Taiwan and all that this entails is by far the most important thing that has happened to me this year. Many other things have of course also had impact on my life, but compared to studying abroad, they are all minuscule in scale. It is as yet unclear what the future holds in this regard; only time can tell. Overall, it’s been a good year in almost every regard. I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Happy birthday to me…

…and there was much rejoicing!

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24 years survival

Today, I have the pleasure to announce that I have indeed survived in this world for 24 years. Like I did last time, I will try to tot up what has transpired during the year. This is not an evaluation or assessment, like my currently ongoing monthly reports, but rather a summary of what important events have taken place during the previous twelve months. I will try to mention things in an order of approximate personal importance, although I have of course omitted most of the things which occurred. I have also tried to group together similar events for increased readability.

Regrettably, there is an inevitable mix of articles in English and Swedish, but that cannot be helped. Next year, I presume that everything will be in English, this year being a transition from one language to another.

Personal
The single most important event of last year, the breaking up with Alva, meant that I have spent more time alone than I have ever done since before I was fifteen (I actually had to look back and count, but it is true). This has been hard and educational at the same time. With hindsight, I am absolutely convinced that it was a good thing that we broke up, especially since we are on excellent terms today. She is still, without any serious challenge, my closest and most high-valued friend, and I am indeed satisfied that things have worked out as nicely as they undoubtedly have.

However, the loneliness was unbearable at times, and sparked a wish to move someplace else where I would interact daily with other people. During the summer, my trip to Falun, although only a partial success, further highlighted the need for social interaction and personal flexibility, and a few months later, I moved to a student corridor close to the university. On the whole, I am now satisfied with my life, and I have had a lot of time and energy to invest in various areas. I think that I have learnt much from the previous year, even though it did not feel like that at times.

Physical
Perhaps most importantly, I have practiced diving on a regular basis for roughly one year (spring and autumn reports). It is by far the activity most suited to my personality I have yet encountered, and I still practice as much as I can and enjoy it immensely. It has also led me to another hobby, namely hand-balancing. More minor achievements on the physical front, include a scuba-diving certificate and having learnt much about nutrition and thus achieved more control over my diet, especially in recent months.

Education
Having had my eyes on Chinese for a long time, I finally found out that a one-year course is now available at the university, so naturally I applied (and was accepted). Studying a beginner language full-time is challenging and entertaining, but I enjoy it fully and will apply for one year of additional Chinese in Taiwan (article on the way).

Creative
Although I am still not satisfied with my creative output, I have managed to accomplish several things. My freelancing project Tornet mot stjärnorna is completed, which is much more important to me than it might seem. Furthermore, a joint project named Kaleidoskop has been launched to promote my and my friends’ creative output. This year, I have also taken a big step towards completing my own role-playing game, Magneter och mirakel, as well as done substantial progress on a game called Nostalgi, a project jointly written with Martin.

Literature
As usual, I do not only write, but also consume literature in various ways (audio books included), having read and reviewed roughly 60 books since February last year. I have come across four works of fiction that merits full grades, and one of them, Flowers for Algernon, is, without doubt, the one novel that has moved me most deeply. The other three are: The Master and Margarita by Michail Bulgakov, Pappan och havet by Tove Jansson and Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.

Online
Although Snigel.nu has not changed very much superficially, a restructuring of the website was performed during the summer, with the result of my beginning to write in English. The site has also migrated to a new server, which has kept downtime since September to an all-time low. I have also written several fairly serious articles about various subjects, including, but not limited to: Carcassonne, audio books, long novels, photographing, postponements and burdened minds. I have also withdrawn from the management of Rollspel.nu, a Swedish role-playing site. This has freed a hefty amount of time as well as cancelled a lot of negative energy.

Conclusion
Another year has passed, and, looking back, I seem to have been able to occupy myself adequately. The coming year is somewhat uncertain, but I hope that it will in some way include more radical changes, including temporarily moving abroad to study (if not to Taiwan, then to England). I have no idea what my personal life will be like, but I look forward with confidence and optimism. All that remains doing now is to congratulate myself on my 24th birthday.

…and there was much rejoicing.

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23 år i livet

Idag har jag överlevt i 23 år. Inte så dåligt jobbat. Det här ska inte bli en oändlig krönika över mitt liv, men jag har länge funderat på om det skulle vara värt att sammanfatta saker som händer på ett mer övergripande sätt. Vid nyår kände jag absolut inte för att göra det och födelsedagen känns som det andra lämpliga datumet att ha som utgångspunkt för en årsrapport. Det här inlägget ska alltså handla om vad som hänt i mitt liv sedan förra gången jag fyllde år. Jag kommer att ta upp blandade saker, alltifrån rent personliga saker till sådant som har med utbildning eller andra aktivitetr att göra.

Vi ska börja på området aktiviteter. Här har det hänt en hel del saker, alla positiva och saker jag är mycket nöjd med. Till att börja med har jag tagit reda på vad som varit problemet med min rygg, vilket alltså har hindrat mig från att göra vissa saker tidigare och varit ett stort problem i allmänhet. Det är ännu inte helt bra, men eftersom jag vet vad problemet är, kan jag numera kontra det på ett annat sätt. Detta har gjort att jag kunna träna en hel del simhopp. Under våren 2006 var detta ganska sporadiskt, men efter nyår så har jag börjat hoppa ordentligt med instruktör och sådant. Jag trivs mycket bra med den typen av aktivitet och känner att det är något jag kan hålla på med ett bra tag utan att tröttna. Vidare har mitt intresse för natur och mark återvänt. När jag gick på mellanstadiet var vi ute extremt mycket i skogen, vilket jag känt att jag saknat. I somras spenderade jag en hel del tid med att vandra, både själv och i sällskap. Nästa sommar hoppas jag på att göra det i högre utsträckning, men det kändes bra att komma igång med en mjukstart.

Utbildning har varit mycket viktigare för mig under det gånga året än vad det någonsin varit tidigare. I höstas började jag läsa engelska med sikte på att bli gymnasielärare i ämnet. Jag känner verkligen att jag hittat rätt och stormtrivs verkligen med utbildningen. Praktiken har varit mycket givande och också där känner jag att jag trivs. Det är faktiskt så att jag till och med längtar lite efter att bli färdigutbildad så att jag kan komma igång med arbetet. Det kommer dock att dröja ett tag innan jag blir klar, bland annat eftersom att jag ska läsa kinesiska ett år och därmed göra ett uppehåll från lärarprogrammet. Det är dock fråga om ett uppehåll och jag har väldigt svårt att se mig byta utbildning.

På den personliga arenan har det också hänt en hel del och jag väljer att behandla saker och ting i kronologisk ordning. I våras började jag med min 101-lista, något som jag har upptäckt är ett mycket effektivt sätt för mig att få saker gjorda. Det har varit utmanande att båda utveckla listan och att börja jobba på dess punkter. Det dröjer länge än innan jag ser ifall jag klarar av alla punkterna på listan, men jag hyser goda förhoppningar om det än så länge. Nu nyligen har det också skett en stor förändring på en helt annan front, kanske den största förändringen på många år. Jag och Alva har gjort slut efter drygt två och ett halvt års förhålland och hon lever nu vidare på egen hand i Indien (tills vidare). Efter en stunds smältande och kontemplerande har jag kommit fram till att jag tycker att det är bra att det blev som det blev, det enda jag hoppas på nu är att vi så småningom ska fungera som de bra kompisar vi alltid varit.

Under året som gått har jag också konsumerat ganska stora mängder media av olika slag, alltifrån böcker till film. Mycket av detta beror på att jag skaffat mig en mp3-spelare och kan lyssna på ljudböcker. Jag tycker att det är mycket roligt att kunna tillgodogöra mig så mycket kultur utan att egentligen spendera mer effektiv tid på det. Att läsa är roligt både i för sin egen skull, men också för allmänbildning och relevans i den verkliga världen. Jag har också provat att läsa serier, något jag inte gjort innan. Tur var väl det, för jag kan ha snubblat på något av det bästa i tryckt format som går att tänka sig (jag talar förstås om Neil Gaimans tio album om The Sandman).

Det jag är mest missnöjd med under det gångna året är min oförmåga att skriva klart mitt frilansprojekt. Jag är visserligen nästan klar, men det är bara nästan och nära skjuter ingen hare, som Gunde hade sagt. Det är något som legat och blockerat mitt övriga kreativa skrivande länge nog nu och det är dags att avsluta det projektet. Bakom barrikaden ligger flera projekt och väntar, både skönlitterärt skrivande och annat. Det är något jag ser fram emot inför nästa år, så jag hoppas att jag har mer glädjande budskap på den fronten nästa gång jag fyller år.

Nu har jag nog sagt allt det jag vill säga. På det hela taget har det varit ett bra år, även om det avslutades på ett förvirrat sätt. Jag känner mig väldigt positiv inför framtiden. Det enda som nu återstår i det här inlägget är att önska mig själv grattis på födelsedagen, så då gör jag det. Grattis!

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Idag har jag överlevt 22 år i den här världen. Det känns bra och jag ska nog utöka det med några år till. Firandet blir av sällan skådat slag. Nu på förmiddagen ska jag skriva uppsats. Kring lunch blir det simning med min bror. På eftermiddagen blir det lite mer uppsatsskrivande, förmodligen av det lite mer desperata slaget (den ska in imorgon). På kvällen ska jag skriva ännu mer uppsats. Roligt va? Grattis till mig i alla fall!

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Wish list

What follows is a list of books (and other things) I would like to have for various reasons, and all of them are guaranteed to please me highly. If not otherwise specified, I only want books in their original languages. In cases when I do not know the original language, an alternative title has been given in the preferred language. This list is always up-to-date, since I use it myself to keep track of what I want. Whenever I buy or receive books, I remove them from the list. Since I keep detailed information on books I have or have read, it is easy to see if I have already read a particular book by browsing my LibraryThing profile.

This post was last update 2013-11-14.

Fiction
Auster, Paul – New York Trilogy
Auster, Paul – Leviathan
Banks, Iain – The Wasp Factory
Bear, Elizabeth – All the Windwracked Stars
Burton, Tim – The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories
Chabon, Michael – The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Clarke, Susanna – The Ladies of Grace Adieu
Delany, Samuel R. – Babel-17
Diderot, Denis – Jaques the Fatalist
Dixelius, Kalle – Toffs bok
Ellison, Harlan – Dangerous Visions
Forster, E.M. – A Passage to India
Gaiman, Neil – The Ultimate Sandman (all volumes)
Glass, Matthew – Ultimatum
Haddon, Mark – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Huxley, Aldous – The Doors of Perception
Janson, Tove – Allt utom Sent i november och Pappan och havet
Kafka, Franz – Processen
Keret, Edgar – Anihu (The Nimrod Flipout)
Kesey, Ken – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Lethen, Jonathan – Gun, with Occasional Music
Lewis, C.S. – The Screwtape Letters
Mann, George – The Affinity Bridge
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia – Patriarkens höst
Martel, Yann – Life of Pi
Matheson, Richard – I am Legend
McMaster Bujold, Lois – Mirror Dance
McMaster Bujold, Lois – The Vor Game
Morrison, Toni – Beloved
Murakami, Haruki – Kafka on the Shore
Orwell, George – Animal Farm
Pratchett, Terry – Feet of Clay
Pratchett, Terry – Pyramids
Priest, Cherie – Boneshaker
Pynchon, Thomas – Gravity’s Rainbow
Pynchon, Thomas – The Crying of Lot 49
Robinson, Kim Stanley – The Years of Rice and Salt
Rushdie, Salman – The Satanic Verses
Rushdie, Salman – Midnight’s Children
Rushdie, Salman – Shalimar the Clown
Seuss, Dr. – The Cat in the Hat
Shakespeare, William – Hamlet (Arden edition)
Shakespeare, William – Othello (Arden edition)
Shakespeare, William – The Tempest (Arden edition)
Way, Gerard – The Umbrella Academy: The Apocalypse Suite
Way, Gerard – The Umbrella Academy: Dallas
Wells, H.G. – The Invisible Man
Willis, Connie – Bellwether
Yang, Mu – Den gröne riddaren
蔣本滸 – 解密

Non-fiction
Allen, David – Getting Things Done
Barthes, Roland – The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies
Bellos, David – Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything
Carson, Rachel – Silent Spring
Churchland, Patricia – Braintrust
Dennett, Daniel – Breaking the Spell
Derber, Charles – The Pursuit of Attention
Huang, Alfred – The Complete I Ching
Kaufman, Steve – The Way of the Linguist
Keller, Laurent and Gordon, Elisabeth – The Lives of Ants
Lavers, Chris – The Natural History of Unicorns
Mlodinow, Leonard  – Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behaviour
Pariser, Eli – The Filter Bubble
Pinker, Steven – The Language Instinct
Rabassa, Gregory – If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents
Sledge, Eugene – With the Old Breed
Sommer, Christopher – Building the Gymnastic Body
Streeves, Bill – Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas – Fooled by Randomness
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas – Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder
Taleb, Nassim Nicholas – The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Other things (not books)
Personal library kit
Rubik’s cube salt and pepper
5×5, 6×6 and 7×7 cubes

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