Friday, January 25, 2019

Fire & Ice

So yes, as you probably have noticed: I`m Danish...and if there is any common denominator for the Danish people we are obsessed with "hygge".

"Hygge" is a concept of introspection and relaxation, where the rest of the world is shut out and room is made for quality time.

For some reason this requires candles, open fire, long walks in freezing cold, woolen socks and ungodly amounts of mulled wine (or special brewed beer).

Anyhow: Candles.

You can spot a Dane in your neighborhood by the unusual amount of candles in the garden or balcony.

Ask I am genetically predestined to love he sight of a flickering flame in the snow.....I am not the right man to explain you why.

This year, and a bit inspired but a H.C Andersen fairy tale (guess which one pendejos!) , I wanted to do something special and combine fire and ice by making a fire bowl out of ice.

Fire & Ice
I put a metal bottle in the middle of a large steel bowl and filled the bowl with water.
The winter weather did the rest.

I weighed the bottle down by filling it with water.

I poured boiling water in the bottle... be able to get it out.

Flipped the bowl and poured the hot water over it.

And the bowl popped right out.

I filled the hole in the middle with fire paste for fondue sets. It is the same stuff they put in disposable camp stoves.

The fire paste burns hot and bright but does not melt the ice all too fast :-) This is 2 hours after start.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

"Life On The Discworld" or "How Terry Pratchett Changed My Life"

The Discworld novels by the late Sir Terry Pratchett have a special place in my life and they played a vital role in some of my fondest memories:

Spending a summer lying on blankets in the grass, where my oldest friend and I read passages from "Mort" or "Moving Pictures" out loud to each other (and laughed....LOUD!) asking my wife to marry me, figuratively 10 minutes after I found out she liked TP too. (Easy, it wasn't the only reason, but it pretty much sealed the deal)

And later in my work life, when the Discworld audio books helped me over many lonely watches on a ship`s bridge.

My first contact with Terry Pratchett was in the mid-nineties when I attended  basic training to become a sailor. One of my dorm mates during these 5 month brought a bunch of books from the library and, after 4 days of laughing, recommended them to me.

It was of course the Danish version of "The colour of Magic" ( I read it again weeks later in German, as the Danish version was just terrible) and it was impossible for me to put it down again.

The Discworld series started out as a fantasy spoof, parodying every possible cliche in the fantasy genre, and later advanced to a sociological parody where issues like fundamentalism, clash of technology vs tradition, feminism, capitalism, globalism, and mob mentality are dealt with.

The Discworld itself is a disc, balancing on the backs of 4 elephants which in turn stand on a giant turtle. On an unlikely world like this "science" as we know it is as obscure as alchemy in our world, and magic is what ties everything together.

The Discworld.

I can`t and won`t tell you the content of every Discworld novel, as there are 41 of these and I am lazy, but I hope this little overview of story lines can help:

The Rincewind story line:

The first protagonist in the first Discworld Novel and a failed "Wizzard". His epic cowardice does not prevent him from being constantly involved in all kinds of adventures, ranging from (several times) saving the world(s) to toppling a feudal empire in a country resembling old Japan or China.

I like Rincewind,  because his actions always benefit those in need of help, especially when he actively tries to act selfish.

Appears in: The Colour Of Magic, The Light fantastic, Sorcery,  Faust  Eric, Interesting Times, The Lost Continent, Unseen Academicals

The DEATH story line:

If you ever worry about your own mortality, read a DEATH novel!

The DEATH in the Discworld novel is a anthropomorphic personification and has, over the millennia, developed a fascination with his "customers". His fascination leads him to mimic human actions like to build a house for himself, adopting a daughter and to take on an apprentice....everything a bit on the dark side.

DEATH enjoys music with rocks in it,  would murder a curry and is a sucker for kittens.

Appears in: Every Discworld Novel, except "Wee Free Men" and "Snuff". But you definitely read "Mort" and "Reaper Man"

The Witches story line:

There are many witches on the Discworld but the witches of the tiny, mountainous kingdom of Lancre are the most renowned: Granny Weatherwax (aka "The Hag") , Nanny Ogg (aka "The Mother") and Magrat Garlic (aka "The Maiden") are forming the reluctant coven ruling the mountains using "headology" (psychology) and the tyranny of minimum involvement.

They are not witches in the occult sense, but appear more as wise women, counsellors  and herbalists.

This has proven to be far more effective than "real magic" and as result the witches of Lancre can walk the forests of the mountains without fear, safe in the knowledge that they are feared by all creatures.

The Witches appear in: Equal Rites (3), Wyrd Sisters (6), Witches Abroad, Lords And Ladies, Carpe Jugulum

The City Watch story line:

By far my favorite story line!

The story line follows the hopeless group of social outcasts in the Night Watch as they evolve from underdogs (Walking the streets at night and saying: "All is well"...QUIET as not to attract attention.) to a force to reckon with, starting with the arrival of their newest recruit:

A 2 meter "dwarf", equipped with a steel crotch protector and the complete penal code memorized...and a very black/white approach in implementing and upholding the LAW (!)

The night watch consists of:

Captain Sam Wise (grandson of a regicide, haggard and alcoholic)

Sgt. Fred Colon (overweight, dumb and cowardly)

Corporal Nobby Nobbs (has to carry a certificate proving his humanity)


Carrot Ironfundersson (Dwarf by adoption, quite possible the heir of Ankh Morporks throne).

What makes the City Watch storyline so interesting is the tensions that surface when politics, technology and societal issues collide with a traditional, magically run fantasy world.

The City Watch appears in: Guards Guards!, Men at Arms, Feet Of Clay, Jingo, The Fifth Elephant, Night Watch, Monstrous Regiment, Thud!, Snuff

The Wizards story line:

The Wizards of the Discworld are mostly gathered at universities which strongly remind the reader of any dusty, old fashioned university faculty with the inertia of ice bergs.

The tight hierarchy at Ankh Morporks UU (Unseen University) with the pompous Arch chancellor Mustrum Ridcully on the (very cold) top is stagnant, and avoiding assassination attempts by "colleagues" is just a way of life as "walking in dead man shoes" is the only (fast) way of advancement.

The crusty faculty life, endless heavy meals and conspiracies are meant to keep the wizards preoccupied (or to full) enough as not to take over (or lay waste to) the Discworld.

Makes sense to me!

The wizards on Discworld, unlike the witches, employ the "flash bang" magic seen in traditional fantasy novels but also dabble in something best described as "primitive particle physics".

There are many other prominent characters at the UU, but the universities librarian has a special place in my heart: He has turned in to an orang-utan by magical accident and communicates solely with "UGHS!" and the occasional beating if called a monkey. Even though a primate he often represents humanity and common sense.

The Wizards appear in: Well...uhr,,,basically in every Discworld story involving Rincewind but especially in "Unseen Academicals" and the awesome "Science of Discworld" books!

The Moist Von Lipwig story line:

A con artist by heart, Moist von Lipwig is sentenced by the sinister and Machiavelli-esque Patrician Vetinari to  reform and run the post office....or else!

He succeeds doing so, only interrupted by the occasional escape attempt, and is later set in charge with the clean-up of the financial sector in Ankh Morpork and does so by removing the gold standard and introducing money bills.

Later in the story line he is supervising the development of a rail network of primitive steam locomotives (I never managed to finish that book, Sir Pratchett was already suffering from Alzheimer's at an advanced stage and his "sould" was not in the book.

Moist appears in: Going Postal, Making Money, Raising Steam

The One Off`s: These are awesome as well and funny enough always about persons with a passion or skill set allowing them to battle bad odds, oppressive governments or break traditions.

The One Off`s are: Small Gods, Pyramids, The Truth, Moving Pictures.

The Tiffany Aching storyline:

Never managed to read it...will come back soonest!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Kite Eye 6 - Powering down 2

She woke up.

Returning from a post peak blackout was like waking up from a combined hangover and car crash.

The 72 hours without sleep and travel over eight time zones would haunt her metabolism for some time to come.

She checked the clock of the prepaid clamshell clone, left for her by logistics, and found to her satisfaction that she woke herself up 4 minutes before time.

Her inner clock was not so much out of tune then.

She swung her legs out of the old queen and went to the kitchen, opened the fridge to find the requested after peak nutrients.

The vege and enzyme concentrates were soon blended to a thick juice which she poured in to a clean glass stein.

The houses interior was spartanic but clean and the sofa corner at the ground floor looked inviting enough.

Off course there wasn't a TV, but the living rooms stereo worked well enough. Soothing night radio waved through the room as she sipped the juice and waited for the hourly news to tell her that her client has been found.