An approximate excerpt from a CV, from someone applying for a developer job at the company I work for:

I program in my spare time. […] I also write programs to help me with online games. For example I wrote a program in Java to help me play NukeZone. The program simulates IE and gives me an overview of the whole economy in the game world, which gives me an advantage over all other players. It uses proxy servers to avoid being detected so my account does not get cancelled. All the data are saved in a MySQL database and displayed on the screen.

Hmm. You cheat in games, and you’re boasting about it. And you think this would somehow help your chances of getting hired?

Think again.

Here it is: the House.

The house is from 1906. It is yellow and clad in wood panelling and has a gambrel roof.

It has a leafy garden, a veranda at the rear and a small patio at the front.

Remember the house we saw last Sunday? We’ve gone ahead and bought it. Well, it’s not all quite final yet, but we have generally agreed to buy it. Yippee!

The agreement was signed on Friday. Tomorrow we’re having a surveyor inspect it. As long as the survey doesn’t uncover any major surprises, we’ll be transferring the down payment on Monday, then spending a few weeks organising a loan and other paperworks, and moving in by July 1st. All very exciting.

I’m not looking forward to moving again, but I am looking forward to moving into our new house, if you see what I mean.


PS: Whenever I hear the word “homeowner” I hear the voice of Dr. Zoidberg… Look at me! I’m Dr. Zoidberg, homeowner!

The Name of the Wind topped the 2007 best book of the year: Readers’ Choice list at SF Site, and was, according to their description, “the hands-down, no-contest winner this year”. I had to give it a try.

This is, as usual (sigh) the first part in a trilogy. On page one we are introduced to Kote the innkeeper, and it is hinted (not particularly delicately) that there is more to this man than we can see. Then a visitor arrives and it turns out that Kote has achieved great things in the past, and the inn is just a sort of retirement or a way to hide from the world. The visitor (who is a chronicler) then convinces Kote/Kvothe to tell his life story. Kote does this over three days and three books.

Most of the book is Kvothe’s first-person view of his life. I always find that first-person tellings of stories spanning years and decades are hard to believe. I cannot help thinking that it’s impossible to remember events in such detail. Of course fantasy isn’t supposed to be entirely believable, but there is always a temporary illusion of believability.

Also, in a first-person story, secondary characters get too little attention. At the same time it gives the book great focus.

The skeleton of Kvothe’s story follows a traditional pattern: a young man is thrown out into the harsh world, where he struggles through hardships, with only his wit to keep him alive. The details, however, are original and interesting, and the inevitable romantic angle is refreshingly non-standard.

Kvothe himself is an annoying protagonist. He is the best at everything he attempts, without any obvious effort. A superhuman boy genius. He is of course good-looking and very intelligent. He is also a great singer and musician, good at fighting, poetry, business, and horse-riding. He has perfect memory, is creative, resourceful, hard-working, and charming. He is also a bit too full of himself and too aware of his own greatness. This excessive perfection is softened somewhat by the weaknesses of his youth (this first book only takes us through his teenage years). He is rash and brash, thoughtless, and too proud to ask for help.

He is also trained as an actor, which is an interesting idea, and lets him achieve all kinds of things (especially getting out of tricky situations).

Most of the time this slightly overbearing character manages to tell his story in a matter-of-fact tone that is very easy to read, brisk and lively. Some parts, however, suffer from an excess of foreboding. The framing story is especially bad at this. There is way too much hinting of dark things to come, “oh if only you knew what awful things will happen next…”.

But generally the book flows quite smoothly. Rothfuss writes good dialogue and good descriptions – I got very distinct pictures in my mind of the places Kvothe visits. Rothfuss has also come up with a very original and interesting system of magic: a consistent and almost scientific idea. It seems he hadn’t put as much thought into the society and the world itself: there are some jarring inconsistencies here and there. The world is supposed to be pre-industrial and pre-scientific and yet the people tend to act in surprisingly modern ways.

On the one hand, the book is long and somewhat meandering. There is a lot of story but not much plot; nothing is resolved by the end of the book. Too many words are spent on exposing Kvothe’s cleverness, and the book would have felt more intense if it had been pared down by a good quarter at least. But at the same time the book is easy to read and enjoyable – once I got past the slightly slow start, it sucked me right in. However “easy to read and enjoyable” is as high a mark as I can give this book. It is feel-good adventure fantasy with nothing very profound in it.

Even though I noticed the book’s shortcomings while I was reading it, and couldn’t help complaining about its somewhat cliche-y structure, I was never unsure whether I wanted to continue, and there is no doubt that I want to read the sequel. I am looking forward to finding out what made this man, seemingly destined for greatness, go into hiding and leave his greatness behind. And since the series is called The Kingkiller Chronicles I want to know, what king did he kill?

I also enjoyed these two reviews at Strange Horizons, as well as this review at Amazon.

Amazon US, Amazon UK.

As is standard in the fantasy genre, The Blade Itself is the first part of a trilogy.

But the book deviates from the standard path on page 10, where we find out that one of the main characters we will be following is a crippled torturer. We also have a disillusioned barbarian warrior, an ex-slave bent on vengeance, a spoiled young nobleman, a waspish young woman, and other unappealing characters. This is quite refreshing when compared to the usual fare, but it was hard to care about these people. The ones with the harsh backgrounds at least had some backbone – the spoiled nobleman was just tedious. And after the first few chapters, once you get over the novelty value, the characters became surprisingly bland and predictable.

The world that these people inhabit is not a nice place, either. There is impending war, and corruption, slavery, vengeance and a justice system based on inquisition and torture. The whole book is quite macabre and dark – even brutal in places. There are no elves or unicorns, and not much of anything to cheer about. Fantasy noir.

Well, a story about despicable characters in a harsh world can be interesting, too, if they do interesting things. But in this book they didn’t do much at all. There were no major events, no turning points, no resolutions. The characters also don’t mesh, they don’t connect with each other in other than peripheral ways.

The book was mostly full of scene-setting and world-building: introducing the characters one by one, and getting them all to the places where they will, presumably, start doing more interesting things in the next book. I found this rather unsatisfactory. The result felt unfinished, like an overgrown prologue published as a book. Its only raison d’être is to make you buy the next book.

The writing is decent but somewhat uneven. Some parts are strikingly well imagined and told. The dialogue is generally snappy and has just the right amount of humour, and the characters’ thoughts are refreshingly realistic. And people actually go to the loo occasionally, and wizards – when interrupted in their bath – storm into the room and start throwing spells around while they’re stark naked. The weakest part of the writing is that each character tends to have a phrase that they like to repeat a lot, or a thought they keep coming back to all the time. Some of this repetition got quite annoying after a while.

On the plus side the book definitely stood out from the crowd. The characters are very distinct and realistic, and quite memorable. But that’s not enough. While this wasn’t a bad book. I definitely cannot agree with the glowing reviews. (Numerous reviewers have described The Blade Itself as the best debut of the year, or even the best fantasy book of the year. Must have been a poor year.)

Amazon US, Amazon UK.

House 14. Stjärnfallsvägen. Excellent location, close to the station, in a quiet street in a nice area. Quite a large garden in good shape. Decent-sized house with high ceilings. Ugly, cheap-looking extension built in the 1970s. A roof that was described as “nearing the end of its life”. But the extension can be redone, and the roof replaced. We like it.

House 15. Skogsbacken. The viewing for this one is really next week, but the house was already empty, so we got a sneak preview. Big garden, totally empty: it looked like it had been an overgrown jungle that had just been cut down completely, leaving nothing. Lots of potential but lots of work, too. Newly renovated house in great shape. But the house felt small: low ceilings, small kitchen, small bathroom, small hallway. Not too bad but not very inspiring either.

A very bad bug was accidentally introduced into one Linux distribution two years ago. (Bruce Schneier has a brief overview with links to more.)

The bug itself is interesting enough. But far more interesting is how it got there. Basically, a Debian developer found what to him looked like less-than-perfectly clean code in the OpenSSL library. A tool for checking code quality complained about a specific line of code. The developer wondered if he could remove that line, asked some people, got what he thought was approval, and decided to go ahead. It turned out that he hadn’t really understood what he was doing, and no one else noticed that what he removed was a very crucial step.

All sorts of improvements to the development and code review process are being discussed, and lots of finger-pointing is going on. But the root of the issue is that someone wrote non-obvious code and didn’t comment it. A developer wrote code with no thought for those who might be reading or maintaining it. It would have taken them 5 seconds to add a one-line comment confirming that, yes, they did indeed mean to put this unorthodox line here.

I’m not the first commenter to say this. I just feel really strongly about writing maintainable code!

Ingrid has spent the past month naming things, especially animals. Man gave name to all the animals / in the beginning… She has a favourite book: Djurlexikon. It is big and has lots of pictures of all kinds of animals, and Ingrid’s appetite for this book is unsatiable. She knows cats and lions and wolves and apes, but also bats and butterflies and owls and penguins and snails and sharks and skunks and ostriches and snakes. Her pronounciation of all these words is often very remote from the real thing, but it’s clear that she knows the word and knows what she wants to say.

Ingrid and Eric reading about tigers

Some animals have Swedish names, some have Estonian ones. A moose is always põder, while an ostrich is a struts and nothing else. I think she goes for the language with the shorter, punchier word. And when the “wrong” parent “reads” the page about the ostrich, for example, she takes the book to the other parent because she wants to hear the “right” word. (The skunk is a good animal because it has the same funny-sounding name in both languages.)

And other animals she only calls by their sound. A lion is neither lejon nor lõvi but a roaaar, even though she understands both the real words as well. Mice, likewise, are called piip. Wolves are interesting because she uses both parts for them: they’re called uuuuu…. varg.

Lately she has been particularly fascinated by all the animals’ tails. She points out tails on all the animals, even those where she knows there should be one, but it isn’t visible.

Speaking of naming animals, Ingrid has finally also started saying emme (“mummy”). She started saying pappa months ago, but managed to get by without a name for me. Which is logical, I guess, since I was there with her. There was no need to talk about me, but there was need to say “go see if daddy is awake” or “look, daddy’s coming home”. Now that I am away during the day and Eric is at home, I am greeted by a loud happy “emmmeee!” when I get home from work in the evening, a sad “emme!” in the morning when I leave, and lots of “emme, emme, emme” while I am at home.

Just in the past week or so Ingrid has also started saying her own name. She pats Eric and says “pappa”, points at me and says “emme”, then pats her own chest and says “Ittii”, beaming with pride.

Her vocabulary is still almost all nouns. There are a few important action words like “go out” and “sleep”, and we have tried things like “stripes” and “spots”, “big” vs “small”, but I don’t think she’s really understood those.

She has also started mimicking the various small words that we say often without thinking much about them, with the very same tone that we use. The “jaa” where the tone goes down-down-down-up (“Do you think it will rain? Jaa, who knows…”). The confirmatory “neh” (“That wasn’t so good. Neh.”). And above all “oj” which for us means “oops” and for Ingrid means “look at this interesting thing that happened”. “Oj”, I poured water on myself. “Oj”, I threw food on the floor.

Pouring water

She wants to do like we do and be like we are. She wants to brush her own teeth, hold a phone to her ear and talk into it, splash with water in the kitchen sink while we are doing the dishes, and “help” us peel vegetables. She doesn’t get to play with phones very often (she won’t accept fakes, and we are not particularly willing to let her play with ours) but she did get a step stool and a waterproof smock so she can help in the kitchen. The stool was an instant hit and gets lots of use.

The best thing about the stool is that she can get up on it on her own. She likes climbing. She can climb into her (rather high) pushchair, and onto the sofa as well, and of course all sorts of climbing frames and other such things (including climbing up slides, from the wrong side). Either she has become taller or she’s developed better technique, because she didn’t manage the pushchair a month ago.

Odds and ends:

She enjoys lifts and escalators. She tends to walk up stairs with the right foot first, and down with the left foot first. She does not like having sand or dirt or other icky stuff on her hands or clothes, and makes great efforts to brush it off. She doesn’t like being dried after her bath, but she likes rubbing lotion on her tummy.

She likes beans but doesn’t like ice cream. She likes milk. We last tried offering her milk about half a year ago, and she rejected it very firmly. Now she loves it. She also loves yoghurt, juice, and pasta.

She is starting to look like a girl, so now maybe only half the strangers we meet refer to her as “him”. She sometimes lets us cut her fingernails while she’s awake and not even breastfeeding, without jerking the hand away. Her hair is still like a crow’s nest at the back of her head, with lots of broken hairs, because she tosses and turns so much in bed. She has 10 teeth (4 + 4 in the front plus 2 molars) and a hint of an eye tooth. She takes one nap during the day, preferably in the cycle trailer.

We are living (temporarily) in the same apartment in Stockholm that we left 7 years ago when we moved to London. And it feels weirdly familiar.

For several weeks, whenever I wanted to throw something in the garbage bin, my legs would automatically take me towards the cupboard under the sink, where the bin used to reside 7 years ago, even though we now have a bigger bin standing in a different corner of the kitchen. Sometimes I would even reach to open the cupboard door before my conscious mind caught up with what was happening and steered my legs in the right direction.

One evening I had cooked dinner and picked up the cookbook to put it away. I started walking very purposefully towards the kitchen window with the book in my hand. Halfway there I had to stop and think for several moments. Why on Earth am I going towards the window? Then I remembered that we used to keep our cookbooks on the windowsill.

Seven years have passed, but the body still remembers.