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(Only now getting around to posting about my Barcelona stay. Jeeze, it's been what, half a year? 
Oh and by the way, if anyone's curious, I got a Twitter account at www.twitter.com/elyandarin - I reasoned that since I was composing bite-size chunks of text ANYWAY...)

-----------------------

Me and my brother were stuck in Barcelona for three months, since Erik developed a kidney-stone and wanted to get treatment for it. Accordingly, I had a lot of time to spend there.
We were unimpressed, to say the least, by the months-long waiting time for kidney-stone treatments - until we returned to Sweden and found that the doctors there didn't want to treat it AT ALL. 

"It's too small. You'll piss it out eventually." 
"Ma'am, Renal Cholic is by consensus the most excruciating pain known to man. It'll go on for months. And I've got TWO stones in the same kidney. And the treatment takes fifteen minutes with your ultrasonic thingie. I could do it myself if you lend one to me." 
"We can give you pain pills." 

So, long story short, Erik went back to Spain. 

--------------------------

Anyway, small snippets of my Barcelona experiences: 


THIS place has some actual artistic feeling to it - looking at the grafitti you can see that there are some artists living here.

*     *     *

"Augh, these people don't know ANY English. Just out of spite, I'm not going to learn any Spanish. See how they like THAT." 
"That does not even make sense. If they don't speak your language, you should speak theirs." 
"Hey, I'm perfectly fine with them not speaking Swedish. But I worked HARD for my English skills."

*     *     *

...The thing about Barcelona is that the city is sort of passive-agressive. Maybe a post-Franco thing; Catalonians were treated atrociously by the rest of Spain; it makes sense they would resent Spanish tourists. The rest of us just get bundled in, I suppose. 
Anyway: Everything is designed to inconvenience people who haven't already lived there for a month. (Staying there for more than a month, I was able to tell.) 
Buses don't tell you what the next stop is; you'll have to recognize it by sight. Stores display their opening hours only when the store itself is open. The first two weeks you stay in a hostel, you pay a special tourist tax. And of course, the city is known as the Capital of Pickpockets. 
EDIT: Having visited more south-European countries, I can say that many of these problems are endemic to all of them. I'm now putting it down to people being stupid and thoughtless, rather than a conscious effort on Barcelona's part. Which is actually more depressing.

*     *     *

"I guess people in Mediterranean climates just don't know how to handle winters properly. They're all like: 'Well, the other three seasons of the year you would be GLAD for our always-open windows. If you're cold, just take an extra blanket.' 
...I'm going north for the winter so I can stay warm."

*     *     *

There's this sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt and an all-you-can-eat option for 10 Euro (around lunch, 15 in afternoons / on  weekends). It is pretty much the first time in my life that sushi has been affordable. Barcelona is *great* when it comes to all-you-can-eat places.  
...And I'm going to Spain and eating Asian food. Huh.

*     *     *
 
"Hmmmm.... Everytime I see some cool object in Barcelona, I get the feeling that they did it not because it's smart and cool, but because they venerate Gaudi. Stone couches with actual lumbar support? Gauidi made one for Parc Guell. Streetlights in cool shapes? Gaudi-style. 
The weird lack of public toilets? I guess Gaudi never designed a public restroom - if he had, they'd be all over the place." 

*     *     *

Aside: Gaudi.
Warning: snooty art criticism below.

I sneer at buildings composed of straight lines, square angles and flat surfaces (which is to say, I sneer at 99% of all buildings today). My math and physics instincts inform me that arches and curves are way more efficient for carrying the weight of a building. Meanwhile, exposure to modern 3D games has ingrained a response in me which complains: These cheap-ass faking level designers didn't want to strain their budget, so they painted textures on a block - REAL designers use curves! 

Enter Gaudi.

My first experience with Gaudi's buildings was seeing the Sagrada Familia, and going: "Huh, reminds me of my sandcastles - this guy has style!" 
The second experience was walking past Casa Battlo and stopping to say: "Wow. For once a building where the design doesn't suck." 
When I finally looked Gaudi up after hearing other tourists talk about him, I was all set for making wordplays on "gaudy" but I discovered that, yeah, I actually like this guy, (for all that he overuses bright cheery colours so the wordplay would be apt).

Being a somewhat egocentric, overly critical nitpicker (with, as a saving grace, self-awareness), the greatest praise I normally hand out is: "I would have done the same thing." What's really freaking impressive to me, though, is that Gaudi lived a HUNDRED YEARS ago - the attitudes and influences that shaped me into liking his kind of style would not be available to me were I to live in his age! He did it all by his lonesome, inventing several building techniques in the process. 
So yeah, Gaudi was more like me than *I* am. High praise indeed ;)


Some Gaudi things I experienced: 

Parc Guell
Price: Free. Experience: Good.
Nice stuff, though it included a lot of walking. Nice landscaping, viaducts... The caves had these snazzy artificial stalactites that looks great, but will undoubtedly someday crack and mash someone's head. The regular wall design in this one place meant there was a nice sitting perch for one singular pigeon every meter or so - basically all occupied - so it looked kind of like the budget version of gargoyles. It was cool. The stone sofa meant you got some hands-on experience with the ceramic-shard-mosaic technique Gaudi pioneered.

Casa Batllˇ (House of Bones)
Price: 20 euro. Experience: Good. 
Took the time to listen to a guide recording as I went through the house. Cool descriptions. Overall a cool building, both exterior and interior. Gaudi even designed the furniture - that's classy.
Also, dat roof. Woof woof.

Sagrada Familia
Price: 13 euro. Experience: Meh. 
Slightly disappointing. See, Gaudi never finished Sagrada Familia - what's more, his workshop was smashed to bits and burned, and before they started to complete the building, architects had to moonlight as archeologists and piece his models together like they were Cro Magnon skull fragments. 
The efforts of the subsequent builders has resulted in a finish that feels... BARE. The stark geometric shapes leave me with a feeling that I'm looking at a model in minecraft or Google SketchUp, which as impied above is a feeling I dislike. All I'm saying is Gaudi would TOTALLY plaster the insides with pottery shards in organic patterns. Look at that tower! LOOK at that friggin' TOWER and tell me otherwise! Though of course Sagrada Familia was still under construction as I viewed it, so maybe they haven't gotten around to it yet. (A German friend had some very scathing things to say about the work morale of anyone who can work on the same building for over fifty years without finishing.)
And as for the pseudo-Sovietic overly stylized statues - bah. Bah, I say. 
Though that one staircase is exquisite, computer-generated or no. (No, not the one all over the internet. THIS one, which I only found on some guy's blog)


Casa MilÓ
Price: ~50 euro. Experience: N/A 
Are you kidding me? What's with that price? 

----------------------

Over-all, Barcelona was a nice place. I didn't lose anything, though my brother lost his cellphone and was nearly mugged about 17 times or so, escaping through the grace of strong legs and a good sense of danger. Then again, Erik likes to take shortcuts through shady neighborhoods at 5 AM. *I* take the bus. 
  • Mood: Neutral
  • Listening to: My 1st Grooveshark list (http://tny.gs/MGeMZC)
  • Reading: Lunar Quest (http://tgchan.org/wiki/Lunar_Quest)
Typing in a Spanish hostel...


"Prague had cheap prices and was full of thieves. Barcelona has bloody expensive prices and twice the amount of thieves. Why are we here again?
"Well, OK, the weather IS pretty nice."

"OK, we've established that I can find my own backside with a map and compass - if and ONLY if I consult them every two minutes..."

"Spanish, Spanish, every channel I zap to. No wonder these people are so hopeless at English. Dubbing ruins them as kids."

"In Prague, most clubs were free to enter. In Barcelona, they cost money - but people are giving away get-in-for-free vouchers RIGHT OUTSIDE. Their little game of pretend lacks style."

"I think I prefer dubstep in its honest, mindbogglingly ALIEN form, rather than when it butchers some poor unsuspecting song and wear its ill-fitting skin.
"...Truly, it's the Excrucian Warmain of music genres."

"AGAIN with the dancers."

"...Well, now that they've sent out the dancing GUY in skimpy clothes and high heels, at least they are degrading both sexes EQUALLY. That's progress, of a sort.
"He's GOOD, I admit - pity I don't feel like learning any dance moves requiring heels."

"No, I don't want sandwiches, water, or ANY recreational drug."

"Lady, it's not pronounced "Sehss". It's "sex", S-E-K-S. If you're going to indecently proposition me, do it right. Now say it with me..."

"Hey bro, Spain has THE best medical system. You sure picked the right spot to have health troubles..."

"You know, this trip through Europe may not do much for my faith in humanity, but Holy MOLY is it excercising my sense of acerbic wit..."
  • Mood: Grumpy
  • Reading: Kubera - One Last God
My over-all impression of Prague:
1: Take a medium-large city.
2: Unleash a plague of sculptors on it, covering everything with statues and filigree.
3: Marinate in pollution, coating everything with a layer of dirt and grime.
4: Sprinkle with people who are thieves, beggars, scammers, club promoters and/or drug dealers.

* * *

Fueled by paranoia, I held out for two weeks before my laptop was stolen from my hostel... from within my locker.
(I wouldn't say I'm angry about the theft, precisely, or about the lackluster Police response. It's just that I've removed Prague from the list of locations I wouldn't nuke, a list which formerly included every city on Earth. Should I ever need to re-route a meteorite, crash a rocket, teleport some antimatter - well, every other city is out of the question. Prague, now, with Prague I'll have to weigh the pros and cons before making the decision... )

Oh well. I had everything major backed up online. Though I guess my plans for writing and posting short stories for my dA gallery are going to be somewhat delayed.

* * *

I met a man in Prague, who was pacing the street to and fro. He was, so he said, a Slovakian flight instructor, a well-to-do man. Swearing over the rotten thieves in Prague who had taken his wallet, he asked me for money so he could take the train home. He would, he said, repay me handsomely when he returned home. No, he wouldn't let me buy him the ticket, or follow him to the train, or take his photo with my phone - his honour would not allow such a thing.
And after talking to the guy for about ten minutes, I came to realize something - that this guy was so obviously a scammer that I HAD to pay him the money. Actually getting to confirm for sure that THIS was the demeanor of a no-good crook rather than an honest citizen was well worth the comparatively modest sum he asked.
Which might have been what the guy counted on. He sure didn't return my money.
  • Listening to: 2nd Grooveshark list ( http://tny.gs/Q4jqP3 )
  • Reading: Baen Free Library
Off to see things new...

OK, so I'm currently writing from a hostel in Prague; me and my brother Erik have started  on a tour through Europe which is loosely planned to last a year.
...Meanwhile, Magnus gives us a month before we're thoroughly sick of each other and split apart.

Erik wants to "make me into a man", and aims to mentor me in various ways to flirt with and impress girls, as taught to him by "The Game" and related sources. My own primary goals are to get real-world experience, confidence, willpower and initiative - which, Erik says, are things achieved naturally in the course of getting girls.
I'm... not certain we follow compatible paradigms here, but I'll give it a try, or as much as I can while trying to keep my impact on the world positive.

Yesterday was an eventful day, perhaps best recorded in comic form - but since I'll have little access to artistic tools for the duration, here's a few of the quote-worthy moments, for your amusement.  

--------

Ugh. Why did I let Erik take me partying when I had to get up 7 in the morning to catch a flight?

Better not go back for my mobile charger - we have a flight to catch.
Or my toothbrush. Or my...



--- The Airport ---

"What do you mean you planned in two hours worth of safety margin?"


"Yeah I guess you could put someone's eye out with these pincers. But hey, you could do the same with a thumb and you don't see the security guards cutting peoples' thumbs off... Look, I left my Swiss army knife behind, they can give me this!"


"You know what the terrorists are saying right now? 'Let's see how much we can make them take from passengers - how go our plans for explosive underwear?' "
"Hey, I wouldn't mind an all-nude plane flight - we could have all kinds of fun, you know!"
"I guess, but you'd have to remember to bring your lube in 100mL bottles."


--- After Security Check ---

"They put the tax-free shops BETWEEN the security check and the plane? Wut, I don't even... "

"...and then the mole shop-keeper puts a gun in one of these conveniently-sized OPAQUE containers..."

"So do we pass by the tax-free on the way OUT of the plane? Because then from a single compromised airport you could smuggle weapons to ANY airport who does that."

"...or hey, smash the end of one of these glass bottles, and you have a deadly jagged implement..."

---

"Erik, if your ukulele is so hard to fit into the baggage, why don't you just get a saw? I don't think the top few centimeters contribute to either sound quality or structural stability..."


--- The Flight ---

"That plane-wing totally looks like something a transformer would have."

"Roller coasters are TOTALLY training for being an airplane passenger. You are strapped in, accelerated in various directions, and you have to trust that the people in charge are competent enough not to get you killed..."

There's no way I can make an airplane wing fall off by looking at it wrong. There's no way I can make an airplane wing fall off by looking at it wrong. There's no way...

"Apropos of nothing, do you think they make parachutes to fit "Overhead Luggage" size requirements?"

This Netbook LAGS. A whole gig of RAM, and it LAGS when I use a browser. I should install Windows 98 on this thing.

"These technologies are all steampunk-y. Why are they all steampunk-y? Look at the wires and things under those airplane break flaps. It looks like it was assembled in a garage out of spare parts. And this moveable airplane passenger tunnel thing? Totally steampunk sensibilities."
"You like steampunk."
"Yeah, but I'm nervous entrusting my actual LIFE to it."


--- First Impressions of Prague ---

Let's be charitable. The ticket guy probably shorted us 100 Czech whatevers because of an honest mistake.

Oh my, these guys sure like bars in front of their windows.

"Is it just me or is there a LOT of basements in this place?"

Man, this grafitti is amateurish. Swedish grafitti is SO much prettier.
Looks written in the same language, though - still can't actually *read* it...


"So if Czech currency is worth a third of ours... this food is actually pretty cheap."

"Hmmm, I guess these 'dumplings' is basically like potatoes, but doughier."

--- In a night club ---

This club is all gimmick-y. ...I can appreciate that.

Ohmigaaawd, they allow smoking in-doors here? This is like the nineties all over again...

Five floors of music. How about one of silence? Ow, my ears.
I note that I'm alone in a strange country, where people don't speak my language... and I don't feel more separated from people than I usually do.
Well, it's not like I could talk to people anyway, with this level volume. Just like in Swedish clubs, in that respect.


Four guys want my picture taken with them? Either my dress sense is better than I thought, or it's WAY worse.
Man, I hope I don't end up an internet meme...


Why is there a woman dancing up there in underwear? Wait, are they trying to *tittilate* me? I've had internet access for over 10 years, woman, you'll have to do better than THAT.
Hm, now if those were GOOD moves you could copy on the dance floor...


---Outside again ---

Man, these guys are sure pushy about getting people to visit their fitness club...

"No, I don't want any marijuana, thanks all the same."

Oh *I* get it. "Night-time Gymnastics" was a *euphemism*
  • Listening to: My 1:st Grooveshark list ( http://tny.gs/MGeMZC )
  • Reading: "Chronicles of Chaos" by John C. Wright (again)
About a month ago, I was on the rpg.net forums, keeping an eye on the upcoming 3rd edition of Nobilis.
Incidentally, this was because:
*Nobilis 2nd edition was THE best system I knew for making characters
(and dragging a concept out of Chaos, clothing it with stats and actualizing it in sheet form is generally my favourite part of RPG:s)
*By all accounts, 3rd edition would be twice as awesome at making characters.
(I've read the book now. Char-gen is 2.5 times as awesome. Three times, if you count estate properties.)
*Nobilis is, well, it's just an awesomely cool setting. You get to play characters that could fit right into Sandman, you have philosophical discussions by default when arguing game events, and there is not a single dice roll involved, so characters don't die from freakishly bad luck.

ANYWAY, Nobilis was days away from print, when someone spoke up about a problem with the art. Turns out one of the main artists - responsible for all the Excrucians, among other things - had traced art from other sources in several of the images. From Touhou fan-art. (WTF, by the way; if you're going to steal, steal from the very best. You're going to get caught either way - it's the INTERNET AGE, for crying out loud - and at least that way you learn more actual skill while you're doing it.)

So Nobilis was suddenly less 67 illustrations. (Jenna Moran, the author, is classy like that; tracings, while probably legal, are just lame. No way was she going to have those rip-offs in her books, so she delayed printing several weeks to find another solution.)
And that's where I and several other amateur artists came in.
I'm enthusiastic about Nobilis, and Dr. Moran is very approachable, posting regularly in the forums, so I simply mailed in an offer to help, and got a choice of two Excrucians and two Abhorrent Weapons. I signed up for all four.
They're in my gallery, now, so that's that.

As for how pleased I am with my contributions, ehhh. I classify myself as an amateur, and my illustrations as amateurish by default. I mean, I've put in enough effort, but I know what professional artwork looks like, and mine doesn't go in that category. I knew going in, that sooner or later I would look on the finished art and wince knowing the evidence of my sub-par skills were in print and spread all over the world.
But hey, you've got to make sacrifices for the things you like, or you will live in a poorer world in the end.
And it's better than no art at all.

So if you've been wondering about my excessive lateness with the comic, this is mostly why.
(Also, I've had Cintiq troubles)

---------

EPILOGUE - NOW IF I WERE PARANOID, AND SUPERSTITIOUS TO BOOT...
It's oddly fitting, isn't it, that the Excrucians, known for robbing the world of concepts and generally making things less themselves, are the ones whose images threatened to disappear, leaving the whole book poorer for it. Almost as if the artist's Credibility or Originality was Excruciated...
And isn't it odd how right after I started sketching the replacement Excrucians, I lost my Cintiq connector cables along with my whole backpack, so I had to use inferior non-digital tools for all the linework?
Note how, as Jenna herself has pointed out, a work like Nobilis would be much more likely to be created in a world where it was in fact how the Universe worked...
Eh, good thing I'm neither superstitious nor paranoid.
Nor, for that matter, secretly concerned I might unknowingly be a creature from beyond creation capable of jinxing things simply by thinking *huh, I wish I could have contributed art to that book*.
  • Listening to: My 2:nd Spotify list ( http://bit.ly/gcfpSbe )
  • Reading: Erfworld ( http://www.erfworld.com/ )
At the time of this writing, I have 775 faves. I think I need some kind of intervention here...

It's all very insidious. The current dA favourite system chooses "random" faves by picking one random fave and then dragging along the ones after it, sorted by "browse", or time added.
Which means that if I want my profile to showcase an even spread of different fave types - colour, size, complexity, etc - I'll have to enter them into the system in a very precise order.
I'll set aside tabs with interesting deviation because "I need to enter some landscape pic first" or "I can't fave all these at once - they're by the same artist".

So when my poor laptop is groaning under the weight of forty graphics-heavy Firefox tabs, I decide to get all those faves over with. If I'm missing some categories, well, I just have to go FIND those, don't I?
And at that point, my brain has found a swell new optimization puzzle game.
Find an artist, search for awesome pics, fave them in order, browse THEIR faves, then explore the artists of those, etc. Racking up, of course, a mess of new tabs in the process.
The object of the game is to sort in faves, ending with as few tabs open as possible. Not an easy task, but if it was, it wouldn't be so engrossing...

And THAT is why I just spent 3 hours adding faves, and why I'm feeling a paradoxical sense of accomplishment for having done so.
Ignoring in the process things like my programming coursework, my delayed webcomic update,  my World Domination project, my final Girl Genius fancomic page, etc.

Oh well, there's always tomorrow.
  • Listening to: My 3:rd Spotify list ( http://bit.ly/aHnUpe )
  • Reading: Today Nothing Happened ( http://shazzbaa.com/ )