TedxUtrecht: The art of looking twice

A while back I went to my very first Ted event. I was quite impressed with the whole thing: well organised, good food, stretching breaks in between talks... But of course, most importantly: the speakers. I was well impressed by most of them, but the one that left the deepest impression on me was Adinda van Wely. She's just a few years older than me, but she has this presence when she stands there which I can only dream to attain.

Her story makes a lot of sense too, but I'll let her speak for herself here:

And if you're wondering where I am, I'm this shapeless dark blob in the background once or twice.

Aww yeah.

Favourite bits of internet: webcomic edition

The internet is a big place and sometimes a little scary. But since I've practically lived here for the past few years, I know my way around and have some favourite spots. Wanna see? Let's start with some nice webcomics.

First up: Nimona.
Sadly, this comic is complete and only the first three chapters are still available online. But I love the art style and the story is so, so good. I'm not going to say anything more about the story (you can find out yourself), but I will say that the relationships between characters are like nothing I've ever seen before. Sweet, unusual and at times heartbreaking. And also sometimes really silly.

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If this isn't enticing to you I don't know what is.

Feels: 4/5
Sharks: 5/5
Boobs: 1/5

Next up: Go Get a Roomie!
This one's still going strong and I can't get enough of it. The story centres around Roomie, a free-spirited girl who sleeps at a different place every night, until she meets LT, who does nothing but sleep. They learn a lot from each other and following their friendship and hardships is really interesting. Though this comic often deals with heavy subjects such as childhood trauma, not being accepted by parents and lost love it is never preachy or melancholic. Also, there's lots of dick jokes. But mostly it's just happy.

Feels: 4/5
Life lessons: 5/5
Boobs: 3/5

Not enough boobs for you? Our final stop for today's got you covered. Welcome to Oglaf.
This one doesn't really have a storyline any more, but honestly it doesn't need one. It's pretty wacky. The one below is just to give you a sense of the kind of humour, it usually has more boobs and other naked parts.

Humour: 5/5
Boobs: 5/5
Life lessons: 0/5


Thanks for following along! I didn't actually intend for this journey to progressively have more boobs, but that's just something that happens on the internet. See you next time!

A fresh start on Etsy

Last week I rebooted my Etsy shop and completely forgot to post something on here. So here you go! Eight new notebooks for your writing pleasure. I painted these all with watercolours on lined kraft notebooks.

Since you're kind enough to spend some time here I want to offer you 10% off until the end of the month with the coupon code FRESHSTART. Thanks for having a look!

Cute vegetables? Yes.

I don't really like tomatoes. As long as they're unrecognisable (pizza, soup, ketchup) they're fine, but if I can see seeds I'm not happy. So if you can make a tomato look cute to me, you're doing alright in my book.

Just look at that little face! Miffy's cross bred with my vegetable antagonist and somehow the result is adorable cuteness.

Noodoll, the creators of this veggie plush also make some adorable other characters, both inside and outside the edible world. Their website looks so nice too! You can even search characters by personality in the shop.

And they put together some perfects gift sets. I might just have to buy myself a gift real soon :3

Guh. Too cute.

And. And! These people even offer free toy surgery! Even though I'm beyond the age to nibble my toys, I think this is just really nice of them. Kudos to Noodoll!

Favourite books of 2015

I set a reading challenge on Goodreads for the first time and a challenge it was! I thought thirty books would be pretty easy, but come September I had only read ten. The only reason I made it is audio books. From September to December I had an office job, where most of the work was pretty routine. To occupy the vacant brain space I started listening to audio books. Lots of audio books. I looked it up just now on Goodreads and I consumed fifteen audio books in three months.

Honestly, I wouldn't have gotten there without this job. I always make a pretty big deal of getting the prettiest hardcover version of a book I can find which often results in me drooling over pretty books on the internet instead of actually buying and reading one. Though I love the feeling of having the book I've coveted for months finally in my hands, I also enjoyed the simplicity of audio books. I could just listen to the first few minutes, decide whether I liked the narrators voice and get on with it. Way more efficient if you're trying to cram twenty books into four months!

You can find the whole list of books I read on Goodreads, but here are some that were especially good.

The Martian is about a guy stranded on Mars, trying to survive on his own until he can be rescued. Really compelling, but most of all perfect as an audio book. Mark Watney talks to you directly about his daily troubles, which makes it feel less like you're creepily reading someones diary and more like a friend telling about his adventures. The voice acting is just so well done and gives the characters more depth than printed words could. I read it as homework for the Hello Internet podcast, but they complained about the dad jokes and the amount of numbers. I had no complaints about that at all because in audio form both seem to fit Mark's character. He has to keep up his own morale so he tells stupid jokes and he babbles on about all the calculations he makes to confirm to himself that he's smart and capable. I really felt for him, from beginning to end.

For some more books in the 'outer space' category: both Ender's game and the Robot series by Asimov largely take place away from earth. Ender's Game is about a boy who gets recruited to be trained as a commander to fight an alien species. It's a pretty depressing story about loneliness and losing friends at times, but it's also about finding the strength to do what is right. It gives a lot of insight into Ender's mind. The female narrator in the audio book makes his sister Valentine sound like an melodramatic bimbo though, so I suggest you read this in print.

The Robot series was just really really good and I will recommend it to anyone who's even just vaguely interested in science fiction. They read as detective novels, but with the added bonus of robots and societal issues concerning them. I've been a huge fan of Asimov since I've read I, Robot and The Gods Themselves and though the setting of this series is very different the writing style and humor are excellent as ever. The audio was really good as well. Elijah with his gruffness and Daneel with his ever polite voice found their way to my heart.

Now for something completely different: Watership Down. I would've thought a book about the epic journey of talking rabbits would have crossed my radar sooner but I only heard about it last year. I bought the Oneworld Classics illustrated hardcover edition and I have no regrets spending the extra money. It is so beautiful that even the guy who sold it to me at the bookstore was slightly in awe. You could just buy it for the pretty pictures but I do recommend actually reading it. It starts of a bit gruesome, but it gets better and happier. And the best thing: rabbit mythology. The rabbits tell each other stories about their god Frith (literally 'the sun' in Lapine) and the trickster El-ahrairah. Those were my favorite bits.

If you're really into non-human characters you should try Flatland. It's about a square called A. Square who lives in two dimensions (Flatland), but also journeys to worlds with three, one and even zero dimensions. It's really interesting and written quite well, especially considering it was published in 1884! I'm just going to paste in the review I wrote about it nearly one year ago, because I still feel the same about it.

The only thing dated about this book is the writing style, but even that is not a bad thing once you get used to it. I love how it invites you to perform thought experiments without being preachy or overly educational. I usually read it late a night, taking breaks from reading to take a moment and imagine what four dimensions would look like.
I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about the portrayal of women in Flatland. It is unclear to me whether it is meant as criticism on the status of women in Victorian times, or that it is a representation of the authors own ideas. He is more obviously critical of hierarchical structures (which I like), so maybe I'm just too sensitive to demeaning portrayals of women.
All in all, I think it's a great read, which invites the reader to review the limited perspectives we have as three-dimensional beings.

And last but not least, a Dutch book called Het zijn net mensen or in English: People like us by Joris Luyendijk. I met the author once at a lecture and his speaking style as well as his writing style are really enjoyable. He seems like a really open and honest person, with a bit of satiric humor to show that he's not fooled. This book is about his time as a news correspondent in the Middle East. He writes about the horrors he sees and hears about, but mostly about the way the media portrays these things and the influence this has on public opinion. It is not a gruesome book though. Luyendijks writing tone is optimistically idealistic, which leaves you with a positive view for the future of the media. Not so much for dictatorships. Those are pretty bad.

So yeah, that's my kind-of-diverse SF-heavy favourite-books-of-2015 list. If you've read any of these as well, leave a comment and let me know what you thought of them. Or even better, tell me I've convinced you to read some of these!

Christmas in bloom

It has been uncommonly warm lately. Usually it's only a few degrees above freezing this time of year, but it has hardly been below 10°C for the past two weeks. The magnolia in our garden is already budding and I even saw a tree in full bloom when I was over at my parents house for Christmas!

So today I decided to have a little peek in the park behind my house to see if there was anything in bloom there as well. I hadn't even reached the park before I spotted the first flowers and trees sprouting fresh new leaves!

The park itself had way more flowers than I expected and was full of the twittering of little birds.

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These look ready to burst!

These look ready to burst!

It is probably going to become a lot colder soon, but I love this little preview of spring. Only a few more months until the real thing!

Great series: Lovely Muco

I've watched quite a lot of anime over the past few years, but the only one that fills me with joy every single time I watch it is Lovely Muco (Itoshi no Muco in Japanese). It's about a Shiba Inu called Muco, who lives with her human Komatsu-san. Each episode has several short stories about their day to day lifes: going for walks, first snow, Muco's shiny nose, Muco's very shiny nose!

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It's impossible to not fall in love with Muco's adoration of herself and Komatsu-san. Her number one dream is for Komatsu-san to finally turn into a dog so they can run and play together. It's so freakin cute!

And if you don't want to watch it for the cuteness, watch it for the life-lesson: Muco's relentless optimism, admiration of herself and ability to enjoy the little things in life can be quite inspiring! And it's also just really really cute.

You have to start somewhere

So that's what I'll do.

Hi. Nice to meet you.

I have no idea what I'm doing but I secretly hope you'll find me as interesting as I do myself. And then a lot of money happens and I can live with 20 cats in the Hogwarts castle. Right? Right.

Until I can make these dreams come true, let me show you some things, people and places I like. I hope they make you as happy as they make me.

Love,

Zoot