Agalloch's Ashes Against the Grain: Superb!

If you don’t know Agalloch, they make a sort of lightweight black metal with strong doom and some folk influence.

Their last two albums were already quite convincing, but I think with Ashes Against the Grain, Agalloch have truly found their legs. There is an all-permeating wailing melancholy that is expertly woven into all the tracks, yet never overpowers. That doesn’t mean the songs have no force. Some small, sad melodies of five or six notes still have the power of entire arias, as heard during Our Fortress is Burning, and there are enough heavy, pounding riffs all around. A very good mix.

The musical evolution from the last album is not **that** pronounced. Still, the songwriting seems more confident, compact and reflected. You truly get the feeling that this time, the band knows exactly where it’s heading.

Where earlier albums sometimes left you bored, the new tracks are very unpredictable. Every time you get used to a certain repeating melody, the song changes or interesting new elements are introduced. This works wonders against any boredom. The folk elements, by the way, were pushed back a bit to make way for more concentrated Black and Doom.

The production is again excellent, perhaps a bit clearer than on Pale Folklore.

All in all, I’m very pleased with Agalloch’s progress, they’re now somewhere on my list of favorite bands. I’ve already preordered the album and I hope the guys will tour Europe sometime, so I can stand in line for a concert 🙂

I passed the CPE test!

Look what Cambridge’s exam results site just said to me:

![CPE Grade A](http://terror.snm-hgkz.ch/blog/files/cpe.png)

Whee! So now I may officially wield my stupefying linguistic prowess like a weapon. A weapon of *words*!

But seriously: Now Swiss employers will finally believe me when I claim to know English. In Switzerland, you’re not taken seriously without diplomas and certificates. If you mention your amazing handstand abilities in your CV but fail to provide written proof, no boss will ever believe that you can do a handstand. Even if you walk to your interview on your palms. In front of them.

Two Finnish kitchen implements everyone should have

The first is the [kuivauskaappi](http://terror.snm-hgkz.ch/photos/v/holidays/tre2k6/CIMG3997.JPG.html). It’s a closet where you can put your dishes and other things to dry. Where you would normally find solid shelving, hyper glory magical kuivauskaappi has rubberized iron grills! You put your items-to-be-dried in there, the water drips from them onto the sink, and they (now hold your breath) dry!

How nobody else can have this is beyond me. Just think of it, never touch a towel again to dry the dishes! It saves time! If everyone in Germany or perhaps Spain had one of these, the EU’s GDP would take a jump of 30%.

The other thing is [built-in cutting boards](http://terror.snm-hgkz.ch/photos/v/holidays/tre2k6/CIMG4000.JPG.html). No more lugging around thick slabs of wood and crumbing up the entire kitchen.

Please, kitchen builders of Europe, steal this stuff.

The .fi is the friend of the lactose-intolerant!

There’s barely any milk product that you can’t get lactose-free in Finland! We bought [pseudo-Emmentaler](http://terror.snm-hgkz.ch/photos/v/holidays/tre2k6/CIMG3814.JPG.html) cheese yesterday, and there’s Gouda too, as well as all sorts of ice cream. Generally, most Valio products are [lactose-free](http://terror.snm-hgkz.ch/photos/v/holidays/tre2k6/CIMG3806.JPG.html). Finland is like some sort of fairyland happy-place for lactose-intolerant people, only with considerably less fairies and more beer.

Happiness is me!

First photos from Tampere

I’ve started putting my holiday pictures into [an album](http://terror.snm-hgkz.ch/photos/v/holidays/tre2k6). No drunken Finns in any of them yet, but I do have some snapshots of the amazingly scarce resource that is Finnish woods!

Random trivia: Took about 3 hours by plane from Zürich to Helsinki, where I had a [salad](http://terror.snm-hgkz.ch/photos/v/holidays/tre2k6/CIMG3717.JPG.html) with Jon. Later I found low-lactose cappucino at a [Robert’s Coffee](http://terror.snm-hgkz.ch/photos/v/holidays/tre2k6/CIMG3721.JPG.html) at the Helsinki train station. Quite yummy! From there I took the train to Tampere, another 2 hours or so.

I think the next 200 or so pictures will be of 1. GameCube gaming sessions, 2. drunken people and 3. trees. So if you have a vivid enough imagination, you won’t even have to look at that album anymore 🙂

Forgotten Games: Maximo vs. the Army of Zin (PS2)

I’ve picked this up from a bargain bin because it was bestickered with good review ratings. It seems rather short (I’m 76% through the game after three not-so-long sessions), but I’m having a huge amount of fun.

It’s the successor to the spiritual successor to the successor to Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins. Everyone complained that the first part was too hard, so this sequel has a save function that’s accessible rather freely, more lives and less frustrating platform passages.

In essence, it’s like God of War, but with some substance instead of just graphics, and with less silly puzzles and dumb collision detection. You swing your sword, do your combos, slice through different enemy types and feel sort of oldschooly. Also, the music is surprisingly well made in some levels (am I hearing half an orchestra? Why, I am!) The story is totally forgettable, but that’s to be forgiven. At least you won’t have to endure hours of unskippable dialog.

Replay value? Not much, unless you want to get 100% on all items and all secrets in all levels.

I saw this on the American eBay site for USD 5 and on Germany’s for EUR 9, and it’s still in bargain bins here around that price. It’s an action-platformer that won’t require your undivided attention for several weeks but is still wholly satisfying. If you remember how games used to be and feel an urge to say “that, please, just more prettier”, give this one a spin.

[Screenshot 1](http://terror.snm-hgkz.ch/blog/files/Maximo-1.jpg)
[Screenshot 2](http://terror.snm-hgkz.ch/blog/files/ss_preview_screenshot004.jpg)

Lactose content of Zweifel snack products

I’ve asked Zweifel, the company that makes Switzerland’s most popular potato chips and snack products, whether they know how much lactose is in their food. Huge surprise: they know! Many companies don’t like to give you numbers, though, so I was very pleased to receive an e-mail from Zweifel/Pomy Chips’ Roland Zimmerli. He had gone and asked the specialists at Zweifel for their input, and they compiled a list of lactose percentage of *all* their products. Teh amaze!

I’ve [attached the list for all to see](http://terror.snm-hgkz.ch/blog/files/Laktose_in_g_pro_100g_Fertigprodukt_05.07.061.ods). This won’t do you much good if you’re not in Switzerland, but if you’re a visiting lactose intolerant from a place such as “Foreign”, it might be helpful.

Yay for Zweifel!

The GIA mirror now (mostly) complete

My [mirror of The GIA](http://terror.snm-hgkz.ch/mirrors/thegia) is now complete, as far as anyone can tell. It’s not entirely my work, though. My old copy was only about 2 GB in size, but someone in the USA managed to track down an 8 GB copy and send me the files by snail mail on two DVDs. Thanks a lot 🙂

I’m currently trying to make .torrent files for it. If that’s successful, I hope to be able to offer the entire thing through Bittorrent soon. That’s *in addition* to the normal, web-accesible mirror of course.

Yay for the GIA!