Monday, July 25, 2011

Postcrossing: Finland

The birds on this card are golden eagles.  They are so beautiful and majestic.  I'm really loving the bird cards I've been receiving.

On the back:

Hello Jennifer!
I'm 18 years old girl from Southern Finland.  My favourite quote is from a movie "Millions" and it sounds like this: "Money is just a thing, and things change".  It reminds me not to be worried!  Happy PC!! Wishes, Laura.
The movie she mentions, Millions,  sounds really interesting, so I think I'll have to track it down and watch it.  The quote is a good reminder that money isn't everything.

The stamp is of a little raspberry cake, surrounded by raspberries, and is applicable to me as raspberries are my favourite!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Face of Terror

(Image via Full Fat Milk)

On Friday, Anders Behring Breivik (the man on the left in the above picture) committed two terrorist attacks in Norway.  He planted a bomb in Oslo and then went to an island where a youth camp for the ruling Labor political party was being held, shooting over 80 people before giving himself up.  Nearly 100 people dead, in total.

These were acts of terror.  But the war on terror has really been the war on other - and other in the West is non-white, non-Christian, non-civilised.  A white Christian man from Norway, one of the most civilised countries in the world, surely wouldn't commit an act of terror?  He's one lone guy.  He's not working in a group.  He doesn't represent every blonde Caucasian male.

He must have some motivation other than terror.  Never mind that he appears to be behind a 1500-page manifesto full of anti-Muslim sentiment.  Never mind that he posted a video along the same lines.  He's one of us, he can't be a terrorist!

It turns out that Anders Breivik also happened to enjoy video games.  He played World of Warcraft, and Modern Warfare 2, and Dragon Age 2.  A-ha! Now that is a story.  He's not a terrorist, he's just a gamer influenced by violent games!  Because, as everyone knows, violent video games cause people to act violently.  This angle was covered by The Australian, and also very strongly pushed in The Post Chronicle (NOTE: Massive spoiler for Dragon Age 2 in that article, and the next paragraph in this post - skip if you don't want the spoiler).

I have no idea what sort of "news" outlet the Post Chronicle is.  I'd never heard of them until today, when the story linked above was posted on Twitter.  Their reasoning, which is iron-clad, is as follows: Anders Breivik played Dragon Age 2.  There is a character in Dragon Age 2 who is also white and blonde and named Anders.  The Dragon Age 2 Anders blew up a "political" building (I would say "religious", but this is the Post Chronicle's party).  Anders Breivik also blew up a political building.  Therefore, Dragon Age 2 is responsible for the Norway attacks!  Fantastic investigative journalism there, Post Chronicle.

Look.  I'm about the same age as Anders Breivik.  I played World of Warcraft for years, and have logged hundreds of hours in Dragon Age 2 - I suspect far more than he has.  I never played Modern Warfare 2, but I've played plenty of other violent games.  You don't see me going about killing people, do you?  There are millions of gamers all over the world.  There are over 2 million people online in Steam as I write this, and this is at the lowest point of their activity cycle, as it's the middle of the night in the US.  Blaming his love of video games, while overlooking his massive Islamophobia, fundamentalist Christian beliefs, and military training, is simply creating a scapegoat and reinforcing the idea that terrorists are not like us.

But they are.  Terrorists are people, just like the rest of us.  They might have different religious beliefs, or similar.  They might be the a different ethnicity, or the same.  They might be from another country, or from our country.  They might have opposing political views, or similar.  The only thing they share is a desire to incite terror in the hearts of others.  I'm a gamer, but I'm no terrorist.  The two don't always go hand-in-hand.

Postcrossing: USA

My second card of the week from the Great Smoky Mountains, and another very beautiful one.  I love the ethereal colours, and the interesting facts about the area.

This was the first card I have received that was in an envelope, with a letter included.  I've seen quite a few users have specifically requested NOT to receive cards in this way, but I actually quite liked it - he sent me quite a long letter, talking about his university and his hometown, the places he's travelled, things he likes to do, and so on.  It was fascinating to me to receive so much detail about a complete stranger.  It's also good for people who like to collect stamps, because then you can cut the stamps off the envelope without ruining the lovely postcard.  The stamps on this one are another American clock, like my last US postcard, a Kansas stamp showing windmills and the year Kansas entered the Union (1861), and an abstract stamp on the theme of "love" - all very pretty.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Postcrossing: Great Britain

Puffins!  They are such strange-looking birds, to me they always look as if they are about to cry, but they are very cute birds.

On the back:
Hi Jennifer,
One of my most favourite quotes is as follows:
"Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." F. Nietzsche
Scary, isn't it?
I really love this Nietzsche quote too, so it was cool that she included it.  The stamp is of a great crested grebe.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Postcrossing: Germany

It was Postcrossing's 6th birthday last week, and to mark the occasion they allowed all users to send an extra 6 postcards.  It seems that an awful lot of people took advantage of this, because on the day that promotion was running their site was very slow.  Then today I received FOUR postcards!  A veritable torrent!  This is the first (and cutest): I'll spread the others over the next few days.

Kittens!  Squee!  They remind me of Bubbles when she was a kitten.  This card is from another child, so once again I won't publish what she wrote, but I will share the quote she shared with me:
Glück ist Liebe.  Wer lieben kann, ist glücklich.
The quote is from Herman Hesse, and translates as "Happiness is love.  Someone who can love is happy."  Thanks to @blauerpunto for the translation!

The sender also put some very cute matryoshka-style stickers on the back of the card in bright colours.  The stamp is of a Ballonblume, a type of aster flower.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Postcrossing: USA

This card is absolutely chock-full of wildlife: I keep finding new animals hidden in the trees.  It's so beautiful!  The card is also the first one I have received from a child, so for his privacy I'm not going to publish what he wrote on the back.  He did ask me to send him a card back, which I thought was sweet. I realised that my Penguin book cover cards might not be the best ones for children, so I ordered the complementary Puffin cook cover post card set today as well, in case I need to send more cards to children in future.  I'll have to go and find a card for him tomorrow, perhaps at the post office!

The stamps are also lovely, of the Liberty Bell and an American Design stamp showing an American clock.

I'm still really enjoying Postcrossing.  I get genuinely excited about checking my mailbox!  I love that there is such a wide range of people involved, from so many places - I'm learning and seeing so much.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Postcrossing: Romania

The castles on this card are so beautiful.  Yet another beautiful, historic European country I would love to visit.

On the back:

Greetings from Romania!
Acestea sunt câteva obiective turistice din tara mea. Sunt castele ale vechior domnitori.
Happy Postcrossing!
Using the wonders of Google Translate, I deciphered the message as follows:
These are some sights in my country.  They are the castles of the old rulers.
I was very excited to receive another card written in another language.  I stated on my profile that I don't mind if the sender doesn't write in English, and it was fun to work out what they were saying.  Because Romanian is a Romance language, some of the words were familiar enough that I could guess a little bit.

The stamps are two beautiful antique jugs.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Postcrossing: Russia

Saint Petersburg is so flat!  The island in the foreground is the Peter and Paul Fortress, the original citadel of Saint Petersburg, and the cathedral is the Peter and Paul Cathedral.  According to Wikipedia, the bell tower is over 123m high, and the figure on the top is a gilded angel.

On the back:
Hello, I hope you enjoy view city on postcard.
We are all sitting in the gutter but some people still look at the stars (Wilde Oscar)
For Jennifer
P.S. Nastya from Russia
The Oscar Wilde quote she actually wrote in Russian in Cyrillic script as well, which I loved.  This is one of my favourite Oscar Wilde quotes and I think it's awesome that she took a suggestion from my profile page of sharing a quote, and gave it to me in her language.

There are 5 stamps on the postcard: 3 showing the Kremlin, one fox and one hare, all brightly-coloured.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Postcrossing: Portugual

My first postcard from a dude!  I love that, while this is a "city view" card, it's of an ordinary street and shows ordinary people.  Quite unusual.

On the back:
Hello Jennifer! There's a typical street of Portugal capital, Lisboa.  Cool you are from New Zealand, I always wanted to visit it.  I've friends in Christchurch city!  I hope you like the postcard!  Greetings from Portugal! Joáo
The stamp is of a brightly-coloured circus clown and is very cute.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 3

Your Favourite Series

Man, this is a hard one.  My favourite genre is fantasy, which lends itself to epic series-spanning stories.  The majority of fantasy books are part of a series, or at the very least, part of a shared universe.  So it was incredibly difficult for me to choose just one series as my favourite.

In the end, I really had to settle for the Harry Potter series.  It's easily my most re-read series on my bookshelf.  Each time a new book came out, I devoured it in one sitting in one day.  I always re-read the entire series before each new book and each new movie, meaning that the early books I can just about recite from memory.

I love the series because, even though the books are aimed at teenagers, they never patronise or dumb things down.  And there are so many tiny details - everything is important, everything is connected.  Every time I do a re-read I discover something new.  The characters have a depth and relatability that is lacking in many other popular books.  Her female characters are strong and independent and have inherent self-worth that is not tied to a male character.  Rowling's writing style is tight and not flamboyant, and her ability to coin new words to fit her invented universe is amazing.  There are certain scenes throughout the series that never fail to make me weep, and others that never fail to bring a smile to my face.

I admit I was a late convert to Harry Potter.  I think it was when Book 3 (Prisoner of Azkaban) came out that a friend finally convinced me to start reading.  But from that moment, I was hooked, and I've never looked back.

The 8th and final movie based on the series opens this week.  It really is the end of an era.  I'm excited for the movie, but also sad, because it means there is no more Harry Potter.  But I'm also glad that Rowling stuck with her plan of 7 books and didn't drag out the series or get bogged down.  She had a plan right from the start, and it shows.

Of course, I don't think anyone would be surprised if Rowling writes more books in the universe.  She certainly could, if she choose to.  But I personally hope she doesn't.  I think the story stands on its own.  It's a story I hope to one day share with my own children.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Postcrossing: Finland

How cute is this card?  It's so sweet!

On the back:
Hello Jennifer and many wonderful greetings for you from here Finland :)  My name's Marika and I'm 29 years old.  I'm happily married and have many lovely pets <3  I wish that some day I could travel to NZ or Australia!
The stamps are weirdly shaped, not rectangular - one is a rounded cross and one is a kind of wonky pentagon, which I'd never seen before.  I've had a pretty rough day, so getting this card in the mail today when I got home was lovely.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Postcrossing: Taiwan

Another very wide card.  Apparently this lake is called the Big Pond, and it's seasonal - it dries out and fills up periodically with the weather.

On the back:
Greetings from Taiwan, and this is [Postcrossing Card ID].  The postcard pictures a small island near Taiwan, hope you would like it!  I have been to NZ once and stayed near Auckland, it is a beautiful place!  Take care and enjoy Postcrossing!
The stamps are of fruit and flowers.  My boss is from Taiwan, so it was exciting to get a card from her home country!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Postcrossing: Germany

On the back:
Dear Jennifer, you are the 3rd person I write a card to! I hope to get a card back soon, maybe from the UK, I like London!  My name is Lena, I'm 26 and from Germany.  I like to bake as well, but at the moment I'm on a diet, so no cake for me! :)  It's very rainy at the mom in Germany, I hope the weather at your place is better!  Have a nice week, hug, Lena
The stamps are of the Deutsche Post Tower in Bonn, which is apparently a famous skyscraper, and  Schloss Bellevue, the official residence of the President of Germany.  Her handwriting style is very enthusiastic.  I remember waiting for my first card too!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Postcrossing: USA

This card is actually holographic ("lenticular" is what the sender calls it), so it didn't scan too well.  You can just make out the ghost of the second image where the bear has caught the fish.  On the back:
Hi Jennifer.  I hope you like this lenticular postcard.  I love them, especially this one, with the bear munching on a fish.  We are on a cruise to Alaska, and having a wonderful time.  No bears sighted yet, but I hope if I do, I see the bear before it sees me.  Best wishes - Shannah.
She also drew a little smiley face.  The stamp is a Christmas-themed one.  I love that she is on holiday from another part of the USA but still was keeping up with her Postcrossing!

So far, all 4 of the postcards I have received are from women.  Of the 13 I've sent, only 3 have been to men.  It seems to be more popular amongst women for some reason, although I'm not sure why.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Postcrossing: France

This was the first card I received that was specifically something I had mentioned in my Postcrossing profile: I had asked for cards about baking, so this is what I got!  I absolutely love it, my clear favourite so far.  The pastries are just so French.  To eat macarons in Paris is one of my goals in life.  I loved the cute, slightly cartoonish feel of the card.

On the back:
I hesitated between a book and a pastries card, but as I've been baking several cakes for my kids parties today, here are some pastries! I understand you miss New Zealand, I went there while living in Japan and loved it.  We did a lot of hiking (Tongariro, Abel Tasman, Wanaka area, Milford track, Mount Cook area...), it was fabulous!!
I really appreciated that she had read my profile and taken some time to write about things I had said, as well as choosing a card I had asked for.  I'm loving receiving any cards, but this one was extra special to me.  The stamp is a beautiful abstract painting by Jean Bazaine.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Postcrossing: Belarus

This was an unusual card in that it's quite wide.  It's a shame the information on the back about the pictures is written in Cyrillic script, because I would love to know what this structure is.  Some kind of stadium? A train station?  I don't really know much about Belarus so it was very interesting to receive a card from there - it prompted me to do some reading.

On the back:
My name is Olga.  I live in the city of Vitebsk in Belarus.  I'm 23 years.  I'm a microbiologist.  I have two cats Klepa and Pushka.
I love to travel, the next country where I want it to go Australia.
I wish you good luck!
Happy Postcrossing! :) 
She put a regular smiley face and also drew a little face.  The stamps are gorgeous, they are of hares.  If you know what is shown in the picture, feel free to fill me in!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Postcrossing: Germany

*NOTE: Due to an issue with Blogger not letting me upload pictures, my posts about my postcards have been delayed.  This post was originally written on 22 June.  I've updated and edited it to make it less confusing.

A few weeks ago I joined Postcrossing.  I'd been meaning to do so for ages and just never got around to it.  But after I saw the fabulous postcards one of my favourite bloggers, GnomeAngel, was getting from around the world, I finally joined.

I've sent 13 cards so far: one each to Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and USA; two each to Finland and Taiwan; and three to Germany.  I had been buying them individually, the tourist-style ones from post offices and so on, but I decided to buy a box of 100 Penguin book cover postcards from Fishpond that will keep me going for a while!

I've been eagerly checking my mailbox every day for my first postcard, and it finally arrived on my birthday, no less!

On the back:
Greetings from my birth- and work town Berlin, the capital of Germany.  I live in a suburb, I am married, have an adult daughter, a dog and my profession is midwife.  Take care, Helwyne. 
She wrote her messsage sideways, which I thought was cute and unusual.  The stamp is a picture of a cathedral.  I would love to visit Berlin and see the Brandenburg Gate so I was thrilled this was my first card!

P.S. Sorry for all the edits, but I think I finally have this post right now!