Saturday, December 15, 2012

How To Instantly Stop Yourself From Crying

Don't let yourself burst into tears

Thanks to Joanna Goddard and WikiHow!

For years, I would feel my chin start to wobble when my scary former boss yelled at me, and, all through my childhood, when in arguments with my parents, I would have to say, "I'm really serious about this, even though I'm crying! Ignore the tears!"

But then, my dears, I discovered the BEST trick that literally stops you from bursting into tears during those ill-timed moments. This is all you have to do: When you feel like you're going to lose it, pinch that little bit of skin between your thumb and pointer finger. Pinch it hard.

That's it. Seriously.

It will magically stop you from crying.

Pinch. Pinch the skin between your index finger and thumb. Or anywhere else that works for you. Easy as pie, right? But don't pinch yourself to hard.

Does it help you?

Here are some other methods to stop crying:

  • Swallow saliva. and then bite your tongue.

  • Take a really deep breath, during any occasion on which you feel that you might cry, and let it out calmly and coolly.

  • Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.

  • Blink a few times and look into the light; this makes your pupils constrict and keep tears from falling.

  • Cross your eyes. This is also another way to prevent tears from forming. Rolling your eyes works the same way.

  • Do math problems in your head. Emotion comes from the right side of the brain. Doing even simple addition and subtraction activates the left side of your brain and can circumvent the emotional response you're having. Times tables also help.

  • Press your tongue to the roof of your mouth (or tickle the roof of your mouth with it).

  • Laugh. Laughing is a common impulse when there is something funny. Though this is not a fun situation, laughing stimulates chemicals in your brain that causes crying and calms it.

  • Yawn. Yawning helps to loosen the tight feeling in your throat that comes along with crying. Yawning may result in slight redness/tears so use it as a last result.

  • Puff up your cheeks and hold your breath

Hope it helps! <3

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Distant Place

Pukapuka is a coral atoll in the Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the most remote islands of the Cook Islands. It is a triangular atoll with three islets with three small islets threaded on a reef, which encloses a beautifully clear lagoon. Together, the 3 islets comprise little more than 3 square kilometers of land area, yet on this small island an ancient culture and distinct language developed over many centuries.

The entire population is said to be descended from just 15 adults and an unknown number of children who survived a catastrophic storm and tidal wave (tsunami) over 300 years ago. 664 people inhabited the island as of the 2001 census.

Pukapuka is a place beyond the reach of the faintest echo from the noisy clamour of the civilised world. To this day Pukapuka is one of the most untouched and secluded places in the Cook Islands.

Couple of Pukapukan phrases:
  • PEWEA: Hello, how are you? 
  • KO LELEI WUA: I'm fine 
  • ATA WAI WOLO: Hello/Thank you  

Mountain Troll Cabins

Norwegians have their own way of going green, and quite literally. For hundreds of years houses in Norway have been covered with turf. And they come in different varieties. Some are bright green and almost velvety. Others are golden and look like they’re growing wheat or oats. A number of turf roofs have flowers mixed in with the grass, and a few have small trees.
A smooth surface like a lawn or a green roof tend to absorb noise rather than reflect them as do other materials or construction.Also studies by German professor, Gernot Minke have shown that green roofs can reduce the effects of electromagnetic radiation.

The advantages of turf roofs (also called sod roofs) are many. They are very heavy, so they help to stabilize the house; they provide good insulation; and they are long-lasting.

Green Roofs in Norway have become a long-standing tradition, and it’s not common to see them dotting the country’s landscape – or in this case, essentially melding with the landscape. During the Viking and Middle Ages most houses had sod roofs, and in rural areas sod roofs were almost universal until the beginning of the 18th century. Tile roofs, which appeared much earlier in towns and on rural manors, gradually superseded sod roofs except in remote inland areas during the 19th century. While the tradition declined and almost became extinct with the introduction of corrugated iron and other industrial materials, steadfast national romantics revived the vernacular tradition. The renaissance of green roofs was also boosted by a growing interest in open air museums, mountain retreats, vacation homes and the preservation movement, and in turn many cultural and commercial institutions have integrated these roofs into the core of their design as an alternative to modern materials.

Every year, since 2000, an award has been given to the best green roof project in Scandinavia.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Green Life in a Tiny House

Dee Williams wanted a simpler, greener life - so she built her dream house, an 84-square-foot cottage on wheels, which is currently parked in a friend's backyard. Not only did she save money using salvaged materials (the front door came from a dumpster, for instance), but the entire house is small enough to fit into a standard parking spot. Says Williams, 'Right now, there's nowhere else I want to be.'

Williams’ trailer cottage is surprisingly roomy inside, largely thanks to its clever use of height. For example, Williams’ bed is in a loft above her kitchen.

Williams is proud to have fulfilled her goal of minimizing her ecological footprint. Her monthly heating bill is $6 and, thanks to solar panels, her electricity is free. Her approach goes against the national trend: Americans consume 40 percent of the world’s oil and 23 percent of its coal.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest Summary

Part 1: Intermezzo in a Corridor
April 8-12

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest begins the day after The Girl Who Played With Fire ends. (Check out our "Brief Summary" of The Girl Who Played With Fire.) Mikael Blomkvist is arrested by a bumbling policeman at Alexander Zalachenko's farm. But not before he patches Lisbeth Salander's wounds with duct tape and has her and her father (that nasty piece of work, Zalachenko) flown to Sahlgrenska hospital in Göteborg, Sweden. At the hospital, where Salander is under arrest, Dr. Jonasson removes Zalachenko's bullet from Salander's brain. Zalachenko is treated for his axe wound to the face (courtesy of Salander). They are recovering two doors down from each other.

Meanwhile, Blomkvist gets out from under arrest, and the cops begin to realize that Ronald Niedermann, son of Zalachenko and half-brother of Salander, is guilty of the murders they suspected Salander of committing. He's also guilty of many others. Niedermann escapes by killing one policeman, wounding another, and kidnapping a woman named Anita Kaspersson. He disappears.

Blomkvist convinces his sister, Annika Giannini, to be Salander's lawyer, if Salander wants her to be. When Salander regains consciousness, she's not a happy camper. Mostly, she wants to kill Zalachenko once and for all.

Back in Stockholm, Blomkvist starts writing Salander's story. Soon he learns that Erika Berger, his long-time lover and editor in chief of Millennium magazine, is going to work at SMP, a big news organization with a board of directors that's notoriously hostile to women. Still, he keeps up his work on Salander's case, including visiting Milton Security to make sure that Dragan Armansky, Salander's former boss, is on board to help Salander.

Evert Gullberg comes on to the scene. He, like Zalachenko, is in his seventies. He remembers how he came to be the head of a secret group inside the Security Police, known as the Section. The Section is devoted to protecting Zalachenko, an ex-Russian spy turned (now retired) Swedish informer. The Section is responsible for Salander (now almost 27) being committed to St. Stefan's children's psychiatric hospital in 1991, where she was subsequently declared incompetent.

While Gullberg muses, Zalachenko and Salander plot to kill each other in the hospital. Later, Gullberg meets up with other members of the Section. They hatch a plot to have Salander committed to an insane asylum for life.

Blomkvist begins forming Team Salander and planning strategies to free her. He realizes that his phones are bugged and documents for Salander's case have been stolen. Salander accepts Giannini as her lawyer. While Salander and Giannini are conferring, Gullberg sneaks into Zalachenko's room, shoots him dead, and then kills himself.

Part 2: Hacker Republic
May 1-22

Things are getting more serious. Blomkvist notices that he's constantly being followed by men in a gray Volvo. Still, he continues writing his book about Salander, Zalachenko, and the Section (though he doesn't yet know it's the Section). He plans to publish it during Salander's trial.

Back in the hospital, Salander wants everybody (especially the police and her lawyer) to stop bugging her and asking her questions. Peter Teleborian, the sadistic psychiatrist who tormented Salander at St. Stefan's when she was a child, tries to convince her doctor, Dr. Jonasson, to let him see Salander. Jonasson refuses; he doesn't believe Salander is insane. Jonasson is really taking an interest in Salander, and Blomkvist convinces him to smuggle Salander her Palm Tungsten T3. When Salander gets her Palm, she discovers she's connected to the Internet. She immediately links up with her friends in the Hacker Republic, and they agree to help with her case.

Meanwhile, Erika Berger has started work at SMP. She tries in vain to get the board to take her ideas seriously. She also gets a nasty cyber-stalker. At Millennium, reporter Henry Cortez accidentally discovers that Berger's boss at SMP sells toilets made by child labor in Vietnam. Blomkvist gives Berger the bad news about her boss. First she gets mad at him, but then she takes him to bed.

At the same time, the police are investigating Salander's case. Torsten Edklinth and Monika Figuerola of the Constitutional Protection Unit of the Security Police join Team Salander.

Part 3: Disk Crash
May 27-June 3

All of our favorite characters are working on freeing Salander. Blomkvist writes and researches at Salander's huge, top-secret apartment, since his place is bugged and crawling with secret agents. Salander starts writing her life story on her Palm. Plague, Salander's hacker friend, finds thousands of violent, sexual images involving children on Teleborian's computer. They're beginning to build a case to discredit the evil psychiatrist who's determined to keep Salander imprisoned.

Berger's stalker escalates, breaking into her home and stealing private items like sex tapes and love letters. Milton Security gives Berger a security system overhaul.

Figuerola and Blomkvist work on Salander's case together, and soon Figuerola seduces him (rather easily).

Salander finishes her autobiography and sends it to Blomkvist. She has recovered from her brain surgery and is about to be moved to a jail in Stockholm to await her trial. While waiting to be moved, though, Salander does a bit of hacking and realizes Berger has a stalker. She identifies him as a news guy at SMP, Peter Fredriksson. Suzanne Linder of Milton Security confronts Fredriksson and gets back Berger's personal items.

At SMP the next day, Berger's boss finds out that Millennium is going to expose his child-labor toilet business, and accuses Berger of being behind it. She resigns from SMP, but first has Cortez's toilet article about her boss published on the front page of SMP. Everybody at Millennium is glad to see her back.

Part 4: Rebooting System
July 1-October 7

Blomkvist's book about Salander and the Section is to be published the same day as her trial. The Section wants to prevent the piece from being printed, but when they reach the publishing house they find that Milton Security is guarding Blomkvist's book. They decide to have Blomkvist killed and plant cocaine and a wad of cash in his apartment, so his death looks drug-related.

Blomkvist's home security cameras record the Section planting drugs in his place. At dinner with Berger, hit men hired by the Section try to kill Blomkvist, but he and members of Team Salander foil the killers.

Salander's trial takes place. Teleborian is the chief witness, but Giannini and Salander totally discredit him. In order to build Salander's credibility, Giannini shows the court the video of Salander being raped by her ex-guardian, Nils Bjurman (see Dragon Tattoo for more on that). This proves Salander isn't delusional and lying about the rape, as Teleborian has claimed. At the end of the trial, members of the Section are arrested for a slew of crimes. Teleborian is also arrested for having violent child pornography on his computer. Salander's declaration of incompetence is revoked, and all charges are dropped against her.

Epilogue: Inventory of Estate
December 2-December 18

Back in Stockholm, Salander visits an abandoned factory she inherited from Zalachenko. She finds a body there and quickly realizes the place has been used to keep women against their wills. She also realizes she's not alone. Her half-brother, Ronald Niedermann, has been hiding out here for most of the year. Niedermann (a gigantic man who feels no pain) wants to kill Salander. When they face off, though, she manages to nail his feet to the floor with a nail gun. She contemplates killing him but decides against it. Instead, she lures some of his enemies (also criminals) over the factory, then calls the cops on everybody.

Back at Salander's place, she hears a knock on the door. It's Blomkvist, bearing coffee and bagels. He wants to be friends with her again. She "open[s] the door wide and let[s] him back into her life" (Epilogue.261).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Girl Who Played With Fire Summary

 The Girl Who Played With Fire opens like an explosion. We meet a young girl (who we later learn is Lisbeth Salander) strapped to a bed in a dark empty room. She has been trapped in the room for about a month and a half. To calm her extreme anger, she focuses on her favorite fantasy (which we later learn is a memory) of pouring gasoline on a man in a car and then lighting him on fire. Yikes! Soon, a mysterious man enters the dark room. When she lashes out at him, he tightens her restraints. When he leaves, she fantasizes about lighting him on fire, too. This is how she celebrates the night of her thirteenth birthday.

Part 1: Irregular Equations

It's December of 2004, and Lisbeth Salander is vacationing in the city of St. George, on the island of Grenada. She's a bit troubled because the man in the hotel room next to her, Richard Forbes, seems to spend his evenings beating his wife, Geraldine. Meanwhile, back in Salander's hometown, Stockholm, Sweden, Mikael Blomkvist has been trying to reach her. He hasn't heard from her in over a year; for some reason, she abruptly stopped all contact with him.

Back in St. George, Salander examines her brand new breast implants in the mirror and thinks she likes what she sees. After hearing news that a hurricane is set to hit the island, 26-year-old Salander visits 16-year-old George Bland, her new lover. She also arranges a background check on Richard Forbes.

In Stockholm, Salander's guardian (she's one of a minority of Swedish adults under guardianship), Nils Bjurman, is making some plans for Salander. In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the first novel in Larsson's trilogy, Bjurman brutally raped Salander. She happens to have recorded the event, and is using the DVD to blackmail him. She tattooed the words "I AM A SADISTIC PIG, A PERVERT, AND A RAPIST" (2.4) on his torso, and has basically ruined his life. Since then, he's tracked down a police report from 1991 which has some important information about her. In the report, he finds the name of a man who must despise Salander just as much as he does.

Back in St. George, Salander discovers that Richard Forbes stands to inherit 40 million dollars if his wife Geraldine should happen to die. When the hurricane hits St. George, Salander finds him on the beach, trying to make that very thing happen. In the midst of a raging storm, she stops him, and brings his wife to safety. The next day, Geraldine seems very upset to learn that her husband has been found dead.

Part 2: From Russia With Love

It's January now, and Salander is back in Stockholm. Using the billions of kroner she stole (using her hacking skills) from corrupt financier Hans-Erik Wennerström (in Tattoo), she has bought herself an ultra-fabulous apartment. She definitely doesn't want to see Blomkvist. She fell in love with him, but knows he'll never reciprocate in the way she wants him to. Now she wants to ignore him and get over him.

At the offices of Millennium magazine where Blomkvist works, Blomkvist meets Dag Svensson. Millennium has agreed to publish a book and an article by Dag, which will expose people involved in the sex trade, smuggling women and girls into Sweden from Eastern Europe and forcing them into prostitution. Some of these people are lawyers, judges, policeman, journalists, and other would-be guardians of the public trust.

After a huge shopping spree to furnish her apartment, Salander goes to Äpelviken nursing home to pick up a box of her late mother's belongings. Her mother, Agneta Sofia Salander, died at the age of 46 from a massive brain hemorrhage. She'd been suffering from these strokes for the past twenty years. Back at her new apartment, Salander realizes that she's been taking her friends for granted. She didn't say goodbye to her friend Miriam Wu (Mimmi), her boss Dragan Armansky, or Mikael Blomkvist, for that matter, before she left on her year-long trip around the world. Nor did she bid adieu to her young lover George Bland in Grenada. Maybe, just maybe, Salander can start to turn her life around.

In late January, a mysterious blond giant gives a man named Carl-Magnus Lundin Salander's name and address. He also gives Lundin the order to kidnap her. Around this same time, Salander decides to let Mimmi, her friend and sometimes lover, live in her old apartment. This way, Mimmi can have a nice place to live, and Salander can continue getting mail at her old apartment, keeping her new address nice and secret.

In February, Salander visits her former boss at Milton Security, Dragan Armansky. Armansky is upset with her for leaving without word, and tells her she's a selfish brat. He also gives her some stunning information. Holger Palmgren, her guardian before Nils Bjurman and the one person she trusts in the world, is alive! She thought he'd died of a stroke. She feels hideously guilty for neglecting this man she cares for deeply. She drives out to the rehabilitation center where Palmgren now lives. They reunite happily and Salander arranges for him to get a personal physical therapist to help speed his recovery.

Dag Svensson meets up with his girlfriend Mia Johansson. Mia is excited because her doctoral dissertation, which she will defend in a few months, has been printed and bound. Her research also concerns the sex trade. They discuss a mysterious gangster known as "Zala" who might be heavily involved in the sex trade. Everyone they interview seems terrified of Zala.

In March, while grabbing a beer with Mimmi in a bar, Salander spots Blomkvist. Seeing him prompts her to have a look inside his computer (which he knows full well she hacks into whenever she wants) to see what he's working on. She learns about Dag and Mia's research into the sex trade. She encounters a name that chills her to the bone: Zala.

Still in March, Salander happens to see Nils Bjurman meet with the blond giant, and then she follows the blond giant around for a while. Deeply concerned that Bjurman is up to no good, Salander visits his apartment while he's sleeping. She finds nothing that gives away his plans, but she does find a gun she hasn't seen before, locked in his drawer. This makes her uneasy.

Later in March, Blomkvist is walking near Salander's old apartment when he sees her! Before he can talk to her, a man tries to snatch her off the street. She defends herself, evading the man. Blomkvist tries to keep the man from following her and gets punched. Salander gets away, but she drops her keys and purse. Blomkvist picks them up. While Salander hides, Blomkvist tries to use her keys to get into her apartment. To his shock, none of the keys fit. Meanwhile, Salander realizes that Bjurman has hired people to try to kill her. She can't let him get away with that.

Part 3: Absurd Equations

Near the end of March, Blomkvist still hasn't been able to reach Salander. He doesn't understand why the nameplate on her door reads Salander-Wu. While having dinner at his sister's house, Blomkvist gets a call from Dag. Dag and Mia are going out of town, and Dag wants to give Blomkvist some material for the article. Blomkvist offers to come and pick it up. Shortly thereafter, Salander pays Dag and Mia a visit. She asks them what they know about Alexander Zalachenko .

They are stunned; they'd never even heard Zala's full name before. When Blomkvist gets to Dag and Mia's a little later, he finds Dag and Mia's corpses. Someone shot them just moments before his arrival. He calls the police and the investigation into Dag and Mia's murders begins. Early the next morning Blomkvist breaks the bad news to his long-time lover and friend Erika Berger, editor in chief of Millennium. They decide to investigate Dag and Mia's murder themselves, and to publish Dag's work posthumously once they learn the identity of his killer.

That same day, the police find the gun used to kill Dag and Mia. It's registered to one Nils Erik Bjurman, and – get this – it has Salander's fingerprints all over it. The police try getting in touch with Bjurman, but haven't yet been able to reach him. Soon, they find him shot dead in his apartment, apparently with the same gun used to kill Dag and Mia. Now Salander is the prime suspect in three murders. The cops raid Salander's old apartment, but soon learn that she probably doesn't live here anymore. Everything seems to belong to Miriam Wu, who is also absent from the apartment.

Meanwhile both Blomkvist and Armansky wrestle with questions of Salander's guilt or innocence. Blomkvist decides that Salander can't possibly be the killer. Armansky tends to think she might be the killer, but that she must have had a good reason for her actions. Like Blomkvist, Armansky opens an investigation into the murders, assigning his men as consultants to the police investigation.

Soon, the police investigation meets with Dr. Peter Teleborian. We learn that in 1991 (when Salander was twelve) Salander was committed to St. Stefan's Psychiatric Clinic, under the care of Teleborian. Teleborian considers Salander a very dangerous person who should never have been let out onto the streets. We learn that Salander refused to submit to psychiatric testing; her diagnoses (that she's psychotic) are all based on her refusal to cooperate. In short, there's no valid psychiatric assessment of her in existence.

Blomkvist suspects Salander might be looking around in his computer from time to time, so he leaves her a message offering her his help. She replies briefly, suggesting he look into Zala. On April Fool's Day, Mimmi gets back into town after visiting her parents in Paris. She hasn't seen the headlines branding Salander a killer and is shocked to find her apartment violated. The police promptly pick her up for questioning.

In April, famous boxer Paolo Roberto comes to Sweden and sees the headlines. He happens to be friends with Salander, and once taught her how to box.

Part 4: Terminator Mode

Paolo Roberto volunteers to help Blomkvist and Millennium with the investigation into the murders. Blomkvist gives him the task of trying to talk to Mimmi. While waiting outside Mimmi's apartment, Paolo witnesses Mimmi getting kidnapped and follows the kidnapper's van to a remote warehouse. Inside the warehouse, the blond giant threatens Mimmi with dismemberment by chainsaw if she doesn't reveal Salander's hiding place (which she doesn't know anyway).

Paolo Roberto breaks in. Together, Paolo and Mimmi manage to escape the blond giant's clutches and make it back to Stockholm. When Paolo and Mimmi report these events, the police decide Salander might not be the killer after all. But, she is still their prime suspect, and the media circus surrounding Salander continues.

Meanwhile, we learn that the blond giant killed Dag, Mia, and Bjurman. He is Zala's right-hand man. Here's what happened on the night of the murders: Dag calls Bjurman asking questions about Zala, and the blond giant happens to be at Bjurman's place, talking to him about Salander. He decides Bjurman has too much information, and he kills Bjurman, then goes to Dag and Mia's place and kills them for looking into Zala. While at Dag and Mia's the blond giant drops his gun, but it turns out to be for the best since Salander's fingerprints are found on it, and she's accused of the murders.

Back in the present, Blomkvist learns about Zala. Zala was orphaned in Russia when he was a baby and was raised in the Russian military. He defected to Sweden in the 1970s and acted as a source for Sweden's Secret Police. He is now in his 60s and has an amputated leg, which means he probably isn't running around shooting people.

Meanwhile, Salander locates the police report from 1991. While Salander reads the police report, she remembers the events of 1991. It turns out, Salander is Zala's daughter (!). Here a flashback to 1991: Salander is twelve and she stabs Zala five times to stop him from beating her mother. Not long after, Salander comes home from school to find that Zala has beat her mother unconscious. So, Salander throws a gasoline-filled milk carton into Zala's car (which he's inside). Then she lights the gas on fire. Zala has horrible burns, gets his leg amputated, and barely survives. Although she tries to explain to the authorities (including Dr. Teleborian) that she was defending her mother, Salander is branded psychotic and committed to St. Stefan's.

Back in the present, looking at the police documentation for the first time, Salander realizes that none of this was accidental. Zala is under the protection of the Secret Police. The events surrounding Salander and her mother had to be covered up to keep Zala from becoming known to the public, which meant unfairly tossing Salander into a mental institution.

While Salander is reliving her past, Blomkvist is hearing about it from Salander's former guardian, Holger Palmgren. Not surprisingly, Blomkvist is outraged. Separately, Salander and Blomkvist both decide to hunt down Zala. Soon, Salander discovers the identity of the blond giant. His name is Ronald Niedermann, and his address is a post office box outside of Stockholm. She drives out to the post office box.

Soon, Blomkvist does some fancy detective work, finds the location of Salander's fancy new apartment, bypasses her security, and uses her key to let himself in. He finds the DVD of Salander being raped by Nils Bjurman and realizes that his affair with Salander began very shortly after the rape. He had no idea. He feels very tender toward Salander.

Salander waits until someone checks the mail at the post office box, and then follows this person out to a remote farm. Blomkvist has also learns the location of Zala's farm and is trying to get out there, but the going is slow. Salander scopes out the farmhouse and determines that Zala and Niedermann are inside. When darkness falls, she enters the farmhouse and is immediately grabbed by Niedermann. Zala is here, and he laughs at her. Zala and Niedermann have been watching her all day with their infrared cameras. Salander learns that Niedermann is her half-brother, and that Zala also has a bunch of other kids out in the world as well. Zala and Niedermann walk Salander away from the farmhouse. Out in the woods, Zala manages to shoot Salander in the head. Niedermann buries.

But wait! Salander isn't actually dead, though Zala and Niedermann sure think she is. She digs her way out of the grave, finds Zala, axes him in the head, and locks him in the barn. Niedermann (who is afraid of the dark) gets frightened by Salander's appearance (she's covered in blood and dirt and looks undead), and he decides to leave the farm on foot.

Blomkvist, who is finally arriving, sees Niedermann on the road. Using a gun he borrowed from Salander's apartment, he forces Niedermann to his knees, ties him up, and leaves him by the side of the road. Blomkvist makes it to the farmhouse just as Salander is passing out from the bullet to the head she received. She says his name, and he calls the ambulance. Rest assured, this is not the end of the story. To learn what happens next, check out The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, the final book in the Millennium trilogy.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Summary

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo's Prologue features an unnamed man (who we soon learn is Henrik Vanger) getting a framed, pressed Australian flower in the mail on his birthday, November 1st. He calls Detective Superintendant Morrell and tells him about the flower. Henrik gets one of these flowers every year on his birthday. He has a total of 44 now. But he and the detective can't solve the mystery of who exactly keeps sending them. This thought makes Henrik cry.

After the Prologue, a copy of the Vanger family tree is provided for the readers. The rest of the novel is divided into four parts plus an Epilogue. It moves from December 20, 2002 to December 30, 2003.


Welcome to Stockholm, Sweden. It's a Friday in late December 2002. And it's cold.

Meet 42-year-old Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist, and managing editor of Millennium magazine, devoted to exposing financial corruption. Blomkvist has just been convicted of publishing libelous material about financier Hans-Erik Wennerström and has been sentenced to a hefty fine and three months in prison, which he'll serve some time in 2003.

Next we meet 24-year-old Lisbeth Salander, private investigator extraordinaire, and her boss at Milton Security, Dragan Armansky. Armansky and Salander are meeting with Dirch Frode, who hired Milton to investigate Mikael Blomkvist. Salander tells Frode that Blomkvist doesn't seem to be corrupt. He's a good journalist. But she still thinks Wennerström is crooked and that Blomkvist was set up. She agrees to investigate Wennerström for Frode. She tells Frode that Blomkvist is divorced with a teen daughter, and that he has a longtime sexual relationship with Erika Berger, editor-in-chief of Millennium. Erika is married but her husband, artist Greger Beckman, doesn't mind her relationship with Blomkvist. In all, Salander paints Blomkvist in a positive light.

Blomkvist and Berger meet at the Millennium offices, and Blomkvist convinces Berger to temporarily fire him, so his conviction will have less of a chance of hurting the magazine. Berger reluctantly agrees. Now that that decision's out of the way, Berger and Blomkvist spend the weekend together making love.

On Monday, Blomkvist goes over to Millennium, which is closed for the holidays. While he's there, he gets a call from Dirch Frode who says he represents Henrik Vanger, patriarch of the Vangers, a wealthy industrial family that owns the Vanger Corporation. The current CEO of the Vanger Corporation is Martin Vanger. Frode says Henrik wants to hire Blomkvist for something, but he can't say what. Henrik wants Blomkvist to come meet up on remote Hedeby Island because he's too old to travel.

On Christmas Eve, Salander takes presents to her 46-year-old mother in a nursing home. Salander and her mother briefly discuss the fact that neither of them have seen Salander's sister, Camilla, in a long time. Before Salander leaves, her mother mistakes Salander for her sister Camilla.

Blomkvist visits his ex-wife and his daughter, Pernilla, on Christmas Eve and then goes to his sister's place. At his sister's, he decides to accept Frode's offer and agrees to go to Hedeby Island. The day after Christmas he goes to Hedeby and meets Henrik Vanger.

Meanwhile, Salander goes to Hans-Erik Wennerström's apartment building. She checks out the electrical room and finds the wiring to Wennerström's apartment. Next, she visits her hacker friend Plague and buys an electronic cuff from him. (The cuff is a hacking device; Salander explains how she uses it in Chapter 28. It's implied, at this point, that Salander uses the cuff to do something to the wiring in Hans-Erik Wennerström's apartment.)

Back to Hedeby Island, Blomkvist learns that Henrik's great-niece, Harriet Vanger, disappeared 36 years ago. She started giving him pressed flowers when she was eight. After her disappearance, Henrik continued getting flowers in the mail. He's convinced Harriet was murdered by a family member, here on the island, and that her killer sends the flowers to torment him.

To persuade Blomkvist to investigate Harriet's disappearance, Henrik offers Blomkvist a big chunk of cash, and the promise of information that will allow Blomkvist to expose Hans-Erik Wennerström as a corrupt financier. Although he thinks it's a mistake, Blomkvist agrees to spend a year on Hedeby Island, helping Henrik write his autobiography and trying to find out what happened to Harriet. Erika Berger is extremely upset. She feels like Blomkvist is abandoning her.

On January 3rd, Salander gets a call from Dirch Frode telling her to stop her investigation of Wennerström. But, little does he know, Salander doesn't like stopping investigations once she starts them.

Consequence Analysis

Blomkvist arrives at Hedeby Island on January 3rd. Henrik gives him a tour and points out some of the major suspects in the disappearance of Harriet Vanger all those years ago. Harald Vanger is Henrik's 92-year-old brother, a hermit and lifelong member of the Nazi party. Henrik doesn't speak to him. Isabella Vanger is 75 years old, and the mother of Harriet. She was a hands-off mother with few parenting skills. Cecilia Vanger is 56, which means she was 20 when Harriet disappeared. She's Harald's daughter but has nothing to do with the guy. Henrik likes her. Her sister, Anita, lives in London.

Martin Vanger is 54, is Harriet's brother, and Vanger Corporation CEO. Martin built his current home in 1978 when he replaced Henrik as CEO. He's not married. Martin was stuck on the other side of the island (due to an accident on the bridge) when Harriet disappeared on September 24, 1966, so he was off the hook. Martin and Harriet's father, Gottfried, drowned in the lake near his remote cabin on Hedeby Island the year before Harriet disappeared.

During the rest of January, Blomkvist gets friendly with Martin Vanger and even has dinner at his house with Erika Berger and Martin's girlfriend Eva.

Meanwhile, Salander, who was in a psychiatric institution for several years as a teen, is getting to know her new guardian, Nils Bjurman. (Salander is one of a minority of adults in Sweden under guardianship. She was deemed incapable of handling her own affairs and thus assigned a guardian who is legally permitted to make decisions on her behalf, and who has all the legal powers she would normally have herself. How Salander got into such a mess is revealed in The Girl Who Played With Fire.)

Salander's old guardian was Holger Palmgren, and Palmgren helped Salander have a stable life by getting her a job at Milton Security. But Palmgren had a stroke in December and Salander believes he never recovered from it. Her new guardian, Nils Bjurman, has taken away Salander's access to her bank accounts. He has also asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life. Hm.

In February, Berger and Henrik make a deal and Vanger Corporation becomes a partner with the financially-hurting Millennium. Blomkvist is mad because Henrik and Erika have been plotting the deal for weeks behind his back. Making the deal without him is Erika's revenge on Blomkvist for leaving her alone in Stockholm to deal with Millennium. But Blomkvist soon gets over his anger and instead gets deeper into the mystery of Harriet. He's also seduced by Cecilia Vanger, and they become lovers. To Cecilia's dismay, he prepares to begin his prison term and work on Harriet's case while he's in the clink.

Meanwhile, Salander's computer gets run over, so she has to ask Bjurman to release some of her funds so she can buy a new one. He forces her to perform oral sex, and then gives her the money. She plans to kill him, but then decides to get revenge and control instead.

In early March, Salander meets Bjurman at his house, using herself as bait so she can film Bjurman raping her and then blackmail him. But Bjurman takes it much further than she thought he would. He handcuffs her to the bed, rapes her brutally, and holds her captive for about eight hours.

Still, she returns to Bjurman's house a week later. She tasers him, ties him to the bed, tortures him, and shows him the film of him raping her (her rucksack has a camera on the buckle). She tells him how it's going to be now, and tattoos the words, "I AM A SADISTIC PIG, A PERVERT, AND A RAPIST" (14.93) all over his front side.


Blomkvist gets out of prison in May and restarts his affair with Cecilia Vanger. But, after Erika Berger surprises Blomkvist in bed with Cecilia, Cecilia decides to break things off. In June, Blomkvist starts to make progress on Harriet's case, and he decides he needs help in his investigation. Dirch Frode recommends Salander, and lets it slip that she investigated Blomkvist. Blomkvist demands the report and then sets off to meet Salander. He surprises her, but she accepts the job as his research assistant.

In July, Salander identifies a series of women who were murdered and raped between 1949 and 1966, and who are referenced in Harriet's date book, which she left behind. Blomkvist and Salander decide there must be a connection between the Vanger family and these bizarre murders, which often involved animal sacrifice.

Also in July, Salander seduces Blomkvist and they begin sleeping together. One morning they find the mutilated, charred corpse of Tjorven, the Hedeby Island cat that befriended Blomkvist. Shortly thereafter, someone tries to shoot Blomkvist while he's jogging, resulting in a head injury from concrete shrapnel, but amazingly no loss of life or limb.

Finally, Blomkvist realizes, courtesy of some photographs, that Harriet was frightened of her brother Martin the day she disappeared. He goes over to Martin's to confront the guy, and Martin chains him up in his basement. While held captive, Blomkvist learns that Martin's father Gottfried killed the women referenced in Harriet's date book, raped Martin, and taught Martin to rape and kill women too. After Gottfried's death, Martin became a serial killer himself, and uses his basement on Hedeby to torture and kill the women. Surprisingly, Martin doesn't know what happened to Harriet.

Hostile Takeover

Martin is about to rape Blomkvist, and will surely kill him after, when Salander bursts in and saves him. Then she hops on her motorcycle to pursue Martin, who's getting away in his car. Martin drives his car into an oncoming truck and dies.

While Blomkvist gets some rest, Salander goes back to Martin's place and photographs the scene. Then she destroys some of the evidence of his crimes. She informs Dirch Frode of what has transpired, but says that neither her name nor Blomkvist's are to be given to the police if Frode chooses to report Martin's crimes.

Salander and Blomkvist realize that Cecilia's sister, Anita, is connected to Harriet's disappearance and they fly to London to talk to her. Through her they track Harriet Vanger to Australia, where she's living as Anita Cochran. But then Salander's mother dies, and Salander flies back to Stockholm. Blomkvist, however, sets out for Australia. He meets Harriet and learns the truth.

Her father Gottfried and brother Martin began raping Harriet when she was fourteen. When she was fifteen, she killed her father. Martin caught her and used the information to make her his sex slave. Martin went away to school. When he returned on September 24, 1966, Harriet was terrified. So she ran away with the help of her cousin Anita. In Italy, Harriet met Australian Spencer Cochran. They got married and have three kids and a happy life on Spencer's prosperous sheep farm. Harriet sends a framed, pressed flower to Henrik every year on his birthday, hoping to send him the message that she's alive and well.

After Harriet returns to Hedeby, Blomkvist agrees (against his will) to cover up Martin's crimes to spare Harriet and the Vanger Corporation public disgrace. Salander and Blomkvist turn their attentions to the Wennerström affair. Salander reveals that by using the electronic cuff she bought from Plague, she has successfully hacked Wennerström's computer. She has control over it and access to all of its contents. All of his financial records are in his computer and she can see all his banking information. Using the information in Wennerström's computer, Blomkvist spends months writing a book and lengthy article about Wennerström. Salander studies Wennerström's finances carefully, and then flies to Zurich and manages to steal millions of dollars from him.

Final Audit

Blomkvist's book on Wennerström, called The Mafia Banker, and Millennium's exposé clear Blomkvist's name and expose one of the biggest financial frauds in Swedish history. Wennerström disappears and evades authorities. But he doesn't evade Salander. Wennerström is still using the same computer she hacked. When the authorities give up the chase, she makes a quick phone call and the next thing you know, Wennerström is dead.

Salander and Blomkvist spend much of the Christmas holiday together. She realizes she's in love with him. After Christmas, she decides to go to his place without calling. She buys him a late Christmas present, a metal Elvis sign with the words "Heartbreak Hotel" (Epilogue.128).

On her way to his apartment, though, she sees him with Erika Berger and has a jealous rage. She walks away, tossing Blomkvist's present in the trash. And that's the end.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Google Maps Mania

Google maps satellite imagery is stunning. Even though we do not have time or dedication to travel around the world, google Earth maps can indulge our sense of adventure.
Here is a small collection of animal sightings. Most of them are from the National Geographic project "Africa Megaflyoer".

Birds in Colomiers, France. Coordinates: 43°37'47.57"N,1°20'28.49"E

White Birds sitting in a tree in Africa, east of Lubale. Coordinates: 0°13'7.95"N, 33°22'49.34"E

Whales in Hervey Bay, Australia. Coordinates: 24°37'19.53"S, 153°17'30.00"E

Small herd of Elephants in Africa. Coordinates: 10 54'13.84"N, 19 56'6.13"E

Another Herd of elephants. White bird joins in too. Coordinates: 10°54'13.16"N, 19°55'59.67"E

Large pod of Hippos taking a bath. Coordinates: 6 37'46.20"S, 31 08'12.96"E

More African Hippos. Synchronized swimming? Coordinates: 12°10'55.15"S, 32°17'42.17"E

Camels, Donkeys and People Coordinates: 15°17'54.44"N, 19°25'46.66"E

Camels: Coordinates:  15°17'40.39"N, 20°28'47.38"E

Seals. Coordinates: 18°26'45.41"S, 12° 0'44.23"E

This old African village town is made of slabs of salt cake. Coordinates:  19° 0'9.04"N,  12°53'36.06"E

Houses 2  Coordinates: 13° 1'12.07"N,  15°48'35.47"E

Have a stunning picture from google earth? Comment below!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Brain Rules

Most of us have no idea what's really going on inside our heads. For example:

  • To improve your thinking skills, move.
  • Most memories disappear within minutes, but those that survive the fragile period strengthen with time.
  • Our brains give us only an approximate view of reality, because they mix new knowledge with past memories and store them together as one.
  • The brain is in a constant state of tension between cells and chemicals that try to put you to sleep and cells and chemicals that try to keep you awake.
  • You can improve your chances of remembering something if you reproduce the environment in which you first put it into your brain.
  • Your body's defense system - the release of adrenaline and cortisol - is built for an immediate response to a serious but passing danger, such as a saber-toothed tiger. Chronic stress, such as hostility at home, dangerously deregulates a system built only to deal with short-term responses.
  • We have a great number of ways of being intelligent, many of which don't show up on IQ tests.