Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Night with the UOGB

Joe Tuesday night, along with our Swiss friends D. and G., we attended what was (for us, anyway) the most eagerly anticipated Uppsala cultural event of the fall: the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, performing live at the Regina Theater.

They performed a number of their standards, like "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," and their "Life on Mars/My Way/Substitute/etc." medley. They also played a bunch of stuff we hadn't heard before, such as "Anarchy in the UK" performed in the style of a Simon and Garfunkle sing-along, "Pinball Wizard" as a sea chanty, and an old George Formby ukulele classic "Leaning on a Lamp Post" as Russian folk music (doing a pretty good balalaika impression). It was, in the words of the London Telegraph, a "plucking good time."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Moose Safari

Joe This week M., a new exchange student in Jennifer's lab, invited us to go on a moose (elk) safari, as she was taking some visiting family and had some room in her car. So, this afternoon we loaded up and ventured out into the wilds of Vansjö. We left an hour before our safari was due to start, having been told by another coworker that it only took 30 minutes to drive there.

Turns out it takes more like 45 minutes, not counting the 15 minutes you lose when you assume you've gone to far (based on the above-mentioned coworker's advice) and backtrack to find a filling station. Luckily we had a reservation, so they gave us a couple of minutes grace, but even so we were the last ones in, right behind a father with two little golden haired daughters. We were then delayed a couple of additional minutes when a series of miscommunications led the ticket taker to assume that Jennifer was the mother of said little girls, and a lot of confusion over who was paying for whom and why ensued. Once we had that straightened out, it was on to the elk (moose).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Going to Class in a Classless Society

JoeThe first week of real classes is behind me now—long enough to pass on some first impressions.

The first significant change for me is probably the pace. I'm only taking three classes, but they only last for 6 weeks, so after this first week things are set to start happening pretty quickly. There isn't really enough time in the period to set a bunch of homework assignments, so instead the general model seems to be that each class sets a small handful of projects, maybe as few as two or three. The strange thing is that there isn't a single final grade issued for each class; instead you get a different grade for each component, each with a different weight. For example, in a class worth 7.5 credits, you may get 4.5 credits for passing the exam, and another 3 credits for passing the homework. To pass the class, you have to pass each element individually. Grades are issued on a scale of U, 3, 4, 5, where a U is a failing grade and the rest indicate passing (there used to be a 1 and a 2, both failing, as well as a 6 and a 7 for people who did too much).

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Some years we forget to burn the goat…

JoeAs with the start of any school year, much of my first couple of weeks have been spent dealing with administrative necessities. This being Uppsala, however, at least one of these was new to me: the need to pick a nation. We've mentioned the nations before: student organizations which correspond to various areas of Sweden. What we may not have mentioned before is the fact that membership in a nation is obligatory for students at Uppsala. In fact, when you show up to take your final exam for each class, you are required to show proof of your membership in some nation or another. So this week I had to decide what nation to join.

A welcome, of sorts

Joe On Friday I attended a reception for new students at Universitetshuset. It wasn't exactly intended for me—there was another reception this week for International students, conducted in English. The one I went to was almost all in Swedish, but it was also a wee bit more of a shindig.

Monday, September 1, 2008


JoeOrientation week is over now, so I guess I must be acclimated to the new school now. I believe I left off after my first day, so here's the rest of the week in a nutshell: