Saturday, January 31, 2009


Joe On Wednesday night we attended our first EBC whiskyprovning. This is, apparently, a tradition which predates the EBC itself: this particular group started meeting nearly 15 years ago, and they still get together three or four times a year. In addition to Jennifer and myself, German A. from her lab and F. (star of last year's Disputationsfest post) were in attendance, as well as six of the core attendees, who I can only remember now as Per, Almost Per, Micke, Håkan, Definitely Not Per, and Per.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Downtown ski day

Jennifer A week ago Friday, early in the morning, I had seen snow machines at the back of the castle, industriously hosing down the hill with snow. There hasn't been much snow since our big storm in November, but why would anyone by making snow at the back of the castle? I figured that they were doing it to take wintery pictures or something, and thought no more about it. That same day, at lunch, the newspaper I was reading had a headline that I thought I must have misinterpreted. "Does this say that they are building a ski run at the back of the castle?" I held up the newspaper to the lunch crowd. "Yes, it looks like it," they said, and rustled through the pages. "Yes, and they will even have a race." "Why on earth are they doing that?" I asked, incredulously. "It's a block long! The winning time will be five seconds!"

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Knut's Day

JoeYesterday was St. Knut's Day here in Sweden, named after King Knut IV of Denmark (r. 1080–1086). More popularly known in English circles as Canute (but not to be confused with his great uncle, Canute the Great, who famously commanded the tides to stop), Knut is now mostly remembered for his death: he was cut down in a church, while assembling a large invasion fleet of England. The first part of that earned him sainthood; the second marked the end of the Viking Age.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Skating Party

It's known the skating pond conceals
A family of enormous eels
Edward Gorey, The Iron Tonic
JoeYesterday was an exceedingly Swedish day for us, as we went on a långfärdsskridsko with our Swiss friends G. and D., and one of Jennifer's coworkers, N. To put it as simply as possible, we went ice skating, but it was an ice skating experience unlike any I've had before. Just to set the stage a bit, when N. asked earlier in the week if I skated, I answered confidently that I knew my way around a pair of skates. I'm not a great skater—there weren't constant opportunities for ice skating growing up in southern Alabama—but in my teen and college years I did my best to make up for lost time. Why, I thought to myself, I own a pair of hockey skates! I once skated for the better part of an hour with my hands clasped behind my back! Can I skate, indeed. In retrospect, the fact that those hockey skates had been sitting unused in my basement for the better part of fifteen years should have given me pause, but perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself there.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Twelfth Night, or What the Hell?

JoeIt's Twelfth Night tonight, the traditional end of the Christmas season (except in Sweden, actually, but that's a story for next week), the night before Epiphany, which also happens to be the last of the twelve days of Christmas. I could have this wrong, but my understanding is that when numbering the nights of Christmas, they come before their corresponding days; that is, tonight is the Twelfth Night of Christmas, and tomorrow is the Twelfth Day of Christmas. When I get confused is when I count backwards, because this means that Christmas Day is not the first day of Christmas, although Christmas Day Night is the first night of Christmas (and, as a result, I think I'm going to insist on calling Christmas Eve Night "the Zeroth Night of Christmas" from now on).

Friday, January 2, 2009


Joe It's been a while now, but with all the excitement Christmas we neglected to mention one of our Jul week activities: on the solstice we went to Gamla Uppsala and had a picnic. It was a thing we had talked about doing for a while, but the solstice came on the day after my last exam was due, so I hadn't done a lot of preparation in advance. Nonetheless, Sunday morning dawned bright and clear, if somewhat late (the sun came up at 8:50 that morning), and it seemed like we should take advantage of the weather. So I tramped off to the store and got some cheese and crackers, Jennifer made a thermos of tea, and then we hopped a bus to Gamla Uppsala.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

... och Gott Nytt År 2009!

Jennifer In the week before New Year's Eve, the local newpaper ran a story about how toxic fireworks are (cobalt! strontium!), and then had short "citizen on the street" interviews with four people, all of whom claimed that they would not be setting off fireworks for New Year's. I checked that newspaper vigilantly for mention of when and where the city's official fireworks would be but without luck. The grocery stores we frequent had only sparklers for sale. I had therefore categorized New Year's as a "fireworks-optional" holiday.