Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Unclear on the Concept

Joe The second class period of the semester started here yesterday. One of my stated goals for this term is to sell off the least useful of the textbooks that I bought last fall. This isn't as straightforward a proposition here as I've come to expect in the States; the University doesn't have a bookstore, and neither of the bookstores in town with textbook sections bother to cater directly to the current course schedule, instead just maintaining a general collection of texts used in classes over the years, loosely arranged by subject. And, more to the point, neither of them deals in used books. There are a handful of online textbook exchange services; all are in Swedish naturally, and none of them appear to be frequented by the computer science students, so they aren't really useful to me.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Falling back

Jennifer We had to change all our clocks today, as Sweden has just gone off Summer Time, a week before the US goes off of Daylight Savings Time. This time change is the one we always used to like, because for a day, it felt like a stolen hour, like getting away with some sort of minor indulgence, with no consequences. In Michigan, Joe and I would look at each other and laugh, and say things like "Can you believe it's only noon? haha!"

This year is different. Today over lunch, we looked at each other, then outside at the grismal day, and I sighed and said "I can't believe it's only noon." Joe agreed and added that this time change is too bad, as it makes it feel like there's an extra hour in the day.

As I write this, it's about 4:40pm, and it's quite dark outside. Clearly there's only one thing to do: make chocolate chip cookies. If that doesn't cheer us up, nothing can!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Joe Our goal today was simple: we wanted to get out to Suomenlinna, the island fortress which guards Helsinki's harbor. This is not actually a difficult thing to accomplish from Helsinki, so we opted for a slow start to the morning. Consequently, it was just gone 9 when we showed up to the hotel breakfast buffet. We've never actually had a Finnish breakfast buffet, butof course it was not too different from what we've come to expect everywhere else. There were no waffles or pancakes, which isn't so unusual but worth noting, and the only additions were some very dark flatbread, some Karelian rice pastries, and a crock pot of hot porridge. The Karelian pastry is a thin pastry shell wrapped around some cooked rice; say what you will about the Karelians, but they don't appear to be big fans of the concept of flavor.

Back to the Baltic

JoeIt's 4:45 PM, and we're sitting on the sun deck of the Viking LIne cruise ship Gabriella on a cold, dark, somewhat misty afternoon in Stockholm harbor. The last time we took this trip was a year ago July, and like bad generals throughout history, we've learned the lessons of the last war a little too well. We hustled to the gate to board as soon as possible, in order to deposit our stuff in our cabin and grab a seat on deck before the mad hordes descended—only to find that we were the only people on deck, and all the chairs have been put away for the season. Eventually we wandered down to the aft sun deck, which last time was crowded with Swedes busy taking advantage of the tax free liqour to get schnockered—today, there were just a few lonely smokers. But now we're getting underway, and a few hearty souls are starting to show up to lean over the aft rail and watch Stockholm slide into the murky distance.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Not Quite Dag Hammarskjöld

Joe The other day we went down to the main university building to hear Ban Ki-moon give a brief speech. He was, no doubt, in country on some sort of official business (probably to do with the fact that Sweden holds the presidency of the EU at the moment…), but I'm sure that no Secretary-General of the U.N. could visit Sweden without stopping to pay respects at the grave of Uppsala's most beloved son: Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General, who died in a plane crash in Rhodesia while trying to broker a peace treaty.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The red badge of courage

Jennifer My ex-officemate S., who is into various sorts of gaming, started a mångkamp last year for students and postdocs in our department. The idea is that every participant comes up with some sort of event for everyone to compete in, and this then gives people a chance to share their interests (and also provides an excuse for people to stick around after work and socialize). Past events have included things like ping-pong (there's a table in the basement), poker, egg-balancing, cake-baking, Guitar Hero, Pentago... you get the idea.