Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sunrise in Örsundsbro

JoeThe fall term is, for all practical purposes, wrapping up now, and this year it carries for me the added urgency of prepping for teaching duties next term, on top of the normal scramble of exams and projects. I'm not complaining, I'm just saying: it's been a busy week.

Anyway, this morning I was supposed to have a meeting with a professor and one other TA about a class for next term, but before breakfast I found that it had been postponed until a to-be-named-at-short-notice time sometime before next Tuesday, while various people hashed out the other TA's seriously overbooked teaching schedule. So the morning went from fully booked to possibly my last free time for the week, and I decided to strike before the iron got out of the barn, as it were.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December's Foggy Freeze

JoeI looked out the window before going to be last night, and I couldn't see the apartment building across the yard from us—an event that has not been so remarkable this November, I must say.

"Ah, snowing again," I thought, despite the fact that it clearly looked like fog, and went to bed. After all, it was -15 degrees C, it couldn't be foggy, right?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The glaciers are coming!

Joe OK, not really, but it is wicked snowy here today. Sorry for the picture being so ghetto, but I don't have a camera with me today, and I wanted to show the view from my office window before this all melts—presumably tomorrow, to make way for the sleet we have scheduled for Friday. Yippee!

In other news, I appear to have graduated on Monday. I know this because I had to fight my way through the 25 cm of melting snow this morning to pick up the 11 page certificate I get in place of a diploma from my local gas station. OK, I just reread that, and I'll clarify: I had to pick it up from the local gas station, I actually graduated from the university. Of course, Moderaterna loves the deregulation, so maybe Preem Petrochemical University isn't too far off…

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

City of (Occasional) Lights

JoeThis November, in an acknowledgement that November is not a nice month to be in Uppsala, the city has decided to hold a repeat of its very successful venture two years ago, Allt Ljus på Uppsala, a sort of festival of colored lights at various places around town. (Why they decided not to do this last year, the darkest November in living memory, remains a mystery.) Forewarned that the snow was coming today, I decided to head downtown last night to check out this years entries.

Nu är det wintertid igen

JenniferLast year Sweden had the worst November in decades, as measured by having very few hours of sunlight (17 in total). Throughout the month, everyone was secretly hoping that it would snow, a lot, and soon, as the snow makes it what light there is brighter and is much better than endless grey days with a temperature hovering just above freezing.

One day toward then end of the month, the afternoon fika conversation at work turned to a prediction that there would be 25 cm of snow overnight. I frankly didn't believe it, partially because the weather forecasting is so bad here (and partly because I wanted it to be true). I expressed my disbelief by using a sarcastic, crude American expression that involves my posterior and winged simians. People laughed.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


JoeHere's a quick video of the computer science campus here. It's in the news today because Lars Vilks, the art historian who has gotten in dutch with the Muslim community, is giving a lecture on campus, so all the buildings are locked and the police are swarming all over the place. I'll post more tonight if anything interesting happens, but in the meantime the video offers a pretty good view of campus in the Autumn.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Heavy, Indeed…

Jennifer contemplates our proto-dresser.
JoeSeptember was kind of a crazy month. All summer long we'd been uncertain what was going to happen to us in the fall after I (hopefully) finished my Masters degree. Both of us were looking for jobs, both here and elsewhere, and I was madly writing and revising and coding. Then suddenly Jennifer had a job interview in Cambridge (note from Jennifer: details to follow), and with a week to go before my defense it looked as though we might be moving to the UK. Five days before D-day, I got a call from a professor about a PhD position I had applied for in the department here; I'd interviewed in June, and had pretty much thought that it was not going to happen, but apparently the committee had chosen the weekend before my defense as the time to make their final decision. At 5pm the night before my defense, I got a phone call offering me the position—we still had no idea about Jennifer's potential job in the UK.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Election time

Jennifer The big election day was the weekend before last— we had a few other things on our minds so didn't pay too much attention at the time I'm afraid— but I did get into town to take some pictures of the campaigning and the little huts ("valstugor") that each political party had put up to be a center point for distributing literature, have rallies, etc. The huts were set up in the main square in town (the one that the buses don't go through just at the moment!). They split themselves up neatly and by color coding: the left-leaning (Rödgröna, the'redgreens') parties on one side, the center/right folks (The Alliance, the 'blues') on the other side. Rödgröna are what you might expect: the communists, the social democrats, and the environmentalists (although the greens do not always hold with the reds in voting). Joining the redgreens were Sweden's famous Piratpartiet, the Pirate Party, who value freedom of expression and bandwidth above all and appear to have claimed purple as their color.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Girl who was Annoyed by Stieg Larsson

Jennifer I have heard that the Stieg Larsson thrillers have been all the rage in the US; of course they were popular here a little beforehand. Hollywood has taken notice, and they are filming the first book now ("The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" in English, "Män som hatar kvinnor" på svenska). (Of course it was already made into a perfectly decent movie in Swedish, but never mind.) And... they have decided to film parts of the movie in Uppsala! (The line at the bottom of the sign says "Uppsala. Borrowed by Oscar. Every day since 1984 [when the last movie, "Fanny and Alexander," was shot here].)

Saturday, August 28, 2010


JoeSummer appears to have ended here. Actually, it ended on August 23, according to the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute.

That morning, in a press conference that was supposed to be about the low pressure system sweeping through the south of the country and triggering gale warnings in the Skagerrak, one Linnea Rehn was asked if this was the start of Autumn. Her response, as far as I've been able to piece it together from various radio and newspaper reports, ran something along the lines of:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vacation in Switzerland

Jennifer We had two and half days of touring in Switzerland—should have been three and a half, but for the infamous behavior of EasyJet, about which Joe has promised to write later—anyway, we still had some time to fill with touristing.

We landed finally in Geneva on Thursday afternoon, where we were met by G. who was in the area anyway, and he loaded us onto a train for Neuchâtel, getting out himself at a half-way point for more wedding preparations. (The train ride, though quiet, punctual, and smooth, was not terribly encouraging for the rest of the weekend, as the rain pelted down...) We were then picked up at the train station by C., G.'s mother, who gave us a quick driving tour of town for orientation. Then to their house... and what a house! A spacious three full stories broken into three apartments, with different branches of the G. family living on each one, each one owning their share of the whole place. After some coffee, and showers, and rest, we gathered for dinner, during which a bright double rainbow manifested on Lac de Neuchâtel. Not much was visible past the lake on the first evening, but we were promised views of the Pre-Alps for sure, and perhaps even Jungfrau in the Swiss alps and Mont Blanc in the French Alps if the weather cleared.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Woman, best friend of human

JenniferAs a little vacation, we attended the wedding of our Swiss friends G. and D. this last weekend. We stayed in the town of Neuchâtel, while the wedding itself was held in Coppet, with a reception in Crissier. Lots happened, so the report will be delivered in parts...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cruisin' in Åland

JenniferEarlier in the spring, our upstairs neighbor P., who is an enthusiast of America in general, told us that he wanted to do something nice for us, and take us somewhere (within driving distance, for reasons that will become clear) to see more of Sweden than we've been able to. After some debate, he decided to take us to one of his favorite places, which is not strictly speaking in Sweden at all. The Åland island chain lies between Sweden and Finland, and is politically a part of Finland, although the residents speak a dialect of Swedish, and the islands enjoy some degree of autonomy that includes a tax exemption on alcohol. Many of the Baltic ferries therefore are based in Åland, so that they can sell booze cheap in their large duty-free stores. The eastern edge of Åland is only about a 2 hour ferry ride away, and it is a popular place to go for a week or so on holiday, while day trips are also popular.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tibble Days

JoeE. and family (the Dutch hosts of the World Cup Final party we attended a couple of weeks back) are having their summer vacation now, and very thoughtfully suggested that we might like to use their house some while they were away, as a sort of country holiday. Even though they're gone for a few of weeks, we're only able to take them up on their offer for a few days—the hamlet they live in, Tibble, is a good 23 km from our house as the jackdaw flies, and while there is a regional bus stop not 100 m from their front door the bus doesn't run during the summer. Nevertheless, we were able to hitch a ride out last night from a friend who is in the process of buying a house out this way, so we'll have a sort of four day weekend, albeit with both of working from home for parts of it.

Aside from remembering how to use an espresso machine, this morning's most important task was getting to the grocery store, which lies 6 km away in the outskirts of Rasbo (or possibly Gåvsta? The divisions between villages are a little abstract out this way…). So I hopped on board the rather cunning cargo bicycle parked out in the barn and headed off down the road. How was the bike? I've been rereading the Aubrey-Maturin books for the summer, so with apologies to Mr. O'Brian I'll sum up the experience thus:
By the time I'd made it to the edge of the village, I could tell that she was a slab-sided Dutch herringbus that griped something awful if you tried to put her within a few points of the wind. But with her hold stowed to bring her by the bow and the wind on her quarter she was a pretty smooth sailer. Still, I was happy to get her into port before the black squall whipping in from the east caught me.
The first drops of rain fell as I was pulling in to the drive, and a few minutes later we got a nice heavy rain (our first in a while, and perhaps enough that we won't need to water E.'s garden today). Unfortunately, it also took out the power (not an uncommon occurance in these parts, as Jennifer somewhat belatedly remembered), so our lunch was simple bread and cheese (there's a fridge full of Gouda, naturally), washed down with a bit of Trocadero (a local soda that's sort of like a fruity ginger ale). On the plus side, what was shaping up to be a hot, humid day, with a high around 30°C, has turned cool and breezy.

According to the Norwegian weather service, tomorrow will have a high of 17°C, proving yet again that we are incapable of packing correctly for even the shortest of trips in Scandinavia, having brought nothing but shorts and light-weight shirts. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bottling summer

JenniferIt's that time of year again— sing hallelujah, the smultron are ripe! This year of course I have been keeping a careful eye on the smultron patch, noting the state of the flowers and early stage berries. Even so, it was my nose that let me know they were finally ready—their delicate sweet smell, wafting across the sidewalk on the early-evening breeze, mixed with the scent of warm pine trees in the sun... heavenly!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Dutch disaster

JenniferThe World Cup final between Holland and Spain was last Sunday, and E. had decided to throw a big party at his house, not only for the joy and comradeship, I suspect, but also perhaps as an offering to the Fates. You see, E. has played quite a bit of team sport in his past, and therefore is a little superstitious about these things. He stopped shaving after Holland's first win; he hadn't washed his Holland jersey since then either; he was initially contemptuous about Paul the Psychic Octopus, but then he became quite a bit apprehensive, when Paul predicted that Spain would win. (In sympathy, I had not washed my orange t-shirt since the first game, and I also confess that I was more than a little worried by Paul's prognostication.)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Horrible Revelation

Joe Amazingly, we've been in Sweden for two and a half years now. How long is that? Well, last night our gregarious, raggare neighbor (a very nice fellow we've mentioned before) stopped by to surprise us with a "taste of home". He had been out waxing his recently acquired 1959 Ford Fairlane over the course of the long summer evening, and such a quintessentially American activity requires that most American of drinks, a self-proclaimed king of beers which shall otherwise remain nameless.

'Twould have been unneighborly to refuse, so I had a beer. Know what? After more than two years of being subjected to Swedish beer, which is (with very few exceptions) truly awful, this stuff (which I couldn't even bring myself to buy on the 4th of July)—it isn't so bad. I'm not saying that it's good, but it isn't actively bad.

What's next? A renewed appreciation for Oscar Meyer hot dogs?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Working the World Cup

Jennifer The World Cup is going on right now, as some of you are doubtless aware. The exit of the United States from the tournament at the hands of Ghana is upsetting, but really, they didn't look so good anyway. Fortunately, plenty of soccer that does look good is still going on. The Dutch post-doc E. is a sporty fellow—he started the office betting pool, and knowing that he couldn't possibly concentrate on anything else while Holland was playing its quarterfinal match against Brazil, he decided that we'd just have to watch it at work. He brought in snacks and his family as well, with his two the young boys both wearing as much orange as possible (they spent most of the time playing with the orange balloons). And so at 4pm we gathered in the conference room and set up the streaming video, and had a very good time indeed as it turned out, as Holland beat Brazil 2-1, in a very entertaining match, to advance to the semifinals next week.

E. and I share some superstitions about sports; for instance, he will now absolutely not wash his orange shirt while the tournament is going on, and he is a little too disturbed to hear about Paul the Psychic Octopus who has correctly predicted every German win so far. Neither myself nor E. had chosen Holland to advance this far, and we are both pretty well out of contention for the small office pot. "It's worth it," he said, "if I have to lose the betting in order to win the Cup that's just fine."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Facial, football, and foo-foo drinks

Jennifer What do you do when you're stranded in a strange land, feeling a little blue about your immigration status and job prospects, and about to fyllar 40 år? I decided that I really wanted to do something new for this year, something different, something that I would remember always and associate with this particular birthday for all time. I bet you can guess what I decided to do... that's right, I decided to... to... do something girly.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Linnaeus weekend, 23 maj

Jennifer When last I left you, it was Saturday, 22 May: sunny (all the Swedes got sunburnt), warm (more like 25C than 20C), meadows full of wildflowers, fruit trees in full blossom... it seemed as if summer was finally in Sweden to stay. The next day, Linné's birthday, was quite a different affair...

The plan for the day was to take a hike along Herbatio Danesis, one of the trails through meadows and along a small river that mirrors one of Linné's famous teaching-excursion trails (another one, Herbatio Gottsundensis, is a forested walk that runs just past our apartment). The walk was 5 km, however, so I opted to meet the group at their destination, which was Linné's other house in another suburb called Sävja. This house is preserved, but the grounds are not, at least not to the extent that Linné's Hammarby is preserved. The Sävja Linné campus has been turned instead into a combination horse riding school and art colony. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.

The day was noticeably less sunny than the previous day, but it was not until I had been up for while that I noticed how much colder it was (12C). Also, there was a little bit of a drizzle—not too bad, but not great either. Well, this is Sweden after all, and there's no way that they would cancel a walk because of a little cold and rain (not that they would be happy about it, mind you...). I packed up my things and headed out to the bus stop, not putting on my raincoat because it wasn't raining at the moment... and that's when the big thunderclap came, and the heavens opened up. I got completely soaked, just getting to the bus.

The lightning had apparently taken out some electricity south of town, because some traffic lights were out, so it took a while to get down to Sävja. When we got there (classmate Stina had also skipped the walk, and joined me on the bus about halfway), we wandered around a bit in the courtyard, wondering what had happened to our comrades. Eventually our teacher John must have heard us talking, because he came out into the now-gentle rain. "We are here," he said, looking a little grumpy and pointing into the main house. It turned out they had not stopped for lunch, so they were tired, wet, cold, and hungry. But we had our little tour, and heard the story about Linné's dog Pompe for the fourth time in two days, but did also get to see a Fritillaria meleagris (the famous kungsängslilja, a species originally planted by Linné in the botanical garden in town but spread to the meadows in the south), and some nice pressed specimens.

We had a spot of luck, though—that afternoon, a couple of troubadours were going to be there singing songs from Bellman, the famous Swedish song writer, a rough contemporary of Linné. I have heard of him of course but never heard his music performed live, so I was quite eager for the tour to end to get to the music. The wet Swedes, still a little grumpy perhaps, said it was too hot inside the cafe. I went in anyway, and it was really nice. The music is quite fun—besides "real" music, he wrote what might be called popular tunes, some comical, and I partially understood one to be about some students from Stockholm and their adventures at the University of Uppsala. Many of these tunes are still well known, and so there were quite a few of sing-along moments. (The proprietor of the cafe was so moved that he treated the musicians to a beer on the house.) It didn't take long for the rest of the class to come in, and I think they enjoyed it too despite themselves. The rain poured down, the wind lashed branches across the windows, while inside we had candlelight and music and hot coffee... not perhaps what you want from May (it was down to 10C, cold enough to see your breath), but quite fun nonetheless, at least for me, still a tourist in many ways.

The concert ended—some of the students had left, and the rest went to fetch the car while the botanist and I went back to the main house's kitchen, where we spread out the plants she had collected on the walk, and gave me a lecture about them even though I had not made the trek. So there it is: I've had a genuine disciple-of-Linné experience, getting a private lecture from a botanist in Carl von Linné's own house. I think we can call that weekend a success. Now I just need to finish my essay and pass the class...

An odd coda to the day: when we drove back into town, we took a bit of a detour and drove along the river. The botanist in the back seat suddenly exclaimed "Soldiers!" and pointed. Sure enough, stretched out over about four city blocks, probably around a hundred soldiers were sprawled out, with full face paint and even twigs in their helmets (plenty of greenery in this part of town), all with guns, some of them in teams with big machine guns, pointed at the river, some of them wiggling forward on their stomachs across the lawns or pavement. They have to practice somewhere, of course, but it was surely a strange thing to see.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Linnaeus weekend, 22 maj

Jennifer I've mentioned before that I am taking a class about the life and science of the famous 17th century Swedish botanist Carl von Linné (Linnaeus). The class is web-based, so I had not met any of the other participants, but yesterday and today we as a class went on a couple field trips to various historical sites connected with Linné.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What I do for my country

Jennifer So I have been amusing myself these days by trying to catch up with two months worth of Swedish homework in a week. This is not a good idea, and I don't know if I will be able to do it, but I am learning a lot of Swedish. We have to take self-administered computer tests: reading, writing, speaking (we speak into the microphones and make sound files that we then attach to the test), and... listening.

Normally I enjoy practicing listening; it is a real pleasure when I suddenly understand something that I didn't before. But the people who made up this test thought it would be good if we could understand Swedish being sung. Normally I would even agree with that. But this particular test... "Idas Sommarvisa"... and I have to listen to it over and over until I can get the words... oh god, please make it stop! Click here for a youtube video of it... the lyrics scroll along the bottom so no, I have not watched any more than it took for me to verify that yes, this is the version I am listening to about a hundred times.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Alpine Adventure

JoeWell, there. The sun came out for long enough that the organizers decided lectures this afternoon were a losing battle, so they rescheduled the last one until after dinner—and given the amount of wine that gets drunk at dinner, I suspect the 8:30–9:30 lecture slot is going to be a rough one.

le Banquet

JoeLast night was the "banquet" for this little shindig. Once again, I have no pictures, but I know some exist, so I'll try to get copies if possible. Anyway, the banquet was held in the same room as all the other meals, at the same time as every dinner every other night, and no one dressed up, so you would have been hard pressed to realize it was the special meal if you hadn't been warned going in. What set it apart was that we had to work more for our food: instead of prepared plates, each table had a plate of raw meat (chicken, pork, duck and beef) and a… well, a marble slab mounted to a gas burner. So you sautéed little strips of meat, then seasoned them with mustard or tartar sauce. Odd, but effective. Even the sole French person at our table thought it was weird and Asterix-y; then again, he was from Brittany, so he probably feels that way about most of France.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Just like home

JoeMy camera battery died last night, and the web cam on the computer doesn't have the resolution to pick it up, so until I can bum someone else's pictures you're just going to have to take my word for it: it's snowing. Hard. Looks unlikely to accumulate in town, but for now anyway it's coming down pretty fast.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Aussois: Day 2

Joe We're on our morning coffee break now, and I've had two espressos, so I'm feeling like doing a bit of speed blogging before the next lecture. Woke up at 7 this morning to only light rain, so I decided to get in a little walk through town before breakfast. Not too busy a place at 7 on a Tuesday morning in early May, but cute. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Did find the fromagerie, and it's open on Thursday and Friday afternoon, so I'll have to try to stop by on my way out of town. Also about half a dozen creperies, but I don't know how likely I am to hit any of them this week.

No time (or bandwidth!) to link the pictures individually, so you'll have to follow the gallery link. Sorry!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Aussois: Day 1

Joe So I'm in Aussois in the French Alps for a week, attending a class on constraint programming. It's being held at a sort of resorty place, which is run by something called the Comité d'Action et d'Entraide Sociales (the Action Comittee of Social Caring?) with vague official overtones. It's an odd sort of place, kind of a cross between a resort and the Bio Station at Pellston. It's hard to argue with the location though—and if it ever stops raining, I'll be sure to take advantage of that fact.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Two rainy hours in Turin

Joe I'm in France for the week, attending a constraint programming summer school. I'll send more details later—I've been traveling since before 7 this morning, and I'm beat, and there's no internet in the room (insert indignation here), all of which means I'm about to prioritize getting a shower over writing an in-depth blog post.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Joe I think it would be fair to describe me as a person who is, on the whole, rather fond of winter. I like wearing wool sweaters. I like cold, snowy days. I like being warm and cozy inside on dark, stormy evenings. I even like watching curling matches on the tellie.

But it's April now, and I WANT THE SUN TO COME BACK!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Glad Påsk!

JoeToday is Annandag Påsk, a national holiday here in oh-so-secular Sweden, and for once at least it's a holiday we're spending in exactly the way it is intended: a day to recover from the excitement of Easter.

Friday, April 2, 2010


Jennifer You might remember that last year I had some students in the month of March; my project was once again volunteered for the same class year, but this year I ended up splitting the teaching duties with the Austrian postdoc E. who is in the lake project. He wanted the teaching experience, but would be out of town for the second half of the project; meanwhile, I was unemployed for the time leading up to it, but was rehired just in time to take the over for the second half. His good idea was to take the students out to nearby Lake Ekoln and get a new sample, since all our samples are from the summer and we are interested in finding out how the bacterioplankton is different in the winter. I do enjoy a bit of fieldwork— haven't done any for ages now— so I was more than happy to tag along with the group for the trip to take the sample. Back on 1 March, E. drove us and a trunk-ful of equipment down to the northern tip of Lake Mäleran, a basin called Lake Ekoln. This is the lake which runs all the way to Stockholm, and is what they skate on when they do the Uppsala to Stockholm skate race. On March 1, winter was showing no signs of giving up yet— new snow, a strong wind, thick ice. It took about half an hour for us to drill a hole all the way through the ice (here's me taking my turn). Then the two students got out the water bottles, took their samples, and we went back to the lab where the went through the rest of the procedure for filtering the bacteria out. They were very proud and possessive of their samples, as they should have been, since they suffered wet feet in a blizzard in order to obtain them; the Chinese student, who has never experienced anything like this, was quite pleased with the whole experience.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Jag jobbar jobbigt

JenniferSo here's my job situation. Late last year, my boss, in collaboration with a couple other professors here, wrote a grant application to the European Research Council. One of the purposes of the grant was to continue funding for my current project; the application included funding for a couple of students and a post-doc, with the understanding that I would be the post-doc. The grant was well-reviewed by the ERC, and at the beginning of December or so I was more-or-less assured of a one-year extension. But the way these grants work is that the actual funding is left up to the research councils of member states. And when Vetenskaprådet (the Swedish equivalent of NSF) received our application, they declined to fund it. ERC proposes, VR disposes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The bright sunny Söder

Jennifer When we woke up Saturday morning in Stockholm, it was sunny and clear, just right for a sit in a park, which had been one of my chief ambitions for the weekend. After a slightly less leisurely breakfast than we had had on Friday, Joe took off to run an errand, and I packed up a mid-morning snack and headed down to the nearest good-sized park, called Nytorget, only two blocks away. Outdoor seating at the cafes lining the square were at a premium, but there were plenty of spaces on the benches in the square, where I sat and ate my leftover pizza and watched the dog walkers and kids playing in the melting snow. I walked around the area a little bit, then met Joe on the bus, and we headed back into town for an afternoon of touristing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Spring View

Sofia Kyrkan
[Editorial Note: We're temporarily skipping ahead a day for now. Jennifer's writing a post for Saturday, but she has to work some tonight, so that post won't come out until tomorrow. I wrote the following on the assumption that you'd already know about yesterday, and I think I'm just going to leave it as is.]

Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
-Tun Fu (ca. 750)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Stockholm is melting

Joe We're in Stockholm this weekend, through the generosity of a friend who happens to be (a) in possession of an apartment in Södermalm, and (b) out of the country for a few days. So, for three days, we're trying out life in the big city. Now, admittedly, March in Stockholm is the off-season for a reason: caught between the rainy south and the snowy north, the weather in Stockholm is quixotic at the best of times, and after its snowiest winter in decades the thaw is proving a bit ugly. On the other hand, it's a lot easier to feel like a native when there aren't hordes of tourists on every street corner in Gamla Stan...

Monday, March 8, 2010

A little snow

Joe It's been a long, cold winter here in Uppsala—unfortunately for me, I've been sick as a dog for most of it. I'm feeling much better now, no thanks to the local medical establishment—who ever heard of a country where you can't even get a decongestant by prescription? I mean, honestly! But I'm not bitter… and, anyway, if you're going to have a couple of weeks without more than a couple hours of sleep a night, it might as well be when there's lot's of curling on the tv, right?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Glad hjärtensdag 2010

Jennifer In my list, I said that one of my goals was to write a post a day while unemployed. That went out the window on the very first day, of course, but I intend to do some catching up with short posts: more fika- and pub-småpratar, and similar little stories of odds and ends.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I've got a little list

Jennifer I suppose I will tell the whole story later, but for now, let's stick with the short version, which is this: due in equal parts to a series of miscommunications and the slowness of the bureaucracy, I find myself temporarily unemployed. It's not ideal, of course, but I have been offered at least temporary employment (as soon as legally possible) to try to finish up one of the projects, so the situation is a little less stressful than it could be.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Kicksledding at Fjällnora

Jennifer Last year we went to Sollentuna and then to Ekoln so that Joe could try his hand (feet?) at långfärdsskridskor, the long-distance skates favored by those who wish to travel or exercise on natural ice. But there is another option, the kicksled, or in Swedish, "spark" (which just means kick, but specifically means a violent sort of kick). Kicksleds are just that: lightweight, flexible, two-runner sleds with a seat on the front, traditionally used for getting you and all your gear out to the middle of a lake for ice fishing, and then providing you a seat while you fish. Joe wanted to try one out, as a more stable way to get some speed on the ice, and it also occurred to us that perhaps someone could sit on the sled while being pushed around by someone else.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lost in the Woods

JoeSo I'm on my way to campus late Friday morning, biking through Stadsskogen just like I do every day now. It's been rather cold for the last week or so, staying below -10°C pretty much the whole week, so we still have all of our snow from Christmas, which makes for a pretty ride (further helped by all the hoarfrost that was left over from Thursday's freezing fog). Anyway, I'm about two-thirds of the way through when, turning a corner, I come across a woman on skis, standing at the crossing I'm about to pass, and she says something along the lines of, "Kunna jag fråga du…"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Samma rutin som förra året…

Same procedure as last year…
JoeToday is trettonde dag jul, and with it our second Swedish Christmas comes to a close. If last year I was struck by how very different Christmas traditions seemed in Sweden compared to the U.S., this year what seems even more striking is how very much the same it all seems as last year.

Swedes seem particularly hide-bound when it comes to the winter holiday season. As evidence, I present a tale of two television shows: Kalle Anka och kompisar, and Dinner for One. Kalle Anka, or Donald Duck as you know him, is an oddly popular comic book character in Sweden, a fact which is perhaps related to the staggering and inexplicably enduring popularity of the Kalle Anka Christmas special here. The show in question is the 1958 Walt Disney Christmas special, and it has been shown on Swedish television on Christmas Eve at 3 PM every year since 1959—exactly the same cartoons, only a couple of them Christmas related in any way (and one of those complete with the awkward racism so typical of Disney cartoons from the 30s), with a live narrator every year translating for the kiddies (the cartoons are in English, with Swedish subtitles). OK, so they show the same thing every year, what's the big deal, right? Consider this: in a bad year, Kalle Anka pulls in maybe a little over 3 million viewers in Sweden—it may not sound like much, but its one third of the population of the country, and some years its closer to half. That's right, half the population of the country watches this one show. Live, mind you, they watch it live—I've yet to meet a Swede who would contemplate taping Kalle Anka.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

God jul 2009 och gott nytt år 2010

JenniferHappy 2010, everyone! We had a busy time before the holidays, as Joe had exams and project due right up until the 23rd, and I have quite a lot to do at work just now, either in preparation for leaving my job soon (yes, it will be two years at the end of this January), or, preferably, preparing to carry on with the project for another year (fingers crossed). Joe has also had a cold for a while, and frankly we were just so exhausted by the time jul came around that we mostly sat around and complained. But a few nice things have happened, so here's a run down of the last two weeks.