Monday, December 10, 2007


Today's Nobel Prize Day here in Sweden. I turned on the TV and they are doing interviews with the families, discussion about how the ceremony is done (eg, scenes of recipients practicing on stage how to get the award, shake hands with the king, walk backwards to their seat (?)), and so on. The family interviews are so charming. These are people given quite literally the royal treatment while they visit Sweden, and having a lot of fun, but also not used to being on camera and asked questions all the time. For example, the interviewers were obviously prepped and knew about the background of the two women they were interviewing, in one case referring to the type of horses the older woman had back in the US.

These are, after all, academics and researchers very much like a lot of people I know. Which is very cool in its own right that people I know might be honored in this way. And especially cool is that this event is being broadcast on live TV. The royal family just came in and sat down, so it's started. The closest I can compare to is the Oscars, and a bit with the background stories you see in the Olympic coverage. But in neither of those are the laureates required to present a lecture. I would much rather watch this.

Gerhard Ertl won the 2007 Nobel for Chemistry. He'll be repeating his lecture at Chalmers on Thursday, 10.30am. That's about 4 blocks from here and I'm going. I wonder how early I'll need to be. Who wouldn't want to hear a 45 minute lecture on "Reactions at Solid Surfaces: From Atoms to Complexity"? I should make sure to dress nicely.

Okay, back to the tube. The speech is talking about the need for basic research. One of the things I love about this country! :)

P.S.: I think the "walking backwards" part was to show how things were done. So far the first three winners have not had to walk backwards. Here's a quote from Yeats (Literature, 1923) from Time magazine:

At the presentation ceremony in Stockholm, Yeats saw with dismay that the recipients, after going down from the platform to receive their medals from the King, had to walk backwards up the steps again. Most of them sidled up, half-turned; when it came Yeats's turn he made a great effort, clambered up carefully, straight backward. "As the cheering grows much louder when I get there, I must have roused the sympathy of the audience."

and from unnamed Dean of Engineering at Princeton when he went as a guest in 1998:

Then he turned around and walked back to his chair, without having to learn how to walk backwards like an Orange Key guide!

So, no longer required.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Germany, Thanksgiving, and Nellie Bly

I visited friends in Leipzig before going to a conference in Goslar, Germany. J&J are friends of mine first from Biopython and then from South Africa. They are the only people I've met on three continents, I think. No, that's wrong. There's a few bio* people I met in Singpore, Cape Town, Europe and the US. But J&J are the ones I know the best. I got caught up a bit on the gossip in bioinformatics, and in South Africa.

A problem of having travelled so much the last few years is that I've friends scattered all over. I love living in Sweden and right now don't want to live anywhere else. But I want to see so many people in the US, in South Africa, in England, and elsewhere. Who's going to invent teleport booths?!

I presented a poster at Goslar but it wasn't ready by the time I left Sweden. I finished it in Friday and went to a copy shop to print it out. The previous time I visited Leipzig it seemed that nearly everyone knew English well. The guy at the Apple store, the woman at the restaurant, and more. J&J were surprised because they rarely find English speakers. It must have been luck that time because this visit I found very few who spoke more than a few words. But it worked out. The two woman at the shop knew about as much English as I did German from many years ago. "Schwartz-vit" means "black and white", and "A0" is written "A0". "Which kind of paper?" was hard to get across, but I could ask "Was ist besser?" - "Which is better?".

I walked around a bit, bought some pastries (again in broken German) and decided to brave .. a haircut. Length? "Half". "Wet or dry?" Decided for wet, which included a nice scalp massage. It worked out pretty well, given the lack of mutual comprehension. But a short haircut for a guy isn't hard.

One of the nights I was there I made locro for the first course soup. Locro is a recipe my mom learned when we lived in Ecuador. The way I make it is: boil potatoes until soft. drain water. Add whole milk until almost covered. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add cheese (a medium hard white cheese that melts nicely) and bring to a simmer. Cool and serve. The trick is getting the right cheese. In Miami my mom used queso blanco - "white cheese." I've used jack. Swedish "priest bread" does not work well. I should keep track of which ones make a good substitute. You can have avocado, or green onions, or quite a bit of other things for flavor.

(I have this now faint memory of when we visited Cusco in the early '80s. My dad and I went to a local cafe and I ordered potato soup that was amazingly good. In grad school the taste popped up in my mind. I couldn't make it, but I wanted a potato soup, so I ended up making a potato/tomato soup that is now a common meal when I cook.)

After that was the German Chemoinformatics Conference. It took a bit by train to get there. Goslar is in the boondocks. An uneventful journey. I stayed at a hotel about 10 minutes walk from the conference, and almost next-door to an American restaurant. I didn't expect to see an American flag flying in a small town in Germany. It looked like it was trying to be a tex-mex western place, but I didn't step in to find out.

During the trip in Germany I decided to eat German. I had lots of sausages and beer, for example, and sauerkraut and beets. I drank more beer on that trip than I usually do in months. I still don't like beer, but I can drink it.

My first snow of this winter happened while I was there. It wasn't freezing so the snow didn't stick. I was glad that I had brought my light gloves, just in case.

I left on Wednesday. On Tuesday things were worrisome as the German transit workers were threatening to strike. They have low wages and wanted their own union, or so I understand it. About noon on Tuesday the news report was "no strike until Thursday." Whew!

Roger and I rode the train to the Frankfurt airport together. He was spending the night there, flying back to Santa Fe the next day. I was flying to San Francisco on the 2-something pm flight. It's really hard to get from Goslar to the US. The nearest airport is Hannover, but that has no flights to the US, so 4 hours by train to Frankfort airport was the easiest.

There were flight delays on American Airlines leaving Frankfurt and I got to Chicago a bit late. But that was okay - the flight out of ORD was also late. Got into SFO. Was going to rent a "surprise" car for the 10 days I'm here. "surprise" means "whatever we have left". It was $1 cheaper than renting a specific car, and I decided to go for what's behind door number 2. Turns out that all that was left was a minivan. Which I didn't want. "Why did you choose the 'surprise' option then?" "Because I thought I could get a *car*, not a minivan." Grrr. So I spent more money to get a convertible. It's a Sebring. I'm not that happy with it. I think I'm not old enough for it. Though it does have digital radio, which I've never had a chance to listen to before.

I've been visiting Craig and Rachel. And David. Because of jet lag I was waking up early and drove Craig along with David to the latter's school. We would pick up Benjamin from the House of Co. David and Benjamin are 7 years old. Walking back to the car one of the other elementary schools asks me "is that your car? I like it!". Hmmm....

First few days here I gorged on chips and salsa, and Craig made waffles with maple syrup, and I ate other things which are harder to get in Sweden.

Yesterday of course was the Big Event. The main reason I came here for this visit - Thanksgiving. Rachel makes a great Thanksgiving spread. 17.5 lb turkey, several pies, mashed potatoes, cranberries, gravy, baked potatoes and carrots, stuffing, and more. Friends of theirs came over and brought an Indian(as in Asia)-style green beans, yams with apple slices, and gingerbread cake. There was much food eaten by the 7 adults and 4 kids. As well as talking and laughing and partaking of the juice of the vine.

Today was leftover day. I had pumpkin pie for breakfast, and apple pie as the first course of lunch, followed by stuffing and turkey and other more yumminess. I didn't do much during the day. Did a lot of web browsing. From a Wired mention I found mention of Nellie Bly's journey around the earth.

In 1890 Nellie Bly, then a 25 year old journalist for the New York World, traveled around the world to beat Phileas Fogg's fictional journey "Around the World in Eighty Days." She wrote a book at about it, titled "Around the World in 72 Days" which I read this evening. PBS did a story about it, and have a map.

It was a very engaging story to read. Her only luggage was a single hand-bag! She makes comments about American customs that have obviously changed since then, like women kissing women on the lips, which I've only seen in South Africa. While other things haven't changed: "(our space is so limited and expensive in New York)". This is back in the time when Britain ruled the world. One line is: "I took some American gold and paper money to use at different ports as a test to see if American money was known outside of America." For the most part it wasn't, except for silver, treated as specie.

She visited Jules Verne in France, who tells her he did "Around the World" mostly because he wanted to make a story around the International Date Line (not quite literally-it wasn't agreed upon yet by then). When she got back to the US she received a hero's welcome. A single young professional woman who went around the world and beat Fogg's time.

On Monday I fly back to the great grey north. That means in the next couple of days I've got some shopping to do. Gloves and pants and chocolate chips and more. I should make a list. And check it twice.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

45 is cold?

I've officially been away from the US too long. I read "The same glass of wine tastes significantly different at 45 degrees than it does at 60 degrees. " and thought "why would you heat a glass of wine?" I had to read it again before I realized "ahh, F, not C."

Guess it's time to get a refresher in English units. I'll do that next week. I'm visiting Craig and Rachel for Thanksgiving, and will be in California for about 10 days. Miles and feet, ounces and pounds, gallons and Fahrenheit: here I come!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Göteborgs botaniska trädgård

This afternoon I went with Gudrun to Göteborgs botaniska trädgård; "Gothenburg's botanical garden." Very nice place. Despite this being late fall there were still a few flowers out. Stragglers hoping to the see the first snow. I was quite surpised to see a stand of bamboo! I didn't think it could grow this far north. I'll have to go back when things are green and wet. Gudrun mentioned one part of the garden set up so you can hear the water tricking through. There was also a rhododendron section and even a small tunnel through one of the hills.

You want pictures? Try searching on flikr. I had my camera but as I was thinking hard to hold a conversation in Swedish I didn't have much time for other things.

Yesterday I invited friends over for a small Halloween party. Johann and Niklas took pictures, and when I geet copies I'll probably post them. We made jack-o'-lanterns from 3 pumpkins, a squash, and a melon. The green of the last was a nice contrast to the other colors. I also made jambalaya, Niklas brought a cake, and Eva brought candy. After all, what's a Halloween party without candy?

The party alternated between English and Swedish. I am progressing in the language. It would be nice though to have more daily contact with Swedes, to help learn all these little words, like "spatula", "trivet", "toothpick" and "blinds."

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

ni = you all

Florida is part of the South, and growing up in Miami, along with college in Tallahassee, I learned to say "you all" for second-person plural. I'm curious as to if/when my parents started using it. I'm pretty sure my Dad (born in Canada) does, but I can't recall if Mom (born in Michigan) does. I myself have a vague memory of starting to use it around 10 or 12 years old. That may just be when I noticed it as its own word.

English in general does not (any longer) have the second-person plural, though dialects have "you all"/"y'all", "youse" and a few others. (details). Other languages do have the distinction, and Swedish is one such. "du" means "you (singular)" while "ni" is "you (plural)", as well as "you (singular, formal)". The latter, formal use is considered old-fashioned and mostly disappeared from the language in the 1960s. Though there was a text in ony of my Swedish lessons about being embarassed because "he said 'du' to the king."

If I meet the king and talk with him in Swedish, what are the political and social ramifications if I (a republican American) use "ni"? Hmm. (BTW, "republican" in this context means "advocate of a republic", just like "he has catholic tastes" means "free from provincial prejudices".)

Therefore it's pretty easy for me to use "ni" - it's whenever I would say "you all". A few months ago I was shopping with Laura and asked if it was okay to ask a shop clerk "har ni något ...?" meaning "do you all have any ...?" It's because I'm asking "the people at the store" rather than "the person I'm talking to." She didn't think it was right to use the plural form there, but she's from Canada, where they definitely don't use "you all." So we asked Jacob, and he said it was fine. It's not wrong to use one or the other, it's just that ni form isn't wrong.

Last Saturday after the milonga at Språkkaféet, a few of us went to a nearby pub to drink and chat for a bit. I left a bit early and one of the women there apparently left soon after. When I saw Per yesterday he made some comment about how "you must have had some plans." I didn't understand that. I personally did have some plan: Laura was making dinner and I didn't want to be late. But he, correctly, used the second person plural form there to mean "you all must have had some plans", meaning me and that woman. Which I didn't get because I was really thinking "singular you there."

The same happened today in an email from Emily, an English woman. We (including Laura and Jacob) were going to her place for games this evening. After I told her that Laura and Jacob were both coming, she replied "I look forward to seeing you later." That didn't make sense because I again read singular instead of plural there.

It's my oddball dialect, I know.

In high school Spanish class, our teacher came from Virginia. When we did exercises we were supposed to use "you all" as the translation for "Ustedes". Apparently that's not uncommon. I've heard about others who had to do the same, though again from the South. The teacher wants to make sure the students know the difference between the two "you" forms.

Middle English, so some time back, had a second-person singular form, "thou", with "thee" and "thine" as object and possessive forms. To make life even more fun, they were written with the thorn character, þu, þe, and þin. The plural forms were "ye", "you" and "your". All be the last two have disappeared.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Från biblioteket

I got an email reminder from my local library here in Göteborg saying that some books were two in two days. It's not hard technology, but my old library in Santa Fe didn't do that. Then again, my old library didn't charge overdue fees.

Monday, September 24, 2007

school suxs

Today was a depressing day. I went to school. I didn't like it. I left. And I've had a big headache.

The school was an adult education class run by the city, "Svenska som andrat språk" - "Swedish as a second language". There were 32 people in the class, including me. But let me back up a bit. Last week was orientation for the new people. I didn't remember until late so I got there about 15 minutes after it was supposed to have started. I went to the room I was told to go to, and it was another class. I was very confused, as I often am when I'm doing things in Swedish, but eventually figured out that the teacher who was supposed to be doing the orientation for us was sick that day. It didn't matter that I was late.

I got a copy of the class assignments. The class itself started about 2 months ago so it's 1/2 way through. I then didn't know where to get the book, but the orientation staff (it was orientation for other classes) helped me out there. I got it, and over the last couple of days read through the text for today's lesson.

I showed up today. A bit late because I again had the wrong room, but that's okay as the teacher was also late. There were 32 people in the class, which is 90 minutes long. You can do that math yourself - about 3 minutes individual time per person. It's not worth my time to go to such thing. The Folkuniversitet classes aren't free, but the intensive courses meet every day for 3 hours and there's about 10 people in the class. Much more teacher time, much easier to ask questions.

It also seems that people are in the class in order to get the equivalent of a high school degree. There's worry about the number of points possible in the class - the points are needed for grade advancement, perhaps? Compare to the Folkuniversitetet course where 4 or 5 of the students were trained as doctors and wanted the knowledge to be able to do work in this country.

Once of the differences in pedagogy is that there are actual tests in the course I went to today. That, and the class environment, brought back some horrible memories of high school. I had forgotten just how much I did not like my English classes, and this felt like that. The Folkuniversitet course had at times worksheets to practice on, but that was all self-evaluated. So when I didn't like the problem set at least I could end it with "I didn't like it" and move on.

In ninth grade English class we learned about "diagramming sentences". I remember to this day, and continue to complain, about an assignment that started "have you every seen a pilot fish?". (another time I complained). I thought it was about pilots who fished, and I diagrammed it that way. Of course the other sentences were about "pilot fish" and sharks, but I thought they were just a bunch of random sentences and couldn't figure it out very well. I didn't do well with that assignment.

A few weeks ago in my Folkuniversitetet course we worked on an exercise to convert between passive and active. The text started with some sentences about how the Aztecs used cocoa and how it came to Europe. Swedish recipes are written in the passive voice so I interpreted the first few sentences to translate as a recipe. Which made the last three lines rather harder to interpret.

In class, on a different exercise we had to use "nog", "väl", and a few other words. Those are "probably", "well", and so on. In some cases it was hard to figure out which word to use, and indeed the teacher used a different word than the answer book used. With only 8 of us we could ask about different variations, and get feedback. With 32? No way.

Why the headache? I'm trying again to wean myself off of the juice of the Coke. Now I've caffeine withdrawl headache. Usually it only hits me about 24 hours after I stop, but this one came on a few days later. I tried earlier last year to stop drinking it and managed for a few months. But when I started teaching in South Africa I picked it up again. It's a sort of security blanket - more of a psychological addiction than the physical one. I started drinking Pepsi when I was in elementary school and it's pretty well associated with, say, late night hacking sessions. Though "energy drinks" appear to be taking over that niche.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

apartments, Swedish and pies

The party turned out well. About 20 people (including me) were there. And the pies? I don't see what all the hullabaloo is about making pie crusts. They turned out well. Yes, I've made flakier, and I've got ideas on what to do for next time, but that's at best a minor niggle. Helene looked at it and said "it's an American apple pie." I think because of the top crust. Swedes tend not to do that.

Good news. (And in Swedish you can say "good new" - "news" can be singular). I've found a short-term apartment. It's a 2 room-and-kitchen ('r.o.k'). In reading more about Swedish history, they weren't broken up as "bedroom" and "living room" because they weren't that distinguishable. For example, the entire family might live in a 1 rok, so the 1 room was for living and sleeping. And the bathroom was in the courtyard.

But this is a 2 rok, at about 44 sq. meters, or about 480 sq. feet. My house in Santa Fe was about 1,100 sq. ft. or 102 sq. m. And Sara and I managed pretty easily there. After all, it was meant as a post-war home for young families so should handle parents + 2 or 3 kids. By the way, Sara's back home! Her unit's out of Iraq and she's in Santa Fe again. Though obviously not in my old house.

Anyway, I don't need that much space. It comes furnished, and the price includes the water, power, internet, and heat, as well as access to the laundry room. Unlike US ones where the machines are all coin-op, use of these is included in the rent.

I started with my Swedish course at Folkuniversitetet. It's been annoying and frustrating, for reasons I haven't figured out yet. Still, I am learning. Now that I have a Swedish id I went to the library and got a card for there. I've checked out Swedish versions of Calvin and Hobbes, and of Heinlein's "Have Space Suit, Will Travel." Heinlein is one of my favorite authors and that book, along with "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" are at the top of my list of favorite books.

This means I'm learning how to say "transmogrify" in Swedish, and "spacesuit" and many other essential words. Calvin and Hobbes has been pretty slow reading, and I figured that perhaps I wouldn't read the Heinlein because it's a novel rather than a cartoon. But I took it out and started reading it. And it was good. I've read the story so many times in English I nearly have it memorized, even now after I don't know how long. So I can figure out what's going on from the context, and that helps a lot. Plus, I don't have to worry that I'm missing something subtle. I know the subtle parts. I'm wanting to learn the obvious ones.

So I'm very excited about that too. One things to note though is that the book was written in the late 50s, and translated within a decade afterwords, I'm assuming. That means it has some older vocabulary. As one example, it used "gebit", which isn't in my otherwise extremely good 'Prisma's Abridged English-Swedish and Swedish-English Dictionary.' It's in the online one as 'domain'. The context was "top man in a specialized domain" and I've been looking for a good word to say that I work in a "specialized field".

I was wary because it wasn't in Prisma. At salsa I asked someone there (a Swede) if she had seen that word. I even had the book with me, so I showed it in context. Nope, had never seen it. Later I asked Jacob. It's a German loan-word, with the original meaning of 'career', that in Swedish became more specialized. It's not common these days because English has taken over a lot of the "lets's be cool and use foreign word" parts in Swedish.

I know a Swedish word that a good number of Swedes don't know! (perhaps. a sample size of 2 isn't much).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

food processor

"Oh my Stars and Stripes!" That was one of my grandmother's strongest expressions, and one that I like to use to express astonishment. "Oh my Blue and Gold" in Swedish? Hmmm..

I'm getting things ready for the party tomorrow. I decided to make apple pies. Doing the crust is traditionally annoying. I think it was Christy, my sister, who pointed out that pastry cutters exist. I had been using two knives. Blah. Well Clarie has a food processor, and I used that to cut the flour and margarine together. Wow! Oh my Stars and Stripes! That was easy.

I also used it a bit to cut in the water but I think next time I do this I'll start with colder margarine and cut in the water by hand. I don't think the result's going to be that flaky for this batch. Maybe I'll make one and see what happens, then make the other.

Why margarine and not shortening? I couldn't find shortening here. Closest was "bakmargarin". I called Emily, a Brit. In the UK she uses suet (rendered beef fat). The US equivalent is lard (rendered pig fat). Both are good for pie crusts. I've never used it though. Emily uses butter instead. Hmm, when I head over to the store in a bit I'll buy some extra butter too, in case the test pie comes out poorly.

Looking on the web, it looks like pie crust making gives the heebie jeebies to a lot of people. Ignorantly sailing into treacherous baking waters, that's me! And treacherous is a hard word to spell.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Today I turned 37. One year ago I was in South Africa, as well as two years ago.

Living in foreign lands. I remember my 11th grade English teacher talking about Faulkner, and how we are tied to the land. I didn't believe her. But I had never really moved from the land.

It is easy to take a man from his land, but it's hard to take his land from the man. I understand that more now. About a month ago I flew back from Lithuania via Oslo. I did that route in part to scout out the city for the next time. As I walked around I came across the US embassy, with the Stars and Stripes flying high. It was a thrilling moment for me. I am American.

Earlier today I was walking to the bus stop. There was some flattened grass leading to the thicket. My first thought was "oh, that's a path made by the alligators." I am Floridian. A Michigander's first thought would likely be deer. Even after living in Illinois for a few years, my first thought on seeing snow on the ground, in the corner of my eye, was to think "beach sand." My New Jersey friends didn't think sand could be white.

I went to SFI (translates to "Swedish For Foreigners") today to see about which courses I could take through them. I talked with the guy working there and mentioned that my dad and his parents lived in Cuba. He mentioned that there was a Cuban restaurant nearby. Line-of-sight even, and showed me it. So I went there for lunch. It was tremendously exciting to have ropa vieja con moros. I am Miamian.

My birthday party is on Friday. I'm making a roughly south-west themed set of dishes for friends, including chips, salsa and guacamole, chili con carne, tortillas, and margaritas. I am New Mexican by adoption.

Am I also becoming Swedish? Unlike the US, with "{Swedish,Cuban,Irish,German,Chinese}-American", it's only been recently that Sweden has had a large number of immigrants. Turkish-Swede? American-Swede? The only time I've come across terms like that is refering to Swedish Finns vs. Finnish Finns.

My Swedish, by the way, is decent. There are four levels of courses and I place in the 3rd. What I really need to do now I think is work on my vocabulary, probably through reading.

This is salsa night at Oceanen, so I'm off for that. Love to all my family and friends who read this blog.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

tango marathon at Lomma

On Friday early evening I met up with some of the tango gang to head down to Lomma for the "Tango Marathon." It wasn't one of the "dance until you drop ones" and nor was it "the music never stops." It was a lot of dancing in the evenings (10pm until 4am) and workshops during the day. It was near the beach (about 20 minutes walking) so on Saturday afternoon we went there, and danced some on the deck of some beach bar.

Ahh, the scene of the crime. Zoom out a bit and follow Habovägen south west. Actually, zoom out enough so you can also see the small boat harbor and the channel. Going a bit up the coast you'll see "Campingvägen" ("The Camping Road"). The beach bar was at the southwest corner of that rectangle.

It was cheap. SEK 500 (about $80) for food, a place to sleep, and the milongas. A bit more for the workshops. Why was it cheap? Because we also prepared the meals (I was Saturday morning breakfast crew) and "place to sleep" meant "the floor". Though those with a tent could pitch one, and some slept in their cars or got a place nearby. And those from Lund (nearby) slept at home.

I was still rather tired and travel-logged from coming back from Lithuania so I went to bed early on Saturday night, at about 2am. As the dance floor wasn't due to be converted into the sleeping floor for another couple of hours, the question was "where do I sleep?" Mind you, I also needed to be up at 9am to help with breakfast.

The answer? The sauna in the men's changing room. It was a great place to sleep. (It was off.) With the door closed it was quiet and dark. The bench was a bit hard, but the floor would have been as well, and colder. A couple of people checked out the sauna while I was sleeping, looking I assume for a place to sleep. There was room for another on the other bench, but I woke up alone. Spent the 2nd night there was well, though this time with two others.

One was a Finn. He's the one who earlier Saturday night asked if it was okay to use the sauna, and did. I and another joined him. I've been surprised at the Swedes. Very few of the apartments I've looked at have a sauna. The couple I've seen have had it as part of the housing association's common property, and not a personal sauna. I know parts of the northern midwest (US) have small saunas, for 1 or 2, and thought that Sweden would be the same. But no.

Too bad, so sad. I like saunas.

The dancing got me thinking existential questions. (It's a weak word play on Swedish, where you don't say "There is a house in New Orleans", instead saying "It exists a house in New Orleans"). If I took lessons I would become a better tango dancer faster than I would doing it on my own. But does there exist a tango teacher in Gbg that I want to learn from? And what's the reason for wanting to get better? It's in part because there were some really good dancers at the marathon, and I felt out of place. But suppose I were to work hard at it, take lessons, attend workshops .. to what end? Or should I do other dances instead? Hmmm....

Johanna called me a galning after we danced Saturday night, and a Swiss woman also said I was a crazy guy. Both in a good way. The Swiss woman was crazier than me. I'm energetic in tango, and like the expressive interpretation that can happen. It's more of a tango nuevo thing. Is there a nuevo teacher around here? Not that I know of.

It was pretty hard for me the first 24 hours or so. There were a lot of new people, and directly after a conference. Conferences tend to burn me out socially, meeting new people and being outgoing can take a toll. What makes it harder too is forcing myself to do it all in Swedish. Though there were Danes there too (and Swedes from Skåne, who have their own accent). I know that doing so is overall a good thing for my Swedish learning, but it can make me feel so dumb. *sigh*

what I've been doing, including ID

I've been traveling a lot this last month or so. I was in the UK for the chemoinformatics conference in Sheffield and in Lithuania for the EuroPython conference in Vilnius. And after the Sheffield conference I did some followup work, which I just finished today. They required a lot of preparation, which made it harder to keep up with this blog.

I think there's only so much writing I can do in a day, and those other things took up any slack.

I still don't have a place of my own to live. I'm staying at Debora's apartment on Kungsladugården. She went home to Argentina for a while and then to France. She comes back this Saturday, so I'll be cleaning up and moving back to the House of a Thousand Wows.

I've started looking again. As lac pointed out, looking for an apartment is a part-time job, and I just didn't have the time for it. I've also got to talk with the bank again. Previously they said my folkbokföring wasn't finished yet, and once that was done the woman I was talking with would need to talk with the higher ups because, well, I'm an unusual case. After all, I'm not employed by any Swedish company and have no credit history here in Sweden.

Two Fridays ago I took care of the last bits needed to get a Swedish ID card. It's a bit tricky because there's no way for me to get one from the government. They changed the laws at the beginning of the year, and to get one now requires I come with a Swedish relative or spouse. As my nearest Swedish relatives derive from about 4 generations back, well, that's rather hard. But it is possible to get a card from the bank, and I chose my bank in part because they said I could get one from them.

I took all the paperwork in, my passport, the photo for the ID, and Jacob (they still needed a Swede to vouch for who I am). I had everything but one, a "personbevis". That's proof that I've been registered to live in Sweden and have a personnummer. One dictionary translates it as "birth certificate" but that's not quite right. So I went to the tax office and asked for a personbevis, then back to the bank. Oops! Turned out I asked for the wrong personbevis. There's apparently many sorts, and the one I asked for was "bank owner" when I should have asked for "identification."

Getting the personbevis was simple. "I would like a personbevis." "Why?" "" "Here you go." "Thanks." The boring part was getting from the bank to the tax office and back. So I went back to the tax office and told the woman I asked for the wrong personbevis. So she printed out several different ones for me, just in case the bank wanted a few others. Very nice of her!

It's being processed and I should get it in a few more weeks.

Salsa in London

I went to the Sheffield Chemoinformatics conference a few weeks ago in, umm, Sheffield. I left Sweden a few days earlier to visit dance friends of mine in Oxford. On Friday we went to London for salsa dancing, and on Saturday we stayed in Oxford for tango.

Salsa in England has been a bit strange for me. I say "England" because I went salsa dancing once in Scotland and that was normal, so it's not a UK thing. When I've danced with English women I've often felt like something isn't quite there in the connection. It was about 1.5 years ago when I first danced salsa in the UK, both in London ("SOS" = "Salsa On Sunday") and in Cambridge. I couldn't figure out what it was; a timing thing? Cuban vs. L.A. style? Craig (UK Craig, who reintroduced me to salsa years ago) was there too and pointed out that I look at my partner, and English women don't like that.

I've born that in mind, and indeed it seems that my favorite dances in England were with non-English woman. The two I liked best at SOS were with a Swiss woman and with an American.

This time it was salsa at the Ealing town hall (organized by Mambo City). Good venue, with high, high ceilings so it didn't get hot quickly. They also had powerful blowers set up around the floor to get some breeze going. There were, what, 150-200 people there, almost all L.A. style/on-1, which is the style I dance. At SOS I noticed that there was a gradation, with the better dancers near the stage. Here, not so much. Just a lot of good dancers.

I jokingly say that I have an accent when I dance. It's not a joke though - people learn moves and styles based in part on teachers and the local dance community. People coming to Santa Fe could tell that several of the leads had the same dance background. I say it's "Santa Fe style salsa". Not as showy as the LA style they do in Gothenburg, and smooth. Thank you Santiago!

And just like talking to someone with a different accent, dancing with someone used to another style can cause some oopsies. Which happend, of course. Not quite as bad as "what do you mean 'you'll knock me up in the morning'?".

Of the people I danced with, the two I had the most fun with were .. with non-English women. One was a native Spanish speaker. Technically not as good as some of the others (it was a good crowd), but she had fun with the dance, which more than made up for it. The other, which was the last, was with an Australian woman. Also fun, with smiles and expressiveness.

Compare with an English woman I danced with (I assume based on accent) who just kinda looked another direction when we danced, and didn't crack a smile. Strange those English women.

Another cultural observation: in most places I've been it's okay to ask for another dance. That is, with salsa the custom is 1 dance, plus one more if either side wants to continue. Depending on the place, that can continue for a few more dances. At Ealing it was always one dance and only one dance.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Joyce is a woman in South Africa that Heikki and Minna employ to help with the household chores. Amoung other things she helps with the laundry. When I've stayed with them, she's done my laundry as well. Including ironing the shirts. I have a linen shirt which I like to wear when dancing. I usually don't worry about the wrinkles, which aren't all that bad after air tumbling. But then I saw what it looks like when ironed. Wow!

Last couple of times I washed clothes here, I ironed the shirts afterwards. They do look better that way, and it fixes a few edges that have always given me problems. But they don't look anywhere near as nice as when Joyce does them.

In San Franciso there are a lot of wash and fold places. There are very few laundry places here, but they are rare and expensive. I've only seen signs posting price per article, not price per kg. I wonder why there's the disparity. San Francisco isn't all that cheap a place to live.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

apartment hunt status

Minna asked me "How's the flat hunting? Have you found anything suitable?"

"Suitable" has so many dimensions. I found a place I would like to live. It's a 1 bedroom place (2 r.o.k) in Majorna, in the same complex where one of the AstraZeneca people I work with lives. Very nice. I walked into it and like the feel, both of the apartment and the building. The neighborhood's not was I was thinking of, but it's a very nice neighborhood. I had the idea that there would be more restaurants and things nearby. Still a nice neighborhood, and I'm thinking I might like it better.

It's 58 sq. meters, so a bit less than what I've been looking for, but also cheaper. The asking price was 1 260 000 or so. I expected the final bid to be about 20% higher, which is a bit over 1,5 million kronor ($220,000). Last I talked with the real estate agent, current bid price was 1,6 million ($234,000). That's getting pretty expensive.

(Note: it's morning now. I was woken up by the real estate agent's phone call that the current bid is 1 630 000:-. If I were to make a counter offer it would be for 1 650 000:-, which is $241,000.

Mortgages here have a minimum of 10% down. US was typically 20% down but now so-called "80/10/10" is more common, which is effectively the local system - 80% first mortgage, 10% second, and 10% down. Here it's the same. There's a "bottom loan" which is about 80-85% of the loan, and a "top loan" which covers the gap between the bottom loan and the down payment.

If I bid and win at 1,65 million and put 345 000 SEK down, that's 20% down, so I can stay with the bottom loan. I'm trying to figure out if I can afford it. In the US I could -- that's about what I was paying for my house in Santa Fe. Here? I don't understand how to use this online mortgage calculator. One that I used said it would be well within my means. The one I'm trying now says I'll pay almost $2,000/month. But that's obviously wrong as otherwise I would pay off the loan in about 15 year, when I selected "40 year mortgage". Most likely I don't know what interest rate to use.

I have an appointment at the bank at 1:30 to figure this out. Immediately afterwards I'll call the real estate agent to let him know the good/bad news. You all can figure for yourself which outcome is "good" (have place, spend beau coup bucks) or "bad" (continue searching, look for smaller place and spend less money).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

apt. buying

(I wrote a long blog post last week for Mother's Day, with pictures of Göteborg and running commentary. Worked on it for many hours. Just at the end my laptop crashed. Had never saved the article. Hadn't even thought of it. All gone. As I write this now I see that within the last week Blogger will autosave. One week too late for me.)

I spent a lot of time this week working on understanding Swedish real estate. I mentioned some of the generalities earlier, but when it get to spending about $200,000 on something I would like to know what I'm getting into. When you see a place the real estate agent includes details about the housing associations economics. It's the summary of the buget for the past couple of years, what was done, the loans that are outstanding, how long it's been since the plumbing and electrical were replaced, the cost of power and heating per square meter, and so on, and so on, and so on. It uses Swedish accounting terms, which are for the most part ones I hadn't seen before.

The association uses another company to do some of the work, like the auditing, but they do some of it themselves. For example, the owners of the one I was looking at are in charge of cleaning the stairwells ("trapphus" = "stair house") and the inner yard, as well as clearing the snow off the yard and roof. I couldn't figure out if that means the association contracts out that work themselves or literally do it themselves. Would I be expected to go up on the roof and clear off snow in the highly unlikely case of Göteborg having more than 1/4" of snow?

I went by Fastighetsbyrån to ask. They are the agents for the apartment. I've been by there a couple of times as I ask questions. They have been very helpful and patient. They are tied to Swedbank, and the service at both places has been excellent. On Wednesday Charlotte and I did the conversation almost all in Swedish, making it the longest hard conversation I've had. There were many side steps to work around things I didn't know, but it worked. I got enough of an understanding to go back and work on mre questions to ask.

Thursday was a "red day" here - a public holiday. They are colored red on the calendar, hence the name. Laura and Jacob hosted a game day in the afternoon, with board games, dinner, conversation, and fun. I asked various Swedes for input on how to interpret the budget. Turns out relatively few had lived in a bostadsrättförening, which surprises me still. But I got a lot of helpful feedback.

The bidding process started on Friday. There are a couple of days for it to be up for bid. Quite a different process than in the US, except in the hottest markets. The asking price, and hence the first bid, is SEK 1 590 000 or US $232,000. By the time I gave up it had gotten to SEK 1 880 000 or $275,000 which was well over the limit I set for myself. There is a tradeoff in location, size, and money. I want something at least 55 square meters, but more like 62. That's barely doable in Linnégatan.

Before then, on that Friday, I talked with Sandra, who is the main real estate agent in charge. She's managing the auction. This time I asked more detailed questions, like "why was there a net deficit of 50,000:- this year and 150,000:- in the next?". Because of the money involved and the stress we talked in English. I got the answers, and learned more about life in a bostadsrätt association. I think I now have a decent understanding of what's going on here. Nothing like jumping in the deep end. Sandra pointed out that I probably know it better now than most Swedes!

Sweden is a highly democratic country. The association has a "styrelse", which is a the "board" of the association. It's probably related to the word "att styra" which I only knew as "to steer" but which also means "to rule" or "to govern". In my head I translate "styrelse" to "steering committee". You have shares in the association, and hence voting rights. You can review the books, become a member of the board, and so on.

In general it's very easy to start a förening. A lot of people here should have practice in reviewing books, etc. which should make this a natural place to start small companies. Especially with nationalized health car that puts the onus off the startup to pay the medical insurance bills like in the US. But the general policies here are against starting companies, though that's less so now than in the past, especially with the new government. So I hear.

That evening I went to Raquel's to meet some tango people. I had bumped into her by happenstance. Because of all the people visiting the House of a Thousand Wows I stayed with some others on Linnégatan. I was coming home from tango on Tuesday when I saw someone who looked familiar going to the 7-11 that I was walking by. She invited me to the small dinner party she was hosting that Friday. With the house buying I decided to skip the dinner but went by later for the conversation and dancing. Also there were Lars, Debora, Eva and ... a woman whose name I forgot. Grr. Silly memory.

The housing search continues. Debora is gone for two months so I might talk with her more on her offer of staying at her place for a while while I search. Laura and Jacob are wonderful hosts but I don't want to overstay my welcome. She's in Kungladugård, which is the other side of Slottskogen ("The Castle Forest" - a large city park) from the end of Linnégatan. That would give me a chance to see what it's like living in that area.

Strange. I just looked at a listing in that area. The biggest room - the living room - is only accessible through the bedroom.

Must remember that I can buy a bike. This is a decently bike friendly town. Except for the rain.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Jag hjälpade Johan att flytta hans stereo när vi kom hos honom för att dans tango. Jag bar högtalaren. Den stod på golvet, därför jag kallade den en lågtalare.

Det sägs att Göteborgshumor är en "typ av humor bygger ofta på ordvitseri." Jag tror att den är staden för mig, eller hur?

Some background for translation: "högtalare" means "loudspeaker". "Hög" means both "loud" and "high". "Låg" means "low", as in "not high".

I helped Johan move his stereo when when went to his place to dance tango. I carried his loudspeaker. It was on the floor, so I called it a "lowspeaker".

It's said (on the Swedish Wikipedia entry for Gothenburg) that Gothenburg's humor is a "type of humor building often on word puns." I think that this is the city for me - what do you think?

Friday, May 11, 2007


I got my personnummer in the mail today, only three days after asking for it. Good efficiency that.

It's the Swedish tax/personal registration number, somewhat like the US Social Security number. Unlike in the US it's a very public number. It's used often. When you move you're supposed to tell the authorities within a week. They'll update your registration, and the change propogates to those who are interested. For example, there's no need to tell the bank your new address because they'll get it from the tax authorities.

My number is 700822-2817. It has internal meaning. Since most people reading this don't read Swedish, I'll translate the high points. "De sex första siffrorna beskriver personens födelsedatum." means "The first six digits denote the person's birthday." Now everyone knows how old I am. "De påföljande tre är ett löpnummer" means "The next three numbers are a serial number" (literally a "run number"). "där tredje siffran beskriver personens kön – jämn siffra för kvinnor och udda för män." means "the third digit denotes the person's gender – even digit for women and odd for men". Yep, I'm odd. This suggests there were about 140 men registered in Sweden with my birthday.

I was curious about the serial number. The Swedish tax authority's personnummer document says that until 1990 it was assigned serially but now it's generated randomly. Looks like I'm not part of a cohort of 140. The numbers worked out nicely though; 140 on that day * 365 days * 2 genders * 70 years average lifetime gives a population estimate of 7 million, which is close enough given the one sample.

The "-" character means I am under 100 years old, else it would be a "+". The last digit is a checksum digit. ("kontrollsiffra" directly means "control digit".) The algorithm is described in that PDF. It's a simple algorithm using the pattern 2121212. checksum("700822281") = 10-(sum_of_digits(2*7,1*0,2*0,1*8,2*2,1*2,2*8,1*1)%10) = 10-(sum(1,4,0,0,8,4,2,4,8,2)%10) = 10-(33%10) = 10-3 = 7.

Once I got my number, I went to Swedbank to ask about opening an account there. Yesterday I went to two other banks. Swedbank had by far the best service and were the most helpful. They also came recommended by Laura and Jacob. When I went to the other banks I was surprised at the response. In most US banks if you say "I'm going to open a personal account, deposit a chunk of money into it for a down payment on an apartment, I'll need a loan for the rest of the price, and I'll start a business account in a few months" then you'll get to talk to a representative one-on-one, or directed to the main branch where you can get that level of service.

Swedbank was what I expected. I opened a personal account there. Now I need to figure out how to get a wire transfer to it. I know the IBAN but the US isn't part of the IBAN system.

I then went on a tour of Majorna and Masthugget, to get a feel for those areas. Those and Linnéstan are where I'm most likely to find a place to stay. The prices are lower than in Vasastan and I want a 1 bedroom place which is around 60m2 and with a decent enough living room area for a dance party.

I decided that Majorna - which is the cheapest of the places I was considering - was too far from the center, where all the cafes, restaurants, and excitement are. So Linné or Masthugget. There are about 10 viewings in that area next weekend.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


which means "apartments" in Swedish. I started looking for a place to live. I'm staying at the House of a Thousand Wows until I find one. One "wow" is that Laura and Jacob are letting me do that. Yesterday (Monday), after I went by the tax office to request a personnummer, I went to Boplats Göteborg. They mostly deal in 1st hand rental contracts. There are 1st hand and 2nd hand rental contracts, and I won't go into the details now.

I registered on their web site and searched for the type of place I wanted (center of town, around 60 sq meters, <$1200/month). There were 4 hits. One was for people 55 or over so 3 real hits. I couldn't figure out what a column was in the results table so I asked. It was the number of people who have expressed interest in a given apartment. The one that looked the most interesting to me had almost 4,000 people interested in it.

Yes, 4 thousand. What's the point then of being one more in that crowd? The woman there at the office said that was not unusual. I had heard that getting a rental place in Gbg was hard, but that was incredible. Jacob enlightened me somewhat. Places here are rent controlled, based mostly on living area. That keeps the prices down, but means that a lot of people want what places are available.

It's easier to buy a place here then it is to rent. Yesterday evening I started looking for an apartment to buy. This follows the pattern I did in Santa Fe, where I looked at a few rental places and decided to buy a house instead. Proved to be a good decision.

The web sites for apartment rentals are very bad. They are cumbersome and hard to use. By comparison, the ones for buying are wonderful. Of course, there's more profit for the real estate people, but I think also that because so many people want to rent a place they are willing to put a lot of time in to go through a bad user interface.

One of the things I learned in doing the research to buy here is that another reason to buy instead of rent is the tax discount. That's like in the US too, but I didn't know how things were structured here.

I'm looking for a bostadsrätt apartment. "Bo" = "live", "bostad" = "place to live", "rätt" = "right". Apartment buildings here can be structured (are often? are always?) structured as a co-op. That's rare in the US outside of New York City. Looking at Wikipedia there are differences between a bostadsrättförening and a housing co-op. I know the Swedish system better.

The building is owned by the association ("förening"), which is basically a non-profit. The people who live in the apartment own shares in the association. These are voting shares, and not ownership shares. Jacob says that means the value of the building is therefore not included as part of your personal wealth. Important in a country that until recently had a weath tax in addition to income tax. A member gets the right to live in one of the apartments. (Hence the term "bostadsrätt".)

How will Lesley figure out my taxes? How will I figure out my Swedish taxes? Good thing I've been careful not to mingle personal and business accounts. Still, I'll need two accountants for the indefinite future too.

Going back to the apartment search. I went online and found about 20 that were in the rough area I wanted, of the right size, etc. The price for an apartment like I want goes for about $250,000. That's a 1bd apartment (here called "2 r.o.k" meaning "2 rooms and a kitchen"), or possibly a 2. There's a tradeoff between having a larger living room, which can be converted into a dance floor, vs. having a smaller bedroom for a home office. Still debating that in my head.

After going through the options I picked the ones with showings today. There were three I was interested in. All three were nice inside. One was in Guldheden, which is right above Chalmers. It's atop the hill and has a great view overlooking the city. But it's uphill and a bit far from the places I want to be.

The second was in Linnéstan (the Linné part of town, named after Linnaeus). Great section of town; close to lots of restaurant, bars, shops, and more. The wallpaper wasn't my choice of patterns but otherwise nice. Bedroom was airy and sunny, what with two windows. Handy in the winter I imagine.

The third was in Masthugget. It's very close to Oceanen, which is where I got tango and salsa dancing. Across the street is a grocery store, and on the other side of that is the tram stop for 3 different tram lines, all going into town. The apartment was on the top floor, which gave me a problem. It has a nice balcony, but there's nothing between it and the ground far below. It's enough to trigger my fear of heights. I could bear it, but wouldn't enjoy it. Great views though.

All three had many other visitors while I was there, with the last being the most popular. I'm estimating that any one place in the areas I'm looking will have 40-50 people viewing it. Some subset will bid on the place. If more than one then there's a bidding contest. Usually places here go within a week or two.

Heikki's house in the UK, in a small town south of Cambridge, was on the market for over a year. My house in Santa Fe was on the market for a couple of months.

I won't have a personnumber/tax id for another few days. Once I have that I can open a bank account. I'll also be talking with the bank (I don't think there are mortgage companies here) about getting a loan, and what my options are. I've got money from selling my house in the US, which will make for a good down payment. I'm told normal is 10% down but I'ld rather do higher as I've got the money and I think real estate here is likely to be a good investment.


On Sunday I was walking to the tram stop to go tango dancing on the wharf near Röda Sten. In Swedish we were dancing on "Ångbåtsbryggan" which means "Ång" = "steam", "båt" = "boat", "bygga" = "pier" or "quay", "n" for definite article => "the steam boat pier". Strangly enough, bryggdans, meaning "quayside dancing", is in that dictionary. Which implies something about the frequency of dancing there? Oh, and American English I never use "quay". To me it's a strange British/Commonwealth thing.

Okay, so I was walking to the tram stop and saw someone from AstraZeneca. Said hello. Earlier today, in Masthugget, I saw someone I knew from tango, biking by. It was directly across from Oceanen, where I go tango dancing, but it wasn't tango dancing night there. After tango dancing (which was in Vasastan) I dropped by my favorite street kitchen and said hello to the guy I know there working behind the counter. Hadn't seen him since I was here in January. I carried the frequent visit stamp card around with me, as a memory. It was fun to drop in late at night, people partying on the streets, and chat with him a bit while getting a late supper.

And sometimes my stomach just yearns for a burger and fries, and they do a pretty good one.

I like that I can walk around town and bump into people I know. That happens surprisingly rarely in Santa Fe, even after 8 years.

And I like that now when people ask "how long are you here this time" I can respond "I have my residency permit, so I'll be here at least a year." Emily, I think it was, asked me yesterday if people have started treating my different now that I actually live here, vs. being just a visitor. I'm not sure. Perhaps. It does feel different. I can make plans for more than a few months ahead.

Monday, April 30, 2007

photo evidence

Here is my passport with my temporary residency permit for Sweden.

Isn't it grand? Isn't it cool? Isn't it phat?

I left Studio Six at about 6:30 this morning to drop the car off at the airport. I like Enterprise's service at Heathrow. Dropped of my suitcase at luggage storage at the airport. X-rayed just in case it contains a you-know-what. Express train in to Paddington station, tube to Marlybone station, and a short walk to the embassy. Checked in and waited no more than 10 minutes. Looked like most others were there for a Schengen visa to visit Sweden. There was a new mother going back to Sweden who needed her daughter's photo taken. I was called up. The woman behind the glass printed out the sticker, but it was too dark. She took another picture, printed it again, and poof .. too legit to quit.

At that point it was about 10:15. I walked around and over to Baker St. underground because of the Jethro Tull song. (Apparantly Ian Anderson once lived at 34 George Street, which is nearby.) Had forgotten that Sherlock Holmes was supposed to have lived nearby. There's a statue for him at where the address would be. Madame Tussaud's is nearby and was very popular, given the lines to get in.

It was a gorgeous spring day so I walked over to Hyde Park (Marble Gate corner) and had a lay-down in the late morning sun. Bought a book for the road, er, flight, and went on back to the airport. Picked up luggage, checked in. Small detour as they wanted to verify that I was who I was in person; problems of using a US credit card at a UK call center when I got the ticket. Through security. I had gotten a week of internet connection time with "The Cloud", and it's still active, hence the ability to write this.

Line is called for the gate. Going to Amsterdam and then to Göteborg. W00t!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

residency permit .. granted!

Date: April 24, 2007 4:17:39 PM BDT
Subject: your application for residencepermit

Dear Mr Dalke

You have been granted a residencepermit for one year. Please contact a Swedish embassy, most embassys can provide you with your "sticker" in the passport, if there is a problem please contact me and I will send them your permit by e- mail.

Best regards

Maria von Schéele Frejd
The Swedish Migrationboard, Norrköping

Sunday, April 22, 2007

planes, jellyfish, bathing attire and saunas

When I went to visit Blanche and Daniel I flew 1time from J'burg to Durban and back. It's a South African low cost carrier, along the lines of Southwest and Ryan.

(As I understand it, Southwest started in the 1970s, back in the days of regulated air travel. They got around the federal laws because they only flew in Texas, it being a rather large state. This was still in the days when they chose stewardesses in basis of attractiveness. The targeted businessmen and there were two levels of tickets. One for $X and one for $2X. With the $2x tickets you got a free bottle of whiskey. An early frequent flier incentive, since the company pays for the ticket.)

1time is perhaps most like JetBlue, though I've never taken that airline. I'm only thinking of the leather seats. Like other LCCs, you pay for extras. Want a Coke? Pay for it.

I flew SAA (South Africa's national carrier) from Jo'burg to Cape Town. Quite a difference. It was a two hour flight, with a hot meal and free drinks. It costs more for service, of course. I don't know by how much. Friends say it isn't that bad, and sometimes it's worth it. It wouldn't have been for the 1 hour flight to Durbs.

I'm on SAA now flying north, and north, and north to London. Flight map says we're about level with the Namibia/Angola border, with about 9 hours to go.

Speaking of that trip, the three of us went on the beach. It was the downtown beach - Hamilton and Amanda say there are better beaches, but this is what we did. While walking on the beach there were small jellyfish with long blue tails. We didn't know what they were. They walked on them, producing popping sounds. I avoided the main body.

We walked along the water's edge. All of us started feeling strange, painful feelings in our feet. Okay, avoid the jellyfish. We got to one of the swimming areas. They were widely separated, with large "no swimming" gaps between. The taxi cab driver says it's because of undertow. The swimming regions are in the safe areas.

We swam in the surf. It wasn't like Florida. I've spent a lot of time on the beach, but Florida's beaches aren't that diverse. Some months ago I mentioned that with the shingle beach at Hastings. Here the surf didn't curl quite right. We body surfed and while there were decent sized waves there was only one where I got a good ride in.

There are two places I've had good body surfing waves. Sebastian Beach, Florida, near where my dad's parents retired. It's on the Atlantic ocean, far enough north that the Bahamas don't help attenuate the waves. And San Diego, where I body surfed once late enough in the summer I didn't need a wet suit and near sunset so at times I could see fish silhouetted in the wave between me and the sun.

As we relaxed on the beach afterwards the lifeguard P.A. said "Beware. There are blue bottles. You are advised to keep young children out of the water." No one seemed to do anything different. Only latter did I look up "blue bottles" in Wikipedia. (Do it yourself; I'm at 35,000 ft with no internet access.) It said they are also known as "Portuguese Man O' War", and with a picture of one taken in around Biscayne Bay, near where I grew up in Miami.

Had I known there were PMO'Ws in the water, I might have reacted differently. I heard such horror stories about the pain, including one kid in scouts who had stepped on one. The remedy, supposedly, is to put meat tenderizer on the wound. But I've never bought nor used meat tenderizer so that suggestion doesn't help me. I can say that the pain is sharp, but dies quickly. I didn't stop on it directly though.

The taxi cab driver said several stung him at once when he was a kid. Wrapped around him even. He had to go to the hospital because of his body's reaction, and now he's allergic to them. These are the stories I heard growing up in Florida, hence my surprise that people were in the water with blue bottles about. Though they were there because of the onshore wind, which meant they were mostly at the water line and not in the water where we were body surfing.

Also, a new sight for me was the Moslem women in the water with full burkhas on, next to women wearing bikinis. There are different levels of strictness, so some Moslem woman had visible faces, walking with those that didn't. Some of the kids were wearing a pretty complete bathing costume as well. Though I hear some kids in the US wear those too, and not necessarily out of body modesty. Some parents insist their kids wear those clothes to protect against UV. Compare to my day when "sun block" was still called "sun tan lotion" (a habit I didn't break until about 1999 when Susan pointed out my dated Floridianism) and my sister and I at the start of the summer would have contests pulling off the largest patches of peeling skin from the sunburns we would get swimming and playing for hours at Venetian Pool.

Body modesty, even in US culture, is a strange thing. I've read that in the old days, pools like at the YMCA required swimmers to be naked. (That's "Young *Men's* Christian Association" - no women were present.) As a kid I read a series of books - the Clearwater gang series? They were about a boy being raised in a good Christian home. These were books you would buy at the Christian bookstore. I remember liking them. I learned the phrase "flotsam and jetsam" from that book, and some other things too. They were decent stories, for the most part. My grandmother bought a Christian science fiction book for me once which I recall was really bad. It SF elements (scientist, helper, and two kids build rocket ship) but wasn't SF and was structured almost solely on "if you pray then God will provide."

In the Clearwater books, the boys would skinny dip in the river.

Once with my grandma (the same one mentioned twice already) we were at the beach. My sister and I wanted to go in but we didn't have swimsuits with us. Grandma said "why not swim in your underwear?" We didn't. That just didn't seem right to us. Thinking about it now though, when she grew up it was before nylon and other fast drying clothes. Cotton and wool don't make good bathing suits. I wonder if it's a materials thing - people just didn't have anything better to wear, so it was best to go naked, if no one else was about.

There were mixed sex beaches of course, with everyone in full swim costumes, bodies completely covered. Again, as I recall, there was a riot at Atlantic Beach some 100 years ago or so when a few of the men decided they would go topless.

Ahh, without internet access I can't research this or provide interesting hyperlinks. :(

For the last couple of weeks I was staying with Heikki and his family. They are Finnish, excepting Minna's daughter's husband who is English. They of course have a sauna downstairs. It came with the house, though it wasn't well designed. They did a lot of work getting it up to spec, per Finnish customs and expectations.

It was my first time in a Finnish-style sauna. Swedish ones are dry. They run the one at AZ at about 90C/190F. Heikki ran theirs at about 72C (165F) which doesn't seem as hot, except it's a wet sauna. That's where you pour water on the rocks. Frequently. The steam comes up and ... well, it's hot.

There's a Finnish word for the steam, which I can't remember well enough. (Hence I've failed Heikki's test. Something like löljö. Grrrr. Wiki "sauna" to get the answer.) The translation is several things: "steam" and "spirit" are two direct ones. It's the steam coming off of the heater (some Finnish word like "kivas", which I confuse with the New Mexican term) but it's also what makes it the sauna. Hence the Finns disagree with the concept of a dry sauna.

Everyone is naked in the sauna. The same is true in Sweden, for the most part. It's a bit different with the AZ sauna because so many people in the comp. chem group are non-Nordic. So there people wear suits, or keep a towel wrapped about, even when it's only guys. The only other Swedish sauna experience I have is at the gym locker room, which isn't a good enough data point.

While naked, it's not sexual. I don't doubt that it could be, but that's not the general case. There's a story, perhaps apocryphal, about a Nokia executive going to the US to run an office there. He schedules a group sauna as a getting-to-know-each-other event, and is surprised at the response he gets against the idea. I suppose in the US organizing a mixed-sex sauna for work could count as sexual harassment. There isn't the social expectations of what is and isn't proper in that situation.

I looked once into getting a sauna for my house in Santa Fe. It would cost some several thousand dollars for the sauna proper, which would be electrically heated. That needed 220V power, compared to the normal 110V in the US. Which wouldn't be bad except that my junction box was already maxed out. Any electrical work done to the house would require replacing the box with something bigger, costing a few more thousand.

Perhaps I should have done it anyway. After I put my house on the market, and with a few weeks before I left the country, I found out there was a leak in the roof, which went through the ceiling fan/lamp in the office/bedroom. There was a storm, and water was dripping off the bottom of the fan. I called a roofer who said it was a simple problem. They would patch it for a few hundred dollars and that was it.

Turns out it was worse. When the buyer's inspector came he said the roof needed to be redone and the electrics fixed. That lowered the price of the house by about $10,000, and I suppose it can handle a new 220V circuit now.

It wasn't a good house for a sauna. It would have to have been in the corner of the patio or the back yard, with no plunge pool (though there could be snow banks in winter), and getting to the shower would mean going through the garage and house to the normal shower. Doable, but not as nice as I would like. Wonder how having one would have affected the resale value of the house.

Heikki has a pool right outside the sauna. Last night it was about 18C/64F. I did go in the water, but not for long. Watch out though! Give me a few years in Sweden and I might be rolling in the snow like a native.

We're 2/3rds of the way up to the northern border of Angola. There's now only 8 hours to go. My laptop's at 13% power, the cabin lights are off, so it's time for me to (try to) sleep. From way up high in the sky I bid you all good night.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


I made burritos last night for the whole gang.

The car was broken down on the upper deck parking for Super Spar, a local grocery store. While waiting I went to get pies for lunch. Mmm, pies. I saw tortillas and decided to buy some, with the thought of making burritos for dinner or breakfast. It was an easy sell.

Later went back to Checkers (another store) for kidney beans (no refried beans around here), bell peppers, tomatoes, ground beef, etc. Couldn't find sour cream. Could find a small bottle of Old El Paso (I think) salsa. That helped a lot with getting the flavoring right. Wasn't like Santa Fe, where salsas take up a couple of racks of shelf space, but hey, I'm not complaining.

Getting the overall flavor was a bit tricky, given that I had no chiles or chile powder. I faked it with paprika, cinnamon, some basil and oregano, pepper and salt. Would have liked some cumin.

Heikki looked at the tortillas in the bag and said he'd had them before but there were better ones available. As it turned out, I had an ancient New Mexican secret up my sleeve. I lightly toasted the tortillas on the pan on the stove. I find that helps the taste a lot. (In old-school style I could have done it right on top of the flame, but it was an electric stove.)

Everyone quite liked my burritos.

car didn't start

I helped out with a car problem yesterday. Turns out the battery was seriously dead. When the auto service guy came by to give them a jump, it still wouldn't start. He tried first with a small, portable battery and next by parking his truck ("bakkie" in local speak) next to the car and jumping it directly. Minna called a local garage - across the street! - they put a new battery and it worked right away.

The battery was an old unsealed wet-cell type. I haven't seen one of those since the 1970s, as Minna mentioned. It's one where the electrolyte can evaporate over time so you need to pop the cap and add the sulphuric acid mix. I remember my grandfather having a jug of battery acid around to top off the battery, and a device for measuring the SO4 level though the density. It was a small bulb-type dropper with balls inside at slightly different densities. Specifically, a ball-type hydrometer. I've only seen the gel-type batteries.

This was a car-type problem I could help out with. I've replaced car batteries, and two starter motors. Replacing the one one my old '82 AMC Spirit was easy. Replacing Chuck's .. Datsun, I think .. was harder. It was hard to reach, and the first replacement part I got from AutoZone didn't work! The second did, which was a relief to me as otherwise I would have thought I was doing something wrong.

It's easy to diagnose too.

A difference between me and a mechanic is the mechanic said his next step was to check the alternator and see if it was putting out enough current. After all, why did the battery go bad in the first place.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Growing up in Miami, we had a guava tree in our back yard. Rather, it was right in the region where the side yard became the back yard. It was a slim tree, and not all that big. Not one which was all that interesting to climb, given the banyan trees in the neighborhood.

I didn't much like that tree. Maggots would quickly infest the fallen fruit, and the smell of rotting guava was rather strong. Worse yet was it was often my job to mow the law. With both the guava and mango trees it was best to go beforehand and pick up the rotted fruit as otherwise when the blade hits it -- splat! Bug/juice.

The mango tree wasn't as bad. Its fruit were bigger, fewer, and easier to spot. They had a nice gradation of colors, with green, red, and yellow skin, getting spotted as they got riper. The maggots were rarely as bad as with the plentiful little guavas.

This came back to me here at the Lehvaslaiho's in Hout Bay, near Cape Town, South Africa. I went through their gate and wondered what it was that I smelled. Apricot? No. Hmm. After some thought "guava?" Heikki didn't know. It was dark. The next day I looked. The fruit was a different shape, and didn't have bugs in it. The tree was also a different, broader, more lush form. But the bark had that thin papery bark I remember so well.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"fika" in the US

I visited Craig and Rachel (and David) before coming to South Africa. They live in California. We were driving down 101 and I saw the sign for a local amusement park/games place called "Scandia Fun Center." The sign in front had the word "fika." So of course I had to check it out.

It's a small amusement park with video games and amusement arcade games inside, go-carts, baseball hitting, and other games outside. Nothing like Sweden. Checked out the menu for the snack bar. Nothing at all like a Swedish snack bar. The closest was that Häagen-Dazs was available for sale. That ice cream name is a made-up word and sounds very strange if I try to pronounce it as if it was Swedish.

it's done

Well, it's done. About 10 days ago -- the day after I arrived in Pretoria -- I handed in my Swedish residency permit application. I could have done it earlier in the US but that would have been a bit more complicated. The Swedish embassy here is within walking distance while in the US I would have had to send my passport to L.A.

I started working on it after the Python conference. I spent a lot of time on my talk for the conference, then spent time working on my business plans. I think I can only write so much per week, and beyond that I don't have much time for blogging like this.

The first few drafts were very technical. I had many, many pages of different possibilities. Craig pointed out it was more that I was trying to convince myself that it would work, and not the Swedish government. He convinced me to drastically shorten it. The result was about 1/2 page for the plan, 1/2 page for marketing, and a few more pages for the other requirements. I only really talked about the consulting side of things. While I did mention some other possibilities I left out a lot of depth.

Ayton went with me to the embassy, to help with directions. The woman at the desk didn't know what to do so she got another woman to help me out. I said "I'm would like to apply for residency for Sweden as a self-employed person." She gave me the form to fill out. I pointed out that I had all the information ready to submit.

This was the first time she'd done the self-employed permit using migrationsverket's new electronic system. I figure there aren't many who apply to Sweden as a self-employed person, and of course even fewer doing so through the South Africa consulate. I had to pay R1000, deposited into their bank before processing continued. Took care of that, again with Ayton's help.

Sat around for a bit while she entered the forms into the system. There was a bit of confusion, again because of the newness of the process. It wanted "employer in Sweden", so she used an AstraZeneca contact. Waited some more .. and it was done.

Now the wait. Migrationsverket by email said it would be about 5 months before I hear back. I should check online to see how things are going.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Grr.. Can't use this new blogger account in Safari. Writing a new post causes the spinning ball of business to appear and drives Safari to 100% CPU. Firefox it is then.

I was tracking down the source of the name "Iceland." Someone else saw the Icelandic name "Ísland" and thought that it was the same as the English word "Island". It's not. Years ago I read that in the 1800s there was a mistaken belief that the then correct English word "iland" was derived from the French "isle" so they stuck an "s" in there that didn't belong. Silly grammarians. See this
and related threads for details.

I also looked up why Iceland got its name. Wikipedia's History of Iceland says:

The first Scandinavian who deliberately sailed to Garðarshólmi
was Flóki Vilgerðarson, also known as Hrafna-Flóki (Raven-Flóki).
Flóki settled for one winter at Barðaströnd. It was a cold
winter, and when he spotted some drift ice in the fjords he
gave the island its current name, Ísland (Iceland).

I decided to double check the source, which is the Landnámabók or "The Book of Settlement". I don't know Icelandic but my Swedish and the Wikipedia page were enough to get me to this quote:

Þá gekk Flóki upp á fjall eitt hátt og sá norður yfir fjöllin fjörð
fullan af hafísum; því kölluðu þeir landið Ísland, sem það hefir síðan heitið.

which I roughly translate as (guesses in []s)

[Then] Flóki went up the mountain [a ...] and looked [north over the ...] fjord
full of [half]-ice; [they] [called] [their] land "Iceland", [as it's been called since that time]

Lots of guesses, and knowing what it's supposed to say does help, but still neat that I could do it! Plus, I think Icelandic uses such cool letters.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


To add to the list of things not to do: incautiously peel a potato with a brand new peeler. A 1/2 sq. cm of skin doesn't coagulate quickly. I'll wait a bit more with this bandage before replacing it with the 3rd.

Good thing I finished the first draft of my PyCon talk earlier today. Hard to type w/o me left index finger. This also means I won't be going into the hot tub this evening. Did I mention that this casita compound includes a hot tub?

Friday, February 09, 2007

have your cake and eat it too

I bought a book of English idioms translated to Swedish when I visited the UK a couple of weeks ago. It was a cool find. I've been asking people "give me an idiomatic expression" then looking it up to see the Swedish version.

Many of them mean the same, but not all. As an example, though not from the book, using "guinea pig" to mean a test subject is translated correctly to "försökskanin" or "researcher's rabbit."

Dana wanted to know "have your cake and eat it too." It's "båda äta kakan och ha den kvar" which is directly translated as "both eat the cookie and have it remain".

That ordering make more sense to me. In English at least "and" can mean a temporal ordering. "Go to the store and buy food" means "Go to the store and then buy food." If I have my cake then of course I can eat it. But if I said "eat my cake and have it too" then the conflict stands out.

Learning Swedish helps me understand my native language.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Saying goodbye

I said goodbye to people in Sweden last week. It wasn't as bad as previous times. When I was in South Africa and last year in Sweden I felt rather torn in the last week or two. It was hard to see people because I knew I was leaving. This time it was more that I'll be gone but I'll be back. I think it's also that I've become closer friends to people here and it doesn't feel like I'll have to start from scratch again. I also think I've started to become part of gänget - the gang.

When I left Santa Fe I got a dance circle. I've blogged about that before. In Cape Town Mark gave a small announcement that I was an honorary Capetonian and also got a dance circle. In Göteborg, although people knew I was leaving, it was a more personal thing.

The most touching came from Gudrun: "Golvet ska gråta / när Andrew är borta". "The floor will cry / when Andrew is away". It rhymes in Swedish. Thank you Gudrun.

Speed football

I turned on the television here in Oxford. They are showing the Patriots/Colts game. I was surprised to see a US football game in the UK, even if it is the championships. They are squeezing the game into something like an hour. It's strange watching the game whizz by. I'm used to seeing each play at least twice during a normal game, given the time needed to get things set up for the next play.

It isn't a highlight reel. They show most of the plays, just without the breaks. It goes from the end of one play direct into the snap of the next. A few times they'll do a replay, but not often enough, IMHO. They'll also skip several minutes at a time, like 10 minutes where there's a slow press up the field.

I did think it was too fast, although it was nice to not see so many ads. Looked like it was a great game for those watching.

Speed football

I turned on the television here in Oxford. They are showing the Patriots/Colts game. I was surprised to see a US football game in the UK, even if it is the championships. They are squeezing the game into something like an hour. It's strange watching the game whizz by. I'm used to seeing each play at least twice during a normal game, given the time needed to get things set up for the next play.

It isn't a highlight reel. They show most of the plays, just without the breaks. It goes from the end of one play direct into the snap of the next. A few times they'll do a replay, but not often enough, IMHO. They'll also skip several minutes at a time, like 10 minutes where there's a slow press up the field.

I did think it was too fast, although it was nice to not see so many ads. Looked like it was a great game for those watching.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Today is laundry day at Chez Andrew. Soon to be ex-Chez Andrew (f.d. hos Andrew) I leave for the UK on Sunday. After a week visiting B et. al. I'll go to Florida for a week, Santa Fe for a month, then the West Coast for a few weeks before going back to the UK. I'm not allowed to be back to Sweden for 90. Silly Schengen visa rules.

The laundry room is called a tvättstuga (tvätt = wash, stuga = cabin or cottage; in Sweden you take a sauna in a bastu, short for "badstuga" = bath cottage). As usual for Europe the washing machines take forever. I thought it was because they were gentler than US washing machines. Emily has an XP or Agile methodology essay on the wall at work using washing as a metaphor for software development. It says the wash takes 25 minutes. I pointed that out to her and she was surprised at how short that was. Wash here is usually an hour or more. Same in South Africa.

I think it was Laura who pointed out that washing machines here are only connected to the cold water tap. They have to heat the water too. That explains some of the increase in time. Is that the only reason?

The tvättstuga also has a torkskåp. That's a drying cabinet. The Swedish Wikipedia entry has a good picture. Open the cabinet doors and pull the rack out. Hang the clothes on the rack and close it back up. Press the temperature button (40C or 60C). Wait. Rather like a mechanical clothesline. I visited Rhoda many yearss ago. In winter she ran a line across her basement. It worked albeit slowly because of the moisture. I imagine that's the reason for developing the torkskåp.

Google reports several hits for "drying cabinet". The first page's hit were all from manufacturers and appliance sales places. Staber reports:

The Staber Drying Cabinet is a very unique product that will be a new concept to the U.S. This new high-end product would be an alternative to a conventional clothes dryer, and is simply a different way to dry laundry.

It operates like an accelerated clothesline, circulating air throughout the cabinet. You can put anything in it at the same time (winter boots and heavy jackets), and use it for delicate items or things you do not want to shrink. The drying cabinet uses a 1,500 W heating element, using just 2.8 kWh for a standard load. In comparison, traditional tumble dryers commonly use a 4,000 W heating element.

The life expectancy for the drying cabinet is around 15 years, and there is very little maintenance if it is ever required. Drying cabinets are a common way to dry laundry in Scandinavian countries, and they are used in addition to traditional tumble dryers.

Laura and Jacob's old place on Linnégatan had a torkrum (rum = "room" in English). Not a cabinet but a whole room, with air pipes above head level acting like the clothesline. Heated air was forced through the pipes, to dry the clothes.

My load should be done by now. Oh, and a neat thing is that since I dry at 40C which is about 100F I don't have to worry about keeping some of the laundry in too long. It doesn't get that hot tortured feel of leaving things in too long in the tumble dryer.

Friday, January 12, 2007

proper clothing

There's an expression I first heard as being Norwegian but I've also heard said as being from Iceland or Finland. "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes." It had to have come from some place without tornadoes, unless you count a storm cellar as clothing.

I took a long walk both yesterday and today. Yesterday I walked from here to Nya Varvet, mostly along the river's edge. It's a working river and I walked by or through a couple of ferry terminals, cargo yards, wharves and the fish market. The last used to be where The Fish Church is now but moved some time back. The fish harbor is good sized, with many companies located there, an auction house and (because this is Sweden and they believe in Education) a school for training in the fish industry. I hadn't walked that section before. Beyond was a part I had been before, going under Älvsborgs bridge, by Röda Sten and Nya Varvet. I stayed at NV about 2 years ago. It's a ways out of town, and some 10 minutes walk to the nearest tram stop.

I had thought to walk to Saltholmnen and take the tram back but I wandered a bit so walked to Kunsten and took the tram back. Today I took the tram to the Nya Varvet stop and continued walking. I enjoyed yeterday's walk. Today wasn't so good. It was raining the whole time. At the start that was fine. The gear I have is good enough for about an hour in that sort of weather. I wasn't wearing the right pants. After a while they got wet and as they are cotton you could easily see the pockets. My wallet got wet and I moved my cell phone to my back pocket.

That wasn't so bad. It's 40 something outside and like I said I could have continued. It's more that the neighborhood I walked through was pretty boring. All suburbs and not much interesting to see. I couldn't walk along the river because at Nya Varvet it's fenced off. The roads are all curved and I didn't know where I was going so I had to backtrack several times. The only cool part was walking through a dockyard with all the ships pulled up for overwintering. I was surprised that the gates were open and anyone could walk in. Again, this is Sweden.

Next to it was a more official area, with the Coast Guard and other services. The gates there closed and locked at 5:30 so I didn't go in. It was 5:25. That blocks off more of the river and walking around it meant more backtracking. Finally got back to the tramline. All that time and I only managed a few more stops down the tramline.

Oh well, perhaps tomorrow I'll finish the "walk" to Saltholmnen.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Andrew, Johan, Maria, Johan och Camilla på Trettondagsaftonbalan 2007
I fredags kväll gick vi till en Trettondagsaftonbal på GöteborgsOperan. Det började med en konsert som Maria (i mitt i bilden) och Johan (mellan tjejerna) lyssnade på. Andra killen heter också Johan. Han, jag och Camilla kom bara för att dansa. Första var en halvtimme weinervals. Jag kan inte dansa den så vi dansade tango istället. Efteråt kom ett storband. De spelade nästan 3 timmer, fast med ju flera pauser. Jag försökte att dansa foxtrot men det har varit så länge och jag kunde inte. Vi dansade en blandning av tango, swing ('jitterbug' kallades den i USA - den svenska jitterbuggen kallar vi 'lindy hop') och salsa.

Kl 24.00 serverades korv och öl medan dansen fortsättade. Kvällen slutaded kl 1 och den sista dansen var med Maria. Vi dansar så dramatiskt ihop. Johan (andra till vänster, efter jag) grattade oss eftersom vi ser ut jättefina.

De behövde "Klädsel Mörk kostym." Jag hade ingen kostym, bara arbets- och danskläder. Ingen för operan. Jag gick runt till flera secondhandaffärer och hittade en frack på Myrorna, visade i bilden. På annan butik hittade jag slipsen. Jag har en traditionel "wild west" väst från Western Warehouse i Santa Fe som passar bra med frackan och mina dansbyxor. Sara och jag säger "swing heil" byxor eftersom de kommer från en affär som säljer skjortar med text från swingdansare under och mot Nazitiden.

Allihop ser det ut fint. Vi tre tog en promenade till Operan och jag klädde mig i min svarta läderjacka. Jag gillade kläderna! Kanske skulle jag klä mig i högtidskläder mer ofta. Sverige är landet att göra det. De har många mer gånger att klä sig fin.

Translation follows:
Last Friday evening we went to a Three Kings Day Ball [Or Epiphany Ball - I think I use Three Kings Day because of growing up in Miami where the Catholics made a big deal about it] at Gothenburg's Opera House. It began with a concert which Maria (in the middle of the picture) and Johan (between the women) heard. The other guy is also named Johan. He, I and Camilla came only for the dance. First was 30 minutes of Viennese waltz. I can't dance it so we danced tango instead. Afterwards was a big band. They played for nearly 3 hours, although with a few breaks. I tried to dance foxtrot but it's been too long and I couldn't. We danced a mixture of tango, swing (jitterbug, although here "jitterbug" means lindy hop) and salsa.

At midnight they served hotdogs and beer and while the dance continued. The evening ended at 1 and Maria and I danced the last dance. We dance so dramatically together. Johan (second from the left, after me) congratulated us since it looked so good.

They required "Dark dress suit." I didn't have a suit, only work and dance clother. Nothing for the opera. I went around to several 2nd-hand stores and found a dress jacket at Myrorna, shown in the picture. At another shop I found the tie. Jag have a traditional "wild west" vest from Western Warehouse in Santa Fe which matches the coat and my dance pants. Sara and I say "swing heil" pants because they come from a company which sells shirts with text from swing dancers in and in opposition to the Nazi times.

All together they look good. We three took a walk to the opera house and I wore my dark leather jacket. I really liked the clothes! Perhaps I should wear formal clothers more often. Sweden is the country for that. They have many more times to dress up.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


"Stad" = "city", genitive "s", "bibliotek" = "library", "et" = definite form ==> "The City Library"

I went to the library last week looking for a place to work outside of the apartment. Usually it's not a problem but because dancing is on a light schedule I've not been going out in the evenings as much. Because I've been sick I've been watching too much TV. There's more American shows to watch here than when I was in Santa Fe!

While I was there I looked through the different floors, to see what was there. I looked through the science fiction section in the thoughts of rereading some of my favorites in Swedish. Because just about everyone reads English and the population is small there are relatively few books translated into Swedish. One that I do want to read is Heinlein's "Have Spacesuit Will Travel." That was my favorite book for a while growing up.

Today I went by the library again and tried working there. I went downstairs, where I hadn't looked before. I found the chess players. Somewhat surprising given that this is Sweden, they were all men. They again, they also looked non-Swedish. I don't get the impression that chess is a big thing in this culture.

I headed over to the newspaper section. They have an amazing number of Swedish newspapers. I didn't realize that Mölndal has its own paper. It even looks like Luleå (or was it Umeå?) has two small papers. The have an even more impressive of foreign newspapers. Most European countries, some in Arabic, some even using languages I didn't even recognize. The only US paper was the International Herald Tribune, which is a cross (literally) between the New York Times and ... no, I was about to spread a falsehood. The Washington Post sold its share 30 December 2002, says Wikipedia.

Another falsehood - the library also had, I think, Wall Street Journal's European edition. I didn't really count that though. In any case, the it didn't have any US newspapers like you would find on the rack in the US.

One thing I miss about the US is free public toilets. It costs 5:- (about 85 cents) to use their toilet.

Finally, finally, finally, after almost a month I feel good enough to go out dancing and enjoy myself. It was salsa night and I had a lot of fun.