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.