Sunday, March 9, 2014
Saturday, March 1, 2014
This morning I saw a young red fox that had been run over by a car. It was laying dead on the road. Such a waste of a good life.
We have had living visitors here too in the last week. A fat, ugly and white-faced oppossum occupied our porch for an hour one night and refused to leave. They really do play dead if threathened. It finally went away after LA stood on the outside of the porch railining poking it with a stick, hard and repeatedly.
Racoons you mostly see dead too here in New Jersey, run over at night. Grey squirrels do their thievery at the bird feeders or look for their hidden nuts that they can't find in the forests. I saw another interesting thing today, an emu! It is at a farm just a few kilometers from here.
Deers are the absolutely most common wildlife mammal here, both dead and alive.
During 1 March to 15 May I am part of a personal bioblitz effort and challenge, where we will try to see as many species as possible of any living thing on Earth. It started this morning and my first species was of course, Homo sapiens. Second - blue jay, out the window :)
We have known each other and been friends 3/4 of our lives now. :)
Here is a special flowering plant for you!
It is the fruit of the lipstick plant, Bixa orellana, also known as annatto. And yes, it is added to lipsticks for color.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Our cheering must have been heard all the way to Russia and Sotji, and both men and women teams from Sweden were able to secure gold!
A fantastic achievement, and a glorious day to be Swedish!
Sunday, February 16, 2014
In Norway they know how to make something solidly real. Norway, with is mountains, fjords, and trains in gorgeous places.
Here is a clip from a 10-hour riding-the-train-through-the-seasons movie (thanks PP):
When EH and her family were here last year we visited Northlandz, an amazing model train museum here in New Jersey. Now there is a little movie about it and how they photographed it. Watch it.
Here are some photos from this great place. Visit Northlandz if you have the chance, even if you have never liked model trains. (More photos from our visit here.)
Monday, January 27, 2014
So, beads are made of clay/ceramics, shell, plastic, acrylic, wood, minerals and glass. These shown in the pictures are mostly glass, colored jade and colored magnesit (often called synthetic turquoise) and metal alloys.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
(FASTEST BIRD - Peregrine Falcon)
(FASTEST LAND ANIMAL - Pronghorn)
(LARGEST CLIFF DWELLING - Cliff Palace)
And New Orleans is of course set in the middle of it.
(LARGEST DELTA - Mississippi River delta)
(LARGEST ESTUARY - Chesapeake Bay)
Thursday, January 9, 2014
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
I can't believe it. I am not ready for this. I need another couple of months in 2013 to do the things I wanted to do that year, and now it is 2014. As usual it will take me a few months to start to write the right year on the checks when I pay bills, but otherwise, things are just the same :)
I like that it snowed both on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve with big lovely thumbnail-sized snowflakes even if they don't last that long. This morning we woke up to severe cold and it is supposed to get down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit tonight (that is -20 C for those that use the-rest-of-the-world temperature system :). The cats seem OK outside, and they are getting pampered with hot water bottles, hot drinking water and plenty of treats and insulating blankets. They don't care a bit about dates, only about morsels of 'Tempting Tuna Flavor' treats.
So, 2013. It was a year without giant weather events and storms. Thanks! I feel we needed that after 2012 which was horrible weatherwise. Superstorm Sandy, the snowstorm in October one week after Sandy, the spring rainstorm that felled lots of conifers, etc. So 2013 was calmer, a bit hot of course in these days of global warming. Lots of canned tomatoes and homemade hot sauce ('Molten Lava' was one of them), two wonderful and successful kids in college, I learned how to use natural dyes for dyeing silk, wool, and cotton, and insect collecting in cold November with my Dad and sister were some of the highlights. And hundreds of great dinners with fantastic homemade and local food, thanks PP! So, 2013 was a good year. On to 2014 now...
But, it is still The Year of the Snake in the Chinese Calendar, and their New Year happens in a few weeks. Here is a US stamp showcasing the Chinese new Year celebrations. Happy New 2014!
Monday, December 23, 2013
Today is the day before THE DAY, at least in Sweden. Swedes don't care much about Santa fitting through the chimney, reindeer sleighs in the sky, and stockings hanging precariously (and fire unsafetedly) at the fireplace. What Swedes do is very different.
Santa actually comes to your house on Christmas Eve, knocks on the door, and asks 'Are there any nice children here?'. And the kids have to answer (and you better say 'yes' or you will be in trouble. And then he takes out presents out of his big burlap bag, and hands them out to everybody. After a while he says that he has more houses to visit, so he is just going to leave the bag with presents for all of you, and then he leaves.
Soon after, Dad/Uncle/Big Brother/Grandpa shows up at the door after getting more firewood/checking on the ham in the basement/trying to find a screwdriver in the barn and all the kids say 'You missed him, he was just here!!!'. :)
Santa's name in Swedish is JULTOMTEN. Jul means Christmas, same word as Yule, and tomte are the little gnomes that are helpers around the farm. Before the tradition of jultomten, it was a goat that came to the house and delivered presents, called JULBOCK. I am not making this up, it is true, and it was the tradition before Santa became common. We still put up things in our Christmas tree that looks like goats, made out of straw. There are also lots of little 'tomtar' (gnomes) hanging in our tree, supposedly keeping it safe. Now when the cats are not inside anymore, we don't have to worry too much about the safety of the tree ornaments.
Swedes also have lots of candlelight, angels, stars, birds, and pigs around for Christmas decorations. We have Christmas trees too of course.
Here are some Swedish Christmas stamps for you all to get the Swedish Christmas feeling. The illustrators are Ilon Wikland (above) and Björn Berg (below). God jul!
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
Someone said that if cars worked like computers, nobody would ever buy a car that randomly crashes, do not always start, have weird unexplained problems, can get viruses and other bad things that live inside it (and I am not talking about mice chewing on things under the hood of the car), or have parts that refuses to work with each other. But that is what we get with computers. These days, we are all also supposed to be able to figure it out ourselves, know HTML, command line code, a billion settings and options, and be able to find buttons that are hidden or staring us straight in the face but not associated with any description or text.
I have just spent more than one hour trying to fix why our little icons for 'mail this', 'recommend this', etc., wasn't showing up on our blog. This blog. It was added by me a few years ago to the template through the 'click this button and you get it on your blog' in the Blogger settings. But they never showed up. So now, a few years later, I decided to see if I could fix it. Some googling, lots of testing with suggested html code in new places, and now finally it works.
The Blogger Help Forum didn't solve it, I found the solution in a post on another blog that had had the same issue. Such a simple thing, and just imagine how many of us that are trying to solve similar issues in our daily lives, including our daily work.
"Why can't I import this file?"
"Where is that command again to fix the white balance on my photo?"
"Why did Word do THAT?"
"How do I get rid of that?"
"Help, I can't sign into gmail!"
"Why do I have to sign in everyday even if I click 'remember me'?"
"Why is Firefox so slow?"
"Why isn't Netflix working (again)?"
And on and on... Ever heard anybody complain about their cars like this? No, me neither.
How in H*LL is anybody that knows nothing about html supposed to be able to fix something like this by themselves? Why aren't these things foolproof? If computers could be insured, and cause bodily harm, like cars are and can, then I bet we would have a lot better working computers. It is pretty amazing how sensitive and breakable this system is, and I am not talking about silly buttons at the bottom of blog posts, but in general. We are pouring our work and private lives into these machines, and they are totally non-dependable. Sure, they work most of the time.
But if you have a broken car you take it to a mechanic and he/she fixes it. For computers, having them fixed by an expert would mean 1) at least weekly visits to a computer mechanic, 2) immense costs, and 3) sometimes things can't be fixed because of bad hardware or software. For a car, you can usually choose not to fix something because it would not be worth the cost, but many times for computer you simply can't fix it, you are simply not given any options.
"Sorry, you laptop monitor is broken, can't be fixed, better get a new laptop."
"Sorry, I can't recover your harddrive data".
And still, we have so much invested in these undependable units - photos, memories, letters, work data (a lot in my case), finances, and so on.
So, gals and guys, here is my advice:
- Back up your data.
- Keep a data backup in a different house or building (or the computing cloud)
- Realize that everything on your computer can be gone. Anytime.
- See the computer as a tool, not as your life. Your life is what is going on when you eat, breath, walk, see, think... not what is stored on the computer.
This morning, while it is snowing outside here in New Jersey. When you come downstairs, you are greeted by this happy tree, before it is overhung with decorations. Just lights and the greenery. Nice!
Monday, December 16, 2013
PP showed us this amazing video tonight, about what economics is about and what it should be about:
It is very interesting and great, watch it!
It questions our current society's focus on money, natural resources, lack of sharing and giving... I want that Gift Economy that he is talking about. Maybe, just like Paying it forward, we should be Giving it forward more in our lives.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
There are a couple of buildings at Hammarby, most built of horizontal logs that are painted with the typical red iron oxide paint of Sweden ('falu rödfärg'). This is where he lived with his family, the famous scientist that was convinced that he was put on this Earth to catalogue all living species and put it into some kind of reasonable system. And so he did. Plants, Animals, Fossils, Rocks... all got a Latin name, a binomial of a genus and species epithet. Like 'Homo sapiens'.
This Swedish stamp from 50 years ago shows Linnaeus in his garden outside the main building. If you walk up the creaky and narrow (and extremely worn) stairs to the second floor and then take a right, you end up in his bedroom. All the walls in there are covered with botanical prints, used as wall paper. He was surrounded by plants, and even while asleep or in midwinter. Tropical trees, orchids, fleshy flowers from far-away places were pasted onto the walls with starchy wall paper glue. I assume there was regular wall paper printed in the mid 1700's, maybe not? It is a bit strange today to see these antique and extremely valuable prints from the 1700s pasted up on the walls, covering every surface, and now stained with water, insect droppings, and dust. Some of the prints are colored, maybe by hand.
Hammarby is a great place to visit, so go there next time you are close to Uppsala. And then go to the Cathedral inside Uppsala ('Domkyrkan') where you can step (or dance) on Linnaeus' grave. His gravestone is set in the floor.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Friday, November 15, 2013
Karin Larsson's The Four Elements, in her weaving loom. Enjoy!
More on Karin Larssons work here, from an exhibition about her.
Here are some fantastic photos of plant anatomy, and this Swedish stamp show wood from birch, which you can of course use for firewood.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Solen kikar försiktigt upp ovanför horisontkanten, en skogsridå av guld bländar mig. Soluppgången är långsam och vacker, precis som om solen tvekar att kliva upp. Precis som jag, som gärna ligger kvar under mitt varma täcke om morgonen. Nu kommer nordbornas svåraste tid, det är mörkt och kallt i mitt Norden. Inte kallt med gnistrande snö och rimfrost på träden, utan ett tråkigt kallt, rått och fuktigt väder, strax över nollstrecket på termometern. En lång väntan, på snön, på glänsande isar, på ljusets återkomst, på växter som återigen knoppas. Bland blåsippsbladen vilar knopparna redan och mina narcisser har långa vita rötter i krukorna. Det känns trösterikt när alla klorofyllblad ligger bruna och vissna på marken, att veta att de nya redan är färdiga för start.
Himlen är svagt upplyst och molnen är belysta underifrån, en ljust blå himmel och mörkt grafitgrå moln, fyllda av fukt. På natten lyser stjärnorna och jag gör min resa i Karlavagnen på väg mot nästa vår.
Translation by LS:
The sun carefully looks over the edge of the horixon, a forest drapery of gold is blinding me. The sunrise is slow and beautiful, just as if the sun is hesitating to get up. Like me, who would love to stay under my warm cover in the morning. Here comes the hardest time for the scandinavians, it is dark and cold in the Nordic area. Not cold with sparkling sno and hoary frost on the trees, but a boring, cold, raw and wet weather, right above the freezing point on the thermometer. A long wait, for the snow, for the shiny lake ice, for the return of the light, for plants that are in bud. Below the hepatica leaves are already ready buds and my daffodils have long, white roots in their pots. It feels promising when all the chlorophyllic leaves are brown and weathered on the ground to know that the new leaves are ready to start.
The sky is barely lit and the clouds are colored from beneath, a light blue sky and dark graphite grey clouds, filled with moisture. During the night the stars shine and I travel with the Big Dipper towards the next spring.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Welcome to winter and the change of the clocks! It happened today here in the US (Swedes are ahead of us as usual, they changed their clocks a while ago). Back to normal Eastern Standard Time for us now, no more Daylight Savings time (which is called Summer Time, 'sommartid', in Swedish).
The amazing hybrid solar eclipse (Nov 3, 2014) we had planned to watch this morning was hidden by a large could bank. Oh well. Somewhere behind those clouds were a partially visible sun. We will have to wait to 2014 for another solar eclipse. There is some photos and info here of this rare event.
And, sad memories and news - it is 50 years since developers in New York City crushed the old, beautiful Penn Station and built a mega-ugly box on top of it. Penn Station now are horrible cramped tunnels below Madison Square Garden. Look at the photos of what once was here... At least Grand Central Terminal is still standing in New York, and Penn Stations are left in Baltimore and Philadelphia. If you wonder about the names - Penn Station comes from the old Pennsylvania Railroad, and Grand Central was the railroad station for the rival New York Central Railroad. Union Station in Washington, DC, had several railroads, that is why it was called 'Union'. (PP can correct me if I am wrong :)
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
When you travel by train you never look forward, maybe a little backward, but mostly sideways. Quickly landscapes swish past, except at stations where speeds slow down.
You see the backyard of American lives, not the front meant for eye consumption. What you see are the alleys, backyards, abandoned lots, weedy places and industrial parks far from the manicured front lawns of highways and city streets.
Bridges and tunnels provide structure and landscape channels - light or dark, over water or through rock. Both have that sense of danger, non is completely safe, but fascinating and exciting. Better to be back on firm ground though. In the forests and swamps no people are present, their sometimes presence just marked by old, dried-out ATV ruts, a barely holding-together deer stand in a tree, or the remnants of a dock, long since gone. I imagine alligators and beavers in the lakes, but see white egrets and maybe a deer.
Through the backyards and hidden lives of Americans, from swimming-pools so small they are non-swimmable, to room extension after room extension built out back, maybe to fit ever-growing families.
Like an invisible snake the polished train passes through, nobody, except some young excited kids that not have have learned to ignore, pays attention to the metal Amtrak tech wonder, pushed by electricity down the tracks. Everybody else doesn't even look up, they go on with their business, be it hanging laundry, carrying groceries, running a red light, yelling at some kids, waiting for the bus with the headphones plugged in, or doing homework behind a dirty window...
Weedy plants are everywhere, covering up the empty spaces people left behind - an old parking lot, railroad sidings, ruins of factories with their hand-painted names that can barely be seen on the old bricks, and neglected yards. Abundant green life everywhere. They are pretty, but uncontrolled - red leaves color the landscape in sunset colors in the middle of the October day. Sumac, kudzu, virginia creeper, mugwort and tree-of-heaven... Each plant has a story and the humans have stories about it, all linked to human histories and miseries.
The train on its shiny steel tracks cuts through it all, relentless, just passing by on to distant places, different lives. Behind it are kids starting, pointing, and laughing, and maybe imagining jumping on, one day.
(Written after taking the train today from Trenton to Washington, DC, and passing through Wilmington, Delaware, and Baltimore, Maryland, and over Delaware River and Susquehanna River. All photos are taken from the train, many at full speed, so they are of course blurry, and therefore accurate.)
Monday, October 28, 2013
2012 was a bad storm year, really bad, and this year we have been incredibly lucky.
Sweden (and Britain) is right now being hit by hurricane Simone, that is wreaking havoc a year later after Sandy, exactly. We are used to storms now, we have two generators, food (lots), a gas stove, buckets, backup sump pumps, extra gasoline for the generators, flashlights, emergency radio, and we know our neighbors... I don't think most people in Sweden are as prepared because the weather is nicer there, usually. Our power has probably gone out at least 10 times this year already... rotten infrastructure, indeed. Also a lot of rotten trees.
I remember it all how it was a year ago, very vividly, hearing the noises of the storm that hit our house around midnight and hearing booms and cracks in the dark, power going out, and then trying to sleep for a bit, and waking up in the morning to a changed world. Here are some photos from back then. I hope you weather the storm better in Sweden tonight.
Yep, that is a power pole with a transformer on it.
Christmas fell over.
There used to be a very dark pine forest here.
And then, on November 8, still without neighborhood electric power, we got this. Nice! Not. (I love snow, just not right then.)
If you want to revisit our blog posts on hurricane Sandy, just look under keyword hurricane, or search for 'Sandy' in the search box.
Sunday, October 27, 2013
Tonight, while driving to pick up LA, there was a golden-red sunset in the west. One of those that we described in Swedish as 'the sky is on fire" (himmelen står i brand). It made me think of other amazing sunsets I have seen around the world, and how amazing it is that a fireball far away affects our colors and emotions so much. So, here is a trip around the world in sunsets:
Brazil, near Itaiaia National Park, between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, sunset on thunderclouds in the rainforest.
Costa Rica, over Palo Verde marshlands in early spring.
Sunset over Stockholm in September, Sweden (of course)
Chicago sunset, in Illinois, USA, out on Lake Michigan. A hot day in August.
Sourland Mountains, New Jersey, USA, with oaks and ash trees in the foreground. Home.