Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bits and pieces

I have just returned from a lecture about how to best manage the flood of e-mails, spam, semi-spam, and non-spam that is inundating our inboxes (more about this in another blog post), but as a result of this I think I will start adding interesting things here on the blog instead of sending so many links via e-mail to my friends and family. Don't worry, you (family and close friends) will still get the personalized stuff, but not the 'hey, look at this cool thing I found" in your inboxes. It will be here instead as 'bits and pieces of life', so you can look at it whenever you feel you have time, and also so the rest of you blog readers can see it.

So, here is today's Bits and Pieces:

I love WPA (Works Progress Administration) posters, made in USA by Roosevelt's Depression Job-making programs in the 1930s. Here is one promoting travel to Montana and another for an art exhibit in Chicago. Clean lines, shapes and even colors, little text, but the message is clear. Today so much advertising and information is drowned in messy unimportant things (like too long, verbally winding emails with a hidden message somewhere, but where?). You can see more WPA posters here.

Britt Irick is continuing to make amazing illustrations, see them on his blog. I love the one of the dinosaur with leafy, homemade wings.

Things I have learned recently: More than half of American meteorologists do not think that global warming exist. An island that has been the source of border debates between India and Pakistan for a long time has ceased to exist. It sank into the sea. The Amazon river basin is as wide as The United States and only 4 million people live there. It takes an amazing amount of water to make half a kilo of sausage (this includes the total water needs for growing the foods for the animals, treating the waste from the animals, etc.) - see most recent issue of National Geographic Magazine. And 20% of all fresh water is in the Amazon.

Tomorrow is April 1st and the day before Good Friday. In Sweden young children will dress up as witches with brooms, coffee pots, and cats (at least sometimes), and go from house to house and beg for candy. This is not a joke.

Some gorgeous things: nice candles on, the Design Observer's Today images are never boring (even some Swedish ballet in this one) , flowering crocuses in our yard, and a planned summer trip to Colorado...

And the Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden was gorgeous and at the same time too much orchids.... a fantastic example of how you can have too much of a good thing, just like perfume, ice cream, and jewelry around your neck. But I bet most people love it. I just think that sometimes you see beauty more if you have to look close and think about it, instead of having it stuffed into your face repeatedly. Orchids are gorgeous after all... (Dear NYBG web designers [if you read this], if you had some nice permanent web pages about the show with readable normal-sized text, interesting links, and additional photos I would have loved to link to them, but since that is lacking... sorry).

Orchid show 2010 Orchid show 2010: x Miltassia

Orchid show 2010 Orchid show 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring is here, or not, or maybe...

We had spring. Then it rained. And rained. And it still rains. We just broke the record of the most rain in March ever. I think spring is around the corner, because the spring peeper frogs are peeping their noises in the trees by the little pond, and daffodils are flowering, as are the golden-belled forsythias, but all this water, water, water... makes me a bit depressed. And soaked.

Here are some photos from the last couple of weeks to prove that here in New Jersey we do have the signs of spring. Even if you couldn't see much of it today in the foggy, gray, and wet atmosphere. (Click on photos for larger versions)

it rained a lot lighted crocus

drooping snowdrops rhubarb on the way

Monday, March 29, 2010

I wonder if this creature is feeling blue?

Australian spotted jellyfish

An Australian spotted jellyfish seen at the Cape Town (South Africa) aquarium. Jellyfishes are incredible animals, don't you think? The jellyfish is actually more white than blue, but the background and light made it infused with bluishness.

OK snapshot: Sweden (Sverige)

Sweden is not only best, it is the most beautiful too. {snark}

Added by LS: Can't you see all the hues of the rainbow in the March fog when
it covers all the suburbs? This is really romanticism for Millenium people.
[Ser du inte regnbågens alla nyanser i marsdimman när den lägger sig över
förorterna? Det är verkligen millenium-romantik.]

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Swedish news in America

You don't often hear news about Sweden on American radio, but a few days ago there were not just one story but two about Sweden. The first one was about a Swedish cartoonist that has drawn the ire of islamic fundamentalists. The second was about the new movie based on Stieg Larsson's book The girl with the dragon tattoo (which has a better name in Swedish, "Men that hate women", but I bet that wasn't marketable in America). Stieg Larsson's book trilogy is great, gory and violent, but smart and a really, really good read. A new Swedish movie is out and has won lots of awards. I haven't seen it yet, but plan to. Of course the movies that are made in Sweden have to be remade in Hollywood, sigh, since some people don't like subtitles. Can you imagine Brad Pitt as a Swedish journalist? Not me.

Otherwise, everyday Sweden in our American household is mostly Kalles Kaviar and knäckebröd, a blacksmith beer opener, Swedish matches (but we are out!), and sometimes pytt-i-panna for lunch.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Waiting for spring

A sailing boat is frozen in the river. The sail is still there and it is waiting for the ice to go away so it can sail again. The picture is taken 4 days ago close to the Mälarsee (Lake Mälaren) in Sweden.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Yellow sunshine will come...

Fig buttercup

Soon these will be flowering (at least in New Jersey)! The photo is from last year, but I have heard that they have been seen this year already. The species is Ranunculus ficaria, svalört in Swedish. Here in NJ it is an invasive weed in wet areas (but pretty), in Europe it is native.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Helping the spring....

I had to do it, I did some helping with the spring this morning. Moved away 4 dm of snow from my flowerbed, and poured out some room temperated water from the aquarium, to melt the snow. If the snow drops (Galanthus) don´t get this hint I don´t know what to do. ... And in the afternoon, snow was coming down again. I haven´t done much complaining this long winter, but after 16 weeks of snow, you start feeling a bit fed-up. The kids don´t even want to go in sleighs downhill anymore, they long for bikes and basketball and such.

Gimme sunshine.!!

And don´t you even mention sunshine and 20 degrees Celcius LS! :-(

Friday, March 19, 2010


Jag kunde inte motstå denna underbara bild av Tove Jansson. Hon må förlåta mig för att jag publicerar den på vår blogg. Den påminner mig om någon...gissa vem?

I couldn´t resist this wonderful picture made by Tove Jansson. She has to forgive me for publishing it on our blogg. It reminds me of someone, guess who?

OK snapshot: Nåt att bita i? (Something to chew on?)

Rock art shaped like Swedish raspberry and licorice candy ('hallonbåtar och
lakritsbåtar'). Seen in Stockholm of course.

OK snapshot: high life

In Stockholm they take biking to new heights...

Stamp of the day: Power tower

Not that many stamps have radio towers on them...
"The VLF transmitter Grimeton was used until the 1950's for transatlantic radio telegraphy to Radio Central in Long Island, New York, USA. From the 1960's until 1996 it was used for transmitting orders to submarines in the Swedish Navy." read more here...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Power of Electricity and Weather

Some photos from the last couple of days chaos in New Jersey. On Saturday it rained huge amounts, and then the wind came. Soggy grounds couldn't keep the trees up, so they fell. All roads to our house were closed for about 24 hours, and we still have no power, phone or internet, and it is now Tuesday. They estimate that they will manage to get the downed electric lines up maybe Thursday, but I doubt it. It is so many places that needs to be fixed, and at least 50 000 houses still have no power in NJ.

The photos are of a tree on our road (the only road to our house that has been opened, two roads are still closed). The damage in the vegetable garden when the cold frame glass tops flew up in the air, the fantastic gas-powered generator we were allowed to borrow from our wonderful neighbors (thanks DL and JL!!!! you are the best!).

Using siphon lines out through the basement door to drain the sump pump by gravity - it works!!!! (at least when it only rains moderately..) Our battery backup for the sump pump only lasts for 7 hours, and without this and then the generators our basement would have been flooded. Never mind that we live at 350 ft above sea level, we get flooded too. The ground is so soaked and with the clay soil, no water goes anywhere except into our basement, into our driveway and so on... Our juryrigged tarp to protect the sump pump generator (also borrowed from our fantastic neighbors). My boots...

This is the longest we have been without power ever. Next time we will be more prepared. We have already bought a crank-powered radio, and we will get our own generator and setup for it. We will have enough gas on hand so we don't have to try to get out and drive under half-fallen trees only held up by a powerline about to burst. We will have some bottled water, just in case.

The problem is that when the power goes we have only our cell phones and the gas stove - no heat, no water, no phone, no internet. It has been an interesting couple of days, but we have managed to cook some great dinners and our frozen food supply is safe, nobody got hurt, the basement didn't flood (much), and we even got to take hot showers after two days due to our wood furnace and the generator powering the water pump. But tonight we are going out for dinner!!! (I am at work writing this).

Finder is keeper

I have longed for green glass isolators, ever since LS and I were visiting Grounds for Sculpture in NJ, USA. There was this amazing steel and glass art piece, LS has photos in her flickr account

Since last weekend I´m in possess of 4 nice green glass insulators, they´re digging down the power lines. I see all kinds of nice garden decorations in these green insulators, same color as a small roof outside my grandma´s kitchen door, by the way, when I was a child.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

When times get tough, go back to the old stuff

Sweden has had a winter with more snow and cold temperatures than in a long, long time, with many railroad problems because of this. On the old suburban train Roslagsbanan, the railroad company SL, finally resorted to ask the local railorad museum (Roslagsbanans Veterantågsförening) for help, and they brought back the oldies, a 1934 railcar (X3p 35) with a 1909 track cleaner attached to it. The track cleaner (spårrensare) was originally a box car. It is the only X3p 35 left in the world (photo here).Photos:
One here
going through Stockholms' suburbs 100 years later (one more photo here)

These oldies could do what the modern trains couldn't. Apparently Sweden used to have 20 snowplow trains, but there are none (or maybe only 2) left. This winter, some major routes have had all their trains cancelled during several days, because of all the snow. I don't think that is so strange, I think it is more strange with all the Swedes that think trains should run ALL the time, even when there is catastrophic weather. But I love the old dependable tools and trains, and love the fact that they brought out this old railroad car.

Book review: The United States of Arugula

The book The United States of Arugula: The Sun-dried, cold-pressed, dark-roasted, extra virgin story of the American Food Revolution by David Kamp, is not a book that is easily categorized despite its title, which is longer than the ingredient list to many recipes. It is a documentary story, supposedly very factual, about the chefs, TV kitchen celebrities, cookbook writers, and food journalists of the last ca 100 years in the US. I say supposedly factual, but as we know, the truth is sometimes a very fleeting and subjective thing.

David Kamp writes about James Beard, Julia Child, Alice Waters, MFK Fisher, and all the other famous food people, and spice it up with stories, rumors, and a-friend-of-a-friend-said... He clearly admires many of them, but sometimes he goes for the sensational. Do we really care what somebody did lewdly to a farm animal as a little boy, and who is crazy and who slept with everybody in their kitchen? That part reads more like a gossip magazine and really has nothing to do with the actual food history of America.

The book does describe the food revolution very well , from the frozen TV dinners in the 1950s and 60s to our current fascination and desire for local, pesticide-free, and naturally grown and produced food. I enjoyed the book, but it is a bit too long and could have used some editing to cut out some slow and repetitive parts. Parts of it are based on interviews and the book therefore includes many quotes. He describes the origin of the supermarkets, the celebrity chef phenomenom, free-range meat, microwaves, and the loss of the corner groceries and farmer's markets (now on their way back).

You learn a lot in this book - that the first people to sell Chemex glass coffeemakers (we have one in our kitchen), were the two guys who later started Starbucks. That before Dean and DeLuca opened a little food store in New York City, you could not get balsamic vinegar and sundried tomatoes here. This is how trends and tastes started. Now we take it for granted, but I remember the 1970s in Sweden - there simply was no international food in the supermarkets except for spaghetti. Food has changed so fast, and with the increased international travel and immigration/emigration in the last 20-30 years we are now much more global.

I recently was asked about typical Swedish food, and after thinking about it for a second I said: boiled cod, white sauce with eggs, and boiled peeled potatoes, all flavored with salt and white pepper, maybe if you are lucky also some peas and parsley ('kokt torsk i äggsås' in Swedish). That is what we were served in school sometimes when I grew up, but I don't think many people in Sweden eat that anymore. Then I added meatballs ('köttbullar'), with gravy and lingonberries ('lingonsylt'), more potatoes, meat stews ('kalops', for example), potatoes, meat loaf ('köttfarslimpa'), cabbage, and onions. Really, quite boring even if good, but this is not Swedish food today. I have heard that the two most popular dinners in Sweden are now spaghetti and meat- or tomato sauce (like this!) and pizza, which is similar to common family dinners here in the US. It is the Italian take-over! :) (Those of you that live in Sweden can correct me if you like).

Arugula is ruccola in Swedish (Eruca sativa in Latin), and has become the symbol of elitist food snobbery in the US, at least the Republican Party thinks so. I love another species also called arugula, the Italian 'Rustica' kind (the species is Diplotaxis tenuifolia). We have Rustica growing in our garden as a perennial, self-seeding weed. It is so good, especially with beets. After reading this book I am grateful we have all the food options we have - dinner tonight will be locally raised herb-marinated poissons (young chickens), served maybe with green chili and cilantro polenta produced in Pennsylvania and fresh artichokes from California. Mmmm...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

They are here! Midnight knitters in NJ

A very Swedish phenomenon have arrived in NJ, and the police is on the look-out for the perpretrators... see news story here.

Soon to a city near you? Here are some Swedish examples.

Carl Larsson knitting mafia knitting graffiti mafia reaching high

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stamp of the day: Colors of glass

When OK was here recently visiting from cold Sweden, we went to Philadelphia Museum of Art, probably my favorite art museum in the world. Well, Chicago's is pretty good too. The Metropolitan in New York City is just too big, it is like a cinnamon bun that is so huge that after you have eaten half you feel sick of cinnamon buns. But the Philly museum is just the right size. Eventually we ended up in the American glass section, and not until EH showed up here a few years ago did I realize how much I like how glass looks. And here in America, it isn't just clear crystal but color, color, color. NJ of course used to have a huge glass industry with its quartz sands, plenty of water, and firewood-filled Pine Barrens. Taking photos of glass through museum glass cabinets isn't easy, but here are some of my attempts (click on photos for larger versions on Flickr).


tropical sunset after the rain
(Wilson Botanical Garden, Costa Rica, after the rain... photo by LS)

Last day in Costa Rica it rained all afternoon, since apparently this is an El Nino year and that wreaks havoc of the dry season. The sun sets at 6 PM and right before sunset the dark clouds cleared up and a soft pink light covered everything in the misty fog. It was unreal, like fog machines on broadway, or religious paintings... The cicadas started their creaks and frogs their croaks, and noisy parrots flew here and there. But the light and the mist made it so peaceful and thoughtful. It reminded me of early summer mornings in Sweden when the low fog is dancing over the meadows, even if the sounds were totally different. Nature is an amazing thing.

Summer morning fog near Stockholm, Ekebyhovs alley, photo by Per Ola Wiberg:

OK Snapshot: Älg å svälj

OK reports: I found this on the street just half an hour ago. I picked it
up, thinking of the Americans in the family. :)

LS adds: this must be from a 'mousserande öl' (moussing beer). Or maybe the
Moose Drool beer?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Symmetry and asymmetry...

This is the most beautiful thing I have seen today. Dissected flowers reassembled using digital art by Macoto Murayama, and there is more here in a WIRED article. Isn't it gorgeous. It reminds me of the xray photos of flowers by Steven Meyers.

“There’s an overwhelming charm in the detailed drawings of both plants and machines,” Murayama says. “Machines have an organic side, while plants have a mechanical side.”

Can you see the axle of a fly wheel in the flower?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Faraway food...

An interesting school project - how long have the ingredients in a taco travelled? About 64,000 miles (that is even more in km). Read more here.

Green things in Costa Rica

If you are small growing in a lawn, you better stand up for yourself. (A little legume weed.)

Screwpalms (Cyclanthaceae) have very strange flowers... They look more like half-eaten cobs of corn.
The leaves are used for Panama hats.

red Passiflora
Passionately red lovely passion flowers. These were visited by small stingless bees.

tree fern stem (not a bear paw)
During the dry season some tree ferns drop their eaves and
transform themselves into fuzzy knobbly walking sticks.

rotted leaf
Rotten things can be beautiful. All that is left of this leaf is the cellulose fiber bundles along all the veins.

Heliconias look like they were designed by a pop artist.

More photos are on Flickr. Sorry, for some reason I can't change the font size to larger... it must be a bug in blogger.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mix and match(box), all right!

LA and I are home from Costa Rica after a diverse set of adventures and some misadventures (nothing serious). While rain forest photos are being uploaded and edited, here are some other things I have peeked at in the last couple of weeks (thanks all for sending this to me).

How many things can you stuff into a matchbox? This is not the record, but it's a lot.
Not your usual stitching sampler.
Do not ever attempt to read a James Patterson novel if you want to have a good read. Trust me. (I just read London bridges on the plane, and it amazes me that this is a bestseller author. I won't give you a book review, this is all you get...)
They eat funny things in Thailand.

There are many amazing stories out there:
Being nurtured by a leopard seal. (thanks for the link PP)
Duct tape saves the day. (hat tip to BV)
Five ways to change the world. (good advice... vote, shop, garden, have a party, etc., PP found this)
I wonder if this can be done with dead ladybugs and stinkbugs... this is both gross and fun. (thanks, EH)

Once a year there is a giant booksale ('bokrea') in Sweden, nationwide, all stores, and you can make amazing finds. Everybody knows about this, and people stock up on books. Now I have to see if there is anything I want, that my friends over there can get for me and then get over here to NJ somehow. I know, I have enough books, but I love books.