Saturday, May 29, 2010

Remnants of life

I was reminded yesterday how fragile life is, how little you can take for granted, and how fast someone can be gone, unexpectedly, suddenly, and tragically. We often forget to enjoy the moment, to dare to be happy, and to express those little things we appreciate in each other, because we probably think there will be better times to express this soon or later, or we are too stressed, too hurried, or too fragmented thinking about everything in our busy brains. Sometimes there won't be a later time, sometimes someone will just be gone. So next time we see something nice or think something nice about someone, we should take a step back and look at it, admire it, and tell that person that positive thought. I believe this will make the world a better and happier place. Peace to all.

I will miss you, CK.

Something unique, handmade and beautiful

Knitalatte has a blog (Resurrection Fern) with gorgeous handmade things, see here. How about these handmade buttons?

OK snapshot: Thermal terminal termites

Snapshot from an iphone from Stockholm railroad station, processed through a software filter.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Swedish classic on the likelihood of nuclear power disasters

This video of Tage Danielsson shows one of his most classic dark-comedy monologues which he made right after the nuclear failure at Three Mile Island in Harrisburg, USA in 1979. This was in the middle of the campaigning in Sweden before the national referendum if Sweden should develop or undevelop their three nuclear power stations. It is too bad this is non-translatable, it is a fantastic linguistic peace of work. The main point is that the accident at Three Mile Island was so unlikely that it really couldn't have happened, or... It is a big play on words, and the victims of his jokes are mainly the Social Democrats who led Sweden at the time. So this is for you Swedes that read this blog! Enjoy! (Swedish blog about Tage)

"Utan tvivel är man inte klok" = "Without doubt you are not intelligent" (quote from Tage Danielsson)

OK snapshot: Lurad och dragen vid näsan?

"Konst är en lögn som får oss att inse sanningen" - Picasso
(= Art is a lie that makes us see the truth.)

Photo from a local exhibit in Stockholm with a local artist.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

OK snapshot: Thor's thunder

Runestone from the cemetery at Vallentuna church outside Stockholm. This
stone was there before the church was built in the 1100s, so it is from the Viking age.

Book review: True North - memoir by Jill Ker Conway

Jill Ker Conway has written two memoirs, both of which are excellent but maybe not of interest to everyone.  The first one is called The Road from Coorain, and describes her upbringing in the 1930s on a drought-stricken sheep farm in rural Australia and her subsequent move into to the city to be able to attend higher education. It also describes her difficult relationship with a mother with mental and control issues.  When that book ends, Jill has just accepted a graduate school position in Boston, USA, so she is about to move to the other side of the world.

The second book, True North, describes her experience as an immigrant and academic, first in the US, and later in Canada.  It is a wonderful book, and it describes in detail how it was (and sometimes still is) to be a female in a male-dominated university environment.

As a historian Jill focused on women's roles and attitudes in the 1800s and 1900s, and she eventually became one of the most cited authors in this field.  She also describes how it was to live with her husband's mental illness (bipolar), how to stand the Canadian winters, struggles with the old guard when it comes to improve and renew university courses, and how she eventually first became a vice-president at University of Toronto (at 37) and then the president of Smith College in the US when she was only 40 years old. It is a gorgeously written book, and many times I recognize my own experiences in what she writes. It is a wonderful book about love, immigration and emigration, feminism, sexism, and teaching.

Here is a little excerpt - Jill has just arrived in the US and been introduced to three female graduate students that will become some of her best friends at Harvard:

"The conversations all evening were so easy I took to them like an addict to a drug. I'd never lived in a place where I didn't have to censor my words and edit my emotions. In Australia, one mustn't offend by being too abstract. Puns based on too much learning would certainly fall flat. Double entendres based on several languages would miss the mark. Admitting that one wanted to be a great scholar, perhaps the best in one's field, just wasn't done. It was a shameful secret to hide behind a well-polished exterior carefully contrived from the pages of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Suddenly I could say whatever came into my mind, not just to a lover, but to a group of people like myself. I wasn't quite sure when would happen if I began to express my innermost thoughts, but I could feel the surge of adrenaline that the very idea of actually being myself set going."

This reminds me of when I came to the US.  For the first time I felt free of society's 'how you are supposed to be'-rules, frequently imposed by friends, teachers, media, and so on.  In Sweden the Jante law was in full blossom, and when I arrived in America nobody knew who I really was, what my background was, what I was supposed to be, so I could shed any image and start afresh.  It was wonderful!  And people here are so tolerant and curious about you in a very good way.

The image of the US in Sweden are often shallow and based on commercial and entertainment interests (Hollywood, music, TV series, New York cabs, crime statistics, crazy presidents), but the truth is that this is a diverse country with enormous possibilities for people to do what they want.  Of course there are horrible and unfair things here too, all I am saying is that the image of US is simplified in many countries abroad (and vice versa).  The same thing goes for the image of Sweden when you are in other countries.  The reality is always more gritty and complex than many of us want to admit. It is so much more convenient to simplify and not deal with the complexity of it all.

I recommend this book to anybody that teaches at a university or college, anybody interested in history and the role of women in society, anybody that has ever moved from one country to another for a longer time, and for anybody that want to read something good and intellectual. This is not an easy-read crime story for entertainment; this book is about life and it is complex, just as life is. Thanks Jill for sharing!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bits and pieces found scattered around the interwebs

How about an ant farm as a piece of art?  Hugh Hayden makes and sells them.

Or you could get a 1700 lbs (820 kg) concrete chair for your garden or street (by Nola from Sweden).

I have a feeling I am the only reader of Sköna Hem, a Swedish interior design magazine online, who is getting tired of the all-white interiors of featured Swedish homes.  What is it with people, are they afraid of color?  Have they never heard about the Swedish word 'färgglad' (color happiness).  All the blinding white hides the details of the gorgeous old houses. More color to the people!

Strange nature - stolen fungal genes inside an insect

Aphids ('bladlöss') are strange creatures.  Not only do these sapsucking insects excrete sugars for the ants that use them as milksugar cows, new research shows that the red aphids of the pea aphid species, somehow picked up a gene from a fungus to produce red caretonids.  I guess this is 'natural' gene modification, and who knows how long ago this happened. Read more here if you like...

Photo by Angela Douglas, Cornell University.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Happy birthday LS!

Picture borrowed from

Today is Norway´s national holiday and the birthday of LS. I don´t know if this has formed a closer relationship with Norway for her, but I suspect so. Me on the other hand, having the same birthday as the national day as Laos, feel no such connection ;) (smiling)

I hope you have a great birthday LS!

All our love from Sweden to you!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Descent Of Man

The Descent Of Man, originally uploaded by Kaptain Kobold.

Kaptain Kobold on Flickr is putting together great little scenes of historic scientists using LEGO. Here is The Evolution of Humans, with Darwin to the right representing humans (I think). Click on the photo to see more.

Natural things

... recently seen...

dew drops on daylily leaves
Dew drops on daylily leaves one early morning.

Ocean ripple
When you realize that all the photos you took during your recent trip to the sandy ocean beach about 2 hours away from home are horribly pixelated because you set the ISO wrong, what do you do? You play around with Photoshop. Here is the photo used with the filter called "Ocean Ripple" - appropriate, don't you think?

flowers that needed stratification...
Germination report from the Sourlands:

Germinated inside: grandma Ebba's Mårbacka geranium, Gaura and Cerinthe, all cucumbers (Chicago, Persian mini), all tomatoes (must be a record, every single one), Asclepias currasavica, scallions and yellow onions, and very, very few of the pepper seeds I sowed. But we bought about 20 pepper plants today to make up for that.

Germinated after stratification (2 months on the deck outside): Penstemon (several kinds), and a gentian species!!!! This is amazing, they are really hard to grow. The seedlngs are a few mm big, so there is still ample opportunity for these seedlings to succumb to a myriad of possible death sentences... but I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Germinated in the raised beds in the kitchen garden: chard (Rainbow), 4 kinds of beets (Detroit red, Chioggia, Golden, and one more kind), carrots, dill, cilantro, morning glories, and lots of weeds.

Fork in the road ahead

Evolution street sign, originally uploaded by Colin Purrington.

This innovative warning street sign by Colin Purrington (on Flickr) would fit well when you enter Texas och Kansas or some other place where science and especially evolution is incessantly questioned. Why next 3 billion years? Because about 3 billion years from now the sun will become a red dwarf and snuff out life on Earth, most probably. At least that is what the scientists predict. I wonder what the creationists are thinking - how long do they predict until Armageddon. When LA and I were in New York recently, we saw demonstrating people with signs saying "The End of the World will be October 21, 2010". Where do people get everything from?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stamp of the Day: It was only 141 years ago...., May 10, when the East Coast and the West Coast of the United States were united for the first time by a railroad line.  Happy anniversary, all railroads!

The stamp shows the Golden Spike Ceremony in 1869 in Promotory Point in Utah, and the spike wasn't really made of 100% gold even if it was called the Golden Spike.  You can read more here about this event, one of the first real media-marketed events.

Demonstration of the force of Nature

Last night I was a spectator of one of Nature´s amazing displays, a volcanic eruption on Iceland on webcam. Eyjafjallajökull put up a show for real, see pics in my Flickr album.

I´m totally amazed, the lava eruptions was at least a 100-200 meters high.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The land of opportunity

Good soil is brown gold.  Out of such a dirty mess you can get delicious beets, crispy salad and juicy tomatoes, gorgeous flowers, and heavenly basil.  This spring we have made some improvements to our vegetable garden, some highly visible (a new deer fence with new bamboo poles) and some not (such as added lime [kalk] to prevent blossom end rot of the tomatoes).  So here is a photo update on the current state of affairs in our vegetable garden [or 'köksträdgård', as we say in Swedish, look, all three umlaut vowels in the same word!).

We have young peaches, pears, gooseberries, and red currants and in another month or two (three?) we hope to sink our teeth into these. A new grape arbor (designed and made by PP) with a white Niagara grape and a blue Concord grape is the new home for our two grape plants that were taking over the garden with there vigorous growth.  And this is the time for columbines (Aquilegia, akleja), we have blue, red, white, and yellow ones, three different species.

The chives are flowering too (see above), but the severe weather this winter killed off a lot of the lavender and thyme.  I think they will come back from the root stock, at least some of them. Our experiment with the "deer-proofed" (=unfenced) flower beds planted with mint varieties, sage [salvia], chives [gräslök], lamb's ears [lammöron], lavender [lavendel], and thyme [timjan] has gone far beyond expectations.  The deers refuse to even take a small bite of these herbs, so these flower borders that were grazed down to nothing are now filling in with a real herb garden.  OK, so it isn't the same as tall irises and other gorgeous flowers, but at least it is green and not chewed to death, and it smells amazing.  And the mint is spreading like wildfire, but that is OK, it is surrounded by lawn so it won't get into the vegetable garden. It is truly a wonderful time to get your hands dirty...

Click on images to see larger versions, and click here for more garden photos by Vilseskogen (me).

gooseberry to be peach to be

black gold red currants to be

strawberry flowers an infant pear

new deer fence around the vegetable garden grape arbor, newly built

Columbine (aquilegia) Aquilegia (columbine)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

OK snapshot: Language is not easy

"Do not operate machinery" is a common disclamer. But what about writing?
(Seen in Stockholm, Sweden, presumably)