Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Amazing snow photos

The most amazing snowflake photos can be seen at SnowCrystals.com.  These are taken by Kenneth Libbrecht.  It is incredible the shapes water can take.  And they are not just hexagonal crystals, but also pillars, plates, needles, and many other shapes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Evening snapshot - moon and Christmas lights

It is really hard to take a photo of the moon and trees with Christmas lights with a tiny camera without a tripod. I thought it was cool how the color of the moon was so different from the lights, I couldn't really tell that by eye. The moon is also so tiny, our eyes are so often zooming in on it that we forget how small and far away it really is.

Ponderings on originality and authenticity

Interesting thoughts on originality, copying, authenticity, sharing, borrowing and creativity in these two linked articles: To live outside the law, you must be honest (Mobylives) and The Work of Art in the Age of Maniacal Appropriation (UTNE). I took the freedom to borrow the image by Jim Jarmusch that goes with them (see below), and hope that is considered creativity and not stealing, as suggested in the articles. I don't condone any plagiarism, but look below - we do share and borrow ideas and images and thoughts and inspiration from books, sunsets, old and new art, knitting patterns, photos, views and landscapes, and just snippets of information anywhere.  These are not easy questions, and to talk about them is to talk ethics, not an easy thing, and maybe something we talk too little about.  Sometimes we want it all for free, sometimes we want to own our own creations, and sometimes we just want to connect it all and take what we want and reuse it in new ways.  Reality is never so black and white as in movies or made-up school examples. The Mobylives article is really worth reading about this topic.

Smokey didn't even notice her first snowflakes

On Thanksgiving Day, this past Thursday, a few snowflakes fell down from the sky and landed wherever, including on sleeping Smokey. She didn't even wake up to notice her first snowfall after moving outside 6 or so months ago. All furred up and bundled up, she stayed warm and was happy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ponderings on utopias

When I grew up I remember seeing the movie Shangri-La on TV one Sunday afternoon, and I loved it.  A hidden valley, far away in the Himalayas, a paradise away from everything else, isolated and self-sufficient. Last night PP showed me an old movie by Lewis Mumford called 'The City", which shows another kind of utopia - a village where workers live in nice houses without industrialization's horrors and pollution. It is worth watching, and you can find it here, in the Prelinger Archives of ephemeral films.

What struck me after seeing this movie is that there aren't any utopias anymore.  We can't realistically dream about paradise islands where you can live away from the rest of the world.  Everything is connected, affected, even if you want to be isolated.  Every hidden valley, little town, or tropical island is affected by the global climate change, atmospheric pollution, radiation, and trash and toxins thrown into the sea, groundwater, or rivers. Over you satellites are watching you or give you connectivity to anywhere else in the world.  All economies are linked, and what happens at Wall Street or in Asia's stock markets affect a country and village across the world.

So, the idea of Utopia has changed.  Now we wish for small Utopian things, like affordable health care for all, toys without lead, and cleaner streets, while in the past you could dare to think big and dream away... I think this creates a kind of hopelessness and apathy in the new generations - it is much harder to change anything, the problems are big, global, and enormous.  Even if you plan a small better village locally, you run into global and national problems and forces, since so much is controlled at a higher level, not locally anymore.  Here in New Jersey, there used to be several local villages (like Roosevelt) built and based on Utopian ideas of fairness, sharing, and ethics.  Now they are all just regular places like any other (with a few exceptions, like Free Acres).

Who even wishes for World Peace anymore?  I do, but who really works for it?  No big masses of people...  I think the whole world view has changed since the hopeful 1960s, and gone downhill since then.  The only way to change global things is for all of us to work together in all countries, and that seems pretty much impossible, sometimes even within just one country (US for example). Sad and depressing, unfortunately.  Now the only real Utopias are new planets somewhere out there in the universe.

Maybe Utopia is just an impossibility, because humans are too selfish and competitive, and that all goes back to evolution and competition over scarce resources for survival?  Still, I like the thought of better places for all...

Links for more information (to avoid the breaking up of your reading* I put these at the end)
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: Where does the stuff go?
Prelinger Archives: Lewis Mumford: "The City"
Free Acres, New Jersey : Roosevelt, NJ

* Researchers have showed that reading online text with a lot of links in it breaks up the thought process and you get distracted and don't learn and think so much.  At each hyperlink in the text your brain thinks "should I click on this or not", and you loose your thought and memories of what you just read.  So even if you don't click on the link, you are affected, without knowing it. So, links at the end on this post.  (Link to more about this here and here.)

Made by nature in a man-made form

SF Bay mudflat capillaries, originally uploaded by aroid.
From the air over San Francisco you can see these mudflats with their meandering veins, capillaries, and branches. Photo by our friend aroid on Flickr.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Book review: American Terroir by Rowan Jacobsen

This is one great book: American Terroir by Rowan Jacobsen.  One not too thick, not too dense, not too preachy, not too boring, not too silly, not too detailed, not too American book.  American terroir (not terror, not terrier, but terroir – as in the land and microclimate that give wines special flavors, "the taste of place") is a book that takes us on a tour around North America to ten great food products, and their greatness are because of where they are grown and the history and climate of the place.

Rowan Jacobsen writes in a funny but detailed way, giving you an abundance of history, science, and culture in short but dense sentences that never become a chore to read.  In fact, when I fell asleep reading this at night I was unhappy because I wanted to continue reading it, not go to sleep. This is in stark opposition to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (TOD), which I am struggling to finish after a year of trying to get into it.  I ought to like TOD, because I ought to like Michael Pollan and his work for better food and agriculture in America, but I just don’t like it that much.  This book, this little gem of red rowanberries, this I LOVE! 

The chapters deal with the following ingredients and food products: maple syrup from Vermont, coffee from Panama, apple cider from New England and apples from Washington State, honeys from everywhere, potatoes from Prince Edward Island, wild mushrooms and native plants in southeastern Canada, oysters from Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, avocados from Mexico, Yukon River King Salmon, unusual wines from California, cheese from Vermont, and chocolate from Chiapas in Mexico. 

While reading this book my brain kept constant notes on which people I would recommend each chapter to (coffee to my brother, salmon to my husband, etc.) but in the end, I will have to recommend the whole book to everybody.  There is no best chapter, they are all great.  It is easy reading, but chock-full of great facts and stories. Each chapter ends with a few recipes and a list of suppliers and websites for more information.

Rowan Jacobsen manages to teach the reader a lot of plant genetics, breeding history, soil science, and microbiology without the reader even noticing – we are too busy just enjoying the story.  By highlighting not just the local food and sustainability, but the connection of these foods to the natural places, history of its people, and personal stories, Jacobsen made me want to know more and more about our little corner on this Earth and its connections to the past.

This book was a great surprise and a great find, and I recommend it to anybody – chocolate fanatics, oyster nerds, historians, and food people, grandmothers, teenagers, and husbands, Swedes, and Americans, and any mycologists and farmers out there.  It is just a GREAT book, probably one of the best non-fiction books I have read in 5 years.  (Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham was also great, but this is more mainstream). It seems like many people like this book - I just found some of the reviews here. A new classic, indeed. 

The only thing I missed was a detailed index, please, publishers, don't skip on this.  We need indices! Books on paper don't have Google attached to them.

 Here are some excerpts to give you a feel for the writing style:

(on maple syrup):
"Caramelization is one of those unlikely tricks that reminds you that the world is magical and mysterious. It's the flavor equivalent of using a prism to transform white light into a rainbow. In this case, the prism is heat, which breaks and odorless sugar molecule (sucrose) into a rainbow of delightful aroma compounds."

(on cheese):
"Cheese used to be something that nature did spontaneously, We didn't design the cheese so much as guide it, like an equestrian riding a horse. The cheese powered itself and the cheesemaker gave it some direction."

(on oysters):
"A geoduck looks like something that might owe a lot of money to Jabba the Hutt. A giant clam that burrows so deep that armor becomes superfluous, it maintains a vestigial shell that sticks to its backside like a G-string on a sumo wrestler."

(on apples):
It turns out that, given a choice, people overwhelmingly go for the reddest apple. So growers kept selecting for the reddest. They were not, however, selecting for the tastiest. Eventually, Red Delicious apples eclipsed fire-engine red and reached a color imaginatively described as 'midnight-red'. And most are virtually inedible, with dry flesh and thick skin.  Good-tasting apples have small, tightly packed cells that break apart at first bite, spilling their juice in all directions.  Red Delicious have cottony, dry cells with too much air in between."

Day after Thanksgiving

White tara tea company - yunnan gold black tea

fridge full of gorgeous edible leftovers
meaty turkey legs, apple cider sauce, caramelized sweet potatoes
sleep-in morning, apricot-golden sunrise, then hot coffee
warm socks and thick sweater on

outside ice-cold stormy winds hit our house
stiff pine needles are constricted on the branches in fear
of the snowstorm that has yet to come
Lapsang Souchong is warming my hands, heart, and brain

Stamp of the day: Pippi Long Stocking and ginger bread cookies

Pippi and her monkey Herr Nilsson are making ginger bread cookies on the kitchen floor.
A typical non-stereotypic behavior of Pippi!

Christmas stamp from Sweden.

Google celebrates Pippi Långstrump (Long Stocking) on her 65th birthday

Today is Pippi Långstrumps (Pippi Long Stocking) birthday, it´s been 65 years since the first book was published in Sweden. Google is celebrating by showing her on the logo in some countries, not US, but in Sweden. Read more here in swedish.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Winter is fun and beautiful!

Vintergatan by Jenny Nyström

Finally, it´s snow on the ground! No more mud or wet soggy shoes, it´s white pristine snow and all the kids love it. We have now 5 cm of snow and some more will come today.

DH has asked for winter since midsummer! Now it´s finally here and Christmas eve is just 30 days away. Have fun!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why is it...

That most commercial lemonade drinks are made with artificial lemon flavoring, but some dishwasher detergents contain real lemons?

OK snapshot: It is a cold day in hell

Today's Aftonbladet, Swedish newspaper... Trafikhelvetet = The traffic hell.  Sweden is suffering under a large snowstorm right now.

Swedish Winter Tale (cont'd)

I am adding some here in English to EH's post about Monica Törnell's classic song about the Swedish winter from 1984, Vintersaga (Winter Tale), written by Ted Ström.  The original song is on Youtube.  It really describes the Swedish winter and its people in a melancholic way, all the darkness, cold, ice, and isolation. Here is a quick translation to English.  The geographic names are all over Sweden, making this song relevant for all parts of Sweden. I grew up with this song and for many, including me, it symbolizes Swedish winter and Swedish moods...

A coastal tanker is pushing through the drifting ice in Kvarken
A training pass at Ullevi in fog
The border station in Torneå, a woman on a ice kicker
Landsort's lighthouse where the snowstorm is pulling in

Dense snow is sticking on Mariaberget's slopes
Hot and sweaty at the Hotel in Härnösand
A truck in drifting snow between Kiruna and faraway
barely alive lights in Visby harbor

This is when the big moodiness is rolling in
And from the sea is a icy, gray cold wind
In Malmö the fog is etched by the sirens of the ferries
And on the other side of the strait the world starts
A lonely Volvo pushes in the wind on the Tjörn bridge
The Lappland train groans like a wild animal in the night
The farms are turning down their lights
A storm-whipped Marstrand prays its Pater Noster
Stockholm city is waving in its intoxication
This is when the big moodiness is rolling in
And from the sea is a icy, gray cold wind
Truck traffic in Docksta in the highway shadow
An overdose at Skärholmen station
Snowed in roads somewhere on Österlen 
And the drunkenness is growing at Mommas pub
Frozen thirst in the queue to the city pub in Luleå
Frozen dreams in the monarchy
The love has to live between the night shift and the dreams
The love lives on cheap wine

This is when the big moodiness is rolling in
And from the sea is a icy, gray cold wind

Weather report- winter in Sweden

Vintersaga ... av Ted Ström. Sjungen av Monica Törnell 1984

En kusttanker som stampar genom drivisen i Kvarken.
Ett träningspass på Ullevi i dis.
Gränsstationen i Torneå, en gumma på en spark.
Landsorts fyr där snöstormen drar in.

Tät snö som gloppar i Mariabergets backar.
Hett och svett på Statt i Härnösand.
En tradare i snörök mellan Kiruna och fjärran
flämtande ljus i Visby hamn

Det är då som det stora vemodet rullar in
Och från havet blåser en isande, gråkall vind.
I Malmö rispas dimman av färjornas sirener
Och på andra sidan sundet börjar världen.
En ensam Volvo sliter i motvinden på Tjörnbron
Bion i Pajala ger "Den sista färden"
Lapplandspilen råmar som ett vilddjur genom natten
Gårdarna släcker sina ljus
Ett stormpiskat Marstrand ber sitt Pater Noster
Stockholm city svajar i sitt rus

Det är då som det stora vemodet rullar in
Och från havet blåser en isande, gråkall vind.

Tradarfik i Docksta i motorvägens skugga
En överdos på Skärholmens station
Insnöade vägar nånstans på Österlen
Och fyllan växer till på Mommas krog
Frusen törst i kön till stadspuben i Luleå
Frusna drömmar uti monarkin
Kärleken får leva mellan nattskiftet och drömmen
Kärleken går på billigt vin

Det är då som det stora vemodet rullar in
Och från havet blåser en isande, gråkall vind.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

OK snapshot: Stockholm sunset

Denna över Marieberg. Kan väl symbolisera kulturskymningen i svensk dagspress...
(This one over Marieberg. It can symbolize the cultural dawn that is sinking down over daily Swedish newspapers. [Marieberg is the little mountain on Kungsholmen where Dagens Nyheter and Expressen have their offices - those tall buildings in the distance.])

LS comments:
Swedish newspapers are struggling just as American ones, and what sells the most (crime, drama, entertainment, and other mayhem) is not really what can be considered high culture...(which some think is just snobbish intellectualism... but I don't agree 100%). Fewer and fewer pages are printed in the morning papers, and the giant online dragon is Aftonbladet (also in print), who mostly has sold out to the mayhem-addicted. I read Aftonbladet all the time online, but half the time it makes me sick. But it still has lots of currently updated news from around the world, mixed in with the latest in plastic surgery, weather chaos, grisly murders, and recent school bullyings.

Currently the top headline in the online edition of Aftonbladet is "Obama furious at North Korea" (something serious to look like a serious paper), but this is followed below by "Hand was stitched on the foot -9-year old girl had miraculous operation" (gross me out and make me in awe thing), "Several trucks blowed off road" (the usual weather chaos thing), "Your child will become obese due to bad sleep" (scare me in the everyday life thing).

Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet are the two old morning papers in Stockholm, fierce competitors, and both try to be very serious until they too dip their feet into the reality TV shows and Zlatans latest outburst. Then there is Expressen, Aftonbladets competitor, an evening newspaper also online and in print - but not at all as big as 'aftonslasken' ('the evening garbage'). These are all in Stockholm, and on the West Coast there are a few more papers.

Aftonbladet was in deep dodo about 20 years ago but managed to turn a bad situation around by focusing more on the 'soft issues', i.e., home, women, food, health, parenting... and becoming less macho (=sports, economy). There is a great documentary radio program in Swedish about the macho culture on Aftonbladet back then, when a few women who wrote a report about it which became rather infamous (and important) and how their newspaper office is today. Yrsa Stenius has also written about the culture at newspapers in Sweden in her great book Makten och kvinnligheten (The Power and The Feminitity), which I will review here at some point.

But the point here is that there used to be a lot of culture, analysis, deep thought, and funky stuff in these newspapers (like New York Times still has), but it is largely gone or at least minimized. There is still reviews and important articles about art, theater, books, philosophy, movies of course, but it has become much more shallow, especially in Aftonbladet, I think. So, the sun is setting over the cultural departments at the
Swedish newspapers.... I am sure there is lots of interesting things to read in other media forms, such as magazines and blogs... but an old tradition is fading. The times they are a'changin'.

some BS (= blog statistics)

This is the most viewed post during the last 6 months on this blog.  Who could have expected that? More from LA please. Nearly 1500 people have viewed this blog post since May this year.

This is number two...  I think people like animals, especially Chinese ones.  (EH posted, nearly 1300 views)

Then there is a gap of nearly a thousand views down to the famous Pirate Island Board Game, which has about 600 views. (LS photos and post)

It seems nearly impossible to predict what will draw a lot of views... here are more in the top ten since May:
extinct professions, Twinkies, Poison Ivy, Ramshakles, Swedish mountain hiking, Tjaldur, and my Via Ponte restaurant review.  

Can you see a trend in these top reads?  I can't, not more than they are as diverse topically and geographically as the interests of our family.  Keep on posting dear blog members, people are reading!  We have over 95 000 visits so far, since the start of the blog in 2007.

More facts you don't need to know (for the last 6 months):
13% used a Mac, 84% a Windows computer
Internet Explorers leads among the visitors with 52%
The most found image from the blog is this (long live SAAB!)

Yesterday, a Google search for "archeology +underground houses in Scandinavia" lead to our blog. As did "cleo cola history"  and "ridiculous ponderings".

This blog is decidedly ad-free (and tweet and Facebook-free too), but if I go into the ClustrMap to see where you blog visitors come from geographically, I can see the ads that Google think fit with this blog.  Right now we have these ad headings featured:  US Railway Project, Locomotive Leasing, Free Legal Consultation, Top Quick Italian Recipes, and Rail Fleet Consulting. That is what you get when you write about 1880s train accidents, wrecked locomotives, and Italian pasta shapes. The ads lag behind, these posts are a week old at least. Automatic internet marketing a la Google...

Thanks for all the visits, dear readers!

Stockholm sunset

Just a photo from my trip to Sweden in September 2010. The water is Eriksbergskanalen (I think , at least part of Lake Mälaren) between Kungsholmen and Karlberg in central Stockholm, and the photo was taken from the bridge of St. Eriksgatan. I used to live not far from here when I went to college.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The perfect name?

Army ant moving truck, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

Seen in Durango, Colorado, USA this summer.

Renewable weeds as art

I think this is fantastic!  Handmade art from alien weed plants by Patterson Clark. Here is an example of garlic mustard paper printed with assorted weed inks using a Norway maple wood block.  I just love it!

"A few years ago, he became concerned about invasive plants like English ivy, white mulberry and multiflora rose choking out species like American beech and tulip poplars that are native to his area around Rock Creek Park, of which Whitehaven Park is a part, and he got a license from the National Park Service to remove the invasive plants near his home. But ripping out the plants and throwing them away felt destructive and wasteful. [...] He started bringing the plants he liked into his basement studio, and over the last several years, he's been perfecting the process for turning invaders into paper, ink, and, ultimately, art."  Read more here.

More articles on the digital revolution and how we think and react

More revelations, revoltings, revolutions, rambling and riveting thoughts:

"We can tap into 50 million websites, 2.5 million books in print, 75 million blogs, and other snowstorms of information, but we increasingly seek knowledge in Google searches and Yahoo! headlines that we gulp on the run. We can contact millions of people around the globe, yet we increasingly connect with even our most intimate friends and family via instant messaging and fleeting meetings that are rescheduled a half dozen times, then when they do occur are punctuated by pings, beeps, and multitasking."
From an UTNE article called A Nation Distracted by Maggie Jackson. It is really worth reading. 

Attention has created the experience and the self stored in your memory; looking ahead, what you focus on will create the life and person yet to be. Psychology has mostly examined our pasts to explain and improve our lives. If you think in terms of the present and future instead, you might encounter an intuition lurking in your mind, as it was in mine: If you could just stay focused on the right things, your life would stop feeling like a reaction to stuff that happens to you and become something that you create—not a series of accidents, but a work of art.
From an UTNE article called The Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher. It is also really worth reading.

People who are zoning out (so deeply they aren’t aware of it until they’re asked) exhibit a signature blast of brain activity, specifically in areas associated with goals, decision making, and long-term thinking. 
From an UTNE article called Stop Paying Attention by UTNE staff. Fascinating stuff about why it is good to let the mind wander sometimes. 

But be aware if you are an introvert, because some psychologists and WHO then might think you have a problem.

Ponderings on generation D

The Digital Generation is not just teenagers that text 5000 messages a month, toddlers with iphones, or 8-year old kids that love Nintendo (those youngsters are called Generation Z).  It is all of the rest of us too - all of us that use digital tools like GPS, computers, digital cameras, cell phones, DVD players, ipods, ATMs ('bankomat'), etc.  We are all becoming more and more dependent on these things, and at the same time our power over them is becoming severely limited.

What do you do when your cell phone doesn't work?  Call the company (on another phone), and then probably send it in to get another one. When the computer breaks? After searching the internet and not understanding much of the geeky advice there, maybe buy a new one, or send it in for expensive service.  When the battery to the ipod is dead?  Throw it away and buy a new one.  It is the true new wear-and-discard society ("slit och släng" in Swedish).

We have lost so much power over our own surroundings, our own capabilities. Repair is no longer in our hands for many of these gadgets, so we are powerless.  Same for cars - it used to be that you could do some repairs by yourself, but the new cars have all these electronics in them so you stand there with your wrench and can't do much except for change a tire or so.  Same with new dishwashers, fridges, and washing machines.  Many aren't even worth repairing by the experts, so they just send you new ones as long as you have warranty left.  Products seem to be just made to break, so we can buy more and more...  It is sickening, and not smart or sustainable at all.

There has been a lot in the news here in the US about how The Digital Generation is affected by our online-additions.  I will copy little snippets here on the blog and link to the articles if you want to read more.  Mainly these articles focus on lack of attention, lack of focus, lack of face-to-face friendships, and lack of problem solving.  I think we all need to think about how all of this affects everybody, and even if you yourself is not severely affected, I am sure you might have people around you that are or can be.  It is hard to break addictions, but I think many of these behaviors play just into the human minds addiction and attention centers. 

Some of these technologies are so new that there aren't really any social rules about them.  For example - in my opinion it is not OK to text messages on your cell phone during class, dinner, conversations, etc. but people do, all the time.  I know professors who text and e-mail during lectures and meetings.

I recently had a cab driver who was texting at 65 mph on the highway and I had to tell him to stop.  It is illegal to text while driving in NJ, and also illegal to talk on the cell phone without a hands-free set.  But people talk on their cell phones while driving too, but at least you have your eyes on the road.  I do to, sometimes, because it is convenient... and that is the point of today's life - everything should be convenient, instant, fast, and over the top.

I know I might sound like a curmudgeon, but I think this is a dangerous trend of addiction to instant digital rewards.  The internet and its digital devices can be good and can also be misused. Many times I think they take the power from us, instead of us having the power over them.  People say all the time: "Oh, I just have to check e-mail."  Well, do you?  We are addicted to feel needed, important...  but are not needed any longer so much by real people, but by an e-mail program.

I went to a lecture about this a few months ago and I will blog about it later, but it largely was about taking control of your Inbox and not letting it control you.  I know that for many of the readers of this blog this is not a problem, but I feel the burden of sometimes hundreds of e-mails a day and a to-do-list that just grows and grows. E-mail, texting and online social web sites - aren't they just time suckers?

Merlin Mann says: Joining a Facebook group about creative writing is like buying a chair about jogging.  (right!)

I like the internet, because you can find information on historical train accident maps, new knitting patterns, and cool Latin species names - things that otherwise would have been unknown to you.  So, how to find a balance and how to direct your internet focus to you don't get trapped in the information swamp? More on focus and attention in the news later, now it is time for real work and not blogging.

I'll end my ponderings today with a quote from a UTNE article by Brad Zellar:

"Am I the only one who generally finds the internet a lonely vacuum, a vortex, a votive candle in the men’s room of the noisiest shopping mall on the planet? Am I the only one who feels like I’m wasting way too much time nosing around in nonsense, having what’s left of my brains beaten in by jackhammers, and trying to “make friends” when I should be doing a better job of actually being friends?"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

All those dots and rings, do they really make a difference?

In Swedish, that is.  Yes they do, and when you type on an American keyboard without ä, å, and ö, your Swedish text can become both hilarious and misinterpreted.  The a, ä, å, are treated as three different letters in Swedish and they mean very different things; it is not optional to add the diacritical marks when you use these letters in my mother tongue.

Well, it wasn't optional, until computers came into the picture and we all became anglicized (especially me, after living 15 years abroad)... To type "ä" on my laptop keyboard, I have to push two buttons (Fn + Alt), and then typing 0 2 2 8 while still pushing the two original, so six keystrokes in total, and three simultaneous button strokes for each one, for one simple little Swedish letter.  On a Swedish keyboard it is just a single keystroke of course.  So, I hope my Swedish relatives and friends forgive me for often assuming that they can add the rings and dots to the o's and a's in their heads while reading my ring-free and dot-free Swedish text sent via e-mail. There are a lot of common Swedish words that use these unusual letters (such as "är" for 'is, are').

Here are some examples of Swedish words with and without the umlauts (that is what the dots and rings are called, linguistically), showing the difference those little marks make in Swedish.

vanliga = common; vänliga = friendly
halsningar = swallow (like drinking beer); hälsningar = greetings
slakt = slaughter; släkt = family (extended, including grandmothers and cousins, etc.)
kram = hug; kråm = decorations; kräm = creme, gel, paste
ta = take; tå = toe
laka = leach; läka = heal
lov = vacation; löv = leaf
al = alder; ål = eel
ost = cheese; öst = east
sal = large room; säl = seal
as = dead animal, carcass; ås = esker, long narrow hill
osa = smoke; ösa = bailing, emptying water out of something
sova = to sleep; söva = to put someone to sleep, like anesthesia
lada = barn; låda = box
bar = bar; bär = berries; bår = stretcher
bor = live; bör = ought to
borda = enter, board (especially about boats, like pirates do); börda = weight, burden
aska = ashes; åska = thunder
åra = oar; ära = honor
hora = hore; höra = hear
kar = basin; kär = in love; kår = chill, sudden wind blast
sas = was said; sås = sauce
tal = speech, number; tål = endure
gata = street; gåta = mystery

I am sure the Swedes here on the blog can come up with even more of these.

"Med vanliga halsningar till hela slakten!"  (With common 'swallowings/gulps' to the whole slaughter)
also "med vänliga hälsningar till hela släkten" (with best wishes to the whole family)!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

OK snapshot - typical Brusewitz

"Morkulla" (I have to look up the English word for the bird)

OK snapshot - more Brusewitz

OK snapshot: Myskoxar och basaltklippor

A piece of art by Swedish artist Gunnar Brusewitz, called "Muskoxen and
basaltic cliffs" from a current exhibit at the Natural History Museum in

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ten Amazing Numbers

Just look at the sequence occurring in this table.

1 x 8 + 1 = 9
12 x 8 + 2 = 98
123 x 8 + 3 = 987
1234 x 8 + 4 = 9876
12345 x 8 + 5 = 98765
123456 x 8 + 6 = 987654
1234567 x 8 + 7 = 9876543
12345678 x 8 + 8 = 98765432
123456789 x 8 + 9 = 987654321

Ok so lets try 1 x 9 etc.

1 x 9 + 2 = 11
12 x 9 + 3 = 111
123 x 9 + 4 = 1111
1234 x 9 + 5 = 11111
12345 x 9 + 6 = 111111
123456 x 9 + 7 = 1111111
1234567 x 9 + 8 = 11111111
12345678 x 9 + 9 = 111111111
123456789 x 9 +10= 1111111111

And so it goes .!

9 x 9 + 7 = 88
98 x 9 + 6 = 888
987 x 9 + 5 = 8888
9876 x 9 + 4 = 88888
98765 x 9 + 3 = 888888
987654 x 9 + 2 = 8888888
9876543 x 9 + 1 = 88888888
98765432 x 9 + 0 = 888888888

Brilliant, isn't it?

And look at this symmetry:

1 x 1 = 1
11 x 11 = 121
111 x 111 = 12321
1111 x 1111 = 1234321
11111 x 11111 = 123454321
111111 x 111111 = 12345654321
1111111 x 1111111 = 1234567654321
11111111 x 11111111 = 123456787654321
111111111 x 111111111 = 12345678987654321

(from PP)

A no win-no win situation

Who profits from war?  Well, not us, but others do.  Then and now. Sickening.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Coming soon to a store near you?

marijuana dispensary, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

We saw this in Dolores, Colorado, one of the states that have enacted medical marijuana laws. Here in NJ the law has passed, but they have not yet figured out how to prescribe and distribute it to needy people. Seems like they do it more low-key in Colorado.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Rainy day birds

black vultures in the rain, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

Even the black vultures were waiting for better weather...

AREA art

scribbles, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

This art is of the temporary kind, until someone resets the Etch-a-Sketch... I wonder how long it took her to make this?

food in moderna museet

This is a picture from moderna museet (The Museum of Modern Art) in Stockholm. I feel hungry.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Childhood memories

LS blogged about cars and SAAB and I thought about childhood. And then this came in my way, also a part of our childhood.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Stamp of the Day: classic cars

For AREA and other car lovers: First Day Letter of 6 Swedish stamps featuring classic cars - Volvo Duett (made for 2, a typical practical Swede car), Chevrolet Bel-Air (like they had in Mad Men?), Porsche 356, Traction Avant (with that Chicago gangster look), Saab 96 (of course!), and Jaguar E-type (AREA's favorite, see here).

I was relieved to find out that SAAB 96 was included in the book 50 Cars That Changed The World. You can see the rest of the list here as part of the Contents of the book.

SAAB 96 is THE nostalgia car from my childhood.

See the cover of the book - that car is on the Swedish stamps too.

Danger on the rail

Back in the late 1880s, railroading was a dangerous business. This map from the Spatial History Lab at Stanford University shows the number of accidents in Colorado during just 12 months in 1883-1884, with at least 100 accidents. It seems like most accidents happened at the Division Points (Denver, Pueblo, La Junta, and Salida), where there were large stations, with extensive railyards and a lot of switching trains back and forth.  Maybe those accidents weren't as bad as those happening out in the high mountain passes (such as Marshall Pass, up at 11 000 feet (over 3300 m) or so). Check out this amazing map of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad's route up and through the Marshall Pass. The Marshall Pass is the home of the story about the famous phantom train, and has had many accidents over the years, like this one:

"Salida Record, Sept. 30, 1904: Yesterday evening train number 69 which leaves Salida at noon ran away down the western slope of Marshall Pass and as a result fourteen coal cars and the engine are a pile of wreckage at the bottom of the embankment. That no lives were lost is remarkable considering that this is as bad as any of the previous wrecks that have occurred at this exact spot, the last one having occurred about a year and a half ago when Harry Goldwater and Nelson Van Pelt lost their lives." (link)
Don't you find it remarkable that this text from over 100 years ago is using exactly the same grammar and words you might find in a newspaper today?  Or maybe, the person typing this in modified the text?  I don't think so though. This would not be true for Sweden, where the language was much more old-fashioned a hundred years ago, and quite different in both grammar and word choices. I wonder if this had to do with that the people that moved out west generally had less education and/or often immigrants and therefore needed 'simpler' grammar in their newspapers to understand better.  There is a nice absence of snobbishness and pretentiousness in these newspaper paragraphs.  Just the news, please. 

Just because of my thoughts above I had to look up a British newspaper from 1904 (Suffolk Free Press), and the grammar is more elaborate, just like I thought (I know, this is just one of hundreds of articles that day, so my statistical sampling is very poor...):
"On Wednesday afternoon a sad and terrible accident occurred to a little boy near Pentlow Mill. The little lad's name was Samuel Clarry aged 6 years, he was crossing the railway line opposite the flood gates near the Mill. His companions were on the other side of the metals and Clarry in his eagerness to join them did not notice the approaching train and essayed on to the line. In an instant the engine was upon him, the buffer knocking him down. The poor lad's right arm being completely severed from his body and his head frightfully mangled.  There have been many narrow squeaks at this place but this is the first fatality. P.C.Kent said the path over the railway was used a great deal during the summer as it led to the flour mill and to the overflow from the mill where children went to paddle." (link)

Of the places marked on this accident map, we visited Denver, Golden, Georgetown, Salida, Otto (which doesn't exist anymore, not even on Google Maps), Gunnison, Black Canyon, Montrose, Silverton, and Pueblo (now a horrific, run-down urban place).  Railroads, past and present, are really engraved into the Colorado landscape and history, and I don't seem to be able to stop writing about them.  Imagining the old times and tracing the steps of history fascinates me, and even more so in places where you can really see the old.  You can't really imagine steam trains in New York City anymore.

Antonito station, high altitude
I think it is interesting to note that there wasn't one single accident on the southernmost route from Silverton to Pueblo on this map (this is the line going through Durango, Chama, Antonito, and Alamosa).  Either they 'forgot' to report accidents, the mapmaker didn't have any data, there weren't any trains that year (I doubt that), or the southern engineers were masters at running trains.  That accident free route is the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad narrow gauge line that we rode, both from Durango to Silverton (will be posted here later), and from Antonito to Chama (see here). There weren't any accidents on this line in 2010 either, that I know of.

I am in favor of Italian shapes

At least shapes like these.  And now there is a whole book about them. Pasta shapes, that is.  Someone should make an evolutionary tree showcasing the evolution of pasta morphologies.

Update: Go to the Amazon page for the book and check out the amazing video at the bottom (under Related Media) - how to cook farfalle with cream sauce and prosciutto!

Monday, November 8, 2010

For the Swedes...

... who are awaiting a giant snowstorm coming in across the Baltic from Poland. Here is something else to dream about!

(gorgeous photo of a Japanese beach by ippei+janine on Flickr)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fibers of the Earth (Tierra Wools)

In Northern New Mexico, not far from the Rockies and the Colorado border, is a small town that has seen more prosperous days, Los Ojos (it means 'the eyes').  The village is surrounded by the high-altitude plains and deserts of northern New Mexico, and is just a bit north of the area where Georgia O'Keefe used to spend a lot of her time (Abiquiu).  There isn't much to live on here, mostly cattle ranching, and it is old Indian country.
 more rain....
In this little village that now mostly consist of some older houses of varying upkeep and a strikingly white Catholic church is the cooperative Tierra Wools, a gorgeous place with gorgeous people.  
local Catholic shurch in Los Ojos
service garage in the past

We found it by following little signs from the highway for the weaving shop, and since I have a soft spot for hand spun, natural yarn, it was a natural detour. Tierra Wools is a women-owned cooperative that keeps ancient Indian traditions alive by making handmade wool rugs from local and hand dyed yarns.  We spent maybe an hour in there, looking in the weaving room, hearing stories about when Robert Redford came by, and I bought yarn of course.  
 Tierra Wools building
weaving a rug
weaving at Tierra Wools
It reminded me of my grandmother's, aunts' and mom's weaving, and I was thinking it is sad nobody in my generation in our family is weaving anymore.  At least we knit and embroider and sew and keep some of the handbased traditions alive.
weaving at Tierra Wools
The fantastic rugs were too expensive for us, but I walked out with two skeins of hand dyed New Mexico sheep wool dyed with the plant mullein ('kungsljus') and iron.  Recently I started to make a scarf for PP with this yarn in a pattern called kelp forest and after a while realized I wouldn't have enough for a whole scarf... so I called up Tierra Wools hoping they would have at least one skein left of that particular batch (hand dyed wool varies between batches so you need to get the same days batch if you want exactly the same color).  
 plant-dyed wool
And they did!  Incredible. See this photo?  The yarn is the gray-green yarn next to the yellow. This photo was taken before I bought what I wanted, so in August there was only one skein left, and it was still left now.  Boy, I am a lucky person.  That much-needed skein of yarn is now on its way across the United States, from one old store in New Mexico to a small house in New Jersey.  See the bottom left red skein?  That is made from cochineal-bugs that live on cacti.  All these yarns are dyed from natural dyes and are therefore more subdued in their colors than synthetic dyed ones.
 Tierra Wools
I hope more people find this oasis of artisan work and fantastic women that carry traditional knowledge into the future.  If you can't get there, check out their website and call them. They have gorgeous hats, scarves, and mittens too. 
roof and sky
(There just is something special about New Mexico skies, something that just makes me melt inside...)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Her new favorite spot

beer cat, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

...which actually is already gone with the cardboard recycling... The box I mean, not the cat Smokey.

Saturday thoughts on wool, pancakes, and frost

Things I have learned today (and yesterday):

"One surefire method to tell the difference between wool (and cotton) and synthetic fabrics is to test them against an open flame. Wool will burn to ash, while synthetics will melt." (link) Wool smells like burning hair, cotton like burning leaves... Now I can sort my yarn better, if I spend some time tomorrow outside over a bucket of water burning little things up! Here is the whole story on burning fibers.

If you first fry up some portobella mushrooms in olive oil, then add a little balsamic vinegar, then put it on buttered bread, with some fried up thinly sliced onion with thyme and parmesan cheese on top, and then have Jarlsberg cheese on top of that and then put it under the broiler in the oven for 5 min, you have the best smorrebrod sandwich in the world for breakfast.

A Skeppshult pancake frying pan will work the best if you soak the top with canola oil before you try to use it. The last couple of times my pancakes got stuck.  This time, not one pancake got stuck and they tasted fantastic. I made a large batch yesterday morning, and many are now in the freezer for mornings to come.  When I was a kid, my grandparents (KE and RE) used to make pancaked, freeze them, and then refry them up in little pieces when we came and visited.  Served with their homemade rhubarb and strawberry jam it was one of my favorite foods in the world. (Thanks for the pancake pan, EH!)

And, a frosty night will not kill off the habanero chili peppers.  Maybe the capsaicin is some kind of anti-freeze too? But now all tomates, carrots, and peppers are inside. I also harvested tarragon branches, but we still have lots of colorful swiss chard outside.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rail thoughts...

 passing the place of the old accident
A hundred years ago this was the way of traveling in style, but also out of necessity. Instead of bumping along in a stage coach over rocky roads, up and down for days at end, you could have a (rather) smooth ride in a railroad car - what a treat! Today we drive in our air conditioned or heated cars, up and down mountain passes, across deserts, through mountains, and over gulches on steel bridges and take it all for granted.  Only the weather can stop us, but rarely does.

million dollar highway
I wonder how many of us could survive if we suddenly were dumped back in the late 1800s - when basic things like hot showers, shampoo, clean clothes, edible food, and lice-free beds were scarce, non-existent, or only for the really rich. But the really rich would have had to take the stage coaches or steam trains into the mountains as well; when it came to transportation people became more equal.

Silver Plume station, 9178 feet above sea level
Riding the narrow gauge steam train on the "high line" over Cascade Canyon and Animas River might have been the thing to do back then as a tourist, just as today some people bungee jump, swim with sharks, and go whale watching. But the railroads, at least in the Rockies, were not built for tourists even if they filled that role later.  The railroads were built for financial reasons, and out of necessity.  The silver, gold, and iron needed to get out of the mountains to fill the pockets of the rich, and the food and supplies needed to get into the mountains to feed the miners. The rich tourists followed the iron tracks, up into new exciting territories.

leaving Osier with lots of smoke

An iron horse with many cars behind it was far more dependable and could pull so much more weight than stage coaches and mule trains (large packs of mules carrying supplies). Pork (bacon!), whiskey, flour, shovels, and hay were pulled into the high valleys to feed everybody, mostly men and mules. Before the railroads came, towns like Silverton were often isolated from the rest of the world for many months during the harsh winters.  What a life, and what a difference the steam trains must have made.

(written during our Colorado-New Mexico trip this past summer)

Mount Merapi is blowing up...

Mt. Merapi, originally uploaded by Renee Picasso Manoppo.
...in Indonesia and our friend AP lives only 15 miles (c 20 km) away from this volcano. Keep safe, AP!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Creative embroidery about unusual things

I used to not like brussel sprouts ('brysselkål'), but now I love it. Great embroidery with an unexpected topic, don't you think?

Thanks Rosie Geissler for sharing this on Flickr.