Monday, January 31, 2011

Longing for another season...

Hamnskär in the Swedish South-East Archipelago, close to the city Nyköping.

Great day a few years ago, out canoeing with mom in the lovely August weather.
Nice warm weather, a light breeze and comfortable temperature in the sea water.
It´s really something to long for and to remember!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Learning Swedish through Swedish music classics

There is so much great music in Swedish that never made it outside the borders.  A person in nearby me is currently learning Swedish and she loves music, so this is for her - listen and learn!  (And the rest of you can as well, of course.)

Sofia Karlsson, a fantastic young artist, recorded a new version of my favorite Peps Persson's 80's blues and reggae song För livet ('For life') in 2007, a song that I heard over and over again growing up and loved.  Peps version is filled by his 'skånska' accent from southernmost Sweden, but Sofia's version turns it more into a folk ballad.  You can listen to Sofia's version here. And here are the lyrics, line by line, with translation (literal, as much as possible) in parentheses.  Enjoy!

This song is a homage to all living things, all species.  Peps Persson has written several songs on this theme, and also songs that criticize society, capitalism, and materialism.  Som of this more famous song titles are (in translation): High Standard, False Mathematics, Oh Boy, and The Totally Fooled Generation.

Jag spelar för livet,      [I'm playing for life]
för allting som växer      [for everything that grows]
som lever och andas,       [that lives and breaths]
och föds och dör.          [and get born and dies]
Jag spelar för livet,     
[I'm playing for life]
jag vet inget annat        [I don't know anything else]
som ger både mening        [that gives both meaning]
och dagligt bröd           [and daily bread]
Jag spelar för livet,     
[I'm playing for life]
jag sjunger för full hals  [I'm singing out loud ('full throat')]
Jag leker med toner        [
I'm playing with tunes]
och kysser ord             [and kissing words]
Jag spelar för livet,     
[I'm playing for life]
med huvudet i himlen       [with the head in heaven]
och fötterna dansar        [and the feet are dancing]
på Moder jord              [on Mother Earth]

Jag spelar för livet, natt och dag
[I'm playing for life, night and day]
Jag spelar för livet, sådan är jag
[I'm playing for life, that's how I am] 
Jag spelar för livet, dag och natt [I'm playing for life, day and night] 
Jag spelar för livet, därför att   [I'm playing for life, because] 
Jag spelar för livet               [I'm playing for life]

Jag spelar för livet    
[I'm playing for life]
med bultande hjärta      [with pounding heart]
och själen bräddfull     [and soul filled full]
av glädje och sorg       [with happiness and sorrow]
Jag spelar för livet    
[I'm playing for life]
jag våndas, jag njuter   [I am scared, I am happy]
och säljer min möda      [and selling my work]
på månglarnas torg       [at the marketers' square]
Jag spelar för livet    
[I'm playing for life]
och glömmer bort döden   [and forgetting about death]
för vid den horisonten   [because at that horizon]
syns inget ljus          [there is no light]
Jag spelar för livet    
[I'm playing for life]
och litar på tiden       [and trust that time]
som alltid har växt      [which always has grown]
till nästa nu            [to the next now]

Jag spelar för livet, sådan är jag
[I'm playing for life, that's how I am] 
Jag spelar för livet, natt som dag [I'm playing for life, night and day] 
Jag spelar för livet, dag och natt [I'm playing for life, day and night] 
Jag spelar för livet, som besatt   [I'm playing for life, like possessed] 
Jag spelar för livet               [I'm playing for life]

There is a Youtube video of Sofia and her band singing this song too, but the audio quality is not as good as the link above.  And, here is Peps Persson's song False Mathematics (Falsk matematik), in Swedish original, about the unfairness of rich and poor...

Pruning Grade: F

bad haircut on a tree, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.

Total FAIL for this tree pruning job, don't you think?

Winter, winter, more winter

It is snowing again in NJ, large aggregated snowflakes that drip down slowly from the sky.  The cats are lower than the depth of the snow, so they use our shoveled paths to get around (to bird feeder, compost, barn with firewood, and basement...)- severely restricted pathways compared to their usual garden wanderings.  A deer lept through our yard and left deep double tracks over 1.5 m (=yards) apart.  Winterwonderland out there, so unusual, and reminds me of Swedish winter landscapes.

The cats hang out in their new cat houses, homebuilt and homedesigned by PP and with real cedar shingles on them. They are spoiled rotten with attention, hot water to drink and hot water bottles at night :)

homemade cathouses

A cat house.

our walkway
Our walkway to the cars from the house.  I know, you have it like this in Sweden all the time, but 30+ cm snow overnight is less usual here.  And even less usual is that it seems to be staying and not melting away quickly.

Ella in snow

Ella in snow. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Stamp of the season: Skiing in all kinds of ways.

Winter sports in all kinds are fun to do, and if the weather is bad you can always enjoy Swedish accomplicements on TV and the web.

Here is Ukrainan stamps from 2010.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Hot stuff from earth in Japan

Today, 26 jan 2011, one of many Japanese volcanos had an explosive eruption, which is still ongoing. Amateur video of Kirishima here and here on youtube.

This mountain has been closed for hikers since the SO2-level has been high, according to a Flickr comment of a photo of the eruption, shown here.

More info on the Eruptions blog by Eric Klemetti

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bits and pieces from the internet, B edition

Vladimir Nabokov of 'Lolita' novel fame was a butterfly researcher, and his theory from 1945 suggesting that little blue butterflies spread across Bering Strait, down the Rockies, down through Central America, through South America and down to Chile, has just been supported with DNA data.  The same theory has been shown to be true for tiny gentians too.  You can go far if you have lots of time and persist.(New York Times)

Brown things in nature can be oh so beautiful. (From the great blog Resurrection Fern)

If you were born in Sweden in the late 1960s and early 1970s you could not have missed Barbapapa - here is some nostalgia... I always loved how they were shaping their house out of themselves.

And, here is  B for you all (from North Norfolk Railway, UK, photo by Leo Reynolds)

letter B

Monday, January 24, 2011

Old times - pressed, printed, papered, and nearly pulverized

An old map of southern Manhattan (New York City) from late 1700s was recently found, but it was tattered and yellowed and fragmented and on its way to destruction.  But with some restoration and preservation tricks it is now nearly like new - check out before and after here, and use the zoom to see details. Incredible how you can change paper for the better...

Back then New York itself was just a village at the very southern tip of Manhattan, down near Battery Park and Wall Street. A great book has been written about how the nature looked like on Manhattan when the Europeans arrived - Mannahatta by Eric SandersonThere were meadows, springs, small ponds, hills, and saltmarshes. Bears roamed on Manhattan and there were several indian villages.  Today it is a concrete jungle.  Fascinating...

Fishing for ideas?

Go over to AREA's art blog to see some more of what she has created in the last few months.  I love this octopus-headed lady... and all the other gorgeous, interesting pieces of art.

Real winter in New Jersey

The coldest weeks during the year is the last week of January (just started) and the first week of February.  Our thermometer outside showed 7 degrees F this morning, but the reported temperature from down the valley a few miles from us was minus 5 F or so.  Pretty cold, like a deep freezer.  For you in Sweden this is nothing, I know! Or if you are from the Upper Peninsula in Minnesota, the coldest place in the US.  But here, this is COLD.

Water is freezing over, and the snow is staying - so it is gorgeous. When the sun is about to set, the 'blue hour' is a great time for photos.  None of these photos have been color-corrected - this is how blue it was!  The photos are from Rock Brook on the Sourlands during yesterday's walk:

Rock Brook in ice

Rock Brook in ice

Rock Brook in ice

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book review: On the narrow road - journey into a lost Japan by Lesley Downer

On the narrow road - journey into a lost Japan, by Lesley Downer

This was not a fast book to read, but a book that takes its time.  Lesley Downer, a Japan scholar from Britain, sets out to trace the steps of the famous 17th century Japanese poet Basho and his companion of their trip to the North of Japan, through mountains and distant valleys. Basho, famous for his haiku's, wrote in detail about his trip and also wrote many haikus at the places they stayed during their 5-month long walking trip. Lesley quotes some of these in her book when she visits (or tries to, some are gone) the same places as they did.  Away from the coastal cities concrete, neon, and traffic, she is looking for a lost Japan, a country that might have some similarity to how Japan was in the 1600s, rural, peaceful, and undisturbed by the stressful, modern world..  She does find it, but it is endangered and not much left of it.

Her detailed writing gives you a fantastic introduction to Japanese medieval history, literature and haiku, and also the current and past traditions of 'regular' people.  She doesn't avoid talking about fear of foreigners, her own tiredness and embarrassments, and highlights the great people she meets by coincidence during her trip, which isn't as long as Basho's in time, and not all by foot.  She uses trains, buses, and hitchhikes, and walks where is is possible, mostly in the mountains.  I know very little about Japan, and I think this book taught be at least five times more than I knew.  Densely written at time, it is a lovely book, a book for contemplation and reading 2-3 pages at the time. Highly recommended to anybody that loves biographical stories, foreign countries, history, and literature.

Friday, January 21, 2011

On a snowy morning like this...

marigolds in early morning, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.
...when another 10 cm of snow fell overnight here in New Jersey, it is easy to dream about green foliage and colorful flowers, scented leaves, and rich dirt... This photo of marigolds (Tagetes) is from Wij's gardens (Wij trädgårdar) in Sweden, a wonderful place to visit. More on that fantastic place soon...

Tagetes is one of those flowers I don't really like because of the smell, but the smell is insect-repellent and keeps nasty bugs away. The insecticide pyrethrum comes from a related plant in the sunflower family.

I also haven't liked orange a lot before, at least not in manmade things, but that is changing... I probably had my overdose of orange and brown in the 1970s.  Orange has had a huge comeback the last five years. Only the Fiskars scissors stayed orange the whole time through.  In design these days, there is orange everywhere. Fabrics, logotype, webs design (just look at Blogger buttons, for example).  In a planting like this, with hundreds of Tagetes together, orange flowers can be really gorgeous. 

I wonder what other color will soon have a comeback.  Mustard yellow? Brown? Cobalt blue? Fire engine red?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How and why to do science...

I just read a very interesting and excellent article, The Truth Wears Off or The decline effect and the scientific method, by Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker.

Very, very interesting... about how scientific experiments have issues, results can't be repeated, and the impact of our business way of doing science with grants and competition instead of long-term thinking and planning. How our brain is fooling us sometimes, how small sample sizes can randomly cause significant results, how we first want to prove we are right and how hard it is to think outside the box. Why aren't scientists talking about this more?  It also affects medicine and bad and good practices outside of science; it impacts our lives since we live in a logical, rational science-based society (at least most of us would like to).

Excerpt: "According to Ioannidis, the main problem is that too many researchers engage in what he calls “significance chasing,” or finding ways to interpret the data so that it passes the statistical test of significance—the ninety-five-per-cent boundary invented by Ronald Fisher. “The scientists are so eager to pass this magical test that they start playing around with the numbers, trying to find anything that seems worthy,” Ioannidis says. In recent years, Ioannidis has become increasingly blunt about the pervasiveness of the problem. One of his most cited papers has a deliberately provocative title: “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.”

Another article in WIRED talks about the dire straits for taxonomists... and here there simply is too little research and our articles are sometimes not cited at all for 10-50 years because we might be that last existing expert on that plant or animal group (not in my case, but anybody that works with invertebrates, for example).

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bits and pieces from the internet, C edition

C as in caboose, and this is how PP's Dad had it at work (thanks Shorpy to a great photo)

Can't see it? Ever wondered what patterns those flowers' petals had under UV light?  Now you can know.

Cold? And you can draw your own snowflake here

Castle, in a new way - isn't this amazing?  Art by Peter Callesen, scroll down and you will see the castle (and much more).

It has been a slow time here on the edge of the mountain...

... since the last post, because both PP and I got sick in the horrible cold-flu that is whisping around in these neighborhoods.  We have been coughing, sniffling, and headaching, and used up more cold medicines this past week than we usually use in a whole year.  Bad stuffy noses and sinuses...

Since there wasn't much else to do than to let the viruses run their course in our bodies we have also watched some movies and finished some projects.  Clint Eastwood has graced our TV screen with his face several times (the Gauntlet, not one of this best) as has Robert de Niro (New York cop with a son in trouble in City by the Sea). Gosford Park is an English 1920s murder mystery where everybody could have done it, and it portrays the servants in a the giant mansion in an unusual and interesting detail.  Maybe a bit too slow and long, but that could have been because of the medicines too. A Perfect World with Kevin Costner was great, about a prisoner on the run who kidnaps a boy and their developing relationship, probably 1940s - not the usual good vs. bad people movie, and of course Clint Eastwood directed and acted in it too.

Still, my current favorite is Ken Burn's Civil War series, a documentary in 9 episodes made for PBS.  It is great, and captures the history and people involved in the Civil War in US.  All interview, still-life photos and he lets the story take its time, and it is the opposite to the snippet-rush-fast-special effects-stress movies and documentaries that are more common today.  For me that never really learned much about American history in school, this is like a wonderful education and charting new historical territory.

While watching movies I knit and knit, mostly scarves and hats, but also other things.  My favorite online knitting site is a mecca for free patterns and ideas - check out (it is free to sign up). Right now I am working on a gray 1940s WWII Watch cap, not sure for whom, and is just about to start a lacy scarf for myself in a color called neptune.  There will also be new knitted cotton dishcloths that can be thrown in the washer every week, instead of linen ones that are thin and fall apart, or wettex that turn slimy and gross.  Here are some hats I have knitted recently.
knitted  beehive hatknitted hat

knitted hat - own design
red hat for friend

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A white day in New Jersey

I woke up to a quiet world in white, just with some windy drifts of snow, but otherwise white, white.  Schools closed, and not many cars out.  Went for a walk down to the old bridge and met a few cars, otherwise just me, bluejays and some woodpeckers, and the sun on the snow and wind shifting snow off tree branches.  Here are some photos of our winter wonderland in New Jersey.

snowed in mailbox
Even the mailboxes were snowed in.
round barn
Round barn.
bridge over Rock Brook
Rock Brook bridge.
snowy field
Fences and fields.
Just plain snow.

And right now, 49 of the 50 states in USA have snow at least in some places, even Hawaii. Over 70% of the land is white. The loner without snow is Florida, so it is an amazing winter.

In Europe, it is hotter, because Etna, the volcano in Italy, decided to start to spout out lava today (EH has web cam photos, hat tip to her for finding out first.)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Swedish telegram for AREA


Happy Birthday, AREA!

Fields of Purple, originally uploaded by Georgie Sharp.

So, how does it feel to be 17?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Once a long while ago...

breakfast, originally uploaded by istolethetv.
...I was in Hilo in Hawaii, and I had to try the local breakfast favorite, loco moco. It is served at every diner and fast food place as THE Hawaiian thing, and it is THE Hawaiian thing, based on American food culture mixed with Japanese. There has been a large historical immigration from Japan to Hawaii.

So, the loco moco - you take some cooked rice and dump it on a plate or in a bowl. Add some kind of rather unhealthy grilled meat on top (SPAM is what I had, you can have sausage or hamburger meat too). Dump some brown gravy on that (for Swedes, that is 'brun sås'). And then one or two fried eggs on top of that. Healthy? Not. Good? Depends. I am not such a spam freak but it was OK.

(This is not my photo, istoletheTV took it, thanks for letting us borrow it from your Flickr account.)

Pizza poetry is cheesy

American Life in Poetry: Column 302  (posted here with special permission)

In Iowa in the 1950’s, when we at last heard about pizza, my mother decided to make one for us. She rolled out bread dough, put catsup on it, and baked it. Voila! Pizza! And inexpensive, too. Here’s Grace Cavalieri, a poet and playwright who lives in Maryland, serving something similar and undoubtedly better.

Tomato Pies, 25 Cents
Tomato pies are what we called them, those days,
before Pizza came in,
at my Grandmother’s restaurant,
in Trenton New Jersey.
My grandfather is rolling meatballs
in the back. He studied to be a priest in Sicily but
saved his sister Maggie from marrying a bad guy
by coming to America.
Uncle Joey is rolling dough and spooning sauce.
Uncle Joey, is always scrubbed clean,
sobered up, in a white starched shirt, after
cops delivered him home just hours before.
The waitresses are helping
themselves to handfuls of cash out of the drawer,
playing the numbers with Moon Mullin
and Shad, sent in from Broad Street. 1942,
tomato pies with cheese, 25 cents.
With anchovies, large, 50 cents.
A whole dinner is 60 cents (before 6 pm).
How the soldiers, bussed in from Fort Dix,
would stand outside all the way down Warren Street,
waiting for this new taste treat,
young guys in uniform,
lined up and laughing, learning Italian,
before being shipped out to fight the last great war.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Grace Cavalieri from her most recent book of poetry, Sounds Like Something I Would Say, Goss 183 Casa Menendez, 2010. Reprinted by permission of Grace Cavalieri and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2010 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
How often do you read a poem about pizza and Trenton? Tomato pie (photo here) is not exactly like pizza and it is a Trentonian invention (I think I read that somewhere, but who knows if it is true.  Trenton is the capital of New Jersey and only about 40 min away from where we live. Tomato pie has thicker crust and you put the cheese on first, and then pour tomato sauce over it (someone needs to correct the Wikipedia article on this).  Upside down, kind of.  Thanks all Italians for pizza, we are having some tomorrow night.  This photo from Little Italy in 1900 is amazing, click on the photo and check out the details like the kids with napkins on their heads and all the guys' mustaches.

I love funky, gorgeous, easy, silly, beautiful poetry, and you get a lot of that if you subscribe via e-mail the series American Life in Poetry.  You can sign up for free and get one poem per week sent to you. The poems are selected by Ted Kooser, one of our favorite American poets.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Conversation at our house

 "Oh, come kids, hurry up, look, look, you are going to miss it! It is nearly gone now! "
Thump, thump, thump, comes kids footsteps down stairs and dining room.
" Mom, what is it?", says one kid.
" Look, the last sunset of 2010!"
Kid's comment:  "Sigh, you are so silly!"

Happy New (and belated) New Year everybody!
Now it is MMXI.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Art reminiscent of daycare center playroom floor least that is what I thought when I saw this installation at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, PA. Very interesting, with simple materials, and it was huge (at least 6 x 6 m/yards). So, everybody, what do you think this art means? There are more photos of it on my Flickr account (click on the photo to see them).

Life on the university campus

The Rapture, originally uploaded by Vilseskogen.
"I am not sharing my yummy squirrel with you", says the young red-tailed hawk on Cook Campus of Rutgers University.

Or, as a colleague of mine said: "The staff reductions have started."