Friday, October 28, 2011


It is something special with the autumn.

November med skiftningar av ädelt pälsverk
November with Nuances of Noble Fur]
skrivet av nobelpristagaren i litteratur 2011 Tomas Tranströmer
[written by Nobel Prize winner in Literature 2011, Tomas Tranströmer]

Just det att himlen är så grå
får marken själv att börja lysa:
ängarna med sitt skygga gröna,
den paltbrödsmörka åkerjorden

Det finns en ladas röda vägg.
Och det finns marker under vatten
som blanka risfält i Asien-
där stannar måsarna och minns

Disiga tomrum mitt i skogen
som klingar sakt mot varann.
Inspiration som lever skymd
och flyr i skogen som Nils Dacke.
Update and translation by LS

Monday, October 24, 2011

The sounds of fallI(ing)

The rustles in the forest floor's leaves when the gray squirrels are rustling for fallen hickory nuts.

The screeches of the bluejays, drumming of wood peckers and twitters of chickadees comes from the bird kingdom.

The soft touching of once-green leaves on the trees, now yellow, orange, brown, rust and red, and about to drop dead.

Wet soft splashing sounds from the little brook, which was dry most of the summer and then a roaring feast during hurricane Irene.

Silent wind bends the grasses, little bluestem, purpletop, and other species, and bears the cut-out black shapes of turkey vultures on the sky screen.

Fall is here, slowly enveloping nature and changing it, inevitable.  It is gorgeous.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stamp of the Day: Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a wonderful spice, and what you eat when you taste that brown powder is ground up bark from cinnamon trees.  The story is that the best cinnamon has to be cut with silver knifes (I bet that is not true!). There are at least 4 species that have been used as cinnamon, and they taste slightly different.  This Indian stamp depicts the most valuable one, which has bark that rolls up on both ends of the edges, into a tight cigar-like roll.  Cinnamon is in the Lauraceae, the laurel family, same as bay leaves, sassafras, and laurel. I love cinnamon, in small doses, on cinnamon rolls, rice porridge, and in Swedish Christmas glögg. In Swedish, the word for cinnamon is 'kanel'.  I know, that makes no sense whatsoever.

Quote of the Day: calling the smart people at the about SAT

I had reason tonight to call the CollegeBoard, the people that administer the SAT, the big dreaded test taken by all American highschool students that want to go to college. These are smart people asking tiny, detailed questions about grammar in their tests.

In the automatic answering system, which guides you to the right place when you call I got this question:

"Are you a parent or a student? Answer yes or no."

OK, I am a parent, but not a student.  Do I answer yes or no?  I bet someone thought this was a very straightforward question, but I don't think so...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What do you think about this ceiling lamp?

Gorgeous? Ugly? Weird? Wonderful?  It is called ”Alaska”, and costs 7600 SEK (which is about $1500). Photo credit Fredrik Funk, and the lamp is sold by Watt & Veke in Sweden.   They have more of the same mixed style, look at this: Aspen and Finere.

I think this lamp is very ugly.  When you see sticks like this out in nature, they are gorgeous.  When Andy Goldsworthy puts together his art of a jumble of sticks along a seashore it is gorgeous (see link and photo here). But this, this reminds me of a crow nest, and feels far to 'over-designed' ("utstuderat" is what I wanted to say, but I don't know that expression in English). The contrast between the wood and the black is too much!  I also think it will make weird shadows from the lamps, so not very functional either. OK, that is my opinion, what is yours? I bet you think differently! :)

More crazy nature-inspired design things here

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The other night I asked PP if he could remember the name of that Wild West comic character, Lucky Luke?  PP had no idea who I talked about, and it turned out that Lucky Luke, who I read all the time as a kid, probably didn't make it over the Atlantic.  But he was my first introduction to the Wild West.  The real Wild West, with bandits, cacti, sunsets, coyotes, and sharp-shooting cowboys in cowboy boots and western hats.  This comic was dreamed up and then started by a Belgian artist,  Maurice De Bevere.  The Belgians were really into this, and gave us kids the unforgettable Asterix and Tintin too.  Thanks, we loved you as kids!   It is amazing that Americans don't know about the most amazing comic book Wild West hero of them all, Lucky Luke, and his mangy dog (Rantanplan, the stupidiest dog in the universe), riding away in the sunset after getting the bad guys... 

Lucky Luke always smoked, and when I realized there were Lucky Strike cigarettes, I thought these two things obviously were connected. Not so.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Stamp of the Day: Biomass energy

Here comes the forest, sliced up and ready to be put into the furnaces of the bioenergy plants.  Stamp from Sweden, simple and clean graphics.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Arrows in the soil...

(LS: A wonderful poem about times past and connections between now and then)

American Life in Poetry: Column 337 BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006
South Dakota poet Leo Dangel has written some of the best and truest poems about rural life that I’m aware of. Here’s a fine one about a chance discovery. 

Behind the Plow
I look in the turned sod
for an iron bolt that fell
from the plow frame
and find instead an arrowhead
with delicate, chipped edges,
still sharp, not much larger
than a woman’s long fingernail.
Pleased, I put the arrowhead
into my overalls pocket,
knowing that the man who shot
the arrow and lost his work
must have looked for it
much longer than I will
look for that bolt.
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 ©1987 by Leo Dangel, whose most recent book of poems is The Crow on the Golden Arches, Spoon River Poetry Press, 2004. Poem reprinted from A Harvest of Words: Contemporary South Dakota Poetry, Patrick Hicks, Ed., Pine Hill Press, Inc., 2010, by permission of Leo Dangel and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2011 by The Poetry Foundation.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stamp of the Day: Vallmokapslar (poppy fruits)

Sweden does have gorgeous stamps.  In the US, stamps have to be so politically perfect, fit the general population and absolutely fit the political climate.  In Sweden, there is a different sense of what is beautiful, like these poppy fruits.  These are from three species of poppies, two are common agricultural weeds, and the third is, you guessed it, opium poppy, commonly grown as an ornamental, advertently or inadvertently, but still part of the unofficial Swedish flora.  Lovely stamp, don't you think?  BREV means letter, which for practical purposes is the same as first class stamps in the US. (For the botanically inclined, Papaver is the Latin name for poppies.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tranströmer - oh yes.

Another great Swedish poet is getting the Nobel prize: Tomas Tranströmer.  The other one was Harry Martinson, one of my absolute favorites.  I haven 't read much of Transtromer, but what I have seen so far id fantastic. it is very different from Martinson's poetry, indeed. Congratulations!

Some reactions from American press:
The New Yorker
The New York Times

and a poem, with translation by me:

MINUSGRADER by Tomas Tranströmer (ur SANNINGSBARRIÄREN 1978)

Vi är på en fest som inte älskar oss. Till sist låter festen sin mask falla och visar sig som den verkligen är: en växlingsbangård. Kalla kolosser står på skenor i dimman. En krita har klottrat på vagnsdörrarna.

Det får inte nämnas, men här finns mycket undertryckt våld. Därför är detaljerna så tunga. Och så svårt att se det andra som också finns: en solkatt som flyttar sig på husväggen och glider genom den ovetande skogen av flimrande ansikten, ett bibelord som aldrig skrevs: 'Kom till mig, ty jag är motsägelsefull som du själv.'

I morgon arbetar jag i en annan stad. Jag susar dit genom morgontimman som är en stor svartblå cylinder. Orion hänger ovanför tjälen. Barn står i en tyst klunga och väntar på skolbussen, barn som ingen ber för. Ljuset växer sakta som vårt hår.

BELOW ZERO by Tomas Tranströmer, translation by LS

We are at a party that doesn't love us.  Finally the party lets its mask fall off and shows what it really is: a railroad switchyard.  Cold giants stand on rails in the fog. A chalk has scribbled on the rail car doors.

It can't be mentioned, but here is much suppressed violence.  Therefore the details are so heavy.  And so hard to see the other things that also exist: a reflection from the sun that moves along the building wall and glides through the unknown forest of unaware faces, a bibel quote that never was written: "Come to me, because I am as contradictory as yourself."

Tomorrow I work in another town. I whirl there through the morning hour that is a large blackblue cylinder. Orion is hanging over the frozen ground. Children are standing in a quiet group and waiting for the school bus, children that nobody is praying for.  The light is growing as slow as our hair.

Weird real quotes: Waiter

While having lunch here in New Jersey a few days ago, the waiter came up after we had received our food and said:

"How did everything come out so far?"

Excuse me, but I am not in the bathroom. I am eating!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Stamp of the Day: Eskilstuna

Can you believe it?  My hometown in Sweden has a Swedish stamp! This is Eskilstuna, a town about an hour west of Stockholm.  Listed at the bottom of the stamp is the friendship cities of Eskilstuna in Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Denmark.  The images are typical for the town, the double-towered cathedral (not as old as it looks like), a sculpture in Torshalla by local artist Ebeling (I think), and the old 16th century blacksmith houses in the old historic town area for traditional trades (Rademachersmedjorna).  When I grew up it was mostly famous for being the home of Volvo BM's factory of giant dump trucks, a hospital, the home of one of the ABBA girls, and... I can't remember.  I am sure it has changed now.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Stamp of the day: the power of wind and lines

We are continuing our little series (2 so far) of energy related stamps, here with a Swedish stamp featuring wind power (vindenergi).  I love the clean lines... Sweden stuck to real engraved stamps for along time, and some are still done this way, but I think most American stamps by now are made with less time-consuming graphical techniques. The engraver of this one, Czeslaw Slania, was the master of Swedish engraving, and in fact, the world master of stamp engraving and world famous for his work for 28 countries.  He was hired by the Swedish postal office in 1959. Here is the 1000th stamp he engraved: link.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Book review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

After a long stretch of semi-interesting to really bad books (see this, for example), I opened up this book and just loved it.  I don't want to write a long review, because the book has to be experienced, be loved, and be enjoyed on its own terms, because this is what it deserves.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett is about the black maids in southern US in the 1960s, their lives, loves, and despair, and about the white women that hire them, use them, depend on them, and sometimes, respect them.  I insisted on reading it before I watched the newly made movie based on it, so now I am ready.  If you have read the book, the movie is never better than the book, I think. But this book gets a 9 out of a 10, so I am not worried about the movie being really bad. I heard some had complained that a white woman shouldn't write a book about black women, but come on, that is the stupidiest thing I have heard.  If that is so, then women can't write about men, Swedes can't write about Norwegians, and black men can't write about white men.  We are foremost people, humans, and not our color, citizenship, or gender.  Compassion and understanding is deeper than skin color or culture, at least it ought to be.  So, if you want a great read, a good story, and deep thought mixed with fun stories, this is the book.  It is just like life is. Just read it. A++

Vote for the most bizarre comment from a service tech....

This is from an online chat today that I had with a service tech for an online course system.  After this morning, it was no longer possible for me to upload any files to the course website, and the error message was "the files do not exist or are empty".  They were there and they were certainly not empty. The problem - their system does not support Firefox 7 and now they want everybody to go back to Firefox 3.6.  Ha. Firefox 4, 5, and 6 worked fine, and suddenly Firefox 7 doesn't work, and then they want me to take 3.4 steps back in versions?

So, here are selected quotes from the chat:

1. Abel: I can only tell you what we know.

2. Abel: The decision is yours.

3. Abel: It is a decision above my pay grade. 

So, which one do you vote for in as the most bizarre or weird? I won't tell you my favorite, not yet.

Stamp of the day: piston, flywheel, and cylinder

Germany has some really nicely designed stamps, clean and simple.  Here is an engine piston (I think).  Maybe PP can interpret it better?  Looks like a flywheel with gears and a cylinder with a piston inside.  I am not sure if this is from a steam engine, gas engine, or what...

UPDATE: Our friend BV just sent me this, which explains the stamp in detail (thanks!!!!):

If PP hasn't let you know, the engine pictured on the stamp is a Otto
Langen Free Piston Atmospheric Engine, circa 1867.

A small flame, like a pilot light on a stove was at the base of the cylinder.
I do not know the starting procedure, but as the engine was running, if
the wheel started to slow down, a gas, like natural or coal gas, was
admitted into the bottom of the cylinder, and a little trap door would
open next to the base.  The flame would be drawn into the base, igniting
the gas, and drive the piston upward.  This would push the vertical rack
gear attached to the piston and engage the gear on the flywheel shaft,
increasing the speed of the wheel. The inertial energy would be stored in
the rotating wheel, which drove a load attached to it.  As the flywheel
slowed down to a certain speed, a governing mechanism would start the
process over again to keep the engine running until the fuel supply was

You can see one at the Rough & Tumble Museum at Kinzer, PA.
It is run for exhibition days.