Saturday, August 30, 2008

Murdering Killer Slugs in Sweden

Sweden has a bit of an infestation problem. Arion lusitanicus, for the biologists amongst us. Mördarsniglar for the Swedes amongst us. Spanish killer slugs for the English speakers amongst us. So-called because of their penchant for eating their weaker brethren… or their dead brethren for that matter.

These things aren’t really all that new to Sweden, but still considered an invasive species. They are Spanish after all. Last summer they were everywhere because of all of the rain. This summer wasn’t as bad, but bad enough that it led to debate in the Swedish parliament, the Riksdag. Finally, they decided that it was a good idea to use roundworms to solve the problem.

Anyway, with a little bit of rain, the slugs come out in full force, and the last couple of days Stockholm has seen a bit of rain, just enough to wet the ground and convince the slugs to come out. They are pretty solid size. Blackish. Imagine the long skinny pinecones and you’ve probably got the right idea. Some are fatter than others, some are longer. They come in all various sizes really.

But in my case, size does matter. Because I love to kill them. I consider myself just the next in line for the family business. Eradicating pests the world over.

A quick side note on the eradication of slugs. The summer before my senior year of high school I spent some time in France, “working,” but I was 17 and wasn’t exactly given a whole lot of responsibility. So I put labels on a pesticide. I also was tasked with scouring the internet for articles about a certain slug killing agent. This was before the widespread use of RSS feeds and news-aggregators, but basically I was a living, breathing news-aggregator. Maybe not too good at my job because I stuck to the English language sites, but so it goes. Anyway, as I searched for slug killers I stumbled across a little survey done by Colorado State University. An esteemed university that has seen plenty of my friends walk across stage with their degrees in hand.

As many people already know, beer is often used as slug bait. Take a little dish, fill it with beer, bury it with a little bit of a lip sticking out of the ground and the slugs manage to find their way into it. Whether they drown or drink themselves to death I don’t know. Maybe the old man can answer that. But CSU, putting state tax payer’s money to good use, decided it was necessary to figure out which beer was most effective in attracting slugs. Turns out that the ever-popular Kingsbury Malt Beverage took the cake, followed closely by Anheuser-Busch’s stable of beers: Michelob, Bud, and Bud Light. Here is the Colorado State University beer and slug study for the skeptics out there.

Anyway, back to the killer slugs. Like I said, size matters. The bigger the slugs, the more satisfying. Because they pop. Literally. If you step on a fat killer slug, you can hear them pop.

And I know, it sounds bad. I am heartless. How could I do that to another living creature? But whatever, it’s the same sort of sick satisfaction some people get from picking scabs or popping blackheads. I step on killer slugs. I’m just doing my part to assist farmers and local gardeners in their quest for delicious vegetables.

I have even started listening to how I get the best pop. I have two pairs of shoes I tend to wear. One a sort of hybrid tennis shoe/all terrain shoe, the other an extremely fashionable brown Nike shoe. Kind of along the lines of Pumas. But Nike. Because they were on sale at Kohl’s, and who are we kidding, I’m not really that fashionable.

Anyway, the tennies give the best pop. I’m not really sure why it is but I have a theory. The Nike’s are a little rounded on the edges so I don’t get that abrupt edge that can really seem to pop the slug guts out. I haven’t really experimented with my sandals. For obvious reasons I think. But my footwear acts as an organic pesticide. Sweden loves that sort of thing.

Welcome to Sweden. Where even you can do your part in eradicating the scourge of invasive species in the Swedish countryside.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pictures from Vadstena, Sweden

My brain is fried. I have spent the day trying to find a job. And applying for various jobs. And it is frustrating and exhausting all at the same time. Due to the ridiculous amount of time I have spent on my job search over the last couple of days nothing exciting has really happened. At least nothing worth writing home about.

So in lieu of any sort of actual post about boobs in the elevator, my immaturity, or even immigration reform, you get a post full of pictures from a recent day trip to Vadstena. A lovely little town on the shore of Lake Vättern. And of course, the holy site of Heliga Birgitta. St. Bridget of Sweden. Patron saint of Europe if you were wondering (you would think I was really religious the way I am drawn to churches). Anyway, I’ll spare you the history lesson, although her fifth book of revelations makes for a lovely six months worth of research and writing about rebuke, rationality, and reason.

And now… the pictures.

Vadstena Kyrka from graveyard. Consecrated in 1430. Built according to one of the 700 visions Birgitta is said to have experienced.

One of Vadstena Castles towers from the bridge over the moat. Yup... there's a moat. One of the best preserved castles from the Vasa era.

View of Vadstena Castle from the shore of Lake Vättern.

The streets of Vadstena. Not exactly a bustling metropolis in this medieval town.

Birgitta's coffin. She was a little woman apparently. This thing made the trip from Rome to Vadstena in 1373.

And of course, one of my favorite Swedish signs. Don't drive into the water.

Welcome to Vadstena, Sweden.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Immigration Issues in Sweden

Since the beginning of the Iraq war Sweden has accepted more Iraqi refugees than any western country. Last year alone one city in Sweden, Södertälje, took in more Iraqi refugees than all of the United States. It’s a noble cause. And something that Swedes are proud of. As they should be. However, as more and more refugees, not just from Iraq, but Afghanistan and Somalia as well, come to Sweden, a need for immigration reform has arisen.

With the influx of immigrants, mostly refugees, Sweden has cracked down on who and how many people get to come and stay in Sweden. The immigration board has cut down drastically on the number of people granted asylum in Sweden. According to the UN the percentage of refugees allowed to stay has fallen since 2006 from 80% to 70% to just 25% through the beginning of 2008. This has led to a large number of immigrants “disappearing.” They have gone underground. The new policy was obviously meant to curb the number of immigrants coming to the country. No matter the intentions, a country can only absorb so many people before problems arise. Social problems. Economic problems.

The economic problem has been receiving a bit of press lately. An opinion piece in Dagens Nyheter today by immigration minister Tobias Billström, social services secretary Ulf Kristersson, and Elisabeth Svantesson a member of parliament, is calling for even more changes. The Local has done a good job of summarizing the article in English. From the original article we see that the three are concerned about the Social Welfare system being taken advantage of. Sweden prides itself on helping people in need. That’s what the taxes are for. But sometimes cracks emerge. And when a large influx of people enters the country with no ties it stands to reason that they will be using the system for a while.

In the very first paragraph the group writes: “…ingen tjänar på en politik där alla invandrare ses som offer - och behandlas därefter.” Whether the group believes this themselves, that Sweden sees immigrants as victims and treats them as such, may be debatable. But it is important to note as the article continues.

The article says that one of the main problems is: “Sverige präglas i dag för mycket av några särdrag som försvårar framgångsrik invandring. Tydligast är den kravlöshet som accepterar att arbetsföra människor - oavsett etnicitet och ursprung - under långa perioder lever på bidrag i stället för att fullt ut ta ansvar för sin egen försörjning.”

Basically, there is a misplaced attitude of acceptance that people are living on the system for long periods of time instead of taking responsibility for supporting themselves. Perhaps it is here that the group believes the politics of treating immigrants as victims has become a problem.

The article goes on to say: “Av dem som får uppehållstillstånd och deltar i kommunal introduktion är bara var femte självförsörjande efter två och ett halvt år med uppehållstillstånd.”

After two and a half years, only 20% of those who have been allowed to stay in Sweden and are involved in an introduction to Sweden are able to support themselves. Of those who are allowed to stay, many flock to the same neighborhoods. People feel most comfortable around those they see as similar to themselves. So little communities of refugees arise. The Iraqi community in Södertälje for example.

Now, it may seem that this is a dig at the immigrants who are coming to Sweden. That they are living off the system. That they aren’t working. That they are lazy and taking advantage of Sweden’s benevolence. And maybe that attitude plays a role. Maybe it’s the same sort of immigration issues that can be seen in the US. But in all fairness the group also brings up Sweden’s desire for svenskhet. Swedishness. Which immigrants are often lacking.

The group acknowledges that Sweden is a bit different than other parts of the world. They point out that Sweden acknowledges: “… barns, kvinnors och sexuella minoriteters individuella rättigheter och ställer dem framför familj, klan, grupp och kultur.” So children, women, and sexual minorities are placed above family, clan, groups, or culture.

I’ll be honest; my first thought when reading this was that it reeked of underhanded racism considering the culture of the majority of refugees and immigrants coming to Sweden. That is up to you to decide on your own though.

Anyway, the group admits that the cultural mores that are easiest to adhere to are those that already fit what an immigrant believes. So if you come from a county where family trumps individuals, you might struggle to adapt here in Sweden. And here’s where it gets interesting. Swedes, as I have mentioned before, have a tendency to avoid conflict. It has served them well; one need only look at the fact that the country has been untouched by war for about 200 years. However, it is not just in the world arena that they avoid conflict but also at home. In the smallest of arenas. And so, Sweden struggles to communicate the rules, culture, and mores that Swedes live by to those new to the country for fear of insulting someone. However, if these ideas are not communicated, the group fears that serious conflicts are sure to arise.

So it’s a Catch-22. Immigrants come to this country and are treated as victims, allowed to live off of the state, with only 20% being self-sufficient after two and a half years. They are expected to be Swedish but never become Swedish. Not necessarily because they don’t want to but because they don’t know how. And because they are not considered Swedish enough they have less of a chance of getting a job because they lack one inherent quality – Swedishness.

The group suggests a few different things. One is making sure that those who come to this country understand the values, rules, laws, and cultural mores that Swedes live by. That takes care of the whole Swedishness thing. They want to make sure that various sectors jobbar vit, are working white. That is to say not black and under the table. The group wants to see a political attitude that accepts immigration and emigration as something positive and something that can benefit Swedish society as a whole.

And remember that whole economic problem where 80% of immigrants were still living off the social welfare system after having arrived in the country? And that they are living in the same areas? While the social democrats want to mandate where they live, this group thinks the best way to solve this problem is to find them a job. And of course, in a very Swedish way, they propose some sort of economic incentives. Now these incentives aren’t spelled out in detail. But what I see happening is more money being thrown around. Of course, if the amount of welfare that is paid out drops markedly then it all ends up for the better. I just find it interesting that the Swedes believe the best way to get people off social welfare in terms of economic benefits is to offer them economic benefits to get a job. It seems to me that welfare should be enough to live off of, but not so much that there is not enough of an incentive to want to find a job.

It’s easy to read between the lines here. As immigration continues, some inside of Sweden fear that a crisis is imminent. That the Swedish way of life must be preserved. I’m not really sure what will happen. But in the year that I have been here I have watched as immigration has become more and more of a national topic of discussion. Fewer and fewer immigrants are allowed into the country. More and more legislation is discussed that will curb immigration. I believe that immigration in Sweden finds itself at a crossroad. It is obvious that Sweden believes something must be done. The question is how far this country will go that for so long has prided itself on it’s openness. It’s acceptance. It’s social welfare system.

Welcome to Sweden. Kind of.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Beijing’s 2008 Olympics Come to an End in Sweden

For the first time in two weeks I woke up to no Olympic sports on TV. It was a bit confusing really. I had grown pretty accustomed to eating breakfast while watching taekwondo, maybe some diving, and of course handball. But I’ll be ok, because now it’s only about two years until the winter Olympics in Vancouver.

With the Olympics over, the talk here in Sweden is about the failure of the Olympic team as a whole. For the first time in a long time Sweden didn’t come home with a single gold medal. In fact, they only came home with five medals total. Four silver medals and one bronze.

Depending on which medal count system you use (America tends to use the overall count, while most of the rest of the world uses gold medals) Sweden finished 41st with their five medals, or 56th with their lack of a gold medal. In fact, using the gold medal count, which they use here in Sweden, the Swedes were only able to beat out Iceland of the Nordic countries. Not really ne of their finer athletic moments. Unfortunately.

Although, for those that did win medals, that doesn’t really matter. So here are Sweden’s 2008 Olympic medalists from Beijing:

Silver - Equestrian - Individual Jumping - Rolf-Göran Bengtsson
Silver - Road Cycling - Men's Individual Time Trial - Gustav Larsson
Silver - Road Cycling - Women's Road Race - Emma Johansson
Silver - Tennis - Men's Doubles Tennis - Thomas Johansson, Simon Aspelin
Bronze - Sailing - Men's Keelboat Star - Fredrik Lööf, Anders Ekström

And of course, Ara Abrahamian who won bronze in 84kg Greco-Roman wrestling but was stripped of his medal.

All in all, not the most successful Olympic games for Sweden. Five medals for 9 million people earns one medal for every 1.8 million people which is better than America’s one medal for every 2.7 million people. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future with Swedish sports. Some people argue that there just isn’t enough money going to the Olympic programs. Other people argue there is too much and it isn’t being used properly. Others are saying that Sweden doesn’t have that killer instinct when it comes to performing under pressure. And still others wonder about the geography. In a country that is shrouded in darkness for half the year, how do athletes get in the proper amount of training to compete with other countries.

When it comes down to it though, none of those are really going to make a difference. Of course they all play a role. What we are seeing in the world of international sports is a bit of a changing of the guard. As large countries that have long been considered third-world (China for example) continue to prosper there will be fewer medals to go around to the smaller countries. Even the US is beginning to realize this as China took more gold medals this year.

So Swedes may lament the lack of medals this year. The poor performance of so many gold medal hopes. But one medal for every 1.8 million people isn’t half bad.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fantasy Football Draft in Stockholm, Sweden

Last night I went to bed at 9 pm. It was a Friday night. In Stockholm, Sweden. There tends to be something to do on Friday nights in Stockholm. But I went to bed at 9. I set three different alarms to go off between 2 am and 2:20 am. I needed to be up and was determined not to sleep through anything. Because early Saturday morning I had things to do. Granted getting up at 2 am might not be something I do on a regular basis. But this was different.

The NFL kicks off in just a little bit. And it was obviously time for my fantasy football draft. Because even in Sweden, there are some things that just can’t be left behind. And the excitement of piecing together a team full of stars and tracking their every statistic over the course of a season is hard to beat. Plus, when both parties have access to Skype, a computer, and a microphone, anything can happen. Now some might say, why not take advantage of the automatic draft available? Because a live draft has been tradition for a few years now. Obviously, some things are meant to be sacred. And so, for the second draft in a row, I found myself up in the early morning hours drafting a football team.

Last year didn’t go too well. I blame it on not actually seeing any games. And some untimely injuries. And some players not performing. And ultimately, just a poor draft on my part. It was an embarrassing performance after years of dominance in the fantasy football realm. But the beauty of sports is there’s always next year. Just ask Cubs fans.

So I found myself between 2:30 am and 5:30 am making 18 choices as to who would take me to the fantasy promised land and a year’s worth of bragging rights. I ended up with the second pick of the draft. So obviously I had to go with LaDainian Tomlinson. Because to not do so would be damn near blasphemous. All in all not a bad way to start off the season.

By the time my final choice was made, Trent Cole a defensive end for the Eagles, it was nearing 5:30 and the sun was up. So I closed my curtains, buried my head in the pillow, and managed to fall asleep until 10.

Right now I find myself still reeling a bit from the weird sleep schedule. A little groggy. A little confused. I almost feel like more than one day has passed. But it was worth it. It was definitely worth it.

Welcome to Sweden, where transatlantic fantasy football drafts happen.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ytterjärna Kyrka and Helpful Swedes

Just a couple of days ago my faith in the helpfulness of Swedes was given new life. My car had died in the garage. The battery was shot. So I went down there with a nice little note I had written up with plans of leaving it on the car next to me, in hopes that they would give me a jump. The car was missing. But luckily, as I was walking away, a group of men came in with a large van. They were working on the trash system under the building. So I approached cautiously. Because let’s be honest, it’s always a little creepy down in underground parking garages. Turned out though that they were willing to help.

So I started my car and pulled out of the garage with plans of driving around for a little bit to let the alternator do its job and recharge the battery. So I drove around for about 15 or 20 minutes. Then decided that I needed some stamps. And pulled into a grocery store. I was inside for maybe five minutes. Maybe. I came back out to another dead battery. Not completely dead, but dead enough that it wouldn’t start. So I asked the guy who followed me out if he could give me a jump. Reluctantly, he did. I was two for two when it came to getting Swedes to help me out. Life was good.

This time I learned my lesson. I drove around for about an hour. All the way past Södertälje. I decided that it was about time to head back and pulled off E-4 to start heading back north. And that’s when I saw it. A little spire sticking out of a grove of trees on a hill. So obviously I headed over to it. And found a lovely little church in a small farming community. But it was getting late, and I was still hesitant to turn my car off. So I headed home.

And that’s how I found myself driving down E-4 today past Södertälje. That little itch to get out of the apartment got the better of me. And it was worth it.

About 15 kilometers past Södertälje is exit 141. Towards Gnesta, Järna, and Katrineholm. And if you head off the east and follow the road Ytterjärna will appear. And that’s where the spire of the church can be seen rising above the trees.

As I drove along the gravel road towards Ytterjärna Kyrka with the windows down all I could think of was that beautiful smell of farming. The freshly mowed hay, the livestock, the fertilizer, the tractor diesel. Something about it all coming together makes for something pretty amazing.

After coming up the hill to the church I pulled off into the gravel parking lot and began to explore. My first stop was the minneslund, the memory grove. A nice little place where ashes had been interned with a large wooden cross looking out over the grass. Nothing remarkable really, aside from the water that could be seen through the trees behind the cross. But there was something peaceful about the way the grove was surrounded by the hill’s vegetation.

But I moved on. Towards the church yard. As I wandered around the church I stumbled upon the requisite rune stone. Because what Swedish church is complete without a rune stone? I can’t help but think of the irony when it comes to the stereotype of the marauding pagan Viking carving out a rune stone, which then finds its way into a churchyard. Granted, plenty of rune stones were carved after Christianity had made its mark in Sweden, but stereotypes sometimes die hard.

The church itself was old. The oldest parts of the church being from the 1100s. The spire that drew me to the church was built around 1740. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get into the church. The doors were locked. Which, to be honest, was the first time I had ever been unable to get into a church in Sweden during the middle of the day. I was a little disappointed, but the surroundings made up for it. Because as I walked towards the east again, I looked out through the trees and could see Järnafjärden, that body of water that I caught a glimpse of from the grove. And I realized that whatever was inside the church wasn’t going to beat what was outside of it.

Welcome to Sweden.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wandering Stockholm with a Bad Conscience

Today as I wandered about Södermalm I decided that I might be a bad person. And it happened after having run into no less than four people asking me for money. And I refused them all. Lied to them even.

It seems that today was prime time for the charities to come out and save the world. By asking for money. Now, for the most part, I am a sucker for a good cause. But I just don’t like being pressured into a good cause. Because pressure is just no fun when wandering around Stockholm on a sunny day.

And in my wanderings today I felt a lot of pressure. As I walked between Slussen and Medborgarplatsen I was approached by both Save the Children and some sort of brain saving place. All youngish people, probably my age, probably very idealistic and hoping to save the world one donation at a time. A noble thought.

And I lied to them. Because they start talking to me in Swedish. So I put on a blank face and tell them that, in fact, I do not speak Swedish. Now I know how the game goes, even if I don’t speak Swedish I might have a Swedish bank account. And if I have a Swedish bank account I can donate money.

So when the brain girl I ran into asked me if I had a Swedish bank account, after having established that I didn’t speak Swedish, I looked her dead in the eye and said “no.” It was only as I walked away that it may have seemed strange that I did not ask why she wanted to know if I had a Swedish bank account. For the most part, that’s not a common question to be asked by a stranger on the streets.

So I made a mental note and continued on. This time Save the Children came up to me. Nice guy really. Again, blank face, “sorry, I don’t speak Swedish,” but he let me go and told me to enjoy my time in Stockholm.

After having had to lie to two people I was getting a guilty conscience. So I decided to walk down the middle of the street. Since the foot traffic was relatively heavy in the street and the clipboards were hanging out on the sidewalk I was able to avoid them. It worked like a charm.

Until I got to Medborgarplatsen. They are sneaky there. One guy established my English and told me to enjoy my vacation. But following this friendly fellow I was approached by a young girl. Maybe 16. She seemed desperate for my help. Again, I played the foreigner. But that didn’t stop her; she kept going, with longing in her eyes. The kind of longing that says, damn it mister there are starving children in Africa and I need your money. The kind of longing that judges you just a little bit. The kind of longing that says this wasn’t exactly what she signed up for when she decided to save the world. She really wanted my money. So much pressure. But I have a cold heart. And ice in my veins. So I continued on with my English speaking charade and moved along.

With just a few feet to go before I hit my station I ran into one more person. And once my feigned lack of Swedish was established it turned out this fellow was also persistent. Minus the longing in his eyes. He asked me if I had a Swedish bank account. I said no, and remembering my mental note asked him why. Which he answered by explaining Save the Children to me. And he suggested I look into their organization in the US. And so, without further ado, and in a blatant attempt to clear my conscience, here is a link to Save the Children in the United States and in Sweden.

No pressure. I promise.

Welcome to Sweden.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Moving to Sweden – The Metric System and You

It’s been quite a while since I wrote an installment in my riveting Moving to Sweden series. I’m sure you all remember classics such as:
Moving to Sweden – What to Bring
Moving to Sweden – The Swedish Language
Moving to Sweden – Finding a Place to Live
Moving to Sweden – Getting a Cell Phone
Moving to Sweden – Getting from the Airport to Stockholm City
Moving to Sweden – The Weather
Moving to Sweden – Swedish Citizenship Test
Moving to Sweden – Public Holidays
Moving to Sweden – Finding a Job
Moving to Sweden – Culture Shock: It's the Little Things
Moving to Sweden – Making Friends
Moving to Sweden – Cost of Living
Moving to Sweden – The Laundry Room
Moving to Sweden – Marijuana
Moving to Sweden – Most Common Jobs and Salaries

Now it’s time for Moving to Sweden – The Metric System and You.

If you’re coming from just about any country in the world, this post is absolutely worthless to you. If you are coming from the US, the post will be like gold to you. The United States is one of only a few countries in the entire world that doesn’t use the metric system. It’s that American independent streak. Or something like that. Honestly, I think it’s pretty ridiculous. The metric system, once you get used to using it, actually makes a lot of sense. Very logical and easy to use. And you don’t have to use multiples of 12, which, regardless of your math skills, just aren’t as easy as multiples of 10.

The metric system makes its way into everything. Instead of miles get used to kilometers. Except for the Swedish “mil” which is equal to 10 km. When driving, don’t be discouraged when you see that its 545 to Helsingborg. It’s only 545 km, a cool 338.65 miles. No problem at all.

So what follows is just going to be a bunch of conversions that could come in handy. Square meters to square feet for example when finding a place to live. Kilometers to miles when exploring the country. Gallons to liters after having filled up your tank while exploring the country. Tablespoon to milliliters for the bakers out there. You get the idea.

So here it goes:
One (1) square foot is equal to 0.09290304 square meters
One (1) acre is equal to 4046.8564224 square meters
One (1) acre is also equal to 0.404685642 hectares
One (1) square mile is equal to 2.589988110336 square kilometers

One (1) inch is equal to 2.54 centimeters
One (1) foot is equal to 0.3048 meters
One (1) yard is equal to 0.9144 meters
One (1) mile is equal to 1.609344 kilometers

One third (1/3) ounce is equal to 9.44984104 grams
One half (1/2) ounce is equal to 14.1747616 grams
One (1) ounce is equal to 28.3495231 grams
One (1) pound is equal to 453.59237 grams
One (1) pound is also equal to 0.45359237 kilos
One (1) ton is equal to 0.90718474 metric ton

One (1) fluid ounce is equal to 29.5735296 milliliters
One (1) quart is equal to 0.946352946 liters
One (1) gallon is equal to 3.78541178 liters

One (1) teaspoon is equal to 4.92892159 milliliters
One (1) Tablespoon is equal to 14.7867648 milliliters
One quarter (1/4) cup is equal to 59.1470591 milliliters
One half (1/2) cup is equal to 118.294118 milliliters
Three quarters (3/4) cup is equal to 177.441177 milliliters
One (1) cup is equal to 236.588237 milliliters

And not only does the US not use the metric system, but we prefer Fahrenheit to Celsius. The easiest way is just to double the Celsius number and add 32. Or subtract 32 from the Fahrenheit number and halve. Easy enough. But here are a few good markers just in case:
100 °F is equal to 37.78 °C (if we use the trick you’ll see we get 34 °C. Not right on, but not too bad really)
90 °F is equal to 32.22 °C
80 °F is equal to 26.67 °C
70 °F is equal to 21.11 °C
60 °F is equal to 15.56 °C
50 °F is equal to 10 °C
40 °F is equal to 4.44 °C
32 °F is equal to 0 °C
20 °F is equal to -6.67 °C
10 °F is equal to -12.22 °C
0 °F is equal to -17.78°C
-10 °F is equal to -23.33 °C
-20 °F is equal to -28.89 °C

So feel free to come back to this whenever you want. But of course you can always use good old Google or a Metric Conversion Table or a Baking Conversion Table. Just type in whatever you want to convert to whatever you want it converted to. For example, “5 km to miles” and Google will spit out “5 kilometers = 3.10685596 miles.”

In time you’ll figure it all out. Of course you’ll have moments when you are driving and cursing at the distance you still have to travel only to realize you’re working with kilometers not miles. So good luck, in the land of the metric system.

Welcome to Sweden. Not the most exciting post, but you’ll appreciate it when you get here.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ara Abrahamian - Swedish Olympic Wrestler Loses Bronze Medal

Let me start out by referring back to my previous post in which I referred to Ara Abrahamian’s actions in the Olympic wrestling medal ceremony as a disgrace to Sweden. I still believe that. I am very surprised by the reaction that post garnered. I had no idea the response would be so overwhelmingly in Ara Abrahamian’s favor. I am very much against what he did. I was not impressed and don’t believe his actions had any place in an Olympic medal ceremony.

It seems that most Swedes don’t agree. And that’s fine. But Ara Abrahamian’s actions were a disgrace to Sweden. Unfortunately, the bubble Sweden finds itself in has led to an attitude of self importance that doesn’t allow them to see that the rest of the world isn’t impressed.

After the actions by Ara Abrahamian in the Olympic wrestling medal ceremony caused so much uproar the IOC has made a decision. He was stripped of his medal. The one he left on the mat anyway.

Good. He didn’t want it anyway. This was the right decision and a strong decision. And to all the Swedes who are going to get fired up. Calm down. He knew exactly what he was doing. He had to have realized there would be consequences. And he said it himself. He didn’t want the bronze. He wanted gold so the Olympics for him were a failure.

He has also been stripped of any recognition as an Olympic wrestler at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing/Peking. Also good. His actions were a disgrace to the Olympics, the Olympic spirit, and his fellow Olympians, not least of who stood on that same podium with him.

Check out the articles here:
Ara blir av med bronset
Abrahamian fråntas bronset
Ara Abrahamian fråntagen medaljen
Ara Abrahamian kan bli avstängd på livstid
Filas markering mot Abrahamian
Abrahamian stripped of bronze medal
IOC strips Abrahamian's bronze medal for tantrum

I think it’s important to note the last headline from ESPN, which refers to it as a “tantrum,” which is exactly how the rest of the world views his despicable actions. Unfortunately, the bubble Sweden finds itself in has made it impossible to make that realization.

Either way, I am pleased with the verdict. It is a fair verdict, and kind of expected to be honest. But either way, Abrahamian is wiped from the Olympic record. As it should be.

Luckily, because Sweden took another silver medal, this time in men’s tennis on the doubles side, Sweden still has a total of three medals from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Swedish Olympic Wrestler Ara Abrahamian

*UPDATE* The video seems to have been taken down by YouTube. Check out some footage here instead:

Here is some video of the whole Ara Abrahamian Olympic wrestling scandal that I wrote about the other day. Basically, he lost in the semifinals on a questionable call. He didn’t agree with it. Got fired up. Yelled, screamed. Then finally decided to wrestle for the bronze. He won. Went to the medal ceremony. Accepted the medal then promptly walked off the medal stand, left the medal behind, and left.

I didn’t exactly agree with this action and said just that. And, honestly, thought there would be more people who were disgusted by his actions. I was mistaken. But so it goes. The post generated all kinds of lovely comments. It seems that most of Sweden is behind him and believes what he did was right.

Anyway, enjoy the video. I couldn’t seem to figure out how to get it from SVT Play into my blog (here it is). If anyone knows I would love to hear it. The SVT Play link is here. A bit better quality. Although it is lacking the glorious English translation (not done by me of course, I couldn’t even figure out how to get the video from SVT on to my blog let alone try to edit video to post on YouTube).

I hope it gives a little bit of an idea as to what transpired.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Car Trouble, a Bronze Medal to Ara Abrahamian, and Swedish Disgrace

I’m the proud owner of a well used Saab 9000. It’s old. And tired. And kind of a dark blue color. I don’t really use it that often. A quick trip down to Skåne maybe, the big trip to the grocery store once a month or so and that’s about it. So it sits in the garage of my building. Gathering dust.

And so it happened that I came back from the US with very little food in my name. So a trip to the grocery store was in order. And instead of the little one that jacks up its prices near my building I decided it was time to break out the Saab and head to the big time. Where I can buy in bulk. Swedish bulk at least.

So I went down to the basement and got into my car. And turned the key. And got no response. I mean nothing. Not even an attempt at starting. The battery was dead. Completely shot. Which leaves me in an interesting predicament with a few options.

Obviously, getting someone to help me jump the car would be the best bet. Of course that requires a second car. I don’t know a single person in the building that owns a car. In fact, I don’t know anyone in the greater Stockholm area that owns a car. Which is fine, because sometimes people are helpful. Except I’m stuck in my little garage cage where I park.

So I either have to push the car out of the cage and maneuver it outside and then hope I can get someone to help, or I can try to lure someone into the garage. Both sound pretty miserable, and to be honest, the luring sounds damn near impossible. Disregard for a second the creepiness of some big Swedish-American guy with a red beard coming up to you and trying to convince you to drive into the garage because really, there is a car in there that needs to be jumped, and remember that this is Sweden. A country where no one speaks on public transportation. A country that is often described by newcomers as the place they felt the most lonely of their lives. A country where my parents worked for nearly half an hour to get someone to help jump their car in southern Sweden. A country where my brother and I worked for nearly half an hour to get my car jumped last winter. It is not an easy task.

So with that in mind, my car is still sitting in the garage. Gathering more dust until I can find someone willing to help. Or maybe I’ll just man up and push the thing out. We’ll see.

In Olympic news, Sweden has made international headlines. Unfortunately, not the good kind really. Sweden did win a third medal, this one a bronze in the 84-kilogram Greco-Roman wrestling. It seems, however, that this medal will not be making its way back to Sweden.

Ara Abrahamian threw a bit of a fit in his semifinal match which he lost costing him a chance at the gold medal. Apparently there is some sort of wrestling conspiracy out to get him because he was denied gold in Athens and was so pissed about that loss that he quit. So when another controversial call went against him Ara lost it. I watched the match, and I don’t understand a damn thing about wrestling so I can’t even begin to attempt to explain what went wrong. But a call went against him in the closing seconds and he lost. He was pissed, screamed, yelled, broke some things, had to be restrained from going after the judges, and finally left. At which point it was rumored he wasn’t even going to show up for the bronze medal match.

Twenty minutes before the match start he got a couple of phone calls from his friends and he changed his mind. And won bronze easily. Yay. Now, Ara had already managed to show some pretty poor sportsmanship in his attempt to convince the world that the greater wrestling community has it out for him, but he was not done. In a manner very unbefitting a man of Swedish citizenship, Ara accepted the bronze medal, threw it to the ground, and walked out of the medal ceremony.

I don’t care what happened. I don’t care if he was robbed. I don’t care. Man up and accept it. Take your bronze. Stand quietly during the ceremony. Do not be an ass. Be an ass after the ceremony, bitch, moan, and complain all you want. After the ceremony. But Ara couldn’t manage that. Instead he ruined the ceremony for the gold and silver medalists and managed to thrust Sweden into the international spotlight as a disgrace.

Tomorrow, the powers that be will meet and decide if Ara deserves to be stripped of his medal. He should be. Regardless of the events leading up to this, regardless if he felt like he was shedding light on a larger conspiracy, this was neither the time nor the place. Some people think he did the right thing, other disagree. I for one believe that Ara Abrahamian does not deserve any sort of medal or recognition. He says this was his final match. Good. And if he gets the itch a little bit later as London approaches I can only hope that Sweden refuses to even entertain the thought of allowing him to wrestle again.

Luckily plenty of English language news media picked up on this. Including ESPN, Yahoo, and of course, our good friends at The Local.

So enjoy some reading that truly defines the Olympic spirit:
Minguzzi's surprise Greco-Roman gold overshadowed by protest
Angry Swede throws down medal, quits
Swedish wrestler refuses bronze medal

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Stockholm’s Finest and a Silver Medal for Gustav Larsson

Today I watched as Stockholm’s finest manhandled and apprehended a Canadian. It was quite the sight. Four police officers, a blanket, and one very scared Canadian. After a bit of running around, some squawking, even some aggression towards the police the Canadian was taken into custody, wrapped in the blanket, and finally brought into the police van. Luckily. Because I was just shaking my head and laughing.

Now normally incarcerations aren’t all that funny. But this was different. Because the Canadian was a goose. Of course this Canadian goose didn’t really look anything like the geese that cover Bittersweet Park with their cylinder shaped shit, but maybe they change their look when they fly across the Atlantic. Anyway, I’m sure wild goose chasing is exactly what these four police officers were planning on doing with their lives when they signed up to be cops. But for some reason it seemed strangely fitting that the Swedish police felt it necessary to capture a goose.

I have no idea what the deal was with this goose. It was the only one they grabbed so I’m guessing it was hurt which would explain why it didn’t fly away but instead waddled and squawked. But I don’t know. The cops looked anxious to get into their van and return to actual police work instead of answering my questions. So away they went. With a goose in their van.

In other news, Sweden managed to grab another medal in the 2008 Olympics. This time a silver medal for Gustav Larsson, another cyclist who wasn’t really expected to do anything but is going home with a silver. Turns out home is now in Italy but that’s beside the point. So that brings the medal count to Sweden to two. Both silver medals. Both cyclists. This silver moves Sweden a bit closer to Finland in the medal count. Finland also has two medals, but one of them being gold they tend to be listed directly above Sweden. But Sweden is dominating Norway and Denmark. Woooo.

And by the way Fidel Castro has a blog. Seriously, Castro is now a blogger. This obviously has nothing to do at all with anything I really write about, but it bears mentioning that an 82 year-old commie dictator has a blog. Technology is an amazing thing. Of course most Cubans don’t have any sort of internet access so the blog is then printed out. Kind of like a newsletter. Silly Cubans. And today I saw a girl riding a horse bareback through the streets of downtown Stockholm. What do these two things have in common? Not a damn thing. But they both bore mentioning.

Welcome to Sweden.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Swedish World Records and Sex Toys

A while back I wrote about Sweden’s love for dildos. Apoteket, the state run pharmacy, was going to start selling sex toys in their stores. The Swedish people were polled and they wanted sex toys. And so the government gave them just that. In hopes of taking away some of the stigma that goes into buying sex toys and bringing to light the importance of sexual health and all of that good stuff.

A lovely idea really. But to be honest, I haven’t even been in Apoteket since they started selling these things so I can’t give a firsthand report as to what goes on in there. But apparently other men have. And they are not happy. Two men have filed two separate sexual discrimination claims. Apparently they feel that your everyday run-of-the-mill vagina ball just isn’t fitting for a man. Nor the ever popular clitoris vibrator.

So what does the ever sensitive Swedish man do? Obviously goes to the Ombudsman who takes care of this sort of thing. Luckily, it seems that one of the claims was dismissed outright. The other? No word yet. We can only hope that these poor discriminated against men will be able to find their plastic vaginas elsewhere and that Apoteket doesn’t devolve completely into a porn store. I’m all for sexuality and doing basically whatever floats your boat as long as I don’t have to deal with it personally. But this is just kind of ridiculous. These sorts of claims either suggest that Sweden has nothing else going wrong in the country and this truly is their biggest concern, or that they are just way to sensitive. Seeing as how the Social Democrats want to mandate what city newly arrived immigrants will live in I’m betting that it’s not the former.

My favorite exchange in the article from is as follows:

“[T]he pharmacy chain ‘had a misguided and untrue view on sexuality where a woman with a dildo is seen as liberated, strong and independent, whereas a man with a blow up plastic vagina is viewed as disgusting and perverted.’”

Eva Fernvall from Apoteket responded as follows:

“As I understand it, there are no products of good quality for men on the market. Should there be such products specifically for men, then there is nothing stopping us from selling them.”

Ahh, of course. A quality plastic vagina or blow-up doll is just too hard to get a hold of. Now I’m not all that familiar with the workings of the sex toy industry but my understanding is that for the most part the toys are made with women in mind. So Eva may very well have a good point when she says that quality sex toys for en just aren’t available. But this might just be because all of my life I have been discriminated against and just didn’t know it. Had I known this I would have been fighting for the right to buy a quality plastic vagina.

Anyway, because the Olympics are still going on I couldn’t resist.

Sweden broke the World Record in the Men’s 4x100 Freestyle today with a time of 3:11.92. And only finished fifth. So instead of having a World Record, an Olympic Record, or even a European Record, they have to settle for fifth place and a Swedish Record.

Instead the US took the gold with a stunning comeback from Jason Lezak, who, by all accounts, had no business making up the distance he did today to help Michael Phelps on his way to eight gold medals. I’ll be honest though, I didn’t watch this live. I love the Olympics, and quite enjoy watching the swimming events, especially with the number of records that are falling, but seriously… I’m not getting my ass out of bed before 6 am unless I have a damn good reason. And watching a swimming relay on my 19 inch TV isn’t quite good enough. Luckily, Swedish TV likes to replay entire events, so I got to see the race in its entirety.

Welcome to Sweden, where world records are broken, and men feel discriminated against because they can’t buy a plastic vagina at the pharmacy.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Swedish Blogcleaning

I’ve been cleaning up the blog a little bit. Updating some links, making sure that things are working as they should. And, as you’ve hopefully noticed, posting a bit more regularly.

Seeing as how I quit my job and right now only have some temporary part-time work lined up I’ll probably be writing a bit more. I need to keep myself busy so what better way than sharing the nonsense that is my writing with everyone who finds their way here. Considering I only wrote a few times in July it’s only fair really. That being said, since the Olympics are going on there will probably be a bit of a sports focus for a while. So you’ll just have to bear with me while I get my sports writing fix. Of course, I’ll still write about all of the ridiculous stuff that happens, like the cross-dressing hunchback I saw Saturday morning at Central Station.

I’ve also updated the “Most Commented” section on the left hand side towards the bottom. That’s where I link to the posts that get the most comments and lead to the liveliest discussions. It’s pretty entertaining usually to relive some of them so feel free to check them out.

I’m going to work on throwing in a few more pictures as I wander through Stockholm and Sweden. Just liven up all the words a bit.

If you find any links that don’t work or know of any similar blogs that might be interesting for me to link to then feel free to e-mail me at aswedishamericaninsweden at gmail dot com. And keep the comments coming.

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Sweden’s First Olympic Medal – Silver to Emma Johansson

Just an hour or two ago I replied to a comment by saying Sweden still hadn’t pulled in a medal. They have now. Emma Johansson took silver in the Women's Individual Road Race. With the rain falling and in the shadow of the Great Wall she just had a silver medal put around her neck. She’s 24. I really need to step it up.

Anyway, with just a few hundred meters left she managed to finagle her way into second place. And stay there. This after about three and a half hours of riding. In the rain. For 126.3 kilometers. That’s about 78.48 miles. That’s a long ways. It is also the first cycling medal for the Swedes since 1988. Emma Johansson was four years old at the time. That meal was taken in Seoul. Swedish cyclers obviously like the Asian climate.

Emma Johansson wasn’t really expected to take a medal by most Swedish Olympic experts. In fact, she wasn’t even considered the biggest medal hope for Sweden in the race. That title went to Susanne Ljungskog. But that’s the beauty of sports. And especially the Olympics. Athletes rise to the occasion. The question now is whether this will carry over for the Swedes in the remaining cycling events. This might be just what was needed to give a little extra confidence so that Sweden can grab a few more medals than anyone expected. All it takes is a few unknowns stepping it up.

On a totally unrelated note. Yesterday morning at Centralen I saw an old hunchback cross-dresser. He/she was wearing a peach colored sweater and a purple hippie skirt. Unfortunately, for everyone involved, the purple hippie skirt was hanging down so I saw a lovely hairy plumber’s ass crack.

Welcome to Sweden. Where beautiful 24 year olds win silver in cycling, and old hunchback cross dressers show off their ass cracks. What a country.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Let the Games Begin - Sweden's 2008 Olympic Team

With the Olympics here and me watching from a different country for the first time I thought I would throw myself into the Swedish Olympic Team. And obviously, I'm dragging all of you in with me.

From a variety of different sites I’ve managed to put together a little Swedish Olympic Team roster. And managed to put together means basically that other people did the work and I just copy and pasted, translated a little, edited a little and went with it. So in all fairness you should check out the following sites where I got the information:, Wikinews, and

The list is long so bear with me. I actually do write some halfway original thoughts towards the end. And so without further ado, here is the 2008 Olympic Team from Sweden:

Magnus Petersson

Sara Persson

Kennedy Katende
Naim Terbunja

Anders Gustavsson
Markus Oscarsson
Sofia Paldanius

Alexandra Engen
Emma Johansson
Fredrik Kessiakoff
Gustav Larsson
Emil Lindgren
Marcus Ljungqvist
Susanne Ljungskog
Thomas Lövkvist
Saara Mustonen

Elina Eggers
Anna Lindberg

Equestrian, team, Show Jumping
Equestrian, team, Dressage
Equestrian, team, 3-Day Event
Dag Albert
Linda Algotsson
Rolf-Göran Bengtsson
Jan Brink
Viktoria Carlerbäck
Peter Eriksson
Magnus Gällerdal
Patrik Kittel
Helena Lundbäck
Katrin Norling
Lotta Schultz
Tinne Vilhelmsson (now Silfvén)

Emma Samuelsson

Therese Bengtsson
Madeleine Grundström
Tina Flognman
Matilda Boson
Sara HolmgrenTherese Helgesson
Annika Wiel Fredén
Teresa Utkovic
Jessica Enström
Johanna Wiberg,Sara Eriksson
Linnea Torstensson
Johanna Alm
Frida Toveby
Isabella Gulldén

Lassi Karonen
Frida Svensson

Håkan Dahlby
Nathalie Larsson

Hedvig Lindahl
Kristin Hammarström
Karolina Westberg
Stina Segerström
Anna Paulson
Sara Thunebro
Sara Larsson
Charlotte Rohlin
Caroline Seger
Frida Östberg
Josefine Öqvist
Therese Sjögran
Linda Forsberg
Nilla Fischer
Lotta Schelin
Jessica Landström
Hanna Ljungberg, Injured
Victoria Svensson
Johanna Almgren
Lisa Dahlkvist
Caroline Jönsson

Therese Alshammar
Anna-Karin Kammerling
Sarah Sjöström
Hanna Westrin
Eva Berglund
Gabriella Fagundez
Petra Granlund
Claire Hedenskog
Joline Höstman
Josefin Lillhage
Ida Mattson (now Marko-Varga)
Hanna Westrin
Swimming, team, 4*100 m free
Swimming, team, 4*200 m free
Swimming, team, 4*100 m medley

Jonas Andersson
Lars Frölander
Stefan Nystrand
Jonas Persson
Marcus Piehl
Simon Sjödin
Petter Stymne
Christoffer Wikström
Swimming, team, 4*100 m free
Swimming, team, 4*100 m medley

Table Tennis
Pär Gerell
Jörgen Persson
Jens Lundqvist
Table Tennis, Team, 3 players

Karolina Kedzierska
Hanna Zajc

Simon Aspelin, doubles
Sofia Arvidsson, singles
Jonas Björkman, singles and doubles
Thomas Johansson, singles and doubles
Robin Söderling, singles and doubles

Track and Field
Emma Green
Susanna Kallur
Carolina Klüft
Anna Söderberg

Stefan Holm
Mustafa Mohamed
Christian Olsson, Injured
Linus Thörnblad
Johan Wissman
Magnus Arvidsson
Niklas Arrhenius
Jesper Fritz
Alhaji Jeng

Lisa Nordén

Ara Abrahamian
Jenny Fransson
Ida-Theres Nerell (formerly Karlsson)
Sofia Mattsson
Jalmar Sjöberg

Anton Dahlberg
Daniel Birgmark
Anders Ekström
Fredrik Lööf
Rasmus Myrgren
Karin Söderström
Therese Torgersson
Vendela Zachrisson (now Santén)
Sebastian Östling

Sweden is not represented in the following sports:
Artistic or rhythmic gymnastics
Basketball (A quick side note. I had the privilege of watching the Swedish national basketball team practice a while back. On a green plastic floor surrounded by netting. With a big group of kids in wheelchairs playing a game and screaming. For those of you who think I hate wheelchair kids I don’t. They didn’t need wheel chairs. It was some sort of activity. I don’t really know. Team building maybe. Or jämställdhet if you will. Anyway, the practice was good. Interesting. Not quite like watching the American national basketball team. But fun nonetheless. They were missing two of their biggest stars who were busy prepping for the NBA draft. Both ended up pulling out at the deadline but Swedish basketball seems to have come a long ways. That being said, having watched them practice they have a long ways to go. And I definitely see why they will not be competing in Beijing.)
Field Hockey
Handball (Men)
Modern Pentathlon
Synchronized Swimming
or Beach Volleyball
Water Polo

As of me writing this Sweden has yet to take home a medal. Though it is only the first day of competition so let’s give them all a break. The injury to Ljungberg on the soccer team was a big blow as evidenced by the loss to China. They did come back and beat Argentina 1-0 today with a little inspiration from their coach. Sweden must now rely on Canada beating China and then of course winning their next game against Canada. So it is possible that Sweden can redeem themselves after that opening loss and possibly fight their way to a medal.

On the track and field side injuries have put a bit of a damper on the medal hunt also. The injury to Christian Olsson is a big blow seeing as how he is the reigning Olympic champion from Athens.

Another big medal hope, Susanna Kallur (who I have a slight crush on despite the fact that I tend to prefer women who don’t have shoulders broader than mine) is also battling an injury but seems to be coming into form at just the right time. This could come down to the wire for her, but people are a bit nervous here in Sweden.

We’ll see how it all goes. But I expect Sweden to take home a medal or two in track and field. I’m counting on Stefan Holm in the high jump and for Kallur to (wo)man up and grab at least a bronze.

I’m expecting a medal, possibly two, in wrestling from Ida-Theres Nerell and Ara Abrahamian if his 33-year old body can hold up to the rigors and pressure of one more shot at Olympic gold.

A medal or two in swimming isn’t out of the question with Therese Alshammar and Stefan Nystrand in the mix.

And of course I’m expecting a couple of medals in the more obscure sports. Shooting perhaps, maybe an equestrian medal.

In 2004 at the Olympic Games in Athens, Sweden finished with a total of seven medals. Four gold medals, two silver medals, and one bronze. All in all a medal count nearing double digits would really surprise me probably be considered a huge success. I’m expecting closer to six medals. With a max of two golds.

So there you have it. All you need to know about the Swedish Olympic Team. As long as all you were interested in was the roster.

Welcome to Sweden. And the 2008 Olympics.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

08/08/08 in Stockholm, Sweden

It seems that it isn’t just the Chinese who are fans of the date today. Eight apparently being a lucky number. Hence the Olympic ceremonies and all that jazz. Stockholmers everywhere are also pumped about it. Now the uninformed might ask why. And the informed would look at them and explain to them that it’s all about the telephone prefix. Obviously.

A brief tangent. I am amazed by how excited people get about this date thing. Last year was 07/07/07. Woooo! This year was 08/08/08. Woooo! People seem so surprised by it all. Like there is some sort of meaning behind it all. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that next year we will see 09/09/09. I know. It’s going to be crazy. Anyway… back to Stockholm.

Stockholm, Sweden uses 08 as their telephone prefix. And people from Stockholm are often referred to by their telephone prefix. And that’s enough of a reason to throw a party. So events have been planned throughout the city throughout the day. I went into town to check it out. And was promptly soaked through from the rain. Which also seemed to put a damper on a lot of the activities. But chiefly I went in to check out the water fight that was supposed to be going on in Gamla Stan.

A water fight had been promised between the south Stockholmers and the north Stockholmers. Like some sort of gang fight. It was like Greeley, Swedish style. They were even supposed to wear red and blue. Except these gangs planned on using water guns. Not real ones. But I saw nothing. And until about 10 minutes ago I was horribly disappointed. Turns out the event had been moved from the planned urban warfare in Old Town to Gärdet. A large grassy area. Like warfare of old. I just hadn’t been informed of the change. Oh well. I’m sure it was glorious.

Tonight there are more festivities planned throughout the city and since I love the 08 prefix (that’s a lie… I don’t even have a 08 prefix I prefer to rock the cell phone) I obviously plan to go out. We’ll see how the evening goes.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

2008 Olympics from Sweden

The 2008 Olympics are coming. From Beijing or Peking or whatever you want to call it. China. And Sweden is starting to get a bit excited for it. Previews are dominating the printing presses, commercials are encouraging Sweden to go for gold (as opposed to silver or bronze which is nice to see from the Swedes), and blue and yellow is dominating, well… everything.

And I love it. The Swedish women’s soccer team might not feel the same way. They lost yesterday to the home nation in the group play of Olympic soccer. Technically the games don’t open until Friday. But even the Olympic committee realizes that group play in soccer isn’t exactly as riveting as, say, fencing and has scheduled the soccer games outside of the official Olympic opening. Or maybe there just isn’t time. But I like my reasoning better.

Maybe starting a couple of days early threw off the Swedes, who lost 2-1 to China. Now granted China has that home field advantage which has been shown to play a huge role in the overall Olympic medal count. Considering the air pollution and god only knows what the government has been feeding the Chinese athletes that advantage could be even more pronounced. But come on. Sweden is ranked third in the world. They are routinely named as medal contenders.

And they lost. I think I mentioned that. Obviously this is a bit of a crisis. Because after the poor showing by the men in Euro 2008, everyone was hoping the women could make some noise in the Olympics. Because to be honest, it isn’t looking that promising for the Swedes in the Olympics this year. Sure there are a few athletes who will be competing for medals, but in years past the Swedes have at least made a dent in the medal count considering their population of nine million isn’t much. But we’ll see. That’s why they play the games. Any given Sunday. All that cliché nonsense that tends to hold true in sports.

All I know is that despite the less than promising start for the Swedes, I plan to watch as much of the Olympics as I can. I have the advantage of being able to cheer for either the Americans or the Swedes without too much of a bad conscience. Of course the Americans lost to Norway in their opening game. Maybe I’ll just try to figure out what the catch is for this new Comviq thing that tells me I can sms (that’s Swedish for text) them and watch the Olympics on my phone for free.

I’m just excited to have a reason to write about sports for the next couple of weeks without it seeming overbearing. So welcome back to Welcome to Sweden.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Swedish Fish and My Return to Stockholm

I am back in Sweden. I walked off the plane at Arlanda and was greeted by drab gray skies (it was in the 90s and sunny before I left in Greeley), a concrete building right next to the plane (which just added to the gray really) and a people that thinks it’s ok for men to wear Capri pants (it’s not for those of you straddling the fence on this issue).

After taking the requisite public transportation back I walked into a somewhat stinky apartment. Due to a various reasons, one being the decaying plants that I neglected and the other a fish.

Now I consider myself a half-way intelligent person. I read a lot. I did well in school. I can carry on a conversation about most things without sounding like an ignorant lout. But sometimes I make some choice that I look back on and wonder about.

The day I left Sweden I made one of those choices. Instead of flushing the fish down the toilet or trying to find someone to take care of it while I was away I came up with a brilliant little scheme. I put it in the bathtub. Full of water of course. And lots of food. I had been plotting this before I left and was dreaming up little contraptions that would be hooked to an alarm clock that would feed Poseidon every day. Then I remembered that I am not an engineer. And rely on my brother to fix my computer whenever something goes wrong.

So instead I bought a bunch of slow release food and normal fish food and just tossed them in. I gave Poseidon the proverbial slap on the ass and sent him on his way. I expected fish bones when I got back. But Poseidon is hearty and he lived through the ordeal. Kind of a strange reddish color that has since faded after getting fresh water and some fresh food. A little haggard but better for the experience I’m sure.

The smell was coming not from a dead fish but instead the nasty fish poop clouded water in my bathtub. Nothing a quick rinse out and shower couldn’t fix.

And so here I am. Back in Stockholm, Sweden, still searching for something. But at least the fish is alive.

Welcome back to Sweden.

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Welcome (Back) to Sweden

I'm back.

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