Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunlight for 2.43% of the Month of November

Technically the sun set today before three in the afternoon. I say technically because while the sun might technically be up, it doesn’t mean I saw it. Not because I spend the majority of my day inside staring at a computer screen, but because clouds managed to hide it. Almost for the entire month of November. I am not immune to hyperbole, but I am serious. The sun was absent for nearly the entire month of November.

Turns out the average amount of November sunlight in Sweden is 54 hours. That’s not a whole lot considering there are 30 days. However, it is more than two full days of sunlight. This month though was well below average. Depending on your sources, I was privy to 17.5 hours of sunlight, or 14 hours of sunlight. Either way, that is less than 24 hours of sunlight. That is less than one full day of sunlight.

The month of November has a total of 720 hours in it. Let’s be generous and say that there was actually 17.5 hours of sunlight. That means there were 1050 minutes of sunlight. That means an average of 35 minutes of sunlight every day. Only 2.43% of the month of November saw sunlight. Which means Stockholmers were without sun for 97.57% of the month. 97.57%.

Let’s put that into perspective. 97.57% is an A+ in nearly all measures of grading scales. 98% is the rate of effectiveness if you were to use a condom perfectly. 97.2% of Argentineans over the age of 15 can read and write. 98% of Antarctica is ice. And 97.57% of the population masturbates. The other 2.43% are liars. That’s not true; I stole that from my high school history teacher. But you get the idea.

I wrote a couple of posts this month about homesickness and about creative Swedish winter advertising. Clearly my subconscious was at work wanting to either go home to Colorado and at sunlight that numbers in the days not hours, or sit in front of a billboard giving off artificial light. Instead my skin is more pale than usual, at least the skin that can be seen through my hair. My golden locks are darker than ever. And I am seriously questioning the mental stability of anyone who willingly moves to Sweden. Myself included. Did I mention that the sun shone for less than 18 hours over the course of 30 days?

Welcome to Sweden. But not really.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Murderous Swedish Moose

Over two years ago I wrote a post titled Beware the Swedish Elk. A Swedish Elk, or a moose to Americans, was wounded by a hunter. Not dead, the hunter approached the moose and somehow the moose managed to fire off a shot with the hunter’s rifle. It missed and the moose died. I wrote then that:

“In the fight for equality, seldom is the first fight the deciding fight, or the last for that matter. I expect Swedish Elk attacks to rise this hunting season, and as time goes on lives will be lost, Swedish Elk will be revered as heroes and martyrs within the forests of Sweden and no hunter will be safe. And so, to all of you who plan on shooting an elk, I can only say one thing: Beware the Swedish Elk.”

Two years later, my predictions are proving to be right. Feel free to refer to me as Hairy Nostraswedus. News reports are coming out that a murder case from September of 2008 is about to have a break through. A 63 year old woman was found dead near a lake. The husband was immediately arrested and spent 10 days in prison as well as being suspected for over five months.

Today though, it turns out his wife was murdered by a moose. Murdered. By a moose. The woman was attacked and killed by a moose. At least, the moose saliva and hair found on the body would suggest that. The Swedish police will hold a press conference on Tuesday to confirm the rumors. And their own incompetence of course. Because who are we kidding, regardless of the circumstances, to figure out one year later that a woman suspected to have been murdered by her husband was actually killed by a moose... that’s just embarrassing for Sweden’s finest.

Had they only read my predictions, this poor man would have been allowed to mourn his wife rather than be suspected of murder. Just one year after the initial attack by the Swedish moose against the armed hunter, the revolution continues. It seems that the moose of Sweden have risen up and taken back the forests. Unfortunately, innocent lives were lost in the beginning of the revolution as unarmed older woman have now been killed. The moose claim collateral damage, but all I see are war crimes.

As the Swedish moose run free, I encourage all able bodied Swedes to join the droves of hunters, take up arms, and hunt the moose. Protect our mormors and farmors! I will not stand idly by as little old Swedish ladies are killed by moose.

Welcome to Sweden. Beware the murderous moose. Seriously.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holidays That Don’t Exist in Sweden - Thanksgiving

The holiday season is coming up. Although in the US, it starts a little early. Because the US celebrates holidays that don’t get celebrated in Sweden. Like Thanksgiving.

Because I am an American abroad, I try to recognize as many holidays as possible. Although, there is a difference between recognition and outright ignorance. And yes, I know, I am a pretentious asshole, but there are few things that bother me more than Americans asking if Swedes celebrate Thanksgiving.

No. They don’t. Sweden does not celebrate Thanksgiving. Think back to elementary school, Thanksgiving celebrated the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. Pilgrims were religious separatists from England in the 1600s. It’s a simplified history but regardless, it gets the story across. Nowhere does Sweden come into the picture. They didn’t leave from Sweden. They didn’t go via Sweden. They weren’t Swedish. Sweden was busy with their own age of greatness and not really all that concerned with a small group of religious zealots trying to cross the Atlantic.

Strangely enough, they could still care less. The average Swede might be aware of Thanksgiving, but that is about it. They will not celebrate it. They will not have Thursday and Friday off from work. They will not eat themselves stupid on turkey and potatoes (although they probably should). That will be left to the American ex-pats in the country. They might even invite a few Swedes along for the ride. If there is a Thanksgiving celebration in Sweden, there is an American close by.

Instead, Swedes will go about their business, happily spending their paycheck from the 25th. Waiting for their holiday season to start. Sweden doesn’t really get started until the 13th of December when blonde girls dress up in white and walk around with live candles on their head. Of course, just in case there should be an accident, small boys walk behind her dressed in white robes with conical white hats on their heads while carrying star wands. December 13th is Santa Lucia. Duh.

Welcome to Sweden. And the holiday season.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Looking for Swedish Porn

I should have known better. I should have known that writing the words “Swedish” and “porn” in the same post would cause create a stir.

I am a huge nerd. I use Google Analytics on this blog. Mostly because I like to play with that sort of stuff and now actually have a job in which I use it. Really it keeps me entertained. It also allows me to see what brings people to my blog. Other than my wittiness of course.

Turns out my post about Child Porn in Sweden gave Google some ideas. The wrong ideas, but ideas none the less. Now people looking for Sweden porn or Swedish porn are clicking on Welcome to Sweden. Most are horribly disappointed to find that this Hairy Swede was not exactly the kind of hairy Swede they were looking for. I’ll let that one sink in for a bit...

And a little bit longer...

And that’s enough of that. Gross.

It’s not the people that leave immediately though that confuse me. It’s the ones who stick around for a bit. Maybe read a post or two. What exactly is going through their minds?

“Well here I am, typing one handed hoping to see some naked Swedish girls, but yeah, I think I will read about how dark it is in Sweden right now. Or oooh... let’s read about immigration issues in Sweden. That’s almost as good as naked buxom blonde girls. Almost.”

I’d like to think it’s my amazing titles. Catchy little numbers like: A Swedish Thanksgiving Eulogy to Poseidon or maybe the classic Swedish Death. And Poop. Or maybe my use of the word “glorious” draws them in.

Really I think they just aren’t committed. Committed to finding Swedish porn. So here’s a tip based solely on my knowledge of the Swedish language. And nothing else. Obviously. Svensk is Swedish for Swedish. The Swedish word for porn is porr. Gentlemen (and I use that term so very loosely), good luck. Now move along...

Welcome to Sweden. Where everyone needs a helping hand. Especially those typing one handed.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Critiquing Swenglish Critiques

Somehow I stumbled upon this little gem of a clip. Because apparently I am unable to write things now without help of various forms of media. Some people would argue that this adds something to the blog. A je ne sais quoi if you will. Those people are pretentious jerks who just want to show off their four years of high school French. No one likes those people.

No one likes people who try to show off their English skills by disparaging others, all the while butchering the language they purport to know either.

As a general rule, I don’t watch reality shows. They bother me. Because despite their claims of reality, I end up just being disgusted with people and can’t handle them, which actually might be too close to reality for my taste. Not since Joe Millionaire freshman year of college have I watched a reality show. Then Idol 2009 started in Sweden. And I watched one episode. Then a second. Then remembered why I don’t watch reality shows and stopped watching. I’m stubborn.
Yesterday I ended up seeing a clip with the headline “Till och med en sjuåring klarar det.” Even a seven year old can do it. Well, I like to reaffirm that I am better than a seven year old. So I clicked on through. And I learned something yesterday, I am not better than a seven year old. At least not according to the Swedish Idol judge.

I am not better than a seven year old because I am unable to mime perfectly someone singing a song in a different language. Apparently Swedish school children are incredibly advanced and capable of doing such things. Which was news to me because in the past week I have heard two different Swedes attempt to pronounce unique correctly. It came out as eunuch. Unique and eunuch are two very different things. Although, come to think of a eunuch would be very unique to me.

The critique came after one of the contestants, a non-native Swedish speaker, and non-native-English speaker was said to have butchered the pronunciation of the English language. I didn’t see the performance. Remember, I gave up on reality shows nearly eight years ago. Fine.

But it was here mixing of the languages that just somehow put it over the top for me. Because I speak English flawlessly. And despite what 50 Cent might have you believe it is in fact, “the” not “da.” Our demeaning judge seems confused by all this as she peppers her Swenglish with a misplaced “flawless” (“Kan de lära sig det flawless på engelska...”) as well as the classic “da.” While da might work for my homies back in the hood, most native English speakers capable of enunciating know that a more acceptable version is “the.” T-h. Like “Thufferin Thuccotash,” which is almost the same thing.

And there you have it. The low point of Welcome to Sweden. I have just spent several hundred words of your time critiquing a critique of the Swedish version of American Idol.

Welcome to Sweden. May I suggest reading something better? Try 1000 Awesome Things. I’m partial to #638. Or perhaps some economics from a Harvard professor. Or maybe even some quick hits at Letters to Ira Glass.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Light Therapy in Stockholm

There are times I really question my move to Sweden. Those times are called November. The worst month in Sweden. Ever. November is followed closely by February, but February has the benefit of days getting longer, not shorter.

I was reminded of the overall worthlessness that is November the other day on my way to a hockey game. Sitting on the train staring dumbly out the window I saw a man with his eyes closed, head tilted up, standing in front of a billboard. This is not normal behavior. Even in Sweden in November.

My eyes moved from the man to the billboard. Clearly this must be the greatest billboard ever. And it turns out it was.

Skandia, an insurance and online banking company, has billboards throughout Stockholm that are backlit stating “Lite ljusterapi i höstmörkret. Ett enkelt sätt att motverka lättare depressioner.” Horribly translated: A little light therapy in the autumn darkness. An easy way to combat mild depression.

First, this is awesome. It’s taking advantage of the season. It’s funny. And apparently it works, or at least the light therapy part works, no idea if Skandia has sold any extra car insurance policies lately.

Second, this is awful. Who wants to live in a country where people feel the need to stand in front of an advertisement to get light therapy because there is so little daylight? Me. I apparently want to do that. Because here I am.

Welcome to Sweden. You have been warned.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hot Sauce and Homesickness in Sweden

Recently I received a mysterious package. Not like someone left it on my doorstep, ran away, and it turned out to be a baby mysterious, but a package that I wasn’t expecting. I of course tore into it immediately like a kid at Christmas. And by kid I mean myself last year at Christmas.

Turns out it was hundreds of small packages of Cholula. One of the greatest tasting hot sauces on the mass market today. If anyone works for Cholula, or knows anyone who does, I can be convinced to work for you. Seriously. I love you.

But I digress. The sender turned out to be my father. So I duly thanked the old man for his gracious gifts. As the honorable man that he is, he admitted that he was in fact the sender, but was not responsible for the gift itself. Apparently I have friends in high places. Or at least friends willing to walk into restaurants and take hundreds of packets of Cholula, pack them, and attempt to ship them to Sweden.

The attempted shipping was what went wrong. Which is where my dad came into play. With the help of his trusty green card, he was able to navigate the tricky customs situation between Sweden and the US. Actually, I think he just slapped a label on it and drove to the post office. But that’s almost the same thing.

Since then I’ve been smothering my food in Cholula. Rice and beans. Meat. Potatoes. Pyttipanna. Spaghetti. It’s been amazing. I’ve even attempted to recreate what I like to call Red Sea Goldfish. Goldfish crackers mixed with lots of hot sauce and eaten with a spoon. I’ve substituted cheese tortilla chips for the Goldfish, it’s not quite the same but it will do.

Moving to Sweden and having lived here now for over two years, it’s amazing how homesickness can manifest itself. Sometimes it’s missing the big things, like family and friends. Sometimes it’s missing the little things, like Cholula and smothering cheesy snacks with hot sauce. Either way, when one or the other shows up on your door step, it’s a good day.

Welcome to Sweden. And Cholula.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Simple Swedish – Lesson One from Patrick Hansson and Ola Lustig

I have written about the Swedish language a few different times. How I think you should learn Swedish. How it makes me laugh. And how good Swedes are at English, and just how annoying that can be.

I have never posted a video about the Swedish language. But now I have. Because this made me smile and nod in agreement. At the ridiculousness of the language. At the false friends. At the rules that you just need to know. And at slut. Of course.

If you have any interest in the Swedish language, watch this. If you’re learning Swedish you’ll chuckle. You’ll see the judging Swedish look as you mispronounce å, ä, and ö. If you don’t speak Swedish and just don’t have any desire to. Well, you’re not alone. It’s not exactly a popular language what with the nine million people in the country. But it does mean that you aren’t nearly as cool as you could be. Watch it anyway. If only for the slut jokes. Because come on, that stuff is comedic gold.

There’s talk of a second episode. I’m hoping they’ll talk about river horses, tooth meat, and breast warts next time. And if they do, I’ll claim all the credit. If they don’t, they also aren’t nearly as cool as they could be.

Welcome to Sweden. And Simple Swedish.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Child Porn in Sweden

I am in awe of The Local. It is such a great idea in its simplicity. Essentially they take news stories and just translate them and regurgitate them for all of the non-Swedish speakers. When I first moved here it was my Bible. My Koran. My Torah. (I’m very PC you know). Lately though, I just haven’t been that inclined to read The Local.

The last few days though I saw some things about the Swedish justice system that caught my eye. I bitch and moan about the Swedish justice system a lot. Life in prison doesn’t really mean life. Convicted murderers get furloughs and kill someone while away. Two to three millions pictures of child porn will only get you six months in prison. And so I needed to find in English, what I had been seeing in Swedish. I was not to be disappointed.

On November 2nd it was reported that Sweden would be overhauling their child pornography laws (Sweden to tighten child pornography laws). Just looking at child pornography will be illegal as opposed to the current law stating that you have to possess it. The government is even hoping to change the definition of child pornography. Any pictures of children under 18 will be considered child porn. Which seemed strange to me considering the age of consent in Sweden is 15, but I digress.

On November 3rd it was reported that a camp counselor accused of filming children naked in 2007 would not be punished for being a pervert (No penalty for man who filmed naked children). He managed to escape by fleeing to Thailand. Since then he has been hanging out waiting for the statute of limitations to run out all the while working as a school teacher in a different country. Awesome. But wait. It gets better. While doing all of this, and knowing that he could no longer be charged, the man requested that his video equipment be returned to him. You know, the video equipment that he had been using to film camp-goers in the sauna.

While I’m all for banning child porn, I’m concerned by the proposed laws for a couple of reasons. First, banning the viewing of something is a very slippery slope. There’s obviously the whole free speech argument, but I’m mostly concerned that some sicko will get away with this because he argues that he “accidentally” stumbled across some child porn. It just seems too vague to be effective.

The definition of child porn is also concerning. Mostly because of the fact that my mom was just explaining sexting to me. Yup. My mom explained sexting. “It’s what the kids are doing these days” were her words. Apparently some kid back home has now been labeled a sex offender for passing along a naked picture of a girl he went to school with. A girl who was under 18. Thus, child porn. He should be labeled an idiot but not a sex offender.

Then there’s the camp counselor. Who is now a teacher. And got all his video equipment back. There are just so many things wrong with that story. But what really gets me, aside from him getting his video equipment back (did I mention he got his damn video equipment back?) is the fact that the statue of limitations ran out after less than three years. He videotaped kids in the sauna while working as a camp counselor. He fled to Thailand, where Swedes go every year for vacation. H is now working as a teacher. And they can’t do anything about it.

If Sweden really wants to do something for child porn, increase the statute of limitations and snag this guy the second he gets anywhere near a country that will extradite him. And drop his video camera in the toilet.

Welcome to Sweden. And child pornography laws.

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Halloween in Sweden

Yesterday was Halloween. It was even a Red Day on the calendar. Not really because of the Halloween celebration as most Americans know it, but because of All Saints Day. In a ridiculously secular country like Sweden, it makes perfect sense that the day be seen as a public holiday. You know, to go to church.

Swedes claim that they don’t celebrate Halloween. But that is changing. Not the claims, but the celebrating part. As I wandered around town yesterday in a fit of classic Swedish book buying (Bränt Barn by Stig Dagerman and Utvandrarna by Vilhelm Moberg) there was a large Ghost hanging between the buildings on Drottninggatan. There was a line at least 100 people deep waiting to get into the one big costume shop in Stockholm, and there were Halloween signs being advertised in shops throughout town. Halloween is coming to Sweden.

Traditionally, All Saints Day is meant to be a day to celebrate the dead and to decorate the graves of family members. A day of remembrance really. This is the third one I’ve been around for and I still haven’t been able to get myself out to Skogskyrkogården to see the display. Apparently it is impressive.

Instead, I chose to celebrate Halloween by dressing up like a zebra. Obviously. Essentially this entailed me wearing white pants, a white shirt and covering myself with strips of black duct tape. To top it all off, I also have come into ownership of a zebra print bandanna, which I wore with a strange sense of satisfaction.

It is quite the effort to cover oneself in black duct tape. I went through two rolls of the stuff, managed to remove a patch of hair from my belly, and wrap the tape so tight that I was unable to remove my shirt. My future does not lie in costume design.

Especially considering the number of times I had to explain that I was, in fact, a zebra and not a prisoner. Or a mental patient. Prisoners and mental patients do not have patterned stripes meant to confuse and camouflage them from their prey. Zebras, and I, do. Duh.

Because I was heading over to my cousins for the Halloween party, I had to take some public transportation. And by had to, I mean I am too cheap to pay for a taxi. So away I went, dressed like a zebra wearing a jacket. This being Sweden, people stared but said nothing. So I sat alone, people avoiding me as if I had the H1N1 virus, until four guys climbed in. They gravitated towards me. Probably because they were also in costume. A soldier, a heavy metal rocker, a soccer player, and a douche bag. Either that or he got lost on his way to Stureplan.

Suddenly, I felt at ease. My stripes were doing their job. No one knew who to stare openly at. Should they admire the hair of the ‘80s heavy metal rocker? Should they salute the Swedish soldier? Or should they bask in the glory of the zebra? Most chose to look away awkwardly while trying to steal alternating glances of all five of us. It’s the Swedish way.

After several stops and countless awkward glances, I arrived at my destination. I bounded off the train like a zebra in the savannah, looking over my shoulder, with my alcohol and bag of candy clambering at my side as I fled from the surprised Stockholmers behind me. That’s not true. Although it did cross my mind.

Welcome to Sweden. And Halloween in Stockholm.

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