29 September, 2009

I'm thinking of quitting my job.

Well, I've actually decided to. And sorry if Stu has caused headaches with his philosophical musings...he is knee-deep in econ and accounting, and this blog offers a pretty good outlet. Otherwise, I am the outlet, and wine is just too expensive in this country...

Anyway, back to unemployment. I know, I know, its an entire TWELVE hours a week, give or take. And my schedule at Stockholm University is so light, I almost feel stupid in deciding to quit the only kronor we have coming in. But school is random, with a different schedule of classes every week. The entire month of November is all late afternoon classes (which means I can't work).

And as it gets colder (and its definitely getting colder!!) I can't help but dread having to bundle up 2 squirmy little munchkins who never even want to put their shoes on, much less coats, hats, gloves, etc. and then stroller them the 1.5 km to pick up the other little rugrat, then stroller the whole lot of them back in the cold and dark of December, January, February.

And not having a job that has me working from 3pm until 6 or 7pm means that I can start taking Swedish language classes in the evenings. And hopefully learn something slightly more useful than ¨graset är grönt¨ (the grass is green.) English is fine, actually, and the majority of people in Stockholm speak it and are happy to help me out. But its a personal goal to speak next-to-fluent Swedish by the end of this 2-year Stockholm stint, and I might as well get on with it sooner rather than later.

They are awfully sweet kids, and I like their parents very much. And my clothes have all gotten too big with all the chasing and strollering. And it feels kinda nice to hand Stu a small wad of cash as an 'allowance' each week. Maybe instead he'll get a gig teaching yoga here in Stockholm?
But I'm probably working regularly another month or so. And then back to unemployment. I missed it so.

28 September, 2009

Taj Mahal...

So my musings from last time got us talking. Horrible habit to have I know. But Anne and I started to talk about memory. Do you remember those memories from childhood? The foggy ones that you know are a big part of you, but aren't quite clear? Or maybe you have a memory from a time you were too young to recall but that you've heard the story of a million times over. Now you have a "memory" of the event, complete with visuals which you've never in fact seen. It's amazing what the mind can fabricate, that memory may as well be a cartoon.
More so with two or more people's minds at work. Context, personality, bias... Such a potent froth. And we're often not even aware of it at play...

Say a word and the association your mind makes is often visual. Say "taj mahal" and you conjure it up in your mind.
But maybe the taj in your mind is not the same as the one in mine?

And maybe the image will be different depending on when one is asked about it? When do we have on the rose colored glasses. Say, when we're more likely to be nostalgic for the symbol that the Taj Mahal represents? Love lost?

And yes, this get's to my next point, when can we ever be sure if we "see it" at all? Not in a "nothing is real" sense (my least favorite kind of sense after all...) but as an ernest question.

(And yes, a few clever folks' first impression will be of Taj Mahal the blues singer. He's great, too)

When do we see, this:

26 September, 2009

I don't know what I know...

So, I made a remark to Anne which was, "I don't know what I know." Life with me has these interesting moments for her which include me making some out-of-left field comment where she has no idea what I'm talking about. Luckily, for me, I found a wife who is blessed with a great deal of patience, but I could see that "what is it this time?" cloud pass over her eyes.

This time the answer was short and easy. I'm studying for exams. And in a way, I'm going in blind. The subject/course of study is new territory for me, so I'm at a disadvantage. I'm ten years out of school and am not used to this feeling of going into a exam not quite sure if I studied for it properly. (When I was a Religion major in college, well, I'd been studying/talking about religion and philosophy for a number of years. So it was easy to fall-back on what I already knew. Not so now.)

So, I don't know what I know. I think I do. I think I get it when I'm reading the assigned material, but until the proof is back in the form of the exam grade, well, we'll see... I might be wrong. I might not have as good a grasp as I think I do. I might be blind to pitfalls eluding me. But then that was kind of a fun thing to think about. We'd just had dinner, and candlelight, and wine... so I fancied myself waxing profound. Usually I'm mistaken at those times.

Memory and thought in Norse mythology were two ravens called Huginn and Muninn. Each day

More to the point, our minds are not hard drives. If they are, they're certainly corrupted (Yes, I'm talking about you). But the handy thing about hard drives is looking at how much room you've used up! I seem to be losing more and more file space every day... ("Just like your hair," my lovely wife proclaims.)

So, this made me think of one of my favorite "poems". A few years back, when Tivo was still new, there was the Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld. It soon became "my favorite thing ever" as I considered Rummy not as a war monger or a charlatan, but as a Zen master or Sufi wiseman. That's interesting too. A little formatting, a little less context, and presto:

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Random images for a Saturday

I am trying to am-scr-ay while Stu is studying for exams (because my exam presentation was yesterday, so I am done with module 1, and have a 5-day break until module 2).

But I had to post a few pictures of things that kind of made me laugh this week:

Stu asked for softer toilet paper (I guess the cheap 11 kr TP was too rough for the poor baby.) So I bought the most ridiculous, soft-looking toilet paper that the Coop Konsum had to offer. Yes, its called Lambi. It has pink hearts and sweet little lambs printed on it. And its tag line: soft & caring. Because that is what you want out of toilet paper. ["Like wiping yer bum on a wee wooly lamb," Stu said in his worst/best Scottish accent]

And yes, this is an advertisement for the new fall styles at Gallerian, a big shopping mall downtown. Apparently, the 'catwalk' is pretty popular for fall.
Can you imagine being the model hired to get dressed up & made up, and then have to be photographed carrying a kitty around, knowing that you'd be plastered all over Stockholm phone booths looking supremely ridiculous? ["Ridiculous?! You mean sinister! He's clearly the head of an organized spy sindicate!"] I love it. I totally love it. I pass these on my way to the bus stop on Odengatan.

This poor cat looks uncomfortable:

24 September, 2009

Moderna Museet Cafe

Last Sunday was gorgeous and warm. Its been really lovely weather here, sunny and about 18c (that's in the upper 60s for the Americans.) Perfect fall days, really.

But I spent most of last Sunday writing a paper (remind me why I decided to go back to grad school again?!?)

Stu & I took a break, though, to go to the big Moderna Museet in the afternoon. They had just opened a Salvador Dali show, and it was the last day of a photography show that I thought he would really enjoy. Its a great museum, situated on a little island called Skeppsholmen (which is actually really hard for me to pronounce in Swedish) with several other museums. They are doing track work on some of the subway over there, so its not the *easiest* place to get to from our apartment (I found that out when I mixed up my course time at the MM last week, and ended up being 45 minutes late for class...I took a very expensive cab ride, and it still took forever.)

Anyway, we checked out the Dali, and then took a coffee break. They have several places to grab a fika in the museum, and the restaurant is really quite good, with a large balcony sitting over the water. But we grabbed coffee in the little cafe between the Moderna and the Architecture museum.

I didn't take a picture because we ate them too fast, but holy, we had some of the best waffles with blueberries and vanilla cream.

We have done the cafe thing at several of the museums, like Liljevalchs and others on Djurgården, and many of them take full advantage of the outdoors...something DC museums don't do very well. Don't get me wrong, the cafe at the NGA is great, and the food at NMAI is fantastic, and the space is fun. I guess there is just so much more rustic green space in Stockholm, and it just feels different. More relaxed.

It was definitely the first museum cafe I had ever seen that sold farmer's vegetables! And the prices weren't too bad, either. It's less than $3 for a big bunch of carrots, $1.50 for the bunch of fresh corn. And I learned a new word from this sign: artichoke in Swedish is kronårtskocka. Hmmm...who knew?

We sat on this rock, since most of the tables were taken up. It was a prime spot...there were little kids jumping all over the place.

Anyway, we caught the end of the photography show (I had only seen Larry Clark's work in his books...its even more disturbing and fascinating when blown up on the wall!) I bought a funky plate and lamented that I couldn't buy the whole set (the museum gift shops here are pretty good, too)

And I managed to mostly finish my paper while Stu went out to an Irish bar on Söder to catch the Eagles game with several of his new American-football-watching friends. They might come here next week to see it...Stu bought the NFL package to stream online. He's dedicated.

22 September, 2009

The "Module" system and a final exam in 3 days

I have a final exam on Friday (that's why there has been a lack of posts on my part...)

I started school August 20-something, so about a month ago. Theoretically, I'm not supposed to get stressed out about finals until December, when (in my US experience) I'd have 3 or 4 finals or giant papers due within the same week at the end of the fall semester. Don't get me wrong, it was terrible to cram. I always thought that any of those papers could have been genius if I didn't have 3 others due at the SAME TIME.

But my schedule is a little different in Sweden. We have course "modules" instead of semesters. We have one course at a time, with class once or twice a week, for 5 weeks. We are only responsible for the homework and readings from one instructor, and since it is so condensed, we get "tested" on what we learned from the one course at the end of about a month. Stu's is similar, though he has 2 subjects at a time (and, he has a final on Monday and on Tuesday.)

I am currently in the "Curatorship" module. My final isn't a written test, but a group project, presentation and a short individual paper on curating an imaginary exhibition. Kind of cool, until you think about how much work goes into putting on an exhibition, and how we only had a few short weeks to think about it, and how our group members were total strangers before getting thrown together for the project. We have to present our proposal to a group of professors, curators and other students Friday morning, and we don't even have a title for the thing yet. So I am kind of freaking out.
Huh, I guess thats not that different from the end-of-the-semester freak outs I am used to. Its just too early for it.

So after the final, I think I'll post some images from our pretend exhibition. Maybe some of you would come to it, if it existed? And the next module is "Historicity" (whatever that means?!?) and will be taught by a Philosophy prof at the university. God knows what kind of freak-outs that class will lead to...

16 September, 2009

We're having a little party

And celebrating our new couch. Well, new-to-us. Stu managed to convince 3 of his buddies to help haul a pull-out couch and three wardrobes (THREE) out of other people's homes and up 5 flights of spiral stairs to our little apartment. They did an amazing job.

So we are having a few people over Friday to warm the new place, about 40 of Stu's friends, and about 4 of mine. An interesting thing about Swedish parties (at least the ones I have been to) is that everyone brings their own alcohol, and they drink their own alcohol. Makes sense. You get to drink what you like and the host doesn't have to foot a huge systembolaget bill (systembolaget is the government-run liquor/beer/wine store here.)

Another thing is that every takes their shoes off when they come in to your house. Actually, that custom is not just for parties. Almost ANY time you come in to a Swedish person's house, you take your shoes off. I had my first Swedish doctor appointment yesterday, and I even took my shoes off to sit in the waiting room. I guess that practice comes from snowy winters, where you have to take your big, dirty boots off before coming into a place.

Anyway, we'll post pictures soon. I have been too busy to hang up all my clothes in my new closets, so the place is a mess!

13 September, 2009

Its international

Even in Europe, I am a football widow. Stu found some site to stream NFL games, and he whooping it up in the den over the Eagles. Literally, whooping. It up.

Blocket and shopping

I am a fan!

Of course, I was/am a big fan of Craigslist, and Blocket is essentially the Swedish equivalent (without the scuzzy personal ads and job listings.) Despite that it is notoriously flakey, I have bought a ton of furniture and odds 'n ends through Craigslist in DC, collected random crap for our wedding, found my apartment, listed the condo for sale. When moving to Sweden, we sold a third of our furniture and posted an announcement for a yard sale through CL. Soooooo glad Sweden has something similar!

We made our first purchase through Blocket yesterday. We bought a microwave (Swedish word of the day: microvågsugn.)
It was super easy, and from a nice Swedish dad-type in our neighborhood, who coincidentally, and oddly, has two daughters going to college in the US on golf scholarships (in Oklahoma & Louisiana, even more odd.)

When I mentioned it was on our list of things-to-buy to some of the int'l kids in Stu's program, we got pegged as typical Americans, unable to live without our beloved microwave. Why give us a hard time for something that makes our lives easier? First use: I melted butter in it yesterday for the pancakes we ate for dinner. Call me nuts, but I'm just excited for microwave popcorn, the ability to heat up leftovers, and to make a cup of tea without having to futz with the gas stove.

(FYI, we have a gas stove/oven. I have never, ever had a gas stove, always electric, so it may be basic for some, but learning to turn on the burners has been a small challenge for me.)

And it was cheap! Nearly brand new and quite nice, for 350:-. That's less than 50 bucks. It fits really nicely in our kitchen:

So shopping. I am embarrassed to admit this, but Stu & I spent 6.5 hours in Ikea this week (SIX and a HALF!) working on outfitting our new place a little better. A large chunk of that was custom-designing a set of PAX armoirs for me, with the color, size, drawers, rods and shoe racks I want/need.
And we picked a couch! Not one that I loved, but one that was 1) a decent price, and on sale! 2) long enough for us both to cuddle up to some TV on and 3) a bäddsoffa, so we could have guests. The only reason they didn't come home with us Friday was because Ikea closes at 8pm (!) in Sweden, and we didn't have enough time to check out and arrange for delivery. Because, like I said, we spent almost 7 hours there (with fika and dinner thrown in.) So I hopped online to order the same items for delivery. But they were more expensive. I guess the sale price was in-store only. Then I did the mental exchange rate math, and got freaked out by the prices. Its cheap, but I want it cheaper. Hence Blocket.

So next on the Blocket purchase list: a couch (pull-out for all you people who SAY you are going to visit us) and some armoir-type thing. Because the reason I spent so much time custom designing the wardrobes is because we have a coat closet & a linen closet, and that is it (Stu's mom warned us, having lived in Germany, we'd be lucky to have a closet at all!) My clothes are crumpled in bags on the floor of our bedroom.
We are going to see 2 couches and a set of wardrobes today, in fact, in an hour. I'll post our thoughts later. But E should appreciate that one couch is red. Stu is very excited.

10 September, 2009

If you were thinking of getting a free Swedish master's degree...

...better apply for 2010!
(oh yeah, we have internet again.)

Stu & I are both pursuing degrees that are tuition-free, thanks to the Swedish citizens that pay their taxes! And we get free health care, did I mention that before? (Quick deviation: We JUST YouTubed Obama's Joint Session address from yesterday, and are applauding his ideas. We have experienced first-hand how life-bettering social programs in Sweden are far more advanced than the American gov't has. Hopefully, the US can get something worked out soon! )

Anyway, we both get excellent educations for no tuition in Sweden. But the Svenska Dagbladet reported (here's the link in English) today that as of 2011, foreign students (like us) will have to pay tuition to Swedish higher-education institutions. Like, 10,000 USD a year tuition. Which is still a bargain, actually. But a big leap! We have loved living here so far, but the free tuition was one of the biggest draws to moving (Stu was looking at 38,000 a year at Catholic University in DC.)

If you were mulling over applying to Stockholm, or Mälmo, or Uppsala, or Lund, do it now! Its like a going-out-of-business sale on free education: www.studyinsweden.se

06 September, 2009

Still no internets

yeah, Comhem is inept and 'forgot' to send us our modem for the internet service they are providing. They sent us a digital TV converter box, but no modem (we don't even own a TV). I'd say they are the Swedish version Comcast, and I'm not looking forward to the year contract we're roped into.

So no posts. Its been a busy week, and I've been sick, so there may not have been any posts anyway. But soon!

02 September, 2009

Just a Random Update

I've nothing profound to write tonight.

But it's been a while since I've posted, no Anne hasn't stuffed me in a freezer... Or maybe she has and is blogging as me for an alibi!

No, that would be far more interesting. Instead, I'm just saying hi. And that I'm loving school. And am really busy. And don't have internet at our new place, so I'm confined to hello's from the wireless at school until hopefully, tomorrow. No promises after that.

I ran. By which, yes you can infer that we successfully received our shipment yesterday. I wanted to take a picture, but it looked the same as when it got on the boat. Same palette, etc, only difference being the space under it was a Swedish sidewalk. And yes, the driver took the palette out of the truck, placed it there, and more or less said sign here, thank you. The rest was for us, but busting open the shrink wrap and shuttling into the hall... Thank God for an elevator. We managed. In half an hour or so.

And then made pledges that we'd take it easy on my back after the exercise. But I couldn't help myself, it's unpacked and hanging/folded. And thus, I found my running shoes (it's always the last place you look...) and went for a jog. Not like me, I know, but I somehow volunteered for a 6km relay. That means six of us run 1km each, so don't get excited, but it's more than my usual. Now I feel sore, and old.

Oh, and my "brilliant" vacuum bags? Didn't do anything for the wrinkles. SO everything I can put on a hanger is hanging. We'll see. Especially the suits, and kilt, got me a little worried, but it has been two months. Nice to see our stuff again. Some of it, why do we have so much??