Friday, March 17, 2017

Great news on fiber broadband!

I received great news from Nilla at the Nämdö Fiber association last week. The news recently hasn't been great. My last post of many on the subject was not hopeful for the association's efforts to get further grant money.

However, Nilla's news was excellent. Thanks to everyone's diligent work, our association has received a 57.5 million kronor grant to wire up the remainder of our archipelago by 2020.

Looking back at my posts, there have been many ups and downs over the years. There's no question, though, that this news is a 'up'. I'm very thankful for the Nämdö Fiber association's work on our behalf. 

Who knows? Perhaps we'll have broadband in time for us to retire out to our little hus...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Robin Bengtsson is the winner!

The Melfest 2017 was a darned good show, in my humble opinion. The hosts did a great job, keeping the show moving, and hosting funny parodies and skits.

Our winner was Robin Bengtsson, the man who beat Loreen head-to-head last week, with "I Can't Go On":


Interestingly, he was not in the top two of the viewers' votes. The popular winner was Nano with "Hold On". However, the international jury counts for half of the total vote, and the experts pushed Robin to the top. I can see why they did that; Robin's is a more classical Eurovision song.

Frankly, I could have seen most of the songs being potential winners. Wiktoria was the bookies' favourite, but she faded on the day. I'm sure we will hear Ace Wilder and FO&O on the radio all summer, too.

Next stop: Kiev!!!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

February's weather


It was a mild and dry month. High temperatures were above freezing from the middle of the month, and we had only a few days of sprinkles. Even the wind was consistently calm.

The length of the day increases slowly in February, from just over 8 hours on the first, to 10 ½ hours yesterday. There's a strong link between sunshine and warmer weather!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Melfest recap

Last night was the end of the semifinals in Skellefteå. There was a bit of a bombshell in that Loreen, a previous Eurovision winner, only made it to the "second chance" round.

Wiktoria, whose entry had an elaborate light show last year, went very simple this time, and made it to the final easily:


I think Loreen's performance was a touch too art-school symbolic for the Mello crowd, although I have to give her credit for doing something differently:


The second-chance show is next week, and the grand final is in Stockholm on March 11. Can't wait!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A new chair

Sooz has always wanted another chair for the house. When we have guests and it's not nice enough to sit on the deck, everyone tends to pile onto our couch.

She wanted to have a simple but nice chair we could easily move around as needed. The problem is the chairs we saw were too large or heavy to be as mobile as we wanted, and lighter chairs were not nice enough.

We had a brainwave recently, however. Our breakfast table here in London has Eames armchairs, which are very light and comfortable. Sooz thought we could get an Eames rocker which we could move around the house with ease.

I liked the idea, too. One problem is that the chair is a single piece of plastic, not like an IKEA flat-pack. The box would be too large to easily transport on our usual plane-bus-boat journey. It would have to be delivered to Aspö, or at least to the harbour at Stavsnäs.

I did a bit of googling to find a Swedish vendor of the Eames rockers, and found a few. Sooz has accepted the assignment of buying one and having it delivered to Aspö during our next visit. I will report on her progress.

UPDATE March 10: Sooz has placed the order, and the chair should be delivered to Aspö the week we're there.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Big Mac Index

It's been a few years since I posted about the Economist's Big Mac Index. I think it's time for a revisit.

To recap, the Economist started the index as a way to measure global currencies against the dollar. McDonald's is very good at making their Big Mac exactly the same everywhere. In a perfect world, the currency-adjusted cost of a Big Mac in each country would also be the same as the cost in the US.

Any disparity over or below the US cost would expose that currency as overvalued or undervalued against the dollar. Over the years, the index has become more sophisticated. Their most recent index is a lovely interactive website that allows looking at all sorts of data in a range of countries.

The currency we're most interested in is the kronor, of course. It has been consistently overvalued against the dollar; in fact, the Swedish currency has been consistently overvalued for more than a decade, along with the Norwegian kronor and Swiss franc.

The good news is that lately, the kronor has been much closer to its "true" value. The Economist calculates that the kronor should be about 9.5 to a US dollar. Lately it's been about 9.2. This is as close as its gotten to parity in almost 15 years. Now if we could do something about the Pound Sterling!


Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Melodifestival, Parts 1 and 2

We watched the initial show from Göteborg last weekend in Minnesota. My sister Kelly had her first experience with the madness that is "Mello". Ace Wilder was back again, and she made it to the final, along with new artist Nano. Kelly's favourite act was by Road Trip. It's a perfectly wacky Melodifestival song:



Tonight's show from Malmö provided pretty slim pickings. The two winners, boy-bandy Benjamin Ingrosso and dreadlocked Mariette, were far ahead of the rest of the pack. (Although Lisa Ajax's song "I Don't Give A" has a controversy over the word that you can probably have guessed that came next in the lyrics.)

I've also found SVT's Melodifestival page in English. I'm of two minds about that. It is much easier for me to get Melfest gossip, but I rather liked having to work for it!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

January's weather

Here's the January recap. It was a darned mild and dry month. There were a few days early in the new year below freezing, but the rest of the month was well above zero.

There were a few days of rain around the 10th, but that was essentially it.

I don't mind the warmer temperatures; it is good for the wildlife, although the lack of snow is another worrying reminder of climate change. It's the lack of rain that is a problem, given that all Aspö residents are reliant on their well water!

Friday, February 3, 2017

RIP Buddy

Ironically, I'm not far from Clear Lake, Iowa,  tonight. It's my mom's birthday and we're in Minneapolis to celebrate. It is darned cold. I wouldn't blame Buddy Holly at all for wanting to avoid a long bus ride on a night like this.

Today's picture is from his last concert at the Surf Ballroom. There aren't many images from that show 58 years ago.

I recently found a website collecting all of the songs found on Buddy's tape recorder after his death. In some of the recordings, the sounds of apartment life are heard in the background, which make them both charming and heartbreaking.

Today's selection is from those recordings: Buddy's beautiful version of Dearest.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Time to turn to Eurovision

The holidays are over, and we've just about made it through January. Now is the time for my thoughts  to turn towards the Eurovision song contest.

The BBC held their song selection contest last night. It was nothing like the six-week, 60 song extravaganza held by the Swedes, although it was much more than the past few desultory shows held by the UK.

As usual, the contestants are drawn from the various TV singing contests, so at least the six performers could sing...most of them, that is.


The winner was Lucie Jones, with "Never Give Up on You." It's not that bad a song, and the early selection show gives her a few months to polish her performance. 

Ballads have a mixed record of success in the contest, but as we all know, anything can be a winning song on the night!

Next weekend is the start of the Melodifestival and I can't wait! Stay tuned for weekly updates.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Sweden's population: now 10 million

Today marks a significant milestone for the country of Sweden. The official statistics website, scb.se, announced this morning that its population clock has crossed the 10 million mark.

It's happened much sooner than originally thought. As recently as 2010, this mark wasn't due to be hit until 2021. Now, it looks like the 11 million mark might be hit by then!

About three-quarters of this rapid increase is due to immigration, with the remainder due to Sweden's high birth rate. Nordic Business has a good article (if slightly dated) about Sweden's huge population growth.

Perhaps one day, Sooz and I will add a couple of digits to that number!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Stair safety

I don't have too many projects to work on out at the house any more! I've been ticking them off one by one over the years.

One thing that I've been thinking about recently is the stairs out to our deck. Janne built me broad stairs all those years ago. But over time, the wood has become weathered and grey. This reduces the visibility of each step.

The stairs look wonderfully silvery in this photo, but they are hard to tell apart, especially in flat light. Wearing bifocals (as Sooz and I do these days) also add to the problem of depth perception.

The easiest solution is to add some tread tape to the edge of the stairs. That would provide both visual and tactile feedback about the edge of each step.

Even my ridiculously simple drawing of three black lines on the second photo shows how much more contrast is visible on those stairs.


There is a lot of science behind stair safety. It is clear that being able to clearly see and feel the edge of each step is helpful in reducing slips and falls.

I am going to try out tread tape this spring when we're out to the house next. I think I can do it in a way that looks decent. My main concern is such tape surviving the winter weather, but we'll have to experiment with that. I will report back more fully in a few months.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Gott Nytt År, allihopa!

Happy New Year to everyone. Here's to a better 2017!

Let's start the year with my monthly weather update. Not too much to report except a good period of rain just after Christmas. We certainly can use as much as rain as we can get!

The fun thing to see is the impact of my visit on December 19th. The indoor temperature, carbon dioxide, and especially the noise levels, all can be seen to jump on that day.

It will be interesting to fire up the luftpump remotely to warm up the house and monitor its progress.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

God Jul!

I've posted previously about the tradition of Donald Duck's hold over Christmas Eve in Sweden.

The show is on in a few minutes. We're in London, so we will be watching over the Internet. I'm sure Rutger, along with a big chunk of the country, will be watching live.

Merry Christmas and God Jul everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Success!

I'm writing this from the temporary Saluhall in Östermalm this festive Monday evening. It's been a busy and successful 24 hours!

Yesterday's trip went like clockwork. Despite threatened train strikes and forecasted fog, I arrived to Stockholm on time, and my bus- train- boat journey out to the stuga went without a hitch.

It was just becoming dark as I disembarked the Waxholms boat yesterday, but I had my flashlight so the walk home was uneventful (if a little creepy).

The house was darned cold when I arrived, just a bit over freezing. I fired up all of the radiators but it took a few hours until I was warm enough without my coat. By bedtime, the bedroom was nice and cozy.

This morning, I met Andreas from Varmt och Skönt who had our luftpump, along with a load of extra parts and tools. It took two trips to get it all up from the dock.

Andreas went to work immediately. He was clearly someone who had done this a few times before! I tried to help, but frankly, my biggest job was to stay out of his way. When everything was done, I was amazed at how quiet the unit was—and how much heat it put out. The best part was the wifi connectivity, which allows me to run the unit from my iPhone anywhere in the world. I'll never again arrive to a freezing house.

Now I'm back in Stockholm, enjoying a little bit of festive time before I fly home later tonight. Thanks to the great wi-fi at the food hall, I'm able to upload all of my photos to a new album. Enjoy!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Installing a Värmepump

I've posted a few times in the past about installing a heat pump in our stuga. A värmepump would allow me to heat the house much more efficiently. It would also allow a bit of cooling in a pinch, as well.

Installing one has always been on my list of "one of those days" projects. The problem for me was the installation, as it has to be done by a professional, and delivery on an island makes the project quite expensive.

Olle sent me a message about a promotion run by our electric company, Vattenfall, a few weeks ago. They were offering a subsidized price on värmepumps, along with installation, an internet remote control, a 2 year warranty, and a discount on power charges as well. A great deal.

I got in touch and things moved rapidly. The company were very professional and not fazed at all about an island installation. (Nor were they troubled in speaking to me in English.) The upshot is that we will install my new Värmepump next Monday the 19th!

I am going to take a quick trip over to assist with the installation, arriving on Aspö late Sunday afternoon. I'll bivouac in the house overnight and meet the installation crew Monday morning. They tell me it should take 4-5 hours to get the job done. We'll all take a taxi boat back in the afternoon and I'll be home in London Monday night.

The big advantage of installing it now is that our ability to visit the stuga over the next few months is greatly increased. If we want to do a long weekend, I can dial up the heat so we arrive to a nice toasty house, and start enjoying right away!

I will of course, be updating on the whole process, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Solid Wool

Sooz and I visited a market in Hackney recently and saw a fascinating chair made out wool, believe it or not.

We spoke to the designer, Justin Floyd, who told us his chair were made of local wool which had very little in and of itself. He's developed a way to mix the wool with resin and come up with a totally new material, which he's dubbed "Solid Wool".

It's similar to fibreglass but perceptibly different. The woolliness comes through, making the chair look and feel warmer.

Sooz and I liked the idea and the chair itself. Long-time readers may recall I looked into Welsh wool as insulation for our house when it was being built. We're not huge fans of our simple IKEA chairs. A couple of these would add a lot of comfort and warmth to our breakfast table.

I'm not too keen on the dark colour though; I'd much prefer white. Good news there, though: Justin is prototyping a model with lighter wool and should have one in January. I will stay in touch with his company and see how it turns out. It would be fun to have a bit of Devon in out little stuga!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

November's Weather

Attached is November's weather summary. There was a good amount of snow and rain in the beginning of the month, totalling 2.3 inches (or 5.8cm). I'm all for winter precipitation!

The temperature dropped in the middle of the month, although there were not too many days below freezing.

We did see some significant wind gusts, however! Peaks of 30mph are pretty area in our inland position. I would imagine the shoreline had it far worse.

It's great fun to look at my weather station on my phone. It keeps me connected to my little stuga when I'm not there!


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thanksgiving

It's time for my traditional Thanksgiving address. Our holiday was a bit unusual this year; we were gifted theatre tickets for Thanksgiving night, so we moved our dinner to the Wednesday. We were joined by Tim's girlfriend, Ashleigh, who was staying with us while she attended courses in London. Sooz made a lovely artisanal chicken along with all the trimmings. Grant had his own holiday with friends in Boston; apparently he was in charge of the bird itself. He certainly doesn't get any of those cooking skills from me!

And as is traditional, we celebrate the anniversary of Ollie's back surgery, which was 8 Thanksgivings ago. I'll say the same thing as I do every year: he's getting a bit older and slower, but he's still a happy and charming dog whom we all love very much.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Pensionsmyndigheten

When we lived in Sweden those many years ago, Sooz worked for almost two years for a Swedish company.

We were struck recently that she may be eligible for a state pension because of her contributions during her employment.

It took some doing to figure everything out. As a non-resident, we had to file a request through the UK to apply to Sweden on our behalf.

After a bit of back and forth, we received word from the pensionsmyndigheten that Sooz was indeed eligible for part of the state pension payments. Effective today, she will receive a monthly payment.

It's not much, perhaps a bit of a subsidy for box wines, but it is something towards our Swedish retirement!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Snow!


November 7

November 8

November 9

November 10
November 12




















There was a record-breaking snowfall in Stockholm this week, 39 centimeters (15 inches) to be exact.  There's more snow in the capital today than there is in Lapland!

Both Marcia and Olle reported terrible conditions on the roads. This is far earlier than usual for the Stockholm area.

I took a few webcam snapshots over the past few days. Aspö is beautiful in the snow.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Learning Swedish

Sooz is continuing her language studies at the University of Westminster. She is well into the intermediate courses and has been a diligent student.

Unlike all of her classmates, she doesn't have a Swedish partner (at least not yet!). Her opportunities to practice her Swedish at home are therefore limited.

We have a Sonos speaker in the kitchen these days and have programmed Swedish radio for listening practice. Sooz also gets Swedish news alerts on her iPad.

I found recently that Swedish state radio operates a service for beginning Swedish speakers. A website and daily podcast is in simpler Swedish, and it also focuses on topics of interest to new Swedes.

Sooz gives it a listen from time to time and it is very well done. If you're learning or practicing your Swedish, it is an excellent resource.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

October weather

Here's the Aspö end of month  weather review.

The downward temperature trend shouldn't be surprising given the shortening days.

There was quite a bit of rain at the end of the month. Given that our water comes from our well, I'm a big supporter of winter rains!

It was also quite windy. Our house is pretty well sheltered, so to see a 18mph gust means it was damned windy at the shore.

Remember real-time info of the conditions at the stuga can be found on the Mapatmo weather map.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A 3D printed house?


The New York Times ran an article recently about technology that can 'print' a building, eventually without human intervention.

Buildings made in a simple and modular way should be able to increase the options for affordable housing in many parts of the world. In addition, homes that could be easily taken apart and reassembled elsewhere would be very useful in dealing with climate and demographic changes.

The video above is another type of a 'printed' house, this time in China. They aren't very pretty, but they are simple and cheap to build, although the use of concrete is problematic for the global environment.

Many new technologies and methods are being tested in the coming years. It will be interesting to see which of them take hold!