Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The walkway

It's been an interesting week in the world of island construction. I posted a request for quotes on the website and three replies came in.

I'd rate them on a Goldilocks scale- one was from a big company replying with a form letter, another was a small firm, and the last seemed to be an individual. (The Swedish word for carpenter is snickare and companies who do wood-working and joinery are snickeri.)

The website listed decent references for all three, but I would have rather gone with someone recommended by Janne or Wille. However, they couldn't find anyone able to build before we're there in June. I can understand why; everyone wants to go out to their finished homes for midsummer. The weather really isn't reliable until perhaps mid-April (there's still a lot of snow on Aspö as of this writing). That leaves, at best, an eight-week window of building opportunity. Naturally, builders are in great demand during that time. I had hoped that planning the work last year with Jesper would have made sure I was scheduled, but things didn't work out for various reasons.

Rather than trying to get the walkway done with someone over the internet (and
in Swedish), I've decided to wait and have it built later in the summer. The pool of available snickare will be a lot larger, and I should be able to talk in more detail with Janne about just what I should be asking for. All I have now is my little sketch which, for all I know, may be wholly inadequate. And who knows, maybe I'll do some of the work myself!!

I'm disappointed it won't be done for our summer holiday, but keeping the big picture in mind, it will be best to have it designed properly and built to last many years.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Denmark Continued

Let's leave Denmark's shameful '80s behind and take a look at this year's entry. It's a good one, too: a duet with Christina Chanée and Tomas N'evergreen. The song and performances are good, and I like the simple staging. Although a Dane from Ålborg, Tomas lives in Russia and is a big star there. That may well help in the voting. He also has a couple of months to sort out his hair.

Another performance of the song can be seen on Danish breakfast TV. This one could be a winner.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Eurovision #2: Denmark

Actually I fudge a little bit. This is Bamses Venner (The Teddy Bear's Friends) from 30 years ago. No points for guessing who's the teddy bear in the band.

Where to start? The song itself is OK; one of those cheerful ditties the Danes specialise in. But... The hair? The beard? The skinny guy playing the tambourine? The overalls? Wow.

Amazingly enough, the lead singer's still alive, and the band is still big in Denmark. If you don't believe me, here's their website.

PS. In the interests of full disclosure, no matter how embarrassing this post now makes such a disclosure, I should point out that my heritage is partly Danish.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The walkway

I have posted in the past about having a path or deck between the two houses. Jesper and I talked last fall (when he did the roof) about his coming back this spring to build it.

I sent him a detailed sketch and he gave me a list of materials for me to order and carry up this April, just like I did last fall for the roof work.

However, I talked to Jesper today and he's not able to do the work for me, at least not before midsummer as I had planned. His business has lost a few workers and has gained a lot of new work, and he's not able to fit us in quickly enough. That is a real bummer, as now I have to try to find someone new who could build for me in the pre-midsummer building peak.

I've spoken to Janne and Wille today and both of them are going to ask around on my behalf to see if they can find anyone able to do this for me at a decent price.

Jesper told me about a website,, (literally, "good builders") which is a kind of construction auction site. Homeowners like me post about the kind of work needed, with time and cost criteria, and builders return with a quote. It's free, and it looks like it has a lot of traffic, so Sooz helped me with my Swedish and I put up a request for someone to come to Aspö and build my deck.

I'd much rather do business with a person Janne or Wille recommends, but this might be a fun experience. I'll be sure to post about any replies I receive.

Stavsnäs Weather

I found a fantastic weather page on the SMHI (Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute) website.

It gives a great deal of weather information for Stavsnäs, specifically temperature, winds, and precipitation, in an interactive format. You can look at tomorrow's weather hour by hour, or look forward 10 days.

The weather in Stavsnäs is pretty close to what we expect in Aspö, but not perfect. I remember when we were assembling the house in August 2008. We had sunshine overhead every day but a line of clouds over the mainland, which never made it to us.

It's also possible to see the Sandhamn forecast to get more of an island flavor, but it appears to be pretty similar to Stavsnäs, at least over the past week.

Either way, this is pretty cool, and I will probably spend a lot of time looking at the weather, wishing I was there.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Eurovision entries #1: Iceland

Since it's still 10 weeks until the big show in Oslo, I thought I'd pass the time sharing clips of some of the Eurovision contenders. First up is Iceland, who scored very well last year with Yohanna's "Is It True?"

However, the Icelandic jury has gone back to old-school Eurodisco for this year. Hera Björk (no relation) has the pipes for a dance anthem, but perhaps doesn't fit the image one might have of Iceland's people.

Although Iceland could sure do with some good news in these times, I'm afraid the huslangford jury has to award nil points.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Our next trip over

I had posted earlier about Ollie's dogsitter, Ethie, being unable to watch him during our planned Easter trip to Sweden.

We've decided to change our trip. Instead of the whole family traveling at Easter, Sooz and I will make a 5-day trip April 28. Grant will stay behind with Ollie. Doing this solves a number of other travel issues that cropped up since we bought the Eastertime tickets in November. And Janne believes we may still have snow, or at best deep muck, early in April this year, so later is probably better. But it does cut back on the time we get to spend with the Wilhelmis, which is a disappointment.

We have also firmed up our summer plans; we will be on Aspö June 16-July 4. Ethie should be able to have Ollie by then, and if not, I'll smuggle him into my hand baggage on SAS, dammit.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Final news bulletin on Ollie, promise

His doctor called late yesterday as we were going into London. He had sent Ollie's test results to a specialist in Washington state, who called back with the diagnosis that Ollie had had a couple of minor strokes.

It's not as bad as it sounds. Small strokes can be caused by many reasons, most of them transient, and his behaviour hasn't changed at all, so it doesn't appear they've caused any damage. We'll start him on medication to help prevent any recurrences.

In the scheme of things, this is a better result than a spinal blow-out or epilepsy. He's also fully back to his previous self. (I just now took the attached photo). I think the spinal tap took more out of him than we thought.

As I posted before, Sooz and I are going to try to relax now. Ollie's had better health care than 99% of the people on this planet and we've done all we can for him. He's still the dog we love so much, only a bit slower. We're happy to live with that.

UPDATE: Two things. First, I should have mentioned that dog's brains can rewire themselves much more efficiently than human's after a stroke. And, a Cardigan Corgi won best in group for the first time ever at Crufts, which is the biggest dog show in the world. This is a great achievement for Ollie's breed!

The morning after

Here's your winner, 19 year-old Anna Bergendahl. I'll admit I didn't see that one coming. It was a ballad sung solo, in the manner of Taylor Swift, perhaps, or last year's star teenager, Iceland's Yohanna, who finished second with a similar song.

It was a great show, fast paced, lots of fun. Dolph was in good form; he and his co-hosts started by singing "Eye of the Tiger", and every contestant was introduced boxing-style. Watch that clip here. (Sly Stallone's message to Dolph is on that page, too.)

The voting was 20% through an international jury (Darin won there), 20% Swedish regions (won by my act, Timoteij), but the phone/text vote was overwhelmingly for Anna's ballad. I think it'll do well, but not sure if it can win in Oslo.

The evening was fun. We were in the VIP area upstairs, with a nice couch and a good view. But the atmosphere downstairs was far more rollicking. I don't know which I prefer. It was fun live texting with Marcia and Rutger's family back in Stockholm. His sister, Ingrid, scored a trifecta and picked the winning three in order. I'm jealous.

P.S. I saw the UK's song entry. All I can say is: "meh."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Only to be found in the men's room of a Swedish pub!

We're halfway

Performances are over. Now the voting. Lots of snarky comments on the Twitter feed!

The Melodifestival final!

We'll be returning tonight to The Harcourt Arms, the Swedish pub in London which hosts a huge melodifestival party.

Last year, Sooz had to blag our way in, but this time, I bought VIP tickets in advance. I plan to use twitter this year rather than mini-blog posts. You can access my account here, and there's always a link on the right.

Remember, my pick of the lot is Timoteij, although I have a bad feeling about Erik Saade and "Manboy".

Stay tuned for twitter updates around 6PM London time. I can't wait!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

KXLY 4 News: Roof collapses

Here's a clip from the local TV in Spokane, Washington. It's a great example of small-market news, good but not quite as polished as the networks. But the point is a good one. Snow accumulation, especially as it becomes wet (with rain in the case of Spokane), can be dangerously heavy.

Fortunately things seem to be OK on Aspö. I chatted with Margaret and she said Janne and their son Callan went out this weekend to dig out their house. All was well, but the snow was up to the windows, and it took many hours to clear off the deck and steps. Then to make matters worse, Janne's car was under three months of snow at Stavsnäs. She said her men came home tired and sweaty that night!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Quick update x2 on Ollie

A few people have asked today how he's doing, and the answer is he's just fine. He slept off the anesthetic yesterday (pictured) and today he's quite bright. We had a strong 40 minute walk in the spring sunshine.

We'll know more later in the week after his test results. I'm feeling pretty upbeat; at least Ollie's back is no worse, which was worrying me a lot.

UPDATE: The vet called Tuesday afternoon with good news that nothing was found from his spinal tap or blood tests, so major problems are ruled out. He's going to have one more simple blood test from his neighborhood vet for a potential vascular issue but Sooz and I have decided to chill out. We've done everything we can for him, and Ollie is still a happy dog. He's slower than he used to be, but Lord knows that's true of us as well.

The Melodifestival final 10 are set!

Last night was the second chance show in Örebro. Two acts from each of the previous four shows got to compete one more time for a chance to make it to the final in Stockholm next week.

The winners were Jessica Anderson and Pernilla Wahlgren; two more Swedish-sounding names I couldn't imagine! Both had ballads, nothing memorable.

There's a list of all the finalists with links to videos on the SVT website. The best of the bunch, in my opinion at least, is Timoteij, four women I'd describe as "Dixie Chicks meets the Hootenanny Singers". The main drawback of their performance is that it's in Swedish, and since the rules were changed to allow singing in non-native languages, very few acts have succeeded without English. Anyways, take a look and see what you think:

I'm traveling next week so you may be spared my further analysis of the other acts. However, I'm excited to report that Sooz and I will again be at the Harcourt Arms Saturday night, watching the final live! I think I'll use twitter for updates this time; my link's on the right of the blog.

Friday, March 5, 2010

An Update on Ollie

My boy has spent the day at the doctor's today. He had an MRI and a spinal tap.

Ollie had a strange episode in January, something like a seizure. It passed quickly and he was none the worse for wear. I thought it was related to his spinal condition; he had a check-up a few days after, with no problems seen.

But he had a second episode this Wednesday. So he went for today's tests. The good news is the MRI did not show any new problems with his back; this is a huge relief for me as I've been obsessing over that. However, the MRI showed a couple of tiny spots on his brain which might correspond with the seizures. So he had some spinal fluid taken to check for other potential issues. His doctor is puzzled but doesn't seem overly worried yet; we'll know more when the tests come back from the lab. He's home now with a big shaved spot on his neck and a bit of a dazed look from the anesthetic. We'll know more about his diagnosis later next week.

For now, we'll just give him lots of love and attention, which is something at which we have a lot of practice.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A new photo is in!

Ronnie, bless him, is back on Aspö today and trekked right over to our house. He sent Sooz this photo via Facebook, and reported there's thankfully very little snow on our roof. We talked to Wille and canceled the snow removal visit he had planned.

Margaret and Janne are supposed to be returning from Florida today (unless they've been watching the weather forecasts and exchanged their Swedish residency for Floridian permanently...)

Even though Ronnie said I'd have to use skis to make it to my front door, I wish I was there today!!!