Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Catching up

The weather has been cooperating nicely, and we've been having a great time. Dinner with Ann & Dave & Robbie & Mary was great fun, although it was cut a little short with a lightning and thunder display. The next day, Sooz joined the island's morning exercise class, and I set to work on the deck lights.

I'm happy to report that I completed these successfully with no major drama, other then the 9 ticks Sooz had to pluck off me after all my time crawling under the house. They look great, if I say so myself. Olle and Annika joined us for dinner and we sat into the dusk looking for moose, although we did get a glimpse of a deer, and even a cute little yellow-striped finch. Photos of all (except the finch and the ticks) are posted.

Today's another beautiful day, Sooz is recovering nicely from her aerobics, and I think I might put the tarpaper on the shed. Or I might take a nap. We'll have to see....

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sleepy Sunday morning

...because of a late Saturday night! Yesterday was Aspö Day, down at the midsommar meadow. The students in the sailing school finished and the students held a graduation race. In the evening, a few hardy souls returned for a bit of dancing, and the party moved over to Olle and Annika's house into the wee hours. Photos of the evening are available.

The weather's been great so far. Tonight Ann & Dave are over for dinner; we're looking forward to a nice evening grilling on the deck.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I'm here!

I experienced a marvel of intermodal transportation yesterday. Plane to plane to bus to train to bus to taxi boat with nary a hitch or literally a wasted minute. Heathrow was well-staffed and efficient, everything was on time, and I was with my sweetie on the deck at about 5:30 on a perfectly clear evening.

It's sunny today, so I'll get to work and start posting a few photos later!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sooz's Photos

...she has been enjoying the cool weather, watching Swedish costume dramas on TV, and generally hanging out.  I received a few photos, with which I have started a Summer 2012 photoset.

I'll be leaving to join her in 48 hours and I can't wait!!!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A dispatch from Sooz

She slept in until 11 and had a nice, quiet day. The mosquitos are bad, it's nice and cool (especially in contrast to Texas), and the berries are out in full force: She sent me this photo of the harvest from her evening walk.
We normally aren't at the house in late July, so it looks like the fresh fruit will be a bonus for our morning filmjölk!

Friday, July 20, 2012

A new welcome into Stockholm

Sooz should be landing into Arlanda just about now. But she won't be welcomed by ABBA into the country this time, I'm sorry to say. Agnetha, Benny, Björn, and Anni-Frid have been replaced by this year's Eurovision winner, Loreen.

How could this be, you might ask?? Has Sweden thrown away its cultural heritage in favor of a fad? Outrage!!

The truth is more complex. Benny Andersson has been strongly opposed to the planned reconstruction of Slussen, the area just south of Gamla Stan. From my perspective, I can understand why the area needs to be reconstructed. That's where we catch our bus to Stavsnäs, and it is not the prettiest or most efficient part of the city, to put it mildly. I also ran through part of the traffic interchange (twice!) during my recent marathon, and, afforded the opportunity to see the area when on foot, the condition of the concrete did not look good to my untrained eye.

There's a great deal of controversy about redeveloping the area, with Benny as a strong opponent of Norman Foster's plans. From what I can tell, there are two main objections. First, is the disruption caused by nearly 7 years of work in an already congested space. Second is the historical aspect. Ugly or not, Slussen was an engineering marvel 80 years ago and it is a big part of modern Stockholm.

Now what does this all have to do with ABBA's welcome at Arlanda? Well, Benny said that he'd withdraw his permission for the photo to be used should the redevelopment be approved.

In a narrow vote, project was approved, so the photo comes down and Loreen goes up in its place. I hope there will be room for both artists again soon. More practically, I hope our journeys to Aspö won't be too disrupted in the coming years!

UPDATE: Sooz texted me that she arrived safely, and a bit early, into Arlanda. She met Erik, and old friend from 20 years ago, who was a youngster when we knew him, and is now a pilot for Cathay Pacific! They're taking the train into town now and I'll provide any updates she sends me.

UPDATE 2: She did her grocery shopping at the Coop in Slussen and caught the earlier bus to Stavsnäs, so she could catch the earlier Waxholms boat. While she was en route, I got messages from Ann and Margaret to send her up to Ann and Dave's for dinner. I video-chatted with her a few minutes ago (about 16:30 Central time) and she had a great evening. Everything worked out perfect, although she was darned tired!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I've a posted lot in the in the past about the black splotchyness on the front of our house.

This has proven to be a fairly intractable problem. At first, I thought it was mold. Rutger and I applied a mold solution a while ago but that didn't seem to make a difference. There hasn't been any change over the past year and a half as far as my photographs can tell.

It doesn't seem to be a problem with the jarn vitrol, either; the other two exposures, and the small house all look just the way we had hoped. It has to be something with the interaction of sun and wind and rain on the exposed front of the house.

Our plan from last fall was to ask Christer, the archipelago's paint expert, to paint the front exposure in a color that matched the rest of the house. He visited, and we even picked out the paint type and color.

However, Christer investigated and became worried about painting over the jarn vitrol. Rutger and I also spoke to some painting specialists and they both told us the same thing; that painting over the darned jarn was not going to be successful. Our two options were to wait a few more seasons to let the wood weather it away, or to sand-blast to remove the wood's top layer.

Needless to say, we're going to wait. The condition of our house's wood is fine, and we can watch the spots to see if they grow, which would indicate mold again.

The main reason we chose the natural silvering of the jarn vitrol was that we wanted our house to fit into the landscape. We perched our house on top of a rock: we're not big on cutting down trees or landscaping. Sooz and I like the idea of our house turning grey and fitting in. We've got a bit more fitting in than we bargained for, but that's something we're going to live with.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cable Lights

I installed cable lights over the kitchen counters when I was last at the house. My plan was to provide more focused lighting for the stove, sink, and workspaces, but to do it in the least obstructive way possible. I hit upon the idea of cable lights and I had a 50-50 experience with them.

The good news is that the kit installed very easily and looks just as thin and simple as I had hoped. It also works perfectly. The bad news is that I chose poorly on the lamps themselves. I needed to have a spotlight fixture, and instead the lamps I bought have glass shades and send light all over, with very little of it to the countertops themselves.

It looks like I can rectify my mistake fairly early, however. First I need new light fixtures that can hold spotlight bulbs. These are pretty cheap, so I bought a few different kinds, from providers in the US and UK.

Next are the bulbs themselves. I found these bulbs come in many types, with beams of various angles. They normally cast a beam of around 40 degrees, but they can be had with an angle as narrow as 12°.

I found a website that allows calculation of the size of a light's coverage area, given the bulb's angle and distance. Fortunately, since these bulbs work on 12 volts, I can buy an assortment here in the US pretty cheaply, too. On my next trip to Aspö, I'll be carrying three light fixtures and 5 different bulbs. I will report back on the success of my lighting experiments!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Travel Logistics

This appears to be a pretty common subject over the past years on my blog! I count a dozen entries about the logistics of living on Aspö.

Our original plan was to leave Texas a week from today, get into Stockholm around 2PM Friday the 20th, and head to Stavsnäs for the 6PM taxi boat. That gives us about three hours to get from Arlanda airport to Slussen, shop for fresh food (remember we left a lot behind in the freezer), and then catch the 5:15PM bus. (Marcia and Rutger are away, which is a drawback of the July date we've moved to. Not only will we miss them, we can't use their home as a base camp!)

You'll note I said 'original plan'. The pressures of my work will make it impossible for me to join Sooz as planned. I'm now shooting to leave on July 25, which gets me into Stockholm mid-afternoon on Thursday the 26th.

This puts stress on Sooz as I'm usually the pack mule on these trips. She's going to travel extra-light on the plane so she can carry as many groceries herself as possible.

To complicate things, since I'm arriving on a Thursday the next week, there won't be a late boat available. I'll need to get our own taxi boat to get to Aspö that evening.

We plan to make that an advantage, however. Sooz will go to Gustavsberg on the noon Waxholms boat on that Thursday. That gives her a few hours to hang around and shop, and I'll meet her at our favorite ICA straight from the airport to take on my pack mule duties. I also think Ann and Dave will be joining Sooz, so the boat will have a bunch of people and groceries on it, not just little ol' me!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Deck Lights

I posted previously about a deck light kit that I thought was pretty cool. For my last trip, I bought two of the bulbs, and the special drill bit needed so I could do a test fitting.

We liked the way they looked, so I measured out a pattern on the deck. I have 22 lights to play with (the kit of 20 plus my two extras) and they would fit perfectly at 180cm (6 feet) apart.

I'm also able to put a light on the edge of every other stair leading up to the house. I've circled on this picture the little masking tape dots I made when I was measuring the deck.

The kit is very easy to understand, and it comes with a neat little remote control. We have power under the house for the transformer, so the installation should be very straightforward. The hardest part will be to drill the 22 holes in the right place, but I get to measure that carefully before I start.

That should be a fun project on a summer's day, and it should be very attractive on a summer's evening.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Shed Droop

I've blogged extensively about my search for, and subsequent building of, a little garden shed. I'm very happy with it now, except for one nagging issue, which is, I think it is sagging a bit.

The front door has come out of true and a few boards have shifted a fraction, showing the unstained gaps beneath. The funny thing, though, is that when I use a bubble level on it, it seems to be true. But when I look at it, it seems the shed has settled in its back-left corner, although my measurements aren't proving that. Also, both Rutger and Sooz think it looks OK and that my eyesight is playing tricks on me. (They could be right; my eyesight is terrible, even in good circumstances!)

I did manage to improve things on my last visit by doing a bit of adjustment to the hinges. I also bought a bit of hardware at Lowe's to put a cable tension on the door. (A digression: there is a lot of shed building information out on the internet!)

I still think my shed needs to be jacked up a bit in the back, though, no matter what my instruments tell me. Fortunately, there'll be a lot of eyes to take a look at it when I'm there next. I'm sure the collective wisdom of Margaret, Janne, Ann, Dave, Olle and Annika will tell me if I have a problem or not!!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Bristlecone Pine Forest

This one's not Aspö- related but I had to share. Last weekend, Sooz surprised me with a trip to the Inyo National Forest, in the White Mountains of Eastern California. We went there to hike up to see the Great Basin Bristlecone pine trees, the oldest living things on earth.

Ever since I was a third grader, when I first read about these ancient trees growing in a remote place, I always kept a visit as a dream trip in the back of my mind. For my birthday this year, Sooz made all the arrangements and we went to see them. It was an amazing experience.

Pictures don't do these amazing trees justice, but I did try, and I have a small photoset on Flickr for anyone interested.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Eurovision Final 2013

I received an email from the soon to be completed Friends Arena in Stockholm. I'm not entirely clear how they got my address, but I'm glad they did. They were asking me to register my interest in attending the Eurovision final next year at their new arena!

Of course, I registered, or, more accurately, Sooz did, as her Swedish is a lot better than mine. It appears that our friends at the Friends are trying to do put some pressure on the selection process for the rights to host the show.

As Margaret told me, the Globen is booked for the 2013 World Hockey Championships in May, taking the most natural venue out of the running. The daily Eurovision news website (yes there is such a thing), reports that both Gothenburg and Malmö have booked their stadia and hotel space, just in case. Both cities have held the competition before, but their venues are fairly small, about a third the capacity of the new Friends Arena.

I do hope it's held in Stockholm. It will be a lot easier to try to attend. I can't imagine how much fun it would be to see it live- in Sweden! I'll keep my fingers crossed.

UPDATE: It's going to be in Malmö! Bummer.