Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Melodifestival is back!

It starts this Saturday in Malmö, then makes its way around the country each Saturday until the grand finale in Stockholm on March 8. The format is the same: 8 acts for each of the first 4 weeks, followed by a "second chance" round. The 10 winners slug it out in the final for the right to represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest.

As I've written before, Sweden has the longest and most elaborate selection process of any country by far. They are usually the last to name their representative; many other countries have a single show to select their winning song. Others are selected by a jury of experts, with no public input at all.

Not the Swedes, however! Half of the Melodifestival's 32 acts are chosen purely by the public; the other half are chosen by 'experts.' The public vote is a huge, although not sole, determiner in choosing the winner. Swedish state television (SVT) has the right to overrule the public vote if they believe the  vote is inappropriate (say, for a comedy or protest act that has no chance of winning).

I will keep up with the contest events, of course. The SVT website for the Melodifestival has a great deal of info about the contest and contestants.  It also has put up a superb data analysis tool which is fascinating. Data on every song by every artist for every year can be looked at in many different ways. For example, which country has given Sweden the most points over the years? (No surprise: Norway. The fewest? Montenegro.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

A local news story on broadband internet

I made an inquiry of the progress of the laying of the broadband fiber cables in the archipelago. My faithful correspondent, Nilla on Nämdö, sent me a copy of a local news article about the ongoing work.

It's from a local Skärgården newspaper; the article is here in Swedish and auto-translated into English. I thought it was an fun read (in either language) as it shows the work involved to lay so much cable among many islands. The one disappointing thing was the news that phase 1 won't be complete until later this year. Aspö is in phase 2, so my hopes of broadband this summer are dimming.

This was the first I'd heard of the Skärgå website. I plan to look it it a lot more frequently. There's a bunch of good local information there, and I can practice my Swedish a bit, too.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A visit from Wille

I've neglected to report on a visit to our little house by our very own Wille in late November.

When I spoke to Lars Dahlin on my last visit, we reviewed the water leaks around a couple of windows around the house. He suggested I call Willie as he thought they were pretty bad.

I did, and sent him a few photos. He called Stefan at X-House and they agreed it needed to be looked at. Stefan gave Willie a few supplies and suggestions and he went out to our house to seal the windows (and door) at the front of the house.

He texted me these 4 photos of his handiwork. Willie did say he will probably come back in the summer with his tool box and we will look more closely.

It's likely I will be out at Aspö more this summer, so it would be good (and educational) for me to work together with him on addressing any other leaks!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A report from the Consumer Electronics Show

The CES is the big coming-out party at the beginning of the year for the newest wild and wonderful gadgets and technologies. Being a bit of a nerd myself, I love to see all of the crazy stuff that comes out. (My favorite so far is a wifi-connected crockpot.)

However, I did see something that might be practical as well as fun. A company called 'FLIR' has announced a "Personal Thermal Imager" for the iPhone.

I can see a number of practical uses; finding insulation leaks, for example. That would be handy in both Sweden and Texas! It would also be fun to spot a moose in the woods, or Ollie in the backyard.

I'm not sure I'll be buying one just yet. The idea that something which used to cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars is now just an iPhone accessory is something I really get a kick out of!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Photos from Annika and Olle

Annika and Olle are out on Aspö today and they both sent me a bunch of lovely photos. I've updated her set on Flickr.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Sweden's new official website

I saw recently that the country's official website,, has had a makeover. I have had a visit and it is fantastic. Visually and practically, it is a joy to use. I've already spent too much time looking through it!

The website is just part of an overall digital brand/design initiative covering all of the country's online operations. Söderhavet, the firm doing the work, has posted a great explanation of their ideas and tools in providing a consistent identity for the country. It, too, is worth a read.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sweden's culinary renaissance

CNN Traveller magazine has a fantastic article on the rise of Swedish (and Scandinavian) cuisine. The most interesting part of this resurgence is a focus on chefs using "as many local ingredients in season as they can. The only next trend in gastronomy is whatever is growing next season.”

I've had a few great meals in Stockholm this year; a summer dinner in Söder, and a high-end pizzeria for Camille's birthday. (I can't forget Olle's great fish supper out on Aspö, either!) But our meals usually center around simpler, catch-as-catch can eating on Aspö. There, the menus are more set by logistics and the social calendar.

I am jealous of Annika's and Karin's green thumbs. They manage to grow an array of fruits and vegetables over the summer. When and if I live a whole season out in the islands, I hope to grow at least a portion of our own suppers. Perhaps we can start with herbs, at least.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Regular readers know that I work for a global airline, and I have worked in many places in the US and Europe. The travel perks of being an airline employee enables us to have a little house outside of Stockholm, yet still visit it easily from wherever we're living at the time.

From today, it's more accurate to say that I did work for a global airline. There's been a reshuffle where I work. After more than 30 years, I'm no longer with my employer. A bit unexpectedly, I find myself starting the new year without a job.

The good news: We get to keep our industry travel privileges as part of my departure, so we'll still be able to fly back and forth. I've always wanted to spend much more than two weeks out at our little stuga, and I may well be able to do that now. A shame my workplace freedom comes in January, though. We really can't head to Aspö next week!

The bad news is that I'm not ready (or financially able) to retire just yet; I need to find another job, which will be an odd thing for me after essentially my whole life with one company. Spending a full summer on Aspö would be a dream, but perhaps not the best thing for a career search.

I've always been darned busy with my work, with lots of travel and 24/7 demands on my time. Now I have to transition to being someone who has all the time in the world. Stay tuned over the next few months, it will be an interesting ride.