Thursday, February 27, 2014

A prefab cabin in Norway

The fine folks at Dwell have an article on a little jewel of a Scandinavian prefab home.

The 'Woody' is quite a bit smaller than our house, only 35 square meters. It is designed to be a true cabin, not a second home. For example, the shower is outdoors, which is traditional for a summer home. It also reduces space (and water) usage.

In such small homes, things with more than one purpose are valued. For example, Margaret and Janne's Aspö house had a cutting board that hinged up during meal preparation. It was out of the way the 95% of time it wasn't needed, but was up in a heartbeat when it was.

I am looking at doing something like that in our own kitchen; more to come on that as I develop ideas!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Melodifestival: Örnsköldsvik

Another so-so contest last night, this time from Örnsköldsvik. Don't get me wrong, nothing against the nice people from Örnsköldsvik, they put on a good show. It's just that none of the acts were that inspiring yet again.

The two acts that went through to the final were those Eurodisco warhorses, Alcazar, participating for the fifth time, and Anton Ewald, whom my mother thought looked to be "about 12 years old", although he is actually 20, and a Melodifestival veteran as well.

The second chance acts were a young girl who looked way out of her depth and an generic hard-rock band. To me, there's not been any kind of a standout act this year. I can't fault the production or the staging; SVT has done a super job as usual. However, I can't really say any of the finalists so far have a chance at winning at Eurovision.

A Swedish friend has told me that voting is down quite a bit this year, and I can see why. I wonder if the contest needs to be revamped for next year? Perhaps a refocus on quality over quantity? Of course, I'm not the target audience, that's for sure!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Astrophotography

I've experimented with taking some photos of the Aspö night sky over the years. It is fun, and I look forward to developing my photographic skills.

However, one of the recent tweeters on the Swedish official website, Göran Strand, is a master of the art. He has a number of breathtaking photos on his website. I urge everyone to take a look!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An ergonomically correct toilet

Everyone knows I love my toilet technologies here on this blog.

I recently came across a new type of toilet that was designed by a team in the UK. The idea is that the sitting position is much more conducive to the actual act of eliminating one's waste.

Most non-Western toilets are more of a 'squat' type, and apparently this is more natural and efficient for the body.

I'm not too sure about this, myself. I would have to give it a try... but not in the middle of a busy office building, I think!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Melodifestival: Göteburg

I thought things in Gothenburg were a little 'meh'. There weren't any really good acts, or more interestingly, any really bad ones.
The most entertaining was Outrigger, with some sort of death-metal act with all the performers in cages and the lead singer in a straightjacket (and a Hannibal Lecter mask for good measure). Although afterwards, they all seemed like really nice guys. They made it to the 'second chance' final, but I can't see them going past that.

The first winner was Ace Wilder, an Avril Lavigne lookalike, who is apparently successful in Germany (but then, so is David Hasselhoff).

Oscar Zia, a boy singer with just a hint of endearing pudginess, also went to the final. His staging was very inventive, with he and his dancers partially behind a set of suspended TV screens. Unfortunately, SVT keeps a tight rein on the videos, so I can't share the performance here. I did find an audience video which gives a good sense of what it's like to be in the crowd:


There are a couple of great websites with Eurovision news in English: eurovision.tv and and esctoday.com, in case anyone's interested in reading more than my weekly missives!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Changing IKEA drawer fronts

I referred obliquely about a 'small kitchen remodel' back when we were last at the house.

Long-time readers with a good memory might remember that I had intended to mix and match the drawer fonts into a colorful pattern. Unfortunately, everything I had intended to buy was discontinued, so we went with straight white.

We found a few black and green glass drawer fronts on sale some time later for the ridiculous price of 5 kronor each. I couldn't pass up that deal, so I bought a few and promptly forgot about them.

I installed the small black ones to break up the white a bit. The green ones are for the drawers just below, but I couldn't figure out how to install those so we will wait on that idea for the time being. (A quick look at the IKEA website shows that wood is apparently what's in these days for kitchen cabinets.)

The other funny thing was that I could not figure out how to disconnect the drawer fronts. I assumed there was a trick, but for the life of me, I could not see it. A quick search on You Tube brought me the answer in under a minute. The range of knowledge available on the internet is amazing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My next visit is set!

I'll be coming to Sweden on the 13th of March, and I plan to spend around 10 days in Sweden with Marcia & Rutger, but mostly spending a week out on Aspö.

Astute readers will note the "I" in the previous sentence. This is a solo trip for me. Sooz has a chance to go skiing with friends during that time. I've also been spending most of my time at home these days, so she could probably use a break from me, too!

It's also a bit cold for her liking out on the islands. Weather history for the past few years indicate a 46% chance of snow, and temps around freezing at best.

The other reason I'm going at this time is that I'm going to be in Europe anyway, Barcelona, to be precise, on March 12th. I was able to buy a cheap ticket on Norwegian Air to fly direct from there to Stockholm. The timing was perfect.

And why, might one ask, would I be in Barcelona on March 12? The UEFA website gives a clue!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Melodifestival: Lidköping

Another typically uneven affair from Lidköping this evening. The highlight was the return of Sanna Nielsen, with "Glow", a power ballad that will do well in the final. I also thought Sanna looked a lot like Sooz with her latest haircut:

The other act that went through was Panetoz, a five-piece rap group who are apparently pretty popular already. They were likable for sure, but I can't see them winning the big prize.

Through to the second chance was Martin Stenmarck, a previous winner in 2005, and, according to Sooz, quite handsome. Details in English are available here.


Speaking of haircuts, Manda Nilsénius didn't make it through with "Glow", and I put all of the blame on her stylist:
video

Those nails! The Lena Dunham tattoos! And that ponytail!! I mean, what the hell...?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Why are Swedes so good at pop music?

Apropos of the ongoing Melodifestival, that's a good question; many have given this subject much thought. Marcia sent me an interesting article from the Atlantic magazine that looks at Swedish pop dominance in some depth. It's worth a full read.

The summary quote is: "no other small country has the right combination of language skills, cultural values, tight-knit industry, and supportive public policy to transform itself into the music-exporting phenomenon that Sweden has become."

And it's not just ABBA (despite my cheesy photo here); Swedish influence is still all over today's pop charts. The Washington Post has a good summary of recent Swedish acts. I'm a big follower of the Swedesplease music blog.

Although I have nearly 40,000 songs on my iPod Classic, we often end up listening to the radio when we're on Aspö. Despite its being almost comically middle-of-the-road, we love Skärgårds Radio as they mix in local hits with the Shania Twain. Sooz has many Swedish songs on her own iPod's playlist. We've spent many a hot Texas night, listening to our little island radio station over the internet, wishing we were back in Sweden!

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Buddy Holly Center in Lubbock

I have lots of free time now, so I am planning to go on a visit to Buddy's home town.

I'll go soon. But not today.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Melodifestival: Malmö

Thanks to the miracle of SVT Play, and for better or worse, the reliable Melodifestival show was back yesterday.

YOHIO, a favorite of mine from last year, was back with a winning song, "To the End", which was very glam-rock, leaving behind last year's androgyny.

The other act that went through was Ellen Benediktson with "Songbird". It's not going to be a winner in the final, but at least Ellen can sing, unlike most of the other acts.

The amusing opening number poked fun at Denmark's winning song and their use of a flute. Many, many flutes were thrown into a fire onstage. We'll see if the Danish-poking theme continues over the next five weeks!

Lars the handyman

I've mentioned hiring a handyman, Lars Dahlin, to do a few things around our house. I posted recently about our discussion to fix a few leaks, but what Lars and I talked about a lot was cleaning the deck. He's an expert at helping restore island decking to clean condition.

Note: not our deck!!
Lars' secret is a long and patient washing with a scrubber, followed by Thompson's Water Seal. This will brighten and clean up our deck, and lock in the new look for at least a few years.

Sooz and I really want the deck to look less grey, so we are going to ask Lars to do that for us. I found a photo that represents the kind of change we want to see.

The other thing Lars and I have talked about doing is painting the front of the house. I've blogged about that ad nauseum, so I won't go into it any more here. Suffice it to say we'll be using the medium-grey linseed oil paint, and there will be a lot more on that subject coming up!