Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Indian Tech Email Flamewar - Funny Link


favorites so far:

"What it means
Sentient has the money and muscle power to FUCK you in your back side so hard that your generations to come will be born defunct just the way you are mentally sick & defunct."

"I am WARNING you if you send another email to any Sentient personnel I
will do needful."

Born Again

I didn't know whether or not to keep this thing going. I swore it would not become a what I had for breakfast kind of deal. I met some people over the last few days that amused me and I think I'll keep it going. Be warned it probably going to be inaner than before and I recommend you don't read it.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Allegory of the Elevator

The Allegory of the Elevator

I have thought a lot about this and this is my best shot at describing the national character of the 4 countries I work in.

I am walking through the lobby toward the elevator.  There is one man in the elevator who clearly sees me approaching.  In each case they will let the doors close making no attempt to hold the door.

The Finnish guy hides and pretends not to see me.

The Swede stares right at me, emotionless.

The Norwegian smiles, seems hopeful but makes no effort.

The Dane smiles, flips me off and then waves as the doors close.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


I think I spoke before about the beauty of downloading American shows while abroad. It has been a great way to stay in touch with some of that cultural stuff that lags 6 months or more over here. When I went back to the US in July, I cut off the download (no need when we have Tivo) but upon my return I have had to fire it back up to stave off serious boredom.

In particular, my final weekend stuck out here in Enkoeping (pronounced EN-sherp-ing) would have been unbearable with out Entourage. I can't like this show enough. On the surface its a bit fluffy (on casual glance its just 4 guys chasing girls) but subtly its incredibly well written. I have always been a Jeremy Piven fan and he is really at his best in this. I am little worried that the last episode I saw (which I think is the penultimate for Season 2 but not sure) was a bit 'Jerry McGuire' but I'll reserve judgment for a bit.

The thing I like best is the portrayal of friendship between the 4 guys. They are constantly talking shit to/about each other but in the end are honest with each other in a way that I don't think has been captured on tv many other times. Something rings really true about it. Guys that are good friends really do have short memories and are ridiculously forgiving (outside of certain situations involving women and money).

If we take this as the ideal for showing how guys really are with each their good friends, it makes me wonder if there is a show that gives a peek into how girls really are with each other?

I am slightly ashamed to admit that I have seen 2 entire seasons of Sex and the City. I claim partial immunity from ridicule based on my month of solitary confinement (Tina left them behind!!) but partially I was interested from an anthropological perspective. Is this really how girls are with their close friends? If so, I think they have us beat in the arena of talking shit about the opposite sex. On the topic of sex, they appear to be much free-er with graphic description but I'll assume that is punched up to make the show more edgy.

Exodus part 1

One day our buddy Ulysses (I prefer the Roman name just because of Tennyson) decided it was time to head home from his foreign adventure. Typical expat story I think, he had been gone too long and missed the wife and kids. On his way home he pissed off Posiedeon, the guy with the cows and a few other deity types and so everyone decided to screw with him and make his return trip long and painful.

Obviously its hubris (just keeping the theme going) for me to compare my petty hardships with some poor bastard who had to go to Hades (or whatever the Underwold was called then) and back but suspend disbelief for a minute and allow me to whine.

The plan was to leave Sweden on the 1st of September. This would be the 4 week mark away from home and the point at which I would be absolutely climbing the walls. I have learned something about myself on this trip and that is that I am useless on my own. I realized halfway through my sentence that I have never lived on my own. I went straight from my parents to living with a kaleidoscope of roommates through college to being married. I have no skills for surviving on my own in the sense that neither am I inspired to feed myself as a rational adult might nor am I able to stave off mind-crushing boredom. My diet has consisted solely of Indian take-out, frozen pizzas, sushi and lamb sandwiches. I think I have scurvy.

The bosses had agreed to the 1 September plan back in July when all were on vacation and no one was really paying attention. 2 weeks out from this date, I sent a reminder and there was rending of garmets, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Obviously I attribute this to my stature and prowess but in fact I think the plan was approved by an automatic approval button the bosses had setup through the Swedish summer so they didn't have to read mail. My #2 was being promoted to #1 and the handover had been ongoing since the spring but nonetheless, there was panic. Several meetings later, after they first proposed to keep me until year end (I think I blacked out at that point and when I came to was still shouting profanity like a Tourette's patient) we agreed on the 10th of September as the consensus date for my departure.

This kicks over several dominoes in a hurry. I have to get the work bureaucracy (lamely referred to as 'blue tape'...get it?...we are big blue....and its red tape...but its blue...get it?....if I ever use this in conversation kill me on the spot) going which is no small thing but its at least in English. I also have to get out of the apartment by the end of the month which means I have 10 days to arrange for 10 hotel nights, get the place cleaned out and handed back to the landlady.

Some kind of doctor's world congress is going on in Stockholm from the 1st to the 10th and every hotel room is booked. I know people say that sometimes all the hotels are full but I literally mean it. I will be staying most of those days at a hotel 120km outside of town. I don't know how far that is but it sound like a long way. I'll be taking an hour commuter train ride in to work every morning so that should be fun at least (the sarcasm is probably not showing there, trains are boring unless you are the Station Agent which you have not seen but should read about on IMDB). While setting this up (ok I don't do the setup, I have the admin do it but I do vicariously feel the frustration when she is frustrated) we found 3 nights where nowhere in a 200km (that sounds really really far) is there a hotel room to be had. I will be sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs of a colleague. With this many doctors descending on Stockholm, I recommend you not get sick or break anything for a while.

The hotel I wound up in is a pit stop for a cruise ship for Minnesotan's getting hooked back up to their Scandic roots. All are old, some appear to be dying rapidly (stroke of luck for them to be near Stockholm right now) and many are the 'ugly american' we read about. I do my best to not be that guy and I am sure it has not always worked but hanging with these clods is driving me to drink. Best so far was the couple in the elevator who by the way did not appear to be drunk yet, speaking openly about me in English while I am standing about 6 inches away. Part old people loss of volume control but partly assuming that English is some kind of code.

"Jeez. See now he doesn't look Swedish"

"Who? This guy?"

"Yeah, he is too stocky. Have you noticed they have alot of tall people here but they are all kinda skinny.

"I think he is probably Jewish"
(editors note: its the nose I know, I of course have no problem with this common mistake except that I missed out on the money and gifts when I turned 12) For some reason that was the final word for them. I was strangely not even a little tempted to turn around and do the "BAM...I know english too and heard you talking about me, What a small world, where you from...etc"

There are no restaraunts to speak of in this village so we are stuck w/ the hotel dining room. I will definetly eat in Stockholm tomorrow to avoid the hotel grub. Scandinavian food is so lame its hard to describe. The buffet had a tiny salad bar (at least it was some nice greens and no iceberg) and chaffing dishes w/ boiled potatoes (if I never see another small, peeled boiled flavorless potato I just might die happy), some beef chunks in ketchup that may have been some forgery of bbq sauce, chicken wings with no apparent spice or even attempt to flavor, plain white fish, chicken burgers with no ketchup or mustard offered and some egg noodle pasta w/ hamburger meat and ketchup side. Could not have sucked worse.

The saga of closing out the apartment has been an ordeal too. First I call the cleaning company recommended by the property management people and find out its going to be a bit over $600 (thats US currency and not a typo) to clean what must be about a 900 sq. ft. apt. I give them the key and tell them I am back at 6 so leave it under the mat. The poor Guatemalan guy didn't get the memo or something and ends up going home with my key. 2 hours later and after me screaming like a mad fool they finally send a guy they must have considered expendable to deliver me the key and let me back in.

To really cap it, the inspector lady doesn't like the job that they did and wants me to pay them to come back. She asked me this in an email and I think I summoned all my skills and powers and was able to write back the most professional but compelling version of a 'go perform an anatomically impossible act on yourself' email I have ever written. It closed the issue down and I have framed the email for the wall in my office.

I have 6 more nights to fight through. Really the only thing I can hope for at this point is to meet up with Circe pretty soon (I know I dropped the theme along time ago but wanted to close it out).

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Mexican Food

There is a Mexican place near my apartment which I am leaving tomorrow. Its been there a while but I couldn't bring myself to try it. The only other quick food nearby is Sushi Ting Ting but I have had sushi for lunch about 3 days in a row and needed a break.

Short story is that the chicken fajita burrito has....chicken, iceberg lettuce, 2 red peppers, bbq sauce, some form a mayo and a pickle.

I couldn't miss Tucson more right now.

Friday, August 26, 2005

This is The End?

I just got the final, final word. I am leaving Saturday 10 September. I should be home around 9 PM Tucson time. These next 2 weeks will be agony.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

80's Quiz

If you are exactly my age you will enjoy this quiz. I got a 73

Monday, August 15, 2005

Video Games Can Kill

People keep sending me links such as this one (link) that have to be apocryphal but just in case, I think this one tops it (link).

Sunday, August 14, 2005

This American Life

So I spend alot of time here in Sweden playing poker. The only way not to go insane from boredom (as the cable is very spotty w/ regard to decent programming) while playing is to have some background sound on. I have always liked the radio show from NPR called "This American Life" (link)and am now working my way through all the old archives. If you have never heard the show, its very NPR and certainly not for everyone.

Here are a couple of my favorites but there are a million good things in there.

Fiasco - The section about the play at the beginning is awesome.

Christmas - Playing the Sedaris story from this episode is part of my strict Christmas routine. I think its in one of his books also.

Babysitting - Top to bottom a good episode

Lessons - Act 4 specifically the record from Helen Gurley Brown is sort of amazing.

Music Lessons - Act 2 is my favorite. I think it captures that weird sub-culture of high school bandism.

The House by Loon Lake
- I think I first heard this one real late at night and got totally wrapped up.

Friday, August 12, 2005

An Update

Just a clarification from the post yesterday, that was not me on the show. I just think its the scummiest thing on TV.

Also for you AZ Hoops fans, check the line about Ed Stokes (link)in this article. Exactly like old times.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


The people from the television show Cheaters, they are going to Hell.

More Book Reviews

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - This is the best book of 2005 by a huge margin. I forgot how sort of raw everyone felt for the time after September 11th (have you watched the Letterman thing? you should. you shouldn't forget this stuff). This book did an amazing job of bringing that all back but somehow, and this seems crazy, but sweetly. Being away from the kids right now, the protagonist reminds me so much of my son that I literally had to put the book down several times. Kinda like his first book, I think it lags in a couple places but its forgiven.

No Country for Old Men - Cormac let me down a bit on this one. I wound up reading it nearly straight through on my trip back to Europe. I guess I want him to just keep writing the Border Trilogy (actually just the first 2 but still) over and over again. I don't have any specific criticsim just that its a crime novel (pretty dark) that ends --->Spoiler --> not well for the hero(?).

The House of Spirits - I was less bored by this than I expected but unfortunately further ingraining my bias against female authors. The Magic Realism thing is fine, but after 218 pages when I gave up I guess I just needed something more concrete.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

New Jobs


Several things here:

1. 300K?

2. I have avatars: Black NFL TE, Houston radio DJ and finally writer for Wired.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Bill, you are killing me. Just killing me.

The Sports Guys site ran this today (link). Don't read it, its about wrestling. I can forgive old Bill his teenage prime time dramas and all the rest but not this. The wrestling thing is just too much. I vow not to read his site ever

The definition of addiction is not being able to stop a habitual activity in the face of very negative consequences. I can not stop reading this stuff even though the wrestling articles cause small seizures.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I can not reccomend this site highly enough. If you are like me, you probably have a friend or 2 that occasionaly send you a funny or cool link (if you are like me you also are between 25-35, work in the IT world and have to some level of Autisim/ADHD/Asbergers/Megalomania or other mental problem impacting your social interactions). Tangentially, if you consider a funny or cool link to be something 'inspiring', dealing with angels rescusing someone from a car, requiring you to pass an email on to 'keep the chain alive', anything to do with the 'You Might be a Redneck' tragicomedy etc. then obviously this site is not for you.

Using all that as background, 5 people posting some of the best links all throughout the day rocks. The focus is very much on youngish geek culture but the content is often universal. Because the content is always updating I think its the killer Active Bookmark in Firefox.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Tuuurn Arounddd

Here are the Norwiegans without belts playing 80's ballads on appliances. Fair warning: as is expected with Nordic media, a little bit of male ass is shown. I would have put this in the "bad internet sites" below if it didn't totally kick ass.

Total Eclipse Of the Heart

Universal Man

Today I had to write a job post/description of skills required for the person who will come in to replace me on the project. Its dangerous for a delusional megalomaniac like myself to write something like this. Some of the rejected criteria for my replacement included:

  • Gordon Gecko ruthlessness and hair
  • Perfect balance between Albert Einstein and Julius Caesar
  • Woo-er of women
  • Ability to master all things and people related to computer activity
  • Able to bend spoons and other small metal objects using mental powers
  • Pirate

This all gets me thinking back to (I think I was in high school) when I first heard the concept of a 'Renaissance Man'. I prefer the other title, 'Universal Man'. I like the idea of a person who is completely at home in their world and has all the skills to live in their own times. Theoretically our high-school and college education is geared around a liberal arts ideal and we should all come through with some specialization over the top of our liberal arts. It doesn't always stick but that's the intent.

What follows is my free association list of skills I think a man living today should posses at a basic level. I have no idea what women can or should be able to do, they remain to me as always totally unknowable. I of course am basing this on my experience (obviously not meaning that I can do this stuff) and it is by no means comprehensive. Let me know what you think should be added (or removed).

An American Universal Man > 25 years old in 2005 should be able to (in no order at all) :

  1. Tell a joke in both polite and impolite company
  2. Eat at a formal table
  3. Dress formally
  4. Play at a non-embarrassing level any Team Sports (Baseball, Football, Basketball, Soccer)
  5. Play at a non-embarrassing level Individual Sports (Golf, Swimming, Billiards, Tennis)
  6. Play at a non-embarrassing level a musical instrument
  7. Identify the most famous standard works of Classical Music
  8. Identify at least the era of music from the Modern era and identify of a given sample of artists for music <>
  9. Recite Poetry (5-10 from memory)
  10. Appreciate and Discuss Literature (Classics and Modern), maybe a list of books too
  11. Cook (Grill and Standard
  12. Clean (General Household type)
  13. Work with a Computer (some form of macro, coding or scripting, basic web design, general Windows troubleshooting)
  14. Ride a Horse
  15. Handle Firearms
  16. Drink Socially
  17. Act as a bartender
  18. Play common games of chance/skill (poker, craps, bridge, chess)
  19. Demonstrate General Camping Skills (Basic Orienteering, build a fire)
  20. Demonstrate skill in leadership
  21. Speak > 2 languages
  22. Handle math up to and including the intro level of Calculus
  23. Accomplish difficult physical challenges. Both single event (marathon) and long duration (prolonged participation on a team).
  24. Dance Un-selfconsciously (Slow and Fast)
  25. Demonstrate Historical Knowledge (Western Civ emphasis....should be able to place a given event w/in 150 years)
  26. demonstrate Financial understanding (balance a checkbook, explain compound interest, mutual fund, stock)
  27. demonstrate understanding of basic Philosophy (historical movements generally and logic)
  28. Write expressively
  29. Discuss movies w/ specific focus <20>
  30. Discuss television w/ specific focus <20>
  31. Discuss American sports trends and results (Basketball, Football, Baseball)
  32. Drive a car fast
  33. Drive a Manual Transmission
  34. Perform car maintenance and basic repair
  35. Build simple structures from wood, hammer and nails
  36. Type fast enough to chat
  37. Identify major current world leaders
  38. Locate all 50 states on a map
  39. Locate 15 European countries on a map
  40. Speak in front of a group
  41. Have studied the bible (read some and familiar with major characters in new and old testaments)
  42. Something about talking to girls, this is a tough one to pin down
  43. Something about science here

My Cousin's Email

She occasionaly sends me the chain email stuff but she is discriminating enough to only pass on the ones that are at least kinda funny. She claims this one is true and I haven't seen anything out there yet that its a hoax. Either way, it amused me. Her text below:

One of the Lawyers in our office used to do a lot of work with the United Way back in the late 80's. One of the head guys at the United Way gave our Lawyer a copy of this actual letter from a lady who was thankful for something the United Way had done for her. The copy is attached, but I've typed it out for ease in reading.
The letter reads:
Dec. 4, 1989
Dear Mr. {name deleted just in case},
Thank you for the radio you gave the United Way and they gave me. The lady in the bed next to mine has had a radio for many years. She wouldn't let me listen to hers. Yesterday hers fell and broke. She wanted to listen to mine. I said fuck you.
God bless you,
Mrs. A.O. Smith

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


As my time here is ending soon I am reflecting on some of the differences between Sweden and the US.

1 of my favorite is in the world of Advertising. Obviously the basic foreign-ness is a backdrop (language, products etc.) but its more the tone that strikes me. Much has been said about our semi-hypocritical Puritanism (that's not overstating it do you think?) about showing nudity etc. We could spend a long time on the juxtaposition of the black porno mag covers against the widely displayed Cosmo headline proclaiming 12 ways to handle name tags during an orgy! but its not really interesting. In Sweden they curse freely on television and after 9 PM on normal cable stations you can see up to soft-core porn level naked people. Unfortunately they are much more democratic and will show equal parts male nudity as well which has driven me to read more instead.

I am a bit off track now but maybe the background is interesting. So on to the ads that I found remarkable.

1. Firecracker Ass - This was posted prominently on the Arlanda Express (the train from the center of town out to the airport). It is a black and white profile photo of a naked guy turned slightly so that the naughty bits are not in view but clearly displaying the crack of his ass where we see extending downward at an angle the lit fuse of firecracker. The poster is reminding everyone to get a colon checkup.

2. Gravid? - This Swedish word means pregnant and I think relates to the Midsummer's celebration that is famous for drunkness and practicing the pro-creative act. The color photo is of a green field full of wildflowers and grass that based on perspective must be 2-3 feet tall. In the center of the picture are a woman's legs in the air but all we see sticking up is her lower leg and feet as though she were lying on her back with feet in the air. One is to infer (I think) that she is not alone. I don't know what they are advertising in this one but its on almost every bus stop in town right now.

3. Heineken - This ad plays so often I am nearly insane. No idea what any of it means. Enjoy

4. Ringtones - All through the day and night there are frequent commercials for people selling ringtones you can download for your phone. I understand that this is huge business here. Each commercial is pushing 3-5 tones based on some theme. Sometimes its music where you can pick a tone like a MIDI version of your favorite song. Some are variations on fart sounds. After 9 PM they become pornographic. But the most annoying is this little CGI donkey/pig/devil thing called (I think ) Jambo. He is usually pushing the more rude/porno tones but also selling the Axel-F tone which is insanely popular for some reason.

I'll ask Tina if she can think of some others but its a good start.

Not Funny

I came across the BloodNinja stuff again today. This is extremely offensive and graphic. Also very funny. Now that I think about it, don't read it. (BloodNinja)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Finally I can build my army of pretend robots for world domination!

Interesting for those interested in Gaming and AI. I downloaded it but have not had time to play with it. I will train all my little robot soldiers less in for combat skills and more for thier celebratory victory dances.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Nerd Rap

I am always seeking to surpress my inner geek. Fortunately I am good at sports and can confidently speak to other humans on a wide range of non-geek topics. Occasionaly something comes along that gives me confidence that not only am I still floating on the surface of the nerd ocean but that there is a veritable Marians Trench of geek below me. For example I submit the following Wired article (Link).

Friday, June 24, 2005


6:30 AM flight to Barcelona on Sterling Airlines. Very much the Southwest (or less) of the Nordics. No food was free, you had to buy everything but water. I actually don't mind this too much as airplane food is rarely exciting. A free coffee would be good but I am not going to argue with the economic model.

We were some of the last people to check in and got seats in the last row of the plane which do not recline. This is of course significant because I am tall enough that if the person in front of me reclines, I will literally have to sit halfway in the aisle. Fortunately I put my son in front of me to prevent that. The guy across the aisle from me was not so lucky. The guy in front of him reclined immediatley and he was forced into the aisle. He used the two crutches that have a c-shaped grip around the forearm and seemed to have something wrong with his feet or lower legs. He couldn't move them very well from the aisle and his pants were almost identical colored to the seats. This mean that everyone that came down to go the bathroom or driving a drink cart either kicked the guy or crushed his already semi-useless legs. Had he displayed any grace about the situation I think the flight attendants might have taken some pity on him and tried to help him out. Instead, he glared at everyone that came by. It was a bit more sad than menacing but it still had the armless-burned-leper-on-the-corner effect in that everyone just pretended he didn't exist. Unrelated but significant, there were alot of people on the plane wearing VonDutch hats. I find those corny in an un-funny way.

You notice the humidity immediatley off the plane. It creeps in and then greets you as a phsyical presence on the jetway. Due to the EU there is no passport control which is simultaneously efficient and dissapointing. We got all the bags except the jogging stroller for my 2 year old daughter who must weigh 30-40 lbs by now. The baggage people took a very Spanish speaking approach ie. manana, manana (can't find the squiggly n so you'll have to pretend I can spell). It never showed up which sucked because we had to either make her walk or carry her for 2 days until we could find a place open to buy a stroller.

25 minute cab ride into Barceloneta which is an old working class fishermans area being renovated to be a tourist area. The streets are tiny as are the apartments and we had to spend some time w/ the cab driver finding the street on a map.

If you are an American travelling to Euroupe, I can't emphasize enough that they have a 0th floor. Our '4th' floor apartment with no elevator was in point of fact a 5th(!!!) floor aparment with no AC. It was small quaint and other than hauling bags and kids way the hell up there and sweating like a bastard (sweating like a bastard I think will be something of a theme for the trip) was fine for us. The Scots that had been staying just before us had only recently vacated and the Spanish cleaning lady was still there. She was easily, without a doubt the best dressed and hottest cleaning lady on the planet. They should have pagents for various occupations like cleaning lady, stewardess, nurse etc. but I digress. The rental lady met us there to pickup the money and she happened to be Swedish and look exactly like my cousin Charlotte. She walked us over to a bar on the corner that ended up having the best tapas we would get for whole stay. We tried to go back several times but the Spanish opening and closing times sort of defeated us.

I'll break the chronology at this point and hit the highlights.

We saw alot of Modernist (I think this is right term) architecture from Gaudi and his buddies. The partially complete Sagrada Familia was the craziest looking church I have ever seen or heard of. My description would do nothing to help you see it but it won't be finished for another 25 years so you have time to get by and check it out. We also toured through Parc Guel which was the olden days version of Civano but with WAY cooler design. The other buildings were residences or apartments and very unique. The Chris Baker summary is that they all avoid sharp corners and are very organic and fluid. Also they have alot of mosiac tile stuff which I liked.

We hit 2 art Museums (Picasso and Miro) which with kids age 2 and 6 is an absolute freaking miracle. I liked Picasso's much better, I don't know alot about art and abstract stuff like Miro's just misses me completely. The Picasso museum showed alot of his very early work (like age 9 and up) and its interesting to see the development of his art. It turns out that a crazed cubist is actually a talented artist in the 'objective' sense. I have always wondered how actually talented are the guys who splash paint and poo etc. haphazardly at a canvas. I liked the series of paintings (an example) he did based on a Velazquez painting (love the Wiki) that I recognized from an art history class in college.

We hit the beach several times and were a little surprised that all the beaches are de facto topless beaches. I am not a gigantic prude but still this threw me off a bit. Less by the topless-ness generally and more with the specifics of old, fat granny's hanging out there for the world to see. One corpulent septegenarian spent a solid 20 minutes standing ankle deep on the beach vigorusly scrubbing all of her situations. Analyzing the topless beach you can't forget the granny factor. That aside, there were some really great views and I would like to thank all the good looking Spanish women for making my vacation a little bit brighter. There was also an old woman who floated in the water for at least an hour singing all the while. She had a nice voice and it was kind of surreal rising and falling in pitch as the waves tossed her around.

Did I mention that it was murderously humid and that I was constantly sweating like a bastard? I was not the only one and on many occasions I found myself confronted by a 3 foot radius of stink surrounding an otherwise normal looking guy. This really was the only downside to the trip as I overheat pretty easily and turn into a giant baby when I can't cool down.

Next post more about the food.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Dumbest Thing on the Internet

To qualify:

It can’t be accidental. For example I love the site but those are a collection of mistakes.

The Author must be truly passionate.

It has to be well done. We don’t want to ridicule ineptness, that’s too easy.

It has to make you cringe but at the same time should draw you in.

My vote right now is for:


Thursday, June 09, 2005


I wrote this in April or May and never bothered to edit and post it.

Trip to Copenhagen this weekend. Thursday is a 'red' day meaning a day when the whole country shuts down.....again. The number of holidays is maddening. This time it was for Ascension (love the Wiki). I would venture to guess that most of you godless heathens didn't grow up going to Sunday school and don't even know what the Ascension is. Speaking of which I need to find a way to take polls so I can ask things about things like that.

Seriously this will blow you away. You are probably aware that that Jesus died on Good Friday and then rose again on Easter Sunday. Did you know that he finally went off to heaven 40 days later? I have said it before but I still am confused by why religious holidays are observed for work in a country where no one.....not kidding here, no one goes to church. So Ascension is a Thursday and the attached Friday is a 'squeeze day'. I don't recall if it was a paid day off but my entire team was gone so I decide to make it a long weekend too and take the family down to Copenhagen. Note at this point that our family is currently +1 as my mother in law is here visiting for a about 8 days. She will be leaving the day after we get back. I could insert a bunch of standard mother-in law jokes here but my wife's parents are threatening to get the Internet so I guess I should refrain.

I came Wednesday morning for a day of meetings and the family came down later in the day to meet up. We had rooms at the Scandic just outside the city center but they were on the 0-th floor which meant we got all the lobby and bar smoke every time we opened the hall door. Tina and I kept S in the crib in our room and J bunked with Grandma in the other room. The sleeping systems at the Scandic are very Lucy-Dezi as their big room is actually 2 single beds pushed together with nothing to hold them there. S ended up in bed with us a few nights and nearly fell through the crack between the beds twice.

Up for the Scandic breakfast which is remarkable for 2 things. Weinerbrod and so called 'itty bitty tiny Danish pickles'. I think I covered Weinerbrod before but it is my favorite treat in the world and I can't say enough about it. We would call it a Danish but obviously that is not very descriptive as all pastries in Denamark could be called Danish and that seems silly. Weinerbrod consistency is somewhere between a croissant and a Mexican bunuelo crispy and a bit firm. The best kind are the cinamon called Kanelkangles. When I am in Denmark I typically eat about 6,000 and often bring a box home with me on the plane.

The family toured around the city for a bit while I was working and I met back up at the hotel that night. Thursday was Tivoli day. Tivoli is the oldest theme park in the world (I think thats their claim) in any case, its like a very nice carnival back home but in a more permanent setting and totally missing the loveable, wacky mutant carnies. Its a beautiful place with flower gardens everywhere. Strangely there are as many rides as restaurants and I even found a churro stand. The kids had a good time and it didn't rain. It was 1 million miles from Disneyland/Magic Mountain. Lines for even the most popular rides are measured in single digit minutes. The carnival attractions were a kick too. Standard ring toss type stuff but a few old school games like the one where you throw rocks at plates, not to win anything just to break stuff.

I'll step lightly here but I do have to report that there was a lady lying on the grass with her creepy looking boyfriend near one of the main pedestrian areas. She was wearing a dress and sitting in such as way as to display her business (and by business I mean mean that her business wasn't covered by underwear or anything) to everyone walking past. It seemed purposeful in the way they were watching the crowd watch them and was totally a strange situation with all the kids walking around.

On that topic, Copenhagen is a city full of dirty things and dirty people. The tourist map/magazine has a several page spread promoting the museum of Erotica (which is located prominently on the main pedestrian shopping area). One picture in particular displayed a guy with completely impossible proportions. On a street adjacent to Tivoli whose lenght we drove on the bus about 12 times, there was a lovely collection of PORNO! SEX SHOP! GAY PORNO SEX SHOP! etc. While I am not going to be the dad that hides all everything from my kids, I don't want to be the dad trying to explain what the 'wiggling purple' thing in the window is. Nakedness abounds much more in Denmark than Sweden.

Me and the wife had a nice night out just before we left. Her mom kept the kids in her room and we were free to roam until late. It was nice (but cold) strolling near Nyhavn, dinner, coffee etc. For those of you that don't have small kids, its not possible to describe how strange it is to be on a date with your wife alone. I made a rule about not talking about the kids so we sat silently through most of dinner.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Get Behind Me Satan - The White Stripes

The saga goes like this.
  • Download the album from Itunes (link to buy) ($9.99 for 13 songs plus the cover art and the video for Blue Orchid, delivered right now = goodness).
  • Realize that I upgraded my laptop to Itunes 4.8 which is un-DRM-able at the moment.
  • Try to copy the files over to Tina's laptop but the wireless network is down.
  • Burn a CD of just the .m4p files.

  • Import them into Tina's laptop.

  • Strip out the DRM and convert to .mp3.

  • Move them up to Tiny (my psuedo Media Center PC age ~ 7 years) and import them into Itunes there.

  • Fire up the XBOX Media Center to play them through the TV.

Here is my idea for DRM. I would be totally willing to digitally 'sign' my music collection so that if it ends up on a BitTorrent site you can come arrest me for distribution. I just want to use the stuff I buy on all my devices without any hassle.

My unstructured notes on the album:

  • If I was still in high school and it was 1991 and I had my red Honda and played tapes and it was summer, this would be my summer album. I remember very fondly how back then certain albums became theme music for periods in my life.

  • There is a bit more piano and a bit less guitar on this album. According to the included .pdf its Jack playing the piano and he his piano is as distinctive as his guitar and I like it.

  • I read someplace that they made this in like 2 weeks. I want them to start making albums monthly.

  • On the album artwork, Jack looks like a sweaty-toothed madman.

  1. Blue Orchid - Frantic pace, great song for running.

  2. The Nurse - Any song that can combine marimba and rock music is great.

  3. My Doorbell - The hook is a little silly but I know will get stuck in my head. This song is probably my favorite on the album so far.

  4. Forever for Her (Its Over for Me) - Slower song, more marimba

  5. Little Ghost - A strange song lyrically. He isn't just in love with a ghost, he is planning some specific and I think impossible actions. Very twangy w/ a mandolin(?). The backup singers are quite a bit off.

  6. The Denial Twist - Love the beat, mostly piano and drums. Good one.

  7. White Moon - Slow song, a little ponderous as I didn't really notice when it ended.

  8. Instinct Blues - A song about evolution or something. Big guitary song but doesn't move fast enough.

  9. Passive Manipulation - 35 seconds of Meg only. When Meg sings, I feel compelled to pull out my fingernails.

  10. Take, Take, Take - Keeps changing tempos and is a bit psychotic that way. Its almost like when 2 songs are running through your head in parallel and they start to get mixed together. Good one.

  11. As Ugly As I Seem - Acoustic, just a nice song

  12. Red Rain - When I saw the title I was really hoping for a cover of Peter Gabriel's mopey song from So. Remember So? That was a great record. Its not a cover and not my favorite on the album.

  13. I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet) - Old country, gospel sound. Good way to end the album

Friday, June 03, 2005


I know I am going to Hell for this story (and a million other things just like it) but contact with the disabled have left a deep personal scar on me and its cathartic somehow to write about it. Seriously, you will think this is mean and you should not read it.

There are archetype 'looks' for retarded people and I will use them here as a shorthand. I wouldn't want anyone to think I was disparaging something other than what I am.

I was walking through Sergel's Torg (the main commuter square just outside the central subway station) when I heard music type sounds. I walked by to investigate and when I realized it was retards playing I was in quicksand.

The back row from left to right was anchored by a tall Mexican Herman Munster looking guy. I couldn't see that he was singing but was doing the Herman Munster dance and scowling at the crowd. His visage was a mix of SAT concentration and rap word-emphasizer guy (not sure the technical term but the guy who stalks menacingly around the stage and shouts the last line of each lyric to put em-pha-sis on it). To his left was the singer who was 'reading' the song lyrics from a music stand and shout-singing earnestly while strangling the mike stand. He was in a pose like about to take off running, left foot slightly forward. He was rocking back and forth violently. I don't know music technically at all but if the song was in 3/4 time he was oscillating in 10/4 time. Finally, an overweight mongoloid was 'playing' the drums like Animal from the Muppets, they must have fed this guy 18 Red Bulls.

The front row from right to left was led by a really old looking guy who was probably 20. He was standing and had a can of something clutched in his left hand that he was waving slowly and out of time like he just don't care. Standing next to him was a retarded version of Ron Jeremy playing a bass guitar that was the only thing keeping it all actually moving. Seated next near the center of the stage was a woman with a tiny shrunken head and that gummy overbite old people get when they don't have their dentures in. She barely moved and certainly wasn't singing or playing an instrument. On the far end was a fat guy with almost no neck sitting and playing a tambourine. He had his eyes screwed up tightly and looked like a blind blues piano player, swaying irregulalry and singing in bursts. After a while he decided he wanted his mic turned up so he jumped to his feet and began gesturing to the sound dude that he wanted the volume turned up so his voice could be heard. He did this by pointing at the sound man, at the mic, at his throat and pointing up. Repeat. Repeat alot. Growing frustration. Repeat emphatically. He then begins pounding his tambourine on the wall beside him. This went on longer than I could bear to watch. Time slowed like Kelvin seconds and finally totally stopped with only fatty banging his tambourine harder and louder in slow motion. Finally the inevitable old lady with spiky gray hair and loose, hemp clothing came up to hug him and he finally sat down and time began again.

I was probably there 30 seconds but it felt like a week. The guy next to me asked me first in Swedish and then in English if I was ok. I think I had turned green and looked like I had seen a ghost.

Sometime I will tell you about the summer I spent with my grandmother who took care of 2 retarded women in the house. It affected me profoundly.


A few articles I liked at McSweeneys.



Don't open this link if you love music. Rather, don't open it if you love music and have anything else to do today. They are not all great but a few are.

This is actually a litmus test designed to see if you are a big lame poser. If you claim to find it funny then you are trying to impress somebody and its highly likely that you got a Masters degree in a subject you didn't actually understand because you were fundamentally unskilled and afraid to go into the world and get a real job.

How you gonna live John?

More SGW recycle:

G$, did you write this (link) and somehow slip it into a 'real' newspaper? It goes from kinda funny to totally insane. Poe? Tupac? I will be back in the US in a month and promise to restore order.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Chronicle Project 1.0

I mentioned a few weeks ago the 'sadly ambitious' Chronicle project and here it is.

As 1) my self-involvement truly has no limits and 2) I have alot of semi-down time sitting in meetings and 3) I am always near my laptop I have, over time created the following interactive spreadsheet documenting key events in my life to this point. I haven't learned how to make it truly interactive so that I can get others to make updates but hope to in version 2.0. I have guessed on some of the dates and details from the early days (if you happen to know them please feel free to drop me a note). For my current job I sort of coded the customer names, its not important who they are really.

Here is a nice summary of some of the key counts.

17 Houses/Apartments (its actually higher once I find out where I lived prior to age 5)
11 Educational Institutions (Pre-school to University)
8 Standard Jobs (not counting assorted side deals, scams and other flim-flammery)
3 Sprint Triathlon Races ( I have never come in last, but its been close)
2 Weddings (same girl, go figure)
2 Kids (1 of each)

Tech Note:
Gotta use IE for the site. If you get errors, you also might need to install something on your machine from Microsoft called the Office Web Components (this link appears to be the right install).

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


Here it all is in one huge article: Estonia, saunas, the big green egg, and "Q". Actually, the burning yourself/freezing yourself cycle only makes a 1 paragraph appearance, but enough to tie it all together.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Star Wars - Episode III

Tina's brother is in town right now and we made him 'volunteer' to babysit the sleeping kids while we went out to see the movie. This was the first movie adventure in Stockholm.

I found that they have a site where you reserve seats. Actual reservations for actual seats. I will bring this concept back to the US, it is long overdue. I read Swedish badly and so couldn't be sure that I had done any of it correctly. There is a seating diagram on the website and I thought I picked something dead center between the speakers. Another strange piece is that I have noticed a certain section of town, about 3 blocks square where there must be 8 movie theatres. I never paid it much attention until I sat down to reserve the tickets. It turns out that each theatre, with only a few exceptions has 1 screen and has only 2 shows per night. I assume that each theatre takes just one movie and shows it twice per night.

The biggest part missing from the online reservation system was a place to pay by card. It might have been there but I could not de-code the Swedish to find it. Just to be sure, we decided to swing by the box office and try to pre-pay before grabbing dinner. Turns out we were at the wrong theatre and asked if we could pay here to watch the movie there. This was potential catastrophe in Sweden, they love their systems and there is often no provision for flexibility. We got lucky that this was already accounted for in the system and paid for our tickets with out resorting to violence.

The theatre lets you in 10 minutes before show time. It was an actual theatre like in the olden times. There was a surround balcony with boxes, a stage and the seats were not sloped, just a big room w/ chairs. Tina was suitably impressed by the surroundings, paintings on the walls, naked nymphs etc. The previews lasted a solid 15-20 minutes and were a combination of commercials (for video games, toothpaste and drunk driving) and previews for movies. 1 of the movie previews was for a Swedish film that featured 6-8 naked breasts and 1 very uncomfortable male frontal nudity scene. The Swedes love their nudity.

The first scene of the actual movie was the video game you would expect with loud sounds and bright lights. I am annoyed about 3 seconds in when they have Ewan McGregor start with the lame one-liners. If not for the painfully lame asides he and the Emperor dude carry the movie. One overall comment about #6 and #1 through #3 is that the big action sequences seem written for CGI instead of the other way around.

The tough part about this movie is the expectation. We know Lucas has to show how Annakin makes the trip to the evil side and we also know he won't do it well. The dialogue is nearly unbearable throughout and all the scenes with Natalie Portman are cringe-y to the extreme. With 2 before it and 3 after it, we know what the big 'surprises' will be. The draw here is to see the 2 turning point scenes. 1 is when Anakin turns and 2 is when Obi-Wan fights him. The second wasn't bad and the first only lasted 2 seconds (you will miss it if you blink). Obi Wan seems to have a real struggle about having to kill his buddy. Its well acted. Annakin blithely decides to become the most evil dude in the world and start killing babies after about .3 seconds of hesitation.

Overall it is the best of the first 3 and if pushed I will put it behind 4 and 5 but ahead of 6. It is of course hard to judge on its own due to its relationship to the other films. It is a good movie that could have been a great movie with better writing.

Friday, May 27, 2005


I stumbled onto an interview with Chuck Palahniuk and am thinking about getting his last 2 books (Stranger Than Fiction and Haunted). The thing that I am torn on is whether I should buy them physically or digitally. It seems like I am at a tipping point with regard to digital books. I have purchased 6 now and they are instantly delivered, cheap and great to read on the bus/subway etc via the Ipaq. I will be going home soon and will never read on a bus/subway (as these don't exist in Tucson) ever again. What struck me as I hovered over the Buy Now button was that if I reduce all the books I own to a digital format, the bookshelves that have lined every house I have ever lived in would someday become bare.

Technology leaps like this (record -> tape, tape -> CD, CD -> digital files all spring to mind) always have fits and starts and its tough to time it just right. A total commitment to e-books right now requires reliance on hardware which I am not sure is well standardized.

I have committed to making my musical life totally virtualized (every CD has been ripped and stored digitally) but for some reason books are giving me pause. I wonder if its something more than the tactile experience of reading a book. Something about the ritual of it. Books have a very concrete presence in my life, I rarely get rid of any book no matter the crap contained in its pages (only when my wife absolutely insists on a Bookman's run).

There are also practical considerations. I read in bed every night before sleep. Even when dog-tired, I find that I can not relax properly without at least reading 10-15 minutes. The trouble in the e-book scenario is that the backlight bugs my wife while the reading lamp does not. On the plus side, I usually end up carrying

Further, I can't easily loan a book to someone with the current DRM (digital rights management) schemes. DRM is a tough topic on its own. I do believe people should own what they produce and have the right to sell it or not but the way that its being enforced now is anachronistic and lame. The only people they are preventing from doing anything are the ones who have been good and paid the money.

And speaking of books, the Internet reminds me of Plato's ring of Gyges and I think most of us fail the moral test, ok that is mostly me that fails although I do take the trouble of inventing tortured justifications for my larceny and that rationalization keeps me from worrying too much about it.

On balance, I love the cost savings and don't mind the screen format (although I vastly prefer the Microsoft Reader to the one from Adobe) but lack of physicality makes me a bit nervous.

As a side note on aforementioned Chuck.

His total list includes:
Fight Club, Survivor, Invisible Monsters, Choke, Lullaby, Fugitves and Refugees, Diary, Stranger Than Fiction, Haunted.

I liked Fight Club (wish I hadn't seen the movie first, liked both but its never good to get those images handed to you ahead of time) and Choke (missed Survivor and Invisible Monsters) but felt like Lullaby was a let-down. It didn't seem as effortless as the first 2 I read. I hear Survivor is good and have noticed a buzz about a story in one of the 2 new ones called Guts.

E-Books So Far:

Crime and Punishment - Considering when it was written this is an amazing book and deserves its status as a classic. My only complaint, and I know this is a period thing but its awfully damn wordy.

The Gates of Rome, The Death of Kings, The Field of Swords - The first 3 of the projected 4 novels in this historical fiction series about the life of Julius Ceaser and his childhood friend Brutus. They are saccharine crap but scratch my simultaneous itch for adventure, military, history, fiction and page-turnability.

Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto -I hoped for a novel but instead got a series of GenX pro-slacker essays. I could catch most of the references and identify with alot of what he was saying. I laughed several times but like some of the things mentioned in the title, it left me a little un-full.

The Rule of Four - I heard a review of this book a year or 2 ago that led me to buy it but I think I misunderstood somehow or got the wrong book. I am only 30% of the way through this one and its like a slow Dan Brown novel. Dan Brown novels are bubble gum made bearable only by their pace.

Thursday, May 26, 2005


I have a long and sort of complex relationship to religion but I don't think I have ever been more moved by a description of a religious practice than that described in this article. The last line in particular.

Apologies for continuing to re-cycle Simmon's Daily Links but this is too good.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Today's Funny Site

The Sports Guy Intern (who seems less good than the girl who filled in for him) gave me this (the 'Rocks n Rings' page in particular) and I had to pass it on to those of you who don't follow that site.

It requires no introduction but don't miss the Rocks n Rings stuff.

Antonio Esfandiari

Monday, May 23, 2005

Eurovision 2005 - Finals

Tina and I had a bit of a throwdown on this. She wanted to watch the Lost episode we had downloaded and I demanded that as part of our cultural experience we had to watch the Eurovision 2005 finals!

Read back a bit to check the semis (this is the 3rd post on this topic, we are through the looking glass now) for the rules and setup.

10 countries advanced from the semis and 14 made it in from last year. The Ukrainian duo hosting were ABSOLUTELY hilarious. The English was about letter perfect but their accent and pacing made it sound like a Yakov Smirnov parody.

I'll spare the play by play for the whole thing, not much changed from the semis. Some quick notes on the countries not coming in through the semis.

UK - A black girl, pretty standard Americanish pop. Her asking us to touch her flame seemed a thinly veiled reference, during the course of the song, the lyrics removed the veil completely.

Malta - Alot of lady. You expect opera from that frame but no. She did have a nice voice but it was awfully Celine Diony.

Turkey - Totally bizarre pop/traditional Turkish dress thing.

Albania - nothing to report except that I was a bit surprised to see them still alive (Albania that is). I put them in the Abe Vigoda category of people/countries that I just found out had not expired and both unsettled me slightly.

Cyprus - Human size mirrors on the stage that seemed not to reflect anything. Cyprean guy dressed like a "Billy Jean" era Michael Jackson. Lame pop.

Spain - A song with about 15 pages of lyrics. The women singing were too old for the dance they were doing.

Sweden - I'll let the Local say it. Note that the Greek girl that won was from southern Sweden.

Ukraine - The host country so the crowd goes nuts. Kinda rock/rap but pretty cool (delivered by a balding white guy but still). Backup dancers are 2 guys wearing handcuffs doing breakdance moves. At least it was technically impressive.

Germany - Indecipherable rock, lead singer in leather pants jacket and bikini top. Who can vote against that?

Greece - eventual winner. Britney pop and nothing remarkable.

Russia - Rock by a girl, don't really remember anything about it

Bosnia - 3 girls from the 50's

France - Like a real up tempo Norah Jones.

What got us was the scoring at the end. They open the phones up and people start voting. I have no idea of the mechanics but each country assigns points to 10 of the songs. You get a 1 point vote, a 2 point vote etc. ending w/ a 10 and a 12 (that looks really confusing....each country assigns a 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10,12) and you can't give yourself any points. I went to turn it off at this point totally ok to just check the results the next day.

Tina seemed shocked that after 'sitting through all this you are not going to see how it ends?'. She could not have been more right. The voting is the best bit.

After the 10 minute voting closes, the hosts call each of the 39(!!!!!) countries and ask for their votes, 1 by 1. It took hours and was strangely fascinating. The board would reorder itself showing the rank of the countries as the votes were announced. As I mentioned last time I am a Moldavia supporter (runner up for Croatia). Latvia and Denmark had to be stopped, their gayness was off the scale and I began taking the whole thing insanely seriously.

As they announced each country I would wildly, loudly begin screaming geo-political speculations about how they were going to collude against my favorite former Soviet Republic in favor of the conninving Danes or treacherous Latvians. I came to hate the Latvian and Danish flags which look a bit alike.

I was like Fred Flinstone in his gambling episode ( Bet!Bet!Bet!) and absolutely wrapped up in it. By the end I was painfully reminded why I should not be involved in my kid's Little League careers because competition does something bad to me. I identify with it too personally, like a good American I suppose. So those that worry I am losing my edge here, please don't.

souvenirs and pictures of museums don't intrigue me much as they don't say much about the differences here, but the double CD from the Eurovision 2005 will always be an important memento for me.

Music around the house

This is gonna be a technical post in the Home Entertainment Category. For the audio people in the audience please help out.

The Sonos system is what I am looking at right now for use in the new house. More on the new house next up. This would of course be crazy expensive (I think about 2K to start) to setup fully but I am thinking something like getting a 3.5 Zone system.

Zone 1 = Kitchen
Zone 2 = Great Room (just relay here as I would hook into the existing speakers here)
Zone 3 = Pool / BBQ

The unit outputs 50 W to the speakers. Is that good enough for 2 speakers? I have no idea if 50W is enough to listen to loud music or power Marty McFly's car. Need some frame of reference for this.

I don't really understand the subwoofer thing. If I am putting 2 or 4 speakers outside for the pool/BBQ area do I need a Sub-Woofer?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Playing with the Template

In goofing with the formatting I came to the flag idea showing places I have visited and lived. Interestingly, there is not a readily available animated flag of the new Georgia flag on a black background so since it was redneck when I was there, it'll have to stay redneck here for a while.

Old School Georgia Flag

Stay tuned for the sadly ambitious Chronicle project.

Dangerous basketball in Tucson

Arrest made in Tucson shooting

Perhaps I should find a new place to play when I get back.

The Local - Prison for police who "misunderstood" rape

The Local - Prison for police who "misunderstood" rape

This is both the worst thing I have read today and the most exquisitely Swedish. I can just hear the cops saying something like "no one said they wanted us to come and stop the raping so we sat there and waited for instructions".

This is truly awful and I am a bad person for using it to illustrate the frustration I experience working in IT but its all I had to work with today.

Eurovision 2005 - SemiFinals

I thought alot about what Chuck Klosterman said about (I am paraphrasing) pretending to like things ironically that you really just in fact like. I am not 100% convinced that I like this phenomenon solely ironically and that really concerns me. Objectively, I don't like live performances, hate dancing, really hate most popular music and have a loathing for ESL singers. Shakira as always gets a pass.

To let you share the joy of the Eurovision song contest I decided to keep a running commentary Simmons style to make you feel like you were there. The Eurovision people did the same thing at their site. Don't expect much from the site, its written about like a review of a high-school talent show by somebody's supportive Mom.

The thing that is just wiping me out this morning is the contrast between the notes I took and what Eurovision mom lady thought. I honestly wrote mine before I read those and now I can not stop laughing. I am not sure I can focus on TPS reports today.

So the deal was that there were 25 songs, each 3 minutes. I can't say I watched every second as Tina had me hanging streamers and blowing up balloons (light-headedness may have caused some of the incoherent notes I took) but I did check out each act for at least a minute or so. Of the 25, 10 advance to join some others in the finals. I think the others got in by finishing strongly last year.

1 - Austria - Band all in Ross track suits, accordian player, awkward translation (I'll stop mentioning that because it comes up alot), lame dancing by unbearably white people and of course yodeling.

2 - Lithuania - Possible transvestite lead singer in a leathers Christina Aguilera outfit, prostitute backup singer/dancers. I'll leave off the criticsm of choreography not because I know nothing about it (is it possible to know less than nothing about something?) but because it was universally awkward and seemed poorly rehearsed. I am too used to the ridiculously polished American versions.

3 - Portugal- Smokin hot backup dancers wearing fur blouses and thongs, the mics seemed not to be on for most of song, the dueters were focusing on choreo and forgot to sing for significant portions of the act.

4 - Moldavia- Sort of a pop version of Faith No More, at least it was rocky and interesting with horns and some kind of flute/pipe thing that made it unique, the lead singer wore a drum the size of a pony for the first 1/3 of the song, smiling old lady in the back in a rocking chair, guy rocking out on a tiny pan pipe. Toward the end he introduces ' My grandmama' She is about 4' tall and gets up to dance and play a drum and cymbal combo. Age= 70ish. I legitimately, un-ironically enjoyed this song.

5 - Latvia - Think Extreme, 2 young guys on a chairs w/ acoustic guitars (not playing just doing the strum, clump, strum, clump thing for a while) singing a top 40 ballad. After the bridge, they jump off the chair to very not rocking music jumping around like rock stars. The total killer, over the top was when they broke out poorly timed sign language for the chorus. These guys made the final which further proves I don't understand this game at all.

6 - Monaco - in French, good singer and kinda hot. French sounds nice being sung. Much better than spoken. The musics was ballad and flute with a huge Ed Grimely triangle finale.

7 - Israel - All I wrote here was hot Hebrew chick. I also recall that Hebrew sounds awful sung and she switched to English halfway through and it wasn't bad.

8 - Belaurs - For laughs, this one rocked the hardest. 3 mail backup dancers dressed as Siegfried and Roy with huge poofy collars. The singer lady had 3 layers of clothes on that the lion tamers (there is a vague pun there I'll skip for now) would strip off her at key moments. Tina's description was: Gold lamé cape, blue prom dress w/ gold trim, skin tight gold ice-skater outfit.

9 - Netherlands - First appearance by a non-white. Singing what I think is a Whitney Houston song.

10 - Iceland - No notes here except that she was wearing a jumpsuit that ended in shorts which is jarring to look at. They also made strange Vogue-y hand motions that made me think they were casting spells or something.

11 - Belgium - Classic little euro dude w/ a razor thing goatee.

12 - Estonia - 5 girls. Each with a fake turntable that they pretended to spin, translated some of this online I think, I know I said no commenting on the choreography but the dancing was so bad. Several times 1 girl would start doing a flippy arm thing....look down the row and see it was time for a different thing and then have to switch. Hilarious. This is the song that I woke with in my head, I might end up like the guy in Pi by lunch.

13 - Norway - Glam Rock, nuff said

14 - Rumania - Bella Karoli went all out training for this one. Steel drums ...not like as in oil drums. They were played as drums, strapped to guys feet and being sawed in half for sound effects. She is wearing jeans and doesn't seem very dressed up as if she didn't know she would be on TV tonight.

15 - Hungary - Irish dancers???? The singer is Jennifer Garner so there must be some kind of mission going on. Singing in Hungarian sounds like she is cursing us all to hell.

16 - Finland - Robbie Williams. If you don't know who Robbie Williams is it just means you are an American and not missing out on a thing. Slow dance for the backup singers, which wasn't exactly dancing just a change of position in line occasionally.

17 - FYR Macedonia - Goofy white guy. If someone threatened to blowup my hometown unless I trained for 6 months, got on a stage and performed, try as I might, I would end up dancing exactly like this guy. Its that bad. Fortunately, no one notices because of the 3 hot dancers wearing dresses so short its a constant upskirt shot. Big finale, the guy goes over to 6 giant drums and beats hell out of them to no appreciable rhythm. This total picture is what I fear I would be like on cocaine.

18 - Andorra: This also might be a guy. Singing in what might be Spanish. BTW, I am pretty good with geography but where the F is Andorra? First one I had to check on a map. The singers are dressed as birds.

19 - Switzerland - Vanilla Ninja is best band name so far. I checked, its not plural and its not 'the' Vanilla Ninja. Its Vanilla Ninja as a concept and will be my new online persona. They were a rock band. All girls, all leather, all white and not terrible.

20 - Croatia - Luca from ER singing in Croatian. The best is a crazed kettle drum maniac flailing around making an awful racket. 3 gypsy belly dancers which I loved. Didn't know Croatian bag pipes even existed, near the end the kettle drummer goes handstand and claps feet, this is my top vote after the drumming Granny.

21 - Bulgaria - White R&B guy w/a 12 piece rock band. Song was a slow gay. Think 'Color Me Badd' in badly accented English.

22 - Ireland - Duet of 15 year olds. The guy is so red headed to be a stereotype. She has awful teeth. His mic is either off or he is just humming. Inevitable Irish dancing at the end.

23 - Slovenia - Just a little euro guy singing to recorded music.

24 - Denmark - Very Danish looking guys doing a boy band parody, but they are 50 years old. I think its not a parody. Wow.

25 - Poland - Saturday Night Fever outfits, gypsy dancers, everyone in white and pink silk, singing in Polish, hottest accordion player ever.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Things that amused me this week

I know you are thinking.....don't you ever work? 3 posts in 1 day?!?! The answer of course is that no, I don't work very much. I am practicing an art form called 'Delegation'. Its quite good and I recommend you all get an army of unthinking minions and sycophants whose only purpose in life is to serve your whims.

Of course none of that is actually true and I simply noticed that the other 2 posts I stuck as draft and simply forgot to publish.

A phrase that keeps popping up in my days spent surfing 'metric crapload' to refer to a whole lot of something. If you Google it you will find people not only advocating its use but debating its strict definition and dimensions.

I am really enjoying Boing Boing(the RSS feed in particular). The random little tidbits there while occasionally quite geeky are often great. is also an interesting concept. I know have a place to record my predictions and wager on them.

Somehow I stumbled on this site by an Aussie kid (teenager I think) living and traveling in the US. Granted the writing isn't great and its a little dated but its amusing to see the US through a foreigner's eyes who allegedly speaks the same language as us. Its a long read but my favorite part is when he questions the sanity of eating something called 'breakfast sausage'. If only could go back in time and help him. Good greasy breakfast sausage is not findable in Sweden, I miss it terribly.

Simmons had a kid and was offline for a while but is back now and saying something about a white, Canadian guy winning the MVP. I know I have been gone a while and haven't watched the NBA much but are Canadians taking over as the dominant force in the NBA now? Do we get to have the fast twitch/slow twitch type debates now about maple syrup or something? What does Dusty Baker think? I kinda don't think its true so to whoever has taken over Simmons column, you are not funny. Stop it.

He had a link to an old mailbag question that I really liked (DeNiro vs. Pacino). When he jumps off sports and goes pop culture I want all his articles to be this one.


Through a guy at work I finally have found my way into a fairly regular 2x week basketball game. Wednesday's we play at a sports club called Västertorpshallen (which tangentially has this scultpture -4th down in the list - in the parking lot) and Sundays at the Stockholm Police Station. The Police Station is also the jail (jail is the temporary one and prison is the long term one I think right?) and I am terrified that one day I will get off the elevator on the wrong floor and end up in a game where losing means hurting more than my pride.

Both games are indoor and the surface in both gyms is one of those plastic sport-court types that leave you 20% less sore in the knees the next day (cusioned impact for running and jumping) but make court burns 400% more painful and slower to heal. Sport Court also kills dribbling, its like bouncing a ball in a swamp.

Decent fiberglass backboards but non-breakaway (??!?!) rims like they use outdoors back home.

The International lane lines are confusing and I think I spend an inordinate amout of time in the key because the bastard is so wide you can't escape in under 3 minutes. The worst though is the baseline to rim distance. I don't know if this is common on International courts, I Googled the dimensions and it should be the same distance from the rim to the baseline but for whatever reason seems to be much further apart. Playing with my back to the basket, I have had to post up a bit higher than what I feel like I should because if not, I end up buried behind the backboard. The first time I played I literally did a jumping spinning thing and planted the ball firmly into the bottom edge of the backboard. Embarassing to say the least. The upside is that I like driving baseline and this affords loads of room to manuver down there.

To add to that, there are also Team Handball (love the Wiki) lines laid out in crazy triangles, circles, elippsssess (seems like too many s's there but elipses are like that). Team Handball is nuts, if you ever get a chance to watch a match you won't be disappointed. Ok, you will be dissapointed if you are interested in graceful displays of athleticism or raw, bone-crushing contact. But if you like anti-graceful displays (3 dribbles, jump and throw for a guy 6'6" is horrific to watch) with WWF violence (they don't hit, they kinda push and shove in a way you can't call aggressive...maybe just a bit rude), you might be ok.

The quality is not bad, maybe slightly below average for a sweaty, old-man game back home. The guys I play with are a team in a league but its the off-season right now so they are just training. As they have played together alot over the years, they are very good moving the ball. Lots of backdoor cuts and always, always 1 too many passes inside. Infirmity limits fast breaks and the pace is a bit slow overall. They play games to 5 (all buckets count for 1) and rotate in the odd man to the losing squad.

On fouls or out of bounds situations they don't check to the top of the key but immediatly throw it in from the sideline/baseline like in soccer. I still get caught standing on that sometimes.

There is a Cuban who is a very cool guy (but an awful ballplayer) and the rest are Swedes. The Swedes love their running hook shots. Fast breaks, 15', 19', anything to not go straight at the bucket it doesn't matter. As in their normal social life, they are a bit indirect and I have had great success simply driving straight to it like a proper American. The shoot very little outside 15', a ocuple guys seem to be good distance shooters but rarely avail themselves, don't know why.

They are not very physical players and I think I could do well in a real game.

More Euro-ness

Swedes, almost universally speak great English but its very Brit-sy. Further, the guy sitting across from me is a Midland Brit (I even know what that means now) who replaced a ‘posh’ Brit (who I may have mentioned earlier and on whom my wife had an enormous crush on despite his rather obvious incompatible sexual orientation) who constantly say funny things in amusing accents.

Chris' Incomplete Guide to Brit-sy English

Rubbish = Garbage. You can call a person or a situation rubbish and it means feckless which mean lacking feck. If you can’t say much else about Americans you can at least say we are feck-ful.

Shite = Poop

Kit = Equipment or gear

Dog’s Balls = For some reason this means the newest and best thing. There was an Irish guy on the account that would use this in emails. Alternatively Dog’s Bollocks, Dogs Dangly Bits, Mutts Nuts etc.

Taking the piss out of you – Jerking someone around, usually as in joking around with them. Can be shortened to taking a/the piss

Nick - Steal

Snog – Make out I think as in sustained kissing but it might somewhere between 1st and 2nd base. Remember the ‘bases’ from the olden days? From what I can interpret in the media here 2nd base for a Swedish teenager involves 4 partners of mixed gender, deer, a video camera and a syphilitic midget with bad intentions. Its possible there is a language barrier but I rather doubt it.

Knackered – Tired but also means deeply in trouble. ‘If my wife catches me in a snog with (alternatively....'catches me snogging') the nanny once more, I 'm knackered'

Sod – No idea what it literally means, but its normally used as an adjective to make things more harsh. There is a verb form too but I am not sure what’s done to ‘it’ when they exclaim ‘Sod it!’

Bugger – I think this literally refers to an uncomfortable sexual situation but is used in semi-polite conversation as a verb where we would us the big F verb. Bugger off, bugger this, buggering around etc.

I am fascinated by the curse words especially. It turns out that much like in America, there are some generational rules about curse words, take Sod and Bugger for example. One would use them in front of one's mother (maybe) and never in front of one's granny. The mother and granny would never use them (but you know they think it).

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Firefox (not the Clint Eastwood movie)

I have been using Firefox from Mozilla exclusively as my web browser for about 6 days now and am finding that it works quite well. I installed it just a few days before they announced their first security hole and the patch just came out today. Install was painless and didn't cause any problems.

I like the Tabs view. Basically you have 1 browser window open and then tab your additional pages in that one. You give up only 1 toolbars width (vertically) so its not much loss. My favorite piece though is the Live Bookmarks picking up RSS feeds. For the non-geeks among us, this means I can make a button on my tool bar that when clicked will show the headlines from whatever news source or blog I am linked to. For those playing along at home you can right click on the Bookmarks Toolbar and make a new Bookmark. Drop an RSS feed in there (Try CNN at and poof you have a button showing the CNN headlines. Below are the links I am using right now.

I also like the customizeable search box. It loaded the Google Toolbar for Firefox automatically but it has anoother search box in the top right corner. This one, depending on your plugins etc. can be set to search specific sites like IMDB, Amazon, Wiki etc. which is slick.

I can't comment on the security/stability but can say that for me its been no hassle at all yet.

These are the Live Bookmarks I have so far, let me know if there are others you read and reccomend.

The Local (Swedish news in english) -
This Blog -

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Local - Why is service so bad in Sweden?

The Local - Why is service so bad in Sweden?

I recently came across this site which has English summaries of what is going on in local Swedish newspapers and on the TV news. They also do polls and surveys which people can comment. This one in particular struck me. Its hard to explain Swedish rudeness but Kelvin comes pretty close. The deal is that they appear very rude, almost to the point of inspiring me to violence at a certain coffee shop near my office but that's for another time but in fact are quite nice behind the stone face. The 'lack of social skills' part is so true it made me a little dizzy to read it. Dave points out correctly that its a bizarre combination "In many ways Sweden is a paradox, a very individualist culture combined with a socialist redistributive political system. The service mentality reflects this individualism.". Tina and I have talked alot about this, in some ways you would call them selfish (I have heard her make the ICA grocery store example a million times) but its selfish in the way a baby is, no so much that they want thing to the exclusion of others, its that they seem only vaguely aware that other people exist.

Its all quite different from what you would see in the US in the same situation. In America we tend to be more aggresively, confrontational rude. We make sure that the object of our rudeness knows that we are aware of their existence.


A guy I know pointed out a person we know to giggle at their Friendster profile. I had never paid much attention to Friendster (not being 14 and all) and this was my first time to poke around in there. Its like an online high school year book senior page. You put in a description of yourself, likes/dislikes, philosophy etc. (see categories below). The good bit is that somehow you use this to make friends in the real world (or something) and they then associate themselves with your friendster profile (once I have had time to fill out my profile I will invite you all to join me there). I think once you become friends with someone you can leave testimonials about them. The testimonials are pure gold, pure freakin gold. I haven't seen anyone actually use 'Stay cool this summer yet' but it definitely has that vibe. I have also not seen anything critical yet, only gushing praise which means of course that these people would be crap friends.

Its interesting to look in from the outside and see people's networks but more so to see how they describe themselves. The best I have read so far is:

" I'm a quirky, honest girl who enjoys lifes great adventures, BIG and small. I love coffee, good conversation and anything that makes me think. I'm into all kinds of music and dancing. I believe dancing can be meditation in motion. I'm pragmatic with a capacity to dream big and focus on the NOW. "

The thing that's got me thinking is how do you describe yourself without being trite? Imagine you are in a Jack Bauer situation and they are going to blow up your hometown unless you can describe yourself in under 500 words without being lame. The catch of course is that you must not embarrass yourself, you can not claim to be quirky unless you can definitively prove that you in fact are. You have to use more positive descriptions than negative descriptions (not sure if that is clear...positive as in 'I ams' to go along with negative 'I am not'). Not only must you not embarrass yourself, you have to have to be insightful about it. I am not sure if this is possible.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Commenting the Comments

See now isn't this fun?

Several people left comments on the last post (not sure if that link will work, if not just go to the last post and read the comments) and instead of re-commenting the comments I thought I would start fresh here.

G$ - I saw Jack White on the Grammy's or something with Loretta. She appeared drunk/medicated and he seemed confused. I need to get you some White Stripes. Selectively, I think you will really like it.

Dan - I think they might be a little more substantive than you give credit for but it fits one of my theories about the music that is big during your late Jr. High and early High School days really sticks with you forever. No matter what genre you end up in later (as a choice) the music from when your are 14 chooses you.

Jamie - Where to begin?

First off 'physically mature'?!? For that you are sleeping in the alley when you come to Stockholm. Speaking of which, as of yesterday you had not called your parents since arriving back in the US. By your posting I can see that you are not in fact dead so please call them so they stop harassing my wife about your location/safety.

Secondly, I am trying to figure out what the 'new age hooie' is although I can imagine living in Japan these last years you would have given a very distorted view of music available in American just now. Hasselhoff is big there and Germany I think right? I'll assume 'new age hooie' is Pop music but using 'hooie' makes you sound like the one who is 'physically mature'

Finally, just so we are clear about Pop music vs. pop music. In my thinking Pop music (caps) is a genre of music and pop (no caps) music refers to popularity. Its inconvenient that they are spelled the same but let use this to define terms. (p)op (no caps), and we really should stop being lazy and use the full 'popular' just means that people are into it, it could be good music or bad music but it is at least famous music. Don't ask for the criteria to define how popular it has to be to be popular or how we even measure popularity. We will use the Supreme Court's porn test that 'we know it when we see it'.

Pop (caps) is like potato chips (except potato chips rock so that analogy kinda sucks) in that it might taste good but is completely unfilling. Pop music is bad music because it suffers a lack of creativity. If you have trouble telling which is which among 4-5 artists, they are likely Pop artists. If you find the artist overwhelming hot, it is usually Pop music. Actual musicians focus somewhat less on the hotness angle (although Shakira messes with this paradigm a bit).

Take the Britney, Christina and the (dumb one from the MTV show whose name I have forgotten) triumvirate. Of the group Britney is clearly the least talented but smartest (from a marketing perspective, I don't think I would take her to a spelling bee), Christina is the most talented ( singing I mean, you dirty old person) and the other one is basically banking on the fact that she resembles the other 2. None of the 3 make anything that is interesting or new and therefore are Pop. You can also spot Pop in the packaging. In most cases, the quality is inversely proportional to the size of the marketing campaign. So Pop is bad seems to be my main point but actually its not. I don't like Pop personally but because it is usually so popular, you have to be aware of it to know what is going on culturally. Ask Chuck Klosterman.

BTW, the opposite of Pop would be someone who is not famous, quite ugly but awesomely creative/unique ..... like Tom Waits.

Monday, May 02, 2005

What are you listening to?

I love Itunes and so should you. I still maintain that if they dropped the price to .25 or .50 they would get all my money but still its the best content delivery system out there. The hell of it though is the dumb DRM (Digital Rights Management I think) system. You basically can only play the songs you buy on 5 computers, each of which must 'register' for that song.

--> Warning Geeky Aside

The songs move to the Ipod without problem but I am using my hacked XBOX to play music through the TV. In Itunes you can Share your music and Playlists with other Itunes players on your local network. This is fine as long as the 'client' is registered to play that song. In the hacked XBOX using XBOX Media Center application I can connect to the PC that I have all my music on and play the Itunes shared music. The thing that it won't do though is play the digitally protected files (.m4p or .m4a) I have bought from Itunes. Note the wording there, music I BOUGHT. If I paid for it, I want to play it on whatever device I feel like. I am not sharing it with anyone not on my network and have my network locked down to prevent outsiders.

Turns out I am not the only one who is driven insane by this DRM stuff. This guy makes some software that lets you strip out the DRM stuff so you can convert your file to .mp3 and do whatever you want with them. He has to re-code every time the Itunes client gets updated so if you get his thing to work, I highly recommend not updating the Itunes.....ever.

--> End Geeky Aside

I recently downloaded the singles from The White Stripes and Shakira. I got to looking through my Purchased Music section and below are some thoughts. Also note that I would love to get some recommendations.

The Itunes Today's Top Songs list is worth mentioning too:

Gwen Stefani "Hollaback Girl" I have only seen the video once and got the lyrics just to make sure I was following along properly. That is just ludicrous. Is this big in the US because it has a very random feel to it like a lot of Euro stuff. I almost want to say its some kind of prank. Is it really the soft version of the "

No Doubt wasn't my favorite pop band but then again I don't like pop music so there you go. Anyway, they had a few songs that weren't awful but she has clearly gone insane and now sings about her own poo.

Dave Matthews "American Baby" Pretty standard sounding DMB stuff. Dave has a weird voice that I like esp. on the Under the Table album but he is kinda limping along in this one.

Black Eyed Peas "Don't Phunk with my Heart" This is what I would define as good pop music. It is intentionally not serious, fun, theme music for a cheesy, sunny day in a movie. But it knows what it is and that is important. The other song they have about getting the party started or whatever is the fundamental bar song here right now, its on a 74 minute extended play and I have had rounds and rounds of drinks without hearing any other song.

Coldplay "Speed of Sound" - Yawn. I like Coldplay's sound when its raining (that's the idea right, mood music for people in wool clutching cups of tea) but would give them the Strokes criticism.

Foo Fighters "Best of You" - Seems ok

The Killers "Mr. Brightside" - I beat this to death earlier, I just like it.

Will Smith "Switch" I think Mr. Smith makes nice music for middle aged white people. He seems like a nice guy and I think of him as the black Barry Manilow.

Rob Thomas "Lonely No More" - sounds like something I would expect to hear on American Idol if I had ever seen a single episode.

Green Day "Holiday" - One of the first bands that came along and set me into a category of being too old to appreciate. If they hit you while you were in high school I think they stick with you but just don't resonate with me at all.

Akon "Lonely" - Rap love ballads are some of the most Unintentionally Funny art in the world.

The White Stripes are my favorite post-U2 band. They have those things that mark great bands: unique sound, innovation, creativity and band members or are either scary or insane. Jack White's latest incarnation as a crazed devil-looking hick is perfect. I hope the new album keeps the crazed hick thing going and I like the first single 'Blue Orchid'.

It was going to be Dave Matthews for a while but they haven't really done anything new or interesting since Crash (although I did like some of the songs on his solo album but couldn't tell the difference between him alone and with the band other than no long electric fiddle solos). Does anyone know why they don't sell their music on Itunes until now?

Had a brief fling with The Strokes but they failed even bigger when their first album had 12 songs that sounded the same and then released another album bringing to 24 the number of songs that sound the same. Fortunately I like how that one long song sounds but it disqualifies them from a front-runner spot.

Wilco was in there for a bit but I am either not smart, jaded or cool enough to follow along. I like a lot of it but and you can't by any means say that they are not creative but they pissed me off with the 'Less Than You Think' sound. I can't even figure out what alt-country actually means....incomprehensible imagery, sad songs with a drum machine?

The Killers album is enjoyable, feels a bit too polished/produced though.

Shakira makes good music in Spanish, the English stuff is tough to stomach which is of course no great insight but I liked the La Tortura single much better than most of the Laundry Service album. The video is quite strange, she is half-naked which is obviously good but the weird stomach roll thing throughout is bizarre. Is she hungry? Further, why in the cutaways is she covered in motor oil? This might be a translation thing.