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 that....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 jam...so 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.

Longbet.org 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 http://rss.cnn.com/rss/cnn_topstories.rss) 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.

CNN - http://rss.cnn.com/rss/cnn_topstories.rss
BBC - http://fxfeeds.mozilla.org/rss20.xml
The Local (Swedish news in english) - http://www.thelocal.se/RSS/theLocal.xml
This Blog - http://bakerblog2.blogspot.com/atom.xml

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 (.....at 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.