Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tallinn's kitchen nightmares

I know, I know... I said I'd write about my impressions of Estonia, but something pretty extraordinary happened today, which I had to write about. Brace yourselves - I came across a restaurant so bad I had no choice but to walk out, refusing to pay.

That's right, the Gordon Ramsay in me, your own little Michelin inspector, tried to eat somewhere so crappy it was indeed worth mentioning. Let's get out the big letters for this one:

Do not try to eat at restaurant BannCook in Viru Keskus!
Seriously, the flaws of that restaurant (or here, translated into engrish from russian):

  • The place is supposed to serve russian-style blini, thus the name and confused asian-inspired logo featuring a tower of pancakes.

  • It looks and feels as cozy and tasteful as a McDonalds

  • Perhaps because it was just opened, but service was slow and stressed, they didn't clean tables...

  • Waitress didn't speak english, which could have been excused, if she could have read the estonian...

  • ... menu, which was obviously more ambitious than the kitchen could ever hope to deal with. The beef salad with woked vegetables and roasted red onion looked tasty enough...

  • ... but to my disappointment, the by estonian measures pretty pricey salad was tiny...

  • ... and didn't feature anything woked or roasted...

  • ... nor any peppers or some other of the nice ingredients...

  • ... but indeed two cold slices of what might have been beef, cold salad, bean sprouts, two lame shavings of carrot (which I'm violently allergic to) and an egg drowned in sauce.

  • When I objected to the waitress, she brought the chef who after some conversation with the waitress apologized, but claimed that it was the correct dish except for... (after some hesitation) the carrots.

  • As I was about to get up and leave, the chef convinced me to stay and promised me the correct dish within two minutes, free of charge. About now I was starving, had low blood sugar and a beginning headache.

  • After some five minutes, the waitress came out and confusedly apologized that they did not have what I asked for...

  • ... but as I decided that was it - still had the audacity to ask me to pay for the half cola I drank, so I left it and walked out.

May they close up within the month. Instead I walked up into old town, to have a delicious burger at what seems to turning into my regular café, incidentally doubling as a gay club. Well, the waiters are at least awfully charming :-) .

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Finally, a small step for our quasi-norwegian?

03:30 Swedish time, 04:30 Estonian time, I definitely plan to stay awake and see it.

I hope everyone realize, that it was now roughly ten years ago since Killinggänget made fun of Fuglesang in "Percy tårar" because he'd already waited so long to actually get out in space. Tonight might put an end to that giggling.

Congratulations Robert!

Is it time yet? Nah!!! Congratulations dude!

PS. XSLT is a twisted language - XML transformation written in XML... in XML... in XML... You can tell I'm still at work?

Monday, December 04, 2006

A piece of true swedish culture

Or as he himself so fittingly would have put it, had the worms not been feasting on him by now; "this giant, among giants". Let me humbly bring you a small but great piece of swedish culture, Ernst-Hugo Järegård:

Fig 1: "Postbanken", a loved and hated commercial

Fig 2: "Danskdjävlar" part 1, probably quotations from the series "Riket"

(Yeah, sorry, I know I said I would write about Estonia... but this simply had to get through now. :-) )

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The presidential visit

I think it was in the afternoon, sunday last week, when I was doing something at home and suddenly heard what sounded like a whole bunch of sirens. A sucker for accidents or any sort of morbid excitement as I am, I lept up to the window and looked down. Just as I looked down, something like five shiny police cars and a black Cadillac flew by at high speed. Gziiz, I just then realized I probably could have spat down on the car of George W. Bush, but didn't have enough time to open the window. A pretty amazing thing to happen on a lazy sunday evening...

Though, as a swedish friend commented later, as they were probably just practicing the driving and he would actually show up at first monday evening... there was still plenty of time to get a rifle. Anyway, on the monday evening me and baby went out for a little walk to get groceries, but the pull from the lemonade mixers (saftblandare) in the distance as well as the trailer-load of black Ford vans passing us on the way to the airport from the harbour was too strong. We just had to go look. It's not my picture, but look what drove by in quiet and solemn haste:

Fig 1: The head honcho

It was a pretty amazing display, more police than I knew even existed in Estonia, at least one limousine, Secret Service vans, an armored truck, a couple of buses, both civilian and painted versions of the new fancy Subaru police car.

Fig 2: Viru Keskus, where police cars go to mate?

Anyway, Bush had breakfast in the pink presidential palace (the estonian president is so funny in that he always wears a bow tie, not a normal tie. Supposedly so does his fourteen-year-old son), held a press conference mostly concerning empty promises for a visa waiver (?) program, shook a few hands and was gone in his Air Force One before anyone could say "cultural insensitivity". A lot of schrieking for little wool, said the girl who sheered the pig.

In other news, I have a new work laptop! Or well, it's brand new, but it's not like I had a work laptop before. As I've said before, everything is still extremely ad hoc, I've worked on my mac before and this one our computer dude dropped off out of the trunk of his rally car in the parking slot at Estonia street with the comment "paper work will be done later". Anyway, it's an adorable little 12" 1.6 GHz Celeron, 500 MB RAM, 70 GB disc thing in pure white with a web cam in the screen frame and a tiny keyboard. Actually, I'm pretty sure it's the same kind of chassi use, and we'll see about the quality of it.

I'm definitely gonna have to install software (if our computer guy will let me) to compensate for the discrepancy in usability I'm used to from MacOS X, just look at this little thing:

Fig 3: My latest little nerdy achievement

What it is is a special Quicksilver URL, which can perform simple substitution. The URL is for the Eesti Keele Instituut (Estniska akademien), for the two forms which provide estonian-english translation. So, with it I can now touch a quick Ctrl+Space, type in just a few letters in the bookmark and then write the word in either estonian or english I'd like to translate, hit enter and it will be looked up in my web browser. Insanely nifty. I've seen a similar application exists for Windows, it's called Colibri there. Will try it out.

Next time: What I have learnt from Estonia

PS. The president-spotting continued in Tartu, this time it was the car of the bow-tie man parked in the street in front of Hotel London, just across from the georgian restaurant where I sat and worked.

Fig 4: Estonian presidents have very simple numberplates

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Getting warm in the clothes?

Now my second week in Estonia has even become my third before I could sit down and write this, but anyhow. I'm just barely starting to get rid of the frustration of not knowing where my stuff is in the morning, feeling handicapped in so many things... but it's cool. It's been messy, but cool.

Like the other week. I think it was tuesday... first I could shower but not shave because our upstairs bathroom drain suffers from creative post-soviet renovation clogging, the cable guy is showing up (seriously, 4 Mbps, 70 TV channels and "free" IP phone for 230 SEK a month), my tempered boss calls me in the morning when I'm too far away to hear the phone, my prepaid card is empty so I can't call back and my girlfriend is somewhat edgy because she was not allowed to eat that morning... yeah, messy.

Actually that wasn't all, last wednesday was two days before a minor but first delivery, I thought I was on track but obviously my boss disagreed with me on where the track lay and... I have never, ever, EVER suffered such a verbal beating before. I think it is an understatement to call it "unswedish" to hold the poor guy who's been employed one and a half week responsible for anything your chaotic business, especially if he's obviously breaking his back for you while he's trying to adjust to a new place. You do not, in my opinion, threaten to fire him. It was terrible, yeah, I cried, and I shook, and then I went to the gym with baby who wasn't very happy about her day either, and a friend who was even worse off.

Fig 1: An excellent illustration

It wore of gradually though, I guess it was an unfortunate leakage of pressure from above, we did manage reasonably in the delivery and I worked until after midnight on thursday... the guy did came up to me, thanked me, shook my hand and for all that I know, seemed sincere. Cool. Insane. Insecure? Anyway, it did shake me up enough to remind me to take things very seriously, that we do not have much margins to play around with, and can't afford the luxury of lazy months for anyone. At all.

After a week like that it's justified to sit at home alone in the sofa, watch Kaurismäki's "The man without a past" in the dark, drink perhaps one or two beers more than what would be considered healthy... and re-see "Torsk på Tallinn" as well (check out my picture of Paldiski Palace taken one year later!). It's likely that we will hold weekly movie evenings at home now, people want to see that, "Ben & Gunnar", "Four Shades of Brown" and "Oldboy", etc. etc. ad nauseum.

Next time: The visit from Mr. Bush, and some more stuff.

PS. We went bowling tonight, I made three strikes in a row! (Though landed at a bottom line of 148... I think I can do better)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Estonia has welcomed me!

Today I was at the inlaws' local municipal office to register my place of residence. For your information, Estonia in august passed new regulations that EU citizens need only register their right of residence, not any more actually apply for a residence permit. Residence needs to be registered in the office somewhere you can prove you have a place to live (well...), you then get your ID number and need to apply for an ID card with the migration authorities within maximum a month.

The meeting was a somewhat lengthy but cheerful one. To my disappointment I'm only the second non-estonian european citizen to register within that municipality, some british guy came before me. Anyhow, hands were shaken and I got an adorable frosted blue glass cup with the village shield on, a definite personal office item from now on.

Fig 1: Complimentary municipal cup

If it's hard to see in the picture, the village shield is a green and a blue field with a plant of bulrush (kaveldun) and two shuriken. I guess the bulrush is very local and characteristic, but the shuriken crack me up.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cutting the long tail when moving

If you've kept your eyes and ears open to the IT business lately (read: if you're an engineer who haven't lived in a box the last couple of years), you might have noticed some talk about the business model/statistical distribution property coined the The Long Tail. It's a very cool mechanism, essentially analog to a Salami Fraud, just backward... kindof. Essentially a business benefitting from The Long Tail makes sure it is not dependent on single large sales, but extremely many small sales. I've just experienced The Long Tail as well, but in a much more tiring way.

Fig 1: Illustration of The Long Tail concept

When you're moving, how do you estimate how much time and effort it will take? I had been extremely busy just before moving last weekend and barely managed to make sure I had the absolute basics done, like large furniture moved, old scrap paper thrown away... but in no way did I anticipate what an exhausting exercise it would be before I would actually get to drop my key down my old mail slot and get going toward Kapellskär.

It was absolutely insane, the morning became afternoon and afternoon even became evening before we had cleaned out every single little last space. Very tired, full packed and a bit frustrated, we got going. Perhaps it's only me who become that emotionally attached, but I had lived some five-six years in the same apartment and was now leaving it and the town I've come to love... it was an extremely strange feeling to close the door, leave the key, walk across the yard a final time while holding my by then strangely keyless keyring. Strange, but grand. The keyring has had plenty opportunity to refill again, now I have RFID card to office, key to office and three apartment keys...

Fig 2: A very keyless keyring

So, it was a bit messy and I probably lost a bunch of things, but in the end I put an upper limit to the integral, I cut the long tail, got my thumb out off my ass, got a new start and moved. I'm so impressed by myself.

On the way to Estonia, me and my baby visited senior members of both our families, a Gränna candy cane factory, Vadstena monastery and deserted industrial areas in Uppsala. Poor baby was sea-sick on the tiny boat which took us Kapellskär-Paldiski but had regained her posture when we drove ashore in the gloomy, snowy ex-soviet union marine base town.

Essentially, here in Estonia is great. It's a cool new country to get to know. Work mates and friends are perhaps a bit different from home, but very nice. I have absolutely no set work hours, people really do sit down to work on laptops from any café they happen to like that moment and business is very exciting. Not to mention, it's the first time I'm moving in with anyone and the first time in six years I don't live in the same room I make my food. Already I have both reasonable TV sound, PS2, server and WiFi for all guests available in the entire apartment. It's getting extremely homie. I expect to publish notices of plane discounts and stuff, and I am not kidding when I invite you to come visit us.

To sum up, since when I posted the last time, about the party, I have managed to get, among other things, the following stuff done:

- Write some 10-15 pages more, scrutinize, correct and hand in my thesis report
- Sum up, pack up and drink up my work in Gothenburg. I got the book Gökmannen with the greeting "May your seed flourish in the East". Those guys are seriously adorable
- Pack up and send home all my larger furniture, like the bed, couch and the huge cockpit-like desk (which I miss so much!)
- Finalize and apply for my MSc. degree
- Try out and order my white-gold Chalmers engineering ring
- Agree and print a contract with the next tenant so she could have my apartment early
- Sort through all, and throw out roughly two moving boxes of old paper and crap
- Pack roughly six moving boxes with stuff...
- ... of which only one, plus quite some bags, a microwave, a server, dance mat etc., got to follow me to Estonia
- Hold a little private moving away party for the three closest mourning to get rid of groceries and booze
- Drive across Sweden in a fully packed car with my baby
- Send a long email update to all of the friends and family I remembered should have it
- Started my new job with CoolSecurity in Tallinn, gotten to know some of the routines, got an Estonian prepaid phone card, got all my clothes into wardrobes and drawers, set up server, router and PS2 in apartment and and... plenty more.

Frankly, for me it wasn't much Monkey Island at all. Though, and excuse me if I am repeating myself, I can barely believe myself that I managed to finally get rid of that apartment, all the crap in it and de-root my life in Gothenburg. I am so happy and see amazing horizons ahead.

PS. You know that super-cool new Bond movie which is to premiere in Sweden next friday? Yeah, that's right "Casino Royale", I saw it on the Coca Cola Plaza in Tallinn thursday and it was pretty amazing.

PPS. The thesis report is available online, in the tmp-directory under my dtek-web account, drop me a line if you're interested but can't find that.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

On a dark October night

Happy cries are heard at 3 am in the morning as I am walking through the Tenderloin, (one of the worst neighborhoods in SF) dressed up as a superhero, with a mask and a cape.
I had lost my wallet, id and credit cards, and the group had split up. So there I was. A masked, mysterious figure.. in a bright yellow and red colored costume. Moving along, with the cape waving on my back, puzzled by how warm the tights actually are.
All I have with me is $15 bucks in cash, my cell phone, and a key to the hostel that we checked in to several hours earlier.
By then I had fought villains, crooks, and pirates with only one eye, managed to escape from a pack of wild tigers and single-handedly defeated the swamp monster of Pier 39. Yes it's true! Or maybe my recollection is a little off since it was o so many days ago already.
One thing is certain though: I had lots of fun, and I walk as graciously as you would imagine, after a good party, through the city, finding my way back, avoiding to glance at the pushers and addicts in the streets, dodging some homeless guy in every other corner.
But hey, I mean, sure they could mug me, but there isn't much to take anyways, and the hostel is only a couple of miles away.

It all started some days earlier with the idea of everyone dressing up as superheroes. Tights, t-shirts, fabric, dye and paint was bought and suits were made. The colors had barely dried as we, all dressed in our new uniforms, left to take the train to San Francisco.

It's interesting how social rules can be totally ignored as soon as people are dressed in costumes. We entered a carriage with 20 people that were dressed up to their teeth.
The decision was made to follow them to a local pub, were we gained gin and tonic and lost the Pope (one of the Bergmans). Leaving the train in San Francisco we enjoyed walking around looking like superheroes for a while, and the reactions provoked by this odd behavior. (The Pope also had lots of fun, but we wouldn't learn about that until the next day).

The plan was to head for the YSC party at the wax museum in Fisherman’s Warf, and after checking in at the hostel and going through the ever-so-tedious process of getting a cab (calling for one is no use), eventually we all got there…

Many hours, new faces, and some number of beers later, we found our way back. The next day we spent a slow Sunday afternoon eating pizza in a local park near California Ave train station back in Palo Alto.

Thats all kids. The story ends as happily like most. The world is rid of the swamp monster, the sun has come out, and I have canceled my old credit cards. Don't leave lit candles unattended and see you next time.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

And the Lord said: Let there be celebration!

I'm too tired to even think now, but check this out!

PS. My report is getting there, anyone interested in it should send me a notice.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Winter in California

Yesterday, it rained for the first time since I came here. That means 'winter' has arrived. There are only two distinguishable seasons here. 'Summer' is when it's hot and doesn't rain for months, and 'winter' when it's around 5-15 degrees Celsius during the day, and it showers on average at least once a day. By that definition, summer here is generally from early April to late October.

There is never any snow in this valley. If you want some you could go to Tahoe, a skiing resort in the mountains some hours drive from here, and try to learn how to ski. Then you might decide if you really miss the cold or not. YSC has a cabin up there for Scandinavians that grow restless with the subtropical clime in the valley.

This weekend I was in Gilroy, the garlic capital. Ever heard of garlic ice-cream?
It wasn't that bad actually, but there is certainly a reason for why you probably haven't heard of it.

I also of course want to congratulate Karl Oskar for his achievements and the opportunity he has accepted. I foresee that the journey he is about to embark on will be a very interesting one, and look forward to hear about the things that will happen along the road. I wish I could have been there for the party, but I know that when time is right, there will be another party, in Estonia, Sweden or maybe even in the US. I'm glad you picked the adventurous path. I know I would have :)

Meanwhile it looks like I'll be staying in California until next fall, and when I finish my last courses at Chalmers, I too will soon be looking for a startup company. I want to try that life at least once and I'm not quite ready to get stuck at a one of the big hierarchically organized colossus corporations in my industry. The one I am working for now is not such a company, but it's growing very fast and has needed to address some of the structural demands that come with maintaining an organization of a couple of thousand people. Tree years ago, they were about 200 and since then the market has all but exploded. The first 50 employees or so, probably never have to work again if they don't want to.

For me it's not so much about money, but about doing something I like, something that is challenging enough, and something that makes a difference to many people. If I could be in a position that makes me the light that inspires others to believe in and pursue their ideas, then there is where I want to be at.
I guess adventures teach you what's really important in your own world, and that is in the end, all that matters. I'd say that's the kind of selfishness everyone can afford.


Thursday, October 05, 2006

"It's pulling together", as the girl said

Whooosh... the days are rushing by fast oh so fast. I haven't had the time to write about it, but sunday the 24th I got this:

"I am happy to tell you that our offer for you to work for CoolSecurity is still in full strength. We all, Stellan, Alexander, and myself, are quite convinced that you would fit into our start-up culture. You have demonstrated enough of your skills already. No further action on your side is needed. Of course, we would still need to decide about your contract no matter we have more or less gone over the terms of it already during your visit. So, please let us know about your decision regarding to our offer soon."

Which was of course super-cool, with some feedback I had from various directions I decided to opt for CoolSecurity, gave them my yes and FindYourself my (very sincere) "sorry, not this time". So, just waiting to arrange contract stuff with them there...

Then I held my thesis presentation in-house last thursday, it was very well received and everyone loved the fruit-cake I made. Tell me if you're curious to see my 1337 powerpoint skillz (or read about my thesis project for that matter).

Now I'm busy busy busy, working hard to finish the thesis report, have gotten started with my one-month employment and am finalizing the product I've been working on all along. Am cancelling apartment, electricity, phone... I feel like a car or something (not intended for the purpose) at a skijump hill which has just been pushed out of that little hut. It's now too late to go back, it's time to aim forward and push the throttle to make it a gracious jump.

Anyway, back to business, two things! :

- Thesis presentation, thursday 19/10 at the ungodly hour of 8:00, at Chalmers, room ES61. Be there if you feel like it.

- Thesis, graduation and emigration party!, I'm having some trouble deciding when and how, either it's gonna be now 20/10 if I find a good place to keep it, or saving it to 3/11. The first date is the only one when my baby can be there so friends have an opportunity to definitely see who I'm leaving them for... while I most probably should be finished with my entire degree only at the later date. Any opinions? :-)

Back to writing, busy, busy, busy...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Viking sports

Last weekend the Young Scandinavians Club arranged the annual Viking sports weekend at their cabin near Clear Lake, a few hours drive north of San Francisco.

The weather was great, the water fairly warm, and we could sleep on the lawn under the stars. There was an interesting mix of people. The party organizing old time YSCers, a bunch of au pairs from Sweden and Denmark, a Danish electronics engineer who had just moved here from Copenhagen, an orthopedics PhD from the east coast who had done his post graduate studies in Lund and was fluent in Swedish.

YSC Cabin, Clear Lake

The weekend was passed sunbathing, swimming in the lake, drinking beer and competing in the "Viking sports". We competed in: waterskiing, wakeboarding, diving, beer chugging, giant twister and Irish Christmas.

I regretted not having contacts since not easy to water-ski with glasses, but I entered the chugging, twister and Irish Christmas instead. It went quite well. I placed third in the beer chugging. Just missing second place because of spilling slightly too much in the last round. Interesting to note that despite there were 16 contestants, only a few of them Danish, both first and second place went to Denmark.

We also went "tubing". An activity where you tug an inflated donut shaped rubber tube after a speedboat. It was cool to see that falling of that thing at around 50 knots could cause a person to actually bounce on the water before falling in. I was less inclined to go after that. Johan, one of the Bergman’s found out later in the week that he had broken a bone in his wrist while riding on the tube. Ouch!

The Clear Lake event was a great opportunity to meet some more random people outside of work. I think there are too few of those times, so I collected peoples e-mail addresses and started "the Palo Alto Scandinavian Outpost" party mailing list. This weekend we hosted a BBQ at the Bergmansion, inviting all of the YSC people from last week. It was a good party which I am currently relaxing after :) And there are more upcoming parties in the planning.

Other then that work is progressing nicely. I am content, my boss is happy with my work and I am in the processes of extending my Visa.

About the elections in Sweden, I might say that I was also glad to see that we are having a change of government. It’s nice to know that I had part in it since me and the Bergmans went voting a couple of weeks ago at the Swedish consulate. It will be interesting to see what comes out of all that.

Take care, all of you back home.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Liberation day 9/17

Me and Arvid are closely watching and rejoicing at the ongoing ballot counts. Exit counts show 49.7% to the right-wing alliance versus 45.6% to the sitting social democrats and allies.

I had loose plans to write down a few political comments which have surfaced the last couple of days here, in the meantime I'll settle for two illustrative pictures:

Fig 1: Chairman Persson

Fig 2: The Freedom Fighters

... and a confused quote:

Arvid: "I think... people should have less opinions... things would be more fair then."
K-O: "Can I quote you on that?"
Arvid: "Sure... we live in a free country, regrettably."

And another one, regarding that alliance voters would prefer to be without the Christian Democrats:

Arvid: "You can't just ditch someone from the team, just because they limp and... don't play ball. Though the fat guy one can always place in the goal."

Ok, so here comes a few comments on swedish politics, as supplied by yours truly.

1. If exposed, low-salary workers in particular in the public sector and within the care sector traditionally vote emotionally with the social democrats, since they are the ones always promising to expand the public sector...

... it is then curious to note that the social democrats in the sitting regime (somewhere you have to draw the line between a government and regime, they crossed it sometime in the eighties) are the ones solely responsible for the salary levels in the public sector. If government would allocate more money to public care, chances are those money would be used to employ more people, rather than raise salaries. Regardless of how how much money is allocated to the public care system, the social democrats are the ones forcefully defending a situation of only one employer, little competition for improvement, no measurements of quality and nowhere to go for discontented employees. It is my impression that the social democrats cement low salaries and poor conditions in the public sector, that is what matter more than how much money is actually poured into it and thus they are quite contrary to their image the worst enemy of those people.

Now it seems the race is not quite over yet, let's cross fingers and hope we won't have to wait for the final result until wednesday. Again as Arvid said: "It's a well-known fact guys can't spend more than 24 hours in the same room without inevitably wanting sex"

2. I would be interested to see, if there exist a checklist for "great ways to argue yourself out of tight situation". If so, I'm sure at the bottom of that list would be "skew facts" on par with "redefine concepts". Should you have to resort to either of those, it probably mean to the very least that you're in deep shit.

You're definitely in deep shit if you:
  • have to redefine what torture is (US politics, but anyway...)
  • argue your government's achievements with data statisticians say is "inconclusive or negative" by referring to the "gini-coefficient"
  • claim that in "your own" polls you achieve 15-30% of the votes when everything else point toward 1%
  • think statistical errors will bring you from devastating loss to anything successful

Oh yeah, oh yeah, OH YEAH! The nail is officially in the coffin, Persson has announced he both resign his government, and from leading the social democrats.

3. An Alliance government no doubt will have both a period of adjustment (after all, it was a while since they posessed executive power), great challenges and probably scandals as well. Nevertheless, they have a huge account of abuse capital before any reasonable person should want to drop the pants for the social democrats again. It will be very very interesting to see what will happen with Sweden the next couple of years, if the agenda and rhetorics might shift, but interesting to notice is that this time around the left-cartel lost power in a period of reasonable economic strength. In earlier years swedish economic analysis has always been subject to extremely dense revisionism.

For the record, I made a bet with Arvid that the Pirate Party would get more than 2%. There seem to be little room for me to win that now. Also for the record, Arvid made very essential observations that Persson seem to have attracted electionloss-hemmorhoids and "I hope Anitra get's a divorce now!". Also, Maud Olofsson is definitely one hot mama.

4. To speculate some in the history of Sweden, bias and the so-called "right-wing ghost", an Alliance victory mean more than a Left-cartel victory would, since in Sweden so many of the passive voters side with the left. This mean a 50/50 result would actually imply the Alliance have a slightly stronger and more approved policy than the left, and this victory... it truly feels like a victory.

Logically, few politically conservative, ignorant or idealistic would ever vote to the right. They vote for the left, the social democratic or the environmentalists (you deduce yourselves what this imply about the right-wing voters). I think it is deeply ironic that the social democrats and their welfare system still has such a good ring to it - even if swedes in general now distrust the politicians of the left, they still approve of, cling to and want to keep trying to improve the welfare system.

It's been said that the swedish social democrats were formed to fend off a communist revolution, to give the workers a compromise so they would not demand the entire cake. Indeed affairs such as the one about the swedish secret intelligence agency is indicative of that agenda and has had the result that communism never had a deep impact on Sweden, never was crushed nor deeply hated. We had our cozy "communism light" which was reasonably successful and even if a different policy could have been even more successful, fair or free, the welfare state and the left is still strongly associated with goodness, security and justice for all in Sweden, quite regardless of its actual performance. In Sweden it is even relatively accepted to joke about being "stalinistic" (meaning being extremely disciplined and harsh) while the fascists are the demons here. It would be curious to see whether the Baltic states in an analog fashion avoid demonizing the lesser evil and how they view nazi influence in history since they certainly don't appreciate the memory of the Soviet "liberation".

Monday, September 11, 2006

Huge leaps forward in the thesis project!

Today has been a pretty fantastic day at work. I both had time to aid the others with some C programming (seriously, what can be so hard about a pointer and realizing when to use sprintf vs. memcpy or strncpy?) and, probably as I am beginning to realize how urgent things are becoming, I pushed myself and managed to make huge leaps forward in the project!

The picture above represent one of those leaps – it is a screenshot of our web interface being developed. The peak you see in the graph is the level of relative humidity over time as I put my hand around a moisture sensor connected to a wireless zigbee node. The layman might not realize how cool this is, but it represent a major step toward completing my thesis project, in which the primary goal is to build wireless sensor networks and to present their data through a web page. That is exactly what I have managed today – sure enough with a bit of manual fiddling helping the bits along and keeping things together with duct tape so to say, but nevertheless, "Nu är det nedförsbacke!" ("It's downhill from here on!", as uttered by Goofy after Mickey's and Donald's neckbraking ride along the mountain in their caravan on Disney's christmas...). Also I managed to hack together a control program in our microcontroller, complete with a circular string buffer to keep readings if the node lose connection with the rest of the network!

When I first saw the idea for my thesis project I never thought it could be done, or that I could do it, in just 20 weeks. Indeed it has been, with quite some effort and with the helping hands by five other people in the company and I can't tell you how happy I am about it! My project might also very well compete to be one of the most advanced and things closest to market done with Zigbee so far, at least definitely in Sweden. Keep your eyes open for my two pages in NyTeknik :-) [Note: This has not happened yet, it just might though].

What made today particularly hectic was that Jakob decided today was the day to book my presentations. If I am to be employed during October I need to have my inhouse presentation in September. They don't demand for me to have the essay ready though, and Chalmers want the essay ready but can settle for October with the presentation. So now it's set, inhouse the 29th of September 3 PM and at Chalmers the 19th of October. Anyone interested is of course welcome on both occasions, though the latter date is when I will be celebrating and everything, so you might want to wait until then.

Still not done with the whitepaper I am to do for CoolSecurity, of course I have to be true to myself and write for the blog rather than finish that [Note: Ok, it's done now, just ask me to read it if you're interested].

On another note, dude, the PT Cruisers are so perverted in the design, I've wanted to own one ever since high school!

Soundtrack of today: Jerusalem - Prophet

I'm all lost in the supermarket

Haven't written that much in a while. Work becomes a routine quickly and has its way with most of my time and energy right now. So far I am content with that. I guess that is the way it should be. I am also saving some good stuff until I have time and want to put it down properly.

I rented a Pt Cruiser today to do some shopping at the mall and get more familiar with the area.
Since I am under 25 I had to pay almost twice the usual amount per day. Almost all rental companies have a similar policy. It made me think twice but I decided to go with it anyway, mostly by thinking to myself that "Hey what the hell. Let's do it." I am amazed how easily I managed to convince myself this time :)
Never the less I wish some people would god damn lern how to drive so I don't have to pay for their mistakes. I've heard a few things about American cars and was surprised with how well it handled. I would describe the feeling of driving it as 'mellow'. Kinda like ham or soft cheese. I invite you to try and imagine that.

I had to have some music of course, but I didn't have time to get much of my music collection copied to my laptop before I left, lyckily there are some good radio stations in the area.

"I'm all lost in the supermarket" with The Clash was playing as I drove around trying to find a parking spot in the garage next to Stanford Mall.
Stanford mall is a shopping center just outside of Stanford campus, and quite an expensive place.
It's all about big brands like Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Levi's, neatly piled folded and piles clothes, fruit arranged item by item in neat little pyramids. Designer watches, perfumes, suits, furniture, and well pretty much anything that you might want to part with a few extra bucks to brand yourself with.

I walk in to one of the big gallerias and head for the Home & Beds section. Suddenly my vocabulary feels inadequate. I've only had this feeling twice since I came here. Now, and when I was discussing foreign policies with my Indian colleague Anmol. What a giveaway :) The store person was helpful though.
I explain my 'situation' and she gives me a tour of what sizes of beds are common, how they are usually made here, and most importantly, what the words for different things are. I leave content and a couple of hundred bucks poorer.

Tonight we are having the customary barbeque at home in the 'Bergmansion'. I'll invite you all anytime you would happen to drop by Palo Alto :)

Take care.


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Surreal dreams from a foreign country

You know, I was thinking of whether it is hard for pilots to handle their checklists and learn them by heart. Pilots hardly can bring them out to have a look the hundredth time they're doing a start or landing, they would be ridiculed?

If pilots indeed learn those complex sequences by heart, it must be a heck of a frustration if you change country, company or plane type, to have to re-learn the routines, perhaps even in another language!

So say for example a pair of russian pilots enlist on an american submarine, and the captain order them to bring him a fish sandwich. They would be terribly confused, perhaps think of the pancake-making-machine (incidentally looking like a DJ's booth with two turntables where the pancakes are fried) they have stowed away in a dark corner of the sub. Of course they wouldn't dare to clear up this language confusion right away, but waited an entire week before they dragged the machine out to the captain. That isn't even close to a fish sandwich and by then, gosh they're in trouble!

Last night I dreamt I was hiding somewhere in the grass behind the old sewing facory on the road to CoolSecurity and was caught in a shotgun fight. Of course it was way too much of a distance for hitting anything with a shotgun, and my experience with that heavy weaponry is rather limited... so they caught up with me, disarmed and mugged me. Nightmares usually doesn't disturb me all that much, but you know sometime the feeling of a nightmare just persist, and I felt like the chock and humiliation of being mugged really clung to my thought this morning...

Friday, September 01, 2006

Taking risks

Hey guys. Its good to hear that you are enjoying yourselves back home. I've heard from many friends this week, and it makes me glad to know that I am missed.
I have a lot on my mind right now, work mostly, that keeps my thoughs from going off in all directions. But another month here and I may have had a chance to catch up with myself.
Right now in any case, I like it a lot. Some moments it feels like I've always been here, like I would have felt two months ago in my apartment in Gothenburg. It is interesting how the mind works. How creative flow creates itself when you have allowed the mind to relax for a while. How somethimes it's so good to take a break just to think the thoughts saved for later, to bring your feel for things up to speed with recent events.

I had some thoughts about taking risks recently, and I wanted to share them with you all.
I have always trusted myself when it comes to deciding when to go for something or not. That I have not always been right is of course more easily learned from the cases when I have chosen to go for something that turned out to be a disappointment.
I can, however, not recall a single occation were I regret the choice I have made, since all of them have given me life experience impossible to put a price tag on, made me rethink some of choices, and selected some new ones that turned out to be great.
My conclusion is simply that I should take more risks, because as long as it is I who want to take them, as long as I have no one else to blame for influencing me, they will always eventually turn out to be the right choice.

And I am fine without nicotine. I don't need the snus, it's just nice to have one every once in a while. Considering that I may order it untaxed from Sweden, making it cheaper here, I still don't know if I am going to quit or not. I don't think it's that much of a big deal right now. That's not were my kicks come from.

And K.O, about the job, I most definitly think you should go with your gut.


Thursday, August 31, 2006

What should I do with my life?!

Ok, so soon enough I need to decide where I want to go in Estonia. I have to do a test task (pretty large, but I get a symbolic pay for it) for CoolSecurity, then I should have an offer from them, and FindYourself have already made me one and are content with waiting a while for my final decision.

I give you here the unique opportunity of pitching in your opinion of where I should go. Below I'm listing the pros and cons of my options:

+ a golden product, a small holy grail of cryptography, but still a grail
+ the company is aiming to be international, and might sell well
+ the potential to make me sizeable amounts of money if the company succeeds and is sold
+ the privilege to work with very cool people who knows their stuff
+ the career benefits of specializing in security
+ slightly better entrance salary than FindYourself
+ I get to live in Tallinn, which is less remote than Tartu
+ I would share apartment with my baby
+ I would prove my flexibility in helping build the organization

- I would share apartment with my baby
- the risk the company will never reach market
- my immediate boss seems cool, but choleric
- Tallinn is perhaps too busy, polluted etc.
- the present organization is virtually nonexistent
- I could be more confident that I will manage the job

+ silver technology, pretty cool and unique, but not holy
+ are already selling worldwide very well and there is no end in reach
+ Tartu is cheap to live in
+ Tartu is more relaxed and nicer than Tallinn
+ excellent trustworthy prospects of bonuses
+ I would most likely travel to very cool places all over the world
+ as a part of my job, I would be in contact with swedes
+ a varied job I would probably enjoy a lot
+ I would have my own apartment
+ an excellent workplace with well-oiled routines

- Tartu is remote and boring
- I would not live with my baby except when she comes to visit
- I would have to pay for my own apartment
- I would have to live with turning down an uncertain chance like CoolSecurity

With my own weighing of the factors (between one and ten, which I am not going to disclose) CoolSecurity get 49 plus and 32 minus, a total of 17 plus. FindYourself get a slightly surprisingly high 54 plus and 19 minus, making it a total of 35 plus.

So, this looks like the safer option, FindYourself, is still winning the race, but I'm still leaving my options open, and I want your opinions and comments as well!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Greetings from Sweden!

Robert! I and the boys thought you needed to hear that things are still happening back in Sweden. Now that summer is almost offically over people are coming back to town (though we of course couldn't care less about those overall retards thinking there should be a significant difference in life between summer and the autumn semester), we had pizza together today (and turned Dorado into a wasp death camp), watched a surreal Linklater movie tonight and as you can clearly see, someone was very drunk and silly as well. Hope you are well, we miss you lots! :-)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fascinating things in Estonia

Ok, so they say Балтик Инкассо are gone (here and especially here), and I truly hope so, but Desperado Security sure do exist. I saw one of their security guards in a 24hr liquor/seafood [sic] store and they have the craziest flash website ever (here).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Home again - the final time?

There, I am back in Gothenburg again after a week in Estonia. Just so you know it, this is what you will go through purgatory for in Tallinn airport:

I was called all the way back to check-in from the gate to open my bag (they wanted to see that it was not 80% vodka), I got to cut through the security check line, belt off, computer out, empty pockets, metal detector, arms out, fill pockets, belt on, show passport, cut in line at gate (Estonian style, yeah!) and got a great seat behind the wing. Stressful but bearable experience, good thing I don't smuggle as much drugs as I used to.

The rest of the trip was nothing out of the ordinary, except FlyNordic have seriously shaky pilots, and that it was delightful to hear 6-year old Nathalie in the seat in front of me ARN-GOT giggle with glee as we took off and saw the clouds from above. Her dad did superbly in making her enthusiastic rather than scared of flying.

Being in Estonia was great, we went sightseeing to a beautiful (make-out) lookout, an amazing island in the gulf of Finland which used to be fortified by the soviets, etc. As far as work goes, I'm cancelling my apartment now - FindYourself have made me an excellent offer and Revalbank surprisingly led on to CoolSecurity™, an upstarter company I can't write too much about, except they have hold of a pretty serious holy grail they want to commercialize. CoolSecurity want me to write a part of their whitepaper as a test task, I will be up to my ears in work the next couple of weeks, it is a super-hard decision to make and I still have to cope with writing my thesis project... but it's all bliss compared to not having anywhere to go.

Time to sleep now, might write more about my options and ask for your opinions some other day.

P.S. In the fashion of other great bloggers, this will be my "quit smoking"-blog as well. It's doing quite fine since three weeks now. The other night I dreamt I smoked, and last weekend when tipsy I really wanted a cigarrette. That's more or less all. Robert, are you managing without the snus?

Friday, August 25, 2006

On the purpose of this blog

Catching up some on the writing, I probably should explain some about what this blog is, and why it is so.

During my years in college I have seen plenty of the daring globetrotter kind, who travel around the world just to sign up for another international exchange student program, don't seem to miss the family back in India too badly as they cope through a Gothenburg winter and think it's a great idea to work as an airline stewardess to be able to afford the two degrees they are working for, one in Sweden and one in Japan. Let's just say I am not of this kind.

I happened to find my girlfriend in Estonia, and as things were in our lives it seemed a better option for me to move and start my career there, than for her to move to Sweden and try to work something out there. Besides, in Estonia companies are fighting each other to acquire competence such as mine while in Sweden my girlfriend could possibly look forward to a job in a kindergarten or anything equally fulfilling. The choice was an easy one but nevertheless the process is very exciting and I wanted to document it.

My friend from Chalmers (Robert, as we chose to call him, after the character in "the Emigrants" by Vilhelm Moberg) has simultaneously (or somewhat earlier actually) found a thesis position in an exciting Silicon Valley technology company. As outlooks are now, Robert will be there at least six to nine months and I personally wanted to hear his stories of life in the Land of the Free, so why not let you here them as well?

We figured we'd write a blog, and we'd write in english, to make our stories available to as many as possible of both old and new friends. As we work in professional contexts and as little as possible want to expose our friends or corporations involved, we will anonymize all posts as far as is reasonable. We hope you here will find two interesting stories, similar and yet very different in both style and experiences. Enjoy!

Karl-Oskar, butchering a common friend

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Rollercoaster week, continued

I said I would write down some of what happened lately (don't worry, will get to everything moving- and work-related as well), so at least starting to write this post from a lengthy wait at Arlanda airport, check this out:

- Bad luck friday

Friday the 11th was just ridiculous. I hadn't gotten enough sleep, had laundry to do in the morning, wanted to finish the picture assembly for mother's 60th birthday and woke up with a fiercely flourishing cold. It was as if events of bad luck just wouldn't stop, I wasn't at work when FindYourself™ called, the fire alarm went off at work, the tram suffered delays when I was to go to the train, the frame for mom fell down and hit the lady next to me on the train in the face and to finish things of - mom accidentally stepped on and cracked the framing glass of her own gift before I could even finish it. Needless to say, all of this was very exhausting, but caving in simply wasn't an option, so instead of sulking I tried hard and had a good time with mom's party. On the positive side, I reached FindYourself later, and they promised to send me an offer including numbers by wednesday.

- Saturday, mom's 60th birthday party

Relatives all around, smiles and fake smiles, again and again explaining about the estonian girlfriend who could not be there, that I plan to move soon and everything. Over all a very nice event and I guess that the prospective of moving is relieving some tension there as well. On the train back to Gothenburg I read a fascinating passage in my current book giving a fascinating pseudo-scientific perspective on the issue of correlation between skin pigmentation and the size of male genitalia. The previous sentence is only remotely related to Estonia because of the allegedly prevalent xeno- and homophobia there.

- Monday of despair

On monday I was called by Mediocre™ which wanted to give me a job offer. 50 EEK/h during the trial period, 70 EEK/h after that and in a remote future perhaps but unlikely as much as 90 EEK/h. That makes for 390 EUR per month after tax (545 EUR/month after trial period). Tax-compensated, that is 5400 SEK and 7600 SEK before tax in Sweden. I have both rent and student loans to carry, I don't want to cry in despair every month I get my salary... Mediocre usually hire students who work beside school to do their work, and I might have under-marketed my skills, but needless to say this was devastating news. What if all other Estonian companies can't offer me even workable salaries, as my brother said, then I might as well kick myself tired? That would also imply I can't move to live with my baby, has all this effort been wasted, will I be stuck and bored to death in Sweden?

- Wednesday of small good news

Monday hurt, and even though I grabbed a friend to speak to, the emotions raged during the night to tuesday. Still, I pulled myself together and at wednesday called the chief security person of the Revalbank™. We had been talking and emailing some before, he hadn't seemed very enthusiastic about seeing me, but this time things started moving, and we set a date and time to meet next wednesday. Very excited about what will come out of that.

Before leaving work as well, I discussed with my boss about what possibilities exist to get more money out of my thesis project. As long as I stick to my 20 weeks stipulated, it doesn't matter if my project is huge or really well done, but he expressed some interest in having me stay for a month or so after the project is finished, at full salary. It would just make so much sense, I would get enough money to make the move away from Sweden, I wouldn't have to sit around staring at my belly button while the machinery grinds my degree application and it is much cheaper to hire me to complete more features in my project than to train and pay anyone else to do it. Now let's just hope that is ok with both the upper management and the estonian companies wanting to employ me.

- Thursday of euphoria and traveling butterflies

A busy day, wrote an application to a custom electronics manufacturer, prepared my trip to Estonia and made sure things would keep rolling in the office even without me.

Just as I was about to leave the office and go home to pack, I got an email from FindYourself. It was a pretty detailed description of the job they'd want me for there, Technical Project Manager, and a suggestion on salary. With all the work behind me and all that had happened so far, this suggestion was an incredible relief. The job is very exciting and seems it would fit me very well, and the salary is reasonable. I don't want to describe in too close detail since this is an offer I take pretty seriously - but the introduction salary should be comparable to my student budget the first four months, and after project bonuses and stuff start kicking in, roughly double that after tax. Compensate that for the low cost of living in Estonia, how good this salary is compared to other estonian salaries and that it seems I get a bit of an extra bonus from my thesis project to finance the moving... and I'm more or less up on dry ground now! I can't express how exciting this is to me...


I, Walker (one of the Bergman’s) and his friend Johan went to Yosemite national park this weekend. We stayed at a colleague of Johan who has a cabin in the mountains just south of the park. He tries to go there every weekend, so it was a perfect opportunity to tag along.

Johan's colleague adds to the list of American characters. He is an engineer who works at an electronics company in the valley, and a really nice guy who loves the outdoors, his dog, his terrain truck, his Ford Cobra and his assault rifle (the last one you will figure if you know how to interpret his custom number plates). All-in-all I would say, not a bad set of toys.

After a good night’s sleep and a nutritious breakfast consisting of sandwiches and beer, we headed out to Yosemite. There will be a gallery up soon with some more pictures for those who are interested.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Rollercoaster week

At the risk of repeating myself, the last week has been ridiculously up, down, eventful and important. Outlooks are very promising. I will try to fill in this post later, but that will have to wait because tomorrow morning the plane lifts for Tallinn again and I haven't packed!

On an other note, I have been entirely nicotine-free since august 6th now. My baby came up with an idea to deal with the cravings which to be honest worked better than expected. Great!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

First day at work

Today was the introduction for new employees. To walk takes more then an hour so I took a cab there. It turned out that the driver was also studying to become a CS major. He couldn't afford the more expensive schools like Berkeley, and certainly not Stanford, but would earn enough to get by studying without a scholarship.

The tuition at Stanford is around $40 000 a year (about 280 000 SEK). I’m glad I get my degree for free, and probably won’t complain as much about having to pay back to CSN afterwards. We wished each other good luck, and I made sure to tip the guy well.

At the intro we were informed about benefits, responsibilities and how the computer systems at Engineering were setup. It took 6 hours including the lunch break. Then we had our pictures taken for company ID badges.

The photographer is one of the janitors responsible for utilities at the company campus. His Norwegian father wanted to name the same as me, but his mother wouldn't allow it. Now he always greets me by name. I think he's a bit jealous :)

Then I was shown to the building were my office had been prepared, and met my boss. He's a really laid back cat. Very American. One of the few Americans who work in our department actually. About half of the staff in Engineering are from India, then its about one quarter Asian, and the rest is American, European or of other origin. Some 10% (roughly) are Scandinavian.

I got two computers to play with. (Warning - Technical content)
A dual Xeon 2.8 GHz 2 Gb ram, and a 3 GHz P4 HT workstation with 2 Gb ram, and it's SCSI all the way of course. Now that should allow me to get some work done.

I had Vietnamese for lunch with my boss the next day. He had learned to really like Asian food when he was in the navy and stationed in the Philippines.
He also likes big handguns and drives a huge pickup truck, and is a republican of course. He is well aware of how that is perceived but has a very relaxed attitude towards it. I recon there is a lot we wouldn't agree upon, and we agreed to try and avoid discussing politics.

Later after a ferocious party of Munchkin with the Bergman’s, I fall asleep. The adventures has just begun.
But time flies, and the first week just kind of swooshed by, with plenty of stories to save for later. Enjoy yourselves ‘til then.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Arrival in the US

It's Aug 4. My apartment in Gothenburg has been cleared out. Everything that has not gone home to my parents is packed into two pieces of luggage. The annual festival has just started, and I am out on the town with some friends until 2 am before I go to sleep. At 4 am I get up again, barely awake. I leave my keys with Erik, my neighbor who has his own reasons for being up at this hour. Thanks for all the help btw Erik.

I board the transfer flight to Amsterdam at Landvetter. Of course, fate, or Murphy, or whoever you put your faith in, finds it suitable to place an infant with loud cravings for attention in the seat just behind mine. Dammit!

I have a travel present with me I got from my friend Simon: "Tage Daniels paket", which I during the flight would discover to be a brilliant collection of writings by Swedish comedian and author Tage Danielsson. The pieces are written in the 60's and prior, but they have a taste of timelessness, and a hint of old style and ingenious use of Swedish. Thanks man, it was great. I definitely think we should stay up all night drinking Absinthe and discuss the meaning of life again sometime :)

There is some kind of personal media player mounted in front of every chair on the Airbus A330 which is to depart from Schiphol.

I browse a little, find an old favorite move, "Fight Club", and begin to watch it. But no! I can't believe it. There is a damn kid in the seat behind me on the transatlantic flight as well. Luckily this one calms down after takeoff. Some airplane-food and a beer later and I wake up while the fasten seatbelts sign turns on during landing.

I ended up living in the famous (and comfy) sofa at The Bergman’s for a while.
It's a typical house in the well kept and expensive, but still typical American suburban city, of Palo Alto. In the heart of what is called Silicon Valley, the sprouting grounds of the IT revolution, located some 20 miles south of San Francisco. I'm told Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computers, lives just down the street.

I'll get back soon with the story of my first day at work.


Monday, August 07, 2006

First post

I don't really have much to talk about yet, so for now, here's a bunny with a pancake on its head:

In my office, people are coming back from the vacation, so catching up on everything which has happened. The boss is very impressed with my progress in the thesis project, I am perhaps a bit more realistic and think the challenges ahead to finish the project will be quite sufficient.

It's a bit of a concern that I don't know yet exactly where I'll work in Estonia. Well, that should not be impossible to sort out. I'm writing letters today, tomorrow I should probably get thesis report started.

The guy who will be writing here with me sent me an email today that he's landed in California. Congrats to him! We should see his first post soon enough.