Saturday, October 25, 2008

In Sweden we call it a "lågkonjunktur"

The theme of the blog saturday of the incurably entrepreneurial websmurfs is "lågkonjunkturen", or the recession. Myself I will offer a perspective from Estonia and hoping that it can provide some interesting insight into the otherwise so pitch black Baltic economy.

This morning I watched SVT Rapport with Hasse Svens (also here) reporting from an Estonia in crisis. They start with the story of some lunatics who abandoned their little baby (among what looked like rusty rebar in Paldiski), a story which has become a symbol of the recession, and then proceed with riding down an escalator in what looks like Monday afternoon in Gonsiori Selver (my closest proper grocery store). Yes, it's empty, but I'd assume it's because people, unlike financial analysts, have work to do during the days! I consider this so poor reporting I almost have to wear my spin goggles in order not to go completely blind.

Sure enough, I am generally financially agnostic and indeed living in quite a previleged and safe situation - but there is simply no way I can recognize the situation Svens is describing. Yes, estonian food prices have gone up quite significantly, but that's over the last several years, not because of a recession. Also yes, the real-estate market is stone dead, but it has been that for at least six months already (my girlfriend wrote an editorial about "how to make a million kroon - just not buy the apartment a year ago") and I really have little pity for Mr. Lepik who's anticipated a slowdown so poorly that his construction business is slamming itself down into bancruptcy so fast they didn't get to move into their new fancy offices. It's called risk, live with it.

Give me some solid numbers of how people and business are affected instead of spreading FUD, and I may agree that the average guy should start to worry. It's not unlikely Swedbank are losing huge money in the Baltics when previously lucrative risks start to pop, but this is normal and as far as I can see, we are still surviving.

Estonia is still a good as place as ever to be, people are still optimistic and the fishing waters are good. Everywhere I am hearing that a recession is the right time to start a business. May estonians never become as learned helpless as too many swedes are. Unlike swedes in the scene in "Songs from the second floor" (download it here and subtitles here, but I need to delay it -8 seconds), estonians have no trouble getting up from the floor and onto the stool!


"We have sacrificed the bloom of youth, is there possibly anything more we could do now?"

"No, there surely isn't"

What to do when you're in Gothenburg

A friend called me today and asked for where to go in Göteborg. Well, except of course Universeum, I couldn't think of any great things you shouldn't miss, but I just threw together a small Google Map to give an overview:


There is also of course the map of sushi places in Göteborg, but curiously I can of course not embed it in the blog.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Goodbye to us-and-them prejudice

When botanizing in the great videos of TED.com, I came across an interesting one with Swedish Hans Rosling of gapminder.org. Among many other things, he says:

"I have shown that Swedish top students know statistically significantly less about the world than the chimpanzees [do]" - Hans Rosling, 2006

Go ahead and click the link, or see below for his dense and pretty brief lecture:





Rosling's project gapminder.com is (among other things?) an easily usable frontend to a wealth of databases for laymen to be able to present existing census data in very rich ways. Just as an example, I tried to find some parameters who say something about the development in the nordic countries including Estonia - I chose the density of cellphones and computers per hundred people:




It was really quite tricky to find any parameters which would tell something interesting on just a national level, even more so anything significant in which Estonia "beats" the nordic countries which maybe was a little surprise to me, but anyway, I made a little interpretation of these two graphs.

Firstly - there clearly are computers in Estonia, it should be a little wake-up-call for any colonially minded westeners who are sneering at Estonia, Kazachstan or any of the other post-soviet countries. Once the opening is there, some development goes very fast and indeed few Estonians may have had videogames as kids, but once they started getting computers and cellphones, they cought up fast and are on par with the rest of the western world when it comes to cellphones, and have caught up with at least Finland when it comes to computers.

The second conclusion I make from this data is that cheaper consumer products reach penetration faster than more expensive such. This is true not only for cellphones vs computers, but many other things in society as well - I have at least a hunch of that the more costly the more inertia an issue has, and people renovate the inside of their apartments before they get together and cough up the money to clean up the facade. It makes a lot of difference in the impression of the interested bystander.

I know my reasoning is simple and generalizing, but maybe you have an opinion of your own you'd like to share with us?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

R.E.M. in Tallinn - tag your pictures and take part in the crowd

This Thursday we went to the R.E.M. concert in Tallinn (see also Ängelmedhorn, navelfluff, DN.se and Kulturbloggen), a really great event. The girlfriend is undecisive about whether sound quality at Saku Suurhall was actually much better than usual this time, or if it is that she knew all the lyrics by heart so could sit around even though sound was crap. I made sure to get a fitting T-shirt from the support band We are scientists which made a quite decent warm-up act. This time I didn't make money from my last.fm participation though. :-)


One fun thing with the event (except for the nice music and the fancy stage line of course) was that they on TV screens encouraged visitors to "tag your flickr pictures with #remestonia and they will show up at tour.remhq.com". Not that very many seem to have followed their suggestion, but in a place like London with a bigger audience and a few more nerds even recording video, it creates an amazing base for letting the crowd document events and mash it all up in a spectacular video later. Just think of putting craptastic cell phone videos through a photosynth of sorts, use the professionally recorded sound and replay the event from a hundred angles at once. People, please, start your tagging! Together, at any event, tag, share, and mashup!

Let's end this post with the beautiful song Man on the Moon about the sad clown Andy Kaufman:


Monday, September 01, 2008

Gnosjö-spirit now also for digital nomads

Me and Christian et al have been posting some about digital nomads. Today I realized my tiny old home village Gnosjö will be one of the first in Sweden to free of charge provide WiFi coverage to it's residents. Respect for Gnosjö I say!

As is common with smaller places in the countryside, you sometimes get the feeling that progress is running slowly, but I've actually noticed such a modern thing as that the head of the municipality Lars-Åke Magnusson sporadically writes a blog at blogg.gnosjo.eu. Also there are some connections between Gnosjö and Estonia, such as that the husband of my cousin (I know I got that mixed up when I ran into them once!) works for IMA Norscan which have an office in Tallinn and Estonian Windrox seems to have some work in Gnosjö.

It may appear strange that I am writing about "Gnosjö spirit", but I don't come from just any old village - Gnosjö is legendary in Sweden for it's age-old spirit of cooperation and industriousness, achieving excellent integration and record-low unemployement. Christian writes more about that here.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

What swedes talk about - the death of gender

Today I've had a look at Swedish social bookmarking/blog monitoring sites pusha and knuff.se, swedish sites similar to digg and reddit. There's also of course Estonian blog.tr.ee which I've checked out but couldn't be bothered to make my way around due to the language barrier (wow, that logo is really similar to that of livejournal). Actually I'd want some sort of aggregate social bookmark tool to put by the blog posts, but I don't like AddThis since it only has del.icio.us which I actually use, but not the Swedish sites. Any suggestions?

So what are swedes discussing the most avidly right now? Well, obviously that the women Jessica Zandén and Cecilia Gyllenhammar are crying "Equality is suffocating us! Give us back the real man!".

Ever since swedish weight-lifter Lennart "Hoa-Hoa" Dahlgren posed for the male parental-leave-ad, Swedish gender has been a very advanced topic. Actually, at least already in the 40's Karin Boye chipped a piece of the Swedish gender façade, and since then the illusion of those roles has been falling to pieces.

Personally, I respect the opinions of those debaters, they miss the classic man, that's fine. However, I definitely do not agree with their opinion that there are no men and that essentially everyone are as opressed by feminism as they feel. Many of us are actually feeling less opressed and more liberated with the absence of accepted gender roles, that we can be whatever person we actually want without squeezing ourselves into some badly fitting gender costume. With the debating and images which have been popular over the years though, agreed some are probably a bit confused in their self-image, but the current debade is just reactionary and silly.


(Update: Zandén and Gyllenhammar had a short spot at Janne Josefsson's SVT Debatt. Josefsson is as usual extremely tough and clueless, the debate starters made a bit more sense in person, but if they wanted to bring light back to the combination of sex, machismo and violence, they could have done it infinitely better. And they could have been sober when they write the article)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Yesterday Tallinn, today Gori, tomorrow... ?

The other day, SVT Rapport showed some pictures which really strongly affected me. When discussing the war in Georgia, they showed pictures from the "liberation" of Tallinn or sometime later when Soviet tanks were rolling on the streets of Tallinn. In a street I know, a couple of hundred meters from my home, along Pronski street, by the crossing of Liivalaia and Tartu Mantee, where Stockmann is today to be precise.


Let's not forget that until Russia invaded Georgia, except for the problems of armed conflicts with rebels in South-Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia was a civilized and democratic place with friends and connections throughout Europe. Heck, my favorite restaurant is the Georgian "Embassy" in Tartu, Georgians have struggled and achieved independence from the Soviets like the Estonians did and now they are pleading to the international community to help them maintain their freedom from opression in their own homes and cities!

Regardless of what the Russian regime claims, it should be beyond clear to any westener that the Neo-Soviet Putin is protecting the South-Ossetian and Abkhazian Russian citizens almost exactly like Hitler protected the Czech Sudet Germans. We don't want Russia to come protect anyone here...

PS. We don't however, mind being protected by the space robots :-)

(Update: It seems those particular pictures were from the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt (that's good reading by the way, as is that of Estonian SSR) in which tanks rolled into every capital in the union to gain control over TV towers and similar. In Estonia they were stopped by unarmed masses by the Tallinna teletorn since fortunately, international media were already present to prevent a massacre)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sommar i P1 is nearing it's end, with Mia and Klara, the dynamic bitterness duo

Today two of my favourite comedians were on the Sommar in P1 program, Mia Skäringer and Klara Zimmergren - the geniuses behind the old show Roll On. No one can beat them at really squeezing the bitter juice out of life, serving it to you with a remotely polite smile while clearing their teeth of some remaining snus with the tounge.

Not everyone, actually probably quite few, enjoy the humor of Mia and Klara and Roll On, but I love it and sometimes go back to listening to it - that and Riskradion. It's so Swedish.


Anyway, I just figured I should mention that the list of mp3's of the shows, with all music still included, was just updated. Enjoy!

(Update: To know which is which of Klara and Mia - Klara is the older and blonde, Mia is the younger, (visibly) tatooed and dark-haired, and she has a blog! Wohoo! *subscribe*)

(Update 2: Also, don't miss the excellent TV-series version of Roll On simply called Mia och Klara)

Monday, August 11, 2008

múm at Leigo Järvemuusika

This Saturday we watched múm and Villu Veski at Leigo Järvemuusika. múm is an Icelandic psychedelic ambient band much like Sigur Rós and Villu Veski is an Estonian jazz saxophone player.

Some of our friends have objected to Leigo Järvemuusika as an environmentally hostile jippo which treats their workers like crap - and sure enough I found it somewhat revolting that they seemed to be pouring and pouring gasoline onto those smoking piles of straw, but at least I can hope it was organic fuel.

Regardless, the experience as such was absolutely magical - múm was very nice and when Villu Veski was playing in front of a lake entirely covered in floating candles, the lights in the open night and finally the chinese lanterns sailing away like rapidly circulating stars, while I was holding baby in my arms... it was very very good.

I took some pictures of the whole thing and of course last.fm tagged them on flickr. That way they show up to everyone browsing the last.fm event. Enjoy, and do it yourself the next time you're at an event!


Just for fun, I recorded some of the concert (beware, very noisy sound!):


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Kindo family tree helped me find my cousin

This is fun, my friend Martin over at Kindo asked to publish my story in their blog (also available in swedish here):


Estonian names are close to each other

Back in university, we used to amuse ourselves with figuring out combinations of words at a Hamming distance of 1 from each other. In non-nerd speak, this means words that in a somewhat arbitrary way differ in only one letter.

To my frustration, Estonians have an amazing amount of names which are very hard to tell apart. Neither of these names are made up, we know of people called each of these names! :
  • Raimo
  • Reimo
  • Raido
  • Kaido
  • Raiko
  • Reiko
  • Radko
  • Raivo (two of them)
  • Aire
  • Aira
  • Airi
  • Aido
  • Aivi
  • Kadi
  • Kadri
  • Katri
  • Katrin
  • Katre
  • Urmas (two of them, with last-names also with distance 1)
  • Urmet
  • Urmo
  • Ainer
  • Einar
  • Janar
  • Silver
  • Silvar
  • Arvo
  • Ardi
  • Ahti
  • Ahto
  • Aare

In comparison, these are all the Swedish similar names I can come up with:
  • Marie
  • Maria
  • Peter
  • Petter
  • Caroline
  • Carolina

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

R.I.P. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 1918 - 2008 (August 3, aged 89)


This last Sunday, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Russian: Алекса́ндр Солжени́цын) a true hero of the Soviet people, passed away from a heart attack (DN writes about it here, SVT Rapport obituary here).

While serving in the Soviet Red Army Solzhenitsyn was in a kafkaesque fashion convicted to an eight-year labour camp prison term for making some joking comments about the communist leaders in a private letter to a friend. After serving that term, he still had to suffer an "internal exile" which among other things meant he just barely could get his lifethreatening cancer treated.

During his internal exile after the prison term, with risk for his own life, Solzhenitsyn wrote and managed to smuggle his monumental work The Gulag Archipelago (Russian: Архипелаг ГУЛАГ) out of the Soviet Union. For this he was awarded with the 1970 Nobel prize in literature.

"The Gulag Archipelago" describes the structure of, and life in the Soviet prison system. The Gulag is the name of the prison system as such, forming an "archipelago" with it's "islands" present throughout Soviet cities and in the wilderness in the form of detention prisons, transit prisons and labor camps. The book is so detailed that the cruelty of the system becomes almost surreal and humorous as Solzhenitsyn paints an impressive picture of the thoughts, characteristics and actions of these people who in any other situation would be considered innocent but in the Soviets were prisoners.

It is said to have been Solzhenitsyn's biggest dream to get to return to his beloved Russia as a free man, and so now he finally did. He was particilarly respected by the Swedish people because of how he with a gentle hand enlightened us of the scale of a genocide well comparable to the holocaust.

(Update: Since this is a blog and not some official obituary, I'll allow myself to mention another Estonian hero in the struggle for freedom from the Soviets. Andres Küng (his old homepage here) was a Swedish-Estonian journalist, writer, politician and entrepreneur who wrote numerous books about the nation, being exiled from his parents' Estonia up until just before it gained independence. I have been reading his book Estonia Awakens (the book seems only available in Swedish translation) and it is amazing to read Estonian history told "from the middle" so to say (the book is published in -88). Because, as is said in The Black Swan, history is written going backwards)

(Update 2: Apologies for that my bio of Solzhenitsyn may be both incomplete and erroneous, I'm simply no expert. Also it's worth reading La Russophobe that writes, next to a picture of Solzhenitsyn shaking hand with "president" Putin:
As Viktor Sonkin, a literature columnist for The Moscow Times Context section and a teacher of cultural studies at Moscow State University, wrote in his column: "Solzhenitsyn understood Western society only superficially, and many alarming things he said about it were simply not correct. Rejecting the 'bad totalitarianism' of the Soviet type, Solzhenitsyn was promoting a kind of 'good totalitarianism,' as if there were such a thing in the world."
Solzhenitsyn may have been a hero, but lately he seems to have been generally considered unfit by many. Maybe not so strange considering the experiences he suffered)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Arranging a four-family trip to Estonia, and back to work again


That's it for this time - my family; mom, dad, older brother and sister, their spouses and two kids each have left Estonia. It was exhausting and sometimes tumultuous, but generally enjoyable and so much fun. I solemnly drink every drop the home-made strawberry- and elderberryflower-squashes mom left here.

An extremely compact outline of the family trip (pictures may end up here):
  1. A couple of days in Tallinn, staying in two Red Group apartments
  2. A couple of days in Tartu visiting the Hanseatic days, Dorpat day-spa etc., staying in the guest house at the family's place outside of Tartu
  3. A visit to Ottepää adventure park / Pühajärve Spa
  4. A night and two half-days in Pärnu, staying at the Scandic Rannahotell
To enable my family to make the most of their vacation and see the most exciting parts of Estonia and manage information for such a sizable group easily we used both Google Maps to lay out points of interest on a map with links to further information, and a wiki page to store information in.


We think and hope everyone enjoyed the trip and with the kids saying things like "There are so many more cool things to do in Estonia than home in Sweden!" and "Here is so nice, you can barely believe it's in Estonia" (about Pärnu beach and Tervise Paradiis, to be fair comparing with Australian beaches), we feel that the idea for me and the girlfriend to arrange and coordinate tourist trips maybe isn't such a far-fetched one.

When the family had left towards Tallinn and the ferry the weather rapidly improved so me and the girlfriend stayed in Pärnu and she arranged for us to go sea kayaking (some pics here). It was tough on the arms and got my suntan going a bit too much, but oh how cool and fun it was! We only capsized once, when going in towards the shore and got surprised by waves breaking over us from behind.


The above picture shows the girlfriend getting strapped into the two-person sea kayak by our friendly guide, the second is us having a picnic after dragging ourselves out of the water. Now it's simply back to work again, and hopefully we'll get to enjoy a little bit more of the beautiful Estonian summer!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Estonia - a nation alive with tradition

The other day I was asked to get some proper food, so I and a friend went to the Keskturg local market (this time some translation and guidance was necessary, and someone to play around with the camera - next time I can go there on my own).

My girlfriend is regularly somewhat cheerfully amazed with what crap Swedes eat (or what Swedish students like I used to eat at least). We think it is processed beyond recognition, preserved, intermediate goods and fast food. Estonian cousine, to me, is predominantly fresh, non-preserved, home-cooked and eating at restaurants.

"Oh you're exagerrating, it's just your life which has changed since you moved there and you stopped being a student bachelor or something", you may think, and of course there is some truth in that objection. But ask yourself what Sweden would be without Gorby's piroger and a "pizzeria" at every other corner? On the other hand, I'm convinced part of the reason Estonia has so little fast-food options (and instead sell more ready-made lunches in grocery stores) is the lack of Iraqi, Turkish or Balkan immigrants to run such businesses. I find it almost impossible to find proper junk-food in Estonia! Anyway eating out at restaurants is generally more affordable and common (possibly also for the natives) than in Sweden. And so this time we went overboard in the other direction by visiting the local market to get ourselves some quality vegetables.


This time the market visit resulted in, among other things 2kg wonderful strawberries, half a water-melon and the ingredients of an excellent dish of "new potatoes" with fried onion and chantarelles and a (admittedly ready-made) piece of meat loaf on the side.

Another thing which may appear curious to visiting Swedes is how happy Estonians are to be Estonian. Sure many of us are happy to be Swedish as well, but comparatively we're not proud to be Swedish and "nationalism" has much much more negative connotations in Sweden than in Estonia where even such a thing as the "Fatherland-party" (IRL) is considered generally unremarkable.

The most curious thing about Estonian mentality for a swede how carelessly they dress upp in "folkdräkt" (traditional costume) and participate in various traditional events such as the song and dance festivals. When did you last actually dance "Små grodorna" around the may-pole? Traditional costumes are specific to each village or county and it's perfectly acceptable to wear them also at other festive events (it's not like in Sweden only the oddballs who wear "folkdräkt"). At Viljandi folk-music-festival each and every person is wearing the traditional Estonian hats, and my spontaneous reaction is of course "OMG LOL, they must get so teased about them!". But no-one teases anyone, not even the kids seemed to mind, because everyone wear these odd clothes and hats. It's just very Estonian.


PS. Check out the Estonian foreign ministry on flickr, they have lots of pretty pictures of Estonia

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer is here - P1 Sommar presents the list of sommarpratare!


Saturday it's time again, for Swedish radio's longest running and greatest annual show, in itself a symbol signalling the summer season - P1 Sommar, or "Sommarpratarna" (eng. "The summer talkers") as it's also called. Comedian prank-caller turned language guru Fredrik Lindström will open the race.

The form is simple, for each day during the entire summer someone is selected (one is elected by listeners, this year 19-year-old Yrsa Walldén on the 16th of July) to do whatever they want with a 90-minute program - tell a story, play their favourite music, whatever they can think of. Obviously not all stories will be interesting, but on the whole it's great, you get a very personal and relaxed view of your favourite people. Fredrik Härén wrote a story about the initial gathering of all the talkers, and there's web-TV from it too.

P1 Sommar is actually a pretty unique program in that its brand involves a lot of diversity - both young and old listen to it and it does not shun conflict, like when Lena Andersson caused an uproar with her "Agnostic mass" in P1 Sommar 2005, and she's back this year again! Maybe in the world of IT, shoutcast and podcast, it's less relevant to have state radio program with a limited number of slots like this, but being a "Sommarpratare" still offers a bit of glamour and the show does have a ton of listeners.

I'm very much looking forward to it, and keep an eye out so you can download the programs afterwards. Or you can download them with music yourself!

This is the schedule for the talkers I do want to hear:

June
21 Fredrik Lindström - programledare, författare
22 Lena Andersson - skribent, författare
23 Max Tegmark - professor i astrofysik
25 Fredrik Härén - författare, föreläsare
26 Maj Briht Bergström-Walan - sexualforskare, psykolog
29 Margot Wallström - EU-kommissionens 1:e vice ordförande
30 Elisabeth Massi Fritz - advokat



July:
1 Amelia Adamo - tidningsmakare
2 Peter Wallenberg - styrelseordförande
3 Jana Söderberg - samtalsterapeut, kommunikationstränare
5 Jonas Wahlström - djurexpert, chef Skansenakvariet
6 Peter LeMarc - sångskrivare, artist
10 Isabella Lövin - miljö- och kulturjournalist, författare
11 Leif Silbersky - advokat
12 Tina Nordström - kock
14 Åsa Nilsonne - psykiater, professor, författare
15 Antonia Ax:son Johnson - familjeföretagare, entreprenör
16 Yrsa Walldén - studerande, Lyssnarnas Sommarvärd
17 Mattias Klum - fotograf, filmare
18 Hasse Wallman - grundare och vd Wallmans nöjen
19 Dolph Lundgren - skådespelare, regissör
20 Robyn Carlsson - sångerska, låtskrivare
21 Nils Simonson - kirurg, föreläsare
22 Eva Swartz - vd Natur & Kultur
23 Raymond Ahlgren - egenföretagare, författare
26 Manuel Knight - affärsman, psykolog, föreläsare
27 Jens Lapidus - författare, advokat
28 Annika Söder - undergeneraldirektör, diplomat
30 Göran Hägglund - socialminister, partiledare kd

August:
2 Svante Axelsson - generalsekreterare
4 Stavros Louca - matematiklärare
6 Sissela Benn - skådespelerska, komiker
7 Per Hallberg - Oscarsbelönad ljuddesigner
8 Boris Grigorjev - KGB-överste, bosatt i Moskva
9 David Batra - komiker, programledare
11 Carin Götblad - länspolismästare
13 Hassan Brijany - skådespelare
14 Mia Skäringer och Klara Zimmergren - komiker
15 Mikael Tornving - komiker
17 Sommar i backspegeln

These are the talkers I am more likely to skip listening to:

June:
24 Lennart Johansson - före detta UEFA-president
27 Björn Ranelid - författare
28 Lars Winnerbäck - artist, låtskrivare

July:
4 Fredrik Skavlan - norsk journalist, tecknare, programledare
7 Olle Carlsson - präst
8 Kajsa Bergqvist - världsmästare i höjdhopp
9 Michael Segerström - skådespelare
13 Björn Ulvaeus - kompositör, textförfattare
24 Katja Geiger - modeskapare, "Katja of Sweden"
25 Måns Zelmerlöw - artist
29 Martina Lowden - författare
31 Karin Mamma Andersson - konstnär

August:
1 Annika Norlin - artist, låtskrivare, journalist
3 Pia Johansson - skådespelerska
5 Åsa Borgström - hemmansägare
10 Pernilla August - skådespelerska
12 Ann Henning - författare, översättare
16 Marie-Louise Ekman - blivande Dramatenchef

Do you disagree with me, who are you going to listen to? Go on and comment!

(PS. I am aware this makes limited sense to write in English, but please bear with me)

(Update: I noticed the links to SR's site are broken and will try to fix them)

(Update 2: Hah, ok, SR has bigger problems than bloggers linking into their content:


Seems that their CMS is broken. Guess I won't be hearing Jonas Wahlström just now then :-) )


(Update 3: This is fun - Fredrik "Bison" Wass has made his own Sommar i P1 program. Just email him to get to listen to it. In a wired world, who needs Swedish Radio sanctioning?)

(Update 4: Now you can download all of the programs through The Pirate Bay)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Renewing yourself (I've got another blog!)

"You keep spewing URLs at me, I would never be able to maintain such a web presence!"

Being online nowadays is not so much about having a homepage (frankly, I've got some abandoned ones like that laying around) but participating and being present wherever you want to. Myself I've got a pretty sizable online footprint, composed of profiles in various sites, content like my flickr pictures and my del.icio.us-bookmarks, but now also, not one, but two three blogs:
  • The emigrant blog - what you have been seeing for some time probably, started when I graduated and moved to Estonia from Sweden. I will still post here now and then about what's Estonian, Swedish and life journeys in general.
  • Uncle CJs blog - my new, mine and only mine personal blog where I will post all kinds of ramblings, great ideas and things which inspire me.
  • Carl-Johan's shared items - items out of blogs I read and feel like sharing with the rest of you through Google Reader.

All three blogs have RSS-feeds, so plug them into your reader right now and you'll never have to remember where they are again! (RSS of the emigrant blog, RSS of uncle cjs blog, RSS of carl-johan's shared items)

(Update: Philip mentioned to me that he subscribes to the RSS feed of my flickr pictures. "Huh?" - yeah, of course it has an RSS feed! That will however be the only update, I bet I have tons more of places which may have feeds as well, but it doesn't make sense to list them all.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The best swedish SR radio and SVT TV online and podcasts

One of the things I miss the most in Estonia is the high end of the Swedish media selection (as denoted according to some arbitrary scale). Maybe it's the great things in Estonia which keep missing me, but either way, there is a lot of Swedish stuff I really like. Modern technology makes it all the simpler not only to never miss a show, but to view it even when you're abroad, so here goes! In the words of Percy Nilegård: "Det är humor, det är humor, det är humor"

I find it somewhat curious that Swedish media distinguish between streaming and downloadable media (after all, it's nothing a mplayer -dumpfile foo.wmv -dumpstream mms://fooserver.com/foo.wmv won't take care of), but anyway they strip the music away from downloadable media, so that means that you have to capture those awesome P3 Live concerts in real-time.

Swedish Radio provides most of its programming and then some (except major sport events?) through its online radio. Beside this, many of the programs have their own homepages with pictures and additional material (plus some have the dubious habit of posting stuff on youtube)


Finally of course, one must not miss the P1 Sommar programs which vary from amazingly cool to really boring every day of the summer, depending on who's hosting the program.

SVT television doesn't really provide anything for real-time streaming, but SVT Play provides at least most of the programs which are own productions, and its open archive is pretty amazing (as a complement to the funny stuff you anyway find on youtube nowadays). Some key programs are also available as podd-tv (vodcast).


Usually after watching a program I just keep the video file I have streamed down, so if someone would for example be passionate about my collection of Kobra episodes, we can do something about that as well.

(Update: copyriot has a great blog-post about the legality of radio ripping (in Swedish), cudoz to him)

Quadro Nuevo - playing in Tartu today!

Yesterday we went to a really nice Kevadjazz concert in Salme Kultuurikeskus. Quadro Nuevo plays charming tango/jazz mix, with great cultural variation and authenticity and absolutely mesmerizing skill and passion!

This was in Tallinn, but Wednesday they will play in Tartu - check them out! Here's also their wikipedia and last.fm pages. On last.fm you can hear some of their actual music, here it seems I can only embed music like Quadro Nuevo:


(Update: Torrent found here)
(Update: Amazing, with last.fm it is really starting to work to keep track of for example all large concerts in Estonia, or all gigs of a particular artist! I can add my own or comment or connect with people who were there, awesome! I even heard that if you tag pictures on flickr with the event, they will show up by the artist at last.fm! Hooray for crowds! I write more about the last.fm events + flickr mashup and how a made a bargain out of it here)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Are swedes really that normal?

A friend sent me an article today - "Are Swedes really that normal? (PDF)" by Colin Moon.

To quote some from it:
To communicate effectively cross-culturally the first thing you need to realise is that someone somewhere in the world probably sees you as really quite strange.

That may be difficult for some Swedes to swallow. How could anybody in their right mind consider normal, efficient, level-headed Swedes as strange?

...

This, in Swedish, is called the förankringsprocess ("anchoring [of a decision]", to gain acceptance for a decision before it is pushed through). If Swedes mention the word ‘process’ then it’s better not be in a hurry. There’s a process for everything. This one means getting everybody involved in everything.

...

However, fair’s fair - when they’re at work they’re very effective. But not before 8.30 as they have flexi-time, and not after 4 pm, thank you, as they have to pick up the kids from play school, and not after 2 pm on Fridays, if you don’t mind, and preferably not between 1 May and 10 August.


Swedish chef - a very typical normal SwedeThere's no way I can not whole-heartedly agree with that author. To begin with, the article is simply too densely satirical to be taken seriously. Because that's supposedly how it is intended, the author (let's not repeat his name, nor link to his homepage, thus promoting him) holds seminars in business communication and is a self-entitled expert in Swedes. I just hope the rest of his writings and teachings are less generalizing, superficial and pointless.

Obviously there are some points in what's stated in the article - maybe Swedes in general are less prone to work themselves to death (read: lazy), and maybe the general policy is to value the insights and objections of everyone, thereby avoiding poorly founded costly decisions (read: decision impotence). Regardless, all those patterns and behaviors have developed through decades of business and frankly, Swedes have many great achievements to be proud of, they can't all be contra-productive. I usually refuse calling entire groups of people stupid, and neither are the Swedes - there is a generally accepted collective behavior, it's nothing uncommon, and it's at least not always the case that people conform to a social pattern because they are slaves under it, maybe they actually enjoy it! Besides - "lagom" is a great and flexible word.

One point in the article I find more true and interesting than the others - That Swedes love to think they are normal. I suppose it is a common thought among non-internationalistic bigots of all nations, not realizing that their little tribe is just one of thousands, and thus losing out on the opportunity to liberate themselves from the need to conform to the own tribe.

I have met Estonians who seem to think they will be great just by being not like the Swedes. It's ridiculous and annoying, and sometimes that's what I respond to their Swede-bashing. There are plenty of things to despise about the Estonian culture as well, but... I try to focus on learning about the drawbacks and benefits of many cultures, growing as great I can personally instead. Next blog post I should make about cultural quirks I love!

Ending this post with a few links:

  • More humorous Swede-bashing, this time spewed out by Australians.
  • Industrious, humorous and inspiring disruptive.nu (in Swedish only) about venture capitalism and entepreneurship. Plenty of interviews and food for thought about "un-Swedish" (sv: "osvensk", it is hilarious that such an expression exists and is frequently used) mentality
  • Mosquito and Governor Andy on Youtube. Mosquito is the kind of Swedish 90s TV, grabbing any cool animations they could find, I grew up with and love. Governor Andy is funny because it is good music and he has an absolute menagerie of Swedish reggae profiles lined up in the video. Spot Dr. Alban!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

How to be there for your family - remotely

Let's face it, even if it's not the primary purpose for your family to want you to come visit, if you're anything like me, you will end up spending half your Christmas sitting in front of the family computer, cleaning it to withstand a new season of abuse, setting up and installing things (while trying to make it absolutely fool-proof, anything which breaks will cost you hours of frustrating phone-calls to try set things straight again) and generally... wishing you could spend Christmas doing something nicer but still help your family with all these things some other time.

A little engineering ingenuitiy (to get "call home" including tweaking sshd configuration was my idea), my favourite vodcast Hak5 and Bozteck OneClickVNC to the rescue! Go ahead and read the show notes / wiki or watch the episode.

Essentially I have now emailed a small (less than 1 MB) zip file to all members of my family, with some brief instructions on how to run it (I didn't bother about creating an installer, it's a zip file) and whenever they need my computer support (there seems to be no way I will be able to refuse them), they just send me a message and click the "Call CJ" icon on the desktop.

My mother got all teary-eyed today, partly about this and partly about Skype voice chat - "It feels like you're not so far away, it's really nice!". Yep - Trust your technolust.

Anyway, if either of my dear readers are interested in this, I've also recently managed to set up my own TWiki, it's awesome in itself, where I've got some further helpful info.

(Update: Since working further on this solution, I want to link to the Wikipedia article on remote administration and "remote_administration" on my del.icio.us. Also, it's worth noting that OneClickVNC seems to be free for all use, I will have to see whether it is allowed to modify it)

Besides all this nerdiness, I spent Friday-Saturday in Toila spa and visited the freaky-looking "village of frozen urine" / Valaste waterfalls:



Spa was... very nice. Very nice. Thanks baby.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lactating - now with a buzz!

Wired gadget lab blog (A happy place for nerds) writes:

It's hard to know just what to say about the Wine Rack, a bastardization of the Camelback hydration system that stores a full 750ml of liquid in a sports bra. Aimed at the kind of people who like to sneak hooch into concerts, games, etc., the thing also increases bust size by two cups.

Could this be just the thing to liven up a too-serious wine tasting? Or derail several years worth of therapy aimed at getting you past the oral stage? Or just inspire untold bad jokes?

Whatever, it's $30 and available in two sizes.

I just love this invention. And as they write - it's unlikely to be detected in any frisking as well.

In Sweden where alcohol sale in public places is only permitted in well-fenced areas to clients who are willing to prove that they are still sober enough to stand on one leg while whistling the anthem (though otherwise remaining quiet, the guards will beat them with retractable batons if not) and only then at 3-4 times the regular monopoly price... the Booze Bra is a given smash hit.

Any guys up for partying in drag by the way? :-)

In other news, I still have the same job, things are still as exciting, me and the girlfriend are finally renting an apartment of our own, and I still haven't figured out how to disconnect my (emigrant) blogger account from my gmail identity so I can't link to all the fun stuff I've been fiddling with recently.

Got to go, the girlfriend is steaming fractal cabbage!