Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A view from a window at work in South Helsingborg
Tuesday, January 31st, 2006.
A view from my balcony in Helsingborg on Monday, January 30th, 2006...

Monday, January 30, 2006

Monday, January 30th, 2006:
The shortage of munchies in Helsingborg, Sweden

What I think:

I'm starting to think that the citizens of Helsingborg don't get the munchies.

OK, perhaps that's a bit unfair. Let me re-phrase that: I'm beginning to believe that the people who live in Helsingborg don't get the munchies. Not in the British or North American alternative-lifestyle-serious-munchies kind of way anyway. Let me explain...

Once in a while, at some point in a nice chilled evening with friends, you might feel like a nice tasty packet of crisps (US/CAN: chips). Nothing much, just a small packet with a nice flavour. Unless you like sour cream & onion, creme fraiche & chives, creme fraiche & onions, sour cream & chives, onion & chives & sour creme fraiche, or dill or pepper - and unless all your mates want the same thing, Helsingborg's not the ideal place. For those flavours are just about all they have here, and almost exclusively in big bags. Or you can get popcorn, or nuts, or big bags of Cheeze Doodles or Cheese Ballz. Exciting, eh? Whew! Where's my inhaler?

One thing they now finally have, and for which I thank the Lord Cheesus, is Doritos. I got so excited when I discovered them in the shop that my trousers fit all funny for a few minutes.

There simply isn't the variety of snack-sized pakets of crisps here that they have in the UK.

Over there, even in the smallest little corner shop, you can find a fantastic variety of Walker's crisps in handy packets. The basic range alone is: Barbecue, Beef & Onion, Cheese & Onion, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Marmite Yeast Extract, Pickled Onion, Prawn Cocktail, Ready Salted, Roast Chicken, Salt & Vinegar, Smoky Bacon, and Worcester Sauce. OK, so they're not all great, but what a selection. Then you have their newer "Sensations" range, which includes: Chargrilled Steak & Peppercorn Sauce, Four Cheese & Red Onion, Oven Roasted Chicken & Thyme, to name but four. I shit you not. And that's just the tip of the jalapeno...Prepare to be amazed - just check them out. (You may have to scroll up a bit; I'll need to fix something with this blog page one day.)

The only problem with having so much of a selection is that it can be difficult to remember which flavours all your mates wanted, especially in the condition that causes the munchies in the first place. But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you can use your mobile (US/CAN: cellphone) and simply ring your friends and ask them (for the third time) what they wanted, again. Of course, you could write down what they want in the first place, but that would mean getting a pen and paper, and remembering how to spell stuff. Plus you'd spend more time trying to find the bit of paper when you got to the shop - which pocket was it in? Did I even bring it? - than it would take just to ring them and ask.

But I digress (as you do)...

The people of Helsingborg have lived with over-sized bags of boring crisps for long enough. And they've lived without any decent alternative recreation for far-too-seriously long. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sunday, January 29th, 2006:
Router working?

Trying to write a blog, but having serious difficulties with my new router. I fear that not even the Swedish government can save me.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Nedre Nytorgsgatan

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday, January 27th, 2006:
Swedish beer

What I think:

I had a thought while visiting London over the past week.

Now, I'm not generally much of a conspiracy theorist, but I think they do something strange with the beer in Sweden. It's different from what I'm used to in England. Allow me to elaborate.

In England, it's perfectly natural for people to go to the pub and socialise, even on weeknights. One doesn't have to get totally rat-arsed, but can easily indulge in up to about five pints or so over the course of an evening. No problem.

The day after, you might feel a little hung over, but nothing a couple of aspirins, a nice shower - if you're fortunate enough to have a nice shower in the UK (but that's probably someone else's blog), a shave and a splash of medium-priced cologne, won't solve. Oh, and coffee. Maybe a Sausage and Egg McMuffin from the McDonald's at Kings Cross on the way to work. Sorted.

You get to work, start working, talk to people, and generally do your normal work things. Just another day.

In Sweden, it's quite a different story. Firstly, it's fairly taboo to go out during the week here (except maybe on Thursday evening for an "after work" - apparently it's OK to be hung over on Friday, for some reason). If I go out to my local pub (the Charles Dickens) during the week, the place is usually almost empty, especially after 6:00pm.

So, you sit in the empty pub, have a few beers, and get to know the bar staff. They're usually so bored that they're happy to chat (and practice their English, of course). You try to be sensible, and leave by about 11-ish, toddle home, and get to bed by midnight. A fairly normal evening (except for there being no other customers).

But when you wake up, the hangover is bad. Pripps beer is bad. That's my opinion. Just try to sue me.

The two aspirins have little effect, and the shower (normally very nice here, by the way) makes your head feel like Ringo's snare and floor tom combined on "She Loves You". You often cut yourself shaving as well (yes, that's the beer's fault as well), and thus the normally-refreshing cologne just bloody stings.

They've closed my nearest McDonald's (also the beer's fault, I'm sure), which never sold Egg & Sausage McMuffins anyway, so you just smoke a cig on your way to work (at least it's within walking distance).

You get to work, put in some eyedrops in the lift (US/CAN: elevator), go to your desk, and start working. After a couple of hours, the worst of the nastiness starts to fade. You talk to people, and generally do your normal work things. Just another day. Or is it?

You get an e-mail from a work colleague, whom you'd spoken to at her desk only moments before, kindly advising you that you smell quite heavily of last night's drinking. What?

After a long hot shower, a shave (with cologne), and a rigorous tooth-brushing (with mouthwash), two cigarettes, and a coffee, you smell like beer. Worse, it's not even as though you'd gone totally overboard the night before.

This simply doesn't happen in England. I'm convinced that they put weird chemicals in the beer here. And Mr/Mrs/Miss/Dr Pripps (delete as applicable), I'm not singling you out here. Åbro is equally as vile.

I think it's a conspiracy to stigmatise innocent, occasional weeknight beer drinkers, both socially and professionally, and It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

A view from my balcony in Helsingborg on January 27th, 2006.
This weather is starting to piss me off. Quite a bit, in fact.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Monday, January 23rd, 2006:
Buying shoes in Helsingborg, Sweden

What I think:

I went shoe shopping here in London on Saturday. This was mainly because the choice of shoes available in Helsingborg is, quite frankly, pathetic. I'm not alone in this opinion either. I know many people who travel to Denmark specifically to buy shoes.

It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A view of IKEA Brent Park, London on January 20th, 2006.
That's the new Wembley Stadium in the background (under contruction).
A view of Roland and his sock monkey in London.
Taken on January 18th, 2006.
He likes stripey things.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Quick note:

I'm off to London tomorrow for a week...I will try to keep on bloggin', but can't guarantee that internet access will be as readily available to me during this time. But please stay tuned; I will endeavour to maintain at least a minimal level of hilarity during my absence from this fine northern country. Otherwise, catch you later.

May all your meatballs be served with lingon.

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006:
Hotdogs in Sweden

What I think:

Firstly, the quality of the hotdogs sold in Sweden is really crap, and what's in them is the worst possible meat by-products available - and these make up a pretty low percentage. The rest? I don't know. Still hungry? Read on...

A large number of supermarkets in Sweden have hotdog stands either outside the store, or inside - past the checkouts - just like at most (if not all) IKEA stores in the world. You will also find "gatukök" (roughly pronounced: "gah-tu-shook"; meaning street-kitchens) at the side of the road in many places that serve hotdogs as well.

There are a few things you must know about buying hotdogs at a gatukök. In many cases, you need to specify that you'd like a hotdog with bread if you want it in a bun. Otherwise, you may well be given a hotdog on its own on a small paper plate. I found this quite strange at first; why would anyone want a hotdog without a bun? But I actually do see people eating them this way.

A bit of history for you: Buying hotdogs on the streets began in Sweden in 1932. There were no gatukök back then. There was some guy walking around with a metal box full of hotdogs hanging from his neck. It was quite a posh thing to do to buy hotdogs from him. He served these, without buns, in little wax-paper holders, much like the ones we see today (only we have buns now). Sweden was a hotdog-bun-less country in those days, sonny. I'm told that this is why people still have to ask for the bun today.

Sweden's biggest hotdog maker, Sibylla, have a nice flashy site with the history (in Swedish). Go there - but being flashy, you'll probably need Flash, if you haven't already got it. You probably won't find what I'm talking about if you don't know any Swedish, but it's a fun site anyway.

Anyway, back to the gatukök. Another thing I found strange about these is that you can order mashed potatoes with your hotdogs as well (with or without bread). That's right, fast-food mashed potatoes. Unless specified, this is the powdered stuff. This is served using ice cream scoops, and plopped onto a paper plate. Apparently, some people order a hotdog with bread, with a couple of scoops of mashed potato on top. This is called a "special". No joke.

Hotdogs belong in buns, and should never have mashed potatoes on or even anywhere near them, whether powdered or real. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

The news today (oh, boy)
From the world outside:

Sweden: Sex pest accused blames 'woman': A court in Malmö has witnessed extraordinary exchanges between prosecutors and a man who allegedly posed as a woman called Alexandra to lure teenage girls to take explicit photos of themselves and meet him for sex.“Your mind’s made up – you don’t care who Alexandra is,” the 30-year old man told prosecutor Ulrik Rogland.Prosecutors say that the man tricked a large number of girls using the pseudonym Alexandra. The girls felt secure as they believed that they were chatting with a woman, and therefore went further than they otherwise would have done, the prosecution argues. The case that the 30-year old had systematically planned the crimes hangs on the allegation that he was ‘Alexandra’.
From The Local - Sweden's news in English

UK: Man Held In Terror Swoop: A 27-year-old man has been arrested by anti-terror officers in connection with the failed London bombings on July 21. The man was held at 11.40 in Kensington Church Street, Kensington, west London. He was arrested by officers from Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Branch. The man is being held on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000.
From Sky News

US: NASA taking fast track to Pluto: NASA says the New Horizons spacecraft will be the fastest ever launched, more than 10 times faster than a speeding bullet. New Horizons is scheduled to lift off atop a Lockheed Martin Atlas V rocket at 1:24 p.m. ET on Tuesday from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to begin a 10-year, 3-billion-mile mission.
From CNN

A view of Söderpunkten, Helsingborg, on January 17th, 2006.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Monday, January 16th, 2006:
Buying rounds in Sweden

What I think:

It's quite uncommon in Sweden for people to go to pubs with their friends and buy rounds. Most people buy their own drinks. And if you offer to buy them a drink, they'll often look confused, and sometimes even refuse. This would mean that they'd have to buy you a drink back (mustn't be in debt with friends). Sometimes, if they do accept your offer, they don't always buy one back. I think they're sometimes in too much shock to consider returning the favour.

One of the most annoying things about this is that, when a group of four or five people come in to a pub together, instead of one person getting the drinks, you have a whole gang of people queuing at the bar giving separate orders. This is a royal pain.

I was out with my friend Johnny one night, and these two girls came in, ordered separately, and both paid with cards. And the place in question charges five kronor for orders under a certain amount. So not only did these girls waste others' time, but they also paid more for their already over-priced drinks.

I can understand it when you're in a group of six or more people (if you're with a crowd who are unlikely to drink that much), but smaller groups should see that it makes more sense to buy their drinks in rounds. It's less annoying to other punters (US/CAN: customers), it can be cheaper, it promotes comraderie - and it's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

(I would give you today's news headlines, but I've got to be somewhere at 18:40, and there's no way I'm going to be late.)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

View of a laundry room in Helsingborg on January 15th, 2006.
I love washing day. Yippe, yahoo, etc.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Saturday, January 14th, 2006:
Sweden: A "promising" country

What I think:

Something I discovered fairly early on living in Sweden is that if you say you'll do something, it's automatically a "promise". If circumstances change which prevent you from doing what you said you'd do, you've broken your promise.

If you say something like, "Yeah, maybe we should meet up on Saturday", it means "I promise I will put Saturday aside and meet up with you." Then you end up going out and partying a bit too heavily on Friday night (until stupid o' clock in the morning), with a visiting friend you hadn't seen for ages. The next day, you're not really into meeting up to take a day-trip to Malmö to go walking around, maybe shopping, doing lunch, etc - you just want to sleep until noon, at least. Sitting on a train, and having a nice brisk stroll, simply isn't on your Top 10 list of things to do. It doesn't even make the Top 40, quite frankly.

"But you promised," will be the inevitable reply when you ring up to cancel. Regardless of the fact that you're very tired, badly hung over, and not feeling terribly energetic in general, following through and meeting up as "planned" would apparently be the "right thing to do". Even though you only said, "Yeah, maybe we should meet up on Saturday". If it comes out of your mouth, it's a promise.

Similarly, if you try to make arrangements to meet with someone, you might hear them say, "No, I can't do that on Wednesday, I promised my wife/girlfriend/Great Aunt Ida that I would cut her toenails on that day." If you then ask them whether they'd actually said "I promise I will cut your toenails on Wednesday", I bet you'll find that they did not. But try telling them that toenails don't grow too much in the space of a day, and that perhaps the cutting-of-the-toenails ceremony could take place on Thursday instead. No way; that would be going back on their word, and thus breaking their promise.

People here need to learn to live more flexibly, and accept possible changes to pre-arranged engagements. It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

The news today (oh, boy)
From the world outside:

Sweden: Stockholm traffic slashed in first week of charge trial: Rush hour traffic in Stockholm has been slashed by between 25 and 30 percent since the city launched a trial of an intricate road toll system at the beginning of the month, officials said after the first full week. "This is beyond our expectations and the system is also working well technically," Erik Bromander, a finance ministry expert on the so-called congestion tax, told AFP.
From The Local - Sweden's News in English

US: Wildfires consume Oklahoma homes: Firefighters on Friday cleaned up the remnants of grass fires in southern Oklahoma that scorched up to 20,000 acres and destroyed more than two dozen homes and businesses overnight. The worst fire had raged in southern Oklahoma near the towns of Ratliff City and Fox. At one time, the blaze in Carter County was four miles wide and burned at least 20 homes.
From CNN

UK: 'British Pride Is Vital': In a speech to the Fabian Society, the Chancellor said identifying and sticking to 'British' values was vital if the country was to meet future challenges. He said Britishness meant "liberty for all, responsibility by all and fairness to all". He suggested having a clearer idea about British national identity would have helped people to see European integration as a benefit rather than a threat over the past 50 years.
From Sky News

A slightly different view frrom my balcony in Helsingborg on January 14th, 2006.
A bit chilly today: 1° (34° F).

Friday, January 13, 2006

A view from my balcony in Helsingborg on January 13, 2006.
Pictured are some RealSwedes®

Thursday, January 12, 2006

A view of market stalls on Södergatan, Helsingborg
January 12th, 2006 - a nice, fresh, sunny day

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006:
You'd better be on time in Sweden

What I think:

In Sweden, if you're invited to a dinner party that starts at 7:00 p.m. (or 19:00, as the Swedes would write), you'd better be there at that time. The Swedes are generally very time-conscious and, consequently, very punctual. If you know you're going to be late, make sure to ring your host(s) to let them know as soon as possible (preferably two weeks before). Otherwise, you'll be the topic of conversation for every minute that you're late. The concept of "seven-ish" hasn't really taken off here yet - although I'm told it's becoming a bit more common among the younger adults. Thank God.

Apparently, it's equally rude to turn up earlier than at the appointed time, as well. This is because you might get in the way of the preparations that are frantically being made to make the party a success (first impressions, and all that). Your hosts could be busily putting the final touches to the meal or the decorations, or they could be in the middle of tidying up. Being caught tidying up is probably one of the most embarrasing things to be caught doing, as it shows your guests that your home is not always spotless, God forbid. Much better to be caught shagging on the kitchen table with the blinds open.

Swedes' time-consciousness is also apparent in the workplace. In an average office (well, where I work anyway), there's a massive influx of marching bodies flowing into the building each weekday morning, almost simultaneously. At
lunchtime, it's like an exodus; almost everyone seems to disappear at the same time. It's actually quite impressive; it almost seems choreographed. Coming back from lunch, the flow is a bit more staggered (people go to different restaurants, so come back at slightly different times), but the afternoon coffee break (known as "fika" pronounced "fee-ka") is synchronised very nicely, indeed - sheer poetry in motion.

I can't speak for the whole country, but in Helsingborg, even the buses are usually on time - THE BUSES! Having moved here from London, it took me a while to get over being impressed with this. The trains are usually fairly reliable here as well, but not as much so as the buses - THE BUSES, FOR GOD'S SAKE!!

In conclusion, I think it's great that public transport is so efficient here, but too many people are still so bloody uptight about friends turning up fifteen minutes to half an hour late for their latest attempt at "international cuisine" (Thai, fajitas, or sushi are popular these days), and it's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006:
Cash Machines (ATM's) in Sweden

What I think:

The cash machines in Sweden are a little bit different from what I was used to in Canada and the UK. Here, your card goes in face down, with the strip on the left-hand side. Maybe it's just my imagination, but it feels as though it takes a bit longer for your money to come out, as well.

The minimum amount you can withdraw is 100 Kronor (about $15 CAN / $13 US / £7.30 UK / €10.70). From a few of the machines in Helsingborg's city centre, you can also withdraw funds in Danish Kronor or Euros.

What I dislike is that you can't check your balance and withdraw funds in the same transaction. Your balance never appears on-screen; you have to remove your card and wait for the little slip of paper (with your balance) to pop out. I'm told that this is a "security feature" - people can't look over your shoulder to see your balance on the screen. This doesn't make much sense to me; if someone wanted to rob you, wouldn't they just wait for your money to appear, then grab it and take off? That's what I do. I mean, I'd do.

And I'm convinced that all people over the age of sixty are issued with a minimum of seven different debit or credit cards (nine cards for those sufferening from athritis), and that it's mandatory for them to check the balance for each cards' accounts before proceeding to withdraw a maximum of 200 Kronor from a minimum of three accounts.

It can take over 15 minutes to get to the machine (even if you're the next in the queue), and It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

The news today (oh, boy)
From the world outside:

Australia: Not Such Good Clean Fun: An Australian man has had to be rescued after becoming wedged in a washing machine. Robin Toom reportedly got stuck while playing hide-and-seek with his children.
From Sky News

Sweden: Women arrested for security vehicle robbery: Three people have been arrested on suspicion of robbing a security vehicle in Stora Höga, north of Gothenburg, on November 3rd last year. The three have been charged in their absence and are currently in police custody in Stockholm. Two of those arrested are women, one aged 36 and the other in her 20s, according to a police press release. A 36 year old man has also been arrested.
From The Local - Sweden's news in English

January 10th, 2006:
A view of a piece of dried mango
from the Fair Trade shop (
Världsbutiken) in Helsingborg.
Apparently there's a sale on there right now.
Not surprising, if all their fruit's all dried up.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Monday, January 9th, 2006:
Pubs in Helsingborg - getting served

What I think:

If you're used to (and actually enjoy) getting served promptly and efficiently when you go to pubs, Helsingborg is not the best place. It seems that in most pubs, the barman's (or barmaid's) main priority is to avoid you for as long as possible. When you come in and approach the bar, they will: a) go to extreme lengths to prolong an already dead conversation with a regular, b) decide that it's a good time to go and collect glasses, and/or c) go and serve a food order that should have been done at least five minutes prior to your arrival (we'll discuss the quality and temperature of pub food another time).

At first, I thought it was just me. I got a bit paranoid, to be honest - I wondered why bar staff would watch me come in, then totally ignore me for ages before deciding to serve me. But then I started hearing the same complaint from other people, as well.

This is, of course, a generalisation - not all bar staff are like this. But there are enough to make it a definite issue for many of us who dislike hanging around while the finer points and strategies of the game of Big Brother are being discussed at length, when all we want is a nice beer.

It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.
A view of the Charles Dickens pub, Södergatan Helsingborg, on January 9th, 2006.
It's actually a nice day today. Still cold, though.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Sunday, January 8th, 2006:
Live music in Helsingborg: not much here...

What I think:

The only real place to watch live music in Helsingborg is at The Tivoli. It's not a large venue, but it's quite nice. Don't expect to see U2 or Bowie here, but there are, occasionally, some suprisingly cool little treasures turning up. I saw drummer Marky Ramone here (the only surviving member of The Ramones). He was backed by a Russian punk band (note: this was NOT Mumiy Troll!). They did a great job, by the way. And the relatively small size of the venue gave the gig a very cozy up-close-and-personal intimacy. Do check to see if there's anything worth watching if you come to town.

There are a few pubs that feature some cover bands - or Dixieland jazz (Charles Dickens features both of these regularly). I've also seen some little jazz and blues combos at The Telegrafen.

I'm sure that there are some other little places that have some live music, but there simply isn't enough here for Helsingborg to compete as a live music city.

It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

The news today (oh, boy)
From the world outside:

UK: Kennedy resigns
· Lib Dem leader bows to inevitable and says 'I put the party first'
· Support grows for Menzies Campbell
Charles Kennedy - in a public act of surrender marked by the grace and humour that have made him one of the most popular British politicians of his generation - bowed yesterday to an open rebellion by his MPs and resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats. Within hours, momentum was building solidly behind his deputy, Sir Menzies Campbell, as successor, with at least six fellow frontbenchers publicly declaring for him and calls for him to be crowned without opposition.
From The Observer (Guardian Unlimited)

US: Miner returns to West Virginia - Doctor: Improvement warrants moving survivor closer to home: The sole survivor of a West Virginia mine explosion was dramatically improving Saturday as he struggled to fend off the carbon monoxide poisoning that killed his co-workers, a doctor said. Meanwhile, doctors in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said McCloy, 26, was transferred Saturday night to the West Virginia hospital where he was originally treated so he can be closer to his family.
From CNN

Canada: Product labels boost complaints to Quebec's French-language watchdog: Quebecers are increasingly concerned about the status of the French language, complaints to the provincial government's language agency indicate. The Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), which enforces Quebec's language laws, received a record 4,014 complaints in 2004-05, up from 2,591 in 2003-04.
From CBC

Sweden: Police lies jail innocent people - justice chief: Sweden's Chancellor of Justice has claimed that innocent people are in prison because the police lie and the courts are in too much of a hurry. The stinging criticism of the country's justice system was delivered by Göran Lambertz on the Saturday interview programme on Swedish Radio. "The courts don't always place such demands on evidence as they are supposed to," said Lambertz. According to the Chancellor of Justice, police investigations are often one-way - in other words, based on the assumption that the suspect is guilty.
A view from my kitchen window in Helsingborg on January 8th, 2006.
Nice & sunny today, but still bloody cold - only 1° celsius (about 34° F).

Friday, January 06, 2006

January 6th, 2006:
Watching films on commercial TV in Sweden

What I think:

Swedish terrestrial telly often shows a good selection of decent movies. Unlike in France, Germany, and many other European countries, the films are subtitled. You don't get silly dubbed soundtracks - except in children's films, which makes sense (Swedish kids start English lessons at around ten years of age).

This set-up is great for us English-speaking foreigners; we get to see some good British and American films, we can understand them, and we can, if we wish, start to pick up bits of Swedish by trying to follow the subtitles. It's also probably one of the reasons that so many Swedes speak English so well. It must at least be a contributing factor, anyway. It's a good thing.

However, the people who decide on when and how to break for adverts (US/CAN: commercials), especially on
TV3, are either incompetent, or intentionally annoying. Adverts jump out at you without warning, and seem to be specifically intended to appear in the middle of an important moment, an exciting chase scene, or an epic bloody battle. These rude and abrupt interruptions often begin with the most obnoxious short ads, presumably from the sponsor of the particular film that happens to be playing. Pressbyrån (a national newsagents) is the worst offender.

It's cruel and distressing to viewers, it ruins a good film, and it's time that
the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

The news today (oh, boy)
From the world outside:

Israel: 'Significant Improvement': Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is in a critical but stable condition after undergoing a five-hour operation on his brain. Hospital officials said a brain scan had shown "significant improvement" following the procedure. The 77-year-old had already had lengthy surgery on Thursday after suffering a major stroke.
From Sky News

US: Miner's final note: 'Tell all I'll see them on the other side' - "It wasn't bad just went to sleep."
Those were the words that 51-year-old Martin Toler Jr. scrawled on a piece of paper in a note to his family, as he was dying in the darkened Sago coal mine where he and 11 other miners perished after an explosion early Monday.
From CNN

Sweden: Migration board "blocking good asylum lawyers": The legal representation offered to asylum seekers by the Swedish Board of Migration is below acceptable standards. That's according to the chairman of the Swedish human rights organisation 'Advokater utan gränser' (Lawyers without Borders), Kenneth Lewis, who has demanded that the right to elect asylum seekers' legal assistance be taken away from the Board.
From The Local - Sweden's news in English

A view from my balcony in Helsingborg on January 6th, 2006.
The weather hasn't changed a lot lately, has it?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

January 4th, 2006:
Free breakfasts in Helsingborg

What I think:

A few months back, I had some friends visiting Helsingborg from England. They were staying at the
Radisson SAS Grand Hotel. Since they were on holiday (US/CAN: vacation), they were out nearly every night until stupid o'clock in the morning, so they were never awake to take advantage of the nice breakfasts that were included in the price of the room. They told me that I could, if I wanted, come to the hotel before work, and have breakfast there in their place. If anyone asked, I would simply give their room number. Sounded good to me.

The next day, I went to the hotel, nodded politely to the girl at the reception desk, went to the dining area, and helped myself to the very nice breakfast buffet. No one came up to ask me for my room number, or anything. It was great.

I did this a few times, with pretty much the same result. The people at reception were usually pre-occupied, so it was easy. On one occasion, a reception girl was watching me, so I strolled over to the lift (US/CAN: elevator), went up to the second floor, walked down the stairs, and into the dining area.

I told a few people about this, and they thought it was hilarious. But this one guy, Stefan, whom I know from the Charles Dickens pub, said that he does the same thing at the Marina Plaza hotel, and that he's been having breakfast there nearly every day for the past two years.

In a world where so many go without a good hotel breakfast, it's essential that people are informed that this option exists for them.

It's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

The news today (oh, boy)
From the world outside:

UK: Britons Go Sales Barmy:
Britons are collectively set to spend £5.5bn in the post-Christmas sales. That is half as much again as in 2004, according to a new survey. The average person expected to spend £122 in the sales, compared with £82 last year. The research comes after figures showed spending during the last two weeks of December was 3.6% higher than in 2004.
From Sky News

US: Grief, anger as all but one miner found dead: Initial reports indicated 12 had survived: Grief and anger replaced jubilation early Wednesday as mine officials announced that, despite earlier reports, only one of 13 trapped miners had survived a West Virginia mining accident.
From CNN

Sweden: Net sex trickster "assaulted 38 girls": The trial of a 30 year old man accused of sexually assaulting 38 girls he met through internet chatrooms has begun. Under various names he built up a database of 150 Swedish girls.
From The Local - Sweden's news in English
The view from my balcony in Helsingborg on January 4th, 2006.
It's a sunny day, but it's -1 celcius out there (about 32 F).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

January 3rd, 2006
Saying "Excuse me" in Helsingborg

What I think:

If you go to a busy supermarket, or any other place where you find crowds of people passing by each other, you'll find that many people will not say "Excuse me" if you're in their way. They'll either wait patiently and hope that you get out of the way soon, or they'll just push past you, knocking the carton of eggs right out of your hands and onto the floor. It happens to me every time.

When someone's in my way, I politely say "Ursäkta" (pronounced something like "ur-sec-ta"), which means "excuse me". People turn around, say sorry (or rather the equivalent thereof), and graciously move out of the way. It's easy, it's civil, and it's the right thing to do. I wish more people would simply say "Excuse me."

I'm spending a fortune on broken eggs, and it's time that the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

The news today (oh, boy)
From the world outside:

UK: Why January 3 Stinks:
The year is only a matter of days old but it is claimed we are already at the "toughest day of the year". Returning to work after New Year excess, dented bank balances and ages to the summer are all to blame, it seems. According to the recruitment consultancy Office Angels, three-quarters of people ina poll identified January 3 as the killer date in their diaries.
From Sky News

Canada: Gun lobby scraps ads in wake of Toronto shooting: In the wake of a deadly downtown Toronto shooting on Boxing Day, gun lobby groups have scrapped their plan for a $100,000 ad campaign in the city to attack the Liberals' proposal to ban handguns. The campaign, by the Canadian Institute for Legislative Action and the Canadian Shooting Association, had been designed to argue that responsible gun owners are not at the root of the crime problem. At first, the lobby groups intended to present the campaign despite the Dec. 26 crime that horrified the country, when a teenage girl died and six others were injured as gunfire erupted on a busy Toronto street.
From CBC News

US: Study: Cheerleading-related injuries on the rise: Cheerleaders catapult in theair, climb human pyramids and catch their tumbling teammates as they fall to the ground. They also make lots of emergency room visits. Research indicates cheerleading injuries more than doubled from 1990 through 2002, while participation grew just 18 percent over the same period. "Cheerleading is not what it used to be. It's no longer standing on the sidelines looking cute in a skirt," said Erin Brooks, a former cheerleader who teaches a safety course in Mississippi. "It's more bodyskills."
From CNN

Sweden: "Quiet start" for Stockholm congestion charge: One stolen transponder, one banner protesting against Stockholm mayor Annika Billström and one attempted sabotage of a payment station - but as far as police were concerned, that was a quiet start to the first day of Stockholm's new congestion charge trial. The cameras and infra-red beams began their controversial tour of duty at 6.30am on Tuesday morning.
From The Local - Sweden's news in English

A view on my way to work in Helsingborg on January 3rd, 2006.
I hate winter.

Monday, January 02, 2006

January 2nd, 2006
Crossing the road in Helsingborg

What I think:

Many pedestrians in Helsingborg are quite pedantic about obeying the lights at a crossing on a main road. If the red guy is there, you don't walk; you wait for the green guy. Simple as that. Even if there are no cars coming from either direction, you wait. And wait.

I don't particularly enjoy waiting, however, so I normally just go ahead and cross, if I know it's safe to do so - and why not? I often leave a group of people standing at the side of the road while I just carry on. BUT, it's best not to do this when there are children around. Children must learn to obey the red guy so that, later in life, they can spend more time at the side of the road unnecessarily. It's tradition.

There are some pedestrian crossing lights in this town that are really badly synchronised with the main traffic lights. You get the red guy for ages, even though all of the traffic lights for cars heading in your direction are red as well.

It's time that
the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

The news today (oh, boy)
From the world outside:

Oklahoma fire evacuees gather for prayers:
Conditions described as a "perfectstorm" for wildfires are expected to continue today in Oklahoma and Texas, whereblazes have scorched tens of thousands of acres in less than a week. Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry has asked President Bush to declare an emergency in the state and commitfederal resources to battling the fires. In Texas, one blaze west of Dallasstretched for 35 miles, officials said.
From CNN

200BC Wonder List Update: Voting for the new Seven Wonders of the World has begun.People from around the globe can now nominate their favourites from a shortlist of 21 landmarks. They include the Colosseum in Rome, Italy, Inca citadel Machu Picchuin Peru and the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. The only British entry is Stonehenge inAmesbury, Wiltshire, where remnants of a monument erected between 3000BC and 1600BC still stand.
From Sky News

Physical punishment increasing in Sweden: Punishment of children using force is increasing in Sweden, despite the fact that it has been illegal for over 25 years."We are getting more and more signals that children are being subjected to physical punishment, and we also know that the number of reported incidents of child abuse is increasing," said Children's Ombudsman Lena Nyberg to Swedish Radio's Ekot programme.
From The Local - Sweden's news in English
The view of my balcony in Helsingborg on January 2nd, 2006.
That's a tailor's downstairs.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

January 1st, 2006
Swedish Dinner party etiquette

What I think:

I went to a New Year's Eve party last night at my friend Johnny's place, and I remembered a Swedish custom that I find odd. When you go out for a meal, or attend a dinner party, you're supposed to stand behind the chair that you choose to sit on.

You're supposed to just stand there holding the back of the chair until everyone's present, and ready to be seated. You can stand there quite a while if half the people need to use the toilet. I'm not exactly sure of why you're supposed to do this. Perhaps it's just to make sure that nobody objects to where you're sitting.

Another thing I noticed is that when a Swede wants to compliment the chef on the food, they say "That was good", even while they're still eating it.

I find that a bit strange, and it's time that
the Swedish government did something about it. That's what I think.

The news today (oh, boy)
From the world outside:

UK: More Powers For Police: All offences will be considered arrestable from today, under new laws that dramatically boost police powers. Until now, police have only been able to make an arrest if they suspected someone of an offence that carried a possible jail sentence of at least five years. Suspects can now be taken into custody for offences including impersonating a police officer, failing to stop a vehicle when ordered to do so, failing to hand over a passport to a court and unauthorised access or modification of computer material. From Sky News

US: From New Orleans: 'Thank God it's over': Ringing out one of the worst years in its colorful history, New Orleans put on a rollicking New Year's Eve of memorials and merrymaking, from a traditional jazz funeral procession in honor of hurricane victims to an after-dark party. From CNN

Sweden: Swedish lawyers fear new DNA law: The Swedish Bar Association, which represents Swedish lawyers, has criticised the new law on DNA samples in criminal investigations, which will come into force on Sunday.The law will allow police to demand samples not only from crime suspects but also from victims and plaintiffs. But the association says that is an encroachment on personal integrity. From The Local - Sweden's news in English

The view from my balcony in Helsingborg on January 1st, 2006.
A bit foggy today.