10th Aug, 2011

The next phase

To look at things on the bright side, I’d like to think that I’m making it very easy for people to say that they are “regular readers” of my blog, by making that take only about twenty minutes per year. If I were to look on the less bright side, I might lament the fact that I’ve been unable to keep up the blog at anything like a reasonable rate. But I have good reasons for that, and things might change soon. So read on!

16th Jan, 2011

A new start

Well. Yet again, about nine months have passed since I posted to my blog. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that I have let the blog sink lower and lower on my priority list, and the second is that during the past half year, I have started a new job, at Uppsala University. The combination of these two factors has meant that I simply haven’t seen myself as having time for blogging, when there was so much teaching and research to do.

1st Apr, 2010

Passed the test

It’s now April 1, I’m back in Sweden, and, rather than trying to fool you, I’ll tell you the story of my trip to the US. If you have read the previous post, you will know that I recently submitted my PhD thesis. While this does indeed create quite a sense of accomplishment, there are two remaining hurdles to be overcome at that point when doing a doctorate in the US. The first is the doctoral defense, and the second is the revisions to the thesis. A certain amount of suspense derives from the fact that you don’t know much about the extent of the revisions until you get to the defense.

11th Mar, 2010

Goodbye graduate school

A lot can happen in nine months. I apologize to those few who have cruised past this blog from time to time to see if anything was new. It must be a bit like driving past that restaurant that used to be pretty good but has been under renovation for several months, despite the sign saying “reopening soon under new management”.

Well, the management here is the same, and while I have been thinking of renovating the site, it won’t be boarded up while I work on it. No, the reason we’ve been closed for business for the past year or so is simple: I’ve been busy finishing my thesis. And guess what—I have finished it.

6th Jun, 2009

Goodbye Härnösand

I admit that four months is a ridiculously long time to go without posting to one’s blog. I have been hoping to find the time to recount my experiences at the Icehotel, in Spain, in England, and other places I’ve been over the past few months, but to be honest, I’ve been too busy.

The main thing that has been taking up my time is my thesis, which I continue to work on very hard. It’s going very well, but it’s taking longer than expected—which, everyone tells me, is entirely to be expected, contradictory as that may seem. But another thing that has been taking a lot of time is this: We are moving.

1st Feb, 2009

Sunshine and ice

It is a beautiful Sunday morning. The sky is a light, clear blue, and the sun is glinting off billions and billions of ice crystals on the ground and on the houses. The birds are bouncing around in the trees and twittering, and the flags are flapping desultorily in the vague breeze. The air is dry and crisp at -12 Celsius, and I am a happy man, because this is the first time in over two weeks I have seen the sun.

I have decided to write shorter pieces, more often. This is based on the twin observations that (a) I don’t have much free time, and (b) something is better than nothing. So…

Yesterday I had an unusual experience. A man jumped out of a garbage truck and ran up to me brandishing a blowtorch. Points to the person with the best guess as to why this happened. I’ll tell the rest of the story after I hear from a few people.

31st Dec, 2008

Peering over the edge

So now the end of the year has come already, and I have not written anything here for almost two months. Forgive me, those of you who have stopped by hoping for news of my doings, strange facts about Swedish holidays, or simply a respite from all those websites that impart useful information.

I reported over two months ago that I’m not writing much here because I’m hard at work on my dissertation. Well, both of those things are still true, and it looks like it will be that way for quite a while yet. It’s going pretty well, but I won’t talk about that now. Instead, I’ll talk about my first December spent entirely in Sweden, which is about to end.

29th Oct, 2008

What is this? (#4)

I’m not finding a lot of time to write blog entries, but I certainly have time for another installment of “What is this?”. As before, the rules are simple: Try to guess what the object is that is pictured here. All guesses and musings are welcome.

OK, I have to admit that that title is a bit overblown, but I wanted to get people’s attention. Did it work? I wasn’t going to write anything here about my work schedule, since I figured that work schedules aren’t a very sexy topic (unlike, for instance, ham). But then I realized that I know a lot of other people who are trying to finish a thesis or have recently done so, and therefore might also be thinking a lot about this topic. And might even have some advice to share. I certainly hope so.

12th Oct, 2008

Where have I been?

Right now it probably seems, to those inclined to notice, that I’ve dropped off the map. I haven’t added to my blog for months now, and my e-mail and other contacts with the rest of the world have dwindled. Some people have publicly wondered where I disappeared to.

[For an explanation of what’s going on here, you might read Incognito ergo sum.]

The day I left Albarracín, I was standing at the bus stop, waiting for the bus—and I really mean the bus, as there is only one per day that goes to the provincial capital—when I started chatting with an elderly couple, also waiting for the bus. They were adorable, well dressed and diminutive—I could easily have rested my elbows on their heads, though as you might suspect, this is not considered polite in Spain either—and happy to chat with the loopy foreigner who just won’t leave town. The old man (89 years old, as he announced to me), pointed to some lumpy overhanging rocks protruding from the mountainside, looking a bit like suspended bundles, and said “You know why those are still there?” I politely answered that I did not. “Because they’re not ham!” And he laughed.

12th Jun, 2008

Sketches of lunch

[For an explanation of what’s going on here, you might read Incognito ergo sum.]

My schedule here includes one meal per day in a restaurant. Given that restriction, it’s clear that lunch is the one to go for. Spain does lunch the way the US does an “international police action” (except that the Spanish have an exit plan). Perhaps this explains why they simply call lunch la comida: “the meal”, or even just “food”.

[For an explanation of what’s going on here, you might read Incognito ergo sum.]

I really like the flat I’m staying in here in Albarracín. It has a beautiful view despite the medieval moisture level. It also has all the modern conveniences, including a dishwasher that speaks Italian.

Yes, that’s right, every few days, I am forced to have a conversation with the dishwasher in Italian. I am not surprised that in this little trout-fishing town you have to go elsewhere to buy a large appliance, but I would have thought that Spain had a few dishwashers on offer. At any rate, every once in a while, once my peace of mind has accumulated to the necessary level, I try to run the dishwasher. It never goes well.

[For an explanation of what’s going on here, you might read Incognito ergo sum.]

I am reasonably pleased with the title of this piece—though I have to concede that it doesn’t come anywhere close to Dorothy Parker’s brilliant “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy”—not least because there are surprisingly many bars in Albarracín, some of which I have managed to see. I say “managed to see” in part because my work schedule leaves me only limited time for bar-crawling, and in part because the bars here are closed surprisingly often, especially for Spain.

[For an explanation of what’s going on here, you might read Incognito ergo sum.]

I got to Albarracín on the evening of my second day in Spain, after two trains and a taxi ride. Albarracín is a small town (1100 inhabitants) in the mountains, half an hour’s drive from Teruel, the smallish capital of the second-most sparsely inhabited province of Spain (after Soria). It is in the Comunidad autónoma de Aragón, an arid region in the northeast of Spain. For some reason, the area appeals to me greatly. Perhaps I am somewhat attracted to extremes and harsh conditions (something my wife would probably agree with), but perhaps it is also because this place is so very different from the lushly verdant and populous northeast of the United States, where I spent my formative years.

7th Jun, 2008

Bienvenido a casa

[For an explanation of what’s going on here, you might read Incognito ergo sum.]

I touched down at Barajas airport in Madrid on a plane full of Swedes who where on their way to represent Absolut vodka at a trade fair. A very jolly bunch, as Swedes go. While talking with the young woman beside me, it occurred to me that I was in a position to perform an experiment. You see, people I know in Sweden tell me that while I have a foreign accent, I don’t have an English (much less American) accent. I decided to test that assertion, and out of the blue, I asked my seat-mate where she thought I was from. A bit taken aback, she said, “Well… you’re not Swedish, right?” I confirmed this, and suggested that she make a guess. She was completely unable to guess where I was from. So I suppose I have to concede that my friends are right; apparently I’m just a vanilla foreigner.

5th Jun, 2008

Incognito ergo sum

The title of this piece is Latin for “I am in hiding in order to think”. OK, that’s not actually true as far as Latin goes, but it’s true about me. I am presently conducting an experiment in discipline, work, and lifestyle. That may sound grandiose, but you should see where I’m doing it.

Have you ever visited a city, stayed in a big hotel, eaten in the tourist restaurants, seen the top ten sights, taken the duck tour, and secretly wondered all the time what kinds of things a local would show you?

Imagine that when you went to a foreign city, you could just grab a resident, stay at their place, and have them show you their favorite local hangouts and things to do. Surely there are people who are friendly enough that they would do this for you. Imagine that there were a directory of such people, so that you could just call them whenever you wanted.

27th May, 2008

In-Between Days

It’s now late May, and I’m right in between two trips. We’re also in between seasons here in Sweden. We often seem to be in between seasons in Sweden. In fact, the Swedes—especially those from the north—count far more than our four seasons. They have, for example, vårvinter and höstvinter, or “spring-winter” and “autumn-winter”. These are the tail ends of winter, which are considerable. In fact, I believe that if you talk to the Sami people of northern Sweden, they will even distinguish vintervår and vinterhöst, or “winter-spring” and “winter-autumn”, which are the cold ends of spring and autumn.