Monday, 31 December 2018

Bye, 2018! Hi, 2019!

I already got to see the new year in Australia on a friend's Instagram. It was my middle of the day, so the news was overwhelmingly unexpected!.. Now it feels like I will celebrate a second new year, and yesterday at my friend's place they had fireworks as well, so it kind of becomes the third new year. 

Last hours of 2017, I was on a date and wanted to go to a particular part in Stockholm for the particular views. We didn't make it, so I will try again now. It will be VERY slippery and probably plain dangerous. I also am crushing a party (the host is happy) with friends (they are equally happy).

Happy new year, everyone !

Sunday, 30 December 2018

The list of unexpected nice things (slightly, sometimes very, fairytaled)

Best err you made?
Said something wasn't mine and it actually was! By inheritance.

Wrong address you went to?
Intended to go to a restaurant that wasn't there at all, but instead there was a dance club! Now I have a new favourite place in town.

Any ticket mistakes?
Oh yes. The tickets to the breakdance show turned out to be tickets to a jazz performance and it was THE BEST, with the best. The guy I brought along was equally pleased. Or that train thing, when I had to hitchhike to Jönköping. So lovely - I got to see a breathtaking coast view and met people who love the place where they live.

And wrong orders?
Well, I ordered one book, but got three and wasn't billed for the extras (I think it was compensation for previous inconvenience).

Any accidents that brought something good?
That fire led to heaps of greatness. Borderline exploding eye openers, friendships, experiences (including Diwali celebration, Matthew's cakes and pies, new geographical and historical dimensions added).

Mhm, one Freudian slip in Swedish that effictively became a new coined expression (hope it catches on). It goes: ta tjuren vid horen and you really should have been there for the context but, all in all, I was encouraging a hot meeting with patos.

Text message sent to another sender than intended?
Oh don't mention it - that drama had more characters in it than Anna Karenina, and I think two people became friends on the way?

Saturday, 29 December 2018

"I went to brother" by Karin Smirnoff

Had someone asked me where I was while I was reading "Jag for ner till bror", I would have replied: Smalånger, in Norrland. "What?!" friends would have asked, and then I would have explained: there is a drama in the book I am reading and I am right there, with the main character. Her name is Jana, too. It's really cold in the woods but she knows her way.

I like doing research about a book before reading it - an interview with the author,  a review in some prestigious magazine. This was recommended in a magazine about literature, but before I knew, the man in the bookshop recommend it and was not enthusiastic the way people are about a book they like, but more... sad-enthusiastic. Now I understand why. It's sadness all through, but just like he indicated, a feast for the reading eye, without any comma in sight. And a thriller, actually, where everything is backwards and in the middle and there are far more individuals in the village related to you than one would think.

Friday, 28 December 2018

The very local tempus fugit chronicles

How to keep track of being tripplebooked to parties the same night, deadlines, people's e-mail addresses when no wi-fi is in sight, flight departures? With a calendar, of course! 
Paperblanks' rubber-band version, with a pocket inside, has been my favourite for years. I was planning to show my other calendars from previous years as well, but you know, fire. No, they are not entirely gone, but need some... refreshing. So maybe next year. Here is one with blue cats, which I got after one was stolen. (That must be unusual - stealing a calendar.)
Each country gets its own, actually. Cover design stays the same, always with an explanation of where the pattern and the idea comes from, but the dates are marked differently. This caused some unexpected holiday calculation problems when I had a calendar for Spanish audiences while in Sweden. Right, so today is José's namesday, so at least 50% of Spain is celebrating... But what about Swedish midsummer, when is it this year?..

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Two years ago, in Cuenca, Spain

Around this time two years ago, I visited Cuenca, which is famous for its "hanging houses", casas colgadas.
I was prepared to see something like the eighth wonder, to be amazed by the secret, clever architecture. I was more happily surprised by how old and well-kept the city was - and how difficult it is to get around by car; there are many layers of it, and stairs. Built by the Moors during the Medieval times as a strategic point, it is a wonder Cuenca survived at all. The walled part you see is the old city.
To the right, behind the bridge, is a parador. We'll get back to that.
Cuenca is on UNESCO's list of historical sites to protect. The hanging houses are more obvious on the next last row of images, in the middle, on UNESCO's website
There is also a famous Jesus statue on an impossible mountain spot around. And here it is, the parador! To the right of the church.
Paradors are in most cases old castles transformed to hotel+restaurant, with a café part and with a view.
This parador had a cool, wireless "call for waitor"-button on each table that was great, but we suspect it didn't always work.
Inside the old city!
We didn't go, but wanted to, so I recommend it anyway: the tunnels of Alfonso VIII.
Many places - a door here, a door there - open up this part of the year for free to show miniature cities and landscapes with Christian themes: the Spanish Christmas goes on till January 6th.
Feels very Medieval, right?
Then, our route continued to Toledo,
where I got a locally produced mini-sword and visited like eight museums in two days.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

I am a tea genious... and green teas can be MIXED TOGETHER and forma  new flavour, that is half strong, half soft! 

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Me and some digital stuff - the screenshot story: Spritz, browsers and my own government

According to the app Spritz, I am reading 900 words per minute. The app shows one word at time at a certain speed - this certainly makes you stay focused. I can read faster, but then I can not remember the last names of interviewed people if I speed it up. A friend pointed out that there should be a test in the end as well, to see how much one remembers of a text.
I have started finding articles that from the start indicated how long they are in minutes. I appreciate.

A test I made that I enjoyed:

Unfortunately, I do not remember the outcome, but it for sure was one of those personality things, and this is the only time it was fun ever and I learned new things, while replying.
On Facebook once, I could create a government out of my contacts. In Swedish, it says "your government is being created". Funny enough, at the same time, we had a role play at university, and I was the prime minister. Me and my colleagues texted each other in third person: "Minister of Infrastructure is getting coffee and is on her way". Now, some years later, at least one of us is a politician in Sweden in real life, and he was on the news for his high salary (86,000 Swedish crowns), as it was motivated with a quite unusual statement.
And you, my dear readers! I have very little statistics, but I get a hint of which countries visitors are from and the operating systems being used. Some read my blog on their iPads! Some are in Benin! Others in Bermuda,  Jamaica, Mexico, Romania and Uruguay! Some are impressive and use browsers like Phantom JS, Iron, Maxthon, Dragon and Qt. Hi to everyone!

Monday, 24 December 2018

A non-structured guide about sending, maximizing and having fun with postcards and letters

gel pens, in particular the shimmering ones, unless it is for a temporary message. This kind of ink wears off in no time.
cards with laser cut patterns (like above)
or perforated prints (like below).
Sure, they are both cool, but nevertheless - holes, and offer you only 1 page (out of four in total!) to pour out your heart. You can of course fix this by gluing backs of cards together into an accordion to give your message more space.
huge brand announcements at the back.
Crownmill is a brand that is good at being discrete. Do you see the small text in purple at the bottom? Not really? Good. That is the only information about the brand there is. Other brands tend to print their name in the middle and well, then I feel it is almost like sending a non-sponsored advertisement to friends with a personal message. 
Or look at Bookbinder's Design. This is ok, with a pattern "story" from one side to the other, that is a nice touch. I would write where the pattern is, the postcard then becomes like an illustrated miniature book.
See? This company is BRaGgiNG about the brand. This company is somewhat of an exception, however, as they are being funny. This is the underlined text, which I did to draw friends' attention to it: 
"Warning: buying or owning this card could give the impression that you have incredibly good taste and possess the cool gene."
Location, location, location. 
Stick your stamp in the absolute top right corner of the card, with no space left around it, or, for the daredevils, fold the stamp around the edge of the post card, from one side to another, as above (thank you Claire for the folding idea). Or stick it to the image part of your postcard, where it cannot disturb your text - just make sure that the
mailman can not miss it. BUT, also, ask at the post office how and where they rubberstamp mail, and how the recipient contry does it. Some countries add a loooong bar code on the top or the bottom, covering your text forever.

Which to choose?
In the dilemma of choosing between two or more postcards, buy them all. Put them all in an envelope and voilà, you just made a personal letterpaper. How to deal with the pre-marked lines for address and stamp? I just ignore them, but if you really want, you can paint them over with tippex or glue a piece of paper on it as a cover (alas, if one had the time and place to do all this right at the post office shop).

Pimping your letter
Ask if the shop has a sticker they put on wrapped gifts. If it looks cool, get one and use it like a wax seal on the back.

Saving money
Cheapest is to buy letterpaper en masse. For example, 100 leaflets. You won't regret it, because you can bring it with you when you go travelling. Choose a neutral colour for both greetings and formal business applications, etc, and either fold the papers to make hem look more like cards, or cut hem into desired, envelope-fitting sizes. Or, pretending it being 1700's, you can fold the letterpaper into an envelope directly after writing it. If you choose to go for my advice and you are not a frequent sender, make sure to cover the paper from light properly, or the parts exposed to the non-darkness will fade in colour, even if the paper is white.

Saving MORE money
If you are not into buying letterpaper or postcards to be honest (thinking, WHAT A WASTE), then you can use:
- the back of (fresh!) menus
(my friend Sarah did, and attached tea leaves from the same place)
- the letterpaper (and pens) offered in hotels,
but then don't forget to use an envelope with the same logo. If you are lucky, the hotel can post it for you, so you can save yourself the time it take to find a letterbox.
- ask the friend you are visiting if he or she is happy to get rid of stationery, stamps or envelopes. They often are.
For Swedish senders
Never buy Swedish stamps with a number on them unless you are going to use them right away. A stamp costs 9 crowns and prices continue to vary (surprisingly, they have been lowered at one point). When it will cost more - and soon it will - the number-free stamps increase in value automatically and you do not have to buy additional 1 crown stamps. Also, if you want your post to be transported by train and not by aircraft (within Swedish borders), choose stamps labeled "ekonomibrev".

Careful with the context...
Some claim that depending on where you stick your stamp, that in itself is a message, just the way the colour on roses mean something. If so, it's very intricate. It hasn't happened to me yet.
Go creative
Create postcards out of non-traditional materials. I saw a piece of outlet wallpaper in a shop and wanted to give it a try, the result of which became a very soft set of cards that could even be sent as a roll. Yet it was strong enough to write on, and plain cool.

Sunday, 23 December 2018

"The Feminist Trap" by Nina Åkestam

"Feministfällan" by Nina Åkestam was published this year! 
I have always liked Nina Åkestam's way of reasoning in writing, she does it so easy and puts everything forward cleverly. This time, I found the content a bit weak and not as forceful as before - I definitely think it would have become more interesting with deeper discussions and insights. I suspect this was on purpose, because coming back to the basics is a good way to start from a clean slate about what feminism is and why the way we talk about it today often becomes problematic. 

And these are some of the problems:
tone policing, a typical ad hominem fallacy. Basically - don't focus on how a person says it, but what the person is saying, or we lose the entire point of the discussion and begin to ask things like "why does that person sound so angry?".

Feminism is very much about action and not just talking. Åkestam lifts forward the examples of husbands and boyfriends who write policies about gender equality at work or talk warmly at parties about how important feminism is, but let their spouses do all the work around the household. Or the case about the famous Swedish police man who fought for gender rights but was himself suddenly convicted for rape, pandering and assault. In this category, Åkestam also places companies that print "I am a feminist" on their t-shirts and mugs. That is loud, but makes no difference if they were manufactured by underpaid women who work long hours in a country far away.

Don't assume based on what seems frequent. According to Åkestam, research about advertisement does not at all show that when we see a sexy woman in an ad, that makes us feel bad, and that we hence buy the product she is showing to make ourselves feel better. In a study from 2015 by Robert Lull and Brad Bushman, ads with a sexual theme sell less than other ads, for two reasons: people don't think that sex belongs in ads, and those who do, focus on the sexual elements and forget what product that actually was at display.

I liked the design! Blood red and visible, but not, cover text. Very symbolic. People who will pick it up from my bookshelf in the future will always stare a little.

Saturday, 22 December 2018

The food year

Looking back at the food experiences and food tricks I had and saw this year, it could be the best ever. I spoke to many local farmers about their foods and the process around it, buying their honey, smoked pork, salami and bread. I tested almost all the hip ice cream places in Stockholm, I am now even more informed about the hamburger places around, Vildana and I had a great soup in Cardiff (and meat hanging on sword-like creations from the ceiling above our table), my neighbour Ayush introduced me to more spices and I learned that cooking very much depends on the ingredients. No matter the perfection of the recipe - if the tomatoes were flavourless from the start, there is little you can do about them.
From now on, I think I will be using saffron more often (the panacotta with saffron and dates topping was a nice experience), and I want to learn maybe ten "completely" new recipes by heart. I also want to wrap my head around lemon grass, and the root that carries the following beautiful names: sunroot, eath apple, sunflower potato. And at some point, I should have that party when everyone brings ingredients with them they have not cooked with before and make it GREAT.