Monday, January 30, 2006

Skating Around the City

Last month Linda and I went ice skating on a 3 km frozen lake just outside the city in Hellasgården. I haven't been skating since I was a kid. I was bad at it then and I haven't gotten much better since. I didn't want to go, but figured when in Sweden do as the Swedes.

The surface of the lake was was rough in parts, like the tiny lake waves had frozen in place. Skating was difficult at best in my new hockey skates... although Linda managed quite well in her figure skates. I was scared of falling through the ice. When I told Linda this she laughed and pointed to a group of adolescent boys who were stripped naked and taking turns jumping in a hole in the ice. So much for the when in Rome philosophy... that's just fucking wrong.

I gave up skating quickly, it was just too hard on the lake, but at the local soccer field/ice rink it's a different story. In fact me and Philippos (The Greek God of Smoking) have been meeting up to skate around at the local bandi rink at a regular interval. For those who don't know, bandi is a sport like field hockey on ice, or rather like ice hockey with a ball played on a frozen soccer field. Anyway, the field is open to the public every day until 2 pm for free skating. Anything free in Sweden, you just do. 25% sales tax on nothing is still nothing.

The more I hang out with Greeks the more I am afforded a window into my own soul. When you make plans with a Greek person, attendance is strictly optional. There is a smoke break or a coffee break every fifteen minutes and nothing much gets done. The conversation ranges from feta cheese to marijuana to video games. It's wonderful. Occasionally we actually skate around the ice. Philippos the Greek God of Smoking spends most of his time trying to skate backwards. I spend most of my time trying to skate forwards.

It's fucking fantastic and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else but out on the ice in the subzeros.

In January right now the whole archipelago is frozen over and you can literally skate between the islands. This weekend Linda told me a whole family on a snowmobile and a trailing sled fell through a patch of thin and died all at once in the icy waters. It's kind of horrible to think about but it's a typical affair for this time of year in these parts. Swedes don't do war anymore so God needs some way to keep the folks fatalistic.

Monday, January 23, 2006

They Don't Call Me Sloth For Nothing

Last week started out bad when I got notified that another part-time consulting job that I had long sought after had been canceled for no reason just before it was supposed to start.

This is the third time now that's happened in the past year. And for the third straight time I had already spent the first month's wages on frivelous things like food, clothing, and shelter before I found out. Shit.

I was so upset I couldn't even drink. I had sort of bottomed out. I was convinced God had it out for me. I ate like three tubs of ice cream wrapped in a blanket watching whole seasons of Will & Grace on DVD. Then I freaked out on the local supermarket staff because they had run out of peanut butter (I am the only American in the village). Why does everyone else I know have cushy jobs working with normal people and I always get the freaks and the dead ends?

When I feel that bad, it normally doesn't last that long. Once it lasted 3 years actually but that's another story.

And then on Tuesday I got called in for an interview for a dream coding job with a well-known gaming company. They didn't blink when I told them how much money I wanted per month. Things started happening fast. I interviewed on Wednesday and was informed I made the second cut and they had cut it down to eight people.

Then they gave us a test that we could do at home. They gave us a week to hand in the code and documentation. I started Friday night and I just handed it in 15 minutes ago, but still 3 days before it was due.

Now I am so nervous about the job I can't sleep at night and I can't stop drinking. Things are slowly getting back to normal.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Masterpieces of Swedish Cinema: Masjävlar

Delarna Horse
Sweden overall makes pretty good quality films for a country with only 9 million people in it. And it ain't easy being a Swedish director either, because one is always being compared to Bergman.

In Masjävlar, a young woman from Stockholm (which is considered a very big city in Sweden) travels back to her country hometown to celebrate her father's 70th birthday. Sounds boring, but it's not. It's very touching and interesting to anyone with an interest in Swedish culture.

The film is shot entirely in Delarna, the region in Sweden famous for the little red horses (wooden ones not real ones). This film dwells on very familiar territory for Sweden: cold weather, birthdays (big holidays in Sweden), suicides (everyone here knows at least one victim), and drinking too much (so I fit right in).

If anyone knows what the title means I would appreciate some help. Linda is in Malmo at the moment so I am without my translator. I think it means 'Dammit' or something.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sweden: The Beautiful Outdoor Freezer

With talk of global warming on the tip of everyone's tongue, it's refreshing to know that in the middle of January it's still cold as hell in Stockholm. It has been below freezing now for over two months.

In Stockholm, the locals think that winter is often better than summer. Having experienced both seasons here, I am beginning to agree with them. In the Winter people sleep and drink a lot, go cross-country skiing in the forests, skating on the frozen lakes and football fields, and of course at night there is lots of watching videos and snuggling under the blankets.

There are downsides. All the water around the city is now frozen, not to mention the streets, sidewalks, and everything else. Every time you take a walk, you are literally putting your life at risk. Wherever there is a gap in the gravel and a slight incline, you are walking a slippy slidey tightrope. They do not salt the ice for several reasons: 1) it is bad for the environment, and 2) it would probably still be frozen anyway.

Life in our times is a constant struggle to avoid depression and boredom. These people who grow up in one town and live and work in that town for 70 years and die there... I do not know how they do that. I love to travel and to move (although not too quickly). I have pretty much lived and traveled all over North America and Europe. After eight months, I am starting to fall in love with Sweden in winter.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from everyone at Swedish Sloth. Oh shit, it's just me, isn't it?

I Had a wild New Year's Eve. What little of I remember it was really fun. Thanks to lovely Linda, Pia, Philipos the Greek God of Smoking, Anna, Johan, Matthias, Ulrika, and all the other countless people I met whom I will never remember.

I reckon I'll be able to think coherently by Friday when the pills wear off. Until then save the last paracetemol for me.