August 2006


Our residence in Stockholm was a hotel/boat, moored in the downtown tourist area. This is the masthead that guarded the entrance.

masthead

The hotel boat worked better as a concept than as an actual living place. We booked late, so we got smaller rooms, with bunk beds and permanently closed windows. I got the top bunk, and it was a little stuffy. If you do book these rooms, call early.

During our first (jet-lagged) night, we wandered around town.

street

The oddest thing we found was an American food store, with exotica like corn muffins and Doritos.

american food

This may be a popular spot for expat American students. When I was in Germany, I would have paid lots for the rare pleasure of spiced corn chips.

The next day we took a long boat tour of Stockholm’s archipelago, a place I wouldn’t have even known about if I hadn’t read Celia Farber’s post here. Thanks Celia.

The archipelago is a beautiful and fairly unspoiled vacation spot. Sailing a big or little boat is one of the most popular things to do there. The swimming was nice, not much colder than a lake in Maine.

We didn’t visit Celia’s favorite island, Runmaro, but we did get a chance to see the very remote and beautiful Bullero.

islandscene

(one cool fact – Bullero is renewable-energy powered)

red house

Our guide told us about how Peter the Great destroyed an ongoing “peace process” by burning down homes in the archipelago back in the early 1700’s. If we hadn’t already heard about the horrors of Swedish imperialism from the Finns and the Russians, we might have believed her. (Did they even have peace processes in those days?)

The next day we searched for, and found, lots of clothes that fit tall women. We also visited the Modern Art Museum, and found a disappointing display of ‘art’ done by performance artist Paul McCarthy. It was so full of pornographic images that it was ‘not recommended for children’. It was also unsuitable for adults. Creating props for porn shows must be this guy’s day job, and he should not quit it. Like most performance artists, he’s obsessed with pop images and fecal matter, projecting his personal faults and obsessions onto the whole of western civilization. It’s hard to be both disgusting and dully predictable, but McCarthy manages to do it.

The artists of our generation are so obsessed with shocking and/or horrifying the public, so obsessed with the past and the present, they never consider the future. Do they want museumgoers in 2050 to think that, say, McCarthy’s Spaghetti Man, a rabbit in a boy’s body with a 12-metre long, soft rubber penis that lies in coils on the floor, represents man’s hopes and dreams at the turn of the millennium? Do we want our descendants to think that this..

modernart

.. represents us?

While the artwork at the Museum was disappointing, the architecture displays were not. Like the Finns, the Swedes excel at design, at making modernism livable. I wonder if this focus on design, plus the influence of performance art, is making traditional forms of art irrelevant.

We only spent two days in Stockholm, and I wish we’d stayed longer. The food was better than I expected (but then again, I love pickled herring). The people were friendly – not the ‘Germans without a sense of humor’ our Danish friends had told us about. However, prices were very high. Next time, we’ll stay as long as we can afford to.

We were staying in a B and B with access to more than 1 station yesterday morning, so we decided to check the news on the BBC.

Bad idea. According to the BBC “World News” report the top story of the day was a major, major cricket row. Apparently, Pakistan was accused of cheating, Britons were outraged, Pakistan was humiliated (they didn’t show up for the post-tea match!) and the BBC put this at the top of their list of world news events. At least 3 announcers debated the results of this international incident.

Riding through Dublin today, we asked the taxi driver (always the best source of news) about the results of the cricket row.

“Cricket?” he said “Haven’t heard about it, can’t stand the game. I’d rather watch paint peel than see a cricket match”.

Taxi driver 1, BBC World News 0

We spent our first few days abroad in Stockholm, sleeping in a boat/hotel. The weather was mostly sunny, the wine was light but nice and there was all the pickled herring you could eat. I love pickled herring (yes, it’s an aquired taste). Swedes are a lot friendlier than they appear to be in the Bergman movies.

We were somewhere over the Atlantic when the terror scare gripped Britain, and we landed in Dublin airport, not Heathrow, so we missed the bag checks/liquid prohibitions. We’ll see how the return trip goes. So far, the greatest danger has been learning to drive on the other side of the road. It’s comparable to driving at high speeds, backwards. Any drive that we can walk away from is a good drive.

We’re off to Ireland for a couple of weeks, so I’ll be posting from the road..

Here are a few fun travelling blogs..

A chick and a pilot who just finished her flight-instructor training; like some people I know (congratulations Kyle)

My Diving Life, a collection of diving blogs, around the world, for my daughter, a chick and a diver.

Where in the Hell is Matt – Matt is from Connecticut, he travels around the world, he dances..and he doesn’t like Thailand? strange fellow.

target

If you thought guns were completely forbidden in New York City, you’d be wrong. There is a genuine pistol/gun range, the West Side Pistol Range in the Flatiron district, at 20 West 20th street. Yesterday, a few members of our Liberal Hawks group visited and learned how to load and shoot.

Alcibiades first suggested it, and she and fellow LH Steve arrived in time for our ‘New to Shooting’ class. Like most New Yorkers, our experience with guns and target practice was limited to arcade games, water pistols and, in my case, darts.

If you’re not a cop or in some such related field in the city you probably don’t have a permit, and the only gun you can fire at the range is a beginner’s rifle, a .22. Before you can shoot that, you need to learn how it’s done, through an NRA certified instructor.

The basement range looked like something out of Hill Street Blues, kind of city/gritty. Our teacher, John, was used to dealing with novices. He patiently explained the mechanics of guns “this is a magazine, this is how the safety works”, etc. We learned the three rules of gun safety:

  1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

  3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

I’m not mechanically inclined, and I was a total feeb when it came to handloading bullets. Once we got to the range, I did manage to hit the bullseye a few times when the target was about 25 ft. away. When I rolled it back to 50 ft., it was hard to see where the shots landed on the target, and therefore hard to adjust my aim towards the center. At least I manged to get the target.

The fun comes from taking aim and hitting the thing you’re aiming at. It was a lot like darts, with a lot more noise and less (actually, no) drinking. Safety glasses and protective headphones were essential. When you fire the rifle, hot shells pop out and land in unexpected places. Alcibiades and I were enjoying it so much we bought another box of bullets, but Steve was happy with one round, so he headed home.

I guess we should have celebrated our newfound macho prowess with beers and some steak, but the first place we found, Punch, offered delicate wines and a wide selection of light salads. We were back to being blue staters, and the tuna was delicious.

floatingbed

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – A young Dutch architect has created a floating bed which hovers above the ground through magnetic force and comes with a price tag of 1.2 million euros ($1.54 million).

Janjaap Ruijssenaars took inspiration for the bed — a sleek black platform, which took six years to develop and can double as a dining table or a plinth — from the mysterious monolith in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 cult film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Instapundit on Dive Tech

I don’t want to give away the article, but although I found the rebreather dive interesting — you don’t make bubbles, which means fish are less scared of you, and you can stay down for three or four hours — I don’t think I’m ready to take the, er, plunge and do the full certification course. But from comparing the unit I used (two years old) to one of the newest cutting-edge units, I can say that the technology in this area is on a steep learning curve, and that might well make it a lot easier, safer and more user-friendly in the near future. Right now, the need to continuously monitor your oxygen levels via triply-redundant analyzers (one of which had to be replaced during the gear-up because it wasn’t working right — see the gauges strapped to my arm in the photo below), and a variety of other necessary tasks makes this more trouble than I’m really willing to go to, especially with the cost of equipment running around ten grand. Happily, lots of tech-diving enthusiasts are driving the market here, and that should fix things.

I’m happy to swim around and look at fishies, but I’m glad the tech divers are early-adopting this too..

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