Thursday, July 31, 2008
Outside the grocery store, a man in a purple shirt approached us with several clip boards in his arms.
"Would you like to sign your name so Ralph Nader can get on the ballot in Connecticut?" the man, who later identified himsef as Pete, asked eagerly.
(In Connecticut, a third-party candidate needs 7,500 signatures from registered voters in order for that person's name to appear on the official ballot on Election Day. The candidate therefore should submit about 15,000 - the double amount - since many signatures will get disqualified by the Secretary of the State.)
"I would LOVE to!" I exclaimed, as we walked towards him. "However, my signature won't do you any good, because I am not a citizen."
Pete's jaw and shoulders dropped, his eyes turned sad and he said "oh."
"I am not even allowed to make campaign contributions," I informed Pete. "You have to have a green card to do that!"
I walked into the store with Albie chuckling at my side.
"You can sign it," I said, turning towards Albie.
"Aha," he said.
"In fact, you SHOULD sign it," I said.
Albie browsed the selection of sandwiches in the deli area.
"Will you sign it?"
"Will you let Ralph Nader at least have a chance? His name needs to at least be on the ballot so people have a chance of voting for him."
Albie finally agrees to sign the petition, if Pete is still outside when we leave.
Well, Pete was still there, but he had moved to the entrance on the other side.
"There is is!" I shouted as I found him. "Come on, let's go!"
Dragging a gallon of cranberry juice, two bottles of liquid soap and a turkey wrap across the parking lot, we finally caught up with Pete, who was trying to tell a bystander what is so great about Ralph Nader.
Albie quietly signed. The petition will be submitted on Tuesday. A week after that, we'll find out how many ballots in how many states will bear Ralph Nader's name.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Our sports reporter, W., then asked me how to say it in Swedish.
"It's 'hej då!'" I said.
He paused at the door.
"Hej da!" he said, waving to the newsroom staff.
"No, no," I said, "it's more like 'dough.'"
"Hey DOUGH!" W. yelled.
A few days later, Albie caught on.
"Hej då!" he yelled as W. was leaving for the night.
Then a couple of the reporters caught on. And now, we're all hejdå-ing.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
As I grew older, I realized that not everything she told me was true. She would often warn me of things and come up with crazy stories to back up her warnings. Some of the warnings I would pass along to my friends (about the crazy deer in the woods, for example).
She always told me I had to be careful not to sit on clothes hangers if they had fallen onto the bed or the couch, because they could end up in my stomach. I think I was 12 or 13 before I asked my aunt “how could they get into my stomach?” She laughed. Grandma had told her similar things as a child. I then asked my grandmother what she meant. She told me “well, the hangers can be very sharp. They cut through your skin.” But somehow, I knew deep down that wasn’t the message she had been trying to convey.
Another thing she taught me was that soda was good for you. One summer, I wasn’t drinking enough liquids and my grandmother was afraid I would get dehydrated. She would place a glass bottle of Tom & Jerry soda in front of me and, before going out to play, I had to drink at least half of it (or down to the ears of Tom the cat). The soda was a nauseating pink (the food coloring is now prohibited) and the bubbles made me want to cry as they irritated the inside of my nose.
Swimming, of course, was not allowed until one hour after dinner. This has been proven to be a common myth parents use to get some quiet time after dinner. My grandma even went as far as to say that I couldn’t take a bath until at least an hour after dinner. Which mean that sometimes I took a bath pretty late and then went straight to bed, wet hair and all.
In the summers, however, I had to always put water on my head when being out in the sun. This helped me stay cool, grandma said. While it’s true it made me feel a bit better when it was hot, she always made me think this was a law or something. Then I realized none of my friends’ parents made them dip their heads in the water before they were allowed to run around outside.
Once grandma gets something into her head, it sticks there. I got sick from the smell of paint once when I was 6. She is now very concerned about my home improvement projects, constantly asking me how we can live in the condo while we are painting. As I try to explain that it really doesn’t smell that bad, paint nowadays has improved greatly, etc., she hits me with the one line you can’t argue: “Well, sweetie, you know I just want what’s best for you.”
Thursday, July 24, 2008
"I saw something black moving in the driveway," he told me. "I thought it was Molly's car, that she was coming back. Turns out it's a black bear."
"Cool!" I exclaimed. "Is it still there?"
I was already halfway out the door and down the hallway, trying to get a glimpse of the large animal through the back door.
"There it is!" I whispered. "I see it!"
And we watched together as the yearling lulled through the back yard and into the woods. It was the coolest thing I've seen in a long time. He was just walking along, minding his own business.
Then I got home - or almost home. I turned into my condo complex and there was a deer staring at me right next to the road. I stopped so the deer could cross. It took a few steps, then it stopped and turned around to look at another car up the street. It did a 180 and went back the way it came.
As I saw the white spots on its butt, just like Bambi, I realized it must also be very young. I paused and turned around. It was still standing there, right next to my car, almost as if it was seeking shelter from the second car. Then it ran across the road again, just as the second car started driving down the hill.
I quickly flashed my lights at the second car so it would slow down, and it stopped just in time for the deer to cross. As the car turned right onto the next street, I looked around again to see the deer standing there, posing right next to the sign for our complex. He began munching on some leaves, and I drove the last few feet to my house. Then I prayed I wouldn't get hit by a car on the next street, or the one after that.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
In fact, I eat it all year. Summer, however, brings to mind ice cream trucks. So I started wondering about other countries and what they hear in the summertime.
When I grew up, my trained ear was taught to run down the block to the end of our road when I heard this.
(I once did an “on the job” feature with a girl driving an ice cream truck. She had to play the song 5 times at each stop, for a total of 320 times in one night. It wasn’t such a joyful song after that.)
In the United States, at least in the New York area, you hear Mr. Softee's ice cream song. Mr. Softee himself, James Conway Sr., died in 2006. The song was also disputed in New York City for causing a disturbance.
Other American ice cream trucks play "The Entertainer," "Lips Stained Blue," "Pink Panther Pops" or a Ghetto version called "Hello." (Most of these courtesy of WFMU’s Beware of the Blog).
In Britain and Australia, ice cream trucks play the famous tune “Greensleeves.” Some newer ones (Cornetto) play “O Sole Mio” or “Girls and Boys Come Out to Play” in England. Here you can hear another Australian version.
So take a listen, dream of ice cream and enjoy. That's what I'll do now.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
"Look," I said to my friend, pointing toward the flag. "They are selling American flags!"
A lady at the table overheard me and said something that sounded similar to "Ehmpf." I looked at her and she pointed toward a Swedish flag at the opposite corner of the table.
"So?" I said.
"We are selling Swedish flags," the lady explained. "By law, we cannot display another country's flag unless we also display an American flag in a similar or more prominent manner."
My friend and I laughed it off and walked away. "This woman is crazy!" we thought. Turns out that there is, in fact, such a law.
"No person shall display the flag of the United Nations or any other national or international flag equal, above, or in a position of superior prominence or honor to, or in place of, the flag of the United States at any place within the United States or any Territory or possession thereof."
In many countries, this would be a violation of freedom of speech. (Another blog post may follow on how America is NOT - despite popular belief - the freest democracy in the world).
All countries have some sort of rules for how to handle flags - when and where they are to be displayed, how they are to be carried, folded, risen, removed or disposed of. Most countries also have laws forbidding the burning of flags - the nation's own or another nation's flag.
In Denmark, for example, it is illegal to burn a foreign flag, but it is perfectly fine to burn the Danish flag, called Dannebrog. The reasoning goes that the burning of a foreign nation's flag could be seen as a threat to that country and could therefore violate foreign policy.
The only Swedish flag law I can find dictates the appropriate blue and yellow colors and the size of the flag. There are also guidelines for what days - clearly marked in the calendar (special family holidays are also allowed) and hours the flag can be displayed - it has to come down at 9 p.m. Unless the country is at war. Then the flag can be displayed all night.
One final note about flags: A friend and former teacher of mine was proudly showing off her Swedish flag on her shiny new flag pole when Albie and I came to visit last fall. Her explanation: "We must display the flag when royalty is here - Prince Albert and Queen Viktoria."
Saturday, July 19, 2008
This is one of the fun parts about working in a not-so-serious and completely unprofessional environment.
Our boss, for example, frequently visits the local toy store to buy prank items. She has a megaphone that makes your voice sound strange and a cow that we sometimes sqeeze and listen to over the intercom system. The sound is awful, kind of like an outdrawl squeel, depending on how hard you squeeze it and how soon you let go.
Our old publisher, in his office on the top floor, was once so startled by the noise he called the newsroom to find out what was happening. I can't even imagine how people would react if they were in the bathroom when the crazy cow started moo-ing from everywhere around you.
We've had the fart machine under different people's desks. Boy Scouts and prospective employees often take a step back when they see a realistic foot hanging from the ceiling tiles. We frequently move each other's cars in the parking lot and hide them from each other.
Someone got their entire car wrapped in cellophane a few years ago. The same guy once found his car filled with confetti. Six months later, confetti still flew out the vents when he turned the fan on, his wife told us.
I cannot tell you what we're planning for tomorrow since the birthday boy reads my blog, but like I said, he's in for a real surprise.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
It's 6 a.m., and I should have been sleeping for 2 hours by now. I've already decided to skip my morning job and go there on Friday instead, but I still have to get up at 11 a.m.
Tuesday night I blamed it on the coffee I had - still effective nine hours later when I tried to get some sleep.
Tonight, I guess I have to admit what it really is: Work has been keeping me up. Not actually working, just thinking about it.
I try not to write too much negative stuff here about the office. Work friends read this, which I have no problem with, but persons who shall remain nameless would not be impressed to find their names mentioned on the almighty internet in the context I intend to mention them.
Let's just say there is a new project at work that was thrown upon me without anyone really consulting me first and now I'm expected to deal with things that haven't been specified and I am not allowed to give up any of my previous duties to figure this out. Someone who doesn't know much may or may not help out, and oh, then there's this one person that always makes everyone want to quit and has no intention of ever leaving, it seems...
At times I really wish I could walk out. "Sorry I didn't have time to get anything done on that project, or anything else you expected me to have done that I didn't know about. Oh, it's due tomorrow? Well, that's really too bad. Tomorrow I'll be at my new job."
A new job, however, is not an option right now. My work permit only allows me to stay with this company, and unless something else opens up real soon in Connecticut, I have no choice but to get through this and hope that everything has a purpose and will work itself out in the end.
Monday, July 14, 2008
This e-mail forward (with minor edits done) arrived in my inbox today:
The GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY is now in the planning stages. The library will include:
The Weapons of Mass Destruction Room, which no one has yet been able to find.
The Hurricane Katrina Room, which is still under construction.
The Alberto Gonzales Room, where you won't be able to remember anything.
The Texas Air National Guard Room, where you don 't even have to show up.
The Walter Reed Hospital Room, where they don't let you in.
The Guantanamo Bay Room, where they don't let you out.
The National Debt Room, which is huge and has no ceiling.
The Tax Cut Room, with entry restricted only to the wealthy.
The Airport Men's Room, where you can meet some of your favorite Republican senators.
The Economy Room, enter through the toilet.
The Iraq War Room, which you are forced to tour again and again up to five times.
The Dick Cheney Room, in a famous undisclosed location, complete with shotgun gallery.
The Environmental Conservation Room, still empty, but very warm.
The Supreme Court Gift Shop, where you can buy an election.
The Decider Room, complete with dart board, Magic 8-ball, Ouija board, dice, coins and straws.
Additionally, the library will have an electron microscope to help you locate the president's accomplishments. Admission: Republicans - free; Democrats - $1,000 or 3 Euros
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Some may have seem like urban legends - they are not. The woman who burned her thighs on hot coffee from McDonalds is real, as are the burglars who sue homeowners after getting injured when breaking into their homes. Read more here.
I once lived with a family in Cheshire, Connecticut, for a summer. They had two pugs and a beautiful, large backyard. The yard was fenced in, and one day a child climbed over the 6-foot fence to retrieve a ball. One of the pugs attacked the boy - he was slightly injured.
The homeowners took the boy inside, patched him up, let him cry and called his mother who lived down the street. End of story...?
No. A few weeks later, the homeowners received a letter of intent to sue. The boy's mother apparently thought she had grounds for a suit after her son illegally trespassed in someone else's yard. I'm not sure what happened in this case, but I hope the suit eventually got dismissed.
Earlier this summer, a teenage boy played a game with his friends in Torrington. It was called "manhunt." It consisted of running back and forth at dusk across Route 8 - a divided four-lane highway - from the high school property that had a broken fence.
The boy was hit by a car, and his friends watched him die. No charges were filed against the driver - police determined there was nothing she could have done to prevent hitting the boy.
Late last month, the family of the boy filed a lawsuit against the city of Torrington, the principal of the high school, the superintendent of schools and the school board chairman. The suit claims the boy sustained his fatal injuries "...as a result of the negligence and carelessness of its officials, agents, servants and employees..."
As if a repaired fence would have stopped the kids from running across a dangerous road.
People nowadays just refuse to take any sort of responsibility for the actions of their children. "My son would never do that" is heard every day during parent-teacher conferences. Well, this son did do that, and now he's dead.
Perhaps the parents should dedicate their time (and money) to talking with other teens to prevent them from doing something so stupid.
Friday, July 11, 2008
To: Condo Management Co.
Dear Ms. X,
I am extremely upset with this management firm’s landscapers. They clearly do not know the difference between weeds and delicate flowers and should from now on be told to stay out of our backyards.
At the very beginning of the summer, I made my first attempt at gardening. Very excited to be living in my first home with a beautiful backyard, I planted three stargazer lily bulbs and watched them grow. They were a bit slow at the start, but very soon they shot out of the ground and I anticipated gorgeous pink and white flowers by the end of the summer.
On July 3, my boyfriend and I noticed that one flower stem was broken. It looked like it had been cut off, but it was still hanging on by a thread. Since the cut was recent, we were able to save the flower by bringing it inside and immediately placing it in water.
This morning when I walked outside to check on the remaining two lilies, they were nowhere to be found.
When taking a closer look, I noticed three sad, broken stumps sticking out of the ground – with a chopped up piece of stem right next to them in the grass. Grass clippings surrounded the area as well. It was clear to me that a gardening power tool had been used to “trim” parts of my garden.
These lilies were budding – a few days away from bursting out into full bloom. I eagerly checked them each day, hoping this would be the day I would see the fruit of my labor.
Now I know that day will never come – thanks to your landscapers.
While there is no replacing my attractive flowers for this season, I think it’s only fair that your landscapers provide three lily bulbs for my garden that can be planted next season.
I also request that said landscapers stay at least two feet away from anything growing in the backyard.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
This is what's left of my three lilies out in the garden.
Last week, I asked Albie to check on the lilies. He said "I only see two... no, wait, here's something on the ground."
One lily was broken - it looked chopped off or chewed off. I quickly rescued it, trimmed the stem and placed it in a vase on the kitchen counter.
This morning when I got up - ridiculously early, mind you - I noticed that Albie had forgotten to close the back door. I looked outside, checking on my garden as usual. Then I saw that my lily area looked surprisingly clean.
I stepped outside only to find that both remaining lilies had been chopped off with a trimmer. A few leaves were left on the ground, but no other evidence could be found.
It was hard to keep from crying. I've waited so long to see them bloom, and it seemed like they were only a few days away from doing so. Oh well, at least I have one left in the vase.
And trust me, our condo management company is going to get a very nasty letter. Perhaps I can sue? This is America, after all.
(A post on stupid lawsuits coming up).
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
The only time he stops chirping is when Albie gives a real loud cough. It's like the cricket is trying to figure out what Albie is saying. Then it starts chirping again, happier than ever.
A few weeks ago, I got sick of hearing a noisy cricket in advertising. Our calendar editor wanted to kill it during the day, but our top editor yelled at her and called her cruel. As soon as the editor left for the night, I snuck into her office and grabbed a bottle of ant poison she keeps under her desk.
Albie yelled at me, "what are you doing? Where are you going with that?"
I rushed over to advertising before he could stop me and sprayed the cricket straight in the face. It started hopping towards me and I ran back into the newsroom.
"He's coming after me!" I yelled, then I hid behind Albie.
It was scary, but oh, the silence! Unfortunately, today's cricket is hiding behind our chips supply in the sports department. I wouldn't want to taint that with poison.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Wait, it's not as bad as it sounds. We were just up on the roof of our office building, the two of us, watching colorful fireworks explode into the dark night.
Really, it wasn't that bad.
In order to get the best view from our building, you have to climb out a window on the second floor, walk across the roof, round a chimney and then climb an old, rusty ladder to the top-most floor.
I didn't want to do it alone, so I convinced reporter Walt to come with me.
Climbing out the window onto the roof isn't bad. We do it several times each winter to clean off our Associated Press satellite dish. The second part, however, can become a problem.
While Walt scurried up the ladder in front of me, I warned him: "Going down is much harder."
"Yeah, sure," he said, too focused on reaching the top to really listen.
Several blasts of green, pink, blue and gold could already be seen around us. Being a little scared of heights, I immediately sat down when I reached the top. We began some small talk. Frequent bangs and a strong smell of sulfur, however, reminded us what we were really doing on the roof.
When it was time to return to the lower levels, Walt walked over to the ladder and looked down to the second floor.
"Wow, it's really high," he said, trying not to sound scared. "How do you get back down?"
I explained the procedure of leaning on the railing, bending down on your knees, throwing one leg over the edge and then slowly turning your body until you're in the right position. Walt took a few steps back from the edge.
"Maybe you should do it first so I can watch," he said.
Slightly scared myself, I sat down on the edge of the roof, hung my left leg over the side and grabbed onto the rusty railing of the narrow ladder. I put my weight on the ladder, then swung my right foot over the edge and placed it next to the left. Then I started my descent.
"See?" I said. "You just have to turn, so you are facing the building."
I hopped down from the last step onto the second-floor roof. Then I looked up. Walt hadn't moved an inch.
"Do you think maybe I could go down facing the other way?" he asked. "I would feel a lot better if I could face the other way."
"No way," I said. "The steps of the ladder are too narrow and slanted downward. You might just slip and fall."
"Great," he replied, now terrified. "That makes me feel SO much better."
After a few minutes of coaching, Walt had his left leg on the ladder. His right foot, however, was stuck on a bump by the edge of the building, and while one hand was leaning on the railing, his other held a firm grasp of the roof.
Realizing he wasn't in the right position, Walt pulled himself back up.
"I can't do it," he said. "I'm gonna be stuck up here."
I started climbing back up the ladder.
"Put your foot right here," I explained, patting the second step. "Grab onto the railing with both hands. You can put all your weight into it. The railing will hold you if you slip."
Walt wasn't so sure.
A few more minutes went by. I started telling him of previous reporters and editors who have made the climb - and come back down successfully.
"Well, if they can do it, I guess I can do it, too," Walt finally said, swung his leg over again, got stuck again with the right leg, but put all his effort into it and was finally in position to climb back down.
He was shaking when he put his feet on the solid roof. Then he almost fell into my arms.
"Thank you," he said, voice also shaking. "You just kept me so calm. I never thought I could do it."
And I never thought I could talk a man down from the roof of a building. I guess each day is a new adventure.
Friday, July 4, 2008
A few years ago - my first summer in the United States - I made the mistake of going into New York City with some friends to see the fireworks.
The FDR highway going along the east side of Manhattan was closed, and people were lining up around 4 p.m. for that night's show.
We sat there on the ground, in heat over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, waiting for hours. We stared at the East River, we sipped our water, and we socialized with some fellow tourists.
The fireworks that evening were magnificent. The heat, however, was not.
Luckily, I'm going to be inside tonight, working. If I have time, I'll climb up on the roof, where I can see most of Torrington. Hopefully, that'll be the most eventful part of my day.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
It a way, it's a modern survival story. It has nothing to do with living in the wild, hunting or making a fire, but for some of these guys, it might as well be.
On a recent show, real estate agent Dave's life gets transformed to the year 1971. A crew comes in to take all his "tech toys" away. They replace them with items used in 1971.
Dave, who lives in a beautiful house in the Hamptons, finds himself driving around in an old car without a cell phone, without a GPS system and without his patience. Watching him fly from payphone to payphone is both fascinating and frustrating, and when he crunches up his map and loudly declares "I don't know how to read a map!" I have to laugh.
He then has to host a dinner party, without fancy cooking gadgets. Dave tries using a crockpot, then turns to the grill without much success. His only salvation: He knows how to mix old-fashioned drinks and can keep his guests happy.
Perhaps it all seems strange to me because I remember life without technology. I remember summers in the woods, without electricity and bathrooms, where we had to walk to the well to get water or bring gallons of water with us from home before we left.
We still cooked, cleaned, bathed and socialized. We played music, we sang and danced and we sat up talking all night.
There was a life before computers, before cell phones and before GPS systems. It was called trusting your instincts and your creative abilities. It was called spending time with people who really mattered.
Sometimes, I think people today have lost that ability.
This, my dear friends, is not a piece of art, even though it might look like it. No, it is shiny blue nail polish on our beige rug in the guest bedroom.
What's it doing on the rug? Oh, it's stuck there. And it's not coming off anytime soon.
Once a year or so, I get a whiff of inspiration and decide to paint my toenails. This time, our cat Pip decided to swipe the tiny bottle of nail polish out of my hand with his left paw.
Of course, now he is snoozing on the futon like nothing ever happened.
I can't stand it when it's hot and humid - and look what it does to my hair! Well, ok then, that's not the worst part.
The worst part is walking around feeling disgusting all the time, feeling itchy and sweaty and dirty. Then each breath takes three times the effort. And it's not because I'm doing any sort of heavy lifting or running or anything, that's just how it is with humitidy for me.
I'm positive my Swedish lungs are not made to take in all that water vapor in the air. After all, Scandinavian's don't usually have to do that.
A little bit of warmth I can handle - give me a sunny, 70-degree day and I'll be all set. It's when the temps rise above 80 and the humidity creeps over 60 percent that my skin starts to crawl.
Thank goodness for air conditioning - at home, in the car, at the office. With energy costs continuously rising, I just hope I can afford it through September, when life finally goes back to normal.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
A friend of mine posted a photo like this on her blog. Of course, I had to try being a German soccer player as well (and I'm procrastinating at work).
If you want to be a german soccer player, you can try it here. (Instructions are only in German).
//Having problems seeing the photo on my own computer at home. Not sure why.