Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Facebook status

So there's this thing on Facebook, the social networking site, where you can set your status as often as you wish (most readers are now rolling their eyes at me, but I do know people who have never been on Facebook, so bear with me...)

Anyway, it says "Viktoria is..." and then you fill in the rest. Whatever you write will be seen by everyone who is your friend on Facebook - in fact, they get a little news alert about it as soon as you update your status.

Today, I was daring and erased the "is..." so I could write "Viktoria never wants to go back to work again."

My boss, of course - one of my 127 Facebook friends - got slightly alarmed.
"You can write whatever you'd like on Facebook, of course," he said as I got to the office. "I don't mind."

But his eyes and his body language told me he was upset. And then he also said "If you don't want to be here, you should just leave."

Claiming my attitude towards work is not the same since I got back from vacation, my boss then put me in a really bad mood before he left the office.
"I don't care!" I believe was one of the last things I told him before I stormed out of his office. "Nothing is going to make me change how I feel about this place!"

A few hours later, we were back to normal. My boss even gave me permission to "unfriend" him on Facebook for more "privacy" from work people, but I'm not so sure I will.

This is just how things are, I guess, when you live your life both in cyberspace and in the real world.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I'm not the only talker

Some people think I talk too much. Well, they've obviously never met my grandmother.

My grandmother is one of those amazing women who can talk for an hour and never once stop to draw her breath. On the phone, she will let me chime in every once in a while, but it is not always necessary.

While I enjoy speaking with her - and convince myself that I am at least doing something that makes her happy - it can get tedious. Today, I played two games of spider solitaire, three games of regular solitaire and two games of mahjong during our conversations.

You see, the normal stuff doesn't bother me. The "what are you having for dinner?" questions or "how is work going?" inquiries are fine. Some stories she tells are even intriguing, like the ones about my childhood friend who now has two children and a husband who works three jobs to support her but wants a divorce since she has spent thousands of kronor on getting her teeth chemically whitened.

I always like to keep up with the local gossip. However, we seem to always end up with a few topics I cannot stand. First, my grandmother insists on telling me about friends of hers whom I have never heard of and never met. I understand she likes to share parts of her life, which is fine, but she always talks about them like I should have known them for years and should remember them from my childhood when, in fact, I am sure these people didn't even live in town when I was young.

Then, of course, my grandmother now insists on discussing items like the American economy and the new president. She watches CNN. She knows what is going on. And who am I to correct her when she says that no Americans know that their country is in debt? She saw the interviews. She knows how it is.

After some arguing, she always falls back on this: "Well, what do people think over there? What are people saying?"
"About what?" I usually ask.
"Well, you know," she replies. "About that bank closing down (substitute Wall Street bailout, Obama's speech, George W. Bush leaving, America's influence in Europe...)."
"I'm not sure," I say. "It's sad, I guess." (or "good, I guess")
"Yes, but what are people saying at your job? What are your friends saying?"
"You must be talking about it?"
"No grandma," I say, now very irritably. "We don't talk about this kind of stuff. We just work and sleep and try not to worry about anything."

And then the topic eventually fades out. But I guess I should be happy and thankful that my grandmother still has her wits about her. Last week, for example, she was watching a movie about a terribly woman terrorizing a couple living in a downstairs apartment just so she could get ideas for what to do about her drunken neighbors.

The week before that, we got into a surprising discussion about birth control, which I will not recite here. It finally faded out after she had said "but where does it all go?" multiple times and I gave up trying to explain that the whole purpose of the pill is that you do not ovulate, so there is no "all" that needs to "go" any place.

As usual with our conversations, today's talk came to an end after a little over an hour - just to be resumed next week. With new topics in mind, I hope.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ice skating

For the first time in years, I got to go ice skating tonight. (Note: This was on my list for things to accomplish during vacation - I'm just about a month late!)

Albie just found out last night about this little place at the center of town near a school where local firefighters filled up a basketball court. It was completely frozen today. Despite some bubbles in the ice, I think I did pretty well. (My thighs and hamstrings are certainly telling me so).

It was -8 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) out, so we didn't stay there for too long. Still, though, it was the most ice skating I've done in a long time. It made me feel like a real Swede.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

When people are mean to au-pairs...

...they usually end up in jail. Which is what I am hoping will happen to this guy.

Since I was an au-pair myself, it upsets me greatly that anyone would do this. I am glad he got caught and I would hope the au-pair organizations out there know to tell their girls this is NOT acceptable behavior from their host fathers.

(Apparently CulturalCare isn't one of the reputable ones, since its spokeswoman lied to the authorities about the family and complaints against them and didn't raise a red flag even though this family had gone through seven au-pairs in three years).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Typewriters vs. computers

I miss my typewriter.

I got it as a present when I was 11 or 12, and it was just such a neat little machine. All it did was produce letters on paper when I hit the keys in the right places, and I then had to push a thin stainless steel bar to make a new line on the page.

Today I have enter and delete and undo. I also have Spider Solitaire, Free Cell, Facebook, YouTube,, The Onion and several e-mail addresses. Oh, and there’s several blogs and then Bejeweled. Or I could watch a movie, or better yet, burn one.

It is almost too much to have a computer that can do everything. “Perhaps I should listen to some music?” I say to myself. Half an hour later, I’ve made a playlist that suited my mood 45 minutes ago but is no longer relevant, and all inspiration have flown out the window.

Wait! I was going to look up the ingredients for Uncle Ben’s Sweet and Sour Sauce! Oh, and I still haven’t caught up on last week’s episode of “CSI.” Then, of course, I need to make sure our competitor didn’t publish any good stories in today’s paper…

When I sit on my futon and read my book, I can hear the humming coming from the hard drive just a few feet away. “Wasn’t there something I was supposed to do?” I ask myself. I pick up the book again and continue reading. “Wow, I wish I could write like this,” I say a few minutes later. “I really should do more writing. Who knows, I might be good at it?”

But, of course, by then it’s almost 4 a.m. and time to go to bed. Another day, maybe. Too bad I got rid of that black little typewriter last time I was in Sweden. Perhaps tomorrow, I would be able to use it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And we have a new president!


I will quote what a Swedish author wrote on her blog yesterday:

"Today, a law professor will become the president of the United States of America. Not an old cowboy actor, not a rich spoiled brat who likes to kiss Saudi oil princes, but a well-educated history buff from the middle class, who is also a lawyer and a teacher."

I think that pretty much sums it up. Watching the inauguration ceremony this morning (yesterday morning, I guess I should say), it was amazing how Barack Obama managed to tie everything together. He reached out to faraway lands and spoke to the whole world when he said that from now on, America will be different.

Of course, it was awesome to hear him throw in a hint or two towards the former Bush administration and the reasons for why this country has been going downhill. We all know it; it was just nice to hear someone say it so bluntly, someone who was standing merely five feet away from George W. Bush. And Bush could do nothing, but smile, wave and depart on Trooper 1.

Bye, bye, Bush. May Obama never do what you did to this country.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bride Wars

There's a new movie out in theaters here called "Bride Wars." I haven't seen it yet, but in the previews they show two girls (Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway) who are best friends planning their weddings together. They both dream of getting married at The Plaza, and lo and behold, it's available for three dates very close to each other.

Then something goes wrong.

All of a sudden, the brides-to-be find out their weddings have been scheduled for the SAME DAY. Oh, the horror!

"Well, one of us will just have to change the date," the first bride says.
"Or one of us could change the venue," the other says.

But both want the date, and both want The Plaza. So they start fighting. Kate Hudson's hair is "mistakenly" colored blue; Anne Hathaway's dress is covered with red glittery hearts. And it goes on and on.

While I'm pretty sure I'll end up seing the movie when it comes to DVD, the preview only left me with one thought: What is their problem?

I mean, why does everything have to be the princess-fairytale-it's-all-about-me wedding? Is that really what makes people happy? If they were really best friends, wouldn't it be great to be able to share the day?

When I was a little girl, my best friend and I planned to get married on the same day so we could have a double wedding. It was our dream.

Double weddings are fairly common in Sweden, especially among siblings or best friends. And why not? All the friends and family are already there, so what's a few more guests? You split the cost of the band and the meal, and you have one big party.

If you get the location you want, and the date you want, and your husband-to-be shows up, what is the big deal? I frankly don't see it. Perhaps the movie will give me a clue. I'll have to post an update in six months when the DVD has been released.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My life as a cat

Imagine being asleep 20 hours a day. Imagine being on a constant diet of dry food so crisp that every time you take a bite, someone can hear it from across the street. Imagine being dependent on someone so much that you scream every time they leave you behind, and cry of happiness every time they come back.

Imagine not having any control over that someone’s life. Imagine being left alone for hours and hours, without a chance to even go outside the door.

Well, this is my life. This is what it’s like being a cat. I am not really “just a cat” – nobody is. I am a European short-hair, with traces of Persian and Burmese genes. My fur is black, and I have green eyes. A good combination, if you ask me. I heard that my eyes sort of glow in the dark, and that it always gets some people freaked out. But we are not here to talk about how I look. I wanted to tell you a little bit about a situation that happened to me a few weeks ago.

There I was, on the edge of the bed, taking my regular two o’clock nap, when the noise of skittering of little feet came from out of nowhere. I tilted my ears slightly forward to hear what was going on, still pretending to be asleep. It sounded like it came from under the dresser in the far right corner of the bedroom. No, wait, it was more like it was coming from the kitchen. Actually, it sounded like something going on out in the hallway and in the bathroom at the same time. I had to open my eyes, and I lifted my head slowly.

Of course, I was right! Little feet were moving around everywhere. Some running from the kitchen, through the hallway, out under the apartment door, and some running around under the dresser in the bedroom. I tried to take a closer look without being too obvious. What were they doing, and what did they want?

They hadn’t seen me yet. While I was thinking of my next move, I slowly counted them. Five under the dresser, about seven back and forth in the hallway, and didn’t I just see two of them run out in the kitchen?

Suddenly I saw one of them coming from the kitchen, dragging a big chunk of something in his mouth. He met up with a second one, who took over the chunk and ran out under the door. I suddenly realized what they were doing. They were stealing food. My food.

First I went for the creatures hiding under the dresser. Moving closer to the dresser, step by step, as close to the floor as I could, I managed to surprise two of them, and caught them between my bottom jaw and my sharp upper teeth. Three of them got away, and I rushed after them, slipping on the carpet in the hallway, and almost colliding with the three coming from the kitchen. I gave off a loud scream and I hissed at them like no cat has ever hissed before.

They all dropped the food, my food, and quickly slipped out under the door. I caught one as he was on the way out. Grabbed him by the tail, and started pulling. Really slippery little thing, and he didn’t taste good either. I spit him out before I was even half way done eating him. I completely lost my appetite, so I picked up the other ones, one by one, and carried them in my mouth to put them over by the door.

I completely forgot about the day’s adventures as I fell back asleep, this time on the couch in front of the television. Of course it wasn’t on, so I could watch anything. My friend never left it on when she left for the day. She said it would be a waste of energy. Like I didn’t understand what was going on in that show with Sabrina and her black cat. It was my favorite show. Luckily my friend made it home before it started most evenings, so we could sit down and watch it together.

All of a sudden I heard my beloved someone’s footsteps three floors down. I interrupted my dreamless sleep to go out in the hallway and acknowledge her. I sat in my usual place, just out of reach for the door, as she put the key in the lock. I heard it turn and saw her arm stretch inside to turn the hallway light on.

I saw her face, and the scared look on it as she screamed, “Aaaaaaahhh, mice!”

After she calmed down, she looked over at me and smiled. I sort of smiled back at her, and I knew that she knew. This had been the most exciting day in my life since we moved in. She picked me up and I got my regular evening hug.

“I am so proud of you,” she said, as I started purring. “But let’s get them out of here.”

Sunday, January 18, 2009


So, I've been YouTubing a bit lately... call it procratination or lazyness... after a long, hard week at work, I just haven't felt like doing much.

By accident, I came across this video of a character called Linus på Linjen - Linus on the Line (No, you are not supposed to understand what he is saying, although rifle, flower and elefante can be picked up in this one).

Linus was my grandfather's favorite cartoon. We got lucky every time he came on, since he the random 2-minute snippets were just thrown in between programs to fill space when a program ran short, and you could never find Linus in the TV Guide. Then again, we only had 2 television stations until 1992, so the options for what to watch were scarce.

In the mid 1980s, when I was 6 or 7 years old, I remember being amazed at the color yet simplicity of the animation of Linus. Eventually, Linus got to serve as a public figure in telling people to recycle cans or newspaper, which you can watch here.

I can't help but wonder what my grandfather would be saying today if he were still alive. He could have been watching television 24 hours a day, with things much more exciting than a hand drawing a simple figure. But then again, my grandfather appreciated the simple things in life. To him, Linus was perfection.

Great moments, and now they're gone

In honor of the new president, who will take office in less than two days, I am posting a link to a compilation of David Letterman's "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches" that I found on YouTube. (Please watch it to the end - you will not regret it)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mass murderers and 'CSI'

Perhaps it's not so strange that I'm a fan of the television series "CSI." Since I was 15, I have been fascinated by psychopaths and mass murderers.

So much so, that during a school break in the fall of 1994, I took a bus for 2 hours to the town of Falun to visit he site where Mattias Flink, a sergeant in the Swedish Army, shot eight people after a night of angry binge drinking. Notebook in hand and armed with my first very own camera, I walked in his footsteps from the gate of the restricted section of the military base to the park where the six ladies from the auxiliary where maimed with his AK-5.

Newspaper clippings had mapped out exactly where the bodies were found, and I could picture the young male cyclist and the security officer being hit by bullets as well - it was like a fuzzy re-enactment you see on television, where the shadows of those who died reappear to give you an idea of exactly how things went down.

After a couple of hours of research, I had lunch, then took the first bus back home.

Although I never really knew what to do with the materials I had gathered, I organized it with my newspaper clippings in a binder and tucked it away in a drawer of my desk. I briefly considered writing to Flink in prison so he could answer a list of questions I had, but I quickly abandoned the idea, realizing only crazy people write to mass murderers.

Flink, who is serving a 24-year sentence (lifetime, in Sweden), has denied all interviews by news media. After being threatened by fellow prisoners who were disgusted with his actions, Flink got a new identity and was moved to another prison. His request for a lower sentence was denied last year, but he has been allowed to leave the prison unsupervised several times due to good behavior. The families of the victimes have repeatedely protested his parole.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Real Redneck

On our web site at work, comments have been going back and forth for days about who is a real redneck. It's understandable, since my newspaper deals with readers from the top corner of the state - readers who are isolated from the rest of the world, at times.

It goes something like this...
"You're a redneck, because you have to go check on your chickens every hour."
"No, I'm just a farmer. You're a redneck because you don't know how to spell and your mom never taught you how to read."
"Everyone from Winsted is a redneck, including Ralph Nader."
"All you rednecks should stop posting here as you are insulting the real readers."

Tonight, I think I saw one of them - a real redneck.

A real redneck, is someone who drives an old pick-up truck of undetermined color with piles of old tires in the back covered with snow. In a drive-through at McDonald's at 2 a.m., the real redneck gets out of his car, slams the driver's side door shut from the outside, then runs around to the passenger side and climbs in, so he can slide back over to the driver's side and drive off. It's the only way his driver's side door will close, because it is really crooked on its hinges.

A real redneck doesn't think twice about this, as it happens every day in his world.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Driving through space

As I drove home from work tonight, snow was zooming directly at me from all sides - big flakes that made it difficult to focus on anything else. It felt like I was driving an intergalactic ship through outer space in slow motion, with millions of stars flying by my windows.

The most difficult thing during these times is to stay alert and remember that you are actually in a small car on a two-lane highway, not in the vast empty space with endless openness and nothing to crash into.

I made it home alright, and there was still no snow on the ground by the time I parked my car. I guess it was just happy floating around in the air, then melting again and leaving us with greyness.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Kitchen upgrades

The kitchen became yellow during my vacation (it's the same yellow as in the dining room, but my cell phone camera didn't adjust well to the color). A few days ago, Albie put up the hardware we finally decided on for the cabinets.

Below are some photos from when we first moved in, and after I painted it blue (but before we had started the cabinets) so you can see a before/after effect.

We still have to pick a backslpash, decide on a countertop and do the bottom cabinets (inside and out).

Friday, January 2, 2009

Back to work

After 12 days off, it is time to head back to work at the newspaper later today.

While it feels like I could do another 2-3 weeks off easily, I'm a bit excited to see what has happened at the paper since I've been gone. I've never been away for this long. From what I hear, we've hired a new freelancer and our publisher's daughter locked herself into her father's office and had to be rescued by the editor. Other than that, no real news has reached my neck of the woods.

During my time off, I sucessfully finished painting the kitchen walls in yellow (they were blue before, remember?), finished painting the inside of that one cabinet I had procrastinated to do and could finally put all my wine glasses back inside, organized our upstairs closet, had a manicure and pedicure (birthday present), went shopping for winter boots, attended 3 Christmas dinners, went to the gym 3 times, watched 4 movies and read 2 Harry Potter books.

Skiing and ice skating will just have to wait until I have another day off!