Friday, January 22, 2010

Spag Ball

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One day when I had formatted the camera memory card to make space for new images, I took a photograph just to check that all was OK. Normally I just hold the camera in front of me, which means I get a picture of my desk with the PC screen on it.

This time however I aimed at the floor next to me by the wall, and this is what it looked like.


And I thought, what a mess! How the heck do I know which is which, where do they go and where do they come from? Do I need them all?

Somehow I know them all, even without having labelled them, and should I forget, I just follow them with my fingers. They are all needed for the PC, phone, PDA, iPod, cameras, headphones etc. Is there a better way? Is it possible to organise this ball of spaghetti differently? What does yours look like?

Hopefully one day we won't be needing a physical conductor of signals and electricity at all; everything will be done by Bluetooth, infrared or something even more sophisticated and advanced. I can't wait!

Then I thought, life is a bit like this too, isn't it? But that's another issue all together. Have a wonderful weekend!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ooi! Give Us Your Handbag!

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Mugging in the making? Are these two guys trying to rob the young woman on the left? She seems to be desperately holding on to her handbag, isn't she? Did I happen to catch a crime on film? Like in the 60's film Blow-Up?

Just look at them; shaven head, sunglasses, swelling muscles and an aggressively pointing finger! No?

Well, if I un-crop the image slightly, you will see that the two menacing-looking men have a woman in tow, perhaps not out to rob vulnerable women after all. How easy it is to be prejudiced.

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If I produce the full picture (pun intended) it is obvious nothing sinister is afoot. Another man is leaning casually against the railing of a bridge in Cologne next to the walking woman and the approaching group of three. It is in fact Weltkindertag (World Children's Day) in Cologne and I am standing by the river Rhein among thousands of people celebrating this day full of innocence and fun.

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Shame on you if you thought so badly about two men out to celebrate a children's day in female company. Of course the guy who spends so much time in the gym must take the opportunity to show his hard-earned muscles on a sunny September day. The sunglasses are necessary to protect the eyes, and also making it possible to look at other woman without anybody noticing. Don't tell me you've never done it!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Top Five Blog Posts – Statistically


Do you keep an eye on your stats? I do, mostly to see if I’ve had a visitor for the first time from a country, so I can add the flag to my little collection in a special flag folder on my PC. At the moment I have had visitors from 93 countries. Will I ever get to 100? Who knows?

The stats also reveal searches, both for text and for images. I am still amazed at how many elementary or primary school teachers search the web for work sheets on Pippi Longstocking, whom I wrote about a long time ago.

People all over the world also seem to be very concerned about their pulmonary health.

An increasing number of Brits are interested in finding out about Fougères Castle in Brittany.

The love padlocks (Liebesschlösser) on Hohenzollern Bridge in Cologne pull in visitors from all corners of the world.

Then of course my blog post about Ryanair and their questionable policy on fining their passengers has a fast-growing number of hits. I am definitely not the only disgruntled (ex-) customer.

The List

1 Pippi Longstocking (lazy teachers)

2 Smoker’s Lungs (worried smokers)

3 Ryanair (frustrated passengers)

4 Love Padlocks (romantic people)

5 Fougères Castle (history nerds or holiday makers)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How History Made Me Swedish


This fat king on his fat horse, a quote from an old friend's (Mikael Wiehe) song when he turned 55, actually made sure I was born Swedish and not Danish.

It is very appropriate to mention him now in this cold weather because in January 1658 he (or rather his generals) took his army across the ice between some Danish islands and secured victory. They had come from Poland, where they had been fighting earlier, and attacked the Danes from the least expected direction. He was Karl X Gustav.

They had arrived when the water was open, but decided to try the ice when it just kept freezing. Nearly all the army made it across, only a couple of German squadrons fell through the ice and drowned, but what the heck.

That cunning plan surprised the Danes, who had to fight the enemy coming from behind. The peace treaty that ensued gave the southern parts of the Scandinavian peninsula to Sweden, and this statue stands in the main square in Malmö, my home town, to commemorate this historical event.

By the way, I am sure I would have been happy to be Danish as well!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Intriguing Bottles

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On New Year's Day in Sweden we went for e refreshing walk through a small village. The footpath took us not only past people's gardens, but through them. All was quiet and peaceful and I was hoping for some photo opportunities; beautiful houses and views, that sort of thing.

Then I caught sight of this snow-covered garden table with a couple of strange-looking bottles. They had been left out in the cold and had probably been standing there for some time.

What are they? I never examined them closely, did not lift them up or touch them at all. Is there a hole in the bottom where you put a candle of some sort? Can you remove the beautifully shaped cover? It looks like some cotton thread round the neck of the bottle. Or is it metal? If there is a candle involved, how do you light it?

Maybe it is something completely different? I don't know. What do you think?

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Clueless Brits


I am still fascinated by the lack of knowledge and understanding of all things wintry and cold among some Brits.

First I have to defend and excuse people in the UK for not being winter-wise, since most winters there are relatively mild and free of snow. However they do happen, and most adults ought to have experienced sub-zero temperatures and snow in their lives.

It has to be said that the authorities are much better prepared these days. There are snow ploughs, gritting lorries etc., but perhaps not enough of them. Neither is there any "winter tyre culture", most people use the same low-profile, shallow-groove tyres all year. Also the rubber on those tyres are less effective below 7degrees C even on a dry surface.

On the UK news you can see desperate drivers trying to get out of some snow, just letting the wheels spin wildly, slowly packing the snow harder and harder. No technique to ease their way out of it.

You also see news reporters walking down a snow-covered pavement, not even thick enough to make the shoes disappear, talking about "treacherous conditions". Rather pathetic.

And people don't even put gloves and hats on. No wonder they feel cold.

Then of course we have the old housing stock, which does not seem to be fit for purpose in the winter; single window panes, those draughty  sash windows, lack of insulation and central heating. The list could be made much longer.

And to economise, some people, especially old and fragile people, are in the habit of turning off the heating in some rooms, not realising that that is not very cost-efficient.

Watching the BBC Breakfast show this morning, another striking example of lack of understanding of basic principles made my jaw drop.

Sian Williams (the female presenter), who normally gives a very sharp and intelligent impression, questioned the idea of placing radiators below the window, since "all the heat just disappears straight out through the window" as she put it. I nearly sent a text message to explain, but several others got there before me.

A few minutes later she quoted one of them, explaining how the rising heat creates a protective wall preventing the cold coming in from the outside. "I suppose we have to trust him, he's got a PhD" she added.

So there is still hope.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Tractor Tobogganning

The snow keeps coming down, and will continue tomorrow according to the weather forecast. The other day when we were returning from a refreshing walk we saw some lights moving slowly in the distance. I guessed it was a tractor, but the light was too faint (or my eyes too bad) to establish what it was. I could not resist the temptation to hone my low-light photo skills though and got the camera out.

It was not until I got home and transferred the photos to my PC that I realised what the spectacle had been. It turned out to be an unusual tractor-cade; a farmer on a tractor pulling four toboggans or sledges. Who said Germans don't have a sense of humour and fun? Great fun!


Friday, January 08, 2010

On A Winter's Morning

Most of northern Europe is in the firm grip of bitterly cold wintry conditions. The weather is causing all sorts of problems. People can't get to work, schools are closed, exams have to be postponed, sports events are affected, people are being isolated in remote villages, old people and disabled people don't get their much-needed visits from care workers, and businesses are badly affected. The list seems to be endless.

But the situation also brings out the very best in some people who go to great lengths to help others in distress, many children have a great time in the snow for the very first time and I get to take some lovely winter pictures of guests in my garden, among them robins, bullfinches and squirrels.

Have a good weekend!

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Arctic Conditions All The Way

What a lovely holiday we had! But it was the wintriest journey and stay I can remember. The first, short leg to Bremen took over four hours instead of three, and Bremen to Malmö, including the ferry between Germany and Denmark, took nearly seven long hours, all due to snow and -10 degrees C. The gritters and snow ploughs ganged up on us, cars, coaches and lorries coming off the ferry, and blocked the motorway driving at 50 kph (30 mph) for about 20 kilometres. Not everybody was happy about that!

The return journey was even worse, close to disastrous, twelve hours and forty minutes! Just before the Danish ferry port the snow started to come down faster than I have ever experienced before . All motorists were very cautious, but about a kilometer from the actual ferry terminal an articulated lorry spun round, jackknifed and ended up the wrong way in the snow-covered field, luckily without personal injuries to the driver. We saw him jump out of the cab with the windscreen wipers still trying to keep off the persistent snow.

When we reached the check-in, the snow fall (some would have called it a blizzard) had intensified and you could hardly see more than thirty metres. The whole waiting area was soon covered in thick snow. Everybody stayed in their vehicles, engines and wipers running. Only some, desperate for the toilets, man and dog alike, braved the conditions and walked, ran or jumped in a rather comical fashion to relieve themselves.

After one and a half hours of waiting in the car, we finally found shelter on the ferry. Most drivers left ample space to the one in front in order to clear the snow blanket, 20 centimetres thick. The cars looked like igloos! Less than an hour later we rolled off to encounter even more winter.

The remainder of the journey was extremely slow, sometimes just crawling on the icy, snow-covered  autobahn in heavy snow fall. Other times you tried to see through the slushy spray from the car in front.

When we finally got home after midnight I found my reward in the drinks fridge!

But between these troublesome journeys we had a wonderful time in Sweden. We celebrated Christmas with family and met up with friends, some of whom I had not seen for sixteen years. Southern Sweden was wintry white, but welcoming.

I leave you for now with some pictures.

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