IKEA day!

The following website hosts an IKEA catalog of a different kind: furniture pieces featured in internet porn. As an exception, to save you embarrassment at work, I am not linking this. If you are not scared of seeing uncensored (if not necessarily veracious) representations of human sexually, copy and paste the URL into your browser address field.


(Let’s see how long it takes until Yahoo takes this one down.)

And if you are now wondering how to pronounce KÖTTBULLAR or KRÅKSKÄR correctly – you are welcome!


Smör (1977) – A Swedish Anti-Margarine Commercial

Det fanns väldigt mycket reklam för margarin. Smöret blev hånat och förtalat. Och till sist måste det ha kokat över hos smörproducenterna, som svarade med en reklamfilm man kan undra om man ens får göra. Här kommer en hel lastbil med äckliga margarinkokare och observera att varumärkena till och med finns med på overallerna.


That’s already quite good but does not quite reach the refinement of the PR materials produced by the Irish Dairy Board.

Also see a 2011 post on butter shortage.

Youtebori, Furorunda, Morunudaru


The following very interesting Göteborg map circulating the internet recently is labeled with romanizations of Japanese adaptations of Swedish locality names.

Few notes are in order. The phonotactic constraints of Japanese disallow consonant clusters within syllables. “Biskopsgården”, thus, must be approximated as “Bisukopusugaaden”. Furthermore, as Wikipedia notes:

The “r” of the Japanese language (technically a lateral apical postalveolar flap), is of particular interest, sounding to most English speakers to be something between an “l” and a retroflex “r” depending on its position in a word.

This explains “Furorunda” and “Morunudaru”.

Finally, on this occasion, we feel the need to link a followup re. midsummer celebrations in Japan (part I here).

Svenska Dialektmysterier: Glada Väst

Svenska Dialektmysterier is an entertaining SVT mini-series about different Swedish dialects. It aired originally in 2006 and was continued in 2012.  The best piece of vocabulary I learned from this show is gnällbältet.

Here – in contrast to the whining belt – is an episode about the “happy West” and the Gothenburg dialect. Beautiful cinematography as well.

The Swedish Enunciation Award and Other Food Porn

Understanding spoken Swedish can be a daunting task,since reduction (also called relaxed pronunciation or word slurring) is a popular Swedish specialty on the menu. It is upon this slurred background that my award for the clearest Swedish enunciation goes to:

Niklas Ekstedt, the TV cook on the SVT programme Niklas Mat (w/ video)

Ah, what bliss just listening to this person! (Thanks to C. for the tip.)

And while the topic is slowly shifting to food porn, here are two more delicacies:

  • Peter Streijffert is in a constant food duel, pitting his self-cooked lunches against the ones from the convenience food producer Findus.
  • Den bruna maten is a blog dedicated to the food culture of Sweden in the 70s. Njam!

The Markets United Were Never so Useful

Two potentially useful notes (and another shipping story) from the unified European market:

  1. I could pay with my German Maestro card in Sweden without incurring any fees. I’m still waiting for my bank to claim it was a mistake. (Your mileage may vary; I decline all responsibility for your case.) The only cash I needed in 1 1/2 months in Sweden was when using a public toilet…
  2. I mailed home some books I bought in Sweden. This time I did not choose UPS but regular Swedish mail, sending a Postens blå kartong (~300 SEK for 5kg). It turns out, one can enter the Swedish tracking number into the DHL.de website and get more detailed tracking information in Germany. This little technological feat has saved me a lot of trouble.

Despite perfectly entered recipient address, DHL decided to send my books somewhere in Brandenburg and then return them as undeliverable to Sweden. The only explanation I have is that they confused the city of Karlsruhe with the small village of Karlsruhe in Brandenburg (why do we even bother with postal codes?). A last-minute call to DHL (the package was already leaving Hamburg back for Malmö), saved the situation.

There is also Karlsruhe in Sweden, but this is a completely different story.

A quick synopsis for German readers:

Ich konnte mit meiner Maestro-Karte in Schweden ohne weitere Gebühren bezahlen (wohlgemerkt nicht Bargeld abheben, sondern im Supermarkt usw. bezahlen). Diese Angaben sind, wie immer, ohne Gewähr. Außerdem ist es möglich, ein schwedisches Paket nach Deutschland auf DHL.de zu verfolgen (mit deutlich mehr Details).

Send Butter!

Memories of the Soviet Union: there is a shortage of butter in Norway and Sweden. A Russian man (!) who tried to smuggle 90 kg of butter from Sweden to Norway has been apprehended by the customs. Norway has been hit hardest by the shortage, and people are trading the fatty gold for ridiculous prices on the internet.

The situation in Sweden is better, but the shortage is certainly still noticeable. The butter shelf at the biggest supermarket in Göteborg (see image) is not really bursting.

Several things came together to cause the problem:

  • total dairy production in Sweden has decreased 15% in the last 20 years (for structural reasons, I presume)
  • consumers demand dairy products that contain natural amounts of fat (and less of skimmed milk, margarine mixes, etc.).  Yay!
  • producers use cream preferentially for liquid dairy products, since these have a higher profit margin
  • seasonal fluctuations in supply and demand
  • difficulties importing dairy due to marketing (“all Swedish ingredients”) or protectionism (apparently an issue in Norway)

The subject has now found its way over the ocean: Colbert Report on butter shortage. I would not refuse a buttered butter stick. Please send lactose-free butter!

Tradition Obliges

On December 6th, the Swedish royal family gave one of its traditional party chairmen lunches. This time for Jimmy Åkesson of the far-right Sweden Democrats party. Well, was that really necessary?

Apparently yes. But then a photo from a similar event for the chairman of the Social Democrat party, Håkan Juholt, makes the point:

The spirits are hardly dampened here even though the royal family has been afflicted by scandals lately, and the Social Democrats would like to abolish the monarchy, while themselves on their sad way out into irrelevance.

The right-wing SD on the other hand is considered royalty-friendly, while mostly being known for its anti-immigrant stance. The party moved into the Swedish parliament for the first time after claiming 5.7% of the ballots in the 2010 general election.

The Åkesson lunch is being parodied by the fake Twitter account Jimmie Tråkesson (tråkigt = boring, sad, unfortunate):

Som vanligt är JAG det enda som står mellan äkta svenskar och lömska invandrare som vägrar lära sig språket.
As always, I am the only thing standing between real Swedes and the wily immigrants refusing to learn the language. (See first image. Queen Silvia was born in Germany to a German-Brazilian family.)

And, for good measure:

Fick just veta att Steve Jobs biologiska pappa var muslim. Det känns som att iPhone har begått en fyra år lång våldtäkt på mitt öra.
Just learned that Steve Jobs’ biological father was a moslem. It feels like the iPhone has been committing a four-year-long rape of my ear.

Zlatan går på älgjakt. Vilken perfekt symbolik för hur de dödar vår svenska stolthet.
Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] goes elk hunting. What a perfect symbol of them killing our Swedish pride.

Olga, Chalmers, Suède

I have always wondered about the origin of the name Olgas Trappor (Olga’s Steps) adorning the outdoor stairs at the main entrance to Chalmers. It took me several years to find this explanation:

Somewhere in Germany there is (was?) a street named Olgastraße. A street sign from there chanced to come into the possession of a Chalmers student. He ensured that the sign – “Olgastr.” – found a place of honour by putting it up beside the steps leading down to the Student Union building, which have since come to be known as Olgas trappor.

Olga Boberg (1887-1971) had worked at Chalmers since 1937, first as a cleaner and then, from 1943 onwards, as a porter. At Old Chalmers she became an important figure in the lives of many students, helping with everything, from sewing on a loose shirt button to being a shoulder to cry on for a student with problems.

That is how Olga (hardly anyone knew her surname) came to be elected an honorary member of the Students’ Union in 1959. It became a custom for Chalmers students travelling abroad to send her a postcard. It was often enough to address the card to Olga, Chalmers, Suède, or even to Olga, Sweden. The cards always got there.

亂碼 or from China to Göteborg

Somebody in the neighbor department (I don’t know who) has received this letter (click image for full size) from the Chinese Society of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics. The red-framed parts are decimal HTML entity references to unicode codepoints. When interpreted by a web browser, they would produce the correct symbols. For humans, this form may not be appropriate.

In general, this phenomenon is referred to as Mojibake (in Russian: кракозя́бры), and it can also appear in reverse.

One of the previous owners of the apartment I live in has decided to decorate the wallpapers in the living room with borders showing Chinese characters (questionable choice, but anyway). Need I say that three out of four walls carry the characters upside down? Once my Chinese colleague R. has pointed it out, it became obvious even to me.

Hello world!

It’s been almost five years (and a few more short visits to Sweden) since this blog (resp. its older incarnation) was last updated. Now, it looks like I will be spending the last two months of the year in Chalmers, so might as well brush off the dust and try again.

Since I lack the time to keep WordPress (the blog software) updated, I have moved the blog to a hosted service. Some images from old posts have not kept pace with the transition. I will try to fix things along the way.

The Secret of Gothenburg City Airport

Today, after six wonderful months, I’m leaving the country. As usual via GSE, Göteborg’s “other” airport – the home of cheap Ryanair flights and rustic baggage claim. I actually like it a lot. It is not hard to guess that the airport was formerly a military runway, but very few people know that there is a big A-bomb-safe bunker underneath it. The facility called Säve Depåt was secretly built in the 1950s and could harbor about 25 military planes with personnel.

This underground hangar is a part of what I’d call “the 2nd Sweden”. Deep under the regular Sweden there is a huge network of shelters, fuel reserves, submarine docks, etc. It seems, a whole country could have moved underground in case of war. A lot of this infrastructure has been decommissioned now. The Säve Depåt will soon be a museum. It is already possible to go for a guided tour. R. and I went for one.

Just as the whole facility, the secrecy around it appears a bit futile in retrospect. A colonel of the swedish Air Force, Stig Wennerström, has sold the details of the bunker already at the time of its construction (together with many other military secrets including the blueprints of the Saab Draken fighter) to the Soviets.

Sorry, we do not ship that

Have you ever tried calling UPS and arranging a shipment? I have just had to send 3 big boxes full of my stuff from Gothenburg to Koblenz. In this case UPS was cheaper than the postal service and the extra benefit of free pickup sealed the deal for me. What could be easier than calling their toll-free number?

  • Hello, I want to arrange a collection [as it’s called on the UPS website]
  • Pardon?
  • I want you to come, collect my stuff and send it wherever I want it to be sent
  • But you have to pay for that
  • ?!!

“Surprise!” I think to myself, asserting my willingness to pay for the service rendered. Never mind, we go through a few questions about shipping coordinates, the number of packages, etc. Then finally:

  • What is inside the packages?
  • Uhm, personal belongings
  • We do not ship that
  • Pardon?
  • We do not ship personal belongings
  • Is this a joke? What DO you ship?
  • Sorry, we can’t help you

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