Thursday, January 26, 2012

Another reason I love Sweden

Sweden's big daily newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, is bucking the trend of major dailies around the world and actually increasing its readership.

I read it online in a futile effort to improve my Swedish, although I admit I dip into Google Translate much more often than I should.

A little sidebar caught my eye recently. Apparently, SvD is holding an introductory course on modern design. I was able to get the gist of this one on my own, but an English translation of the page is here.

For 3000kr ($425), the interested student can attend five lectures on the history and future of modernism and Swedish design. How I would love to attend those. Sadly, I haven't seen any courses like that yet in Texas!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Prefab skyscrapers

I've written previously about pre-fab houses, especially as they are so well suited for building in Scandinavian climates. With such a short building season, it's a huge advantage to be able to maximise building time in the summer.

Our own house- and our shed- weren't really pre-fab, but rather kit houses. All of the parts and pieces were supplied, but there was still significant assembly required. A true pre-fab simply requires connecting large pieces to produce a fully finished product. And a pre-fabricated house is by can be quite luxurious, with the Huf House being a well-known example.

The video above shows that idea taken to its extreme. A 30 story hotel was built, start to finish, bare ground to occupancy, in 15 days! An article on treehugger gives details. Each floor is finished, down to the floor tiles, light switches, window shades, etc., and is assembled on a single pallet. A crane lifts it up, the floor is laid, the windows and walls are put up, and the next floor arrives to be installed above it.

It appears there aren't any corners cut, either. Modern energy-saving technologies are built in; its earthquake resistance has been tested, even furnishings and light fixtures are ready to go. This system is said to be accurate to 0.2 of a millimeter, which is about a hundred times more accurate than my own building efforts!

I liked the comment that these kinds of systems mean that even construction can be exported. Today we buy iPads from Chinese factories; perhaps soon, we'll be buying our houses there, too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Yet another fireplace

This one's a bit different. It's not a wood- burning fireplace, but it runs instead on ethyl alcohol. So there's no need for a flue, or really ventilation of any sort.

It is made by Cocoon Fires, and they have a number of models on their website.

Although it's supposed to give off some heat, it's really cosmetic. I like the looks of it, but our fireplace would need to be more practical. In Sweden, it's quite common to burn one's waste paper in one's fireplace to cut down on trash. (I remember Rutger making a cosy fire out of Christmas wrappings last year!)

And of course, there's quite a wealth of wood for burning right outside our front door. If we do end up spending much time on Aspö in the colder months, we would need a proper fireplace for sure.

The last strike against this funky fireplace is cost. It's about $3500 (or 25,000kr) for the stainless steel model pictured here. That's an awful lot for cosmetics!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Deck Lights

I've found a company that sells a recessed deck light kit which I find pretty interesting.

The kit is quite simple; the lights are LED, so they're low voltage. They sell a special drill bit which makes installation simple. Extra lamps can be purchased. Up to 20 lamps can be run on one transformer. Remote controls and dimmers are even available.

Best of all, I called the company, and their kit works on 220 volts as well as the 110V common in the USA.

I reconnoitered the deck when I was at the the house in December, and I think installation would be quite straightforward. On the other hand, we're not there very often during the dark months, so maybe such a setup is superfluous. Still, it's fun to think about.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A dispatch from Annika

She and Ole reported they had a wonderful weekend on Aspö, -1°C and sunny. In fact it was so nice, they're taking this Friday off, too, to spend another long weekend. I told Annika I was jealous of their doing that, and she said she was jealous of our warm Texas winters!

They also added that our house and its surroundings looked fine. I appreciate their looking after it like that.

She sent 5 more beautiful photos, which are on her gallery now.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


One of my projects next year is to build a new set of stairs for the little house. Janne helped me build a landing for its front door, and now I have about a 2-meter wide leading edge. This will be perfect for a broad set of stairs to come off the path, up to the little house.

I want to make these stairs myself, so I have been reading up on the subject. There's a wealth of information out there on the mathematics and mechanics of stair-building. I've bought a book, and also watched videos on You Tube. (I've found you can learn how to do most anything on the internet these days. And I mean anything.)

The most important thing is to calculate the 'rise' and 'run' of the stairs. This simply means how high the stairs have to rise up from the ground to meet the deck. The length (or 'run') of the stairs is calculated from how many steps are needed to complete the rise.

There are lots of variations on how wide and steep each step should be. Standard building codes specify the maximum rise (not too steep) and minimum run (not too shallow). The steps I have now are fiarly broad and shallow; I initially wanted that to make life easier for Ollie. But, as Margaret pointed out, broad steps make a great perch for having a bowl of cereal in the morning and watching the scenery.

When I was at the house in December, I made a bunch of measurements. My local building store in Texas had simple angle finders and other stair-measuring tools for me to bring along, so I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do.

I've made a sketch of what the stairs will look like. I have a bunch of photos and measurements of my current stairs, so I'm confident about what needs to be done. I'll run it all by Janne when I see him next, to make sure I've thought of everything. I'm looking forward to the project!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Stockholm Marathon

I mentioned a couple of months ago that I planned to run the Stockholm Marathon this year. I've run it twice before, in 1990 and 2000. I have the finishers medals in my office even today. I used to run quite a lot a decade ago; in fact, I was running at least one marathon a year. Recently, though, I've just been running half-marathons, and since I came back to Texas, I haven't been running much at all. (I use the heat as my excuse.)

The 2012 Stockholm Marathon is on June 2, and the timing is perfect as we were planning to change our calendar for visiting Aspö this year. We're going to visit in late May and then again in late July. Typically, we visit over my birthday in midsummer, but we're changing for two reasons. First, we'll be able to link up in July with Ann and Dave, as we've always missed them with our earlier visits. Secondly, we can avoid the awful Texas heat.

I start training in earnest next month. I'd like to beat my 1990 time of 4:23, but we'll see how my legs have held up in the intervening 22 years. I'll update on occasion over the coming months, but don't worry, this won't become a running blog!