Sunday, March 31, 2013


I posted in November about finding a way to get a booster for my TBE vaccine here in the US of A. Thanks to my company doctor, I found a traveler's clinic in Montreal that could administer the shot.

Last week, I was in Canada on business and made an appointment to get my vaccine. I'm happy to report that everything went well and a very knowledgeable doctor (with a Welsh diploma) administered my injection. Now I'm set for another three years.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wire brushes

There have been many posts about the discoloration on the front of our house and my desire to address that by painting over it. The last we left this subject in October, I painted a test patch with linseed oil paint to see how it withstood the winter.

At Tim's suggestion, I took a wire brush and cleaned off a section of the wood before painting. My plan was to paint over both brushed and non-brushed sections to see if the paint took differently.

I was surprised at how relatively easily a lot of the black discoloration came off, pretty much as a powder. This makes sense as the jarn vitrol is an iron-based product, and I'm sure what I was removing was a form of iron oxide.

The more I ponder it, though, I think I need to brush the face of the house before painting. Paint must adhere better to the wood without the iron in-between; that's just common sense to me.

Of course it is easy to sit at a desk in Texas and say, "sure it's simple to hand-brush 20 square meters of the house!" I am sure I will curse my decision, once up on a ladder this summer. But I think it's the best thing to do.

Our friends at Amazon have a ridiculous array of wire brushes available. I plan to pick out a couple of types and see how they work out during our April visit. I'll do the brushing deed in July, and have the house painted in September. That's the plan, anyways. There has been a lot of discussion about this over the years, and things always seem to change. But that's the plan for now.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A few links

Princess Lillian passed away on March 10. I have to say I didn't know anything about her. After reading her obituary in the Guardian and the Economist, I wish I had. Hers is an amazing story, and I urge you to read both of these excellent articles.

The Economist has a good article on the intersection of English and Swedish politics.

Also, Dwell has a great article on the restoration of the Rietveld-Schröder house, which is probably the most beautiful building I ever visited. Trivia: Gerrit Rietveld and I share the same birthday.

Lastly, Annika and Olle have been sending me photos of an icy March, which I've put on her Flickr page.

Monday, March 18, 2013

One more Eurovision post

The hasn't been much to talk about house-wise, although the happy day of our arrival is fast approaching, so there'll be more pertinent posting soon.

In the meantime, I found two Eurovision blogs, one here and the other here.  Both are insightful, well-written, and full of videos from other countries. Enjoy!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The UK Eurovision entry

The BBC has announced this year's contestant for Eurovision. Taking after last year's choice of Engelbert Humperdink, the beeb has reached into the past again. Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler will be singing "Believe In Me" in Malmö this May:

I'll admit to being disappointed. Known for belters like "Holding Out For a Hero" and "Total Eclipse Of the Heart", I'm sure Bonnie's voice is not as strong as it was in her heyday 30 years ago. But this track is insipid. I can't imagine any of the younger audience voting for this song, and older viewers (like me) will just be disappointed.

Many countries have a big selection process for their Eurovision entrants; Sweden's six-week, six-city, ten-hour extravaganza is the largest by far, but most other countries in Europe have some sort of selection show. When I lived in England, the BBC held various Saturday night contests to select the nation's entry. Now it seems that Auntie acts as if she knows best, and just announces their choice (very late in the calendar) to the befuddlement of us all.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

And the winner is..... a surprise, Robin Stjernberg!
I guessed pretty well with Yohio as the top vote-getter in the public vote, with Ulrik Munther second. But I hadn't taken into account the international jury, who gave a number of votes to Robin, catapulting him to first place, much to his surprise, as well as the audience's.

The Local has a good summary of the evening's anticlimactic results.  I don't think SVT is at any risk of hosting Eurovision again next year.

UPDATE: Camille sent me an acoustic version which she prefers, and I have to say I agree:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A thousand posts!

This is a momentous occasion: my 1000th post. From a humble introduction in August 2007, my blog has exploded over the past half-decade into the internet's go-to source for information on building kit homes, Swedish archipelago life, the Eurovision song contest, and incinerating toilets. Especially incinerating toilets. Google tells me Cinderella is the most commonly-visited subject here by a wide margin. (Google also reveals my blog has been viewed by 60,000 people! Wow!)

I have made 4 introductory posts; I suppose I can add to the canon with a fifth. Sooz, Ollie, and I are happily back into the swing of Texas life. People ask us if we miss living in the UK, and we truthfully answer "yes", but that doesn't mean we are unhappy here; it's not a binary choice. Let's face it, life in the USA is pretty easy and we enjoy that ease. Grant is still in college in North Carolina, a junior now, and doing well at school, both academically and socially. Ollie is also doing fine, a bit slower of course, but since the dark days of his back surgery, every day that he is still happy and healthy with us is a joy.

We're still adjusting to being 5000 miles away from our little stuga. But we've settled into a pattern of being there three times a year- all the seasons except winter! Given the Texas heat, Sooz plans to be away longer in July/August, and I will join her, for two weeks if I can. A one week visit is OK, but the jetlag makes a 7-day visit less desirable.

It's a good thing the house is done. Maintaining it and bringing small things out is do-able from so far away. I sure couldn't have built it from the other side of the world! Fortunately, we have great neighbors in Olle and Annika who keep an eye on our home for us, which is a great relief.

The internet also makes it a lot easier to keep in touch. Olle and Annika send us photos when they're on Aspö. I can see the hourly weather and the Systembolaget specials on my iPhone, as well as the local news, and Rutger is always a FaceTime call away for advice!

It's around this time of year that I really pine for Aspö. The weather is starting to get nice; March here reminds me of June there. So I start itching to go. But we will be there soon enough for our spring visit. And longer-term, I will admit the thought of retirement is starting to creep around the borders of my thinking. Sooz and I know we couldn't live there year-round, but the thought of an April-October residence is appealing. And all that time would lend itself to a great deal of blogging!

Who knows, my next thousand posts may come much more quickly.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Andra Chansen

Last night was the "second chance" show from Karlstad. From each of the previous four shows, two acts were chosen to have yet another battle to make it to the final in Stockholm.

I never hold out that much hope for this show; after all the acts are by definition second-rate. But there is an element of fairness here. The performers are grouped by lottery so it's possible to be in a really strong show and not go through, when the winner of a weaker grouping might not be as good.

That said, the winners, Robin Stjernberg and Anton Ewald, are not going to compete for the crown next week. In fact I've already pretty much forgotten them, nice young men they are.

My favorite act was Erik Segerstedt and Tone Damli with "Hello Goodbye". On the surface it is a cute duet between two good-looking singers. But the lyrics are bemusing to say the least. Essentially they're singing "last night was great, now get out" to each other. But Tone can't keep her hands off Erik during the song which somewhat belie the lyrics. I found it very odd. See for yourself:

So who's gonna win on the big night? To me it's a straight fight between Ulrik Munther and YOHIO. The running order of the night is that Ulrik goes first and YOHIO last. That gives a huge advantage to our anime band from Sundsvall. Sorry, Ulrik, but I'm going with YOHIO.