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Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Sweden politics: MP Romson finds it tough to walk the talk

October 6th, 2014 by Boston Blatte

Åsa Romson, the new Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden and Minister for the Environment, has had a turbulent first day on the job.

Åsa Romson

She has been criticized for having committed two environmentally unfriendly -hence hypocritical sins.

Firstly, using toxic hull paint for her boat and secondly, taking off from Bromma Airport, en route to an informal meeting of EU Energy and Environmental Ministers in Milan, Italy.

The boat paint issue from this morning seemed to be nothing more than a sensational witch hunt. The environmental concern is valid and regards the copper content of the paint she used in 2011 when painting the hull of her boat.

witch hunt

However, a little digging easily produces a link showing that the paint Romson had used was banned from being sold by the producer in 2011, then banned from retail sales in 2012 and banned from usage in 2013. In other words, she was doing what was advised as environmentally safe at the time. Time to put down the pitchforks folks.

Yet, she did manage to get herself into a more reasonable quandary when she boarded a flight originating from Bromma Airport, just outside Stockholm. Romson and the Green Party have been critical of the airport and are strongly behind a move to close it. She was outspoken this summer during her speech at Almedalen saying Varför ska en man på affärsresa ha en egen central flygplats när den kvinnliga studenten inte har någonstans att bo? (Why should a man on a business trip have his own centrally located airport while the female student doesn’t have a place to live?)

bromma airport

This is a more valid criticism towards Romson’s political practice of her proverbial preaching. If your stance is that the airport is both an environmental problem and used for those in privilege then boycott the airport as the Minister for the Environment. Demand that flights for Green Party ministers only leave from Arlanda and require them to take the train to and from.

So far only her press secretary, Adam Bergsveen, has given a statement. According to him Romson had no other alternative because the government plane was booked before she took on her official role. “There isn’t much we can do about it.”

I say, poppycock. From the time Romson knew she would take her ministerial role she knew she would be the representative from Sweden to attend the meeting today in Milan. She could easily have arranged another way to get there not requiring the use of Bromma.

Let’s hope that this will be her last flight out of Bromma while she holds her post.

Doubt it.

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Roma band to Almedalen: We beg your pardon

June 17th, 2014 by Boston Blatte

Over in the news section of The Local, an article’s headline proclaims: “Beggar symphony to play at Almedalen”

roma musician

The Roma in Sweden have been in the Swedish news quite a lot of late. (quick search on TL for “roma”)Mostly, it’s about the influx of beggars, who are primarily from Romania. The new trend is tight on the heels of discoveries of police registers by the Swedish police of Swedes of Roma ancestry. And then there’s the political spin featured by the über nationalistic Sweden Democrats.

In other words, mention ROMA, Romanians or beggars and you’ll get people’s attention.

The project, Tunnelbanan till Almedalen, will bring a dozen Romanian street musicians to Sweden’s largest political event, Almedalen, to perform Sweden’s national anthem. They will play on Tuesday, the day the Sweden Democrats are hosting. Yep, we’ve got some political posturing going on, and nicely chosen if you ask me.

The estimated cost to transport and house the (all-male?) band to Almedalen = 15,000SEK. The funding source? Crowd funding.

That’s all good. The more we get the everyday Svensson involved the more awareness we raise and the stronger the message becomes.

However, the cynic in me walks on the scene when I read that its organizer, Max Valentin, an entrepreneur (yay for entrepreneurs) is the founder of the crowd funding site of choice; Crowdculture.se. What has read as an act of socio-political activism now starts giving off whiffs of promotional/guerrilla marketing.

My comment “Sounds more like a marketing ploy to promote his crowd-funding site. If he really wanted to bring them there, 15,000 would be peanuts to write off as a company cost.” was challenged by Max Valentin on Twitter.

When I pointed out that he via the promotion of his site would benefit from the attention, he clarified:

I applauded Max Valentin for his effort to address his critics and to stand his ground on his cause. We agreed that a continued public dialog would be beneficial. I expect he’ll be available and amiable to address comments.

While I like the idea of the Metro to Almedalen, I still have issues with it, e.g.

1. Street musicians and begging are not intrinsically linked.
2. Playing the Swedish Anthem is provocative, yet are the musicians Roma from Sweden? There are two issues; bigotry and resentment towards the ethnic Roma in Sweden and the public view of Roma from Romania coming to Sweden to beg. Is there an advantage or a disadvantage to conflate them?
3. Most (if not all?) of the Roma musicians are men. Yet we see as many women trying to eek out an existence.
4. Is sensationalizing the topic going to do more than get headlines?
5. The crowd funding site asks for repeat donations. What else will the money go for if the 15,000SEK is exceeded?

What are YOUR questions?

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Boston Beta Blatte: Testing one of Sweden’s innovative start-up gadgets

October 11th, 2013 by Boston Blatte

This week I am on the cutting edge of being a techie nerd. Well, the cutting edge of being the guinea pig for the true techie entrepreneurs. This week I am a beta tester for a new wearable camera.

narrative clip orange

It is called the Narrative Clip (until just a week ago, better known as Memoto.) It’s a wearable camera that is always on, takes a snap every 30 seconds and easily uploads to a mobile app for you to archive or share to your heart’s content.

Sweden is among the lead pack of countries breeding, incubating nurturing, disruptive innovation, gaming and start up companies. For a sparsely populated country extending into the Arctic circle, that is pretty impressive in my book.

And the Swedes have even succeeded at spreading the wealth of this economic turbine to several regions traversing the length and breadth of a physically large country. From Malmö in the southwest corner just across the bridge to Copenhagen, Denmark reaching diagonally northbound to Luleå at the top of the Bay of Bothnia, clusters of research institutions and private enterprise dot the country.

Not surprising, Stockholm the nation’s capital, has more than its fair share of these start ups. And living in the capital means that there is great opportunity to interact with the dynamic people and companies.

Location has its privileges. Well, if you want to be a tech guinea pig at least.

I’ll post some of my images in a day or two.

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Back in the Blog: Blatte is back

October 8th, 2013 by Boston Blatte

I took a hiatus over the summer.

Summer dragged on to fall and knowing the slippery slope of Sweden’s seasons…winter shall be upon us in no time.

But we are enjoying indian summer at the moment. It’s called Brittsommar in Swedish. It takes its name from the Swedish name day, Birgitta, which falls on October 7.

Pretty spot on as the weather turned the day before yesterday, on October 6.

brittsommar

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IKEA UK: Swedish furniture giant stomps gnomes.

May 29th, 2013 by Boston Blatte

A recent IKEA commercial has inflamed the gnomists of the UK. It has lead to more than 50 complaints lodged with the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority. Apparently the gnome is a quintessential garden love/hate feature of the average UK garden. I have learned today that one should not enrage gnome fans.

gnome ikea

Link to watch advert video here

Recently, the Royal Horticultural Society lifted a ban (yes…royal gardening has been rather undemocratic) on the garden gnome at the prestigious Chelsea Garden Show, a clear victory for gnome enthusiasts of the British Isles.

IKEA marketing is intended to drive visitors to the IKEA store. Is their new UK ad campaign set to achieve this, albeit led by the angry, gnome-loving masses? According to the Daily Mail sales of gnomes have risen 150%.

Perhaps this is just a calculated, evil plot by the furniture giant intending to bring gnomes to the product range? Though, the IKEA newsroom reports that Brits are embarrassed by their gardens citing, “Once a staple of the English country garden, only a dwindling 1% said they needed ‘more gnomes’ in their garden”.

Maybe someone in the IKEA UK marketing department has a secret fondness for the sprightly figure. Soon, it shall all be revealed (*inserts evil laugh*).

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Hockey. Hockey. Hockey.

May 20th, 2013 by Boston Blatte

BANG!!!! BANG!!!! BANG!!!

In the midst of the Stanley Cup’s Eastern Conference semifinals series, every Bostonian knows it is all about Bruins ice hockey.

faceoff

Oh right. I am in Sweden, home of the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation GOLD Champions. And there is certainly no doubt ice hockey fever has taken over Sweden.

sweden hockey

A lot of Swedes, the Swedish husband included, should rightfully be questioning my loyalties placing Boston hockey playoffs above Swedish gold-medal champions. The thing is, that I am even writing about hockey is pretty ironic to begin with.

I am about the furthest thing from a hockey fan there can be (though I did play field hockey at Watertown High currently boasting a 90-something unbeaten game record). However, this past week I have read about, listened to and watched more hockey than in my lifetime.

I caught the fever discovering the events leading up to Boston’s defeat over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Going from a 3-0 series lead, the Bruins face off against the Leafs in game 7. Coming into the 3rd period the Bruins are down 4-1. And they rally to a 5-4 victory in overtime. Incredible. I was regretting not having watched the game.

We’re not a sports-watching family (thankfully) but we are fans of our ‘home teams’. That means if the US, Sweden or Boston are in a race for a title –you pick the sport, we are game-watchers.

And so, in addition to the nail-biter Sweden matches in the International Ice Hockey Federation games hosted by Sweden, I watched both the semi-final US defeat against Switzerland and the bronze US victory over Finland.

Today, Sweden is in hockey ecstasy over its glorious champion status. And with that glee comes light-hearted humor. This image has been touring the walls of several Facebook friends.

funny

The message is clearly sedated bragging over the defeating Switzerland at the (cheap) expense of stereotypical American geographical challenges. But in their cute, naive way, they presume there are Americans who have even heard of the International Ice Hockey Federation, then know that there is a world championship and finally, CARE about the results. It is long stretch.

But it tickles the jubilant Swedes basking in hockey glory.

The reality (perhaps sad and provincial) is that Americans who care about hockey, only care about the NHL. They are grateful for the rest of the world supplying amazing hockey players. Sweden has produced Carl Söderberg for Boston and for the NY Rangers, Carl Hagelin Anton Strålman, and Henrik Lundqvist.

So in equally light-hearted humor, I will leave you with a playful image of Bruins pride aimed at NY Rangers’ goalie…who happens to be a Swede:

suck it

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Stockholm Taxi Wars: Über fail

April 26th, 2013 by Boston Blatte

Three cheers for competition, innovative alternatives and nifty new apps. Hats off to low-budget basement start-ups’ covert guerrilla marketing. Hail righteousness and activism. But disinformation, half-truths and unsubstantiated wild accusations packaged as a Greenpeace-esque write-in campaign does not for a reputable car+driver service make.

uber x
And that is what I was under the impression Uber, was supposed to be. As a registered user, the email I got from them today put all that into serious question.

Uber is a taxi-like, black car service new to Stockholm. It differs from traditional taxi services in that it’s all about the mobile application -ordering and paying and the promise of more luxury vehicles. A lot of Stockholm’s fleet taxis are leather-appolstered V70s and Mercedes and not grimy, dented up yellow cabs, so the immediate appeal beyond novel and hipster was sedate for me.

A visiting friend from Boston (Watertown more specifically –gotta ride the 15-minutes of fame train) tipped me off to Uber over Easter. Since then, I have only had one need for a cab. Solo at 4am, a long festive evening behind me, squinting with slightly blurry vision I chickened out and called Ole Faithful, Taxi Stockholm. A black Mercedes sedan came within minutes to whisk me home. Fair to note, the estimate by Uber ranged between SEK 400 and 600. Taxi Stockholm ended up charging me SEK 500. That’s ballpark.

uberf

Comforted by a fair estimate experience and having read a few rave reviews, I was on beginning to talk up the service without my own real test drive. People I knew and trusted genuinely liked Uber. Spread the love.

Until that email.

Headline: RÄDDA UBER (Save Uber).

Message: The big bad state transit authority was trying to shut down Uber.

Heartstring pull: Exceptions made for services driving royal people and fancy, schmancy corporate fat cats (Booooo! Hissss!)

Call to action: Rise up, protest, write your congressman (or rather this long list of Swedish officials) and for Uber’s sake and the salvation of all mankind; sign the petition (they implore you!)

Act now and you get a complementary hashtag complete with each Tweet, #UberSthlmLove, the hash of Woodstock meets Occupy Stockholm. The Twittosphere went wild. Much of it was uninnovative, SAVE UBER!

But a number of voices started asking the embarrassingly probing question: HUH?

And then some light started getting shed on the subject. This tempest-in-a-teapot call to arms is not new to Uber’s modus operandi. Pando Daily wrote “Who is the real bully? Uber or New York”. And in Swedish from yesterday evening, Computer Sweden was one of the first to publish the actual statement from the Swedish Transport Authority:

“Uber finns i Stockholm och tillhandahåller tjänster för taxiföretag. Två taxiföretag som vill ansluta sig till Uber har ansökt till Transportstyrelsen om undantag från krav på taxameter. I dessa ansökningar står det att Uber kräver att företagen ska ha undantag från krav på taxameter för att få ansluta sig.”

Loosely explained in English: “Uber is a taxi service and gotta have an approved meter”

Joakim Jardenberg gave insightful thoughts about the ‘rave campaign’ and a potential resolution (in Swedish). Simply: Get a meter!
taxi

But Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick, is against the taxi meter. In a discussion on Twitter he wrote, “our customers do not want meters or stickers… they want a chauffeur service”.

That might be true in the US where black car services appeal to the über cool who want something a little more refined and are willing to pay for it, but most of Stockholm ain’t about that. More because it doesn’t need to be. Each of the major taxi companies of Stockholm have their own apps, can easily be called from your cell and a new, clean car comes within minutes. But certainly the exclusivity appeals to many and I know that some people prefer to not handle money. So who knows.

Ultimately, I think this PR-campaign movement is going to backfire. It is going to get them recognition for sure. But after the empty “SAVE Uber” chanting dies down, the influential voices -once strong advocates and ambassadors- will be singing different tunes. And they may be slightly off key.

Or the new innovation will disrupt the established Stockholm taxi services as we know it and we’ll end up with the Spotify of private transport. Cuz that’s how Sweden rolls.

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Watertown Blatte: Hometown in international spotlight

April 23rd, 2013 by Boston Blatte

You know something big must be going on in your hometown if a Swedish reporter from Sweden’s Television is reporting from between the Watertown and Arsenal Malls.

link to video of SVT report

All day last Friday I was in symbiosis with my laptop, desktop, smart phone and TV trying to take in multiple perspectives of every minute of the warfare drama played out the streets and backyards of my childhood town, Watertown, or as Stefan Åsberg says, /Wot-Tur-Town/.

Image by Fran Forman on Twitter
watertown

Via social media and streaming links to local TV media, I saw images of military troops in full gear and heavy weaponry occupying the emptied streets. Scenes resembled fictitious Hollywood reenactments or exaggerations depicting doomsday scenarios of SciFi thrillers. I half expected Bruce Willis to enter the scene, barefoot and pissed off that once again Russian-like terrorists were ruining his perfectly normal day.

And so I waited to call my parents. Since they use an answering machine to screen their calls, I knew the automated call by the Watertown Police Department that went around to the 30+ thousand residents hadn’t woken them.

My brother in Florida texted me that he had woken them so I called. Cool as senior citizen cucumbers could be, they were relatively non-plussed. The only plans for the day thwarted was a planned trip to CVS. They were at least 1 mile (about 1.6km) from the closed perimeter. Nothing but being slightly more shut in than a rainy day.

People from everywhere sent me support or asked questions. It was a global forum of watch, wait, wonder and worry; one more W than the world wide web.
Taken by a high school friend in her house
wat
As bedtime ticked closer, emotionally spent, I gave up the vigil. I was beginning to fear he had managed to slip through and there was not way I could endure that ride. I overheard on the police scanner (headphones still broadcasting as I lay in bed) that people were coming out for air. That was the last update before waking to news that Suspect number 2 had been captured. Alive.

The aftermath will continue to play out and I continue to learn interesting details from Watertown friends and the general network. There is also the emotional debriefing I am currently experiencing after seeing some heavy-handed door-to-door searches and/or evacuations.

From a friend’s parents’ backyard
diana ziljian's parents

Regardless, one thing is irrefutable, the Town of Watertown, (legally qualifying to be called a city though many of us were caught yelling at our TV sets that Watertown is NOT a city…and it is Dexter AVE not street) has basked in its 15-minutes of international fame.

Maybe I should rename my blog Watertown WatRat –a similar self-reclaimed pejorative as Boston Blatte.

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Swedish Pirate Bay Shanghaiing to North Korea?: Hoax

March 4th, 2013 by Boston Blatte

Swedish piracy is testing the rule of law in the social media-sphere. The Swedish file-sharing website has announced they had found refuge in North Korea.

I think they may have demanded a “Parlez”.

pirate bay

Well, their announcement did make you wonder if they were trolling or failing their political geography lessons. They mentioned the Republic of Korea (aka South Korea, or the good guys who bring us Samsung) but announced from Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (aka North Korea where Dennis Rodman just hung with his hommie, the despot).

I am no expert, or even very savvy on this topic, but the flurry of WTFs and similar expressions of disbelief did catch my attention.

A little poking around on Twitter turned up some more knowledgeable sleuths than I could ever be. Gizmodo’s position seems to doubt the validity of the move and refer onwards to super geek Will (in the most positive definition of geek) who can discern the routes of several acronyms even under the cloak and stealth of a Harry Potter invisibility cape.

It is all right there Will points out, “It is actually pretty easy if you have an understanding of BGP and BGP transit links.”

And if you do, you can follow the transit link trail here.

So, what do I know? Not much, but as the saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.” Not that I have an opinion about whether a move to North Korea is good or bad for Pirate Bay, but the wow, shock and awe factor of a move like that would be absolutely delicious to observe with a box of popcorn.

Mythbusters would say, “BUSTED”.

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Keeping up with the Svenssons. Guilt ladened parents

February 28th, 2013 by Boston Blatte

Facebook and its fan base are flaunting smiling images of happy families on skis up on mountains, sitting in sunshine with drinks. Everyone is smiling and they are all somewhere else. They have taken their families to be active during the Swedish winter holiday week devoted to sports. Outdoor sports. They even call it sport holiday or sportlov in Swedish.

Swedes are incredibly outdoorsy. Activities are always outdoors if they can help it, and they go around chastising any poor soul foolish enough to utter at bad word at the weather with, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only insufficient clothing”. Even in the face of sub-Artic temperatures, blizzard conditions or ice storms. They are taught to identify trees, flowers, plants, mushrooms, birds and anything you might find on a nature walk. That way they can embarrass us city folk when they ask non-chalantly, “What do you call that” under the disguise of small talk with the English speaker.

They giggle politely when I answer, “Tree, flower, mushroom, bug” since I haven’t a clue if it it isn’t respectively, a maple, rose, supermarket variety or spider.

Now back to the guilt of not on a skiing holiday during the sporting vacation (they should rename it ski or you are a loser holiday). We have done some activities around Stockholm to make up for our shortcoming as outdoorsy parents. We played boule on Monday, hunted for monsters at the fort outside of Vaxholm on Tuesday and learned about the Blue Hall, Golden Hall and made our own mosaics at the City Hall on Wednesday (all highly recommended and very affordable will edit in links later).

Thursday I worked (sounds like a line from a modern laborer’s bible) and tomorrow we will discover the secret identities of the skeletons found aboard the Vasa Warship.

Unfortunately, my Instagram, Vine and FB uploads of these events are guilting my other friends who have planned the week around closer to home events. That is not my intention.

So I guess I should stop blocking my skiing friend. They do so look like they are having a good time.

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