Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

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

Monday, October 6th, 2014

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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Back in the Blog: Blatte is back

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

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.


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Keeping up with the Svenssons. Guilt ladened parents

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

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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Innovative Sweden: Playable frozen record

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Add water, freeze and spin. Sit back and listen to your turntable spin Blue Ice, a new release by Shout Out Louds, a Stockholm based indie rock band. And when it melts, just add more water, refreeze and spin again. Bet you are glad you kept your old turntable.

blue ice

Sweden always ranks high on innovation rankings. But I have always admired the creativity value that accompanies many new ideas, products or methods. The band, set to release a new album wanted the single, Blue Ice, wanted something out of the ordinary to draw attention. The concept of a playable frozen record seemed to fit the mould. Swedish advertising experts at TBWA/Stockholm, deserve a well-earned shout out [louds] for this bit of masterful marketing.

Personally, I had to see it to believe it. Here is a YouTube clip of how it works.

Only 10 record sets were produced. One was donated to raise money for the Swedish Radio’s charity collection Musikhjälpen 2012. The theme was fittingly to help children in impoverished nations have better access to clean water. It sold for SEK 4758 (or $730). Here is the link to the now closed auction.


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Swedes have heart; ’till death don’t they part.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

30 Swedes die per year waiting in vain for an organ. According to the Swedish News Agency Swedes are among the lousiest in Europe to donate organs. (article in Swedish from another publication)

Spain topped the list at 34 donors per million while Swedes were at a miserly 14.

I’m a little surprised by the data since it seems the willingness to donate blood, plasma or platelets seems rather gung ho. And I don’t know Swedes to be too superstitious or burdened by medical fears or taboos.
svensk donor

On the other hand, there aren’t many public drives to encourage donors. In Massachusetts when I got (yes, a very long time ago) and renewed my driver’s license I was asked if I wanted to be a donor and the sticker was attached to the license (not sure if they still offer this.) Since the best donors are often traffic victims it seems the best place to find a healthy and only slightly used organ.

Perhaps a similar campaign would bring up donor numbers in Sweden.

Here’s the link to the donation registry of Sweden. I just signed up.

I know that if I go unexpectedly and there’s anything spare in/on me that can save a life –feel free to pass it on.

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Swedish elections: pre-voting and political messages

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Voting in the 2010 Swedish elections opened up to pre-voting yesterday. I like this idea of having nearly 3 weeks to get to the polls to vote. No need to wait until election day. (find where you can pre-vote here)

And election polls aren’t just fuddy-duddy municipal buildings any more. Pre-voting stations are open in shopping malls and gallerias, like the swanky Västermalm Galleria on Kungsholmen, in addition to the traditional venues like libraries and schools

I’ve been thinking of voting early to get it done. We’re clear since our voting cards arrived arrived last week.
And unlike your average Swede, I am not secretive about my vote. I’ve only ever voted right-wing here. Ironic when I can get screamed at for being part of the “Liberal Elite” (which is left-wing for any Swedes not sure of what that means.) But I’m still not sure which party or parties (could be different for the local, county and national elections) I’m going to submit my vote for yet.

As for the Swedes being secretive about their vote. It’s ingrained into the polite-manner fabric of Swedish society that you need never reveal your vote. I have even heard of spouses not revealing their vote to one another.

One other Swedish (and maybe it’s European in general) cultural element that I cannot align with is the idea of pay day (it’s the 25th of the month) being a time to let loose and party. I do understand that when a seeming windfall appears in your bank account it feels like the right time to go out and enjoy it. But I’m very confused by glorifying it in the political campaign message below used by the Moderate Party (Sweden’s closest version of the Republican Party).
The text Den 25:E Bara en av många anledningar till varfor fler ska ha ett jobb. rough translation: The 25th. Only one of many reasons to why more people should have a job.
nya moderaterna 25

Obviously it promotes the idea that people who have jobs (Sweden is trying to create jobs and the right-wing Alliance wants to point out that jobs have been created due to the ROT and RUT (tax breaks on the labor costs of construction/home improvement and household services) get the benefits of able to party like it’s payday.

But it does go against the core financial values of a conservative party, namely prudent budgeting and not wild binge spending. They are trying to modernize their image, they’re the “New” Moderates now after all. Or maybe they’re just trying to attract the working class with a stereotype?

I will hold off a bit longer on my pre-vote. It might end up being a straight out vote on the 19th.

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Twelfth night, 13th day and 3 kings: Amen

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

The reality that work starts again on Thursday (7 Jan) is painfully sinking in.  I’ve done better than some; the ones who went back to work this past Monday (4 Jan) or the poor schleps who had to work the weekdays aka mellandagarna,  the “between days” literally between xmas and  new year’s,  but I am not as fortunate as those who won’t clock in again until next Monday (11 Jan.)

Christmas season isn’t really over in Sweden yet. Tomorrow, Wednesday, is Trettondedag Jul, the day many other European countries call some variety of “Three King’s Day” of the Christian Epiphany persuasion which many orthodox Christian faiths consider true Christmas.

Did you follow all that?  However you slice it,  Trettondedag jul is  a red day –a colorful Swedish way to say it’s a pubic holiday.

Now if there wasn’t already enough  controversy (well, mostly in the US) mixed up with the xmas holiday i.e. what to call it and associated paraphernalia,  why to celebrate it, who stole it from whom and even when it is,  it appears a homegrown controversy has sprung up in Sweden too.

As it were, most of Sweden’s public holidays are religiously based. Of late, there are more voices calling for greater distance between church and state holidays. The Local’s article even describes a proposal to allow each employee to designate his or her own “holidays” (Isn’t that what vacation days are for?)

Now I don’t know if I agree with a proposal to individualize public holidays (kind of takes away the public value) but I can fully sympathize with the sentiment to reduce the religious affiliation to pubic holidays.  Giving Sweden a National Day and cutting out the second day of Pingst, the Pentecost was a great move.

But I think I want to keep Trettondedagn, it stretches Christmas to nearly mid January and I have become pretty fond of this midwinter break. So back to work on Thursday it is.

Good thing I am taking Friday off.

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Stockholm Christmas: Jul is lit

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

There’s a great irony involved with Swedish Christmas and Christianity. Swedes use the pagan word —JUL or Yule in English– and yet despite there being very little religion in the daily lives of Swedes, nearly everything about Christmas is more Christian than my Boston Christmases.

Christmas in Stockholm officially started this weekend. The season always kicks off in line with the First Sunday of the  Advent. So many homes had jumped the gun on Saturday with all their lights up and lit.

Lights are nearly always “white” (no multi color bulbs and definitely no blinking lights ) in Sweden and candle “trees” in windows or advent stars are pretty much all you’ll see.  This window is about as stereotypical as you can get.

Swedish windows

I have joked for years that one of these Christmases I might just go Griswold on the house. It probably won’t happen, but boy would it be fun to have a spread of the tackiest light displays ever seen this side of Stockholm.

Griswold Christmas

It won’t happen this year. I think we have one star and one functioning candle tree. Must get those up soon.

Only 25 shopping days left to Julafton, Swedish Christmas.

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Stockholm Halloween: Better than in Boston ;-)

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Halloween in Stockholm blows away Halloween in Boston.

OK, before anyone gets too worked up with indignation, rolls up sleeves and lashes back,  let me make that more precise.  Trick-or-treating for kids on Halloween (well, we did it last night on the eve) on my street in northern Stockholm was better than what I could have imagined my kids could experience in Watertown had I brought them there to try it out.

My childhood memory of dressing up and going around the neighborhood conjures powerful emotional ties. If I reflect on days gone by growing up outside of Boston, there is no better memory than getting dressed up in costume and coming home with a pillowcase full of candy (well, snow days and late night sledding before the snowplows came compete for top billing.)

That fuzzy warm nostalgia had made me seriously consider crossing the pond purely to expose the kids to a Halloween night of trick-or-treating, American style.  But for cost, time and pragmatic reasons I tried to give it a go with my street’s neighbors.

I put in the legwork (which included knocking on every door to ask if people would want to join in) got every kid on the street to sign up and even imported some friends’ kids to fill up the street.

It was truly magical. Nearly every neighbor was eager to be a part of it. More than half of them carved a pumpkin or lit candles to signal the festivity. Some of them were to so generous that they gave out small bags of candy to each child. It warmed my heart to witness the enthusiasm, hospitality and kindness of my Swedish neighbors.

And so many English-speaking non-Swedes out there think Swedes are so cold, unapproachable and boring. Ha. You haven’t been to my hood. We ROCK!

Happy Halloween to all out there, wherever you may be. And I hope you have as good a Halloween as we’ve had.

The neighbor's efforts to greet us

The neighbor's efforts to greet us

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New trends taking off: High flying jeans.

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

My flight attendant on the trip back to Stockholm Bromma had on jeans.  I found it odd and interesting simultaneously. The boisterous guy in the seat across the aisle thought so too as he pointed it out to his  buddies. He ended up flirting with her on and off throughout the hour flight.  I think it was part of his boisterousness persona.

I think the jeans were a part of her flight attendant’s uniform. Sweden is ahead of the times on the dress-down trends of the world. Maybe little Kullaflyg (servicing Ängelholm, Visby, Mora and Bromma) is a global trendsetter.

Today was my business travel debut. For most of you that’s old hat, I know. But when you’re your own boss and your customer base is local, the closest you get to business travel is writing off business-related trips on your tax forms. Today was my first free ride.

The metropolis I visited today

The grand adventure brought me across Sweden to the northwest corner of Skåne, to Höganäs, home of Sweden’s traditional stoneware pottery (well, birthplace more like, today the pottery is owned by KostaBoda in Småland.)  Skåne is one of my favorite regions of Sweden. It is Sweden’s “breadbasket” with rolling farmland and quaint farmhouses with a very long enveloping coastline. The great tease that this trip was, I didn’t see much of it.

The metropolis I visited today

But I did very much enjoy having a flight attendant in jeans. More new trends Kullaflyg.

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