Boston Blatte

Raised in Boston, remade in Sweden

Posts Tagged ‘boston’

Hockey. Hockey. Hockey.

Monday, May 20th, 2013

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.


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.


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

Friday, April 26th, 2013

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.


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!

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

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

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

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
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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Debunking Swedish Stereotypes: Cold neighbors

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

Bring on snow and the Bostonian in me cannot be contained.

If I see a car stuck, I just jump in and start pushing. Despite the Swedish husband’s concern that people might get offended, every Swede I have helped has thanked me appreciatively. The day I got stuck in soft, deep snow outside our place at Hornstull I feared I might be there for hours if people were as cautious to assist me as my husband had suggested. Not the case. Within minutes a man asked if he could help. Out in a flash.

snow push

Not surprisingly, I have been following the Blizzard Nemo that hit Boston and the northeast last week. I was feeling rather helpless thinking about my mid-octogenerian parents in Watertown. They have adopted that Yankee stalwart independence despite both of them being naturalized citizens (in fairness I think the stubbornness and independence was imported with them, but tis no matter, they fit right in) and had waved me away on each concerned call to confirm that they had a plan in place to get them shoveled out.

-You don’t have to worry about us.
-We are all set.
-We will manage.

Did I mention that my father just got his hip replaced less than two months ago and my mother has been playing his nursemaid since the pre-op? And yet she was out there shoveling the day after Nemo stopped dumping snow. But so were her neighbors and my friends who live close by. And I was very grateful.


Today, in an act of repayment in the spirit of paying it forward (because the help my parents got is now being passed along) I took a shovel up to an elderly neighbor’s house. The snow accumulation has not been much here in my ‘burb of northern Stockholm, but it has been consistent. The plows caught up yesterday and piled up heavy, frozen banks in front of cleared walks and drives. My sweet neighbor clearly just couldn’t manage it, and probably like my parents, hadn’t turned to neighbors since she figured she could manage climbing over it.

So, I just started clearing (and quietly swearing since it was solid frozen and heavy). She came out a bit surprised to find me there. I assured her that I was happy to do it and I explained about my own parents. With moist eyes she hugged me.

Best thing I could do on the day of love; love my neighbor. And she loved me back.

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Bostonians: Swedes of the United States?

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Boston is renamed “Meantown” by a pithy blogger referring to the results of a 2010 survey (can’t locate the actual survey).

Reading through the comments I had to chuckle. In the whiny comments we could easily replace Boston and Bostonians with Sweden and Swedes.

e.g. Upon moving to the Boston area Sweden I found many people inhospitable. Now, three years later, I remain surprised at how many strangers ignore you altogether when a simple “hello,” or “excuse me,” or “thank you” is appropriate. Boston Sweden has a lot of wonderful things going for it, but courtesy is not one of them. Sorry.

The original internet survey split human traits into two, one of which was termed “strengths of the heart”. It included include gratitude, compassion, teamwork, hope, modesty, religiousness. I wonder why “religiousness” is considered a “strength” implying a lack of religiousness is a weakness? Modesty is also funny since Americans by nature rarely weigh in modesty as a strong American characteristic.

So I’m none too perturbed that Boston scored low. And I am warmed to know that my Bostoness (Bostonianism?) can be a reason I feel rather comfortable in Sweden. Both places are filled with kind-hearted, open-minded, no-nonsense folk. We’re just misunderstood.

And screw the rest of you if you don’t agree 😉

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Boston blown off the map: Sandy’s power

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

This morning, the Sandy headlines in Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) caught my 8-year old’s attention. They focused on the region of the US where mom comes from, where Grandma and Grandpa live and where we will be traveling in just a few weeks. I thought the ongoing story of Frankenstorm Sandy would be an excellent opportunity to teach my 8-year old a bit of US geography and maps.

Except it seems that Sandy’s devastation blew Boston nearly off the map. Thankfully Baltimore could take us in.


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Groupon Coupon Stockholm: Today’s deal

Monday, February 28th, 2011

I bought my first Groupon Coupon today at an 80% discount.

80% sounds too good to pass up (even if I am skeptical of how much the original price normally is.) Groupon, if you’re not familiar with it yet (and haven’t clicked on the link,) is a deal-of-the-day website offering collective bargaining power.
Boston was the second city market (after Chicago) to kick off about 2 years ago. After signing up for the Boston deals (since I’m there regularly) I discovered that Sweden has its own Groupon and its Dagens deal.

So I went for broke (thinking that I really might be just throwing away money if I never use the coupon or if it doesn’t work out or some other pessimistic disastrous eventuality) and took today’s deal.

Don’t laugh, it’s a hair-removal treatment using some fancy-dancy-schmancy thing-a-ma-bob. hair
I’m not all that hairy, but if I can be rid of the tufts of unwanted hair forever…all at an 80% discount, I’ll be a Groupon addict from here on in.

I’m afraid to consider the alternative.

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Stockholm snow: Shove[l] it

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Snow is different in Stockholm than in Boston. And I don’t mean that in some kitschy philosophic “every snowflake is unique” kind of way.  It’s more to do with the snowfall and accumulation than the actual substance which is the same color and temperature (though in Celsius and not in Fahrenheit.)

The first significant snow fall in Stockholm I ever witnessed started in the evening and snowed all night and throughout the next day. Had that been Boston there would have been at least 2 feet of snow on the ground, but here there was barely a decimeter (yep, snow measures up different here too.)

But now that that I have a very long driveway I am rather thankful for minimal snow accumulation during these multiple days of snowfall. In all honesty I like shoveling snow, in fact, a good amount of my teenage income came from the neighbors who wanted someone else to dig them out.  But did I mention we have a very long driveway?

Today a neighbor kindly lent me a special snow shovel that’s more a hand-operated plow/wheelbarrow. (see below)

snow shoveler I have seen them around but until today (we had about a 10 inches on the ground) I had stubbornly stuck to the plain ole shovel, my tried and trusted tool. These hand held snowplows scoop up a massive amount of snow which you then slide along the ground (like a sled) until you dump it in the grass with a quick shoving jerk;  no lifting required.

Clearing our driveway with the “plow” today probably took as long as it would have taken with a typical shovel, but I don’t have an ache in my back this evening. Could be time to invest in one of these.

Or a snow blower.

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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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Swedish family in Boston. We’re not quite like the others

Friday, July 31st, 2009

It was 11am Stockholm time when the kids woke up (looking at it positively) in my childhood room.  We managed to keep them “in bed”another hour until 6am Boston time before giving up and getting the day started. I felt better as I saw a woman power walking by on the main street. It reminded me that 6am is a normal time to start a day.

We were at the playground at the field by 9am and the track was filled with more power walkers circling to get in their daily exercise. No other families were with us. I guess families don’t get to the playground at the same time as power walkers. I really wouldn’t know, this early-to-the-park experience is new to me.

The rain caught up with us as we stopped by the playground at my former elementary school. Since we had no umbrellas or escape pod we gave in, got soaked and continued playing. Summer rains are soft and warm.

Wet plastic playground equipment is really annoying on a sunny day.  During a steady rain it fast tracks the slide which normally sticks to damp skin. The temporary   was a hit with the 5-year old. He literally nearly got flung off bouncing through the curves. Again, we were the only family at the playground in the rain. I guess families don’t go the playground during the rain.

We left when the lightning and thunder started.

The complete shift to glorious sunshine  played into our 5-year old’s  confusion that another day had started during his much-needed afternoon nap. He kept talking about the water slide of “yesterday.”  Naps and jet lag can completely mess with  a newly awoken child.

To stave off the heat we went to another play area which has water jets spraying around like an outdoorsy variation of the opened fire hydrant. Thankfully we were able to convince the 2-year old to put on (and even keep on)  her bathing suit and explain to the other one that modest discretion was required when changing him in and out of his Lightning McQueen swim trunks. So he finally asks:

-Why is it not ok to be nude here?

The “Things are different in different places” response seems to satisfy him for now.

Families here in Boston do a whole bunch of stuff different than how we do back in Stockholm.

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