Hello again! These are two of Lisa's Catalan friends who are joining us on our ski week: Mireia & Xavi.

Hello from lovely Åre. Wish you were here!


Well, I'm back from the 'States. Here's my haul. The total weight of all my bags was probably close to 60 kg.


Howdy from New Braunfels, Texas. As usual, the Lowry clan gathered at “Heimat” to celebrate Christmas. In the afternoon we drove out to the site where Matt's new home will be built next year. We also drove down to the river and took a group photo.


The family at Edgemere

Here is the Howard side of the family posing for a group photo a couple of days ago on the staircase at Edgemere in Dallas.


Hello from the company Christmas party. This photo shows me on the stage, coordinating playing movies and music from my iPod, talking on the phone, and fixing problems on the scheduling system. Fun stuff. Now it' a few hours later, and I'm I'm still working hard. I did at least get to enjoy the dinner. Great dinner, by the way. I can hear the band playing in the bar down the hall, and there are surely lots of people dancing, drinking, and having fun. But I'm stuck with the SAP guys in this conference room working on fixing some problems. I'm sure we'll fix the problem in the next few minutes and we'll be able to re-join the party down the hall.


After work this evening I walked along my usual route to the subway station, passing through the churchyard of Adolf Fredrik's Church. I saw candlelight coming through the windows so I stepped quietly into the back of the church. I caught the last few minutes of a Lucia concert performed by a youth choir. They were very good, and I heard that the tickets were sold out.

This morning's sunrise was lovely.


I went shopping yesterday and picked up some stuff for the cats, including 10 kg of cat food. I also purchased replacement posts for the cat tree; it is now somewhat taller than before. Lotta took the cats to her place this weekend and will keep them until after the holidays.


Clear Plate

In Stockholm at this time of year, the weather can cause many problems for motorists. Clearing snow from one's car windows is a daily chore, at least for those not fortunate enough to have covered parking. Unfortunately, motorists often neglect to clear snow from their headlights and indicator lamps. These don't work so well when covered with a layer of snow.

Even more often, drivers neglect to remove snow from their license plates. It sometimes does not occur to drivers how important it is to have their license places free from snow. This will become even more important when the Stockholm Congestion Tax trial goes into effect on 3 January 2006. The road charging system uses cameras placed on gantries over the roadway to read the licence plate of each passing vehicle. License plates obscured by snow could fail to register, defeating the intended purpose of the system.

So I was pleased to read today about a new device designed to help clear snow from the rear license plate. It fits neatly between the back of the car and the license plate and is activated by the press of button inside the car. When activated, the device tilts the license plate 90° downward, thereby pushing any accummulated snow out of the way.

The device can even be used when the car is in motion. This will be particularly helpful for those forgetful drivers who are reminded of the importance of a clean rear license plate only when they see the road charging gantry above the road up ahead.

Thursday night was Rueda Night at Inger's place on Riemersholm. Cissi brought Lussekatter and Inger served glögg.


And now some action shots of the dancing.

Exhuasting but fun!


Climbing on Wednesday 8 December 2005

As I have done for the past 8 Wednesdays, I went climbing tonight at Klättercenter in Solna. My hands were a bit beat up from climbing on Sunday so I had a bit of trouble. At first I taped the fingers where I had cuts or abrasions; but the trouble is that the tape is more slipepry than skin, so it makes it hardeer to keep a grip on the wall. This photo shows me doing one of my favorite routes on one of the bouldering walls. I can completer this route about half of the time. It's tricky, but fun!

Klättercenter has a good selection of climbing surfaces to suit a wide range of skill levels. In the foreground of this picture are David and Anna, two climbers I'd consider experts. They can support their weight on little grips I can barely see, much less hold on to. :-)

Here Anna (a different one!) tries the fun yellow route. The trick to this one is to use the walls and push as much as pull.


Argurments kill you, not just your relationships.

The New Scientist is reporting the results of recent experiment into the physical effects of psychological stress. The study revealed that the emotional strain of having an argument prolongs physical healing.

Specifically, the researchers found that having a thirty-minute argument about a contentious subject extends by 20% the time it takes for a small wound to heal (from five to six days).

Fighting couples must decide whether it's more important to be right or healthy. Sometimes you've gotta lose the battle to win the war.


Saturday activities

Saturday I helped Lotta move into her new apartment in Hammarby. Later in the evening, after the move, I went out for a few drinks with Åsa, Daniel, and Jenny. I particularly enjoyed the bottle of Karlovačko beer — beer I had at KGB bar. Karlovačko is an excellent lager beer from Croatia. Yum!

Climbing on Sunday 4 December 2005

Here are a few pictures from Sunday's climbing session. Lisa and Anna show off their toned and taut muscles. :)

Yours truly tries the famous terracotta route. I can do everything except the last move. I always seem to swing around and slide off the grip — not particularly fun because it's rough and a bit sharp.

Anna plans her attack.

Lisa tries the green route. This smoothest way to do this route is to do a cross-over move from where she is in this photo. You gotta move your left hand across to the next green grip up to the right. If you take the seemingly easier route and grab the grip with your right hand, you'll be in the wrong position to take the next grip. Some thought goes into climbing.


Late November snow

The sun came out yesterday. This is the scene outside my back door shortly before 11am yesterday. I woke up late because I was working late the night before. As you can see, the bushes along the back of the building have been removed. That's too bad because Alex & Sasha used to love to hide behind them.

Crossing Åbergssons väg on the way to the subway station.

Long shadows in the morning sunlight.

A view of the building where I used to live, Odlingsvä:gen 5.

Bergshamra allé — my home is the building behind the trees on the left.

And lastly, a snapshot of Adolf Fredriks Kyrka taken from the South.

Nikon D200

For many years, I have wanted to buy a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera — called a system camera in some countries, including Sweden. Until recently, I have been unable to justify the expense. When one purchases an SLR, one must also purchase at least a couple of lenses to go with it. The better lenses can cost hundreds or more; when a flash and accessories are added, the total can come to several thousand dollars. Also, when one buys a camera and some lenses for it, one locks oneself into that particular manufacturer's lens mounting system. In other words, lenses from one manufacturer typically cannot be used with cameras from another manufacturer. So the purchase of an SLR is not a decision I take lightly.

Having said that...

About a month ago, Nikon announced the new D200 digital SLR camera, and I think I'm going to get one. The D200 offers a lot of capability for the money, and after using a Nikon CoolPix 4500 for a few years I would definitely consider buying another Nikon.

Ideally, I would like the Canon EOS 5D because it has full frame 35mm sensor. Like most DSLRs, the Nikon D200 has a smaller 28mm-wide sensor and my initial feeling was that a smaller sensor was inferior to a full-sized 35mm sensor. However, the Canon EOS 5D costs at least $3000, putitng it well beyond my means. Other SLRs with full frame sensors are even more expensive, so if I'm going to get an SLR now, I'll have to settle for one without a full-frame sensor.

I did some reading online to familiarize myself with the debate. Digital Photograhy Review has a good discussion of the pros and cons of full-frame versus cropped sensors. DPReview also has a good preview of the D200.

At first I thought it would be a good idea to purchase normal 35mm lenses so that I can use them with any Nikon 35mm SLR camera, including any future Nikon DSLR that incorporates a full frame 35mm sensor. My plan was to get the following lenses to go with my D200:

Kit 1
Notably absent from this list are a good zoom lens and a high power telephoto. I could of course add these later as funds become available. If I purchase these lenses online when I'm in the U.S., I can get all four for under $1000. This would be a very respectable starting kit. and would be suitable for many kinds of photography. However, lacking a zoom lens, the setup would not be well suited to impromptu shots or tourist photography.

Photographer and confessed Nikon afficionado Ken Rockwell doesn't believe Nikon will produce a camera with a full-frame 35mm sensor. For reasons primarily related to cost, he argues that smaller sensors have advantages. Rockwell praises the D200, and is convinced that the fleixbility and portability of the smaller DX lenses are worth the drawbacks. Rockwell is especially fond of the new 18-200 VR.

If I buy regular 35mm lenses but only use them with DX cameras, it could be considered overkill. With this in mind, I reevaluated my selection of lenses above, and came up with an alternative set:

Kit 2

The 18-200 zoom offers a wider range of focal lengths than the four lenses above, but it's not as fast (bright). The speed drops off quite a bit at longer focal lengths, and it's for this reason that I decided to include the 105mm macro lens in this set instead of the 60mm one. This way the macro lens could double as a telephoto in low light situations. Still, it wouldn't be as fast as the 80mm one from the first list. Nikon claims that the vibration reduction (VR) feature of the zoom lens makes the lens act like its two f-stops faster. The weight savings are not really significant: with these two lenses, I'd save just 200g over the four lenses above. Together, these two lenses would cost a couple hundred dollars more than the four lenses above. The DX zoom lens will only work with the current crop of Nikon SLRs; so if Nikon does release at some point in the futre an SLR based on a full-frame 35mm sensor, this lens (like all DX lenses), would not work with that camera. Even so, I imagine that if the market does eventually move toward full-frame 35mm sensors, the prices of these cameras will come down to the point at which one would be affordable to me. At that point, I could sell my D200 and any DX lenses I have.

So as I see it, it's a trade-off:

Kit 1:

Pros: high quality (fast) lenses; versatile; flexible; well suited to many kinds of photography.
Cons: less convenient; no zoom lens; no high power telephoto; slightly heavier.

Kit 2:

Pros: good lenses; very convenient; good for general purpose photography and macro work; a bit lighter.
Cons: the 18-200 is not well suited to low light photographyand cannot be used with non-DX cameras.

I'd love to get input from other folks out there who have more photographic experience.


This morning I awoke to find that snow had come to our fair city at last. We had a light dusting on the 19th, but it didn't stay on the ground. This time we're expecting up to 15 centimeters, and the temperature is low enought that it should remain for a while.

I turned on the lights on the balcony railing, still in place from last winter.

I'm also playing around with the f/stop setting in my Nikon. The macro mode is the way I would usually take a photo like this. But this time I took the same photo using manual mode. Actually, it's not entirely manual; it's a mode where one can adjust the f/stop (aperture), and the camera will select an appropriate shutter speed (exposure time) for the chosen f/stop, given the existing lighting conditions. I think this was taken at f/10.5.

I just realized that the f/stop is stored in the image file. This one was taken at f/8.0. As you can tell from these images, a larger f/stop (tighter aperture) leads to a narrower depth of field. I had to do some reading online to refresh my understanding of f/stops.

Ahah. This is neat. The exposure mode is listed in the photo too. The mode I used in these photos is called Aperture Priority mode, again because it's the aperture (f/stop) that one selects, letting the camera do the rest. Neat.

I'm taking the time to reaquaint myself with f/stops because I'm planning to purchase a new digital SLR this winter.

I've been looking at the Nikon D200, released just this month. Digital Photography Review has a thorough review of the D200. I just wish there were a reasonably priced digital SLR with a full frame 35mm sensor. Like most DSLR cameras in the $500-$2500 price range, the D200's sensor is only 23mm wide, meaning that it does not capture all of the light coming through a standard lens. Image from dpreview.com.

Getting up was ticky; getting down even more of a challenge.

Tonight I'm enjoying one of my favorite meals: chicken curry prepared with Patak's Jalfrezie sauce, crushed tomatoes, red capsicum, onions, green chilis, and fresh ginger, served on basmati rice and washed down with a Czech lager. What more could a man want?

The fresh ginger is a bit more expense, but it makes a big difference. And of course one cannot go wrong with Patak's curry pastes. They're second-to-none.


The weather this week has been wet and cool. I hope that we get snow soon. The city streets become much brighter and the days seem longer when there is a layer of the white stuff on the ground.


My 33rd birthday party

Here are some snapshots from my 33rd birthday party last Saturday.

Here I am in the kitchen fixing hamburgers for the crowd.

Lotta puts the icing on the cake. Heck, Lotta is the icing. She's so sweet. ;)

This photo is a testament to the raw talent the photographer has for catching everyone at his or her best. My colleagues gave me a USB Skype phone. I tested it, and it works great.

Maud gave me a nice care package for working late nights: some homemade ANZAC biscuits, a porcelain mug decorated with the artwork of Austrialian artist Jan Austin, and a USB-powered cup warmer. Great stuff!

Lisa and Lotta are great help in the kitchen!

The cake.

Dinner time at last.