Friday activities

The weather on Friday was just lovely. It was warm and sunny, almost like yet another late Summer day. Hey, I'm not complaining.

Around lunch time, I had a meeting at Kista Entré, a new glass-and-steel building in the Southern end of the Kista busines district. I spoke with some colleagues about a project in which I hope to be involved. The subject matter is right up my alley, so I'm really looking forward to learning more about it.

I wasn't sure if I'd be able to concentrate during the meeting though, because my back was still giving me trouble. But then at some point during the meeting, the spasms stopped altogether. When I left the building, the problem had almost entirely disappeared.

On the way back, I captured this shot of Kista Science Tower. Just in case the problem with my back returned, I bought some muscle salve at the pharmacy.

With my back functioning again, I took advantage of the fact that I was in Kista, and picked up a 10-kg bacg of Basmati rice at Kista Grossen.

In the late afternoon, I went to Pulsen Education (just ten minutes' walk from my home) to verify the setup of the classroom in which I will teach a course next week. On the walk back home, I captured this view of Bergshamra Allé.

I walked toward the ICA store to buy some groceries. The sun was very low on the horizon, and cast long shadows.

Banff Mountain Fill Festival World Tour

Thursday night, I went with Matt downtown to Skandiabiografen, where we saw excerpts from the winning films from the 2005 Banff Mountain Fillm Bestival. The world tour of these films is showing them in 38 countries around the globe.

The film excerpts we saw were quite interesting. I especially liked the climbing, skiing, and snowboarding films. Posted by Picasa


Texas Longhorn Friday night

Friday night before catching the midnight train to Åre, I joined my colleagues for dinner and drinks at Texas Longhorn, a steakhouse on Kungsholmen.

What a cute couple!

I look either skeptical or content; I don't remember which.

Tobbe and Erik seem pleased with the beer. We had several pitchers of Samual Adams Boston Lager.

Åsa took some good photos of the group. In fact, all of these photos were taken with her camera.
As usual, Mister Lundh wore a provocative T-shirt: “I'm so not blogging this”

Oh, my back!

Since running the marathon fifteen months ago, I haven't been able to run long distances. Short distances are okay, but as soon as I run longer than 5-10 km, my knees start hurting and I have to walk.

I visited the doctor on Monday to see what can be done. The doctor told me that she couldn't tell what the problem was, and that I would have to get an MRI and visist an orthopedic specialist to find out what's wrong. But she also said that running was okay as long as I did not keep running once the pain starts (something I've done in the past, and did in the marathon).

So I went for a run Monday night — the first time in several months that I have run any appreciable distance. I ran down to Bockholmen, did one lap around the small island, and then continued along the shore of Edsviken to Ulriksdals slott. From there, I ran up the hill and across the bridge back home. I ran for 40 minutes, and estimate that I covered about 8 km. At no time during the run did I feel pain. It felt really good to be able to run again.

That is, it felt good until the next day. Tuesday morning, I awoke feeling very stiff. In the afternoon, my back began to feel progressively worse. In the evening, I went climbing with Lisa and did my best to climb through the pain. I thought that exercise would be good for my back. I also did some stretches that work the back muscles. Unfortunately, the problem got worse yesterday and I was forced to stay home. I missed my dance lesson last night, and I'm staying home again today.

The problem seems to be in the muscles on the left side of my back, from the middle of the back up to the left shoulder, in either the trapezius or rhomboid muscles. The pain seems to be worse when I lie down or carry things, but subsides when I simply sit down with a straight back. I have been taking aspirin and stretching frequently during the day, but the muscles seem stubborn. It seems as though the muscles are stuck in a spasm, flexing even when they're not needed. Swallowing, breathing, and laughing make the problem particularly noticeable. When I exhale deeply, the muscles spasm painfully. It's not fun!

My mobility is really limited and I feel like an old man. One doesn't realize how much one depends on one's back until something like this happens. I'll be glad when the problems goes away soon and I can resume my normal activities!


Åre downhill biking: post-trip report

I returned last night from a long weekend in Åre. The biking was spectacular. I am even considering getting a full suspension bike now, so that I can ride rougher terrain than I can with my trusty Hoo Koo E Koo.

We took lots of photos on the trip. On the last day, our train back to Stockholm was scheduled to leave around 13.00. So I got up early, had breakfast, helped clean up the condo and check out, and then headed up the mountain with my camera. I took the VM6 lift up and then walked down alongside one of the serpentine bike trails that winds down through the forest. I took almost 700 photos of the bikers, most of whom I do not know. There was one guy who we had met the previous day at the top of the mountain. And then of course there was Lotta, my friend from rock climbing. By coincidence, she was also in Åre for downhill biking, and I managed to get three photos of her barrelling down the track.

Today I chose the best photos to post, but pretty soon it became evident that there were going to be far to many to post them all here. I decided that a new blog was needed. And why not? I have a blog for climbing, so why not one for biking?

Visit the new blog Pedal Power to see all the photos from Åre.


Åre Bike Park this weekend!

A bunch of friends and I are going to Åre Bike Park this weekend for a couple of days of downhill mountain biking.

Åre is where I went skiing for New Year's week 2006. It is Sweden's largest ski resort. Downhill mountain biking hasn't yet gained the same popularity as downhill skiing, so the rental prices for accomodations at Åre are quite reasonable at this time of year. The company that owns the Åre resort is doing its very best to promote downhill biking as a sport. An interview with Ulf Olofsson (in Swedish) provides a bit more background information about the company's efforts to promote the sport.

As in winter, there are easy trails, expert trails, and trails of an intermediate difficulty. A PDF trail map is also available.

We will ride 2006 Giant Faith 2 downhill bikes, rented from a shop located just on the square in Åre. This bike has shock absorbers on both the front and rear wheels (full suspension). It is also equipped with disc brakes for consistent and reliable braking on long downhill runs.

I've ridden mountain bikes since I was a kid, but never on a real mountain. So this will be a new experience for me. Also, I have very little experience with full suspension bikes. The bike I ride now is a so-called “hardtail” bike that has a shock absorber on the front wheel only. If I like the full suspension bike, I may decide to get one as a birthday gift for myself later this year.

Joining me on the trip will be Lisa, Matt, Åsa, Patric, and a bunch of Patric's friends. It's gonna be a blast!

To give you an idea of what awaits us, here's a four-minute video of an eight-year-old named Lasse, riding down the mountain.

And just for fun, here's another great MTB video.

“The voters have spoken, the bastards.”

It has been amusing to see how the losers of the election have reacted to their defeat. With unanimity, each of the party leaders (S, V, and MP) has explained the loss in terms of a failure properly to communicate the party platform to the voters. Left party leader Lars Ohly even went so far as to claim that the Moderate party stole the language of the Left party's platform. A common Moderate campaign slogan was ““Sweden needs a new worker's party,”” and Ohly was angered that his opposition would talk about itself in terms of labor. Apparently, Ohly cannot imagine that voters could believe that Reinfeldt's Moderates are actually a better worker's party.

These leftists are out of touch with the current political reality in Sweden. They assume that the voters support them still and would have voted for them too if only things were as they should be. Some of these politicians (e.g., Göran Persson) take personal responsibility for their party's defeat, but they never entertain the idea that their party's policies may be what voters find distasteful. They blame their own style of communication, but never stop to examine their ideals to see if they are in line with what is important to voters. They blame the media, the other parties, and the scandal of the day; but they don't adapt to changes happening in the world around them.

These folks feel strongly about their ideals; for them, the very notion that public opinionion may have shifted is so abhorrent as to be impossible to imagine.

It's possible that all this huffing and puffing is mere political theater. The the left bloc party leaders may understand all too well that Sweden is undergoing a fundamental political change. By blaming their defeat on everything except their policies, they may hope to save the party's reputation and prestige, in the hopes of winning the voters back later. I don't give them this much credit though. I believe they're deceiving themselves, and that they honestly ascribe their defeat to shortcomings of style rather than of substance.

Some might say that true leadership means sticking to one's ideology even in the absence of public support. But at some point, what began intended as bold leadership becomes contempt for the voters. Only one who trusts the voters to make up their own minds truly believes in democracy.

The liberal alliance won because more people voted for them. The leftist parties lost because they did not offer a platform that inspires voters. Style isn't the issue. Substance is. It's not enough to dress up the same tired old policies in new rhetoric.

To react to an election defeat by claiming that the public still supports your policies is to make a fatal political error and fundamentally to misunderstand how democracy works.

If an ideology loses out in the court of public opinion, that ideology is not shared by the people.


Lots of colorful lamps in the Klassisk Belysning shop on Götgatan, just up the hill from Slussen.

My babies, Alex and Sasha.

What will become of the congestion tax?

It looks like only Stockholm voted yes to the congestion charge. The surrounding communities voted no, and they did so by a wide margin. Nearly two thirds of poeple in greater Stockholm voted against making the congestion tax permanent.

Before the election, outgoing Stockholm mayor and Social Democrat Annika Billström declared her intention to ignore the referendums on the congestion tax held in greater Stockholm's communities, and to honor only the referendum held in Stockholm proper. Stockholm's citizens said yes to the congestion charge, but by a relatively narrow margin (51.7% for, 45.6% against).

But considering that the non-Socialist alliance has taken control of both the local and national govermnents, it seems likely that Billström's wish to ignore the wishes of the counties that make up greater Stockholm will be overridden.

What is not clear is how the differing wishes of the residents of inner Stockholm and the surrounding communities will be reconciled. Incoming Stockholm mayor Kristina Axén Olin has said that the wishes of Stockholmers would be honored. But after the election results came in last night, she gave some indications that the voices of the votes in the surrounding communities would also be taken into consideration.

These are interesting times indeed.

Swedish election results, 2006

Well, the results are in. The liberal (non-Socialist) alliance of parties lead by the Moderate party has won a clear mandate to lead Sweden for the next four years. The Alliance also appears to have won control of the city of Stockholm and most of the surrounding counties. It remains to be seen what will happen with the Stockholm road congestion tax. More on this later.

Today after votiing, I joined Lisa, Rodrigo & Matt for a nice ride in Hellas.

Matt and Rodrigo perform some repairs on the trail.

Lisa entertains the boys with her humor and wit.

“I am the champ!”


Near the spring.

Hi, mom!

After the ride, we stopped at a restaurant at Hellasgården for a drink.

Lastly, here's a view of Medborgarplatsen on the way home a little after 16.00. Just a few hours until the polls close, and the campaigning is coming to an end. The little cabins at the end of the square belong to the parties vying for votes. In the weeks leading up to the election today, these cabins have been home to volunteers trying to convince just a few more potential voters.


Swedish election 2006

This morning I voted in the Swedish election.

One votes by placing the ballot of the party of one's choice in an envelope. There were three elections and one referendum. The three elections' pages were color coded: yellow for the national parliament, blue for the local county, and white for the city (in my case, the city of Solna). There was a fourth red colored page used to vote yes or no in the city referendum on congestions fees. Each party has its list of candidates listed on its page. If you want you can place an X in the box next to the name of a candidate to which you which to place at the top of the list. If you don't place any check marks, the party's order applies. The order determines which candidates will get seats. The number of seats each party has to allocate to candidates depends on the percentage of votes the party receives, so the order of candidates is important to determining who will serve and who won't.

To vote, you grab the ballots you want, go behind a screen, and put the pages into little envelopes. To keep the choices private, many people take with them ballots for all the parties, and only select which one to place in the envelope once behind the screen.

Once the ballots are in their envelopes, their color shoes through a hole in the bottom. This allows the envelopes to be identified and placed in the right ballot box.

The slots in the ballot boxes are also color-coded. Once you have your ballots in their envelopes, you hand these to the election worker along with your voting card that you receieved in the mail. All citizens and resident card holders receive a voting card in the mail. No voter registration is required. The election worker finds your name on the list, checks your ID, and then places your ballots in the appropriated slots in the ballot boxes.

And that's it! No pencil marks. No computers to loose your vote. No hanging chad. Little room for error.

It was exciting to participate in my first Swedish election. Go, Sweden!

Fredrik Reinfeldt at Hötorget tonight

Tonight I went to Filmstaden Sergel to watch the new Miami Vice movie. In the square outside the cinema, Moderate party leader Fredrik Reinfeldt was shaking hands and signing autographs.

I asked him the following question:

“Does it make sense to for an erstwhile Moderate voter to cast a vote for any of the other Alliance parties, just to ensure that the party gets the minimum 4% of the vote required to be represented in parliament?”

He replied that all four of the parties in the Alliance are pretty much assured of getting more than 4% of the vote in tomorrow's election, and that it thefore makes sense to vote for the specific party that most closely matches one's views.

I enjoyed the final debate between party leaders last night on SVT. I look forward to casting my vote tomorrow morning. This will be my first time to cast a vote in a national election here in Sweden, so I am excited about it. If it's possible, I will capture a photo of the polling place, and post it here tomorrow around lunchtime.

By this time tomorrow night, we'll know who will lead Sweden in the coming four years. Posted by Picasa


Biking in Järvafältet

Today Matt and Lisa and I went for a nice long bike ride in Järvafältet, North of Akalla. It was a longer ride than the one we had originally intended to take, but it was fun an challenging.

After the ride, we went to my place and had a little barbecue outside. The sun was shining. It was alomst like a summer evening, except just a bit cooler.

I let the cats out. Alex took up his normal position: on his back in the sun. :)

We also followed the sun, moving to a different picnic table.

The evening light is so lovely (and Lisa ain't bad looking either!)

The ride home from Rodrigo's place

Late this aftenroon, I rode down to Hammarbyhojden to visit Rodrigo A. He helped me replace some parts on my bike, and we had a couple of beers. Afterward, I rode my much-improved set of wheels back hom. I passed Globen on the way.

I rode through Gamla Stan too, just as the sun was setting. Stockholm is grand, especially in the light of the setting sun!

I managed to take this self-portrait while biking.

Then I rode off into the sunset. :)


I saw this car creeping along in rush-hour traffic this afternoon on Bergshamravägen (the E18), on the way toward Danderyd. Who in Sweden can afford a Lamborghini?