Some more sweating swingin’

_MAL4677.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Tonight I spent a few hours dancing Lindy hop at Chicago. Here I am dancing with Lee.

The place was packed and there wasn't any air conditioning, so everyone was drenched with sweat. My shirt and pants were soaked when I got home. But sweat or no sweat, it was a blast! I also danced with Stina, Catrin, Mette, Ullis, Fia, Cecilia, and a few folks I had never met before. It was a fun and exhausting. I'm sure I'll sleep like a log tonight!

In all, I posted 26 photos so go take a look!

Lilac at Ulriksdals slott

_MAL4407.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Yesterday evening I took a walk down to Ulriksdall slott with my friend Eva. The sky was overcast, but the cloud cover was thin, so I was able to capture some nice photos of the flowers around the palace.

The lilac is in bloom here in Stockholm. When I catch a whiff of this flower's lovely fragrance, I know that summer has truly arrived. By the way, I learned from the aforelinked* article that the Swedish name for lilac shared a common root with the Latin name and the word syringe, because the shoots of some species take the form of hollow tubes. One can find some iteresting stuff on Wikipedia.

Here are all 7 photos from the walk.

* I just made that word up**.

** Apparently I wasn't the first.


Fun climbing at KC Tuesday

_MAL4479.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Last night's climbing at Klättercentret was fun. Not much to say about it. Just take a look at the photos.

Third Pirates of the Caribbean film falls flat

Sunday night I saw the new Pirates of the Caribbean film. I had read a fair number of reviews of the film prior to seeing it, so I went in with low expectations. I was surprised to discover that the film sucked less than I was expecting.

But it still sucked.

There was no discernible plot, no character development, and a nonsensical story based in a world operating according to ever-changing laws. Death is treated in typical Hollywood fashion: as a joke, as serious, as reversible, as permanent. Which treatment it received depended only on the emotional impacted needed for the particular scene. Geoffrey Rush's character dies and is resurrected because he's needed again. The same goes for Depp. But Jonathan Pryce's character must stay dead. Why? There's no logic behind it; this death seems intended only to lend some forced emotion to a particular scene, and to give Knightley a chance to put on her angry/sad face. When the hundreds of extras die, no one sheds a tear.

Laws are to be broken on a whim, or followed religiously on pain of death; again, depending on needs of the scene. A case in point: When the pirates convene a war council and one dares to say “to hell with the pirate code,” he is summarily executed for his blasphemy; and again, nary a tear is shed. Honor among thieves? Hardly. The very idea of conformity to regulations is anathema to pirating, and whether one follows the rules — or which set of rules one follows — seems to matter little. Worse still, this murder of a bit-player is played as a punchline, serving only to punctuate the scene and move the ridiculous story forward.

Loyalty and betrayal, trust and mistrust; like the leading players, these concepts are abbruptly brought to life in order to lend emotion to a scene, and then burried again when they get in the way of the runaway action. The leading characters bicker for a bit, breaking up with pointless melodrama what would otherwise have been 2 ¾ hours of pointless action. There's no coherence or reason behind the disputes. Loyalties shift as quickly as do the laws of physics. Flung into a cartoon reality, the viewer quickly abandons hope of finding sense or meaning in the characters' protestations, or of making sense of their world.

The visual effects are top-notch, as one would expect from such a big production film. The animation of Davy Jones's face is particularly good, conveying pitch-perfect the subtle emotions Nighy brings to the character. The technicians and artists are less convincing when it comes to animating other sequences. In particular, a swashbuckling match in the riggings shows its artificial roots. And unfortunately for the film, the impressive effects do not make up for what the film lacks.

Johnny Depp's performance is just about the only saving grace of the film. His antics as protagonist Captain Jack Sparrow are worthy of a better venue. Maybe he should do a one-man show — in character. I'd much rather see that than another installment in this film franchise. Geoffrey Rush and Bill Nighy gave very good prformances too, making the best of the parts they were given. I'd just prefer to see their talents put to better use.

Each PotC film has represented a further departure from reality. Neither the physical world nor the emotional motivations of the characters makes any sense at all. Perhaps this sort of departure from reality is what the world needs right now. This might explain the movie's blockbuster box-office performance over the weekend.

PotC3:aWE is an entertaining film, but don't expect more from it than you would from a Saturday morning cartoon.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.


Look who's dancing!

_MAL4339.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

My climbing buddy Anna is no stranger to dancing. She lived in Brazil for a while and picked up the samba while she was there. She hasn't danced in a while though, so Monday night she joined me for the drop-in salsa course at La Isla.

It was the first time I had been there on a Mondy. Unlike on Wednesdays and on the weekend, the club wasn't open to the public (just to folks taking the lesson). The place did remain open after the lesson, but only for an hour. Still, it's kinda nice because it's not too loud or crowded, and there aren't any drunk people.

Anna was quite impressive. After a few dances, she was really doing great, and I had a lot of fun dancing with her. She has agreed to tag along to this Saturday's installment of Djungelsalsa, so she apparently enjoyed it too! Here are the ten best photos from the lesson.

The lesson was fun, and I'm going to try to remember some of the moves when I go to the Sacuye salsa social at Chicago on Thursday!


Lindy-hopping by the lake

_MAL4261.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

On the way back from rock-climbing, I ran into fellow Lindy-hopper Lee on the subway. She said she was going dancing at the outdoor dance pavilion in Storra Skuggan. I had noticed the dance floor last weekened while walking around Norra Djurgården with Jenni.

Well I wasn't really dressed for dancing, but I decided to tag along anyway. I'm glad I did because it was a lot of fun. I saw several friends there, including Catrin, pictured with me above.

Click to see all 44 photos.

Climbing at Danviksklippan

_MAL4090.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Sunday I had planned to go bouldering with Isabelle and friends at Kolartorp in Haninge. However, I slept in a bit, so I missed Isabelle's SMS and had to make other plans. Luckily, Daniela was also going climbing, so I went down to Danvikstull to join her. She was there with her mom Birgitta and her brother Erik. There's a drawbridge there connecting Södermalm (across the water) with the Nacka to the South. Lots of boats passed under the bridge, and it had to be raised for a couple of particularly tall sailboats.

The rock there is quite different from that at Häggsta. Perhaps this is because the cliffs at Danvikstull were formed by blasting and not through natural processes. The climbing was short but sweet. I'll have to return there someday soon.

Click to see all 25 photos from the afternoon.


First Djungelsalsa of 2007!

_MAL3968.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Saturday evening around 17.00 I took the subway down to Gullmarsplan and caught the bus out to Årsta. It was time for the first Djungelsalsa of the summer!

Djungelsalsa (literally, “Jungle Salsa”) is so-called because it's held at an outdoor pavilion, surrounded by forest. It's put together by the same friendly folks who arranged the Happy Feet get-togethers in Sundbyberg during the winter. They set up a couple of charcoal grills, so you can bring your own food to cook on the grill. I brought a few Nürnberger bratwurst and a Bordeaux baguette, along with a few beers to wash down the food.

The dancing was a lot of fun, and I probably knew about half of the people there. I can hardly wait for the next Djungelsalsa this coming Saturday! Click to see all 72 photos.

Boulder Open #55 at Karbin

_MAL3713.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

I went to Karbin tonight for the boulder open. It was a lot of fun and very challenging. I completed 25 out of 40 problems this time — one more than than last time, but still one off my record of 26. When the rankings have been tabulated, they'll be posted on Karbin's competitions page.

Update: I placed 6th — not bad!

The problem of orange grips pictured above was a tricky one. It was necessary to pull oneself up on top of the orange grip I'm holding with my hands, and then reach up to another grip just off the top of this image. That was the hard part, and it took me a few tries before I did it successfully.

Tonight when I had climbed ten or so problems, I thought to myself, “this boulder open is harder than the last one!” It's funny, because I remembered thinking the exact same thing last time. For some reason I always get the idea that each boulder open is more difficult than the one preceeding it. But in fact, each time, I complete about the same number of problems. So either I'm getting better at a rate equivalent to the increase in difficulty, or I'm not really improving very quickly!

As in past competitions, tonight there were a couple of black-graded problems that I could almost complete, but not quite. I didn't even try any of the white-graded ones.

I met some new folks tonight, including sisters Elin and Emma, who did a great job considering that they've only been climbing for a couple of months. Hung and Daniel were there, and they made the rest of us look like we were working too hard. Christian K. was there too, and he gave me some good tips on a couple of problems. Isabelle, Patrick, Zindy and John were there as well, and some of us might go bouldering together in Kolartorp on Sunday if the weather cooperates. Follow that link and click on the "stor bild" links to enlarge the photos. I especially like this one.

I have posted 34 photos from the evening, including some of Åsa and Colleen, who were there climbing the top-rope routes.


Easy & fun climbing @ KC

_MAL3536.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

I met Daniela around 17.15 for a bit of climbing at Klättercentret tonight. We climbed four or five routes before Daniela left to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean film. I had a chocolate muffin and a cup of coffe and then resumed climbing when Matt & Lisa showed up.

Paula and I climbed a few more routes and I managed to do a bit of bouldering, but mostly I tried to take it easy. My plan was to save my strength for tomorrow's boulder open competition at Karbin. I don't know if I stuck to the plan. I climbed a few routes that were pretty demanding on the ole' forearms. I guess we'll see tomorrow. I'm looking forward to the competition.

Tonight I actually brought my big f/2.8 70-200 mm lens with me, and was able to get some photos that woud be hard to capture with another lens. It's nice to have this lens every once in a while, but damn it's heavy. In this photo, a new climbing friend named Emma climbs a fun route up the tall wall. She also conquered the route of black-colored grips in the corner there — that one is so much fun!

Enjoy the best 35 photos from tonights climbing!


What — dancing without photos?

I went to La Isla Wednesday night and had a good time dancing with lots of great dancers, including Emma, Lina, Alexandra, Åsa, Susanne, and Mia. But unfortunately for you, my dear readers, I neglected to put a battery in my camera when I packed my camera bag for the evening. So you'll have to wait until Saturday for the next dance photos.

That's when I'm planning to go to the first Djungelsalsa of the summer. Djungelsalsa, litterally “Jungle Salsa,” is just outdoor salsa dancing here in Stockholm, arranged by some friends of mine. The last time I went was back in 2004 — for some reason I didn't go last year. These gatherings are nice because one can bring one's own food and drink, and mix dinner and dancing in a fun, laid-back atmosphere. I plan to bring some bratwurst to cook on the grill, a baguette in which to eat it, some salad, and a few beers or a bottle of wine.

I've invited a few folks (some via my Facebook wall) and I'm sure it'll be lots of fun!


A bit of bouldering @ KC

_MAL3388.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Tonight‘s climbing was short but sweet. I got in about an hour and a half of bouldering, mostly sticking to problems I knew I could do without too much trouble. I did one cool traverse along an overhang on the downstairs bouldering wall. That was fun.

Zindy, Anna and Lisa were there, along with lots of other friendly folks. I got some decent photos of Zindy climbing the tall wall. She did great even though she hasn't been climbing toprope routes in a while. Here are the 14 photos from tonight.

I plan to climb a bit on Thursday, but not much. I want to save my strength for the Boulder Open competition at Karbin on Friday.


Jeanette Lindström sings at Glenn Miller Café

_MAL3384.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Monday night Rebecca from Uppsala came down to Stockholm to join me for a bit of jazz at Glenn Miller Café. The band was the Jennings/Lindström Projekt. Jeanette Lindström had a bit of trouble with her voice due to laryngitis, but oddly enough, it seemed to get better with each song.

In other jazz news, I learned from Lotta that Steely Dan will be performing at the Stockholm Jazz Fest this summer. They'll perform on 17 July on the big stage on Skeppsholmen. I went to the jazz fest back in 2004 with Lotta and Lisa and we had a great time. The last (and only) time I heard Steely Dan in concert was way back in 2001 when they performed at the Globe here in Stockholm. I'm looking forward to hearing them live again!


Another walk, this time on Drottningholm

_MAL3341.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Sunday afternoon I joined Karin and her friend Glenn for a cup of coffee and a long walk on Drottningholm. Glenn is from Connecticut, and teaches history here in Stockholm. It was nice to chat with a fellow American.

Here's a nice photo of Karin in front of Drottningholm Palace. There are some other nice photos from the afternoon too.

A walk on Norra Djurgården

_MAL3275.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Sunday morning I met up with my friend Jenni for a walk on Norra Djurgården. We met some equestrians, some sheep, a few geese, and a couple of cows along the way. It was a part of the city I had never visited, and it's quite lovely.

By the way, the story of how Jenni and I met is interesting and it involves my brother Ethan. Three years ago, when Ethan visited me here in Stockholm, we took a walk on Södermalm to see the lovely views of Kungsholmen and Gamla Stan from the cliffs overlooking Södermalarstrand. At one of the scenic overlooks, I asked a couple of girls there to take a picture of us. We chatted a bit with the girls and I exchanged contact info with them. I have kept in touch with both of them, and one of them is Jenni.

Jenni is busy writing her senior thesis for college, so she doesn't often have much time for socializing. So I was glad to get a chance to visit with her. Here are all the photos from our walk.


Party girls at Gamla Stan

_MAL3258.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

On the way back home Saturday night, I snapped this shot of a bunch of cute girls on their way to a party. By coincidence the party was in my very own neighborhood, so we chatted a bit on the subway. Well girls, how was the party?

Dinner with Lotta

_MAL3240.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Saturday evening I took the cats to Lotta's place and joined her for a bit of dinner. Alex and Sahsa will stay with “mommie” for a while, because I'll be going to the U.S. for a friend's wedding next month.


Friday night at Gröna Lund

_MAL3158.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Friday night I went to Gröna Lund with friends. Daniel, Jenny, Maria and Johan joined me for a few beers, a few roller coaster rides, and some midway games. Here are all of my photos from the evening.

And for a trip down memory lane, take a look at this photo of my brother Ethan on the freefall tower at Gröna Lund three years ago.

Dancing is fun

_MAL2932.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Thursday evening after the climb I went to the salsa social at Chicago on Södermalm. My old rueda friend Linda was there, and we danced a lot. She's such a good dancer, and always has a smile on her face. Hi, Linda!

Obviously I was having fun too. I don't remember what I was laughing about, but dancing sometimes does that to ya. Here are the rest of the photos from Thursday night!

A quick climb or two at Häggsta

_MAL2825.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Thursday was a holiday here in Sweden (Ascension Day), so I went to the cliffs and Häggsta and did some ascending of my own. Lisa, Matt, Christer and Marie joined me. It was cool and windy, but we made the best of it. I climbed a 50-m cliff, probably the tallest cliff I've ever climbed. It wasn't such a lovely day, so I took only this one photo.


Dancing with Mia at La Isla

_MAL2800.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

On Wednesday I went to La Isla for a bit of salsa dancing. I danced with lots of great dancers, including Mia, a girl I've known through the Stockholm salsa community for a few years, and whom I've recently got to know a bit better. Sacuye dancer Rafael took this fun photo of the two of us dancing. Wednesday also marked the return to Stockholm of Alexandra, a good friend who has been away for several months traveling in Central America. Welcome back, Alexandra!

Here are all 28 photos from the night.


Another first

_MAL2478.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Last night I finally conquered this fun bouldering problem on the downstairs wall at Klättercenret. I had tried to do it on my past three visits to KC, but had not succeeded until last night. The problem consists of just crimpy grips so it requires a lot of hand strength. It's the first white-graded bouldering problem I've done. There are four basic grades of bouldering problem at most of the climbing gyms in Stockholm:
blue — easy
red — intemediate
black — difficult
white — very difficult

Of course there are still some red- and black-graded problems that I have trouble with. It just depends on the problem.

I saw several friendly faces at KC, including Anna, Zindy, Marie, and Lisa. An English fellow named Ian was also there. I had him met there before once or twice, and we climbed together for a while — he's really good.

Here are the 54 photos from the evening.


Sofia Ullman at Mosebacke

_MAL2338.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Sunday night I went down to Södermalm to listen to Sofia Ullman and her band, who played a concert at Mosebacke.

I met Sofia while salsa dancing at Container back in January. Actually, I think I had danced with her even years ago, but sometimes I dance with someone five or six times and on several different occasions before I learn her name. Now that I think about it, I believe that's what happened with Sofia too. She and I had danced together many times but had not really talked until that evening in January.

Sometimes that's how it goes. If the music is loud and the place is crowded, one may dance with lots of people, but it may not be easy to have a conversation with any of them. Also, I usually have to choose between doing fancy dance moves and having a conversation. Or sometimes, I'll alternate between the two, doing a few complicated (and exhausting) moves, and then catching my breath and chatting a bit, while doing a few simpler moves.

Sofia's concert was a lot of fun, with a good mix of different musical styles. I especially liked her ballad It Matters Now, on which Sofia sang and played piano — creative and musical. You can listen to some of Sofia's music at her web site. I have posted eight photos from the concert.

Cherry blossoms at sunset

_MAL2229.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

On the way (coming or going — I don't remember), I snapped this photo of the cherry blossoms on the tree outside the front door of my apartment building. The sun was just about to set in the West, and the blossoms were illuminated from behind. Lovely!

Back from Uppsala

_MAL2284.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Sunday afternoon I caught the train back from Uppsala. It's a quick 40-minute trip, but I was so tired from the hike (and the champagne!) that I actually slept a bit on the train.

I met a nice girl on the subway. I asked her about her earphones (they looked like the Shure earphones I've read about and my iPod's earphones are in need of replacements). Then we started talking about photography, and I showed her some of the pictures I had taken in Uppsala.

I believe her name was Lovisa. Hej, Lovisa!


Hiking in the woods near Uppsala

_MAL2240.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

This morning, I caught the 9:10 train to Uppsala and met up with my friend Rebecca. We bought a picnic lunch and then joined two of ther friends, Markus and Lina, at the square in the middle of the town.

We caught a bus from there to the outskirts of the city, and began a 13 kilometer hike through the woods. We stopped at a log cabin for lunch, and then stopped again to enjoy the bottle of champagne that I'd concealed in my backpack. Actually, we had champagne and mimosas, ’cause I had some fresh-squeezed orange juice in my backpack too. I didn't endure years of boy-scouting for nothing: I come prepared, baby!

I took a bunch of photos on the hike, and naturally posted the one here that shows me with two cute girls. All 23 photos from today's hike are online for your viewing pleasure.


Dowhill biking at Ekerö Bike Park

_MAL2204.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Today I joined Patric for a bit of downhill biking on the lovely island of Ekerö, just West of Drottningholm. We had a blast and I posted 64 great photos from the day.

We biked at Ekerö Bike Park, using the ski lift to ride to the top, and then riding down on a narrow trail that snaked through the woods. I was really impressed by the number of talented riders on the trail. A girl named Lina was there too, and she was faster than many of the guys! You go, girl!

The trail was a bit steep in a few places, and I noticed that I had a tendency to tilt forward over the handlebars. I lowered my bike seat as far as it would go, but it was still to high and I wasn't able to get my body low enough to ride the steep sections safely. The design of my bike makes it impossible to lower the seat beyond a certain point, because the rear shock absorber is in the way.

After a few frustrating runs, I ended up sawing off a few inches from my seat post. There was a little workshop at the bottom of the slope, and I was able to use their hacksaw and metal file to shorten the seat post. After lowering the saddle a bit, I had a lot more control on the hill.

Next time I'll take a few more inches off the seat post. I think I'll also try with regular flat pedals instead of SPD pedals. SPD pedals are great for uphill and cross-country riding, but they're a bit too confining for fast downhill runs. It's nice to be able to put one's foot down when sliding around a steep turn, and clip-in pedals make that difficult. Finally, I need to get some pads! I dared not go fast, because I wasn't wearing any protection aside from my helmet.

Oh, that reminds me — I need to chat with the folks at Specialized and see what can be done about my “Deviant” full-face helmet. After just a few rides with the new helmet, the inside part came unglued from the shell. Very odd.

Today's ride was a lot of fun, and I look forward to going back to Ekerö soon! For discussion about today's ride (in Swedish), visit happymtb.org.


Flower photos from last summer

DSCN0421DSCN0421 Hosted on Zooomr

I'm trying out Zooomr again. Here are some photos I took of flowers last summer using my old Nikon CoolPix 4500.

Fun bouldering Thursday night

_MAL1814.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

I did my usual Thursday climbing at Klättercentret last night and took 27 photos. Here, Jessica attempts a fun & tricky problem on the downstairs bouldering wall. This is the first white-graded bouldering problem I've attempted. It's crimpy (it consists mostly small grips that are held with just the fingertips) and pumpy (it requires lots of arm strength, in part because it's an overhang). I think I just might be able to tackle this one when I return to KC tonight.


Matt & Lisa back from Pembroke

My friends Matt & Lisa have been vacationing in Wales. They have now returned to Sweden, so I'm looking forward to having my climbing buddies around again. Here's a photo of Lisa climbing at Pembroke. It looks like fun!


Solid! @ GMC

_MAL1571.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Monday night, climbing buddy Daniela joined me for a couple of beers at Glenn Miller Café downtown. There, the Norwegian jazz band Solid! played their own brand of improvisational jazz. They played riffs that weren't quite in sync, but came back together after a few bars. Interesting stuff, but it takes concentration to listen to. Here are the 8 photos from the evening.


Climbing with Åsa at Häggsta

_MAL1420.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

On Sunday I joined Åsa and friends at Häggsta for a bit of climbing. It was cool and windy, but the sun was shining. We had a great time, and climbed a new route that involves a little overhang. Fun!

Check out the 47 photos from the day!


A bit of climbing.

_MAL1099.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

I have been doing a lot of climbing lately. Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I climbed indoors at Klättercentret. Friday evening, Linda H. and I climbed some tricky routes at KC. We both managed to make our way up a very challenging 7a-graded route on the left side of the tall climbing wall. That was the first time I had attempted a 7a. A bit later, I struggled up a 7b too. Yay!

Anna F. took this great photo of me tackling a red-graded bouldering problem on Saturday afternoon. After Anna left for work, I tried the tricky 7a from the day before. With Kjell's help and encouragement, I did it again, even more smoothly and quickly than the first time.

We took 50 photos in all on Saturday. Take a look!


Salsa social at Chicago on Thursday

_MAL0922.jpg, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Thursday I went to Chicago for a bit of salsa dancing. I danced with lots of great dancers, incuding Mona Lisa, pictured above. She's returning to dancing after having her first child. Way to go, Mona Lisa!

Check out the 26 photos from the evening.