You remember the ketchup bottle analogy. First comes nothing, then nothing and then… it’s tomato sauce party time.

The visionaries behind Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) in Sweden might be hoping for their own ketchup effect. From what we’ve been told, DAB is a great success already. The technology is here, Sveriges Radio is distributing six new channels digitally. The FM-band is already fully occupied with no room for new channels. Handheld digital music devices are everywhere. Public service radio should go digital to remain relevant and attractive. So all the good reasons are already in place.

There’s just one slightly annoying factor: no one’s listening. Well, very few. 930 receivers were sold last year, nationwide. With that kind of stellar success, we'll all remain in FM-land for the rest of our lives.

It started ten years ago when Sveriges Radio and BBC introduced the very first digital channels. The British government wisely included commercial stations in their DAB strategy. Not so in Sweden where SR was left alone to pursue experimental broadcasting. We're now entering the second decade of DAB in Sweden and amazingly there's still no political decision about its future. In fact, DAB has been shut down outside our major cities in an effort to cut costs! dab-i-dab-i-doo, what a government we've got!

To find some listeners SR has decided to distribute its digital channels via the web. Understandable but a mixed blessing really. The obvious advantage is that anyone with reasonably "semi-broadband" internet access can listen. (I've tuned in to SRX while writing this.) But with web radio available there is even less incentive now to go buy a digital receiver.


To Boldly Go

The Space Shuttle has returned to flight after being grounded for a couple of years. Now follows a twelve-day mission and then we can all breathe easier when the crew has been brought safely home. 

Space exploration is of paramount importance for science and for the spirit of humanity. It is frequently criticized as being costly in a world with lots of down-to-earth problems. This criticism is unfair. As long as the world can afford to spend $950 billion on the military I cannot imagine why anyone would consider peaceful space exploration costly and unnecessary. 

We need to boldly go where Discovery just went. That’s what humanity is all about.


Go see!!

Konstmuseet, Göteborg in January 

A wild idea turned into a project with a significant budget and a strictly limited time plan. SEK 65000 for a rail pass and twelve months to go see Sweden. My hypothesis was that it would all be doable with public transportation. Others might have rented a car now and then but I didn’t have that option. Boats, buses and trains it had to be. 

All in all, I made 44 journeys. I spent 95 nights on trains and in hotels. I used nine days of saved vacation time. It was an incredible year - here’s a recap. 

Jan 6 Sundsvall 
Jan 9-10 Malmö 
Jan 24 Göteborg 
Feb 6-7 Östersund 
Feb 21 Karlstad 
March 6 Växjö 
March 19-21 Storlien 
April 1-3 Malmö, Trelleborg, Smygehuk, Lund 
April 11 Västerås 
April 17-23 Visby, Fårösund, Burgsvik 
April 29-May 3 Storvallen, Storlien 
May 17 Oslo 
May 27-29 Falsterbo, Lund, Malmö 
June 4-7 Köpenhamn, Malmö, Sofiero 
June 11-13 Härnösand 
June 20-22 Mölle, Kullaberg, Malmö 
June 23-28 Storulvån 
June 30 Linköping 
July 8 Gävle 
July 11 Hudiksvall 
July 14 Katrineholm 
July 15-19 Vålådalen 
July 21 Norrköping 
July 27 Linköping 
July 29-Aug 2 Storulvån 
Aug 4 Norrköping, Abborrberg 
Aug 11 Linköping 
Aug 12-16 Humlebaek, Malmö, Hässleholm, Kristianstad, Lomma 
Aug 18 Norrköping 
Aug 19-23 Östersund 
Aug 25 Örebro 
Sep 2-6 Malmö, Köpenhamn, Halmstad, Tylösand, Lund 
Sep 11-18 Duved, Åre, Storlien, Storulvån, Östersund 
Sep 23-27 Växjö, Kivik, Simrishamn, Båstad 
Oct 9-16 Falsterbo, Skanör, Höllviken, Smygehuk, Humlebaek 
Oct 21-24 Uddevalla, Strömstad, Kosteröarna, Smögen 
Oct 28-Nov 1 Storlien, Strömsund, Östersund 
Nov 5-7 Göteborg, Skara 
Nov 11-14 Helsingborg, Malmö 
Nov 18-21 Kalmar, Mörbylånga, Emmaboda, Karlskrona 
Nov 25-28 Funäsdalen, Östersund 
Dec 3-5 Härnösand, Ullånger, Veda 
Dec 17-19 Karlstad 
Dec 25-31 Vålådalen 

My biggest mistake was trying to travel cheap in the first months. It wasn’t until April that I finally had a hotel night. I certainly saved a dime or two but those winter trips were hectic and not very pleasant. 

The best idea I had was to throw in a series of brief summer night excursions. Using X2000 I was able to reach places like Linköping, Norrköping and Gävle, spend a few hours and then return to Stockholm with the last train watching the sun reluctantly set after another long summer day. 

Weather-wise I was remarkably lucky all year long. Very little rain, lots of sunny days but few of them really hot. You know me, I can’t stand the heat. And when it did rain cats and dogs, like in Bohuslän on October 22, I was already on my way back from Strömstad after a great day at Kosteröarna and didn’t really mind. Lucky guy. 

The worst day was the very first one, in Sundsvall. It was Epiphany and the entire town was closed. I spent half the day walking on slippery, icy sidewalks and the other half in a café that had somehow forgotten to close. On that day I learnt to do my research and be prepared. Bring a map, a list of phone numbers; always check opening-hours and connections. Have a plan A for good weather and an alternative one just in case. What a valuable lesson that was! 

Biggest disappointment? Got to be the fact that I missed Dalarna entirely. Unforgivable, really. I was planning to go there several times but something else always turned up. 

My rail pass was the golden version, enabling unlimited first class train traveling. Was that really necessary? Definitely. For example, there are several options for traveling from Stockholm to Malmö but this card includes a single compartment with my own toilet and shower on the night train. I can rely on a good night’s sleep; I won’t be tired upon arrival. On top of this, a hotel breakfast is included. I’ll be just as alert as if I had slept in my own bed and ready to make the most of the day. I could certainly have traveled less expensively but there’s no way I would have managed these 44 journeys in twelve months. 

My only companion was my digicam. I took thousands of pictures, a few of them can be seen in my galleries for northern and southern Sweden. 

It’s been a while now. I keep thinking about where I was and what I was doing at the same time last year. Great memories. There’s just one regret. I didn’t get to see all of Sweden. SJ doesn’t cover the entire country. There’s a lot to be seen north of Åre and Härnösand. So my project will have to be augmented. Somehow. Sometime.


Did our future just blow up?

Things looked real good. But now my sense of optimism has been weakened. All it took was a couple of disastrous referenda and four bombs in London. The momentum for peaceful integration and prosperity has served us remarkably well since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Can it be regained? Let's hope so. Fortunately, the Union has got a strong leadership now.


One small step for mankind…

…one giant leap for me!

Ok, a
driving license is no big deal really. It’s tougher in Sweden than in some other countries, it’s more difficult in a big city and it would probably have been easier if at least some of my lessons hadn’t occurred at rush-hour (bad planning on my part!). But it’s not exactly rocket science. How could it be? Most people go through this. Most of them significantly younger than I am and without such a struggle. What made my journey so difficult?

Alinge turns out to be a real soul-mate in this matter. A slightly-less-practical guy, to put it mildly. Just like me. R
eading about his ordeal at school had me amazed. Could have been me!

I’m not very brave and never was. I certainly enjoy exploring new frontiers but preferably through a radio documentary! You get the picture. Not the bold adventurer. So I was scared stiff when Magnus had me driving round that parking lot in Väsby in March. At a velocity of 15 km/h images from my childhood kept flashing by and I was certain something was about to explode. Yes, I’m exaggerating slightly but trust me –
it was no picnic.

This spring wasn’t my first attempt at driving. I did take some lessons in the early eighties but gave up for much the same reasons. That failure made the whole idea spooky and it just grew spookier as the years passed by.

But now I’m through, I’m officially authorized. My thanks to the staff of
Väsby Trafikskola, they’re really the best. I have absolutely no idea how they did this but they did. And here I am. I’m very grateful.

Apart from giving my parents a lift now and then, I'm not sure what I’ll use my driving license for. My expertise in public transportation has served me well in Stockholm and all of Sweden as well as through Europe and even on Sicily. But I’ll come up with some kind of project, I always do.

See you around, on the road!


Quiet, please. Players are waiting...

If it wasn’t for tradition, why would half the world eagerly follow The Championships these days? Grass is probably the worst surface for tennis. It has been abandoned almost everywhere and for good reasons. Not so in London. Tradition, you know, old chap

Speaking of London, with its ever unpredictable weather and without a decent roof over any court. Why would anyone sponsor an event with entire days of “rain delay”, why would anyone pay a pocketful of pound notes (no Euros here, old boy!) for the opportunity to get soaking wet while waiting for nothing: “Ladies and Gentlemen, play is suspended.” 

Why do TV companies pay large sums each year for this? It’s tradition, Sir. Why do almost all players forsake weeks of important training on regular surfaces for a few weeks on grass? Why would a spectator in the year 2005 interrupt whatever he’s doing because the Duchesse of Torquay is arriving: “All rise!”. Tradition seems to be a valid excuse for anything. 

A generation ago there were two major grass tournaments, in Melbourne and London. The Aussies then wisely chose hard-court and built a roof over Rod Laver Arena to protect the event from the weather. Not so in London. You know why. 

Like it or not, tradition does matter.