five years later

Swedish Commissioner Margot Wallström is stepping down after five years at the forefront of the European Union. (Ten, actually, but the most recent five years as First Vice President.) Prime Minister Persson appointed her and since the two of them are known to get a long about as good as... well, folks who don't get along terribly well... there was a lot of speculation about his getting rid of her from the domestic scene. Be that as it may, she has been a great Commissioner - effectively helping promote openness and as a side-effect contributing to a more positive view of the Union back in Sweden and throughout Europe.

Her retrospective blog post looking back at these five years got me started thinking about my own humble presence in the world of web logs. I started writing in February 2005, also five years ago. One key driver was an interest in politics from a conservative perspective. Finding your own party in opposition creates energy and a passionate urge to make your point. Then - all of a sudden and when enough people have successfully been making their points - your party is in fact forming a government! Not having PM Persson to kick around anymore plus the disillusion which comes from realizing that your party will in fact not deliver a lot of what you had been hoping for can effectively dampen the political drive and so I find myself now writing about entirely different things - or not at all.

My posts are few and far-between and that doesn't bother me, I have never accepted the idea that one has to keep writing constantly regardless of whether one actually has anything to say or not. Updating infrequently was a nuisance in the old days when the reader used a static bookmark and had to randomly probe and visit to see if anything had been written. These days we subscribe to a feed so anyone can see if there's new content to be read at the moment without having to visit first.

Now we're heading into an election year again and I'll gladly leave that particular scene to others. I may however occasionally have something to say about risk, photography or life itself. Or something else - we do change as we grow older, you know. So feel free to bear with me and stay tuned for another year. Have a happy one!


crime and punishment

I've had the opportunity to study a bit of criminology during this semester. I'm aiming for a refreshing perspective on my home turf - risk and security. Sort of getting into the minds of malicious individuals out there.

Crime has been around as long as there have been laws but criminology in a modern sense is a surprisingly young topic of research. A 19th century Italian doctor-turned-professor - Lombroso - is generally regarded its pioneer. So criminology is young and maybe not entirely mature yet. Numerous schools still coexist and they each have their preferred model, trying to explain deviant behavior (or conformity for that matter!) in a biological, economic or maybe psychological context. Or even deconstructing crime itself into a haze of postmodern subjectivity: "there's no way of understanding an objective reality so let's stop trying!".

Not every theory is enlightening and some seem hopelessly obsolete. I'm amazed to learn that there are still Marxists around, for instance. But the dynamic mix of contradictory views, many of which appearing to be based on at least a certain amount of solid reasoning, is very interesting. To be continued...


ferdinand & the chainsaw massacre

I would never make a good gardener, let alone farmer. Deciding on matters of life and death for plants and animals - naw, that would take some getting used to for a semi-sentimental fool like moi.

But since life has bestowed me a small cottage with a few surrounding square meters of what used to be a garden, I'd have to assume some minimalistic attitude of responsibility towards this Land of Mine. And since said cottage has been blessed with more trees than what's good for it (or its neighbours) I have established sort of a yearly tradition of inviting a team of arborists to "scope the problem".

They're real pro's, I'm mighty impressed. And scope they do, indeed. Three visits in as many years have reduced seven fairly proud trees into:
a) one pile of twigs being burnt in November
b) one pile of firewood being donated to neighbours
c) one tree stump

Well, maybe not that proud... This year's trio did in fact turn out to be marked by tree rot.

Still, I can't quite get used to Deciding. A pear tree finds a place to live, grows, delivers fruits and leaves for well over a century... and one sunny morning it gets chopped up in no time in a merry chainsaw massacre. Disintegrated into those three categories of remnants.
- Wham, bam, kindly pay at the counter!

I would never make a good gardener. In the words of good old Ferdinand the Bull:
I think I'll just sit here and smell the flowers.


on frogs and trust

It's been said that a frog placed in cold water that is slowly heated will not perceive the danger and will thus be cooked to death. Be that as it may, gradual changes are interesting and important. One such gradual change is the deteriorating social climate in our societies. We don't trust our neighbor anymore and - surprise! - he doesn't trust us either. This change has taken place within a few decades.

Not so long ago people hardly locked their doors. If they did the lock was primitive by today's standards and sometimes the key was put under the door mat. Today we get ourselves security doors and all sorts of locks and alarms. Why the sudden need for all these protective measures?

When I was a kid growing up in a suburb we used to walk to and from school. My Mom accompanied me for a week or two when I began school at age six - that was it. Nowadays a growing number of kids are being driven to and from school and my guess is that they are no more handicapped than we were. As long as the school is nearby, they could easily walk too but their parents don't want them to. Why is this? What are we trying to protect them from?

There's a well-known photo from Geneva in 1955 where a friendly-looking policeman is "guarding" a summit between U.S. President Eisenhower and the Soviet leader Khrushchev. I suppose he had a couple of colleagues back at the station as well. Just how many policemen are needed today to protect any EU summit?

A football game?

I'd say there's a trend emerging here and it's not a pretty one.

Maybe the frog would in fact jump out of the kettle. But what about us? Why don't I hear any debate at all about these changes which have taken place during the course of a couple of generations?


the happier meal

I'm pretty impressed by McDonald's. Yes, that chain of restaurants. Granted, it's not the best venue for a candle-light dinner date. It's hardly a place for unique gourmet experiences. Their wine list is the shortest available on the market. Then again, they never claimed to be everything to everyone.

But the restaurant is clean, their opening hours are generous, the staff is friendly, the food is not expensive and - in spite of what we've been told and unless you're a vegetarian - they have plenty of dishes for a nutritiously balanced menu.

As far as I'm concerned there are three simple rules:

* avoid the soft drinks - we eat too much sugar anyhow
* stay away from the desserts - same reason
* nothing from the deep fryer

My respect for McDonald's goes way back. I'm old enough to remember those days when it was all but impossible to find a restaurant without guests smoking at their tables. Guess who were the first among Swedish restaurants to ban smoking? Yep. And that's what you would expect from a leader in quality, isn't it?


kids of all ages

They say that kids have a different perspective on time. Rewards (or punishments) have to appear in close connection to whatever has been done or the kid won't be able to associate cause with effect.

But what about the rest of us?

Many of us lead a destructive lifestyle. We eat too much, exercise too little and some of us insist on smoking as well. Why? Well, the negative effects aren't immediately apparent.

Some of us ignore safety while driving. Speeds are too high, margin between vehicles too short. Generosity is not the first word that comes to mind on the E4 motorway. Why is this? Well, in all likelihood the risky driver won't directly cause a crash on this particular day. So, he seems to think, let's worry about tomorrow when that day comes.

As a society, we know pretty well by now that our lifestyle is not sustainable. In a matter of a generation or two we're in for pretty drastic changes. Now, will any politician talk straight about climate change in next year's general election? About not flying unless necessary. About choosing local produce at the supermarket. About that car of ours. Hardly a vote-winner.

So, how grown-up are we in fact?


legally yours

A funny thing happened on the way home. I was pleasantly surprised by our bus driver. We got a smooth ride, very professional indeed. A conscientious, planned style behind the wheel. And not only that - it was perfectly legal. Imagine that! Speed limits where adhered to all the way. I had given up on that ever happening on an SL bus. This guy should have a medal and he could certainly teach his colleagues a thing or two. Oh, and one more thing. We did arrive on time.


with love from Luleå

Somewhere in a unique land of fear, yearning, death and love, writer-director-actor Staffan Westerberg has done it again. With Selma och Ågust at Stadsteatern, this remarkable man together with a capable ensemble of actors and musicians once again captures our imagination, dancing along the abyss from the women's restroom at the Nobel Banquet to the nursing home where nothing matters any more (and, as if that wasn't enough, they're serving pancake tomorrow - "don't mention that dish!"). Smiles and tears and standing ovations. Theater simply doesn't get any better than this.



The Earth's axis is tilted roughly 23° from the orbital plane. That's why we have seasons. Beginning last Friday, the northern hemisphere tips toward the Sun. More daylight, more warmth, more mosquitoes.

Parts of the landscape are pretty tilted as well. My cottage happens to be situated in a slope, an observation which reoccurs whenever I have to pull the lawn mover around. Or, indeed, at spring time. Snow turns into water and - ever since Newton - water (as well as an apple) ends up at the bottom of hills - having first flown by my house of course.

Consequently, spring is the time of year when the mind is tilted towards warmer activities including shoveling around parts of the garden into its rightful positions after being relocated by an improvised creek which once again decided to materialize on that tilted land of mine.
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radio douze points

It's all in the assumptions. Public service television assumes that they have to chase viewer ratings just like commercial channels.

So they take a classic music event like the EuroSong qualification, Melodifestivalen, and chop it up into bits and pieces. Away goes the orchestra. And so we find ourselves, week after week, left with a ragout of first chances, phone votes, second chances, sing-back, duels, infantile hosts and international jury selections.

No, I'm not saying music was necessarily better in the old days. I'm saying there's a lot of good music today which disappears in this chaotic format. Fortunately, radio has been invented.
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life after a date

Got my first camera back in October 2000. I was heading for my second Italian vacation and didn't want to come back empty-handed again. Photography seemed technically complex and just too difficult so I hadn't developed (!) an interest before.

Lucky coincidence #1: Enter the era of digital photography.

Now that did seem a whole lot simpler although quite costly. You don't want to know what I paid for my first equipment, a point-and-shoot with a memory capacity of 64 megabytes. So I finally decided to have a go at the photogenic hobby. My mindset was that of a beginner and rightfully so. I was aiming to document family, vacations, the cottage, ordinary stuff. Printed copies and created albums. No need for a computer just to look at my photos. Oh no. I superimposed dates on all my photos to keep track of them. Worked like a charm.

My interest grew. I paid another fortune for a few additional memory sticks, began traveling extensively within Sweden and spent lots of time snapping photos. In early 2005 my camera was literally worn out. It had served me well but after more than 10000 shots under all sorts of conditions the quality began to fade and it really sounded tired. Or maybe I was beginning to require more? Probably a bit of both. So I got myself another compact. Still a simple model (mind you, a lot cheaper after 4+ years). After all, I was just a beginner.

Together with a couple of friends I began photo-walking through Stockholm and the idea came up to somehow showcase the results of our efforts.

Lucky coincidence #2: Blogs were emerging as a simple yet powerful medium.

And so pixels was born in October 2005. Now I had a mission. I should learn more about my home town, write, snap photos and present them on a regular basis together with our team. A great way to improve my skills while having fun. Some folks asked about that superimposed date. But it stayed. After all, I was still a beginner so it didn't matter.

Another 10000+ photos later I'm into my ninth year of photography. Someone noted that I'm not exactly a beginner anymore. She did have a point. Now, what I don't know about photography could fill a library. I never attended a course, never read a book on the topic. I haven't even tried using a system camera, let alone owned one. But I like to play with light and colours, angles and movement. I'd like to learn how to take more artistic photos. I no longer confine the results of my excursions to the private album. I enjoy publishing photos on the web, getting feedback and new insight.

This year I want to take the next step. Start experimenting with slightly more sophisticated equipment. Reaching out to a wider audience. Oh, and that superimposed date? Would you mind if I skipped it? In fact, I did on January 1.