Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

While I was having a 6.30 am phone conference this morning, things were heating up around the stores. Today is The Big Shopping Day here, also known as Black Friday. Yesterday's morning paper is the thickest of the year, filled with ads for all sorts of deals you can get today - especially if you like getting up early. Some stores opened at 4 am - and sure - you really could get some good deals, especially in electronics. Things even turned deadly... a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death with the 2000-something crowd crashed the doors at 5 am.

I prefer to stay home - check my promotion e-mails and slowly check through the online stores - most of them offer free shipping on Black Friday. Why get out into the crowds when you can sit home, find exactly what you want - and get it delivered to your door for free.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

No turkey on Thanksgiving

With a family down with flu like symptoms and a unexpected work load from hell, our Thanksgiving celebration didn't really turn out to plan. But then we usually don't have that many plans.

Thanksgiving - one of the biggest holidays in the US - is a tricky one when you're an alien. I still don't have a real relationship with this holiday - and since we're both Swedish - we have no clear guiding. I have no clue how you get those huge turkeys ready. What I almost like most about it is that it's the start of Christmas... once the turkey meal is finished, you can start get your house ready for the next holiday - my favorite!

I'm so ready for a Christmas break after this intense and crazy fall - just bring it on!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A book that made me laugh

The Husband got a package in the mail yesterday - his "nameday" is coming up. He had totally forgot about the nameday and opened the package - way ahead. Anyway - his parents had sent him a book as a gift and I brought the book up with me to read before going to bed, way too late after a long night working - and I laughed so much that I got the hickups. Maybe I was just tired of this book is hilarious!

The book, "Den som spikar på Julafton har allvarliga problem*" is an odysse over notices (what is the translation for "snusförnuftig"??) that Swedes put up in the laundry room, the elevators and elsewhere, telling other people what not to do (or to do). The author, the Swedish comedian David Batra, has lived abroad and can have this very funny "alien perspective" on Swedes and their habits. He writes about Swedish behaviour on the street, when "interacting" with neighbors, in the laundry room and in the bathroom - and their communicating to each other with notes.

Too bad it's only in Swedish - or maybe it's good... maybe you really need to have lived in Sweden and read Swedish to see the hilarious (and sad...) part of all these notes - maybe it just wouldn't make sense otherwise. For a Swedish alien it's a must!

*Freely (and badly) translated "Those who hammer on Christmas Eve have serious problems" and it was previously published as "Den som inte tar bort luddet ska dö".

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mrs Smith

I volunteered in the Daughter's Kindergaten class for the first time two weeks ago. The procedure is that the child introduces her mom or dad to the class and the class then greet the parent who is going to help out. I was so set on being Ms JaCal and got the hick ups when I realized I was to be introduced as Mrs Smith (if that would have been my last name). I almost turned around wondering what other grown-up was in the classroom...

It's not that I don't like the more formal way and the way it gives respect - especially in school - but I have a hard time getting used to it. I'm starting to realize that maybe we should have taught the Daughter to call her bestfriend's mom Ms Emily and not just plain Emily... I don't want her to be known as the rude Swede down the street...

But on the other hand it really feels easier to use "Mrs" or "Mr" than the Swedish eqvivalcence... I wonder what people would think if I would come back to Sweden and start calling people Herr Andersson and Fru Svensson...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

DVD region stupidity

I'm so tired about the DVD region stupidity. And my frustration increases every Christmas when I want to give DVDs as Christmas gifts to family members - and remember I can't. There are interesting National Geographic documentaries and and old movies with Audrey Hepburn from the 60s I know that our parents would enjoy. And a DVD is not too heavy to send across the world and it's small enough to make it pretty easy. But with no parents with a hacked DVD player - they can only see region 2 DVDs - in other words no DVDs from the region here in the US - region 1.

Why why why?? When you can listen to music, cassette tapes (if they even exist any more) and there is something called the internet - the world wide web. And the darn DVDs are the same size and format (unlike the old, different video systems).

Of course - you could, in theory, if you have someone around, like a inhouse geek or so, decode the DVD and rewrite it on a new, region free DVD - but that adds up hours of work - and I'm not sure that's the way the movie companies wanted the customers to solve the problem. Actually I'm not sure how the movie companies want the customers to solve the problem - except not buying DVDs for Christmas gifts at all.

Totally and absolutely annoying...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gas prices

I don't really get this with the rising - and falling - gas prices. This summer it cost us about $70 to fill up the minivan - today it cost us about $30. That's a major difference. The prices fell substantially a couple of weeks ago - and I'm the only one who thought it was conveniently right before the big oil companies reported record profits... which I find sort of curious - but then - I really don't know about all that influences the price of oil.

Since I work from home and none of us have to commute - the change in gas prices haven't effected us as much as for those who really need their cars to and from work very day - and even worse for those who use their car for work all day. And with that much of difference - it's been a major economical aspect for most the last few months. And what will happen now - will they stay the same of go up? Or down? Who knows...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An invitation!

We got a wedding invitation today - so exciting (even though I still can't get used to the American tradition of addressing official invitations to Mr and Mrs Husband Lastname... what happened to me?? The Swedish woman in me has a hard time with that...)!

I'm so happy for the couple getting marry, the bride, our beloved nanny, is like family (if nothing else - it comes with surviving jetlag hell with two kids together) and I'm so excited for her having found such beautiful love. I've seen her dress and she is going to look absolutely gorgeous.

I haven't been in a wedding for long and I've missed so many living here - far from Sweden and not able to go back just for a very long day and night.

I've spent the evening checking out the wedding registry - which is really a very practical thing (and I'm not writing what we got for the bride and groom - she might be reading - vink vink). No agonizing what you're going to give and what they don't already have, no multiple ugly toasters - and the bride and groom actually get gifts they really want. I like it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I miss my number

I had a doctor's appointment today, which included a couple of tests (and an unexpected tetanus shot... ouch). While sitting in the waiting room with all my labels for the tests and my paperwork, I suddenly realized I miss my Swedish "personal number" (the equivalent to the US social security number, which I just recently - finally - learn by heart).

Had I been in Sweden, it would have been that very familiar number that would have been on all my paper work. Now it was just my health provider's medical number on the papers (you use your social security number much less than you use your Swedish "personal number" in Sweden), which I, after the six years I've had it now still have no clue about.

And it made me wonder - will I ever forget my Swedish number... from not using as frequently... just like a pin code for a credit card you rarely use (it's only the last four digits that are unique in the Swedish number - the first six is your birthday - and that I hopefully will remember....) or how deep is it stuck in my brain? I actually do remember my first telephone number that we changed when moving in... 1983...? So some numbers stick around at least...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Car seats for kids without kids

In the middle of all November stress - I'm trying to get a new car seat for the son who is outgrowing his. And just as upset I was this summer when we got the minivan and there were not pictures of people in the cars - I am now when I'm trying to save some time and do all my research online. There are few, rare pictures of car seats with KIDS IN THEM! Isn't that the whole point.. ?

There are a few enthusiastic websites by regular parents who put up their own pictures of what ever car seat they have - but none of the car seats producers have pictures of kids in their car seats... One specific question I have is how narrow the side protection is - I really want my kids to be able to wear head phones - that way I can avoid having to listen to Dora a-l-l t-h-e t-i-m-e. See - very important question - and the only way to find out is to see an actual kid in the car seat.

This research is taking hours and hours - maybe I'll just give up and take the son to BabiesRus and bribe him with Goldfish and have him try them out. But somehow I have a feeling that is going to take hours and hours too...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Working and weekend

I've had a pretty hectic schedule lately, late nights working. November is always a busy month. But - I just had a full weekend at home - the first for a long time. And the weather was amazing - shorts and t-shirts and barefoot in the garden, hanging out with the kids, temperatures in the +20s... Now, that's what November should be all about!

Other fellow Californians did not have a very good weekend - the fires down in Southern California have been pretty bad and scary... oh, the challenges that Mother Nature puts on.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An ad for California?

If you are thinking about moving to California - maybe you shouldn't watch the video below... It was made in connection to the major Earthquake drill in Southern California... And living here you are almost thinking if you really should stay... ;-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Taking notes

So last week I had a lot of meetings. Tons of meetings actually. So many meetings it's a bit of a blur... And my notes aren't really helping either. I have developed some weird language for taking notes... it's some sort of written... Swinglish... I hear English, speak English, but my hand is constantly trying to write Swedish... It would be really funny if I didn't need to really understand my notes.

I can see a trend in my notes. The beginning of meetings are more clear - almost all English - but toward the end it gets more messy. And by the end of the week, it's just a major mess.

I'm glad I used my Livescribe pen and have voice recordings to go with my notes. All in English. Very clear.

Sometimes knowing two languages really doesn't work in your favor.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Back from the east coast

After a very, very hectic and interesting week, I'm back in California from my east coast trip, my head full with thoughts and impressions. Not only did I meet interesting people, it also was a very historical time to be in Washington - you could feel the history being played out around you. On election day you met people everywhere with "I voted" stickers. In all our meetings we got first hand thoughts and analysis on the election result (and we met people from both "sides") and I really learned a lot about the life of a presidential campaign.

I didn't have a chance to update the blog (nor did I have time to visit fellow blogger Annika in Reston which I really, really wanted) - but now I'm back home, with a little more time on my hands.

As a substitute for posts the past week, I'm sharing a few photos that I managed to take "on the go".

Washington is full of official buildings.

Just when I was about to take a picture of the White House on a unexpected lunchbreatk, they closed "fence side" and we were rushed off - and my camera was focused on the fence and not the house... and I wasn't allowed to stay and take more pictures. Maybe the President (who wasn't seen much during election week) was about to take a walk in the garden.

The Capitol from from inside the bus. on my way from one meeting to another...
It's a very impressive building
on top of a hill - and this picture taken on
a gray day doesn't make it justice.

Election night in House of Sweden - the Swedish Embassy.
The Swedish broadcaster TV4 was sending live from the embassy.

It's 11.01 pm and Obama is projected to be the next President by CNN,
one of five news feed that could be watched live at the embassy.

Obama is on stage in Chicago and everyone in the room is watching.

Back in New York before going back to California. A bird has found a
great place to view the Statue of Liberty.

I was in California on 9-11 and I haven't been in New York since. I wanted to visit Ground Zero and see it for myself. I was up in the towers in 1993.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A historic night

It was a historic night tonight. I spent it in the beautiful House of Sweden, the Swedish Embassy, by the Potomac River here in Washington. Seconds after Virgina had been declared Obama's and the polls on the west coast had closed, at 11 pm almost to the second, CNN called for Obama as the winner.

I'm not sure I will be able to sleep yet - the streets of Georgetown where I'm staying are filled with honking cars and cheering people - they all seem to be heading down to the White House to party.

A big day

It's time - the end of a loooong election period. I'm in the heart of Washington DC and it's the only topic here. People walk around with "I voted" stickers and for once all the bar's TV screens are not only different sports channels but actually also news channels.

I'm heading over to House of Sweden, the Embassy of Sweden for election night together with my colleagues. We'll see how long we will be there until we will know the results. It sure is going to be an interesting night.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Nation's Capital

I'm spending the week in Washington DC. This is my third time here and I'm glad I've been here before since I'm so busy rushing between meetings that I only see things from the car...

Here is a picture of the Washington Monument and the White house, taking from inside a taxi...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A big country

So I spent all of yesterday traveling to the east coast - it's a long flight - and since you travel against time, it takes all day. I had a great window seat and I spent the whole flight listening to Swedish radio podcasts and watching this huge country pass underneath. Huge mountains, long river, deserted deserts, never ending fields, major cities - coast to coast. It's a huge country...

It would be fun to do a cross country driving some day.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Trick or treat and on my way

After a pretty intense week I'm once again in an airport. This time on my way to New York, continuing to Washington DC. The last few days have been full of preparation for yesterday's "crescendo" - The Big Night of Halloween. Big event in this country... especially if you're a kid. Even after 8 years I can't really keep up and we're soo behind in terms of decorations etc...

And after a week of fixing scarecrow outfits, clown face paintings, fastening hammers to carpenter outfits, it's over... the Daughter was so exhausted after this week she broke down in tears during trick or treating... it just became too much.

And actually for me, who doesn't like fall, I don't mind all the orange decorations and pumpkins giving way to a holiday much more my favorite - Christmas. Only a what - about 8 weeks... can't wait... especially for being off for awhile... this is a really intense fall. Time for boarding!