Friday, February 27, 2009

Dollar vs kronor

The Swedish currency krona just hit 9 kronor to 1 dollar. That's the highest in years. This summer it was occasionally below 6.

That's a major difference.

Since I work for a Swedish company - I get paid in kronor. That was great last summer. Not so much now. The difference on a monthly basis is HUGE. It's about 1/3 less compared to just 8 months ago. Right now I sure wish I was getting paid in dollars... not necessarily because it happens to be better right now, but I don't like having my monthly income being so affected by currency exchange rates.

For other Swedish aliens here - getting paid in and having dollars - it sure will be a more fun summer to go back to Sweden compared to last year.

The Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter just published a series or articles in relation to the "fall of the krona".

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The US credit system... again...

Ok. So I've written about this topic before... and it ain't over yet... With 700 in credit score I happily went to my bank to get a credit card for my business (so I don't have to use my business ATM card when traveling). I'm not planning to keep a balance on the credit card, I don't care about bad interest rates, if they want a deposit, set a limit or to charge annual fees - so be it. I just want the darn card. 

Ok, Washington Mutual, soon to be Chase, is where we have done all our banking (so far...). Personal banking, mortage, business banking etc. If there is someone who knows about the state of our financial life - it should be WAMU. 

But guess what? WAMU STILL reclined to issue me a business credit card. Their system said plainly "No". 

"You probably need four lines of credit first", was the recommendation from the "Business Relations Manager" I talked to (and who also wanted to sell me payroll services and money market accounts). BUT HOW DO YOU GET FOUR LINES OF CREDIT??? GAAAH! Not to mention the fact that I don't want four lines of credit. Actually I only want one... for my business expenses...

There is something seriously wrong with this system. Nowhere in this process do I have to proof that my business actually has a revenue, a profit, montly deposits. The only thing they care about is that I, as in me personally, has had a good load of credit cards before. Does the number of credit cards in your wallet say anything about how good you are to handle credit? NO! And really, probably the opposite. If you need four different credit cards in your wallet, I would say you're in serious trouble. 

Oh, well. Enough ranting. Until I try next time...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And speaking about GPS...

I have a GPS in my Blackberry too and use GoogleMaps to find my way around when needed. Great when you're in the middle of San José and quickly want to walk to a Walgreens (pharmacy with tons of other stuff) and a sandwich place (Subway, Quiznos or ToGos) before hitting the road. 

A quick check on your phone and you know exactly where to go and you can check your screen to make sure you're going in the right direction. I can hardly remember what I would do before having a phone? Actually asking other people? Having to socialize? ;-)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Do you know the way to San José?

Remenber the old Burt Bacharach song? Well, my GPS knew the way to San José - where I have been hanging out for the past three days, attendning a conference on visual thinking and communication, learning tons of new things and being very inspired. 

I choose not to stay at the conference hotel, but with dear friends in Palo Alto, a 20 minutes drive north of San José. I just love having a GPS - you can go anywhere and don't have to be stressed out about getting lost, not finding your way - you just get there. It's the best invention ever and I really couldn't live without it. I used to have a TomTom that was stolen right before Christmas (someone smashed the window when the car was in the parking lot outside an office building) so now we have a Mio. I think I prefered the TomTom - but I do like the calm, nice, dark male voice guiding me to my destination and patientely says "Recaluclation" when I miss an exit or take the wrong turn.

But really, going places where you never have been with only a voice guiding you is just great!  

Friday, February 20, 2009

Online music hazzle...

So I happened to come across Alexandra Burke's* version of the Leonard Cohens song Hallelujah and I really liked it - what a voice (and I love "big voices")! So of course I want to buy it and download it to my iPod for my 3-hour car trip down to San José on Sunday.

But nope! Since I live in the US and it hasn't been relesed here - I can't get it (at least in any "official" way). You can find it on the UK iTunes - but if you try to buy it in £ you get the message that nope - you're not eligible. It hasn't been released on - my usual source of music. I wonder if you can buy it in Sweden...

Isn't this just crazy?? In an online world, it's just weird when they try to limit access. I don't care about heir marketing campaign planning - find a way to make it work world wide!

Of course I can get around this. I live in the house of a geek - and I could find a way to surf icognito using a proxy solution so iTunes wouldn't detect me being in the US and buy it off the UK iTunes (and I guess that would be sort of legal... at least I'm paying for the music, but I'm physically in the US... but then I am a Swedish citizen... or what would be their criteria for not letting you pay money for music... place of "occasional being"?. But since this take a little fix and trix and time - if I really wanted to have it fast  - it's probably out there somewhere to be downloaded illegal... Sigh. 

Why can't they just let you buy the darn thing...?

Oh, well. I'll  just get some more new podcasts from the wonderful website Sveriges Radio. AT least they don't care that I live on the other side of the world...

Of course (!) the music company won't allow emedding of this music video -
 so you have to check it out with this
 link if you haven't heard
Alexandra Burke's version, turn up the volume!

(*Alexandra Burke won the latest episode of the X Factor in the UK)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A state budget...

We finally have - after months - a state budget. I really need to study the political process in this state more in depth, because to me it seems insane that it should go this far... people loosing jobs and state functions deteriorating because the people elected to be in charge can solve the problem.

California is the fifth something largest economy in the world - but when it comes to budget process, you would think it's some undeveloped country with lack of proper processes. Imagine a business being run this way... Where they have to lock in the board members in the board room with sleeping backs and tooth brushes and tell them not to come out until they have a solution...

Well, it seems locking them in did the trick - negotiating at 4 am is tiring even though you have strong principles. Why don't they just do this every year and maybe we'll get a budget done on time? If they know in advance they will get locked down unless they find away to compromise, maybe it will be quicker??

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I've come to really like Facebook. Initially I wasn't so sure about the whole thing - but the last couple of months I've started to like it a lot. Or maybe not Facebook per se - rather the communication and contact I can have with friends through that channel. I never do any of the applications (I have even turned off all notifications about them) and I don't poke or compete in different games. I update my status, comment on other friend's status and share posts, links and photos, I keep to the status, newsfeed and profile home pages and keep away from the rest.

I really enjoy how funny some of my friends are using the status updates. Signing into Facebook there is always something there that makes me smile and sometimes someone's status report turn into small conversations.

I find it a great complement to bloggning and e-mailing- and meeting irl for that matter. I'm suddenly updated on dear friends with different schedules that I haven't been able to see in a long time, I know about good things and bad things that happens to others that I might no know otherwise (a friend who was in a car accident with her kids, another who lost his grandmom, friends that are being down and really need to be cheered - or are happy and makes me smile).

And working from home, sans co-workers, it's a great substitute to the coffee corner in the office...

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kindergarten germs?

I'm been down and out all weekend. It's been pretty bad - and the worst part is that both the grown-ups in the house have been down - and the kids have been fine. And that is NOT a good combination. For Valentine's Day we had enough energy to make heart shaped American pancakes - that's about it...

Before the day we had kids I had never seen the Husband sick - not a single day. After we had kids - he is the one that gets hit the hardest - the second the germs comes through the door, probably from Kindergarten - they hit him, and hit him hard.

This time I didn't get away and since I'm a few days after the Husband - I'll know exactly what's waiting ahead and that is going to be a looong week. When will someone invent a cure for bad colds??

Friday, February 13, 2009


I have a bit too much of vampires lately. First I decided to read Twilight - wanting to know what all the fuzz was about. The Twilight Saga, four books by Stephanie Meyer, about the vampire Edward and the human Bella and their love through... well, a lot. I liked the story behind it, an author that came up with the story in a dream and despite having limited writing experience pulled four books off and major success. And everyone who read them seemed to be hooked - so I decided I should give it a try. I liked them ok - and because - being me - I had to read them all. But I was a little overwhelmed with vampires.

So maybe I shouldn't have picked up a copy of "Let me in" ("Låt den rätte komma in") at the airport in Sweden on my way back to California last week. "Let me in" or "Let the right one in" as the much acclaimed movie is called in the US, had been a major movie hit all over the world. I happened to be in New York when it has its premiere here and was amazed at the long postive New York Times review. Always nice to read about Swedish sucesses. The book is about 12 year old Oskar and his "friendship" with the vampire Eli in a cold Stockholm in 1981. It's a pretty horrible story actually and I can't say that I even would want to see the movie after reading the book.

I must say I feel pretty done with vampires by now. Time for something else. Like "I de lugnaste vatten" by Viveca Sten - a mystery book that takes place in Sandhamn in the Swedish archipelago - a good start of spring - putting me right back to summer Stockholm. I just love that they are taking the archipelago boats all over the place...

And since I'm on the topics of books - if you want to read something completely different and beautiful - try The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by French author Muriel Barbery. It takes place in Paris and is very... well different and beautiful. An online Swedish alien in France sent as a Christmas gift and it was my Christmas holiday reading. As far away from vampires and the Stockholm archipelago you can get... (it's being translated to Swedish this year).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I have credit history!

For those of you following the blog regularily you know that I have been fighting to build my credit score by taking a car loan I don't really need to take, using (or abusing) a "secure" credit card (that I don't want to have), being part of the Husband's credit card (when I really want to have my own). 

And today decided to dare to check my credit score... last time I didn't even exist... my social security number didn't even show up...

And guess what! I have credit score!! It took 6 months (and I don't know how much in unnecessary interest rates..) - but now I'm at 700! (the scale is 330-830 for some unknown reason I don't care about). 700!

So now I can toss the secure credit card, pay off the car loan, get my own credit card to use for my travel expenses (when I don't want to throw my bank ATM card around)  and just be happy that I exist! At least as a "financial person". Phew. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My favorite TED

The yearly TED conference* is over in Long Beach California, and I can't wait to download the new videocasts. The TED conference is a yearly conference in California (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design), starting out at 1984 that gathers the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers (according to themselves at least) to give 18 minutes long speeches. Most of them are available on the TED website.

One speech I keep in my iPod and that I watch now and then is my absolute favorite, Sir Ken Robinson's speech "Do schools kill creativity?".

He just says so many fantastic things...

Sunday, February 08, 2009


We have had way too little rain in Northern California the last year and are heading into one of the worst droughts in history. I think we're all looking hopefully at every little cloud that comes by, hoping for some rain. Our local lake is all about a puddle and we're facing a Stage 3 water alert if the rain doesn't start pouring and the snow start falling in the Sierras.

So now, when we're finally facing a full week of rain - I really don't mind. I just hope it rains non-stop so we start getting back to normal. We will have plenty of nice weather and hot sun down the road. Right now we just want to have some good size puddles to jump in.

Doppler radar over Northern California on Sunday night.

Friday, February 06, 2009


When I rushed through FAO Schwarz in New York the other day, I picked out an UglyDoll for the Son and the Daughter. Actually mostly for the Son, since he is a lot into monsters and I was sure he would like this one and I would love for him to have someting to cuddle with besides all those cars...

I think the UglyDolls adorable and I like the story behind them, two persons in love, sending notes to each other with little cartoons, and ending up being this big.

The Daughter got a PugLee and the Son got a GatoDeluxe (in the picture).

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Back in California

After my little detour through New York from Sweden I'm back in California. My broken bag arrived 12 hours later, but since I was going home I didn't mind actually. I got it delivered to the door and didn't have to drag it on the long term-parking bus, and over the parking lot and in and out the car. The only ones who minded were the kids who had to wait for their gifts.

My stop in New York didn't do too much for my jetlag - it is still as bad as usually and I'm just as grumpy and crazily tired, despite clocking in almost 10 hour nights. Oh, well. I should be out of it in a couple of days and then I can start enjoying the spring that has arrived here. The trees that looses their leaves are already starting to get new ones!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Freezing day on Manhattan

I was going to spend 28 hours in New York before heading back home to California. I woke up to clear sky but freezing temperatures on Manhattan. I packed up my suitcase and checked out and stored my suitcase for the day and took a cab up to FAO Schwarz, hoping they would open early. They didn't so I just took a power walk a couple of blocks (well, actually 10-12 or so) to meet fellow Swedish alien blogger Saltistjejen for breakfast. She took me to a Belgian café where we had a great, fun long breakfast, trying to figure out how to order (I ended getting a weird serving of baguette bread... just bread... nothing else...). It was so much fun to meet "Saltis", talking about life as an alien.

Then I headed back to FAO Schwarz in a cab, with about 20 minutes to spend before I had a new meeting south. Got gifts for the kids and flagged down a new cab and headed to my meeting on Park Ave at 33rd. The person I met was Swedish and he took me to Scandinavian House for a really Swedish lunch - so nice! Then I took another power walk in the really chilly weather back up to Times Square where we stayed to get my suitcase and head out to Newark and my 6 hour flight back to California.

Hepp! 28 hours in the city of New York.

New York's skyline from my cab heading to Newark, before we had to pull
off the highway and the taxi driver had to crawl under the cab to
fix something that made really weird noises...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

New York, New York

We arrived to a snowy and cold New York after a uneventful flight from Stockholm. My faithful suitcase that has been traveling with me for the past 8 years, was broken when I picked it up, but since we were really short on time there was no time to try to get it reimbursed at the airport, we just rushed off to the taxi line to head into Manhattan from Newark.

We didn't see anything outside the steamy taxi windows, and my view from the 12th floor at the hotel overlooked a close by building so I didn't really get any sense of actually being in New York. After 15 minutes of switching clothes and repacking my handbag from containing passport and other travel items to "normal" things, we headed back out in yet another new taxi with steamy windows for a intense afternoon and evening with seminar and dinner.

By the time they were serving coffee after dinner at 9 pm, 3 am Swedish time, I gave up and headed back to the hotel. I was so tired during the taxi trip that I hardly looked out the windows so when I finally fell deep asleep at the hotel room at 9.30 pm, I really could have been anywhere in the world...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Last day in Stockholm

After my quick visit, today is my last day in Stockholm and I was happy to finally see the sun - the first during my stay (I did see it briefly on Saturday for a few minutes). It was a cold, calm and beautiful morning when walking to work. I haven't hardly had time to take any pictures - but today I risked cold fingers and shot a quick pictures when walking over Slussen.

Tomorrow I'm taking the SAS flight to New York - interesting change from taking the Chicago bus, oups, I mean flight. I'm spending about 28 hours in New York before heading back to California. I wonder it that will make my westbound jet lag easier or harder...

Sunday, February 01, 2009


Believe it or not... I actually went to IKEA today. My "old" IKEA in Kungens Kurva (which I also think is one of the largest ones). It was so busy! I have forgotten how people here go to IKEA on the weekends almost as entertainment... Phew.

This IKEA opened in 1965 and was round in it's shape (actually still is partly) - the arcitecth was inspired by the Guggenheim Museum in New York accordng to IKEA's website.

It was interesting to walk through IKEA with all the same names of all the items - but now people could actually pronounce them.

I can't even remember the last time I was at a Swedish IKEA - must have been more than 10 years.

(Read more about IKEA's history here - in Swedish however - too tired to try to find a link in English right now).