Wednesday, 30 September 2009

...on turbochargers and life

A while back I wrote a rambling entry about the turbocharger. So, what is so interesting about something which increases the density of air entering into a combustion engine? The answer is, of course, that driving can be incredibly fun. And a true connoisseur of life looks at moving from a to b as a potential pleasure.

So, a turbocharger has a turbine driven by the car's exhaust, which in turn powers a compressor that actually increases the air density, resulting a more efficient combustion. Vroom. However, traditionally turbochargers suffer from a lag - before the engine has enough revs, the turbine will not get enough pressure to be effective. I lately tested a dual-turbo engine in the road, which is designed provide instant throttle response on all revs. It is basically a smaller and a larger turbocharger in conjunction, partially overlapping and together covering the whole rev range.

A 1.9 liter (relatively small thus) TT diesel engine with 180 horsepower and a 400nm pulling power (TTID) gives a nice feeling on the road. Overtaking is a joy, and the pleasure of relaxed, calm but very fast driving style is yours. A nice example of Swedish engineering product that shows foreign competition what a Swedish utility-minded vehicle is made of. Good show.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Stockholm, the self-appointed capital of Scandinavia

Yes indeed, I will be moving to Stockholm this weekend. Thus my excursions in to the Swedish countryside will come to a temporary halt - I do suspect that I will be seeing Dalarna soon in any case!

So, about Stockholm. I have visited this city a few times before, and I do like the city, especially the older parts. Sweden without Stockholm is united by a strong feeling of dislike towards Stockholm and its inhabitans. It is commonly believed that the Stockholm people are snobbish, arrogant, intolerable etc. No smoke without fire? Well, it is certainly true that a certain level of high individualism prevails in Stockholm. It is riddled with exlcusive clubs (your looks will determine your mileage), good restaurants and of course, beautiful people. What makes me happy, however, is tha fact that the city caters to my rather decadent sensibilities. This would be, quality dining and good vespers (and believe me, these are hard to find).

Anyway. Quite recently Stockholm's tourist bureau people (or an ad agency hired by them), came up with a new slogan. Now Stockholm is "the capital of Scandinavia". This has aroused quite a lot of discussion in Norway, Finland etc. Why? Well, Stockholm used to be the capital of Scandinavia a few hundred years ago, when whole of the Scandinavia was in the iron grip of the power hungry Swedish king. Bring back the good old days? :)

Bring on the decadence! Well, in reality, Stockholm merely wants to be perceived as what it really is. A premiere location in terms of culture, design and business. Cant wait to get some proper dining.

UPDATE: Oslo seems to be doing better..

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

The Girl who Played with Fire - Flickan som lekte med elden

Aah - finally I get the chance to unfold some of the observations on the cinematic version of Stieg Larsson's story "Flickan som lekte med elden". I read the book quite recently only, and I can see why it is so huge at the moment. Not to mention the movie versions, Larsson's trilogy is being translated to a plethora of languages. Anyway, the movie was a pleasant surprise. This is the middle part of a trilogy, continuation to Män som hatar kvinnor (Men who hate women).

First of all, casting. Casting is always the key when one is making a cinematic version of a book. Everybody who has read the book has his or her own mental pictures on how the characters look, what kind of interior is found in a Stockholm apt on Fiskaregatan etc. I hardly can not mention at this stage, that I will be moving to that city quite soon. Well, anyway, casting rocks in this movie. The most dazzling example of this is the actress Noomi Rapace who does an excellent job portraying Liz Salander to our retinas. Undoubtedly, she will be projected into fame of sorts in the Nordic countries and perhaps elsewhere in Europe as well. Other roles are filled well also. No problems there.

How about the story? Stieg Larsson, that old communinist, does a lovely job at painting the red wine guzzling, Peroni (Nastro Azzurro!)-swilling ambiance in an independent, left-leaning small magazine called Millenium, in which the jornalist character Blomkvist works. Btw, Stieg himself worked for a magazine called Expo. Now how do the people in Expo compare their own workplace to that of Millenium's? Probably quite close, is my guess :)

In this episode, Liz Zalander :) gets to know a bit more of her ancestry, and of course, on the bad guy section we have a bunch of guys who hate women. Also, in pure Stieg-style, a larger, societal theme (how lefty is that?!) of human trafficing and organized prostitution underlies the story.

All in all, the movie is, as is the book, a moving experience with a serious societal message. What is regrettable, is that Stieg Larsson died recently, unable to see his trilogy's success. I am, however, thankful for this experience.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Continuation to the previous post - Mia Engberg and avant garde

Svenska Filminstituten (Swedish Filminstitute) provided 500 000 kronor (Swedish crowns) to director Mia Engberg to make adult enterntainment. The discussion on this has ranged from outrage to feminist approval. Dirty Diaries is a collection of short films, all made by women. The makers' full manifest can be found on the movie's homepage. All the movies were shot with a mobile phone, and Fever Ray has contributed music. Svenska Filminstituten says that Mia Engberg makes art and this movie is something to counterbalance to movies made to meet the mechanistic male perspective of the subject. It has been calculated that every Swede participated in fininacing this movie by 4 öre (Svenska Filminstituten gets its money from the state).

Adult enterntainment paid with tax payer's money? Soundtrack by Fever Ray? That's avant garde!

Avant garde! I cant wait Anna Anka's opinion about this :)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Folks, let me introduce you to two rather adorable Swedish personalities: Christopher Rahlenfeldt and Anna Anka

Why them? Lets start with Christopher Rahlenfeldt. He is quite possibly the most popular male blog writer in the whole of Sweden, his writing covering mostly issues of fashion, partying etc. What's your image of a Swedish man? Rugged Nordic handsomeness? He recently arranged a competition for both girls and boys who would get a "Shot at love" with him. Read all about it in the blog :D


Quote: "Jag helt nyduschad, hihi"

So, how about my pick for the feminine example. First I thought that Anna Anka is not a good example since she lives in the US and is married to singer Paul Anka. Another consideration is her Skånishness - is that really Sweden at all, some humorist might ask :)

However, since the first showing of tv-programme Svenska Hollywoodfruar (Swedish Hollywood wives), she has become quite a public figure in Sweden as well. Svenska Hollywoodfruar concenrates on introducing the lives and lifestyles of blonde, usually heavily modified (via plastic surgery) wives of rich and famous people of Hollywood.

Many Swedish women have reacted strongly on her views on relationships (the notorious 'suging'-comment that she made in the programme - something along the lines of a celebrity husband being pleased orally daily). Despite of this, she has had some difficulties in her relationship as well. The Swedish yellow press had dug out information on her domestic battery incident (her husband was in the receiving end).

Here is what has to say about Anna's past:

"..Paul brought in Anna, his Swedish personal trainer and (now) girlfriend, and Howard told her she was beautiful and “some catch.”

Anna reported that she's had Paul's baby, but joked that she wouldn't marry him if the pre-nup didn't promise her at least “a couple million.” Howard asked Paul if he wore rubbers now, so Paul told him that he got a vasectomy after the birth of the baby, adding that the procedure was a “non-event.” Robin asked Paul how long he had to wait to have sex after the surgery, and Paul claimed 5 days."

(Another hit for ms. Anka)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

What else is Sweden..

In addition to royalty (check out drottning Silvia), Stockholm, Madeleine, snus, science fiction and blondiner, what is it that comprises Sweden?

How about this baby here on the left? As an invention, its over 100 years old. Yes, its the turbocharger. It has a pivotal role in enjoying life in Sweden as well, not only on those Autobahns. I'll explain all about it in the next part..

Monday, 14 September 2009

More Neill Blomkamp goodies


I have a good feeling about this guy :)

Finally it was time for D-Day, District 9 day, that is

Talk about fresh perspective. This is a totally new kind of Hollywood scifi movie in many ways. Probably would have not happened without the bearded LOTR king Peter Jackson, who happened to notice this S-African advert director n00b Neill Blomkamp. Yes, the movie. Its different I tell you. Based on Blomkamp's original shortie Alive in Joburg. And yes, its pure gold, robots and tentacles are found a plenty. These are the basic ingredients of an enjoyable scifi movie :)

The 'hero' of questionable character traits - Wikus van der Merwe - is a weasly bureaucrat who wears smart casual (on the nerdier end of the meter). Where's the buggered bow tie, that's the only question at this stage. Anyway, despite of the silly moustache and all, he manages to drag himself upright and do the manly thing of taking responsibility in a difficult situation. Blomkamp's South Africanness becomes clear with all the notions towards the Apartheid.

The worst of humanity is mercilessly diplayed, and all cheesy Hollywood heroism and such have been left out. Only a whiny phone conversation represent the EMO-ness in this movie. Thanks Peter for giving mr. Bloemkamp free hand with this. Its not always your own genius dude; a wise man knows how to benefit from the talent and success of others. Nice one.

Another thing: first person shooters. I lately played some Resistance: Fall of Man on PS3. In Distric 9 the cool alien guns (and a combat exo-skeleton of sorts) trumpet the starting of a game-esque splatterfest. The end allows for an easy implemetation of sequel/prequel, and in the horizon looms also a threat of judgement; will mankind be made to pay for its wickedness by avenging aliens? I can hardly wait to see!

Ps. Do NOT make this movie the centerpiece of a romantic evening. My female movie partner could hardly eat after seeing the movie, let alone enjoy it.

UPDATE: remember to check out this Romanian review!

Lets talk about SNUS baby

Do you know what is snus? Its a tobacco product that has a long history in Sweden - and it is widely used and appreciated over cigarettes. Most people you see in bars and cafes would be using what is called portion snus. I recently tried out some, and while not being a newbie to nicotine (being an ex-smoker), the effect was still a bit dizzying. Portions snus has its advantages - its clean, no bad breath and what's more, no black lungs.

The health effects are not fully known yet due to low amount of research done on it. However, despite of potentially being a lot safer than cigarettes, one can imagine that there is a carsinogenic effect in one's mouth from using it. What makes this product interesting is that its sale is illegal in the European Union, with the exception of Sweden and Norway. American big tobacco has quite recently gotten very interested in snus as well.

Check out:

Tyvärr det blev priceless för dig..

I've always been interested in the power of advertisements, commercials etc. on affecting the popular culture. This applies to Sweden as well, but the difference to anywhere else is that now we have middle-aged people (in Sweden, old people do not feel that they would be losing their dignity if they parrot catchphrases popular with the teens) repeating "det blev priceless för dig" after this ÖoB (a cheap store) commercial.

I think the ad is giving a nice, over the top 'cheapo' feel, making humour out of the image of the business. Cheap, crappy taste etc.

Or how about "SMS'a eller ringa"?

Sunday, 13 September 2009


I turned 30 this summer. This has made me think about all the changes in my own tastes, ways of thinking etc. I recently realized that REM is a damn good band. Really. Think about partying as a person who has been an adult for more than a decade and not look like a douchebag. There's nothing more cool in a 30's kinda way than Ignoreland from the album Automatic for the People. That's REM-empowerment for us older people. Its a revelation!

The same thing goes for many other things as well. I took a closer look at my shoes yesterday. In Gotherburg. They're Converse for crying out loud! Get on with the shoegazing! Was it good old Gothenburg that evoked these thoughts?

Now where's my Bowmore Enigma whiskey again..

Friday, 11 September 2009

There is some weird skit going on in Sweden - pumping up to meet the beefcake threat?

I was doing some exercising at the local gym in a small Swedish town when I noticed something very strange. There was a plaque with the town seal and all informing all gym users that there will be random doping tests taking place at this location. Should you refuse the test (or test positive), you will lose your membership. And of course, a positive result is reported to the police.

After reading, I took a look around. Surely there must be an army of hulking monstrosities pumping away with 125kg dumbbells in each hand? Ill-tempered, pumped up beefcakes? Threatening the very existence of the nation and its traditional way of life? No. Middle-aged men and women, mostly occupying the bikes, none seemed too happy about doing excersice. Probably the doctor ordered. Unbelieveable.

I guess this is what they take seriously, but in case of the local gym of a small town doing random checks on the middle-aged, reluctant trainers (to make these very same people feel safe and secure) seems a bit ridiculous to me. All nations have their pecularities. Could this be a track to follow deep into the Swedish psyche? Hmm-mm. On with the protein bar!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The Un-Business

It was a sunny summer day few years ago in Helsinki. I was sitting on a park bench, checking mail on my laptop. Over comes a large man in his fifties - an American tourist who wants to know how to get connected.

Me: Connect to the Helsinki wireless.
Him: How do you know which wireless network it is? (there are LOADS in the city centre Helsinki)
Me: Just choose any of those with the word "Helsinki", those are Helsinki City networks. Public.
Him: Where do we need to pay..?
Me: No need to pay, its the city network, its free.

I could see that this information surprised him. In reflection, that reminds of my experience in Dublin, Ireland. All those crappy WLANs in cafes, bars and restaurants that only make you angry. Get a scratch card with a code that works for 20 minutes. And you have to register. Argh. And those that are free are unreliable and slow. Horrible. That is what he was probably used to, and not knowing of anything better, was accustomed to pay for something substandard.

It seems that just like the American tourist the Irish city fathers do not understand what networks really are. What if the roads and railways were in a similar condition? Well, in Ireland they actually are (despite of decades of EU funded infrastructure improvement). But in case of roads the Irish authorities recognise the problem. Its not good for business, or generating wealth.

Shortsighted thinking leads to a crappy end. A scratchcard. Not to the high tech society.