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Why I love my co-workers

2011 January 18
tags: , ,
by amy

This was what I saw when I opened the door to my office this morning after a two-and-a-half-week-long vacation in Sweden. (In case you can’t read it, the sign beneath says “Welcome back!” in Swedish.)

Inflatable plastic moosehead

I’m trying to decide what to name him. So far, Sigge and Sune are the top two possibilities. Anyone have other suggestions?

Safely on the other side

2010 December 29
by amy

It took 31 hours, but I made it to Sweden without getting stranded in an airport or bus station anywhere. (A six-hour layover in an aiport with decent croissants and Laduree macaroons doesn’t count.)

The winter is postcard-perfect here: gently scuplted drifts, snow-covered spruce trees, lights in all the windows of the red and yellow wooden houses. As if on cue, three moose strolled across a neighboring field right when I came down to breakfast this morning.

Bye bye, Boston (plus a Logan travel tip)

2010 December 27
by amy

It’s amazing how productive I can be when the goal is going to Sweden on vacation.

Somehow, in the last 24 hours, I managed to…

  • unpack from my trip to Pennsylvania
  • do laundry
  • watch Audrey Hepburn in The Nun’s Story
  • repack for my trip to Sweden
  • sleep 6 1/2 hours
  • spend about an hour and a half on hold with various airline personnel to clear up a booking mix-up with my Air France ticket and get booked onto a later connecting Paris-Stockholm flight since I’ll be missing my original connection (Thank you Irene at Delta International Reticketing. A complimentary email is on its way to your supervisors.)
  • rebook my Swedish bus ticket (on the phone, in Swedish — yes, after studying and speaking Swedish for 10 years, phone conversations still short out the connection between my brain and my mouth.)
  • call my friend Gun-Britt in Sweden to update her on the change in travel times
  • repack for my next trip
  • make it to the airport

And those are just the things I remember.

Now for the travel tip…

Since my flight is delayed from 5:20 to 8:00 tonight, I decided to eat at the airport and skip the inflight meal. (Yes, the airline meal is free and it is Air France food, which is better than your average airline food, but getting a headstart on sleeping is priceless.) This lead to a serendipitous discovery. If you eat at the Boston Dines café in Logan Airport’s terminal E (just outside the security check-in), your server will sign your receipt, which you can then present to the TSA agents who will allow you to use the first class security line.

I’m not sure if this is a limited-time-only perk or if it kicks in when you spend a certain amount of money (I spent just over $20), but it’s worth knowing if you have time to eat and the sercurity line is looking long.

In the end I don’t think it made much difference for me. Because I arrived so early, and because so many flights have been cancelled, the line wasn’t anywhere near as long as I’ve seen it.

I did feel special, though.

What I tell myself #2

2010 December 19

And, to think, in a normal year I don’t  start feeling that 35°F is blissfully balmy until January or February.

What I tell myself

2010 December 16

It’s not just soul-crushingly cold weather, it’s a chance to practice for my upcoming trip to Sweden.

Must read this

2010 December 15
by amy

How can I not want to read a book where the villain is a kakapo?!

From the author of the critically acclaimed Troll, the new novel from Johanna Sinisalo [Birdbrain] is full of her trademark style, surreal invention, and savage humor

cover image for Birdbrain by Johanna Sinisalo

Set in Australasia, this is the story of a young Finnish couple who have embarked on the hiking trip of a lifetime, with Heart of Darkness as their only reading matter. Conrad’s dark odyssey turns out to be a prescient choice as their trip turns into a tortuous thriller, with belongings disappearing, and they soon find themselves at the mercy of untamed nature, seemingly directed by the local kakapo—a highly intellegent parrot threatened with extinction. This is a skillful portrait of the unquenchable desire of Westerners for the pure and the primitive, revealing the dark side of the explorer’s desire—the insatiable need to control, to invade, and leave one’s mark on the landscape. But what happens when nature starts to fight back?

Swedish word of the day

2010 December 15
by amy


A fabulous portmanteau of fyllo (drunk person) and filosof (philosopher), a fyllosof is a drunk person who makes elaborate philosophical pronouncements.

As drunks are wont to do.

[Purists out there — the type who can quote Strunk & White chapter and verse and who rue the disappearance of any semantic difference between disinterested and uninterested — will probably not consider this a word for the ages, but more of a joke or a pun. I don’t care. Or maybe I should say “I could care less.” I adore linguistic creativity in all its forms.]

(h/t: Slangopedia‘s random page function)

Aliens among us

2010 December 12

As a fan of both science and science fiction, I’m amazed by how often real, live creatures here on earth end up seeming more fantastical (or scarier) than anything invented by fiction.

At least once a week, news about some mind-blowing animal (or occasionally plant) discovery pops up in my RSS feed. Lately, I’ve been fascinated by posts about super-conducting hornets, body-snatching fungi, and photosynthesizing sea slugs.

Today’s example of science fact’s turning out to be stranger than science fiction is the moray eel, with it’s strange pharyngeal jaws that give it a decided resemblance to a well-known film monster. I remember reading an article about this when the scientists who discovered the eel’s anatomical idiosyncracy. It wasn’t until I saw this delightful, hand-drawn animation, though, that I got a better idea just why a moray would need to evolve this feature.

The video was created by Phil Lai, a student in Professor Casey Dunn‘s invertebrate zoology class at Brown University. As a final project for the class, students have the option to create a post for Dunn’s CreatureCast blog. (Here’s the link to the full post version.)

And, just in case you had any doubt, I absolutely want to take that class now!

(h/t: Intellectual Pornography)

My current video obsession

2010 December 11

I first saw this video by Swedish singer Lykke Li when Bitch Magazine‘s “bsides” blog featured it recently. Given my fondness for all things Swedish, I probably would have watched sooner or later, but blogger Kelsey Wallace aroused my curiosity when she described part of Li’s outfit as “what appears to be a fashion-forward vagina dentata.”

The video somehow manages to be both disturbing (intimations of violence) and exhilarating (those drums!). I’d describe the visual style as something that Kenneth Anger and Maya Deren might come up with if they were making a mash-up of Beach Blanket Bingo and Tarzan together.

Overheard in a Harvard Square café

2010 December 11
by amy

When I get famous, which will happen soon enough, I’m going to go ahead and shave my head.

– Very intense 20-something blond woman with unkempt hair and a pile of high-tech gadgets,
talking to a 50-something couple who look like they’re regretting striking up the conversation.