Friday, August 29, 2008


From The Summit Daily News:
On Aug. 28, 1955, in Money, Miss., two white men kidnapped Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy who whistled at a white girl. The men beat Till, gouged out one of his eyes, shot him in the head, tied a cotton gin fan to his neck with barbed wire and hurled his body into the Tallahatchie River. A jury acquitted them, but the incident galvanized the civil rights movement, then in its infancy.

Eight years later, on Aug. 28, 1963, King stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial before 200,000 people and looked ahead to a day when the dynamic would be different.

"I have a dream," King said that day, "that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident — that all men are created equal. ... I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

And on Aug. 28, 2008, Barack Obama became the first black man to accept a major political party's presidential nomination.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

thanks tira

This is a really cool site that allows you to help out a teacher and donate money to a specific classroom project. You can search and find projects in your area, or in a specific subject.

no, I don't think paolo reads my blog

Filipino kid taught me to eat mango with soy sauce. Oh my.

I had asked, "Where do you feel you belong?", and he said, "Under the mango trees where my dad is from in the Philippines."

still it's better than when they addressed a letter to me to 'ladda'

My 13 year old nephew's first name is Gustav. It's a solidly Swedish name, the name of kings.

Now it's also the name of an approaching hurricane. The American pronunciation of the name is weirdly German-sounding: 'Goooshtaff'. Cracks me up every time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

this doesn't mean racism is dead, though

An African American was made a candidate for president today. I sat in a parking lot listening to the voting because it was a historic moment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

speaking of fish

In America, if you want fried mackerel (and there really is no reason why you wouldn't since it's one of the best things ever), you'll have to find yourself a Japanese restaurant.

Yum. Just like home.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

for this information we thank the new york times, and our trusty household iphone

How cool is this: George Orwell's diaries, from 1938-1942, are being published as a blog. Entries are posted exactly 70 years after they were written.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

americans won't use toilet paper to blow their nose

Once or twice I have offered toilet paper to an American who needed to blow their nose.

I won't make that mistake again.

They look as if I had offered them used toilet paper, at least.

Seemingly unrelated, but related story:

A nice dinner in Sweden, especially on the West coast, likely features seafood of some kind. Sometimes nothing else, except for toast and sharp cheese. It's very good.

I remember listening to an American who had been invited to an upscale version of a dinner like that. He was in shock. The hostess, seated next to him, had been using her fingers, and the juice from the crab and the lobster and the shrimp had been all over her hands and forearms. He said she had behaved like an animal. He was appalled and intrigued at the same time.

I said that's how you eat seafood in my country. He didn't believe me.

One of my best friends goes fishing a lot when she visits her parents on the West coast where we grew up. Then she transports her crab and lobster and fish across the country to Stockholm where she lives. She and her mom (who boils the lobster and the crab, and boy are they delicious) has perfected a system for her to get them home safe and still frozen.

When I visit my friend in the summers, I get to pick what I want to eat. I am so happy I don't know what to do with myself. We eat in her kitchen. The juice from the crab or the lobster is all over our hands and forearms, but we dry ourselves off before eating a piece of toast, or drinking some wine. That's how you do it.

What we use to dry ourselves? Had it been my parents' house, or most other people's houses, it would have been paper towel. There would be a roll sitting right there on the table. Informal and practical.

At my friend's house it's toilet paper. She can't be bothered to buy both paper towel and toilet paper. She says it's the same stuff anyway, just cut differently. There is always a roll of toilet paper in her paper towel holder on her kitchen wall.

So that's a cultural difference right there.

(And in our country paper towel and toilet paper actually are the same. Swedish toilet paper is sturdier than the American version. But that's another story.)


Barack Obama had promised his supporters they would be the first to know his choice of vice president.

But last night the news was leaked, and none of us got the email or the text message or the twitter update until after CNN and everybody else knew.

I was disappointed because bypassing established news channels would have been historic.

Friday, August 22, 2008

forty years ago, another olympics

In a famous gesture John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their fists at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. They wanted to draw attention to human rights and poverty. They were harshly punished.

Carlos and Smith were students at San Jose State University at the time, and in recent years the student union at the university has worked hard to get a statue put up. It was unveiled in 2005. The ceremony was the first time Carlos and Smith had been honored for what they did.

In a creative move silver medalist Australian Peter Norman is left out to make room for visitors.

It's been 40 years, but the image and the act are still powerful.

Here is what the New York Times writes on Aug. 23, 2008.

Peter Norman's nephew, Matt Norman, has made a documentary called Salute. Here is the trailer:

Saturday, August 16, 2008

davenport, calif.

I am embarrassed, ok

On a recent morning television panel, former Swedish Green Party leader Birger Schlaug said that all Chinese look alike. In particular he was talking about the young women who, dressed in uniforms and in identical hairdos, carried the signs bearing the names of the different countries during the opening ceremony.

I've seen similar comments made on Swedish blogs.

Intercultural research states that it's easier for us to recognize and remember faces within our own race. But I would guess that tendency decreases when, or if, we are actually exposed to people of other races.

It may be that the China Olympics is the first opportunity many Swedish people have had to see large numbers of Asians. Because obviously Asians don't look any more alike than Swedes do.

So, yeah, look a little closer everybody.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

let's talk about the fiat 500 (I am getting a black one to match the iphone dan is getting me for christmas)

This is an old Fiat 500. Those are small Italian cars, and they were made between 1957-1975. Super cute if you ask me.
This is a new Fiat 500. It was first presented in 2007. Cool, huh? It's super popular in Italy, and it's won a bunch of awards. I want one pretty bad.

Here is a British TV road test where they are comparing it favorably to their own new Mini:

o people are funny

Somebody's Facebook status line: If Michael Phelps were a country (Phelpsylvania, perhaps), he'd be tied for third overall in gold medals won.

Edit: Guess the someone had borrowed the joke.

Thanks Mayka.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

being offended

When I first moved to the US there were certain American words and expressions I hadn't heard before, and that I had to learn. The reason I didn't understand them was usually that the word or expression referred to a phenomenon that was new to me. In those cases guessing doesn't help. Otherwise North American and Northern European cultures are similar, and most things seem familiar.

The concept I struggled with the longest was to be 'offended'. I asked dozens of classes to explain the word to me, but I still wasn't sure. We don't use that idea in that way in Sweden, I kept thinking to myself.

But, actually, from what I read, now they do. The word 'kränkt' in Swedish seems to be used in a similar way nowadays.

When I finally got the American concept of 'being offended' I thought it was dumb. To me it sounded as if people assume they have a God given right not ever to step in dog poop in their lives, and if it happens anyway, they are offended. That's unrealistic, and dumb. Whenever I come across the word 'kränkt' in Swedish I think the same thing. Too much emotion in the wrong place, self centeredly directed at the world in general. Wipe the poop off your shoes and move on already.

well well well

What Maureen Dowd has to say.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

man on wire

This is one of the most amazing films I have ever seen. It tells the story of how, in 1974, Frenchman Philippe Petit managed to walk a tightrope between the Twin Towers. That's him in the photo there.

I don't know what to say. Just go see it already. You won't regret it.

green of envy

Dan bought an iphone.

All I hear is Look! and there we go again showing me another cool application. Grrrrr.

Friday, August 08, 2008

I like my people

I watched the 'Parade of Nations' part of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

It was a long winded affair. There are a lot of nations in the world.

I was waiting for my people, who came in 20th from the bottom. That took a while, but then I got to see them for about five seconds. Yay!

Obviously the parade of nations was a highly symbolic affair. Most nations chose to wear outfits that were nationalistic, or at least showed off the design talents of the country.

The Swedes? Not so much. The women wore Chinese inspired tunics, and it looked like the men's sports jackets had Chinese collars. Not very stylish, and not very Swedish.

Still those outfits struck me as very Swedish choices. In their quiet ways Swedes are cultural extroverts. We might come across as shy, but we like to try new things, travel, and be changed.

However many political interpretations can be made of those Chinese collars, to me they are endearing. Wearing those frumpy tunics the Swedish women attempted to do one thing no other nation did: communicate with the Chinese in their own language.

someone else is furious

If you read Swedish, read the entry "Den stora bron".

Saturday, August 02, 2008

so I am furious again

One of my students this summer commented that it is hard to know how to deal with members of underrepresented groups because on the one hand they want to be treated like everybody else, and on the other hand they want respect for who they are and their unique experiences.

I think that's very well put, because I think from his perspective, that's exactly it.

What I try to teach my white students is to come up with a practical solution to that dilemma, for themselves. They need to figure out how to act to both ends of the spectrum, at the same time.

And so does the rest of society.

I am not saying it's easy. But who said life was going to be easy?

Right now Barack Obama is being criticized for injecting race into the presidential campaign, and for playing the race card from the bottom of the deck. Things are fine as long as we pretend no one has color, right?

In a hierarchical society, pretending that race, gender, sexual orientation, or class does not matter always benefits those on top. The experiences connected with being oppressed are silenced. That's how it works.

In a political campaign an African American candidate interested in winning cannot talk about race, or how race comes into the race. He cannot speak the truth because the truth would upset the white majority, and he would loose.

One lesson I try to give my white students is that you can show respect by shutting up and listen when members of underrepresented groups speak of their experiences.

That's easy.

As a society we need to do the same, and fast. What we have now is a situation where the first African American candidate for president cannot talk about his race. It' s a disgrace.