Update on investments

I know, I know… I’ve been really lousy at writing posts lately. And the last one wasn’t much of a post, either. I guess I’ve been busy, or something… anyway, here’s one! :D

It seemed appropriate to follow up on my post with financial advice from September – as I said back then, I think bikes would be a sound financial investment (and if you have followed the stock market at all lately, or really just read the news, I’m sure you agree). The frame I invested in has finally been dressed up in all sorts of shiny components, and I picked up my new bike earlier today! This is the end result:

New bike!

It was indeed, as expected, a time sink and a money sink. But once all the parts were in, the awesome guys at Freewheel built it up straight away, making sure I would have the new, shiny bike in time for Madera this weekend.

As I got the new bike, I also joined The Future ™ where most of my friends already reside; I got a Garmin 500 to use instead of the yellow PowerTap computer. I think just the different mounting system alone makes me really excited about this change*! I’m sure eventually I will also appreciate the more human friendly interface of the Garmin 500… no wait, I write all my code in vim, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that I will appreciate a more human friendly interface. Besides, the PowerTap computer user interface is great for anyone who enjoyed pressing in cheat codes on Nintendo handsets in the 80s.

There’s one more thing I need to mention on the topic of finances. I did make a valiant attempt at spending all my money on this bike, but as it turns out, I didn’t entirely succeed – so there’s the question about what to do with my savings until the next bike comes along. I have found the solution. I’m going to open an account in the IKEA bank**. How awesome is that?! :D

* I’m an engineer. I get excited about stupid things. Besides, the mounting systems for PowerTap computers is really insecure and non-transferable.

** Yes, this really exists! And it’s a great bank!

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Ready for Christmas

It’s the night before Christmas! Real Christmas ™ that is, a.k.a. Christmas Eve, none of that Christmas Day bullshit that Americans do.

After some grocery shopping, some cleaning, and finally dusting off some Christmas decorations, I’m pretty much ready for it. Well, except I did the majority of the cleaning last night, and now it’s messy again.

And here’s proof that I have Christmas decorations. Like all good Swedes (and some bad ones), I’ve hung paper stars in my windows:

Living room star

Bedroom star

My mom sent me a package! A tea light holder with a little turbine, it spins when the candle is lit:

We had a more advanced version of this when I was a kid. Instead of random letters* it had angels spinning around. And there were little rods hanging down from the angels that would hit a set of bells as they spun around, making noise that kind of drove my parents crazy as I sat and stared at this for hours. Of course, I did my best to increase the heat and thus the speed and the noise. That’s what kids are for!

Christmas trees are too much of a hassle, but I’ve had Christmas branches the past few years. Just a few fir branches in a vase, with ornaments. Very civilized. None of that constant sweeping of needles to deal with. This year it appears I’m too lazy, unless I decide to stop on the way home from my ride tomorrow and get some branches to stuff in the back of my jersey – but that sounds very uncomfortable.

But I guess I have a Christmas… cable?

Christmas cable

At this point, I figured I may as well go all out and have a Christmas frame this year.

Christmas frame

* Well, not that random – it says “Merry Christmas”, but in Swedish – “God Jul” – because we’re that much more efficient.

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Dear Superior Court of California,

You kind of freaked me out when I received a letter from you today. What could I have done that warranted a letter from you?!

I was pleased to see that I appear to have done nothing wrong, but that instead you request my services for jury duty.

Regretfully, I won’t be able to make it for my service week, starting on Monday, November 29, 2010. I considered asking for a postponement based on the exemption for breast feeding mothers, but as I found an 18 day schedule rather aggressive for conceiving and having a baby, I will instead play the foreigner card.

Since you appear to have records showing that I am a resident of California, but none that I lack US citizenship, I’d be willing to call it even and hang out in your court room for a bit if you would also make sure I’d get to vote and have the right to donate to political campaigns. Let me know.

Kthxbye,
Lina-Pina Fialoppa Mårtensson

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Mud! Rain! Snow! (Stockholm edition)

Who knew a week in your old town can be so busy?  I only lived in Stockholm for six months but it seems like many of my friends from other parts of Sweden have moved here over time with the end result that my liver is now pickled and I haven’t even managed to see everyone I did want to see.

But at least theoretically it should be good cyclocross training! Drinking, running, dirt riding.

Yeah, running. My coach said I should start running. I hate running, and Stockholm is cold in October, but it turned out to be kind of awesome and not that cold at all once I got going:

Since I accidentally packed warm cycling clothing, shoes, helmet, and pedals just before I left San Francisco, and since it turns out my friend Sima has a cx bike that almost fits me, I also thought it necessary to go play in the dirt.

Except the dirt was covered by some cold, white stuff. I’m not sure what it was, but I decided on the strategy “don’t fall”, since being wet and cold tends to impair my ability to a) ride b) think c) survive.

 

Slippery singletrack on roots is interesting for a silly roadie...

 

 

I found some barriers!

 

 

The bottom of my shoe... hey, where did my cleats go?!

 

 

Sima's bike

 

I even found a local cx race! It was just a laid back practice race so it didn’t matter that I suck and was riding on a borrowed bike. Unfortunately the snow had melted and I heard rain against the window pane as I woke up this morning to go to the race. 35 degrees and rain… what had I been thinking?! Oh right, we don’t think before we go to a race, or we’d always end up staying in bed. Besides, I figured it would be lame to go back to bed just because of some silly rain – this is what people in Sweden have to deal with all the time and I should just HTFU!

Upon arrival it turned out everyone else was just as displeased with the weather as I was, and the rain had scared off much of the usual crowd. I was pretty comfortable in my thick gloves and fleece lined leg warmers.

All the other women were even more comfortable – still asleep in their beds it seemed. It was me and a bunch of dudes.

This was my first time riding in mud! Turns out your eyes soon fill up with gravel if you don’t wear sunglasses. But that’s ok, because if you get dropped after half a lap due to your inability to do hairpin turns in steep uphills all those pesky wheels that spray up gunk will disappear!

Then I got kind of lost so I stopped to put on my sunglasses but they were kind of covered in mud. I’d heard that there’s no alcohol involved in cx in Europe (weird, huh?), so I was pleasantly surprised when I thought I was offered booze, but apparently I was offered respite in form of skipping a small part of the course since I was lost and last anyway.

Sliding around in the mud was kind of awesome, but my morale was sinking along with my wheels in the mud as it was fucking freezing and wet. Until I heard a woman yell my name and a horn blowing! My friends Sima and Kim who were still in their bed when I’d left in the morning had taken the bus out to the woods to come cheer me on. My morale went right back up along the run-up! Awesome! I yelled that I was about to win the women’s category and they cheered even louder.

A few laps later we were done and I was happy to finally have tried out this mud thing, though somewhat disappointed that I wasn’t as muddy as some of the other guys who had actually drafted during the race:

 

Somewhat dirty

 

My results in various categories:
Women: 1st!
USA Cycling license holders: 1st!
Overall: 1st (from the back)!

Next up is a trip back to my parents and my cat in southern Sweden (a.k.a. The Tropical Part Of Sweden). This time I’m flying.

Update: Pictures have been posted! Daniel Rytz took awesome pictures for kompiscrossen.se. I like this photo where I’m obviously riding up a 40 % grade:

Posted in Racing, Swedish shit | 2 Comments

Hej Sverige!

Hi Sweden!

It’s been a year since I was here. Last time I went, I had two cats. They moved in with my parents when I moved to the US. Lilo was thrilled to see me, Ada was grumpy – why had I abandoned her?

Lilo

Lilo became ill this spring, and had to be put down within days. My parents and I thought Ada would be devastated without the sister she’s lived with all her life, but I guess we were anthropomorphizing and instead she appeared to become a happier cat when not competing with her sister about everything. (Not that she ever had to; Lilo was a chill cat who would leave Ada alone if Ada left her alone, but somehow Ada felt the need to defend her territory and food and milk and blanket and… now she doesn’t even want the milk anymore, when there isn’t anyone else around that might want it.)

Well, gone is the grumpiness. I stepped in the door, picked up Ada and held her in a way that she won’t allow my parents to hold her, and she was cuddling and going crazy. She slept propped up against my legs under the hot duvet all night. This kitty, who usually goes ballistic if she hasn’t been fed by 6:30 am, was still lying in bed with me at 11 am and didn’t even walk downstairs to the kitchen until I had brushed my teeth and was walking downstairs, too. She’s just as happy to see me as I am to see her!

Pwned!

I tried taking her for a walk in the garden, but it ended up more like she taking me for a walk…

Lazy cat.

Mostly it’s been good except of course I had this brilliant idea to take the train to Stockholm. I had this memory of trains in Sweden being efficient, on time, reasonably priced. That illusion was crushed during my visit last year when 2/3 trains were delayed by half an hour or more, and I realized that tickets cost a leg and an arm once you’re above the age of 26. Despite this, I embarked on a train to Stockholm at 4:32 pm, for a supposed 5 hour long train ride.

7 pm

I’m currently exploring the joys of being in the 1st class car. I appreciated the lessened strain on the environment presented by the lack of electricity in our car for the first hour, and was looking forward to a cozy 5-hour train trip in the dark during which I’d certainly be able to bond with my fellow passengers but eventually the power supply was fixed. Then we went along just fine for a while until we got a closer look at nature as the train stopped somewhere in the middle of the woods. Again, we experienced why 1st class is better – we have disco lights! Turning on and off every second.

Oh well.

Vacation, just like the rest of life, should mostly be about food. As appropriate, I’ve been eating the kind of stuff people eat in Sweden, and thus this post shall be filed in the category “I’m Swedish, I eat shit like this”. First off, dinner  with my parents last night (and I apologize for my crappy food photos):

Moo!

This was paired with bicycle wine!

Gratuitous cat background

The observant reader may notice the glass of beer in the background; my mom intends to doublefist.

Breakfast consisted of a sandwich with mackerel in tomato sauce from a tin, and a sandwich with a slice of roast beef, fried onion, and unfortunately no remoulade sauce. :(

It didn't look like roadkill outside of the photo...

Our lunch may look familiar: Swedish meatballs! (But we just call them meatballs.) Potatoes, cream sauce, lingonberry jam, pickles, sauteed chanterelles. The salad is perhaps less classic; in the old days no one bothered with such sissy accessories and everyone were Real Men, including the women. (It’s a wonder they could breed and didn’t all have scurvy.) My dad still tries to avoid the green stuff, but my mom makes him eat it. I don’t think that qualifies him as a Real Man.

Meatballs

On the train, 10 pm (or: three hours later)

Dinner

Fuck the environment. I’m flying back from Stockholm. As a bonus, it’ll probably be cheaper than the train. (I’m not kidding. It often is. I said it cost an arm and a leg!) We’ve been stuck in the middle of the woods for three hours now, waiting for a new locomotive. The train cafe has since long run out of food, and my dinner is pictured above: cinnamon roll and cheetos.

I’m being reminded of culture in Sweden and, as if it were necessary, more on the (lack of) reliability of the trains. “No, we won’t make a fuss about it, we’re Swedish,” someone said on her phone. Someone else decided to deal with it by drinking beer. He just came back from the shop with his 4th and 5th.

“I don’t think it’s the locomotivate that’s broken… maybe it’s our car?”
“Or us?”
“Yeah, I think it’s us…”
“Just like us Swedes. We don’t get mad, we start thinking it’s us that are faulty.”

My mom has also been calling with motherly advice. I thought that her suggestion of starting to eat my fellow passengers was somewhat premature as everyone is still alive, but I’m starting to pick out the weak ones and my mom estimates that I could start eating them by Thursday.

10:30 pm

No movies on my laptop. No games. (And no Internet neither there or in my phone.) But I found a drawing app! I drew this:

Me and the train. It didn't actually catch on fire; that's an expression of artistic freedom.

11 pm

The train is finally moving! We felt a slight movement, but weren’t entirely able to see outside as it’s pitch black in the woods. As I was leaning out of the window to try to see whether we were moving, tada! The lights went out and with the car being pitch black, we can now see the treetops moving. Slowly. It’s 11 pm and it’s at least another three hours to Stockholm.

1 am

Cold burger and fries from Max!

Yaaay! The train company is not all evil – they got burgers, fries, bean salad, and water for everyone. I’ve just finished what almost resembles Real Food and this was probably the best cold burger I’ve ever had. (Competition isn’t particularly stiff.) I can’t really say the same for the cold fries – there is no such thing as “the best cold fries ever” regardless of lack of competition. Unless, perhaps, you’re stuck in the Andes or perhaps in a mine for weeks on end. Sitting in the 1st class train chair for a few hours doesn’t really qualify for that. Also, somehow coffee and croissants just appeared!

2:45 am (a.k.a. 10+ hours after departure)

WE ARRIVED! Next up: retrieve a taxi coupon from the train company and fight with hundreds of other train travelers over an insufficient number of taxis.

3:15 am

Got a taxi!

3:30 am

"Welcome <3"

Posted in I'm Swedish, I eat shit like this, Swedish shit | 3 Comments

Grasshoppers

It started with my disappointment over Grasshopper Pie not actually containing grasshoppers.

It turns out a co-worker had a packet of chocolate covered grasshoppers at her desk! She didn’t want it, so my officemate Dan and I gladly liberated her from it. The bag contained five individually wrapped chocolate covered grasshoppers, one of them green:

Grasshoppers!

The back of the package reveals that whoever sent this out is putting a lot into a little baggie of grasshoppers.

This is how easy it is to be a risk-taker and a dream-realizer

“Chocolate covered
GRASSHOPPERS

You’re a risk-taker, a dream-realizer. What’s left to do that you haven’t already done? Eat a grasshopper. They’re farm raised, covered in chocolate and rich in protein. So, not only will you be breaking boundaries, but you’ll be eating healthy, too.”

A dream-realizer?! What kind of a word is that? It sounds like this was written by some damn Swede that thinks she can do whatever she want with words in a language that isn’t hers.

I also don’t know if I’m taking that much of a risk by eating a grasshopper. There are countless things that I haven’t already done, but eating grasshoppers is not one of them. They’re very popular in Oaxaca, but I suppose everyone there is a risk-taker and a dream-realizer then.

Anyway, this grasshopper was delicious:

Mmm.

It tasted like chocolate, and it’s crunchy. The texture is a little bit like eating fish with tiny bones in it, but a lot less annoying. I like it!

Grasshopper vs. Dan

Dan also noticed hints of chamomile.

And then it fittingly turned out that Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, was giving a talk at work so I went off to see that.

He did not mention grasshoppers, but he did agree that non-fat yogurt sucks.

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Working hard

Life is rough. Beckett and I are working from the garden at work.

Also, I think my blog updates should automagically be posted to Twitter and Facebook now. Let’s see if it works!

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