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! ūüėÄ

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?! ūüėÄ

* 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. ūüė¶

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!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Financial advice (from a cyclist)

Now that I’m 30*, racing season is over, and the extension is going towards its end, I figured it was time to finish my tax return. This can be surprisingly complicated if you, like me, have lived in several different countries. And if you’re severely disorganized. And if you are financially oblivious.

The IRS wants to know that I have a Swedish bank account with 14 cents in it. (Why do I have that? I don’t know! I already said I’m financially oblivious!)

So I did what every reasonable 30-year-old would do, or so I believe: I gave up. I’m paying a nice gentleman in a fancy-schmancy office downtown to figure it out for me.

With the tax return hopefully properly filed soon, my thoughts continued onwards to financial planning. After all, I have those 14 cents stashed away in Sweden, I also found $50 invested in some random company on the Swedish stock market, and who knows what the coins in the jar on top of my fridge are worth.

I’m thinking bikes would be a sound investment. Besides, the rules state the the correct number of bikes to own is n+1, where n is the number of bikes currently owned – and I only owned n bikes! So when I found an appropriate time trial frame on eBay, I made the appropriate calculations, but more importantly, avoided the inappropriate calculations.

Inappropriate calculation that I did not perform:
– Considering my road bike with clip-on aerobars compared to an actual time trial bike: what is the cost in dollars per second saved in time trials?

Appropriate calculation that I did perform:
– Assume a total cost of final bike build of $2000. I won $10 in a time trial a couple of weeks ago. If we assume that I will win $10 every time I enter a time trial in the future, this bike will have paid for itself after only 200 time trials. Sweet!

Inappropriate calculation that I did not perform:
– Total cost of entry fees for said 200 races.

As a result of my thorough calculations and ingenious financial planning, this beautiful frame arrived today:

I will build this up with parts that I find throughout the winter, so this will be both a money sink and a time sink before it’s even done! That’s a successful financial investment if you ask me.

So, if you have an awkward chunk of money left in your wallet at the end of the month every once in a while and you’re considering how to invest it, bear in mind:

  • The correct number of bikes you should own is one more than you currently have.
  • The IRS couldn’t care less about your bikes, so rather than investing in stock which will just make your tax return more complicated, buy bikes!

I would like to conclude this post with a photo from last week’s meeting for the Support Group for Girls with Training Plans. I had bought the time trial bike seen above, and Tina had bought a new road bike frame as well as a cyclocross bike, so this called for a celebratory dinner:

Tina with fish soup

* I love saying “now that I’m 30”, almost anything can be prefixed with that!

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The Swedish election, summarized by me

The Swedish elections for the parliament, the county councils, and the municipal assemblies took place last Sunday.

Since I don’t live in Sweden anymore, I only get to vote for the parliament. Which I hope I did. What are the chances that the vote I mailed from Mountain View on the 14th would have arrived in Sweden on the 20th…? Dear USPS, I hope you did your job, for once.

Most of the time there are seven parties in the parliament. At least 4 % of the votes are required for getting any of the 349 seats; aside from that exception, seat allocation is more or less proportional to share of votes received. With no party getting the majority of votes, one coalition is formed by the evil right wing parties, and another by the red-green mess.

The evil right wing parties

The evil right wing parties have ruled for the past four years. They want things like lower taxes, less support for people on long-term sick leave, cementing gender roles, and torturing puppies. They have formed a coalition government consisting of the following four parties:

Moderate Party (M)

The moderate party — ¬†not too much, not too little. Just right. This encapsulates the Swedish mentality perfectly. Lagom. That doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with their politics, and it tells you nothing about the party leader that mostly looks like an egg:

Fredrik Reinfeldt, egg shaped.

This documentary is informative of their efforts in privatization, if you understand Swedish.

Center Party (C)

The center party is for everyone who loves cows and wears hats like this:

The classic Lantmännen cap

No, they’re not hipsters! They’re farmers. They’ve worn the same cap since the spring of 1957 (probably without washing it) and drive tractors, not fixies.

Liberal People’s Party (FP)

You should always be suspicious of a party or a country that has “people” in its name. The problem lies in that “people” isn’t well-defined in this context.¬†Like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is mostly for people named Kim Jong-Il, or the Danish People’s Party which doesn’t acknowledge the people-ness of persons that are not of sufficiently Danish origin according to their standards. The Swedish People’s Party isn’t as restrictive, but it still makes me question whether they consider voters that don’t support them to be people or not.

Christian Democratic Party (KD)

We already sent most of our religious crazy people to the US in the 1800s, so there’s not really a whole lot of need for a Christian party. This party is for the approximate total of three old ladies in the country that still go to church on Sundays, and for a handful of members of Christian cults in the woods who like to shoot their guns but don’t like divorces. The Christan Democratic Party member is an endangered species.

The red-green mess

The commie parties, or the red-green mess as they are commonly referred to, are a lot less evil but only slightly less delusional. They like the Swedish welfare system but keep nibbling at it, equality for everyone except for maybe some, and kittens. It consists of:

Social Democratic Party (S)

The Social Democratic Party has been the largest party for the last 437 years* or so and thus it would be more fair to say that this party represents the Swedish mentality, rather than the Moderate Party. This is the party to vote for if you have 1.8 kids, your favorite dish is meatballs, and you drive a Volvo. Some of their party leaders have, perhaps, been even less photogenic than that egg dude of the Moderate Party. Ingvar Carlsson was commonly mistaken for a shoe:

1989 footage from screenshot via Youtube, oh yeah!

Ingvar Carlsson, shoe shaped.

Green Party (MP)

Supporters of the Green Party are often found near a big old rock covered in moss where they quietly stare at a string of ants passing by for hours, or in their back yard throwing smelly things on their mistreated compost, or perhaps at a campfire where they are cooking a healthy meal consisting of pine needles and old, withered leaves.

Left Party (V)

This used to be called the Left Party – Communists, but since they realized that as far as Americans are concerned we’re all commies in Sweden so they dropped the redundant bit in 1990.

As far as Swedes are concerned, they’re not really commies anymore. Unfortunately Lars Ohly didn’t get the memo and happily called himself a communist when he became the party chairman in 2004 – a mistake that cost a lot of votes.

Some other random parties that think they have a chance, too

There are a few parties that don’t fit in but who have been trying hard to get into the parliament.

Pirate Party (PP)

Arrrr! No, really. These guys are for real, and they’re pretty popular. They want to reform legislation on copyright and patents, and strengthen the right to privacy. While they have not yet reached the magical 4 % of votes to enter the Swedish parliament, they hold two seats in the European parliament.

Feminist Initiative (FI)

The Feminist Initiative party is spearheaded by Gudrun Schyman, formerly of Left Party. She’s the only politician who took proper notice of this “Party” word that adorns the names of, well, the parties – she’s been known to frequent rave parties and music festivals hanging out with people young enough to be her kids. If you want gender equality or a drink, this is the party to vote for.

Yeah Gudrun!

Sweden Democrats (SD)

This is a great party for anyone who thinks that that Hitler dude was kind of a swell guy after all, that anyone who doesn’t have blond hair with blue eyes should “go home”** and is somewhat confused about the definition of “home”, or that we should take care to preserve our wonderful Swedish culture but isn’t too concerned with definitions. Pizza is as Swedish as can be, right?

WTF (or, Results)

As the double-commie I am (1. Swedish 2. sympathizes with the red-green mess), I was disappointed to see that the evil right wing parties got more votes, again. That’s another four years of torturing puppies and distributing wealth in a manner more favorable for those who need it less.

But the real WTF lurks towards the right, in an innocent looking, dull shade of blue – 5.7 % of the votes to the Sweden Democrats.

That’s 94.3 % of Swedish voters being furious over what the hell those 5.7 % were thinking. Embarrassed that 1/20 people are bloody racist. People actually voted for this man:

I’d threaten to move to Canada, but that doesn’t make much sense, now does it.

* This is what I write when I’m too lazy to look up how long it’s actually been

** At least they should be ok with me staying in the US then I guess, I don’t have to “go home”!

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My next bike

I found this “New Road Racing Bicycle with Coaster Brake” on eBay, and I’m thinking this is what I will race on next season:

I’m thinking I could paint some blue dots on it to match my team kit.

I will be unstoppable!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments