Bork. Bork. Bork.
written 2002-08-12 15:42:23

Hmm...not only did I not put a "[journal]" tag on that last email, I also
managed to send everyone's address in the clear. See, spend a week being
treated like a stupid American and you start to become one. It's an
international Pygmalion effect.

So here I am in Sweden. I was sort of rushed over here, and now I'm being
held against my will. Seriously. I'll get to that later.

But now, after sitting on my duff for months ("Hey, Ryan, why hasn't there
been a journal entry in months?"  "Because I don't do anything
interesting."), suddenly I'm running around the country in a mad fit of
Linux consultancy work. Who'd've thought that there'd suddenly be a demand
for...well, for me. I've even got the big-ass beard so clients will
immediately recognize me as a Unix hacker. I debated not showering, too,
but decided against it. Still, I have to laugh at all the "real"
consultants and contractors that have to show up at their jobs wearing
suits and ties. Today I'm sitting in an office wearing Converse high tops,
a Che Guaverra T-shirt, and a pair of jeans where the crotch is about to
rip out. And I'm getting paid for it.

Er, I'm getting paid for the work, not the crotch thing. Just to be clear.

I'm in Stockholm. A game company out here needs some work done, and under
no circumstances will they send me the source code, which makes it hard to
actually do any work. Instead, they decide to fly me out here on a
moment's notice and work on site. Much cheaper, no doubt. Companies with
money worry me.

So I race up from North Carolina, where I'm working on another contract in
Raleigh, hop a plane in Philadelphia, and a few in-flight movies later,
I'm sitting in London Heathrow.

Here's the thing about British Airways: if you haven't seen the
commercials, I need to tell you: The seats. The friggin' seats! They fold
_completely_ down to be a horizontal bed. They have modern movies (I'm
talking Spiderman and such...has that even been released in Europe yet?
I opted for "The Shipping News" and "I am Sam"...I regretfully declined
"The Goonies"), and overall, it was the fastest trans-atlantic flight I've
ever taken. We got stuck on the runway in Philly for over and hour and I
was happy about it. Think of these planes the way Ferris Bueller describes
Cameron's Dad's car. It's _so_ choice.

Stockholm itself has, as far as I can tell, one notable feature: this is
where they do that whole Nobel Prize thing. Since I won't be seeing that,
they best I can do is just soak in the general culture.

The people of Sweden are beautiful. Even the ugly ones. It's all blonde
hair and blue eyes and perfect figures that you see on the covers of
American magazines that inspire eating disorders. This seems strange to
me, since the daily Swedish diet is's all fat. You'd think
that you couldn't subsist on lard, but Sweden proves you wrong...and Dr.
Atkins laughs all the way to the bank.

Truth be told, it's pretty difficult to be a vegetarian in a country where
you can't read the menus. Fortunately, Sweden is a pretty
vegetarian-friendly country, over all. When I was living in Linkoping last
year, someone told me that I came from America: "The Land of Meat".
Linkoping, in its microscopic city center, has a McDonalds staring at a
Burger King. I'm not sure if that guy was a hypocrite or a victim of a
cultural drive-by. The crew at Nokia, the reason for my trip to Linkoping,
told me about how their favourite watering hole, a McDonalds on the
outskirts of town (hmm...maybe not the victims afterall) was burned to the
ground by a militant group of vegans. I shrugged my shoulders; it sounded
less like political action and more like the voice of Good Taste speaking
to me.

That was then, and this is now, a little more than a year and many
kilometers away, and I've learned the finer points of vegetarian dining in
Sweden: you can always count on Falafel and Pizza. Falafel comes with
everything green that's nearby piled on top of it, and pizza comes with
"Pizza Salad" which is kinda like cole slaw without the mayonnaise...a
shredded cabbage thing drowned in oil, vinegar, and other spices. I tried
to explain that this doesn't really qualify as salad by any stretch of the
imagination, but nonetheless, it was there. And it was good.

Anywhere you go in the world, you need to be very observant. Watch what
other people do, in case you need to do it yourself. In New York, it's
illegal to ride in the front passenger seat of a taxi, but if you don't in
Sweden, you're weird. Looking around the restaurant, there were people
putting this cole-slaw-salad on their pizza. I opted to be weird. It's
good by itself...and I did see others eating it this way eventually. I
wonder if I was a trend setter.

So I'm sitting at a table outside this pizza joint, chewing on cabbage and
sipping Swedish Coke (which is like an oversugared, less carbonated
version of American coke...Pepsi is better here, but more rare), watching
a kid dance barefoot in a doorway where I watched a drunken club-hopper
piss the night before. Urination is a public event here, I swear. Over the
weekend, I must have averted my eyes at least twenty times while walking
down the main drag. I even walked past a girl peeing in the bushes on a
side road a few days ago, which is cool in my mind. Pissing in public is
really the first step to women's liberation, if you were to ask me.

There are kids everywhere. All those perfect Swedish genes are going to
good use, I guess. Babies, babies everywhere. Everywhere you go, there's
strollers being pushed by mothers (and fathers! Lots of men pushing baby
carriages...this is the second step to women's liberation, I suppose).
Most staircases have a ramp for strollers. My current theory is that all
these babies are to replace the kids that are killed by diseases they
picked up from dancing barefoot in other people's urine...but that's just
a working theory. Darwin would be proud.

Anyhow, back to work. If I keep rambling like this, I'll never be allowed
to go home.


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