Saturday, April 24, 2010

A useful tool for those academics who use Mac OS X

These days, all the published academic papers are assigned the DOI identifier. If you type this number after "" in your browser address bar, you can directly access to the webpage from which you can download the paper.

It's annoying that you need to type "" every time, however. If you are an Apple user, there is an excellent solution. Check this out.

My typical Saturday morning issue in Stockholm

Japanese rice runs out. I won't be able to have dinner at home tonight. (I usually eat steamed Japanese rice for dinner at home). But I have to work today. What time does the Japanese food store close on Saturday? (Check its website.) Oh, 3 pm. But I don't think I'll be done with my work well before 3 pm today. What time does the store open today? Nine. Okay, but carrying a 5 kg bag of Japanese rice from the store to the workplace is not very pleasant. Oh, I also need to buy Japanese sake (which I use for cooking, not for drinking). What time does Systembolaget close? (Since alcohol sale in the private sector is prohibited, the Japanese food store does not sell Japanese sake. In case you haven't learned this yet, Systembolaget is the state alcohol sale monopoly in Sweden.) Damn, 3 pm. What time does it open? Ten. If I visit the Japanese food store first before 10 pm, then I have to carry the 5 kg bag of rice from there to Systembolaget... Then, carrying a 1.5 litter glass bottle of Japanese sake in addition to the 5 kg bag of rice from the store to the workplace is really unpleasant. Plus I will arrive at the workplace well after 10 am, which is not what I really want to do. I cannot do all these tomorrow, because both stores close all day on Sunday. By the way, I also have to think about where to have lunch today, because there is no place to eat over the weekend in the area where my workplace is located. And I still need to wear a coat for going out even in late April.

What should I do? Buying a car is an option, but I'd rather spend such an amount of money on the weekend breaks from Stockholm to visit London, Paris, Berlin, etc.

I didn't have this issue when I was studying for PhD in London, if I look back, because
(1) the Japanese food store was open until 8 pm, even on Saturday (and on Sunday),
(2) this Japanese food store also sells Japanese sake, and
(3) I can buy a rather tasty Indian curry ready meal at a supermarket near my school.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Japanese hairstylist in Sweden

For every fashion-conscious Japanese person living in the West, the biggest headache is haircut. Even top hairstylists in the West cannot really handle with the thick, black hair of Japanese people. A hairstylist in Tokyo once told me about the lecture delivered by Tony & Guy's (or perhaps Vidal Sasoon, I forgot) top hairstylist visiting Japan. After the lecture, she and her fellow Japanese stylists talked to each other, saying, "If you do what he told us to Japanese people, the hair style would be horrible." You cannot imagine how many young Japanese girls cried after their first haircut experience in the West.

I was lucky enough to meet Yumiko-san while I was in London. Here in Stockholm, I haven't been lucky enough to find my favorite hairstylist. Being Japanese is not enough. Being Japanese and stylish is the key.

Now in Göteborg, Sweden's second biggest city, a Japanese hair dresser opened her salon this month. Judging from the web design and the self-introduction emphasizing her experience in Tokyo, London, and New York, she appears to be the one I've long been looking for ever since I moved to Sweden.

But why Göteborg, not Stockholm?

I guess I will soon make a train trip to the difficult-to-guess-its-pronunciation second biggest city of Sweden (its English name is Gottenburg, by the way) to have my hair cut by her. I wanted to visit the city pronounced like "yo-tebory" anyway, to put Stockholm in perspective.

Icelandic volcano ash

Academics in Europe are also victims of Icelandic volcano ash. Our workplace was supposed to be hosting a couple of leading economists from the US from today until early next week, but they canceled the visit to Stockholm. My colleague visiting from Italy told me his home university has had lots of cancellation of seminar talks as speakers cannot fly to Italy. Another colleague is currently stranded in East Asia where he presented his research.

Inviting researchers from universities abroad is an essential part of academic life, to keep up with the latest advances in research. The volcano in Iceland interrupts us from doing this.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

EU Green City award winning Stockholm

Here's a news article on how environmentally friendly Stockholm is. I'm always surprised how the city manages to combine urban amenity with nature seamlessly. But there is a downside to it. Rent regulation certainly discourages the building of new apartments which potentially harms environment. Nature-loving people mean less demand for cutting-edge urban amenity.

There is always a trade-off. The key is what you value the most.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Saturday in Stockholm

What I don't like about Stockholm is Saturday.

I had to work today. I went to my workplace, and left by 5:30 pm. I needed to buy a loaf of bread at Gateau. Bread is in general not very good in Stockholm, and outside the city center there are essentially no bakery. It's impossible to walk a bit in your neighborhood to buy a tasty loaf. Gateau's grand blanc is one of my few favorite loaves. But I have to visit Gallerian, a shopping center at the heart of Stockholm.

By the time I arrived, it was past 6 pm. Two girls were busy closing down the shop. I saw three leftover grand blanc loaves in the showcase. But they just told me, "We are closed."

If you live in Stockholm, working on Saturday just makes you feel more miserable.

Small-sized retail stores close at 4 pm. The state alcohol monopoly seller Systembolaget even closes at 3 pm (to discourage alcohol consumption). Even the department stores NK and PUB close at 6 pm. As far as I know, the shop opens until the latest is Åhlens City, which closes at 7 pm. What's worse, those small-sized stores (including my favorite Japanese food stores) and, of course, Systembolaget close all day on Sunday. If you need to do shopping, you have to do it on Saturday by waking up early in the morning.

This is one example of why the harder you work, the harder your life gets in Stockholm. Working too hard on weekdays makes Saturday the only day for shopping, but if you work too hard, you don't want to wake up early on Saturday, do you? If you work hard over weekdays, you don't have time to plan ahead whether to shop on Saturday. When you realize you need to buy something on Saturday, it's pretty much too late.

What's worse, it's likely that you have to do laundry over the weekend in a pre-booked time slot (see this entry on doing laundry in Sweden), because booking the laundry room in the evening on a weekday is pretty much impossible and you can't do laundry in the morning or afternoon on a weekday if you work hard.

So I've stopped working on Saturday since long before. Today was an exception, and that reminded me of how stressful life in Stockholm can be for a person in American or East Asian style.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Local, Sweden's only English newspaper

I don't know why I feel depressed every time I read Sweden's only English newspaper, The Local. Today's top news reports about 40 percent of apartments in Stockholm are sublet illegally. As I now need to move out of the current sublet apartment and find it difficult to find a desirable one to move in, it just makes me depressed. (For the stupidity of rental apartment market in Sweden, see my previous post.)

Then this article reports a proposal of banning cash in small retail stores so that shopkeepers won't face a threat of robbery. Why does the Swedish authority love banning everything such as paying in cash to the bus driver (which has already been enacted, leaving the bus travel inconvenient to tourists), the sale of alcohol in the private sector (because Swedes drink too much), electric socket converters (because Americans in Sweden used it without knowing the difference in voltage between Europe and America, resulting in explosion), drinking bottled mineral water for employees in the municipal government of Göteborg, Sweden's second largest city (because tap water in Sweden tastes good and bottled mineral water is a waste of resources)?

Then The Local's guide to moving in Sweden begins with how to recycle what you want to throw away when you are moving. A very noble-minded way of starting the preparation of the moving... But the immediate concern for any mover is something else, isn't it?

The remaining articles talk about a benefit fraud (Sweden is a welfare state), child sexual abuse, and a serial killer incident.

But The Local is the only source of information on what's going on in Sweden for those foreigners who do not speak Swedish. I still have to read it every morning...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Restaurant J

To be fair to the Stockholm dining scene, I should write something here on this blog when I do encounter good foods.

With my colleagues, I have an Easter dinner at Restaurant J tonight. Although the Easter menu itself doesn't sound very tantalizing (some of us indeed went for the usual menu instead), the actual dishes are very good.

According to the English menu, the starter is "smoked salmon served with spring salad and egg". This doesn't sound very tempting. But the Swedish menu says a bit more: varmrökt lax på vårsallad med kokt ägg, which means hot-smoked (not cold-smoked) salmon on spring salad with boiled egg (not just egg). The actual dish is even more. The hot-smoked salmon is actually a chunk (rather than slices) of smoked salmon fillet with a pleasant smell of smoke. Some of the leaves in spring salad taste earthy in a good way, making me feel spring (which hasn't come yet in Stockholm). And the creamy greenish dressing sauce (which is not mentioned in the menu at all) is properly done. I'm pleasantly surprised.

Then the main dish is "herb and lemon filled roast lamb served with garlic sauce, vegetables ragout and new potatoes" in the English menu. The Swedish menu says the garlic sauce is actually roasted garlic sauce. This sounds better, because when roasted, garlic tastes different, and raw garlic sauce reminds me of the one on kebab meal at one of the lunch places at my workplace (which is of course pretty bad). And the lamb and vegetables ragout that is actually served is more sophisticated than I expected. In other words, it tastes very good. The lamb is served in a French style rather than in an English style, and the vegetable ragout is not a collection of dices of vegetables (which I don't really like because of the rough texture) but white asparaguses or something (I'm not really sure what it is, but if it tastes fine, it's fine). And new potatoes. Even though I'm fed up with potatoes that always come with the main dish in Sweden, eating new potatoes is a very refreshing experience. I love them.

The dessert is citronfromage in Swedish. Lemon cheese? No, in Swedish, citronfromage means lemon mousse for whatever reason. And, very unusually for even good restaurants in Stockholm, this dessert is great, if not superb. The texture is right. The degree of sourness is right. Not too sweet and the right amount.

I learn one thing. It is essential to learn Swedish words for restaurant menus, because the English version (if available) doesn't precisely translate the original menu, which may make your choice wrong. If I didn't know that the smoked salmon was not the usual smoked salmon or that garlic sauce is actually roasted garlic sauce, I would have gone for other dishes. (Even the Swedish version of the menu of Restaurant J says too little about the dish, though.)

And that's what I have been doing: learning Swedish words often used in the menu. I browse the menu of a good restaurant in Stockholm online and translate each term by using not only (the online Swedish-English dictionary) but also the Swedish wikipedia (and then clicking the link to the English version for the same item) and Google. Google helps me to find out a recipe for a particular dish in Swedish, and then I can translate it with Google Translate to see what kind of dish a particular Swedish term refers to.

The result is this. I'm still learning, but it seems to start paying off.

Oh, the price of the Easter 3 course meal is 360 krona (about 36 euro). It's not cheap, but this is the price to motivate Swedish chefs to cook properly.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sweden's Easter

The traditional Easter week in Sweden lasts from Thursday to Monday, and kicks off with a trick or treat-like candy hunt. Children dress up as påskkärringar (Easter witches) with long skirts, headscarves, painted red cheeks and freckles and go from house to house wishing people happy Easter. They get sweets in return for a drawing or song. Legend has it that the witches fly to Blåkulla (Blue mountain) the same night to meet the devil. (From SWEDEN.SE, the official gateway to Sweden)

I didn't know this even though this is the third Easter in Sweden. For the past two years, I lived in a foreign student colony hard to be accessed from anywhere in Stockholm (so there's no Swedish child around at all).

Children just showed up at my apartment today. As I hate candies, I don't have any. When I tried to give them some cookies (from Japan) as a compromise, they didn't accept them and went away.

Swedish children are very strict to the rule.

And perhaps the best example of the fact that I'm not part of the Swedish society at all (sigh).

Security alert to Hotmail users

It seems some Hotmail email accounts were recently hijacked by someone who wants to promote as an iPhone 3G vendor. I keep receiving an email from my former landlord in London (whom I haven't been in contact for long) with the following content:

Hey How are you these days? I bought one apple iphone 3gs black from this website ..
It's obvious that this is a spam. But it's hard to mark it as a spam, because all the messages from this person (whom you do know) will then be marked as spam.

I google this message content, and I found this person and this person facing the same problem.