I bought The Dog Said Bow-Wow based on the review at SF Site, which promised brilliant stories full of the unexpected. In reality the quality varied widely. The collection as a whole has no theme or connecting thread. A few stories are from the same world, some even have the same characters, but others go off on some completely different tangent.

Some stories were brilliant: “Slow Life” and “Urdumheim” were memorable and strong. The first is a beautiful, poetic story about life discovered on Titan, and the meeting between humans and those very different minds. The latter is a long creation myth blending Sumerian and Hebrew elements – about the creation of language, consciousness, and death. Nimrod, one of the First, gives his people language, so that they can escape the dark nothingness they originally inhabited. But the creatures of the nothingness come to reconquer the People by stealing their words, and thereby also their ability to think. “Urdumheim” is almost good enough to be worth buying the book for.

A few other stories are relatively average. And then there are the three stories about Surplus and Darger, two con men (or rather, a con man and a con genetically-engineered-man-shaped-dog) in a fantasy future, which everyone seems to like so. These were almost boring in my opinion, very predictable and almost dull in their quasi-Victorian tone.

It’s hard to say anything useful about the book as a whole. It’s uneven, for sure.

Amazon UK, Amazon US.

Whenever the weather is good and we feel like doing something in the garden, but don’t want to undertake any major projects, we dig out cherry roots.

We have two huge cherry trees, one on each side of the house. Around the tree at the rear of the house we also have lots and lots of very small ones. Most seem to have started from cherry pits, but it’s possible that some are shoots from the roots of the main tree. They’re dotted around the lawn and don’t really cause much trouble – until they’re cut down by a lawnmower. That leaves small stubs sticking out of the lawn, perfectly hidden, just stiff and sharp enough to be really uncomfortable for bare feet.

And of course when you mow them down, you don’t kill them. They just try again, sending up a new shoot next to the old one. So one sharp stick becomes two, three, four, an entire knobbly lump with sharp points. Many of these lumps appear to have been around for years: they have roots as thick as my thumb.

When I found the first sharp stick last summer, I thought I’d just pull it out. But of course then I discovered the lump around it, and the thick roots, impossible to pull out. Vigourous frequent mowing might kill new shoots, but wouldn’t help with the existing ones, which would go on hurting our feet. So now we have an extirpation campaign. Armed with strong shears and a weeding trowel, we dig out the root as far as we can, and pull out the rest, or twist or cut it off. The bigger ones leave somewhat unsightly scars in the lawn, but that’s a smaller problem.

By the end of this summer we should be done with all the big old lumps. We’ll probably miss some smaller ones, but after next summer we’ll hopefully have a stick-free lawn.

Cherry shoots in the grass

Ugly lump exposed


The birds are still wandering around the edges of our garden. This morning I saw three of them together within a few steps of each other, plus one of the parents, still feeding them worms.

A day or two ago I saw one of them try to fly. It flew a few meters up from the ground and tried to land on a tree branch. It almost got a grip but not quite, and tumbled half a meter to the next branch further down. It couldn’t get a grip there either, and tumbled to the next lower branch. And again it couldn’t get a grip, and fell down onto the grass below. It looked a bit confused and miffed, and didn’t try again.

A seventeen-year-old boy ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time (near a major terrorist attack on San Francisco). Angry men push him into a DHS van and take him to an interrogation facility. He tries to be principled, refusing to unlock his phone etc, but soon surrenders to the interrogators’ will. When they have all they want, he is released, but with very obvious hints that if he mentions his experience to anyone, he could easily disappear.

When he gets back home (where his parents had believed him dead, because they had not been informed of his capture – he could have been a terrorist, after all) he discovers that within just a few days, the city has become a police state, and it’s rapidly getting worse. Everything and everyone is suspected and monitored. Marcus decides to fight for his rights.

I believe this is an important topic: the book would be a decent introduction to the security vs. civil liberties debate, for some part of the target young adult audience. But it’s not a particularly good book. First of all, it’s way too black-and-white, even for teenagers. And Doctorow is so focused on delivering his message that he overlooks the importance of having a good story – or good characters. It’s a polemic lecture rather than a novel: Doctorow makes it all too serious (in a bad way) and loses the fun.

I’m mostly OK with Marcus being smart and hard-working and idealistic, but when you add his perfect goal-oriented efficiency and then make him spout speeches as well, he becomes something of an unlikely construct. The other characters are bare outlines: simplistic, with no development. All the young people, the good guys, sound the same: smoothly hip.

Not a bad book really but not something I’d recommend, except to people who’d read it because they already agree with Doctorow and want to get all riled up about the topic.

Free download at craphound.com, Amazon UK, Amazon US.

About 10 days ago, Eric discovered a bird’s nest in the cherry tree in front of the house, and a clutch of baby birds inside. We’ve been following their progress daily since then. They’re fieldfares (turdus pilaris, björktrast, hallrästas).

By the time we discovered the nest, the eggs had already hatched. There wasn’t much activity or movement around the nest until hatching, and nothing to make us notice the nest. It’s at the height of our 1st floor window, not very visible from the ground.

Once the babies had hatched, though, there was a lot of traffic, as the adults kept fetching worms for the little ones. Both mama bird and papa bird were working hard: sometimes one parent had barely left the nest before the other arrived (after a few reconnaissance stops at lower branches, to check that the coast was clear). We could often see the adults hopping around in our garden, pecking for worms.

The baby birds grew at an astonishing speed. Ten days ago they were naked, blind and puny. Yesterday the first one left the nest, and today the nest is empty. However the birds aren’t quite ready to leave their parents yet: they can hop around, but not fly yet, and the parents will keep feeding them for another few days.

According to the Internet, fieldfares in southern Sweden often lay a second batch of eggs in June/July. Stockholm is well below the middle so perhaps we’re southerly enough to see another clutch?

Naked and small, barely visible over the edge of the nest
Still hungry, but now with a few downy feathers
More feathers… still ugly
All feathered now
Getting very cramped in the nest
Just hopped out of the nest

Blood Engines was described by a reviewer as sexy urban fantasy with a strong female protagonist, or something in that vein. The character of sorcerer girl Marla Mason sounded interesting based on the review at SF Site: “her do-anything, pragmatic attitude, and the casually cruel streak that runs through her actions. She’s violent, blunt, cautious, prone to making poor decisions as she pursues her own interests, loyal and yet capable of using even her closest friends as tools or weapons when the circumstances demand.”

I was expecting a complex, fun character (and book). But the whole package turned out to be flat, artless, dull, and cliched. The dialogue is downright embarrassing. There is no change in tone or mood, Marla is all attitude all the time, which gets boring very quickly. She has no personality apart from constant bossy snarkiness. And the book itself has no tone apart from Marla’s. She’s supposed to be racing against time to save her life and her town, and yet there’s no real sense of urgency, or danger, or excitement.

I gave up a third of the way through.

Amazon UK, Amazon US.


I was going to write an actual post today, but then I mentioned to Eric that I was thinking of printing business cards, and he sent me to Moo and I just had to go through all of their designs, and then of course I had to order some cards, and by the time I was done enjoying myself it was almost midnight.

This month seems to have passed without me noticing. I’m sure Ingrid has changed and grown, but somehow I haven’t had time to pay much attention to it. (Exactly the sort of thing that these blog posts were supposed to help avoid…)

There were a few hard weeks when Ingrid seemed moody and unhappy. Nothing was fun, for anyone. But that now seems to have passed and we’re back to the normal flow of things.

We also had a few weeks when all her potty skills had disappeared, and she went through three changes of clothing every day. Puddles after puddles after puddles. Some days she didn’t even notice what was going on. Other days I could see her getting restless, ask her if she needed to pee. She’d reply NO, very emphatically, and then 10 seconds later pee all over the floor. After a while we started insisting that she go to the potty when we saw that she needed it, and that worked marginally better. And just as we were giving up hope of improvement, and almost starting to think of nappies again, the tide seems to have turned. Today she managed to get through all day in one pair of trousers (until the very last moment, when we were preparing for the night).

Toys are of less interest than ever. The only thing that she has actually played with is the toy stove, with its pots and pans and plates and plastic food. Some other toys get the occasional 5-10 minutes, but that’s it. I am no longer buying her any new toys; it’s a waste of money and effort. We read books instead, cook food together, or go to playgrounds.

Books and movies. Those are the two things she loves. Weekday evenings she gets about an hour’s worth of movie-watching, sometimes one and a half. I generally don’t limit it much because I can see that she’s tired and wouldn’t do anything more active even if I turned the movie off. Weekends we work harder at finding alternative activities: we try to leave the house so the temptation is completely removed. And when we go to Estonia this summer, I’ll be buying lots and lots of new books for her.


She used to be so active as a baby. I wonder where that energy went? In part I think the change appears bigger than it is, because I see a more limited part of her life: tired evenings, and weekends. Still, she has definitely changed. Looking back to last summer, I remember us running in the garden, kicking the big beach ball up and down the slopes. Now when I invite her to kick the ball around together, she is usually not interested. I would like her to be more active, but there’s not much I can do. I can’t exactly force her to enjoy running around.

I do try to find physical activities for weekends – playgrounds, swimming pools, etc. Those still work: last time we went swimming, we spent two hours in the pool and only left because they were about to close. And she was working hard and actually swimming much of the time, with her little red armbands. We’ve spent two Sunday afternoons at the Mulle Meck playground in Järvastaden. (Speaking of playgrounds, Ingrid seems to have mastered the art of swinging when standing up, without me pushing her.) We’ve also bought a little Puky balance bike for her. It remains to be seen whether she enjoys that.

Letters and numbers are fun. She can count to 20 in both Estonian and Swedish (although she tends to lose track somewhere around 16, so we often get fourteen, fifteen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, done! I think she knows some of the number symbols, too: the other day she pointed at a number two and said “two!” without any hints. She knows all the common letters, and likes to point them out. Recently she’s started to pretend that she reads: drags her finger across a chapter heading in a book and slowly says what it says. Or rather, she says the title she remembers, which is sometimes not the same thing. She goes by memory only, and doesn’t seem to look at any of the letters, even the capital letters at the beginning of names. But she is clearly intrigued by the concept of reading.


Favourite books: Sipsik, Mattias ja mamma, Sina ja mina, mu väike karuke, and Kuula, kuula!. With both Sipsik and Mattias ja mamma she can sit through entire chapters that are several pages long, with hardly any pictures. When the pictures are too few and far between, I hold the pages so that she can see one side, where the picture is, and I can read the other side, where the story is.

Favourite movies: Kung Fu Panda, various old Mickey Mouse episodes from the 1930s and 1940s, and A Bug’s Life. All in English, so she cannot understand much, except Mickey, where the story is often very visual and quite straightforward. Karu aabits used to be interesting but gets less love now. Teletubbies are pretty much out.

Teeth: 16; no new teeth for almost a year now, I think.
Clothes size: 98, except for tight-fitting stuff where I buy 104 instead.
Shoe size: 23.

I held a presentation again today, jointly with a colleague, at a conference organized by Konsultbolag1. (Ours is the last talk on the programme. I know my name isn’t there; the initial plan was that someone else would do this but I stepped in instead.) We spoke for 40 minutes, in front of ~60 people. I’m starting to think that I should do more of this: I enjoyed it even more than I anticipated, and got better feedback than expected.


  • I need to feel comfortable with the content and the presentation materials, but once I have that, and a rough idea of what I want to say about each point, further preparation is not useful to me. Some people rehearse and memorize individual phrases they intend to use. I sometimes try that, thinking of good ways of expressing things, but when I’m standing there on the stage that all disappears, flies right out of my brain, and I end up improvising anyway.
  • Surprisingly many people deliver presentations without thinking through what they want to achieve. What is the purpose? What should the audience know or think or want or do after hearing your presentation? How does each page work towards that aim?
  • You don’t need to be a leading-edge expert in order to deliver a useful talk. You just need to know more than your audience, and know your limitations.

Today was session #2 of the bugg course. The course starts relatively late (half past six) which, given that I leave work at about half past three, gives me several free hours in between. Today I spent much of that time buying summer clothes for Ingrid; last week I went to the SF book shop in Gamla stan.

When I came out of the book shop and headed towards my bicycle, which I’d parked out of the way, just around the corner, I discovered a small chocolate shop there. I love good (expensive) dark chocolates. They had a sale on some interesting flavours of Swedish chocolate, which I was curious enough to try.

The saffron-flavoured chocolate was interesting. The glögg-flavoured variety was even better, and the balsamico and honey ones were so good that I ate all except one the very same evening (and only left that one so that Eric would have a chance to try it) even though I couldn’t help thinking, here goes 10 kronor in a bite… and another 10 kr….

Today I had no business in that part of town except buying more of the balsamico chocolate.