Today is Advent Sunday, which marks the beginning of Advent. Advent has mostly lost its original religious meaning here in Sweden and is, effectively, “the time of waiting for Christmas”.

Thus, Advent Sunday and the first weekend of Advent is the time for hanging up Christmas decorations and lights. At home, that is: shops and businesses have had theirs up for weeks already (since they cleared out all the Halloween stuff). After weeks of creeping, gradually increasing darkness, there is just a little bit more light out there. I love the way our neighbourhood looks, with sparkles of light in just about every window.

We have our two advent stars that I bought last year, but not much more in the way of decorations. I don’t like visual noise, our living room feels cluttered already, and traditions are not very important to me. But I think Ingrid would enjoy having a bit more Christmas feeling at home. She’s been pointing out every single Christmas tree, Santa and fake snowman we’ve passed. I guess I will try to figure out some way to introduce some more Christmas cheer here. If not in time for this Christmas, then definitely for next time.

I did, at least, manage an Advent calendar for Ingrid. Nothing fancy, since I didn’t start planning in time – just a 24-piece puzzle in 24 red envelopes.

Some fresh bookmarks from

I have found a single Estonian book shop on the web that I can buy from – others either don’t do international deliveries, or only accept payment via an Estonian online bank. So when I found a book I wanted but couldn’t find in that single shop, I asked a friend in Estonia to buy a book for me. (In fact by now I’ve asked two friends to buy a book each.)

Then of course I need to reimburse them for their expenses. And what is the easiest, quickest, cheapest way to send money overseas? Why, by post, of course, by sending them cash by snail mail. Way cheaper, about as fast, and (for these small sums) not significantly less secure than wire transfer.

Somehow it feels like I’m in the 18th century.

If you’ve been following my delicious links (which you probably haven’t, at least until I started posting them here, too) you might remember The Dog Ate Global Warming, a story about how key climate data seems to have been “misplaced” by scientists at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, maintainers of several key data series supporting the global warming hypothesis.

Now emails and other internal documents from the CRU have been leaked (and there are various theories about how they got out). CRU supporters (such as try to deflect criticism by predicting that

…the noise-generating components of the blogosphere will generate a lot of noise about this. […] Instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded “gotcha” phrases will be pulled out of context.

(Try this listing of excerpts at for a taste of those cherry-picked phrases. Sounds pretty bad to me.)

Others (such as (Lord) Nigel Lawson) read the documents as revealing that

(a) the scientists have been manipulating the raw temperature figures to show a relentlessly rising global warming trend; (b) they have consistently refused outsiders access to the raw data; (c) the scientists have been trying to avoid freedom of information requests; and (d) they have been discussing ways to prevent papers by dissenting scientists being published in learned journals.

I’ve been trying to find some place that actually summarizes the situation but I guess it’s too early for that. In the meantime, Watts Up With That? and Climate Audit Mirror seem like good threads to follow.

This is a documentary / autobiographic comic book about a year spent in Burma. Guy’s wife works for Médécins Sans Frontières. Guy takes care of baby Louis, draws cartoons, wanders around, and teaches cartooning to local students.

In short vignettes he shows us scenes from his experiences as a foreigner in Burma, and from life under a dictatorship. The focus is on daily life, show up-close, observed with humility and wry humour. The drawing style is simple – not the most stunning-looking comics, but it works well. New York Magazine has a sneak peek.

Skimming some reviews online I discovered the book was originally published in French, and I had read a translation. I never suspected – the translation was excellent.

Amazon UK, Amazon US.

Some fresh bookmarks from

Since Ingrid had her birthday parties a month ago, there has been a lot of talk about birthdays, parties, presents etc. We’ve had numerous play birthday parties (mostly for me, and sometimes for her, and sometimes for Eric). Mostly I get to be three years old. Of course I get presents, and there has to be cake or candy, and sometimes she serves us a fruit drink, too.

The most popular present, especially during the first two weeks, was the harmonica. The next most popular one was the box that her ukulele came in. It is mostly used as a play present at my play birthdays. The ukulele itself is rarely used, once the novelty value evaporated. The third most popular present was the rolled-up picture that came with a big jigsaw puzzle: it can be rolled, unrolled, used as a telescope, and the rubber band around it can be put on and taken off. We’ve also had fun with all the balloons we blew up for the birthday party – we stuffed them all in the corner behind the sofa, so it became a balloon pit. The presents (apart from a book) have mostly been forgotten already.

Other popular toys include horse chestnuts, marbles, bags and boxes: putting small things in bigger things and carrying them around. Wooden sticks and chestnuts are important possessions and have to be carefully kept account of.

She uses her toy food and doctor’s equipment reasonably often, and we play shop, too. And she’s now started to carry around dolls and/or stuffed animals and telling me that they’re her babies. The babies need to be put to bed at night, and quite often they want to come with us wherever we’re going. Oh, and of course they want to sit on my lap.

She’s been fascinated with police, ambulances and firefighters. She points out every single police car and ambulance we pass, and I think they have books and pictures of these things at nursery.

Shortly after Halloween they had a dress-up day at nursery. They had one last year, too, and Ingrid went as a tiger. This year I asked her what she wanted to be. First she wanted to be a tiger again, but I suggested that maybe she could be something new this time. A cow? A cat? A zebra, I suggested? No, she said, a fly! Well, maybe a bee? or a butterfly, or a ladybug? No, I want to be a fly. Or a police car! Hmm, how about a policeman instead of a police car? (The Estonian and Swedish words are gender-neutral.) Yes, yes, a policeman! I want to be a policeman! So that’s what she was.

Slowly slowly she’s spending more time playing on her own. (Bear in mind that “more” is a very relative term here.) When she plays, she’s commenting on her own play all the time: “this is a boat, now I’m going to take the boat to Estonia” or “This is my baby. The baby wants to be with mummy.”

Occasionally she wants to be a baby herself: “I am a baby, you have to feed me!” But those are exceptions. Most of the time Ingrid wants to do things herself, of course. She’s quite proficient at pouring milk and cutting up her potatoes. (She is, by the way, clearly right-handed now and switches much less between hands than she used to.)

When dressing herself she knows that there’s a right way round and a wrong way round, and that the tags need to end up behind her. She can manage gloves and snowsuit on her own, although finding the thumb can be tricky, and she definitely needs help getting the zipper in place. Boots and shoes, for some reason, she can put on perfectly well, but doesn’t like taking off. An aversion to getting her hands muddy, perhaps? On the other hand she likes to help us with our clothes – in the mornings she often wants to run and fetch clean underwear for both Eric and myself, as well as my dressing gown. She likes pressing the lift buttons in the train station, and knows well that U (upp) means up, N (ned) means down and D (dörr) means door.

At times helpfulness devolves into bossiness. She wants to walk ahead of me (and then sometimes stop and block my way, when she suddenly feels contrarian). She wants to decide what I will wear, which towel I will dry my hands with, and what book I will read while waiting for her to fall asleep. “But you must wear these!” “You must read this book!” It is a struggle for her to understand why I don’t accept her orders, and why I don’t like the tone she uses. We don’t require much in the way of formal manners (trying mostly to teach by setting a good example) but we do demand a polite tone of voice.

Speaking of speaking, her Estonian is coming along almost as well as Swedish, even though she speaks Swedish all day, and I read to her in Swedish when she picks a Swedish book. I’m impressed by her command of Estonian grammar, with all the tenses and declinations and so on. She switches liberally between the two languages – sometimes every other sentence is in Estonian and every other in Swedish – but rarely mixes them up. She really only does that when she starts a sentence in one language (for example, telling Eric in Swedish about something we’ve done during the afternoon) and then midway through comes to a crucial word she doesn’t know in that language.

Wheelybyg, bedded down for the night

She has fun with language and words. Quite often she sings to herself: sometimes real songs, sometimes just nonsense words to a random melody. We play a game where she makes up nonsense words, preferably really long ones, and then I try to repeat them back at her. The word can be anything from “kveya” to “gananga-nanga-nii”, and sometimes I find them rather unpronounceable.

Favourite movie: Coraline (“koyoyine”). I think she’s actually starting to distinguish some words in the English-language movies she watches. One day she was shuffling some papers around and intoning, “Bobinsky, Bobinsky, Bobinsky…” just like Coraline does when sorting letters. Today she picked up “fist!” from Kung Fu Panda (“Maybe you should chew… on my fist!”) It would be cool if she learned to speak English before she started school.

Favourite books: nothing in particular, or rather, many of them. We’ve been to the library a few times, so we’ve had some new books to read (and of course when we first read them we have to read the same book at least three times in a row, more likely five) but we’ve re-read many of the old ones.

Random fact of the month: she has decided she now wants to sit on a grown-up kitchen chair like us, not her highchair. However when we go to a restaurant she always asks for a highchair. Go figure.

Some fresh bookmarks from

Re-reading this cult classic, 15 years or thereabouts after the first time.

A colony is founded on Mars, but dies out. Years later, a new group of astronauts visiting Mars find Valentine Michael Smith, the child of a couple of the colonists, raised by Martians. Michael is brought to Earth. He learns to be human, and then – when he discovers that humans don’t have his powers of telepathy, telekinesis etc – teaches humans how to be Martian.

This is limited to his closest friends at first, until a juridical disagreement between Michael and the government is resolved, making him free and filthy rich. Then he starts to travel and meet people, in order to understand more of human society, and when he “groks” it well enough, he founds a religious cult to help spread his views. In the meantime we also hear a lot about the views of Jubal Harshaw, old rich opinionated eccentric who happens to be in the midst of the group of people around Mike.

Named views (Mike’s and Jubal’s) mostly come down to free love. Human moral rules are arbitrary, hence hindrances to human development. Anything that leads to love and “growing closer” is good. They value other human rules and conventions equally lowly: minor episodes aim to illustrate the pointlessness of money, the acceptability of occasional murder etc. (However, drugs are no good, and homosexuality is pitiable. Free love is good only when done the traditional way.) Through descriptions of Mike’s new-founded cult we also get some criticism of organized religion.

This is a book that clearly wants to be important, and to provoke. It was written with the explicit intention of changing social mores. And (having not been there myself at the time) I have to fall back to Wikipedia’s judgement of its effects:

The late-1960s counterculture, popularized by the hippie movement, was influenced by its themes of individual liberty, self-responsibility, sexual freedom, and the influence of organized religion on human culture and government, and adopted the book as something of a manifesto.

One can wonder, of course, how much of this was down to the author “reading” the currents of social change, and how much he was actually directing them?

Because of this aim to change the world, it’s a very preachy book, sometimes tiresomely so. And as so often is the case for books that want to spread important ideas (Little Brother comes to mind), the plot, characters, language etc gets less attention, so the end result is far from great literature.

The characters are bland and stereotypical (except for the absurdly colourful one of Jubal Harshaw), more charicatures than humans. There isn’t much plot, and the book is long and rambling. And rather annoyingly, the women are always lovingly jokingly girlishly submitting to their men, and the men are always patting their bottoms.

There are moments of greatness, and the core idea of “Thou art God”, the oneness of all life, the conflation of life / love / understanding / god, is at times expressed very well. Parts of the book are also quite funny and uplifting.

I can imagine that the ideas were probably pretty wild for 1961, but both society and SF have grown a bit since 1961. The book now feels juvenile, not so far from the 1950s pulps after all, despite its ambitions.

Amazon UK, Amazon US

Well, looks like this is it for this pregnancy. Cramps and bleeding today. Good thing I resisted the temptation to tell everyone.