Some fresh bookmarks from

Seen on town today, #1: the first sellers of semlor. For years they’ve started as soon as Christmas was past (just after Epiphany). This is the first time I’ve seen them advertised before the new year. What is the world coming to? I guess being first gets you at least a handful of extra customers…

Seen on town today, #2: “Mayonnaise without additives! New!” I feel simultaneously cheered and disgusted. On the one hand I am glad that real food is making a comeback. On the other hand, isn’t it pathetic that something as basic as this is worth advertising?

This morning

The snow came last weekend. It stayed, which was a pleasant surprise. Then we had more on Thursday, and a little bit more again yesterday, so by now we have lots and lots of it. It’s the best kind of snow, too: cold and powdery, which gathers into beautiful drifts and gets pounded into a solid flooring, rather than turning into slush.

(Another reason to be happy about living in a suburb: in the city it’s all become brown sand-blended mush already, with all the disadvantages and none of the advantages of snow.)

Out here it is splendid, gorgeous, glorious. The moment I step outside the door in the morning, the snow lifts my spirits. The world around me is light and beautiful again. There hasn’t been much wind since the middle of last week, so the bushes and trees are all heavy with snow – lovely shapes and great contrasts. The snow lights up the clouds, even the dark and overcast sky above looks soft and shimmering. With the Christmas lights everywhere, it really does look like a wonderland.

Some fresh bookmarks from

Flora Fyrdraaca is the almost-14-year-old daughter of an old and once-illustrious family of soldiers. But now there is little left of their illustrious past: the father is mad, the mother always off working, and the magical butler has been banished so the house is in disrepair. And Flora herself is named Flora Segunda because she is the replacement for the first Flora, blonde and beautiful, lost in the war.

On top of that, Flora is stuck with most of the housework since the butler is gone. She also has her Catorcena, the celebration of her adulthood, to prepare for – speech to write, dress to finish, invitations to sign.

When Flora stumbles upon the butler, she sees a chance to get rid of some of the housework, and for some excitement, too. She happily promises to restore him to his powers. Of course this is not as easy as it sounds, and meddling in magic can have dangerous consequences.

Both the girl and the book are spirited, colourful, outrageous, and keep confounding expectations. All characters are over-the-top but not so much as to become caricatures. At several points I thought I saw a cliched resolution coming up, and I am glad to say I was wrong every time. A fun read all the way through.

Amazon US, Amazon UK.

This has been a difficult month. Ingrid has become immensely sensitive to time pressure (as in, strongly resistant to it) and at the same time discovered passive aggression. Any time I ask her to hurry up, I do so with trepidation, steeling myself for the resistance, and then the explosion. But sometimes I feel I have to. There are limits to how long I am willing to wait for her.

She wants me to wait for her to do stuff. She goes to the loo, and then to wash her hands. I make to leave the bathroom. She says “You will wait while I wash my hands”. I say OK, and wait.

Then she stops and does nothing.

I wait a while. I get bored and turn towards the door again. “No you must wait!” “OK, I can wait, but in that case you have to wash your hands. I have to go back and continue making dinner.”

She does nothing.

I wait. I leave the bathroom and go to the kitchen. She explodes in screaming and crying.

In the supermarket she wants to be the one to pick a loaf of bread. Sure, come here, I’ll lift you up. I lift her up, she stops.

On our way home from the supermarket, she runs too close to the road. I grab her hand to stop her. She is angry. I let go of her hand. She then refuses to move. Various (kind, then less kind, then kind of annoyed) ways of asking her to either walk or climb into the pushchair have no effect. She then sits down on the pavement in front of the pushchair so I can’t walk either.

I once tried waiting it out, but gave up after close to 10 minutes. (Literally. I timed it to over 8 minutes, and then waited some more.) So now I give her a couple of chances, then tell her that I will not ask her again. And then I walk away – or bundle her under my arm and carry her if she’s blocking my way. Both lead to screaming, and a negative spiral with angry scenes about the next thing that needs to be done, and the next.

As always, I’m sure it’s just a phase. And it will pass.

Gingerbread cookies

In the meantime, on a more positive note, there’s been a lot of talk about Christmas. We read Christmas-themed books in the library. Ingrid points out every new Christmas decoration she sees in the street – “för det är jul snart!”. We made gingerbread cookies and eat a few after dinner every day, and she opens a piece of her Advent calendar/puzzle every day. She talks often about how it will soon be Christmas, and then there will be presents. She got a Christmas card (addressed to herself!) today and was very happy about that.

She has become suddenly obsessed by drinking straws. She will not drink without one, and sometimes takes two or three. First she used up all the green ones (for green is her favourite colour, she’s told me), then the blue ones. Yesterday she got a fancy reusable straw as a gift from her friend Elin, and I’m sure she will be using it constantly from now on.

It’s interesting how some things become essential, cannot-live-without-it important. Her silver spoon that my father gave her at birth (an Estonian tradition) is one. For several months now she’s hardly used any other. We have a little bowl with a fish design that she’s loved, but we don’t usually serve food to her in it, because it has a very narrow base and is wont to topple. A few weeks ago I bought a different “fish bowl”, and she’s adopted it as her own now, and asks for it at every mealtime.

Glueing stuff

There was a month or two when Ingrid was slightly less insistent on visiting friends every afternoon. Now she’s in a social phase again, and would happily go play with someone almost every day. Which is hard, because she only has two best friends she wants to play with, and both families have more stuff scheduled in their life than we do. Since she doesn’t exactly lack company during the day, I haven’t gone out of my way to try to find other playmates for her.

Last month (and I now realize I forgot to write about it then) Ingrid had a period when words would get stuck, and she’d have difficulty getting them out. Not stuttering, but repeating an entire word or even two, before she got the rest of the sentence out. Sometimes she’d rephrase in order to get unstuck again: “jag vill… jag vill… jag vill… vi ska läsa bok nu”. Apparently a common phenomenon at her age, supposed to pass on its own, and indeed it did already.

Now she’s come up with new language games. The favourite by far is to give all words the same initial sound, preferably K or some combination of K and another sound. “Palun veel piima” becomes “kalun keel kiima”, “nummer ett, nummer två, nummer tre” becomes “klummer klett, klummer klå, klummer kle”.

Favourite movies: Wall-E, Kalles Klätterträd and Kung Fu Panda, among others.

Favourite books: various Petsson & Findus books, as well as various Mamma Mu books.

Favourite food: liver pâté.

Some fresh bookmarks from

  • The myth of idiot-proofing – Obstacles which are incidental to the task are safe to ameliorate. Obstacles which are an intrinsic part of the task are risky or even counter-productive to remove. Removing these obstacles doesn't make the task any less difficult, but it removes the experience of difficulty.
  • Rock Solid HTML Emails – First, you should keep it simple. Second, you need to take your coding skills back a good decade.
  • SvD: I kläm mellan mätbart och upplevt symtom – Människor med diagnoser som ångestsyndrom, depression, långvariga ryggproblem och olika värkdiagnoser upplever sig som sjukare, mer arbetsoförmögna, än vad medicinens och sjukförsäkringssystemets verktyg förmår att mäta. Frågan om hur man skall hantera dem har diskuterats sedan införandet av den allmänna sjukförsäkringen 1955.
  • SvD: Skeppsmask hotar vrak – Skeppsvrak som klarat sig utan angrepp sedan 1300-talet riskerar nu att ätas upp av skeppsmask, som klarar sig bättre i Östersjöns bracka vatten nu när det blir varmare.
  • Browser market share – Nice visualization of browser market share over time.

Totally swamped by Christmas and other obligations. During the past 10 days I’ve been off work for 1 day (Ingrid sick), and had to leave early or come in late on 3 days due to various appointments. Hence I’ve been catching up with work from home in the evenings after Ingrid’s gone to bed. Then on Thursday we had our Christmas party at work, on Friday evening a tense production release, on Saturday an all-day hen party (from 9am to late evening) and today the Estonian House’s children’s Christmas party. Plus I’ve been sleeping badly due to all this rushing around. By this afternoon I was so knackered that Ingrid and I took a 90-minute nap together.

And there’s no end in sight for all this rushing around, until after Christmas. I’m leaving work early tomorrow again because of the St. Lucia celebration at Ingrid’s nursery, and leaving work early on Friday to celebrate Christmas with Eric’s family, which means more lost work hours to be made up some time. And not a single Christmas gift bought yet. It’s almost enough to make me wish that Christmas didn’t exist.

Therefore I am spending my time on keeping afloat and not on blogging.

Some fresh bookmarks from

  • The Economist: America’s food-waste problem is getting worse – A study found that the average American wastes 1,400 kilocalories a day. That amounts to 150 trillion kilocalories a year for the country as a whole—about 40% of its food supply, up from 28% in 1974.
  • The Economist: Media: A world of hits – In “The Long Tail”, Chris Anderson argued that demand for media was moving inexorably from the head of the distribution curve to the tail. Instead, both the head and the long tail are growing, at the expense of the middle.
  • One Million Years of Isolation – Interview about the technical nature of nuclear waste storage and what it means, on the level of geological engineering, to quarantine a hazardous material for more than one million years.
  • The Daily WTF: Special Delivery – Try to imagine for a moment how you would unload a mountain of coal worth million-and-a-half dollars. Craigslist does have its limits, after all.
  • How Our Addiction to Corporations Killed Our Communities – When we represent corporations and institutions, people respond to us differently. We become much more powerful than we would be without the associations. Most of us do not make the distinction between the power of our positions and our own power, and start behaving as though they are one and the same. This eventually becomes addictive, and the idea of doing anything for our local communities starts to look so insignificant and boring