Days: it’s a blog thing

Since August, 2001. Surely it can’t last…

Friday, February 07, 2003 ↓


Spending so much time in Sweden, I’ve become interested in the writings of other non-Swedes who live or work there. Hence my frequent visits and references to Francis Strand’s How to learn Swedish in 1000 difficult lessons. Then of course, a chap I had been reading for a long time already, got married to a Swedish girl and has gone off to live in Lidköping for a while. And now, I’ve stumbled on Giornale Nuovo, the blog of the mysterious misteraitch.

Misteraitch doesn’t tell us much about himself, but he was born in Wales, and from a couple of throwaway lines in recent entries (“in the James Thin bookshop in Edinburgh last November”, “the Edinburgh years”), seems to have lived in my home town for a time. He tells us that he and his wife live “in a town on the Baltic coast of southern Sweden”, but doesn’t seem to mention it by name. However… he talks about a new pub having opened there a month or so ago, the Fox and Anchor. Now I just happen to know (don’t ask how, it involves alcohol) that a pub of that name and description opened in December in Karlskrona — a town on the Baltic coast of southern Sweden. He mentions O’Learys sometimes, and there is an O’Learys in Karlskrona too. Karlskrona has seen the biggest expansion in the IT business in Sweden, boasting the TelecomCity network and the Blekinge Institute of Technology — which fits in neatly with misteraitch’s stated profession of IT consultant for a telecoms company. I think we know where you live, misteraitch. Just got to figure out the name, now…

Describing the Fox and Anchor, misteraitch says:

It is the third English/Irish-style pub to have opened in the town where we live, which now seems to boast more such establishments than it does Swedish bars. A good deal of money had evidently been spent in creating a quite convincing simulacrum of English pub decor: with dark wood, brass lamps, stained glass skylights, and old prints and plates on the walls. If an English pub-goer were kidnapped, blindfolded and brought there, it would be a few minutes, perhaps, depending on how much he or she had had to drink, before an uncanny realisation that something was not quite right might begin to dawn. One such false note that registered with me only in retrospect was that the lighting was slightly too bright.

The English/Irish-style pub phenomenon is common enough throughout Sweden, no less so in Gothenburg, which has its fair share (my own favourite watering hole being The Dubliner). I’m not sure how much this stems from the fact that Gothenburg is often known as Little London, because of long ties with the UK and the eternal presence in the city of so many Brits. A lot of the Brits are Scots. I hear Scottish accents around me all the time; on planes coming and going, on the streets, in the restaurants and bars. And yes, there is even a (supposedly) Scottish themed bar, called — with a deplorable lack of imagination — The Flying Scotsman. I felt obliged to pay a visit some months ago, just to check out the owner’s vision of what a Scottish pub is like. (I’m not sure that there really is an archetype for the Scottish pub — they’re not all decorated in tartan, you know.) Anyway, on entering I found that the owner’s vision was maybe a little out of date. By a couple of centuries. The cramped interior was reminiscent of Rabbie Burns cottage, or of some of the drinking howffs conjured by the Bard himself in poems like Tam O’Shanter. The place was crowded, but I suspect I was the only Scotsman present, flying or otherwise. Behind the bar, there was a notable absence of any kind of beer that could be thought of as traditionally or even typically Scottish. Just as well for the Guinness…

(A word to the wise: if you find yourself in Sweden, and you’re a beer drinker — beer as in ale, rather than lager — you should probably stay away from the indigenous draught beers like the ubiquitous Pripps Blå or Falcon, which are fizzy, characterless lagers. If you’re hell bent on trying something Swedish, ask if they have bottles of Mariestads. But then that’s just my taste, of course.)

Getting back to Giornale Nuovo, misteraitch has more to offer, such as his Selected Post-It Notes, in which he experiments with how much can be fitted on a single Post-It note. For example:

I was surprised by a colleague one day at the checkout of the ‘drug-store’ at Tiburtina station. In my basket were mineral water, toilet paper, and a bottle of wine: I’m a man of simple needs, I said.


I bought James Joyce’s ‘Finnegans Wake’ on the same day that I first consorted with a prostitute. With hindsight, I came to regard each of these purchases as having been terrible wastes of money.

Which reminds me of Gail Armstrong’s Finnegan’s Wake story. The slightly disturbing thing is that the prankquean makes a certain amount of sense to me. Must be the Celtic blood. Or the Guinness.

Posted at 6:33 PM

Thursday, February 06, 2003 ↓


Forgive this diversion, but top marks to Ben for linking to this gallery of Monica Belluci pics, featuring some great monochrome photography.

It’s just as well I’m sitting down, for I can feel my kneecaps dissolving. An indication of my favourites, before my brain turns completely to mush:

Hope Ben doesn’t get into trouble with the missus.

Posted at 6:42 PM


Before he really finished his recent “aqua” redesign JZ is at it again, once more redesigning in public. I reckon I know why he didn’t keep the “aqua” scheme for long: it didn’t have any orange. Zeldman loves orange. Zeldman can’t live without orange. Hell, he got me hooked on orange. (See that masthead? And those link colours?)

And the new design has… orange!  ;o)

Posted at 1:14 AM


If you’ve never been over to John Robinson’s link-rich Sore Eyes blog, you really should take a look. I don’t know where he gets the time to find all this stuff. Amongst the recent items he has pointed to:

  • Bowling balls from outer space. Yes, The Observer has the story on what a bunch of loonies — sorry, the Salt Lake Astronomical Society — want to do on the Bonneville salt flats.
  • Which OS are you? I’m not a great fan of silly web quizzes, but sometimes you just have to have a go. So according to BBspot, I am…

    Somewhat ironic, since I think the XP interface is garish (reminding me of what a now dead theatrical producer of my acquaintance would describe as “vibrant, whoory colours” — whoory, for the non-Celts amongst you, being “whorey”) and the OS probably isn’t a whole lot more stable than previous MS desktop abortions. Out of necessity rather than choice, I’ll be buying yet another PC soon, but it will run Win2000. Anyway, if you are pleased or horrified by which OS BBspot thinks you are, leave a comment with John.

John also has a few words to say about the excellent

The real question is why the excellent service offered by is even necessary: isn’t this something that should have been set up by Parliament itself years ago? It’s like installing a internal phone network which offers a direct line to every MP but forgetting to employ a switchboard operator.

(That said, I’m not sure that anyone would trust faxes sent via to get through. Sure, they’d say that your fax was received, but they would, wouldn’t they...)

Interesting point. has published statistics on how quickly MPs respond to faxes. It’s revealing to note the names of some of those who never seem to get around to replying (one Iain Duncan Smith, for example) and those who actually refuse to receive faxes via (for shame, Spectator Editor Boris Johnson!).

I used recently on the matter of the government’s proposal to introduce identity cards, which term they have euphemised into entitlement cards. (Erm… I’m British, I pay my taxes and national insurance, so I’m already entitled — aren’t I?) I was pleasantly surprised when just a few days later, I received a real, printed-on-Houses-of-Commons-paper letter from my MP, Mark Lazarowicz. And not just some old form letter nonsense; a proper, personalised letter replying to the points I made in my fax. Now, I may not have been entirely happy or reassured by his responses, but I was pleased to receive them, and so promptly. Almost restores your faith in the system…

Posted at 1:09 AM

Sunday, February 02, 2003 ↓


Although I’ve travelled a fair bit, had extended stays in some places, and I am more familiar with the insides of a number of hotels in the UK, Sweden and Malaysia than anyone has a right to be, in my entire life I have actually lived in only three houses — all of them right here in Edinburgh.

In contrast, Vicky the Vodkabird has lived in eighteen houses in umpteen towns in her twenty-nine years, and she’s just begun a project to revisit them all before she turns thirty. It’s a nice idea; see the first instalment of Back to My Roots.

Oh, and via Vicky, have a look at this. The map is a masterpiece.

Posted at 4:18 PM


In New biz on the blog, Jim McClellan reports:

If recent rumours are to be believed, AOL is getting ready to add blogging to the homepage services it offers users in the next month or so. It’s a sign of how far these regularly updated pages of web links with personal comment have come in the past five years.

To all the people who deride AOL homepages for being of the “this is me and this is my cat/monkey/armadillo” genus from the Web Pages That Suck school of design, this will come as frightening news. Just think, legions of AOL-powered bloggers writing stuff that nobody cares about on pages where sharp sticks leap out of the computer monitor to poke visitors in the eyes.

Well, it might not be so bad. Maybe AOL will offer them some decent-looking templates to get them started, so they won’t be so offensive. At least, not to the eyes, anyway. And I ought to offer some defence for AOL and its members: the very first personal pages I ever put up on the Web were on AOL, and though they weren’t brilliant, they were better looking than my first pages ever, which were for the previous business I ran with a colleague. (Oh, the shame!) Anyway, people can get better. My technical skills certainly improved from those days; whether my design ability has improved is, I suppose, arguable.

Next up, in Intellectual property? You're taking the Mickey… Victor Keegan reflects on the US Supreme Court decision in Eldred vs Ashcroft, and by postulating an extreme case, shows how stupid the whole copyright/intellectual property law business is:

One of Britain’s historic mistakes was not to register intellectual property rights for the English language. If it had we could all give up work and live off the economic rent from royalty payments for the rest of our lives. And in the current mood of the US courts, our claim would surely have been upheld — especially if we had turned ourselves into a corporation for the purpose.

There’s a lovely idea. Every British national (as a shareholder in UK plc) earning royalties every time English is used elsewhere! But of course, the government would cock up the distribution mechanism (in the case of married couples, it would doubtless be paid directly into the wife’s bank account, since blokes could only be trusted to take the money straight down the pub and piss it up against a wall…), and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find a way of taking it all back in tax.

Posted at 4:16 PM

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