Tag Archives: Sweden

Swedish Christmas

This year I’d like to introduce you to two interesting Swedish traditions.

The first is that of the Gävle goat.  In the Swedish city of Gävle every year they build a big straw goat.

For some reason a tradition for burning down the goat has arisen with the result that a variety of anti-vandalism schemes have been tried ranging from guards to coating the straw with flame resistance material.

This year, however, the vandals were on track to outdo themselves.

Two mysterious men attempted to bribe a guard to leave his post watching over the giant goat in Gävle in eastern Sweden in an attempt to kidnap the iconic Christmas symbol using a helicopter.

Last year, the goat was torched in the early hours of December 23rd, while in 2008, it survived through Christmas, only to go up in flames on December 27th.

The full timeline of the goats and their fates can be found here (very entertaining read).

You can keep tabs on the goat yourself on its webcam here.

Next, we have  ‘Julmust‘, or Christmas soda.

Basically it’s a Coca-cola clone that is served at Christmas time (it’s relabeled around Easter and called påskmust). It elicits a very strong reaction among Mrs. TwShiloh and is considered an essential element of the holidays.  Fortunately, she’s part of a little clique of Swedes that can return to the motherland on a semi-regular bases and get the essentials if they can’t be purchased here.

From Wikipedia:

In Sweden, julmust outsells Coca-Cola during the Christmas season; in fact, the consumption of Coca-Cola drops by as much as 50% over Christmas…

Enjoy!

What does Wikileaks have to say about the Swedes?

(Note:  No Wikileaks cables were actually viewed in the writing of this post.  Rather all of the information came from media sources describing the data which, if I understand things correctly, makes them -the stories-fair game to comment on.)

Cablegate (sigh…I guess we’re stuck with that name) has some interesting things to say about the Swedes and Finns.

Not particularly surprising yet nice to be explicitly discussed was the American assessment that Swedish neutrality continues to exist in name only.

Wood furthermore wrote that information from Sweden’s military and civil security services is an important source of information for the USA for Russian military conditions and for knowledge of Iran’s nuclear programme.

I did think it unusual that the Social Democrats were so forthcoming about internal political issues to the American ambassador.

The Social Democrats‘ foreign policy spokesperson Urban Ahlin criticised his party’s lack of ideas in meetings with officials from the US embassy, according to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

The other item worthy of note is the Swedish commitment to the Afghan mission.  Allegedly (because the minister in question is denying the conversation took place) asked for help in getting an Afghan minister to visit the Riksdag in the hopes that the resulting discussion would bolster support for the Swedish mission in Afghanistan.

The CIA did yet another bang-up job.  While flying their prisoners to various black sites around the world, the Swedish government “made it clear that it wanted to know if the United States was transporting prisoners and indicated that future flights would be given closer scrutiny” after receiving reports that planes listed as ‘private’ were in fact chartered by the U.S. and suspected of carrying prisoners.  To verify such things were, in fact occurring:

Confirmation that the planes were transporting prisoners came in April 2006 after a daring “surveillance operation” was ordered by Swedish security service Säpo and carried out without the knowledge of the Americans.

On Säpo’s orders, Swedish military intelligence agents dressed up as airport service personnel and boarded the plane. The agents reported back that the plane was carrying prisoners.

Hey guys.  If you’re moving prisoners around the world and want to keep it secret it’s probably not a good idea to let the catering guy have free run of the aircraft to resupply your stash of peanuts.

The Stockholm bombing

Well, thank goodness incompetent terrorists aren’t the exclusive domain of the United States.  Over the weekend, some dude decided that 500 Swedish troops in Afghanistan was an outrage that must be stopped at any cost.  So, he put some canisters of ‘liquefied petroleum gas’ in his car, strapped some more (or some other material that goes boom) on himself and headed for downtown Stockholm.

Both devices went off but the bomber was the only victim.  Apparently, he botched the job so that it initially might not have even been clear that it was intentional.   According to one witness:

“It looked like the man was carrying something that exploded on his stomach. He didn’t have any injuries to his face or his body and the stores nearby weren’t damaged. All the windows were whole,” the witness told DN.

Yeesh…

Unusual Swedish story of the day…

It drives Mrs. TwShiloh nuts when I point out stories like this but I just can’t resist.  I mean really, who could resist reading a story like this:

An internet video featuring naked Swedish high school students frolicking with farm animals and riding tractors on school property is nothing out of the ordinary for Sweden, according to the school’s principal.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is pure journalistic gold!

Now, in what alternate universe could you imagine this sort of story breaking in the U.S. and the principal making a statement like this:

“This kind of thing happens all the time,” the school’s principal, Peter Gustavsson told The Local.

“There’s nothing wrong with being naked. That’s still allowed.”

The film is here and is totally non-sexual (I don’t think I could make it past the 2 minute mark before I got bored) so I include it only for historical purposes.  While the principal bemoaned the fact that this film was in the public domain and could haunt the actors in the future (all were 18-19 when the film was made) to be honest I find that hard to believe.  I think attempts to generate some sort of scandal based on this wouldn’t elicit more than a hefty yawn.

So…while I wouldn’t be thrilled with a child of mine cavorting around in the buff on film I could probably think of a dozen alternatives that would be less thrilling and more dangerous.

Kvick Tänkare

Mrs. TwShiloh is feeling a little bitter over the collective American swooning over the upcoming nuptials in the British royal family.   How come, she’d like to know, there’s wall to wall coverage of this but a virtual media blackout over the recent wedding by Sweden’s royal couple?

A tell-all article by a guy(?) who writes papers for students.  Apparently all levels and disciplines of our academic institution are infected with people who either don’t have the chops or the motivation to do their work and so pay ghost writers to do it for them.  Yeah, I’m not surprised that cheating occurs but jeez.  This article is long but you really should read it.

What’s better than Comrade Bear?  Pictures of Comrade Bear with cute animals

YT links to some hilarious videos of some dude called ‘Chinese Guy’ (oh, I guess he’s a comedian named Peter Chao).  Might not be for everyone but it might just be the cultural whipsaw you need to get those synapses firing.

FP is collecting political humor for an upcoming issue.  This teaser made me laugh out loud.

A Pole walking along the road happens to spy a lamp. He picks it up, and as it is covered in rust he gives it quick rub. Out comes a genie.

“I’m the genie of the lamp and I can grant you three wishes,” the genie says.

“OK,” says the Pole. “I want the Chinese Army to invade Poland.” Odd choice, the genie thinks, but nevertheless he grants the wish, and the Chinese Army comes all the way from China, invades, and goes back home.

“Right, second wish. Maybe something more positive,” says the genie.

“No,” replies the Pole, “I want the Chinese Army to invade again.” So the Chinese come all the way from China, lay waste to more of Poland, and then go home.

“Listen,” says the genie. “You have one last wish. I can make Poland the most beautiful and prosperous place on earth.”

“If you don’t mind, I want the Chinese army to invade one more time.” So the Chinese army comes again, destroys what’s left of Poland, and then goes home for the last time.

“I don’t understand,” says the genie. “Why did you want the Chinese army to invade Poland three times?”

“Well,” replies the Pole, “they had to go through Russia six times.”

Kvick Tänkare

There’s some hypothesizing that one reason dolphins have such big brains is because they have to keep track of a large number of really complex relationships.  More complex than any animal other than humans.

Male bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) form tight bonds with friends and allies that are as intricate and devious as those of humans. Researchers already know, for example, that males team up as duos or trios—known as first-level alliances—so that they can mate with a female without her swimming away… But rival males will often try to steal the female, causing the duo or trio to join forces with other duos and trios in what’s known as a second-level alliance.

Now Connor and colleagues have found an even higher level of alliance. In the biggest fights, the team found, the second-level alliance may receive help from another group of male dolphins, forming what the researchers call a “third-level” alliance. Even among chimpanzees, scientists have not witnessed such sophisticated partnerships, where one group of animals receives help from another group in a fight.

Brian over at Gamecrafter’s Guild has taken the legend of the tomte and adapted it for 4th edition D&D rules.  First rule to remember…don’t piss off the tomte.

Great story from Sweden:

Swedish porn mogul Berth Milton has come up with an unusual business proposition for his next project: five-star hotels where guests can stay for free in exchange for having their indiscretions filmed and broadcast over the internet.

But hey, Mr. Milton wants you to know that if he builds one of these in your neighborhood, you needn’t worry about your property values falling.

“It has to be a hotel for non-swingers as well — not super-explicit where everybody’s running around naked. That takes the style and class out of it,” he said.

Oh…as long as they keep the style and class.

The balance of this post is NSFW

Even better story from West Virginia.  Police reports tend to be pretty dry and boring affairs.  Still, when there’s a good story it can shine through even the most boring official lingo.  And anytime a police report includes a quote like this you know there’s a doozy of a story attached:

“Somebody is going to eat my pussy or I’m going to cut your fucking throat.”

Oh, and it gets even better.  This story has everything…a marriage on the rocks, a motor lodge, two half naked buddies, and a crazy lady with a knife.  (h/t Balko)

Kvick Tänkare

The Department of War Studies at Kings College has started a podcast…I haven’t given it a listen yet but it’s in my Zune queue now.

Nice beaver!! Brandenburg is experiencing a beaver boom and the it’s causing problems according to Spiegel.  I know it’s juvenile but I can’t pass up on some of these (unintentionally?) great lines (I’m channeling my inner Beavis and Butthead)  :

“A beaver doesn’t have any business being at a dike,”

“hunting beavers just doesn’t work at all.”

“You can live with beavers; you just have to want to.”

In order to prevent beavers from penetrating the lower parts of the dikes…

Looks like Sweden is going to send officials to Greece to help out with their influx of asylum seekers.

Evolutionary venom resistance among King Cobras, squirrels and others…

The TSA continues to be confused over its mission at airports.  It acts as if its primary mission is to elicit compliance from travelers rather than security (maybe they see the two as synonymous)?

…the effectiveness of pat-downs does not matter very much, because the obvious goal of the TSA is to make the pat-down embarrassing enough for the average passenger that the vast majority of people will choose high-tech humiliation [back scatter scanners] over the low-tech ball check [newly invasive, yet still ineffective pat downs].

Would you rather look cool or ride comfortably?

 

The Tyrant of the North

I’ve long thought that once Crown Princess Victoria becomes Sweden’s monarch she’ll institute a bloodthirsty reign of expansion and warfare (building upon her father‘s well documented efforts to build an indestructible zombie army).

She will crush your pathetic army with her horde of undead viking warriors.

Apparently their also engaging in some mind-control operations as well:

Nearly half of all Danes, Finns, Norwegians, Swedes and Icelanders would like their countries to unite in a federal state, according to a poll published as members of the Nordic Council met Tuesday.

Yeah…’federal state’.  That’s code for ‘toadies to the Swedish crown’.

By joining forces, the five countries could create a state with a population of 25 million and the world’s 10th largest economy, lending far more political sway to [the] region…

Hey, I’ve played Risk.  I know what having a strong base in Northern Europe does for you.  NATO better get their act together…

The Nordics in Afghanistan

The major Swedish political parties have reached consensus on their military commitment to ISAF and Afghanistan within the past few days.

According to Reinfeldt, Sweden aims to pull its combat troops out of Afghanistan between 2012 and 2014 and will maintain a largely civilian support presence after that.

“Our ambition is that Sweden’s presence in Afghanistan should shift from a combative role to a more supportive role,” he told reporters in Stockholm as he presented a nine-point plan for the pull-out.

“This change to a completely supportive role should be in place by 2014 at the latest.

This (I think) is a shift from the position of the center-right alliance (which is in power) and more closely resembles the position of the Social Democrats and Greens who recently suffered their second consecutive defeat in parliamentary elections..  The Red-Green coalition wanted everyone out by 2013 with a withdrawal starting in 2011, but that was really to keep the Left (former Communist) party happy who wanted an immediate withdrawal.

Karl Bildt’s (the Foreign Minister) position as of May this year was:

“Exit dates are first wrong and second dangerous and I don’t want to send the message to the Afghan people that we are going to abandon them at one point in time,” Bildt, who had just returned from a three-day trip to Afghanistan, told reporters in Stockholm.

“That is not going to be finished in the next few years,” Bildt said.

I’m no expert in Swedish politics but this might have been a deal the center-right was hoping to make.  Their policy up till now has been pretty close to the U.S. policy, if not a bit more ‘hawkish’, refusing to discuss withdrawal dates and having an apparently open ended commitment.  The policy was increasingly unpopular among the Swedish people but (like here) there seemed little way out without appearing to be a ‘flip-flopper’ and after stating how important the mission way numerous times, it’s hard to walk that back.

But now, the center-right alliance can appear to be willing to compromise, gets out of (or at least gains co-conspirators in) the existing Afghanistan mission and manages to do that while still refusing to work with the far right wing Sweden Democrats who achieved just enough seats in the parliament to prevent everyone from gaining a majority.

Finland, who is operating jointly with the Swedes, appears to have to a similar policy.  In part that’s because the two countries are so enmeshed in their mission that the Finns (195 soldiers in country) would have difficulty continuing without the Swedes (500 soldiers in country).

So, it looks like whatever ISAF is planning to do regarding COIN in Afghanistan it better do it quick as everyone is going to be heading for the doors in about 3 years.

And while it may not be Nordic, Saidman raises an interesting point about Canada’s decision to end their combat mission in Afghanistan in July of next year.

…leaving in July 2011 is just an abysmal choice.  That is going to be the high point of fighting season.  It would have been nice to leave in winter, either this one or the next one, so that the folks filling in the hole that the Canadian departure will create would have time to settle in and prepare.  Instead, the Canadians will be focused on leaving in the spring of 2011, just as things get busy again…

 

This doesn’t sound good…

The Swedish sniper story gets weirder and weirder.  Now, ‘former’ (ahem) gang members have decided that they’ll hunt down the sniper.

According to the local Sydsvenskan newspaper, the former leader of one of the town’s largest criminal networks is among a group of “old friends who have stuck together” and who are now actively looking for the gunman which has left Malmö’s immigrant community gripped with fear.

“He had better hope that we don’t find him first,” a man who referred to himself as “Leo” told the newspaper during an interview in his apartment in the city’s Rosengård neighbourhood.

The man believes he and his friends have better knowledge of the area where the shootings have taken place and will likely find the gunman before the police.

“It will be much easier for us to catch him than for the police,” he told the newspaper.

I find this interesting since I can’t recall (although I haven’t really sought out this sort of information) any similar instances where criminal groups (hey! that’s former criminals to you!) have publicly announced that they were going to