Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Televised Taste of Humboldt

It still surprises me how many Swedish television channels show subtitled American programs.

When they’re on we might watch CSI, Scrubs and my personal favorite, Two and a Half Men, but tonight TV6 was showing an old episode of Speeders on which a Eureka Police officer stops a Ferndale woman for flooring it on Harris St.

According to this Times-Standard story, truTV’s cameras followed officer Greg Hill for a few days in 2008. In addition to some outrageous traffic stops, the cameras also caught a heroin bust that didn’t make the episode, according to this article.

Boy, would that have shocked viewers in Sweden.

Monday, April 25, 2011


The calendar still says April but the weather over the holiday weekend was so perfect that we had to pull a summer classic out of storage a little early.

Kubb, which originated here in Sweden, is one of those games of skill many players will tell you they somehow drastically improve at with each drink they take. Similar correlations have been known to occur with darts and Guitar Hero, but I digress. If there’s an explanation it’s probably because kubb goes hand-in-hand with grilling which, of course, goes hand-in-hand with beer.

You basically take turns throwing six wooden batons at your opponent’s five wooden knights, also called “kubbs,” to knock them over from a distance of about eight to 10 meters. After you’ve taken care of the knights, you knock down one wooden king in the middle of the pitch to win the game.

From that description it might not sound as thrilling as your first roller coaster ride but trust me, kubb is no ordinary “lawn game.” And you don’t need to be drinking to experience full enjoyment. In fact, when it gets as competitive as it probably does at the World Championship on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea (where the game is said to have originated), it’s undoubtedly best to be sober.

Here’s a comprehensive YouTube tutorial with some visuals and cheesy music:

Kubb shares elements with several different games. Some people draw the obvious comparisons to bowling and horseshoes and others call kubb “Viking’s chess.”

I think it’s also similar to pool in a major respect, in that if you knock over the king before you’ve downed all your opponent’s knights you automatically lose, same as pocketing the eight-ball before sinking all the stripes or solids in a game of billiards.

As many similarities as kubb has to other games, there’s really nothing like it. I suggest you navigate directly to eBay and purchase a set.

Friday, April 22, 2011

You Can't Sleep In On Your Birthday

I was introduced to one of my least favorite Swedish traditions long before I moved here.

On my 23rd birthday last spring, when Amanda and I lived in downtown Sacramento, she woke me up ridiculously early with presents and a breakfast tray in bed. It couldn’t have been 6 a.m. Whatever the time, it was much earlier than I wanted to be awake, especially on my birthday. I’m a night owl. Always have been.

I soon learned that all Swedish birthday celebrations start at the crack of dawn, and that’s just the way it is. I was going to have to accept it.

I went to bed a little earlier than usual Wednesday night in anticipation of another early wakeup, but it did little to lessen my crankiness. I opened my eyes halfway and devoured my French toast.

On Thursday evening we took advantage of the nice weather to grill and I got this spirited rendition of “Ja, må du leva,” our “Happy Birthday” song.

“Ja, må han leva, Ja, må han leva,
Ja, må han leva uti hundrade år.
Ja, visst ska han leva, Ja, visst ska han leva,
Ja, visst ska han leva uti hundrade år.”

“Yes, may he live, Yes, may he live,
Yes, may he live for a hundred years.
Oh sure, he will live, Oh sure, he will live,
Oh sure, he will live for a hundred years.”

After two long trips back to California in the last couple months it was nice to spend a low-key birthday back home in Falköping.