Betsy Devine: Funny ha-ha and/or funny peculiar

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Entries Tagged as 'Sweden'

Vikings with chests full of big medals and golden chains

December 13th, 2007 · Comments Off on Vikings with chests full of big medals and golden chains

In Second Life we both look even more glamorous

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

They call it “white tie” but many also wear their honors, ribbons or brooches or long chains with giant gold medals.

The most festooned among male guests look like ancestral Vikings with trophies of plunder.

Meanwhile, back at Stockholm’s huge palace, I was just getting up to the border between France and Norway when first Al Gore (in my blog) and last night’s Nordita Nobel dinner party (in real life) broke off my narrative.

Nobel events come with extra one-ups of high protocol, strict and careful ordering of where everyone sits or stands and with whom one parades.

Once you get to the palace, the protocol deepens and thickens, as if layers of old marble had been wrapped up in more layers of tapestry.

Just to mention the most intimidating example: the end of your evening is signaled by loud, loud crashes from ceremonial walking sticks banged on the floor by elegant men in fine uniforms. It’s the signal for honored but non-royal guests to flee quickly back to the non-royal side of the room so their Majesties can bow solitary farewell.

There are few things more comforting, in such an atmosphere of does-the-whole-world-except-me-know-these-rules, than being escorted to dinner by the hugely and handsomely ribboned-and-medaled Norwegian Ambassador Odd L. Fosseidbråten, someone who really does probably know all the rules.

And sitting between two ambassadors feels even safer, most especially between the contrasting but both very charming ambassadors of Norway and France. (This handsome Viking is neither of those two ambassadors.)

Both Odd Fosseidbråten and French counterpart His Excellency Monsieur Denis Delbourg are near the end of their terms as ambassador. (“Past my sell-by date” was the smiling description from one of them.) It was fascinating to hear each one’s warm perspective on Sweden intertwined with historical ties to his own country. But diplomatic careers don’t keep you too long in the one lovely place. The fresh ambitions when one arrives somewhere new are a precious resource to both host and source country. Over time, it becomes hard not to settle down on your laurels. Meanwhile, young diplomats need their own chance to shine.

So now I do think I know what is the diplomat’s “job.” It is to gather up knowledge, will, and empathy so that you can act strongly for your own country while recognizing and valuing what will be important to somebody’s different country. Of course nobody I met said anything like this (and if they had would have framed it in less-flowered language.)

I am just trying to interpret the metadata.

Now it’s time to get ready for tonight’s Green Frog ball.

Tags: Nobel · Sweden · Wide wonderful world

The very enjoyable border of France with Norway

December 12th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Map of northern Europe that puts France next to Norway

On December 10, toward the end of the Nobel evening and wine, some remarks of wisdom ensued over our brandy glasses.

The considered advice of Nobel laureate Barry Sharpless was that zinc gluconate is an excellent preventive medicine.

My finest advice was that sleeping in really cold bedrooms is like free marriage therapy eight hours in each twenty-four. (I’m not sure now this would work for Europeans, if they have separate-but-equal duvets. It is based on experience in American big beds.)

Then Barry and I turned hopefully to Carl Bildt, Sweden’s Foreign Minister in both real and Second Life, who was (during his stint as Sweden’s Prime Minister) the first head of state ever to send out an email to another head of state, in that particular case US President Bill Clinton. (I found this out from Mr. Google, not from Carl Bildt.) But instead of advice, he imparted some meta-wisdom that I am still thinking about.

He said, “People imagine that the job of a diplomat is being polite to foreigners. That is not the job.”

So last night, when I found myself seated in Stockholms Slottet on the very enjoyable border of France with Norway (between the distinguished ambassadors to Sweden from those two large glamorous countries), I did interesting research into Carl Bildt’s statement.

But this blogpost is already long enough. More wisdom (I hope) will flow after I do some packing.

Tags: Nobel · Sweden · Wide wonderful world

Another later, late-night Nobel party

December 11th, 2007 · Comments Off on Another later, late-night Nobel party

Another later, late-night Nobel party

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

This marble statue in Stockholm’s royal Palace is holding a flower and looking very much the way I feel right now.

It’s been a lovely and very long birthday today.

Tags: Nobel · Sweden · Wide wonderful world

In between parties, I’m visiting Second Sweden

December 11th, 2007 · 4 Comments

Visiting Second Sweden

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

As you can see, my Second Life avatar, here shown visiting Second Life’s House of Sweden, looks exactly like me except for her massive investment in many styles of cotton-candy and bubblegum pink hair.

This Second Life Swedish embassy has many features real embassies sadly lack–including a sauna. Also, if you visit outside normal business hours, you can sit down at one of the shiny reception computers and pretend to blog!

Tags: Sweden · Wide wonderful world

In Second Life we both look even more glamorous

December 10th, 2007 · 1 Comment

In Second Life we both look even more glamorous

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Here is Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who opened a Swedish embassy in
Second Life and blogs every day.

What a role model! No wonder he has so many shiny gold medals!

I just posted a pile of my Nobel photos on Flickr and now I am going to sleep. Tomorrow’s my birthday.

No, wait–today is my birthday. Really time to sleep now!

Tags: Nobel · Sweden · Wide wonderful world

Betsy with a z

December 10th, 2007 · 3 Comments

This just in — at the Nobel banquet tonight “Betzy Devine Wilczek” will be walking down marble stairs with the charming and funny Barry Sharpless, who won a Nobel for chemistry in 2001.

And I also get to talk to, on my right, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, a former Prime Minister who opened a Swedish Embassy in Second Life. And he has a blog!

This is going to be just so much fun!

Tags: Nobel · Sweden

Neanderthal out-of-the-airport food

December 2nd, 2007 · Comments Off on Neanderthal out-of-the-airport food


Originally uploaded by skrubtudse

Turnips. Parsnips. Carrots. Maybe an onion.

When we get home from yet-another-trip, these are the foods that will still be potentially dinner.

The green beans will be black and the spinach leaves will be liquid but the root vegetables will be waiting and looking delicious.

Just the way root vegetables waited in the cellars of my French and Irish peasant ancestors as the long days of winter slowly wore away.

If those ancestors had only had Knorr’s veggie bouillon cubes, plus ICA’s fullkorn rice and canned fish balls in bouillon, they could have had the same winter soup that we ate last night.

Frank says he doubts the Neanderthals had canned fish balls but he’d have to admit that, after way too many meals in too many restaurants including (scary thought, I know) airport restaurants, the winter soup I made last night was simply perfect.

Tags: food · Sweden · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Stranger in a strange laundry

November 27th, 2007 · 4 Comments

Fläckar är bra för livet…

Originally uploaded by JohanPez

When I was a little girl I longed to travel–and I still love it. I love meeting new people, hearing new languages spoken, admiring new wonderful things from mushroom dumplings to mermaids.

But oh! I’ll be glad to say good-bye to Swedish laundries, which have frayed all my sleeve-cuffs and thinned down my favorite old black pants until they just ripped straight across the now paper-thin seat…blessedly, on a cold day when I also had on black longjohns.

Laundry day here in Sweden is a much bigger event than it would be at home. In our Stockholm building, there are just four washers (and only two dryers), so everyone signs up for once-weekly, to do stuff all at once.

That means, when our day comes, I have, in a literal sense, almost nothing to wear.

Today, for example, my outfit was long underwear, dryclean-only jacket, and an insane pair of white denim trousers I still can’t imagine why I brought here from the US.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to order a whole pile more turtleneck shirts from Lands End to be waiting for me when I get back to the US next month. But if you happen to meet me between now and then and notice the slightly frayed cuffs on a shirt that I’m anyway wearing…blame Swedish washing machines like those you see in this picture.

They look very tough…and believe me, that’s just what they are!

Tags: Sweden · Travel · Wide wonderful world

Visiting Poland while Stockholm was full-up with reindeer

November 26th, 2007 · 2 Comments


Originally uploaded by Jom Manilat

Catching up on local news now that we’re back in Sweden–apparently we missed a protest in downtown Stockholm augmented by reindeer.

Reindeer-herding Sami have been hiking back and forth between winter and summer pastures since long before there were any “Sweden” or “Norway.” But now Norway has ruled that some Sami they’ve declared “Swedish” can no longer drive reindeer into Norway pastures that Norwegians say are “too far west.” (At least that’s what the Swedish news in English says.)

Whichever side is behaving wrongly on this should be very worried about getting coal in their Christmas stockings–I’m sure Santa Claus keeps careful watch of these reindeer!

Tags: funny · Sweden · Wide wonderful world

Sweden turned my car into red candy

November 6th, 2007 · Comments Off on Sweden turned my car into red candy

Outdoors playing with cold wet leaves

Originally uploaded by betsythedevine

Today’s NYT says that even monkeys “rationalize” past decisions–so that, for example, expressing mild preference for blue candy rather than red quickly transforms itself into strong preference for those blue candies.

In my American middle-class life, my car is blue candy. It’s so easy to drive to the grocery store instead of walking, to drive into Boston instead of taking the subway, even to drive the kilometer to Harvard Square if I know Harvard Book Store will tempt me to buy lots of books.

Living in Stockholm, my car got turned into red candy. Parking is expensive. Buses and subways go everywhere, and go there often. Besides, walking and biking and busing are what people do here. So the one-plus kilometer walk back and forth to work, time spent outside in every kind of weather, is no longer an “inconvenience” to avoid, it’s just something I do–and more-or-less enjoy.

Because I can rationalize, just like anyone else!

Tags: Editorial · Science · Sweden · Wide wonderful world