Saturday, May 21, 2011

Interna

So we've made it to Stockholm, but presently life is chaos. The plan was that I drive the household to Sweden by car and Stefan and the babies take a flight two days later so I can pick them up at the Arlanda airport. During packing however, we noticed the car was leaking oil and thought it was a good idea to have this checked in advance of a 1,500 km trip. Turned out the oil belongs to the servo steering and some broken hose would have to be replaced. I'm driving a Saab and the missing part had to be shipped from Sweden. By the time I wanted to leave, the hose was nowhere in sight. The mechanic advised us not to take longer trips. A cheerful Saab dealer however said not to worry, Autobahn is mostly straight driving anyway and who cares about the steering. I got a paper with the number of the broken part and a bottle of oil and he wished me good luck.

To his credit, I made it to Stockholm without problems. Problems started upon arrival. You see, I am living in a one bedroom apartment that's just about large enough for one person. The issue isn't so much lacking space as a lot of bulky, not to mention ugly, furniture of my landlord's wife that I can neither trow away nor sell nor move to the basement because the basement is full with her stuff too. The apartment has a second bedroom that the landlord told me last year he'd move out so we can use it as a nursery. Apparently he changed his mind about this some months ago and didn't bother telling me. The result is that now the four of us live in a clogged one bedroom apartment. One can't turn around without knocking something over and just hope that it doesn't hit a baby.

The internet wasn't working because the account hadn't been used for several months. The contract runs on my landlord's name and the company wouldn't give me the password. I tried to clean the apartment upon which my landlord's 20+ years old vacuum cleaner died with a small poof and a little black cloud and blowing a fuse. I sorted through a huge pile of mail that while consisting mostly of advertisement contains some serious looking pÄminnelse, and I know just enough Swedish to understand this means I should have done something long ago. I bought a new vacuum cleaner on the way to the airport.

The babies' first flight went well though Stefan reports Lufthansa staff wasn't very helpful. Since the baby seats don't fit on the baggage carts, he actually had to carry both babies and two bags to the gate. The apartment complex I live is gated and when we came back the gate was open. I dropped Stefan, the babies and the vacuum cleaner in front of the door and then found the gate locked on the way out. I noticed then that the key my landlord gave me didn't fit. I jumped upon the next person that came along, but she didn't speak English. After a considerable amount of time, I finally managed to find someone to let me out just to notice that I couldn't park the car in the garage because they were doing some repair. Stefan later found out that I did have a key to the gate, just that my landlord mixed up the labels and the key to the gate was labelled with 'basement.'

Inspecting the fuse box, Stefan reported he'd last seen these things in the late 70s. We spent a full hour searching for spare fuses and found them on the fuse box. Stefan drove to IKEA to get beds for the babies. I noticed that while they do sell in Sweden the formula we're using, they have different labels. Last time I tried to give Lara a different formula she actually refused to drink it, so I meant to call customer service. Just that, without internet, I couldn't find out the number. I had to call my mother to look it up. The winner of the day is the Hipp customer service that actually has human beings taking calls, and a friendly woman answered my question before I had even finished it. (The German A1 milk is the Swedish E2.) The German mobile phone company sends a warning about my roaming fees exceeding EUR 100 this month. A stressed daddy doesn't properly fit the diaper and Lara pees all over her cloths.

Between humoring the babies, changing diapers and noticing we have no diaper pail, unpacking my boxes and trying to fix a leaking tap, I called the social insurance to ask them for the umpteenth time why I still haven't received my parental benefits. A very confused sounding women told me that might be because I'm not registered with them anymore. Didn't I move out of country? (I think the next generation of cellphones should come with a little plastic pad to sink teeth into. Some of our baby toys have them too.) Having convinced her that I actually still live and work in Sweden, she said, well, but my husband doesn't. So they'll have to wait what the Germans do about his benefits. Just that the Germans tell us they're waiting for the Swedes to decide about my benefits. I must have left some impression on the women because she put something in my file that prompted somebody to call me back within 3 hours and assure me they're working on the case. But I estimate chances I'll have any money incoming to my bank account in the near future are slim.

Tried to take the babies for a walk. The twin stroller doesn't fit through the apartment door.

Late May in Sweden the days are very long. Being used to sleeping in the dark, the babies and me were up at 4am, hoping this day won't be quite as messy. Despite the mess, I'm looking forward to going back to work on Monday. Oh, and I wrote a paper. On the foundations of quantum mechanics, no really. I'll upload it sometime next week.

Basically, this is just to explain why I haven't done any substantial blogging for a while. But at least the internet connection is working again. Have to go change diapers now...

37 comments:

Ulla said...

Oh,my. That sounds very familiar,in a way. Fortunately those days are gone. I became sweaty on the thought.

I wish you better luck in the future :) Sweden welcomed you badly.

From your recent neighbour-country.

Steven Colyer said...

Sounds like Lara is going to be a handful. Look on the bright side, Bee, in the current living conditions, you won't forget where you put a baby. Sorry about the landlord from Hell, and crazy inter government bureaucracy.

A very big congrats on the paper. Look forward to reading it.

But I'm still shaking my head that steering is an option on the Autobahn.

tom said...

had the same problem regarding light and sleeping when i moved to denmark.

the curtain-store offered a neoprene curtain which had three layers. neoprene-light filter-neoprene. needless to say it blocked the light completely, slept in a pitch-dark room. it was awesome ;)

Don Foster said...

Despite the gravity of your situation your narrative reads like an American sitcom. High marks for finding humor in extreme aggravation.
For some reason I had the impression that, in Europe, all life’s rough spots had long since worn smooth.
Do you drink tea?

Arun said...

Ya, a bit disappointed about Yurope; but glad you all are well with your sense of humor intact.

Christine said...

With babies, complexity and complication increase without bound. Even in a clean, stable and uncomplicated lifestyle, one baby alone will already require high levels of energy and yet drive one to near chaos. Imagine 2 babies in a complicated environment, traveling, not breastfeeding (I suppose that was no longer possible, but it is always the best option for the baby and mother, when the mother is still producing milk of course -- don't know your case) , etc. The scenario could have clearly been anticipated. I wish you good luck. Don't know how you could still have the energy to blog or care about the internet at all. Life is more and more real life now. Babies will move around more and more, degrees of freedom will dramatically increase, so be prepared. Maybe its time to review your lifestyle, you have a whole family now -- 2 babies and a hunsband... But you know all that of course. Hope you manage to go along this difficult time and somehow find your way to find peaceful moments with your family. Life is too short and you will miss these times, although troubling times. In any case, the babies need a stress-free environment to grow healthy and loved, and they can only get that when the parents get that as well.

Best,

Christine

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Unlike others I’m not going to say simply I’ve been there and done that, as although I’m the father of two grown ladies I have to admit your level of complexity supersedes almost in every sense my own experience.

However I have come to understand the secret to most challenges relates to our willingness to take them on and the confidence that we can. That is for me what has stood as being the most important thing was in reminding myself it’s all about the joy we seek; more so than what we must endure in finding it.

So then both my simple wish and my humble advice I would extend to you and Stefan is to not be so distracted by the complexity as to have go unrecognized the simple joy resultant of dealing with it affords. From a holistically mathematic/scientific/philosophic perspective I see life as a complex set where joy being its strange attractor rather then the hardship.

“Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.”
-Mark Twain


“Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant nor the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.”
-Mohandas Gandhi


“We have a picture for how complexity arises, because if the universe is computationally capable, maybe we shouldn't be so surprised that things are so entirely out of control.”
-Seth Lloyd



Best,

Phil

Uncle Al said...

Backrubs and a snuggle. Reserve some time each day for backrubs and a snuggle with Stefan. By localizing position you spread momentum. Your futures' trajectories will be broader.

Furniture can be stacked to trade diminished surface area for increased volume. (Why don't we see the Official Truth of solar panels being pushed in countries with unceasing daylight?)

http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/kanga.htm
Next car - Honda Civic.

Shawn Halayka said...

It gets infinitely easier at age 2 or so. Hold on to that.

Robert L. Oldershaw said...

Bousso and Susskind have also recently posted a paper to arxiv.org on the foundations of Quantum Mechanics.

Humorous reviews at Not Even Wrong are worth the diversion.

One wag has dubbed it the "BS Theory".

What the hell is going on with Nielsen, Hawking, Susskind, Tegmark, Greene, Carroll, ... ?

Is there some race on for the the Nobel Prize in Pseudo-Physics?

Sigh, RLO

Christine said...

the secret to most challenges relates to our willingness to take them on and the confidence that we can.

Eh, the confidence of youth... =)

In any case, there's a thin line dividing a challenge from craziness, and each if us place this line at different regions.

But life is short and if we like and want to be doing things the way we do, then be it. We construct our own histories.

Best,

Christine

Christine said...

It gets infinitely easier at age 2 or so. Hold on to that.

Love increases with time but work only change in type.

Eric said...

Holy Shit, that's been a rough week or so for your family! On the positive side, things can only get better I suppose. Let's hope it happens soon. And make sure Stefan gets some free time away from the babies also. I'm sure he'll need it even if he doesn't complain directly.

Best, Eric

Luke said...

Sounds awful Bee. I saw you walking outside of PI one day and I wanted to drop by and say hi but I could never catch you in your office. Ah well. Good luck with the tiny apartment for four people!

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Christine,

” there's a thin line dividing a challenge from craziness, and each if us place this line at different regions.”

I would agree, yet only from the perspective that one person’s challenge is another’s burden. This has then the challenge if never met as worth the attempt, while the burden never having value whether one manages it or not; that’s what has it to be crazy.

“Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get”
-Ingrid Berman.

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Eric,

Yes, good point, thanks. Should send Stefan out on occasion. We don't want him to get grey hair too soon, do we? Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Robert,

I haven't read the paper in question, so can't say anything about it. However, I find it a good development that an increasing amount of attention is paid to the foundations of quantum mechanics. That inevitably brings one or the other work along that clashes with ones personal convictions, but at least it gets people thinking. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Ulla,

Thanks for the kind words. Love your profile pic, so cute :) Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Steven,

To be fair to the Saab guy, it turned out to be correct that the oil seems to be mostly dripping when steering. Since there's typically steering to do when parking and immediately before it, one vastly overestimates the amount of oil loss during driving if one assumes it's constantly dripping at the same rate. I've had an eye on the oil level on the trip and didn't even have to refill it. In any case, it's totally ridiculous that they weren't able to replace some friggin plastic hose just because Saab has some delivery issues. Which reminds me I have to find some repair place around here. Ah, yes, and if I find the time there'll be some words on my paper. Stefan told me it's online already Online First™ ;-), but guess you won't be able to download it. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Luke,

Sorry about that, it would have been nice to hear how you've been doing last year. I didn't spend much time in my office. I was sick most of the first week and the second week I was running around from one office to the next to the seminar room etc. Well, maybe next time... Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Uncle,

Well, I've been driving Honda Civics for 5 years and the Saab has been infinitely less troublesome, not to mention more fun. It drives me nuts if I hit the accelerator and the only result is the engine howling. The Saab makes 240 max and doesn't notice uphill driving. That's how I like a car :-) Unfortunately, Sweden has speed limits on the highways. The furniture here is totally un-stackable, but we've exported some on the balcony which will work as long as the weather stays good. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

“Stefan told me it's online already Online First™ ;-), but guess you won't be able to download it.”

Very tempting and I might have paid the $34.00 if I thought you would get a cut :-)

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Funny, here the price is listed as 34 EUR which, as of today's exchange rate, comes to approximately $48. In any case, Stefan jokingly said the price is "deliberately dissuasive" ;-) and there's probably truth to that. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,


So the price is supposed to dissuade purchase, no wonder these journals are struggling. Now that I think of it I wonder if they have a Mexican site where it's posted as 34 pesos:-)

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

With rapid measurement seeming to being implied here in the preview according to the quantum Zeno effect there would come a point where the state simply wouldn’t change. This then would seem to have it not determinable about what is determined. That is like they say a watched pot never boils;-) Anyway I’ll reserve further comment until I actually have the paper to look over.

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Well, you're supposed to get a subscription, preferably some package deal, that's what journals make the real money with. In any case, I just submitted the paper to the arxiv, it will appear Tuesday. Best,

B.

Bee said...

Hi Don,

I only drink tea when I'm sick, and the babies refuse to swallow it, why? Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

“In any case, I just submitted the paper to the arxiv, it will appear Tuesday”

I will certainly be looking forward to giving it a read. I didn’t realize a paper could be submitted to arxix after it had been accepted for publishing. If that doesn’t pose to be a problem then everything should be more readily available; as only having authors then restricting access. That is after all with preprint sites such arxix the journals true function today is to act as a filter. This takes us back to that bubble concern to wonder where the bounds of bubbles begin and end and when do they enhance the quality of the information we are limited in being able to assimilate.

Best,

Phil

Christine said...

Hi Phil,

I also see it as a matter of where you put your priorities. Also, things in life are in constant change, sometimes into deep changes, and it is often the case that one does not realize it yet, and insists in carrying on as nothing has changed. But then you eventually find yourself in a complete misfit, to which you were unprepared for. You may call such a situation a challenge, but others would certainly see it differently. In any case, that doesn't matter, it's part of life, of getting experience, etc.

Best,

Christine

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Christine,

Yes I agree in the sense that as time goes by priorities often change. That has prioritizing as the ordering qualitative component, while the number one can handle the quantitative one. It’s kind of a dichotomy really, as it would seem hard to believe one can have too much quality in life, and yet it’s been often warned that one can have too much of a good thing; which I guess just shows it more about equilibrium.

This has something come to mind relating to a question that’s long plagued me. That being in the normal sense equilibrium is thought as to have all to be equal and balanced and yet how nature seems to have this satisfied is through becoming maximally disordered. This suggests that perhaps what we call disorder or random is the ultimate of orders and to not recognize this is just that we have no way to have it determined and so confined to just letting it be.

"Perhaps there is more sense in our nonsense and more nonsense in our 'sense' than we would care to believe."
— David Bohm

Best,

Phil

Uncle Al said...

@Bee re Saab vs. Honda. My apologies. The US doe not suffer individual freedoms. Los Angeles pedestrians are fined $millions/year for jaywalking - $25 fine plus plus penalty assessments including:

* $10.00 per $10/base fine per PC 1464 goes 70% to State Trial Court Trust Fund; 30% to County General Fund.
* $2.00 per $10/base fine per GC 76100 goes to the County Courthouse construction fund.
* $2.50 per $10/base fine per GC 76101 goes to the County Jail Construction Fund.
* $0.50 per $10/base fine per GC 76102 goes to County Automated Fingerprint Fund.
* $2.00 per $10/base fine per GC 76104 goes to Maddy Emergency Medical Fund (State/County split).
* $3.00 per $10/base fine per GC 70372.(a) goes to State Court Facilities Construction Fund.
* $1.00 per $10/base fine per GC 76104.6 goes to the DNA Identification Fund (County/State split).
* $3.00 per $10/base fine per GC 76104.7 goes to the DNA Identification Fund (County/State split). (First $1 per $10 effective on violations on/after 07/12/06; additional $2 per $10 effective on violations on/after 06/10/10.)
* $2.00 per $10/base fine per GC 70372(a) goes to the State Court Facilities Construction Fund - Immediate and Critical Needs Account.
* Night Court Assessment Fee pursuant to VC 42006
* DMV record fee pursuant to Vehicle Code 40508.6
* Twenty percent criminal surcharge pursuant to Penal Code 1465.7
* Court Security Fee pursuant to Penal Code 1465.8
* Criminal Conviction Assessment pursuant to GC 70373 goes to the State Court Facilities Construction Fund - Immediate and Critical Needs Account (assessed per conviction).
* Citation Processing Fee per GC 29500(c).

That $25 jaywalking citation will cost $191 if you are polite in court. (Cops wear body armor - aim accordingly.) Enjoy that gas pedal!

Don Foster said...

Hi Bee,

“I only drink tea when I'm sick, and the babies refuse to swallow it, why?”

Really just a jest, but the ritual of a hot “cuppa” is said to engender inner calm. I could have suggested aromatherapy.
But in any case, you seem to be proceeding with the fortitude of an army engineer.
Best all round.

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Well, the arxiv used to be a pre-print server, but today it's also a post-print and never-print server. Pretty much all journals I know are fine with uploading the paper to the arxiv (and I wouldn't use a journal that objects). Some publishers of e-books state in their copyright they don't want content to be uploaded anywhere online for obvious reasons. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

”and I wouldn't use a journal that objects”

I’m thankful for that and I wished all would do the same. I wonder how this applies to much older papers, where their authors could have them uploaded. Further I’m curious with authors that are no longer with us, what time limit in respect to copyrights do the journals have. It’s just a general thought that as the information clouds grows how much of it will include what some would consider knowledge as being quality information and what can be done to assure that it’s there and readily available.

” The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.

O perpetual revolution of configured stars,

O perpetual recurrence of determined seasons,

O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying

The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.”


-T. S. Eliot, Opening Stanza from Choruses from "The Rock" (1934)

Best,

Phil

Don Foster said...

Huzzay!
A gentle rain of words to soften some dry seed?

Bee said...

Hi Christine,

Well, the babies' environment is stable in that they sleep in IKEA beds everywhere ;-) You are right of course, they were quite fussy the first days but have settled meanwhile. I believe it helps we brought their music along. In any case, we clearly have to find some solution to this. I just can't see how it will work in this place with all that furniture of my landlord once they start moving around. Best,

B.