I have a passion for making the world a better, more open and loving place. I love all things Social (media, entrepreneurship, responsibility…) & Open (aid, data, development, government, knowledge, source, web, hearts, minds…).
Openhearted is the name of the consultancy company I founded in 2010, but the company is currently inactive while I'm working for the World Bank. The postings on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and positions of the World Bank.
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Big <3 from Pernillan
Today is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. In English it is generally called Shrove Tuesday but I think both French and Swedish has more explanatory names for what this day is all about: “Mardi gras” and “Fettisdagen” both mean “Fat Tuesday”. Basically, the day to get fat before fasting during Lent. In Sweden, that means eating “semlor”.
A “semla” (plural, “semlor”) is a traditional cardamom-spiced wheat bun which has its top cut off and insides scooped out, and is then filled with a mix of the scooped-out bread crumbs, milk and almond paste, topped with whipped cream. The cut-off top serves as a lid and is dusted with powdered sugar. Some people eat it in a bowl of hot milk, a way of eating it that is called “hetvägg”.
The semla was originally eaten only on Shrove Tuesday, as the last festive food before Lent. However, with the arrival of the Protestant Reformation, the Swedes stopped observing a strict fasting for Lent. The semla in its bowl of warm milk became a traditional dessert every Tuesday between Shrove Tuesday and Easter. Today, semlor are available in shops and bakeries every day from shortly after Christmas until Easter. Each Swede consumes on average five bakery-produced semlor each year, in addition to all those that are homemade.
This year, I haven’t had any semla at all… Even though I was lucky enough to find another of my Swedish favorites yesterday, “filmjölk”, I haven’t been able to find any semlor. Although, I haven’t been looking that much I guess…
Eating semlor can also be a bit dangerous .. King Adolf Frederick of Sweden died of digestion problems on February 12, 1771 after consuming a meal consisting of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring and champagne, which was topped off by fourteen helpings of hetvägg, the king’s favorite dessert. (As usual, I’ve relied on Wikipedia as a reference for the explanatory details above…)
What I’m hoping for right now is for the constant flow of pictures of semlor in the Instagram feeds of my Swedish friends to die out from now on… It has been a bit of a torture to see them so often, being in a place where you can’t seem to get hold of them, if you don’t bake them yourself, which I didn’t really have the energy to do… So, I gave my followers an ultimatum: If you post one more picture of a semla after tomorrow I will unfollow / unfriend you! I guess we’ll see tomorrow if that worked…
Lesson of the day: (Totally unrelated) I lost my debit card today so now I know where to find the lost-and-found office at WB headquarters without getting lost…
I also know the number to call for blocking your card.
Blessing of the day: It turned out that my card had been found by the cleaning staff!
Unfortunately, I got it back just 10-15 minutes after I had blocked it so I will still need a new one…
When people have asked me what I’d miss the most about Sweden when moving to the US, my answer has always been “filmjölk”. (Apart from family and friends that is…) I remember from my year in Edinburgh that it was possible to get hold of almost everything when it came to typical Swedish food, either in regular supermarkets, or at IKEA. :) Everything but filmjölk… Even here on the other side of the Atlantic, supermarkets sell knäckebröd, Annas pepparkakor and Swedish Fish (even though Swedish Fish are actually not sold in Sweden, but I do like them…). But I really thought I wouldn’t be able to have my regular bowl of filmjölk here, as I’ve probably had most mornings since I stopped having mother’s milk for breakfast, except for that year in Scotland. Until today when I inspected the dairy section to see if I could find any other lactose free products than the ones I had already found. There it was, like in a homesick dream:
A bottle of Swedish style filmjölk!!
I never thought seeing a product in a supermarket would make me so happy… I’ve also already received 24 likes on this picture on Instagram, of which 14 came within 1 minute, which is a lot for me so I guess I wasn’t the only one glad to see it. ;) For my non-Swedish readers I guess I have to explain though what filmjölk is, or “fil” for short. Google translates it to “processed sour milk” but I can understand that Siggi’s who produced this filmjölk chose this a bit more appetizing description of it:
“Filmjölk is the name for traditional drinkable yogurt in Sweden; it is slow fermented using lactococcus and Leuconostoc culture strains which give it a soft buttery flavor.”
I’m not sure I would use any of those descriptions though, but I admit it has a taste and feel to it that is a bit hard to describe. My tastebuds sure recognize the taste though…
When I came home from the supermarket I couldn’t resist tasting it immediately and prepared myself a nice bowl of filmjölk with some cereal and sliced banana. A meal that has acted as a replacement for “real dinner” many times before in my life… ;) And I believe it actually tasted like filmjölk should taste! My only problem is that it wasn’t lactose free and as I’m lactose intolerant, I had to take some lactase enzym tablets before eating it, so will probably not have it every day now. But it feels good to know that if I do feel homesick here, I can always go and buy some filmjölk to ease the symptoms of homesickness! :)
Lesson of the day: It is estimated that 75% of adults worldwide show some decrease in lactase activity during adulthood.
Lactose intolerant individuals have insufficient levels of lactase and I’ve heard facts like these before about it being very common worldwide. Wikipedia states that most mammals normally become lactose intolerant after weaning, but some human populations have developed lactase persistence, in which lactase production continues into adulthood. The frequency of decreased lactase activity ranges from 5% in northern Europe through 71% for Sicily to more than 90% in some African and Asian countries. So in Sweden - I’m the odd one out being lactose intolerant, but everywhere else, I’m just one those 75% who doesn’t have mutated genes. ;)
I just saw that Wikipedia has an article about filmjölk as well.. Of course.. Why didn’t I think of that when I started writing and describing it..? It says that “there is currently no accepted English term for fil or filmjölk. Fil and/or filmjölk has been translated to English as sour milk, soured milk, acidulated milk, fermented milk, and curdled milk, all of which are nearly synonymous and describe filmjölk but do not differentiate filmjölk from other types of soured/fermented milk.”
Blessing of the day: Filmjölk! It makes me feel calm like a bowl of fil…
That’s a direct translation of the Swedish idiom “Lugn som en filbunke”, that would probably be better translated as “Cool as a cucumber” in English…
Yesterday I came across this wonderful little video that I really recommend everyone to watch! The filmmaker Bianca Giaever asks six year old Asa Baker-Rouse what her movie should be about and then he tells her a plot of a lovely little story. You really must watch the whole thing! It includes a bear, a mouse, a swimmingpool and some very good advice on how pizza and cookies can help you in your life!
Psst… Please don’t tell anyone, but Asa reveals in the end of the movie that the bear and the mouse once had a sleepover without telling their moms! :O
Lesson of the day: Watch the movie and Asa will tell you :)
Blessing of the day: This movie! It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling that stuck in my heart the whole weekend! <3
Another thing that made happy this weekend was listening to an episode of This American Life about Kidlogic with stories of kids using perfectly logical arguments, but arriving at perfectly wrong conclusions…
One thing I had to get used to quite quickly when I moved here to the United States, is that what you see on a price tag is never what you end up paying in the end. From Sweden, I’m used to always having the sales tax included in what is shown on the menu or on a price tag. Very convenient, since the tax is different on different products. It is for example lower for food, public transport and books than on other products.
I’m not gonna go into explaining the difference between different tax systems in the world, but if you’re interested, my friend Wikipedia can of course explain it to you, e.g. by reading about Sales tax vs Value Added Tax. Instead I thought I’d share how I have learned how to think when I calculate what things actually cost. I thought it could be a good thing to share to friends and family who plan to come and visit me. :) For those of you who now think “There must be an app for that”, you can stop reading and go to Appstore or Google Play instead…
First the tax. Sales tax in the US differs from state to state. Here in District of Columbia, sales tax is on 6%, but if you just hop on the Metro and go a few stations South, you will end up in Virginia with a 5% tax. I wish I would have thought of that when I bought my new iPhone and iPad, that I could have gone to Apple Store Pentagon City or Clarendon instead of Georgetown… but well… Not that much difference in the end… But if you do want to plan your shopping trips smarter than me, you can of course find the full list of sales taxes in the United States on Wikipedia.
With my Swedish brain, I still have to convert prices in US dollars to Swedish kronor to figure out if something I see in store is a good deal or not. Right now 1 USD is approximately 6,45 SEK, which is a pretty good exchange rate from a Swedish perspective. In 2009 1 USD was up at 9 SEK and has only been below 6 SEK once during the last 10 years, in 2008 according to this currency chart. So if the price tag says $10, you pay $10.60, which equals 68.37 SEK right now. To make it easy to calculate, I simply multiply the amount on the price tag by 7 to have it in kronor. So, before you come here to visit me from Sweden, practice the 7’s multiplication table. :)
Secondly: Tipping. As I wrote before in this blog, you are expected to tip at more places here in the US compared to Sweden. I found a good list of how much to tip for various services, but here’s a short summary of the ones I thought was most useful to know:
Lesson of the day: When you look at a menu in a restaurant and see that something costs $10, you should add both tax and tip to that, which here in DC adds up to around 20%.
So when you see $10 on a menu, think $12. Or if you are from Sweden, think 84 kr. :)
Blessing of the day: Having more than enough money to buy food and clothes and other things.
In 2005 the World Bank defined extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.25 a day. This meant living on the equivalent of US$1.25 a day, in the US, buying US goods. In 2008, there were 1,289 million people living on less than $1.25 a day (PPP). In 1990, there were 1,909 million people living in extreme poverty though, so it is getting better! We just have to continue working for a world free of poverty!
Lesson of the day: If you stay up until 2 am each day to write blog posts, you will get really tired and won’t be able to write anything interesting on Friday evening…
Blessing of the day: Being able to go to bed at 9.30 pm on a Friday evening if you’re really tired…
“Men and women live in different worlds. At core, men are afraid women will laugh at them,
while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.” – Gavin de Becker
This quote by Gavin de Becker, an author who has written several books about the nature of fear, illustrates one of the many problems that come with how men and women are treated unequal in this world. I read this quote more than a year ago in an open letter from the gamer Geordie Tait titled “To My Someday Daughter” where he apologizes in advance for everything his unborn daughter might have to go through in life, just for being a woman. Geordie writes:
I’m sorry that despite being 50% of the world’s population females own 1% of the world’s property. I’m sorry that only 28% of businesses in the United States are owned by women and I’m sorry that if (god forbid) you have to walk up to a police officer and report that you’ve been sexually assaulted you’re very likely to be treated with skepticism and contempt. I apologize in advance for the way people will treat you when you accomplish things. When you succeed ignore those who say you did so not because you’re worthwhile or talented but because you’re a woman.
Yesterday, I wrote a first blog post on the theme “Men who hate women”, describing a burning topic in Sweden right now – the hatred that men express towards women through death threats and sexual harassment, portrayed in the TV program “Uppdrag granskning”. The focus of the program was mainly the hatred you see online, but hatred is also equally present offline, even though it is not as visible to the public.
When you listen to the group of women in the program who reads excerpts from the horrible threats they have received, it is not difficult to understand that women receiving these kinds of threats get really afraid. I agree with the blogger Natashja Blomberg who says that this is what worries her – that men use threats of violence to try to silence women. The news anchor Anna Hedenmo says (with my rough transcription and translation):
It is actually a threat to democracy. Just having the thought ‘If I bring this up, then there will be these kinds of reactions’ might make you back off sometimes. Or just thinking that thought is pretty damn serious. It feels tough that women cannot exercise their profession as journalists and opinion leaders and express their opinions without being threatened with their lives, and in some severe cases, live with alarms, protected identity and so on, to have your life somehow cropped. (..) It feels like a step back in female liberation. It is totally unbelievable that it is like this today. It is very sad.
Remember that all this happens is Sweden. The country with the highest ranking in terms of gender equality in the Gender Inequality Index (GII) 2011. I can’t even begin to imagine how it must be for women in other countries…
I end this blog post with words from an opinion piece by Natashja Blomberg (my translation):
Freedom of speech and expression is not about being able to say exactly what you want everywhere and in all circumstances. It’s about having the right to create a forum to express your opinions. However, we should not defend people’s imagined right to offend their neighbors.
Freedom of expression can never be the same as using hatred and threats to silence your opponents.
Lesson of the day: I repeat: Freedom of expression can never be the same as using hatred and threats to silence your opponents.
Blessing of the day: The countermovement of spreading love instead of hatred online, with campaigns such as an appeal to e-mail your favorite journalist and tell them why you like her or him.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13
The original Swedish title of the crime novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by the late Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson is “Män som hatar kvinnor”, which literally means “Men who hate women”. I am assuming that if the translator had kept this title of the first part in the Millennium trilogy, it might not have sold as many copies as it did. You can read on Wikipedia that Stieg Larsson was the second best-selling author in the world for 2008, behind Khaled Hosseini. By December 2011, his Millennium series had sold 65 million copies and its last part, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, became the most sold book in the United States in 2010 according to Publishers Weekly.
But this blog post is not about that book, and I suspect that most of my Swedish readers of the blog have already figured out what the title of this post refers to instead. Today, traditional and social media in Sweden has overflowed with both hatred and love, all due to the theme of today’s “Uppdrag granskning” (literally: Mission: Investigation), a Swedish television program focusing on investigative journalism, produced by and aired on the public broadcaster SVT (Sveriges Television / Sweden’s Television). The program investigated the sexual harassments and death threats that many women receive online.
In the trailer to the program, 12 very brave women who are known to the Swedish public in their roles as e.g. journalists, authors or bloggers, reads some of the terrifying and absurd threats of sexual assaults, sadistic violence and murder that they have received. The trailer has with the Swedish title “Män som näthatar kvinnor”, which would translate to something like “Men who net-hate women” or more explanatory “Men who express their hatred against women online”. I would say it is rare to see a YouTube video going so viral so quickly as this trailer did yesterday in Sweden. Unfortunately, the hatred against these women continued in the comments to the video, so the producers had to turn off the comments last night.
I suspect that also the show that was broadcasted this evening on SVT also got a lot of viewers and that the comments and debate will continue tomorrow. The show is available on SVT Play (in Swedish..) so I just watched it myself and right now I’m quite speechless, sad and upset. I will have have to wait to give you my thoughts on it until tomorrow…
Until then – Spread Love, Not Hate!
Lesson of the day: According to the news anchor Anna Hedenmo, there is not a single woman hosting a show in SVT that hasn’t received any threats.
Blessing of the day: That these and other women are brave enough to continue their work and speak their opinion.
Tuesdays at the World Bank cafeterias are Vegetarian Tuesdays! It means that apart form the regular vegetarian options a chef serves an extra delicious vegetarian meal to inspire more people to eat veggie food, at least once a week. Brilliant initiative I think, especially since I decided to try to become a vegetarian when I moved here to DC, mainly to reduce my impact on climate change. I am probably not gonna be a very strict vegetarian though, e.g. salami pizza tastes too good for that, but at least I want to cut down on my meat intake substantially. I think I’m doing it quite well so far! I think I’m down to just 1-2 meals with some kind of meat in it per week now, so almost the opposite of the “eat vegetarian once a week” concept. I think I shall start calling my current diet “Eat Meat Once a Week”!
Lesson of the day: Halloumi cheese seem to very rare and expensive here in DC… :(
Very sad since halloumi is my favorite veggie product! I think having something with halloumi on the menu should be mandatory for all restaurants, but so far, I haven’t seen it in any restaurant or cafe! It’s too bad for them since whenever I see halloumi on a menu, I always order it! They only place I’ve seen it so far was at Whole Foods for something like $11 for a small piece. With prices like that, Whole Foods live up to the nickname I heard that they have: “Whole Paycheck”… So if anyone knows where I can get reasonably priced halloumi – please let me know! As Wallace from Wallace & Gromit (almost) would say – I’m just crackers about (halloumi) cheese!
Blessing of the day: The big variety of vegetarian food I’ve found over here, apart from the lack of halloumi…
100 years ago today, on February 4, 1913, “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement” Rosa Parks was born. On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled.
Lesson of the day: “Each person must live their life as a model for others.”
Perhaps not a lesson I learned today, but these famous words by Rosa Parks (here quoted in a picture from Metro Transportation Library and Archive) are definitely worth remembering on a day like this.
Blessing of the day: Rosa Parks and other people throughout history who stood up (or sat down…) for civil rights and freedom!
One week ago I blogged about how living in Washington DC is like seeing history in motion, even though it’s not history now. Today was a historic day and the history has actually already been written. Less then one hour after the Super Bowl game between Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers had ended, I checked the Wikipedia entry on Super Bowl XLVII and could already then read that Baltimore beat San Francisco 34–31 and became the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 2012 season.
Apart from interesting(?) facts about the game(?), such as that the US broadcaster CBS charged an average of $4 million for a 30-second commercial during the game, the highest rate in any Super Bowl, you could also read that during the third quarter, half of the stadium had a power failure which stopped the game for 34 minutes. I can add a fact to that story that I took a power nap during that power outage… If I would add that fact to the Wikipedia entry about Super Bowl XLVII I’m quite sure that it would be deleted for not being notable enough and not have significant coverage from reliable sources… Basically, other people don’t really care about my power naps…
On the other hand, who (outside of the US) really cares about the Super Bowl? OK, I know that people in many parts of the world watched it, but then there also were people who were here in the US but didn’t watch it, or fell asleep like me… It was my first attempt to watch a full American football game, but since I don’t understand the rules, I don’t find it very interesting and I didn’t really care about the outcome of the game…
“History is written by the victors” is a famous quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill, but of unknown origin as far as Yahoo! Answers can tell me… I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a Ravens fan in Baltimore, just an hour north from here, who wrote those words about the results of the Super Bowl XLVII on Wikipedia after the victory. There is actually a Swedish Wikipedia article about Super Bowl XLVII as well, but when I checked it one hour after the game ended, the results hadn’t been written there yet. Nobody had cared enough to write down that piece of history in Swedish Wikipedia. (At least not yet, since the game ended in the middle of the night in Sweden I guess the Super Bowl fans prioritized to go to sleep instead, as I probably should now too…)
Today, I also visited an exhibition called “1001 Inventions: Discover the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization” at the National Geographic Museum here in Washington. It is a traveling exhibition (also coming to Karlstad in Sweden) that highlights the enormous contribution to science and technology made by men and women of different faiths and cultures who lived in Muslim Civilization, during the historical period that in English is called “The Dark Ages”, used for the first part of the Middle Ages. Our friend Wikipedia tells us that “The term emphasizes the cultural and economic deterioration that supposedly occurred in Europe following the decline of the Roman Empire”. A period in time that was perceived dark from a “Western” perspective, but was in fact a Golden Age for the Muslim Civilization. A change of perspective that you probably can notice if you compare the history books of what we call Western and Muslim societies today.
This phenomenon of how history is reflected and recorded differently depending who writes it is also very interesting from a gender perspective, but I will get back to that subject in another blog post. Right now it is time for me to go to sleep so I can start my fifth week of work here in DC tomorrow. A historic event, from my perspective, and others who might care…
Lesson of the day: That a that a pious and wealthy young woman called Fatima al-Fihri founded what became the world’s first university which still give degrees to the present day, University of al-Karaouine.
Blessing of the day: That I didn’t miss the 1001 inventions exhibition - it was the last day in DC today!