Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wham bam thank you ma'am

Sometimes the smallest things can cheer you up. I've been grumbling over the totally useless dishcloths they have over here; either they're made out of cotton or other cloth (i.e. icky) or they completely lack absorption capacity, meaning that you end up simply shoving around water from one place on your countertop to another. Yet another thing I've tried to find is decent butter knives; not even IKEA had any. Weird and annoying. So when I opened my mailbox and found an envelope containing the following items, I can assure you that I was suddenly happy as a clam at high tide.

Tack mamma!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Harlequin

Being a big fan of masquerades I've always wanted to experience Halloween in the US, a wish that finally came through this weekend. Well, Halloween itself is of course on Wednesday, October 31st, but the big day for costume parties was on Saturday and I had the pleasure of going out with a bunch of friends in the vibrant Capitol Hill district. I actually started out with dinner at a restaurant downtown, and although our costumes initially attracted some attention no one seemed to think it was weird at all. After a while several other groups of dressed-up people arrived, further enhancing the festive atmosphere.

For women the whole point of this holiday seems to be an excuse to dress extremely scantily in public; google "Halloween costume women" and you'll get my point. I did my best to adapt to this cultural tradition by combining various odd pieces into a Harlequin inspired outfit that turned out pretty okay, considering the rather small amount of money I was willing to spend on it.

Before leaving home I tried to hastily document my getup (indoor/outdoor version) but when I looked at the pictures afterwards it turned out that I apparently only have one photo pose. Unfortunately, it is a rather awkward one. My apologies.

Yesterday, the weather suddenly got very mild and I took a nice two-hour walk looking at cute kids going trick-or-treating in stores and cafés around town. A very nice gesture from the shop owners, also enabling children who live in apartment buildings to go hunting for sweets.

So what happens now? My guess is that the display windows will be rapidly cleared from spiderweb and jack-o'-lanterns directly after Wednesday, and that Christmas trees and candy canes will start popping up in their place... And I can hardly wait. 'Tis the season to be jolly!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Head over heels

Being a runner in Seattle is somewhat interesting at this time of year, and I'm expecting it to be even more so as the darkness of winter progressively takes over. "But it's darker yet in Sweden!" you might respond. Sure, that's absolutely true. But in Sweden, a modern invention called "street light" generally illuminates the way. Unfortunately, that kind of cutting-edge technology has not quite conquered the parks or streets over here, making a late afternoon run quite perilous as dusk turns to complete darkness around you.

After endeavoring a couple of wobbly evening runs, I decided that buying a headlamp may be a good investment. It seemed to be the way the locals did it, after all. Said and done, I got myself a lamp and tried my first run with it the other day.

Look at me! All happy and excited.

And the lamp was a hit! It illuminated the way so brilliantly that I boldly dashed into the woods on a small dirt path I had used many times in daylight. Tra la la!

What I learned next is that simply being able to see the road ahead apparently isn't enough; in addition, you have to stay focused (i.e. not shining your light back and forth in the surrounding woods because it looks cool and scary) and lift your feet sufficiently high above the ground to actually evade objects that may be in your way. (I hope you're taking notes.) Let's just say that I ended up doing a beautiful belly flop, sliding smoothly (not really) on hands and hips in the muddy gravel a couple of meters before coming to a full stop at the base of a tree. Luckily, my pride got the worst bump, and the rest of me (including my beloved headlamp) was practically unharmed.

Perhaps I should stick to the main roads in the future, although I must admit that it takes some of that intense Blair Witch Project-feeling out of the equation. Who would have known that running with a headlamp could be such an adventure?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On the shoulders of giants

Saturday, October 20, 2012, Dr. E. Donnall Thomas passed away at the age of 92. He was a founding faculty member of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and a Nobel laureate; a man whose contributions to modern day cancer therapy cannot be overestimated. As the father of bone marrow transplantation he played a crucial role in enhancing survival rates from practically zero to up to 90 percent for leukemia and related blood cancers. Because of his work, hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved worldwide.

It is with pride and honor that I take the stairs up to the third floor of the Thomas building at the FHCRC campus each day, to work in projects that utilize the very techniques Dr. Thomas once pioneered. If I'm lucky, my contribution to society will one day be a fraction of what he managed. All my respect.

Read more: In Remembrance of Dr. E. Donnall Thomas.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Back in the game

Yesterday I had the privilege of following Scott and Shani to yet another Sounders game, this time against FC Dallas at the final regular-season match at home this year. Compared to my last visit at CenturyLink Field, this time the weather gods were not as kind. Luckily, Scott had brought a radiant orange "emergency poncho" and a set of chemical hand warmers for me, so I kept warm and relatively dry the whole time. After 15 opening minutes of hard rain things improved considerably, and our spirits were held high by the fact that Sounders beat FC Dallas with 3-1, thereby avoiding the first round of the Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup playoffs . (Very important, if I understand things correctly.)

Me and Shani at the start of the game. Cheers to the emergency poncho!

The three of us after the game. Happy faces! Well... Shani was actually quite cold at this point, so her smile may be a bit more forced.

Speaking of FC Sounders, Erik Niva at Aftonbladet apparently wrote a blog post regarding the record breaking game I watched two weeks ago: What Do You Hear In These Sounds? Pretty fun to read! (Thanks to Mikael P.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A peek inside

At last! Some images from my crib. It's still rather austere with plain white walls and limited furnishing, but I'm certain that I will make it snug and personal in due time. However, the apartment is just 400 sq ft (approximately 37 sq m), so there isn't much room for extravagance.

The magic number welcomes you at my door.

This is the kitchen part of the room that serves as hall, kitchen, dining area, study, living room, dance floor, and library. The step stool by the window is essential, as the cupboards are positioned at the perfect height for a medium-sized giant.

I'm hoping to find a comfy armchair to snuggle up in, but currently this corner of the room is where I spend most of my waking hours when at home.

For reasons of economy, I soon realized that the impression I was aiming for in terms of furnishing had to be "shabby chic". I found these wooden crates at a local rummage sale, put one on top of the other and abracadabra: a home made shoe rack.

My bedroom. The chair, the bedside table, and the mirror (which will be wall mounted eventually) were all found at various thrift stores. Cheap is the new black!

This was just a brief introduction to my lodging; more pictures will be posted as I start decorating. Welcome back!

Friday, October 19, 2012

A lot like love

It's funny, really; I keep catching myself smiling dumbly on my way to work, or giggling unwittingly during an evening jog as I get a glimpse of the sparkling skyscrapers downtown.

I just feel so lucky.


The Arnold Library at FHCRC sure has some comfy armchairs to crawl up in on a quiet Friday afternoon. A pleasant spot for some grant reading in peace and tranquility.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

IKEA revisited / I depend on me

Saturday made me ridiculously full of myself. Ollie and Nancy had been kind enough to lend me their van while they spent the weekend in their cabin, opening up the opportunity for me to go back to IKEA and buy a bed frame without being subject to two-faced advertisers on Craigslist. Great! There were, however, a few circumstances that made me slightly nervous. In fact, they made me anxious enough that I didn’t get much sleep the night before.

What bothered me was mainly this:
  1. I had never before driven a car in the US.
  2. I had never before maneuvered on a five-lane freeway.
  3. I had never before driven a van.
  4. I had no GPS to guide me.
Without embroidering the story too much I would simply like to conclude that not only did I make my way out to Renton and back (approximately 32 km, one way) without injuring myself or the borrowed vehicle, I actually did it with confidence and delight. All by myself!

(Yes, I took a picture while approaching Seattle on the way back, but only when traffic slowed down.)

As if that wasn’t enough, once home I also assembled the full-sized bed frame on my own, even though the instruction manual recommended getting assistance, and managed to put the base and mattress into place.

So damn proud of myself! And the bedroom? Way better now.

Ups and downs

I’m sorry for poor updating but this has been a crazy week, the move-in being a real rollercoaster ride. I spent my first night in the apartment last Sunday, and I must admit that the whole experience awoke all kinds of feelings in me. For the first time since I left Sweden, I started getting really homesick, missing my comfortable life in Gothenburg. Longing for stability and familiar faces. Luckily, one of the neighboring bars hosted some kind of wild karaoke party that night, keeping me company as I lay awake staring at the ceiling. I must say that the crowd happily bawling out Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive” (sic) at 1 am actually made me feel a little less lonesome and a bit more cheerful; any other night it would probably have bothered the heck out of me, but not this night.

Since then, things have improved considerably, albeit with a few interesting incidents. To summarize:

Sunday: Moved in, finally. New floors, cupboards, countertop, bathroom cabinet, light fixtures. Apartment not quite ready, though. Paint fumes and dust. Shelves missing in cupboards. Gas stove not working (no ignition). New bathroom cabinet wouldn’t close. Sigh.

Monday: Bathroom cabinet fixed, shelves installed in cupboards, apartment cleaned. Stove still not working. Sigh.

Tuesday: Took the day off and went to IKEA in Renton by bus. (My friends and colleagues just look at me like I'm mad when I tell them this. You did what? The bus!? No no no… We’ll drive you there, for Chrissake!) Anyway, it worked out pretty okay, even if it may not have been the most time-efficient mode of transportation. This wouldn’t have bothered me much if it wasn't for a rendezvous I had scheduled later that afternoon. I was buying a used kitchen table I'd found through Craigslist, and managed to get to the appointed place in time after hurrying as much as I could. 20 minutes later, I had to realize that I'd been stood up... Not much to do; I dragged my tired body back to the move-in mess. Back to the non-working stove. Sigh.

Wednesday: The kitchen table-guy emailed and apologized, offered the table for free if I still wanted it. Me: yay! I had already arranged for Nancy to help me transport a bed frame I was buying from another woman, so the timing was great. One hour before we were leaving I got an email from the woman, containing one sentence: “Already sold it.” Oh, come on… Tried to stay positive. Picked up the kitchen table, which was perfect. Finally, some good news! Showed Nancy the improvements in the apartment since she last saw it; opened the refrigerator to demonstrate that the hinges had been moved from the left side to the right – and the door came off. Eh... Awkward. I couldn’t get it to close properly and the landlord wouldn’t answer his phone all evening, so I simply gave up and went to sleep. (It really didn’t matter that much as I hadn’t stocked up on food anyway, because the stove still wasn’t working.) Sigh. 

Thursday: Landlord apologized for not noticing my phone calls, promised to fix refrigerator door and stove right away. Emailed later and told me that he needed some spare parts; the fridge was temporarily fixed but I had to use some force to shut it properly. The stove still wasn’t working, but a repair guy was on his way. Sigh.

Friday: New email from landlord, saying that the stove was deemed unworthy of repair. New stove would wait for me when I came home. And it did! And it works! (Also, fridge door taken care of.) YAY!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The (roaring) sound of soccer

Sunday afternoon offered a pleasant break from the move-in misery when Seattle Sounders FC took on their nemesis Portland Timbers at the CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The Seattleites are highly devoted to their soccer team with an average crowd for this season of 43 000; a baffling number that ranks their attendance higher than that of many great teams in the major European leagues. This Sunday, however, was exceptional, when no less than 66 452 (!) spectators saw the Sounders defeat the Timbers with 3-0. All Swedes can be extra proud over the ex-IFK Göteborg defender Adam Johansson who did an outstanding job throughout the whole game, including a crucial run that directly lead to the oh-so-important 1-0 goal. Once again, I owe this precious treat to season ticket holders Shani and Scott who offered me to join them.

This piece of paper was probably worth quite a lot of money as the game was completely sold out. And I got it for free! I am positively spoiled.

Let's just say that the view was pretty good from where we stood... And you gotta love the skyscraper backdrop.

Did I mention that it was sold out? It was sold out. And the fans were crazy; chanting, singing, clapping and cheering the whole 90 minutes.

Me and Shani. Scott actually brought me a scarf so that I could show my colors and avoid being "naked" in the crowd. Major THANK YOU for this awesome event!

And you know what? In two week's time, I get to go again! Yay!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hurry up and wait

I guess I was pretty naive to think that things would run smoothly with my move-in to the new apartment. Pretty damn naive... Although I'm very grateful for the place being extensively renovated (new floors, cupboards etc.), the makeover apparently took more time than the landlord anticipated and I'm still staying at the old place; all packed up and ready to go. Sigh. Frustrating, to say the least... But hopefully, this is my last night here. And honestly, who cares in the long run? As soon as I get settled in properly, this aggravation will surely be forgotten.

Until then, I can rejoice at the bargains I made today when Nancy and I went rummage sale shopping together. For instance, I bought a fully functioning vacuum cleaner (including bags) for $5, a kettle (Braun) for $3, and a cool, gold framed vintage mirror for $5. All in all, I spent $45 on 23 different items. Let's just keep our fingers crossed and hope that I'll have a home to put them in tomorrow...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Keyed up!

Just picked up the keys to my new apartment. My own apartment! It's a tiny one bedroom unit in the heart of Fremont, and I can hardly wait to start filling it with curious items and peculiar furniture from the nearby thrift shops.

As I currently own little more than the clothes I'm wearing, I'm practically a charity case. Luckily, there are a lot of wonderful people surrounding me; Ollie and Nancy are providing me with a bed, and another friend from work gave me a whole box of plates, bowls, mugs and various kitchen utensils to start out with. The generosity! I feel deeply indebted to them.

Thus, tomorrow I'll take my bags and few belongings and begin a new chapter of my Seattle adventure. Stay tuned for pictures and a more detailed exposé of the apartment and its surroundings!