Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Merry Xmas to All

Or whichever holiday you prefer to celebrate. Or if you do not celebrate, I hope you have a good time anyway, and get what whatever you wish for in life.



Monday, December 18, 2006

'Tis the season

Jolly Santas smile from every frosted window

Snow covered Christmas trees sparkle with every imaginable decoration you can think of

Red-nosed reindeer relentlessly pull fake sleighs filled with fake presents over a fake winterland

And, oh yes,

This is a picture from my car after I left it on an unshaded parking lot for 30 min.


Almost Famous

If you read the PR-folders from the Swedish Embassy in Manila you get a picture of Swedish society, culture, industry, nature, climate and celebrities.

Yet they missed the most common thing Filipinos know about Sweden. It is not the Nobel Prize or IKEA or Greta Garbo or Ingemar Bergman or Ingrid Bergman or Björn Borg.

Definitely not Ingemar Stenmark or Peter Forsberg.

Not even the Swedish Muppet chef.

The two things that come in close of our winner is ABBA and Ericsson phones, which everybody knows of in this karaoke- and textmessage crazed country. But they don't necessarily know they're from Sweden. (To be honest, I guess most Ericsson phones are from China, but anyway)

What they do know is Swedish Massage, something most Swedish people never heard of (and I say this with confidence since I'm Swedish and can speak for the entire Swedish community, really)


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Birds of Spray

Where there's people there's vendors. The sell all kinds of foods or products you can think of. And some you hadn't thought of. Last week I joined a school outing* with my oldest son to Manila Zoo. Outside the zoo there was a man selling - I shit you not - tree sparrows that had been spray painted red or green, in a vain attempt to make them appear more exotic**.


*I find school outings very educational. A month ago it was Sports day, which meant a 7am Saturday morning assembly to have the four-year-olds:
- go marching up and down the square
- pray
- sing the national anthem and
- take an oath of sportsmanship
before starting with the sports, which included things like peeling quail eggs and tossing water balloons to each other. This time it was the Zoo and a stage production of Aladdin. Mostly, though, it was waiting. Out of a 10-hour trip, 7,5 were spent on the bus or in a queue. The Aladdin show was great. The kids loved it. Manila Zoo, not so great. But of course, the kids loved it (and the outing was for them, not for me). I just have hard time looking at animal confined in a space so small they can hardly move - like a 3-foot Rufous Hornbill confined in a 1 m3 cage.

** Really, selling birds in the street is bad for a number of reasons (especially if you are the bird). On the flip side of this though, trade with endemic and/or rare species is a problem in the Philippines and elsewhere, so, given a choice, I'd rather see the introduced (as often regarded as pest) tree sparrows being fenced than a Philippine Cockatoo or Luzon Bleeding Heart

Storm Debris

- This is sort of old stuff -

Durian (Reming)* is gone. It left 1200+ dead (latest I heard was 1266) and over 100 000 without homes and/or crops.

It was supposed to hit us.

Not until 3.33 pm on storm day there was a report from that a high pressure area over the South China sea was pushing the typhoon south, out of the way of Metro Manila (and thereby Los Baños) . It would probably have hit Mount Mayon (where most people died) anyway, the eye going slightly north of the mountain instead of slightly south.

The days preceding Durian I thought about this entry, how I could interlace it with experiences from Xangsane (Milenyo)* after which we had a brownout for 15 days and I didn't write any entries. I never got around to really finish anything but the general thoughts were these:

It was striking how Milenyo sharpened the alertness of Reming. (A very remote allegory would be the annual Swedish epiphany that snow is slippery. Each year with the first snow there's total chaos, leaving 4 people dead and 50+ without their cars, at least until the insurance company can replace it, not really in the same league as this). Last time I heard and read about Milenyo but didn't think much of it - would probably mean a day or two or brownout and some extra cleaning in the garden. Before Reming came it was a totally different story, and not only for me. A brief summary:

Preparing for the Storm Xangsane (Milenyo):
1. Wrote witty blog entry (in Swedish) on what a piece of cake typhoons in the Philippines are.
2. Failed to buy even the basic extra candles, food, batteries, medicine.
3. Failed to charge batteries and spare lights.

Preparing for the Storm Durian (Reming):
1. A good two days in advanced we stocked up on food, batteries, candles, medicine, put gas in the car, got cash, an extra gas tank for the stove, three extra 5-gallon water jug ( in addition to the six we already have)
2. Wrote two not so witty blog entries (on the Swedish blog) on how intense typhoons in the Philippines are
3. Invited all the people I knew (and some I didn't know) living near "our hill" to stay in our house during the typhoon because of the risk of flooding and landslides (one family who accepted the offer had water up to their waists last time, but this time it was going to be worse)
4. Removing all loose objects from garden, carried anything that might be spoiled by water upstairs.

Even if it was going to be the worst storm ever, our house was fairly secure - out of the way for landslides, the flooding had to be at least 12-14 feet to reach our second floor, we had supplies -including water, food, medicine and lights - to last us for at least a week.

Storm Day Xangsane (Milenyo):
The day before a neighboring school was closed - orders from the HQ - while my kids school was open. I had contact with the president of our school and asked about tomorrow; will the school be closed tomorrow if we're on signal 2? (=class 2 typhoon 60-100 km/h sustained winds). Yes, no school if we're on signal 2. Next day I woke up at 6:30. L was already downstairs with the breakfast, and the typhoon was already at signal 3. Beside there was no way we where going to get out anyway, since the street had turned into a creek. The kids came down and were pleased that there was no school, but not so pleased they couldn't watch TV instead. I stood by the screen door watching the spectacle and jumped half a meter when a Pomelo (large grapefruit) was blown onto the screen bouncing back four meters onto the lawn. 20 minutes later one of our Durian trees was blown over the door. The Typhoon was now on signal 4 (more than 185 km/h sustained winds)(from what I heard later, not that I went outside and measured wind speed myself). . The wall facing the wind turned into a small waterfall when the rain was pushed through the closed windows by the wind. It looked like something I would like to think you would find in a upscale Japanese home and would have been great if the water was diverted back out again instead of turning the tile floor to skating rink.

What do you do under circumstances like that?
Bring out the camera of course. And the video camera (and putting towels on the floor and reading stories to the kids). I was aware that people probably were fighting for their lives about now, but there was no way I could get to them anyway. This is some of what I got:

  • This picture shows the view from the second floor. It looks out of focus, but the distortion is from the rain.

  • This is the same picture when the eye passed

  • This is our street during the eye

and the tree that fell on our screendoor

Storm Day Reming:
After a morning run of getting the last supplies I went briefly to work for a couple of hours. Schools were already closed even though the typhoon would not pass for another 18 hours. Kept a close eye on the development (As close as I could PAGASAs homepage went down around 10 am). At 2 pm we were e-mailed a memo that said that work was suspended from 2:30 onwards. We left only after securing plastic over all computers and printers (which we did not do before Milenyo). Went home, secured everything in the house and garden, sat in front of the computer trying to get information. At around 4 pm I read an article on Manila Times that said the typhoon would miss Metro Manila. Still, it was a category 5 typhoon, the early reports from Catanduanes were terrible. One interesting thing in all this was that one of the best places to get information was Wikipedia - they already had information on windspeeds, landfalls, forecasts etc - all the regular weather sites were almost impossible to enter due to heavy traffic. We had 13 guests that night. Had some dinner. Electricity went at 7 pm. By this time we were pretty sure that Reming would largely miss us, but in the dark you never know. Got a report from my brother in Sweden who confirmed the typhoon was going due west, passing around 85 km south of LB. Power came back briefly around 9:30 pm. Went to bed at 10. Slept most of the night, and when we woke up it was all over.

Aftermaths -Days after Milenyo
First Day: Went zig-zag trying to get cash, gas, food, candles for ourselves and for those in greater need than us. Succeeded on the two latter.
Day 2-15: Continued the search for cash (got it day 3) and gas (got it day 4, when I was running on fumes). Helped out as good as we could. Received rumours that new typhoons were coming (each day from 1-6, it was even in the papers, but it never came). Spent sweaty nights trying to get some sleep and hush equally sweaty kids. Trying to get information on when the power was getting back . When it came to most of Los Baños we were still without, first the rumour was that somebody stole the power lines, secondly (when the power had come back to almost all houses in our subdivision except for ours) that a transformer had blown. Got jealous and felt worse stricken when everybody else had their power back except for us. Fought a lot. Got sick of it all and went to spent a night at a hotel (and eat their marvellous breakfast).

Aftermaths - Days after Reming
First Day: Went to Manila to spend the day with L who's flight had been delayed 11 hours (After Milenyo they were all cancelled). Made to the airport on record time (after Milenyo an office mate spent 15 hours going the 50 km to the airport, if it weren't for the bags you'd probably walk faster). When we came home the power was already restored.
Second day: Went to the beach with some friends, all back to normal

I would like to have a poignant finish to this one as well, but I guess there isn't one (and that's why it took me so long to finish it).

Win some, lose some.


* Typhoons are named by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) on a rolling scheme where all nations around SE Asia get their turn to name Typhoons. This time it was Thailand who submitted Durian, last time Lao PDR with Xangsane. However, when a typhoon enters the Philippine Area of Responsibility it is given a name by PAGASA, Milenyo and Reming, respectively. It seems even if the Philippines submit the name such as for the severe tropical storm Bilis in July, it is still given another name 'onli in the Pilipines' (that time Florita)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Never Never Land

Once a month or so we go to a shopping mall halfway to Manila to stock up on crisp bread, ham, whole grain flour and other necessities of life.

Gopher Jrs love this. Not that they’re fond of shopping, but the mall also has a place called FUNLAND, where we take them for an hour or so while one of us gets some extra shopping time.

FUNLAND includes a trampoline…


…big plastic cars

…basketball hoops…

...a child-friendly assault course...

…a big container filled with plastic balls (a.k.a. The Germ Pit)…

Even I have fun there. But not all is mindless running and shouting. FUNLAND also have a place for reflection and contemplation. The Reading corner.

The sign says:

Children's Reading Corner will take you to never never land,
to the magical world of princes and princesses and many other faraway places,
but please observe the following house rules:
- This area is strictly for reading books only
- Playing is not allowed in this area
- Do not bring the books outside this area
- Request for an adult to keep you company
Our crew attendant are most happy to help you
And please return the books to its proper shelves
Thank You and Enjoy Reading

(Sorry about the poor shot).

Just a quiet place (as quiet as they get in Filipino shopping malls) to enjoy a good book. I personally think it's a great idea. But the again, the book shelves looks like this…

The sign under the "...No playing is allowed in this area..." sign is this...

And what they’re really doing is this...


Monday, November 20, 2006

The Filipino Experience

As of now, I will fail to post entries on two blogs instead of one. You will find a blog dedicated to my expat's eyes here


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

You want to go where everybody knows your name

The last phrase of the theme of my favourite sitcom growing up has stuck with me as a description of a sense of home throughout the years. And being expat it is something you ponder about a lot. If you want some thought on it in proper English, the munificent Secret Wombat has had some entries on it.

This morning it happened again. My Yaya (nanny for my kids) told me there was a woman outside who wanted to sell me a fish.
- "She knows your name" C. said, which is code for "You'd better go out and talk to her"
So I did (and bought the fish)(and it was tasty).

I had never (knowingly) seen her before, but she knew who I was.

This particular incident is not hard to explain: I usually buy food that people bring to my doorstep. I figure I'm giving more back to the community that way. There's a good chance the woman knew someone who had earlier sold something to me. Maybe cucumbers. But it is part of a pattern.

Two weeks ago in the supermarket a man whom I've never (knowingly) seen before comes up to me at the check-out and says:
-"Sir, your lights are on"
After a split second of considering and dismissing the thought that this might be code for "Your fly is open" or "There's a huge bugger hanging out of your right nostril", I thanked him and said I'll be out in a minute to take care of it.

Now, did this man see me get out of my car? Probably not, why would he wait forty-five minutes to tell me? Then how, out of the hundred cars in the parking lot, did he match the one with the lights on to me?

A month ago my water distributor went out of business so I went to one of their competitors to ask them to start delivering water to me. I walk in to an office of a company I have never had anything to do with before, addressing a man I have never (knowingly) seen before and asked to have water delivered.
- “How many, sir?”
- “Five, please.”
- “Round?”
- “Yes, please.”
I pay him and sign my name on a receipt. When I start to fill up the address-part I am interrupted by:
-"It's OK, sir, I know where you live"

Not in a threatening way. Just pure service. But you do start to wonder why: Is it “It’s that guy that screams at his children all the time” or “It’s that guy that bought cucumbers from my cousin” or “It’s that guy that walks in the rain without an umbrella”.

Whoever you are, you are not a stranger, you can’t be. There is no such thing as anonymity (with a few exceptions, I know). This IS the land of "Hey Joe"(Which, by the way, is close enough) where you get cheery greetings from every Tom, Dick and Jhun-Jhun, but among these are also an impressive number who actually know who you are.

And it leaves me with a feeling of reassurance since I know there are people out there who obviously are looking out for me, but also a feeling of sadness because I realise that being home is not just where everybody knows your name.

You know theirs, too.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Power to the People

It was one of those Hollywood moments where everything seems easier and cooler than life itself. I was slowly coming down our street when I saw the truck from the electricity company coming round the bend. I buzzed down my window, held out my left hand, thumb up. The driver of the truck held out his left hand, thumb up.
Then he slowly drove away.

Some of the men sitting on the back of the truck started cheering "You got power!"

And, from afar, there was violin music.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

I'm beginning to see the light

Before the li-et comes, there shall come a truck
and it shalt be a big ole orange truck with the divine letter marks and a skylift
and it shalt be parked in front on the building of the supreme being known as DG
it shalt be there on the fifteenth day after the darkness came
around lunchtime
and it shalt contain a small man
and the man shalt say: "Yes, sir, we go there" when asked if they are heading towards the valley of darkness, where few men dare to tread
and there will be much rejoicing
and the men will prepare to slaughter the pigs and chickens and fish found in the big freezer at south supermarket
and once more will there be edible products similar to dairy products
and the hand of the privileged yet annoyed expat shalt come upon the small man and the markings he represent should the annoyed expat find out the small man was bullshitting him


Tuesday, September 19, 2006


In the absence of real friends and collegues to send me mails with not-so-important information to give flavour to everyday life, (with a few exceptions, of course, i.e. the reader's of this blog; I would like to thank Mom, Dad, L, A, Y, G, E and C), I've subscribed to a number of newsletters with more or less important information.

One of these newsletters informed me yesterday that today is the international Talk-like-a-pirate-day. Apparently these two guys were playing squash and then decided to talk like pirates (theory 1: One of them got a ball in one eye and had to cover it; theory 2: One of them (the one with the idea) had a racket smashed in the head. Really hard). Their website have a glossary to start with, consisting of no less than 5 words (all beginning with A). If you want to go to the advanced section there's another 7 words there. Amazingly complicated, this pirate stuff.

As a special there's soundclips where you can learn how to talk like a pirate in German, Mandarin chinese and Swedish. The swedish clip is a man with a growly, but otherwise perfectly normal and grammatically correct, voice saying (in swedish) " I, I am a pirate. I steal from the rich and give to myself. Hee-he-he-he-he-hee-heee".

So that's how you do it. I'll get right on it. Hee-he-he-he-he-hee-heee


Monday, September 18, 2006


Apparently bats die at windmills. But the USGS scientists are on it.

"One research tool that is particularly well-suited to studying the origins of bats killed at wind turbines is stable isotope analysis. USGS scientists recently pioneered the
application of stable hydrogen isotope analysis to the study of migration in terrestrial mammals and proved the efficacy of the technique for studying the continental movements of bats. Coincidentally, this groundbreaking research focused on the very same species of bat (the hoary bat, Lasiurus cinereus) that is killed most frequently at wind turbine sites across North America. Because of this, the USGS is in the unique position of having an existing framework of stable isotope data on which to build."

Coincidentally, later research revealed the hoary bats’ inability to detect windmills while stuffed with stable isotopes.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Thanks to R. I finally scored a job after a year of joblessness (more on that later).

Part of the job description is use Google Earth to obtain some data (no more on that later here). Anyways, I've used GE before to pinpoint my house and that sort of thing but never realised you could tilt Earth (mock me if you must).

To me that is absolutely magic. I can somewhat grasp that you can do that, computerwise, but the feeling of actually being somewhere else even though you're just staring at your computer is (to me again) totally amazing. Nineteen years ago I played "1942" and "Winter Games" on a computer with a 64 kb memory, because that was as much as anyone needed anyway. Now this. I am able to go anywhere and do anything (well) in the world.

Here's some of my best tips:

- Climb Mount Everest and enjoy the view. No frozen feet. No dead buddies. None of that media hazzle when I get back. Just me, a beer, and a view.

- Crash into buildings on Manhattan. This one is probably not polically correct, but how would it feel?

- Take a helicopter ride over Sahara. See how long you can go without noticing any buildings, roads etc. Then go to Paris. See how long it takes before you're out of town.

- Take a helicopter ride through Grand Canyon. Rich folks do it. Why shouldn't you?

- Zoom out as far as you can. Set our planet to north. Tilt it 9 degrees. Spin it carefully. Contemplate life universe and everything.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Hospital Song

So anyway,

I got sick and went to the biggest hospital in town, which would be this one:

But they told me to go somewhere were they admitted common folks.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sneak preview

I spend my writing time with the novel now, but I thought it might post some sneak previews here to get some feed-back on the stuff, and also provide you with some fun reading in absence of proper blogging. Here's a conversation the main character has with a dying man on domestic trouble:

- But it'll go away, right.

- Of course it won’t. It’s domestic. I can’t survive in the wild. If trouble gets in your house it will stay there. You can try to throw it out but it will come back howling at your door begging to be let in again. Sooner or later you give in to the howling and open the door. Then trouble rush in and starts to mess everything up, leaving dirty stains on your favourite chair. So you put it out again, but the stains won’t go and trouble is still smouldering in the garden, just waiting to spark again. Before you know it you have a party and trouble puts on a false moustache and sneaks in behind your fat aunt Alberta. Then you'll have trouble spreading to all your friends and relatives. I’m telling you, domestic trouble is the worst kind.

- Sounds like you know trouble.

- We’re like this. The dying man held up his right hand with the middle finger on top of the index finger. If you’re looking for trouble, you’ve come to the right place. He did the impersonation really well.

- So what do you do about it, Elvis?

- Keep it on a leach. Treat trouble like a dog and you’ve got the best ally you could ever want. You sit at a coffee shop with this big trouble tied at your chair. Some annoying prick comes up and wants to sell you something. You’ll just nod at trouble and it’ll scare away that bastard instantly. People with their trouble in check are not good consumers.

- Convenient, really.

- Then this girl comes up and say ‘Oh, it’s soooo cuuute – can I cuddle it’ and you just give her the ol’ blue gaze and say ‘please’. Then she turns to her girlfriend and whispers ‘He’s taking so good care of his trouble, he must be a good father’, pretty soon you’ll have a threesome going.

- What about trouble then?

- On occasions like that trouble will have to wait outside. A ménage à trois is my limit. Kinky is OK, but I’m not a pervert.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Trash Posting

All things must come to the sea...

...and some come back.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Carrying Cathy

I just started a book project so I’ve been off the web for a while. This one is taken from my oh so large archive heap of old events that I swore to put on the blog. The reason it came up now was a discussion I had the other day about any potentially inappropriate reasons for carrying a Filipina.

Last October or so S called around 8 pm on a Saturday evening. Her husband J had a friend who was lost on Mount Makiling, an old dormant volcano next to our town. J was going on a rescue mission and S wondered if I could come along too.

Sure. I threw the things I would think be necessary in a backpack, put on some hiking boots and a longsleeved shirt and J picked me up. It was not clear where or when he was lost but going up the hill we picked up another friend with more info and also got textreports on the situation.

His friend had taken five of his employees at a large American credit card company for a kick-off at Makiling. They planned to go to Mudsprings, an area of steaming hot mud bubbling out from the ground about a third of the way up to the top. When they got there, they felt hungry for more, so they made attempt at the summit, which they reached and started their descend half an hour later. They didn’t mark their entrance path though and went down on the wrong side, realising after another half an hour that they were lost and made it back to the summit. When reaching the summit they realised they would not make it down before nightfall, and with no flashlights or lanterns there was no way they’d pull off a night descend. And with no spare water or food they were not likely to make it down in one piece the next day. So the friend texted the Forestry Department to ask for help.

We reached the outpost somewhere around 8:30 pm and got the full briefing. So me, J, the Forestry boss, two other foresters got in yet another friends shiny new gold colored Isuzu Crosswind to go as far as we could on the muddy, bumpy path. On the way up the Forestry Boss inquired about the contents of everyone’s backpack.

”Well, Dried fruits, chocolates, water, extra water, first aid kit, knife, insect repellent, flashlight, extra flashlight, lantern…eh…that’s about it”
“Where are your extra clothes”
“Well, maybe I’m to big to lend them clothes anyway” I said jokingly, no really knowing what he was getting at.
“ No, for you, it’s going to be cold up there”
“ Yeah, I’m from Sweden, we don’t get cold”.
I know it was a very boisterous and un-swedish remark (I do get cold, it never happened in this country yet though) but I included it because that’s how I felt at the moment:

Going up an old volcano in the dead of night to save a group of people who were stuck there. Who might die on the top of the mountain if we can’t get to them. I know it’s not Everest or anything, but the whole idea gave me instant chest-hair. At the time I was mostly dealing with poopy diapers and screaming children and reading stories to stop children from screaming. This was Alpha-Male for me.

J’s friend with the Isuzu wasn’t properly equipped (apart from the car of course, which had gotten us nearly half way up) so he couldn’t come. The Boss stayed behind for some reason I couldn’t figure out (and didn’t really mind about).

At 9 pm the four left, Me, J, Forester V and Forester N set out through the jungle to do some serious man shit. I had a definite Lord of the Rings – feeling, just a tad to big to be a hobbit though. Maybe I could be Strider. Cool.

The first part of the way up was easy. Literally a walk in the park, even though Makiling is technically a Forest Reserve and not a National Park anymore on account of being too small. The reserve is 4000 hectares and there’s 10 foresters to look after it and stop illegal logging, poaching, trapping, settlement, guide visitors and occasionally rescue poorly planned kick-off parties. Maybe not the most gratifying job in the world, but I'd take it. We were talking about conservation issues, climbed big rock outcrops, walked along narrow trails with a wall on one side and a extremely steep slope on the other, picking some secret wild fruits that didn’t taste that well but it was good for your stamina (and, of course, your boner. Seems that everything that tastes off here is regarded as a native Viagra. I’m beginning to suspect that it’s just a male ritual, if you can eat things that tastes like shit, you’re really masculine, then you must have a good sex-drive, sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy) and I did no longer hesitate about my Strider* identity.

It took us 1 hour 45 minutes hours to reach the top where there was much gusto. The group were happy to see us. One of the young women had gotten some scratches that I could fix with my first aid kit. We cooked for them, gave them water and a few jokes. I felt like going out in the jungle to look for secret herbs to prepare my elfish back-to-life potion that would leave us all hovering down the mountain in a ball of glorious light, but settled for picking wild strawberries.

Anybody saw the hubris coming, nooo.

We were 10 people up there. 4 rescuers and 6 people in need. We where supposed to go down and be back so we could get a few hours of sleep and not ruin our entire Sunday. I thought.
You see, 40 minutes behind us were rescue-team No 2, consisting of another 9 people, including the forestry boss (why would he stay behind, he was the boss right. Why let someone else get the credit for the rescue if you’re going to be up all night anyway).

11.30 pm. - So we better cook for team no 2.
11:40 pm - They’d better eat.
11:55 am. - They’d better get some rest before the descend.
0:02 am. - By the way, you have any aspirin in your first aid kit?
0:02 am. - No, It’s a first aid kit.
0:03 am. - Why don’t you have any aspirin in your first aid kit?
0:03 am. - I never had aspirin in first aid kits. They’re supposed to save lives, stop bleeding and infection, not cure head aches. You can sniff on some rubbing alcohol if you want to.
0:03 am. - I have aspirin in my first aid kit.
0:03 am. (Well, you should have brought it then, shouldn’t you. And how about showing some gratitude or I’ll rip that bandage right off.)
0:04 am. (I am not Strider. I am Saruman)
0:10 am. - OK. We can go now. (What, and leave Isengard all abandoned)
0:11 am - Wait. One of the girls is night blind.
0:12 am - She can’t go.
0:13 am - She can’t go very fast.
0:14 am - She goes very slowly. (Thanks to Saruman's lantern by the way, that wizard stuff comes in handy)

So we go, veeery slooowly downhill. I put a white hand on trees here and there. Some singing, some playing “Mexican hat dance” on their cellphone. Three hours and fifteen minutes later we’ve reached the easy part. Half a mile to go. If we go Uruk-Hai style we’ll be there in 20 minutes. We stop for a short break, get up and then one of the young women sits down again and won’t move. The boss talks to her to see what’s wrong.

- Pagod, she’s tired (No shit)
- You don’t have any aspirin in your first aid kit?
- Still not, sorry, (I was planning to go to Mercury Drug, but the one on the path was closed)
- Any medicine that might cheer her up, caffeine.
- Sorry. Just first aid. (Dammit, I knew I should put some amphetamine in there, they do come in handy,
specially when passing customs)

(Luckily he did not criticize my first aid, or I’d had my wand kick his ass into next week)
After a minute of confusion where we at least could give her some chocolate and water, everybody sat down again. And waited. 16 men (of which 13 are from the rescue squad), 3 women. One of which is not willing to go any further. She weighs 45 kg, tops.

- Hrrm, I said to the boss, maybe we can carry her for a bit?
- No no, She’ll be fine, we just wait for a bit
- Hrrm, I said to J, why can’t we carry her for a bit?
- She’ll be fine. The boss decides.

So for 45 minutes we sit and wait for a young woman to overcome her tiredness. Everybody’s is still talking cheerfully in Tagalog. The odd “Mexican hat dance” is playing from a lone cellphone. I don’t understand shit. (I am not Saruman, I am an ignorant Orc).

Finally she gets up and 15 men, 6 women and 1 ignorant orc are walking downwards again. We walk and walk for at least 50 meters before the next young woman is to tired to walk any more.
Maybe carry this one?
It’s 4:15 am, it’s pretty safe to say that everyone’s is tired.
It’s pretty safe to say that no one will fell perkier until they’ve had some sleep and some coffee.
30 more minutes of Tagalog and “Di-da-di-da-Da-di-da-Da-di-da—Da-Da-di-da-Da-di-da-Da-di-da“ and ignorant orc muttering.

Here is a biologist, stuck in a jungle forest reserve, on hour before dawn. Owls hooting, loads of exiting flowers, mother nature blowing a gentle wake up wind to the creatures of the forest who respond with a cacophony of merry sounds. Nowadays I actually go up early and drive up to the outpost just to hear those calls and watch some birds. Then, all I could manage was Orc-mumbles.

Finally we get up, and walk for I swear no more than three feet before tired No 1 sits down again. (I am the Orc that loses his temper and gets his insubordinate head chopped off by the Orcleader). I give up and walk ahead for another 50 or so meters, far enough to avoid the embarrassment of smashing someone’s cellphone if “Mexican hat dance” comes on again.

At 5:45 am I reach the car. At 6:30 when everyone has come down, we go. At 7:15 I’m home again with my loving wife. At 8:15 I sleep.

I’ll always remember that night, and if I was invited again (fat chance) I would go in an instant. I even have aspirin in the first aid kit now. But I have yet to figure out why we didn’t carry the ones who couldn’t walk for themselves.


*I find Strider cooler than Aragorn. I think It’s a bit of a rock ‘n’ roll thing, you know, “Well, they’re OK, but I remember their early stuff. That’s way better, more raw energy. I remember a concert I went to back in 1987...”

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The most polite non-english countries of the world

I thought about the previous entry and how you could use it to improve your understanding of different cultures, in the way that the translation would reflect some of the mentality of the culture in question.

The theory: If you take a simple phrase commonly used by a native english speaker, say, F*ck off and die!, then translate it to another language on babelfish and then back again you will see a gradient of politeness in the translations. If you then extrapolate that phrase to include all cultural, historical, religious, political and social aspects of this country/language you can do an easy-to-follow ranking of who are the bastard and who are the noblesse obliges' of the world.

So here it is, the complete list* of the most polite non-english countries of the world.

The Complete List TM

11. Fuck off die! - the Russians. The most bastardly non-english speaking nation of the world. Even more efficient than the original.

10. You break and die! - the French. Not surprisingly the French fight for the last spot in this event. They tried to put in some severe personal injuries before actually deceasing but didn't make it all the way this time since they lost some on sexual offense.

9. Fuck far and cube! - the Greek. Leaning back on their ancient philosophical heritage they feel they can maintain a "better than the rest"- attitude, even trying to put in some mathematical terminology to make the rest of us feel ignorant. Fuck far is even more offensive, not to say imaginative, than the original, but the tempo and catchiness of the phrase is not quite as good as the French or Russian.

8. Keep coming out, die! - the Japanese. Old habits die hard. The emperor's teaching of a superior Japan just keeps coming.

7. Fuck gone and matrix! - The Dutch. I agree with the Matrix, especially the sequels. I haven't seen Gone yet so I can't comment on it, but the Dutch cleverly divert the comment towards Hollywood thus de-personalizes any offense the subjectee may feel. It does contain the word "fuck" though, so it really can't be considered for a top spot on the polite side.

6. Throws away and die! - the Koreans. Now we're beginning to see some real progress on the polite side. This is a good attempt, the Koreans are up and coming and will surely reach top three in a couple of years unless Kim Jong Il screws it up.

5. Swept and dice outside! - the Italians. Clearly Berlusconi's fall from the political throne did miracles for the habitually spiteful Italians. They've cleaned up the remark nicely. The only set back is a bit of gambling, which still might be offensive, if only to right-wing christians.

4. Boils and dies! - the Chinese. This, which at first glance may seem a bit aggressive, is clearly colored from a nation who has the largest cuisine in the world. A competent and adroit performance by the Chinese leaving them just outside top-three.

3. Taken and dice dull! - the Spanish. It was a tight run with the Chinese. "Taken" still has som sexual tension to it, but the Spaniards make a last minute save with the "dull" in the the end. Immensly boring, but not all games are won on brilliant plays. Skillful tactical display from Spain.

2. Bumsen away and cubes! - the Germans. Maybe it was the only the World Cup, or maybe the Germans really have become this polite. Bumsen away sounds more what you'd contently do after a long night at the Bierhűtte. They make a verbal Picasso and remove all intelligable meaning to the expression, which gives them the runner-up position of "The most polite non-english country of the world"

1. It is gone to foder and it is died! - the Portuguese. What can I say. Pure Genius. The recipe: Take one expression. Remove all foul language. Add piece of gibberish. Add "its" generously to remove any tingy taste. Turn it over, it's done.


*The list of course being limited to the languages that appear on babelfish.

Monday, July 31, 2006

I will bring my proper toothbrush exactly

Having English as second language means you are dependent on a good dictionary. Even then you don't get it right all the time anyway, but I take comfort in that I'm not the only one with this predicament. A friend sent a link to www.engrish.com, a collection of funny misspellings or unfortunately formulated English phrases. Just to prove the point of how hard it is to get something right in a language you're not not fluent in (or buoyant in, as my dictionary suggests) you can try to translate an English text to Japanese on Babelfish and then translate the Japanese text back to English. I tried it with an excerpt from a job application I sent a while ago*.

"I am the Swedish counterpart to Brad Pitt. My IQ is higher than Stephen Hawkins'. I bench 300 kilos easy. I am always happy, polite and energetic. I will work 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free. I will polish your toilet with pride. I will even bring my own toothbrush. Sincerly yours. LG"

If you translate it to Japanese and then back again it reads:

"I Sweden which stops Pitt with the shellfish hooked nail am equal. Me I.Q. is higher than スティーブン Hawkins'. Kilometer easy I bench 300. I happiness and politeness am always energetic. I week 7 day 1 day 24 hour work for freedom. I polish your washroom of pride. I come having my itself toothbrush. Satoshi tool. LG"

This isn't bad. You can get a lot of inspiration when you read something that might not be exactly as you'd expect it. I particulare like the "I Sweden" (some healthy Hubris right there) and "I happiness"-bits (how could I even feel depressed again). It's also good to know that that ¤&%#¤% Hawkins might not be as polpular in Japan as elsewhere.

Babelfish of course have more options. In Russians it was put slightly different:

I will be Swedish doubles to brad Pitt. My iq is more high than Stephen Hawkins'. Stand ii1 300 kilos is light. I is always happy, politely and energetic. I will work kryglosutochno of seven days in the week for freely. I will polish your toilet with the pride. 4 even I will bring my own toothbrush. Your is sincere. LG

I can't speak for "kryglosutochno" but otherwise I don't have a problem with it.

In Chinese it became:

I am the Sweden relative people sew Pitt. My intelligence quotient Beese 蒂芬 Hawkins' is high-level. I bench 300 kilogram easy. I am always happy, politeness and energetic. My day 24 hours will work each week 7 days for to be free. I will polish you to fill the sense of pride washroom. I will even bring I toothbrush. Presents respectfully. LG

Mr Hawkins apparently not popular here either. The polishing came out a bit akward but I love the finish, presents respectfully, I'll use it as often as I can.


I am the Swedish counterparts to brad Pitt. My IQ more is raised of the one than Stephen Hawkins'. Easy bank I 300 kilos. I am always happy, polishing and energy. I will work 24 hours the one day 7 days one week for free. I will burnish its toilet with pride. I will bring my proper toothbrush exactly. Sincerely its. LG

The Portuguese being an old trade nation negotiated my offer a bit, that's natural, but as far as my equiment goes I'm sold (see headline).


Me it is a Sweden boy lattice which drives the Pitt with the nail. Me the IQ is higher the StephenHawkins than. Kilo easy i bench 300. Me is happy always, it is energetic is polite. Me the free thing will work in the hazard one day 24 hour week 7th matter which will reach. Me will wipe your toilet in pride. Even me of my, oneself will bring the toothbrush. It is diligent and sincere, you. LG

As I've written earlier, Pitt is Swedish slang for penis which makes the first sentence kind of painful (specially with the lattice part). And If I were an employer I would be a bit confused with my working hours. Me o my.

And finally German:

I am the Swedish counterparts to the nail without head Pitt. My IQ is higher than Stephen Hawkins'. Bank I 300 Kilos simply. I am always lucky energetically, polite and. I work 24 hours per day 7 days in the week for free. I polish your toilet with pride. I get even my own toothbrush. Yours sincerely. LG

Mental note: do not get involved in discussions about Stephen Hawkins in China or Japan, or discussions about Brad Pitt in Germany. If I unintentionally offend someone they might get even with me with my own toothbrush. Even if I did see Brokeback Mountain yesterday I can't think of it as "lucky energetically"


*This is in no way an attempt to ridicule Japan or Japanese or any other nation or language (well, maybe the Germans) or anyone's (dis)ability to write proper English. I'll be front center at the wall where misspellers will be shot when the ProperEnglish Revolution comes. And yes, maybe I did a bit of alterations from the original application, but the major points are still there.

Just like Home, Pt II

Earlier comment on homesickness here

In the vast array of huge billboard lining the South Luzon Expressway there is, if you look close enough something to remind you.....

Can't be one of the big ones...

Look closer...

Just like home.


Thursday, July 27, 2006


I'm not a photogénique person. All the Filipinos I know are. It doesn't matter if they look like Jabba the Hut in real life, on the pictures they look great. They know what their best side and angle is, how to smile, how to pose. And suddenly Jabba is transformed into a well-built man in his late thirties or a stunning model-wannabe. (I don't know any Filipinos who look like Jabba the Hut, Filipinos are generally Really Beautiful, not only in pictures. The point is if Jabba was Filipino, I'm sure he'd look good in pictures too.)

I don't know any of that. I more on the opposite, photomorónique (or maybe pictgrotesque), side. I tend not to smile since I use snus (little Swedish tobacco bags that you put under your lip). It keeps you sane, but it makes you look like somebody just hit you if you try to smile. Since I'm taller than most I tend to lean in over the other persons, making me look like I'm about to fall over. If there's no other persons in the picture I tend to lean anyway, just out of habit. I also got a terrible posture, which either looks bad, or, if I try to correct it, looks like someone put a stick up my ass. Which, of course, looks bad.

Basically, I got three modes:
1. Stupid
2. Tired
3. Intoxicated

99% of all pictures of shows at least one of these modes. (And, to be honest, pictures of me are usually taken when I´m at mode 2 and 3, which makes me 1, but anyway. The modes show at nice family outings at the beach too, where I don't drink. Too heavily.) Most of the time they all blend together making me look like a sleepy idiot on heroin.

It´s not that bad though, it kind of keeps your expectations on a healthy level:
- How did the pictures come out?
- You look like a retard!
- Great, I don't look sleepy or drunk!

You put a nice little photoalbum together to show your relatives:
- Here´s a nice on of me….
- You look like you just drank three bottles of Jack Daniels!
- Yeah, I know, I'm thinking of putting it next to the family picture by the computer (where I incidentally look stupid and tired, but not drunk.)

Just for balance.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sex and age

This one has no meaning except the title contains the word "sex", which might interest some readers.

A huge american cooperation was taking over a small Swedish firm. The boss of the HR-department in the US sent a mail to his Swedish counterpart asking him to send him a list of their employees, broken down by sex and age, to use for his statistics.

The Swede replied: "None of our employees are broken down by sex or age. Alcohol, however, is a big problem."

The Swedes: Young, horny and drunk.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Soap of the day

My yaya (nanny) C had two requests today:
1. Could she leave early since it was her daughter J's (and her half-sisters R's) birthday?
2. Could she have friday off since her nephew R was getting married and they've asked C to be ninang (sort of godmother)? (R turns out to be 17 years old and the reason for marriage not surprisingly an unwanted pregnancy. C is angry with her sister for not having control over her sons)

Sure, no problem.
So she leaves at 11 or so and after lunch me and Gopher Jrs set out to get a cake and a present for the daughter. At around 1 pm we go to her house to leave the cake and present. On the way we meet a young woman (maybe 20) going to the same place. Her name was K. She doesn't want to come in with us, just to talk to C by the gate. I don't understand much of the conversation except that they have to call JA and it's an emergency. So C and K disappear into the house. I can hear most of the conversation and understand what's going on to some extent.

After about 10 minutes C comes out crying and K leaves, also crying.
"My nephews are crazy" C says, and gives me the scoop. R (and presumably, soon his pregnant wife) lives in Manila with his mother J and big brother JA, 19, and his pregnant girlfriend (no, they didn't plan to have that one either) . The father left the family some 12 years ago for another woman since JA was the fruit of an unwanted pregnancy and their relationship never really worked out. JA went to Los Baños i April for the fiesta. There he met K and her little sister C, 17. Guess who's pregnant now?

So C txts her sister J from my phone since she doesn't have load and get a furious response where J calls her a slut and blames her for "giving herself to my son". C sends another one to explain that she's using my phone. The sister replies, apologises, but is still upset because it happen onC's watch (never mind it happened twice in Manila already). Then K txts C. K also got the slut-txt and is wondering why C's sister is being so rude and what she can do about it. C doesn't know.

And then I spend and hour with C, her mother-in-law, her half-sister R (who is the same age as C's other daughter. C's father also left the family, then her mother gave up the children, then they were reunited, then C's mother found another husband who she left about a month ago. C's was up in Manila two weeks and gave the new man some heat about not keeping track of his wife. They still don't know where she is) trying to figure out who is guilty and who is not, while C's 8-year old daughter, whom she adopted 1 ½ years ago is playing with my sons.

And I think about all the times I've wondered over the dysfunction of my own family - we yell at each other and everyone got their own set of problems which somehow never seem to end - but compared to this...


Monday, July 24, 2006

General Atrophy and Major Boredom

Early April I busted my knee playing beach soccer in Subic Bay (which, apart from the pain and not being able to walk for two weeks also kept me from appearing on Philippine national television, a true setback for an attention slut like myself). Three months later the knee felt completely healed and so I made my comeback. It lasted seven minutes, then I had to be carried off again.

Now I’m back to immobility and decay, slowly realising that my body does not carry the strength or respond like it did ten years ago. I’ve always looked down on 40-50 year old, slightly overweight, men (yes, always men) who make New Year’s resolutions about getting fit the coming year. Then they run half a marathon on the 3rd of January, completely unprepared, getting blisters and sprains and legs so sore they can’t be bothered to do any exercise whatsoever for six months. And now I’m one of them.

So the plan is to visit the gym.

The idea of repeatedly lifting things just to put them back in the same place doesn’t make sense to me unless it involves my pelvis and my wife. There was a time (when I was young and foolish) when I worked as a fire fighter and I got caught in the culture of a daily workout. A true, manly workout which included lots of heavy iron slabs and very little of stretching and motorically challenging exercises. Now, ten years older and wiser I prefer sports like soccer (A true, manly workout which includes lots of running and very little of stretching and motorically challenging exercises).

So the plan is I’ll do three sessions a week including lots of cardio and stretching, the probable outcome is I’ll do two sessions total and then revert to waiting until it feels good enough to play soccer again. Better bring my own stretcher to the first game.

Getting old sucks.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Going South

Did you ever get that feeling when you are in the Supermarket?

First, the slight rumble when you enter and then, when your cart is almost full and your kids are getting seriously impatient, the insufferable pain in your southern region when mr Bowel sends a supercilious message that you should have listened to the warning shot and it's now to late. As soon as you move, you're doomed.

The joys of last night has turned into an unstoppable flood, going south (I do have a beer belly, it just doesn't grow on me). And now your too far from the men's room to get there in time, a mile from home and with two innocent children to protect and care for.

So, what do you do?
I did bring some diapers for my youngest, but no way they can stand this, and besides there's nowhere to hide.
Just let it all go in a Fight Club manner (as I remember, they edited out a scene just like this for fear of negative public response) and walk proudly to the cashier? No, not there yet.
Fake a knee injury and have someone wheel chair you to the toilet. No, the faking part will without doubt end in a real accident.

You just wait for the pain to loosen its grip, walk a couple of meters until it sets in again, stop to casually inspect some produce, walk again, stop, stratch your chin and wonder which of the excellent choices of pasta you should buy, walk, stop, ponder over if I really need some "I-can't-believe-it-isn't-cheese" until you reach the place in the store closest to the place of your dreams. Then you have a small conversation with your son, act suprised, and then DASH for the men's room.

Now, this is perfectly OK, because as we all now, kids don't have perfect control of their bladders so when they gotta go, they gotta go. Nobody will flinch if you're in a hurry to the toilet as long as you got a kid under your arm. I'll save you further details but all is well that ends well.

The good thing about experiences like this is that the rest of the day will float by in a shimmering golden light.

And no, I won't post a picture to this one.


Monday, July 17, 2006

A call for help

The Philippines have the highest textmessage/capita rate in the world. EVERYBODY does it. Even my maid and yaya have more sophisticated cellphones then I have (Not that I have any top-of-the-line gear, but given that helpers' salaries are quite low, not to say embarrassingly low, they'd have had to put in at least a months salary just for the phone)

I regulary get about two text messages a week saying "wanna b my txtm8? pls txt bak" or somehing similar in shorthand Tagalog. I never reply to them anymore, after a initial mistake with a guy who turned out to be seriously gay and my wife started to wonder if this "Andy" really was a man.

Apparently people pick a random number to see if the person in the other end is lonely too. FDLP*-theory would be that when a densily population nation with a extended family culture gets urbanised, detached city people search for a substitute to cover up their rootlessness. A friend of a friend spends about 2000 PhP/months on text messages, equals about 60 a day.


This is my car. Sometime this morning an individual left an important message on it.

I prefer the "I wish my wife was this dirty".



Thursday, July 13, 2006

In search of the Swedish soul

Living abroad makes you aware of your own heritage. Right now I'm in a patriotic mode (in the good sense of the word). The last week I’ve been thinking a lot about my home country and what separates her from other nations of the world, how much of my manners are due to the fact that I was brought up there.

What is Sweden besides The Nobel Prize, Volvo, IKEA, Saab, Ericsson, ABBA, Greta Garbo, Ingemar Bergman, Linneaus, sparse interior decoration and a muppet chef?

Part I: Vocabulary

The picture above shows a famous Swedish poster from WWII. The words could either mean “A Swedish Tiger” or “A Swede keeps silent” which was the intent of the poster, i.e. don’t be an informant (to the Germans or Soviets, anyway).

The spirit of the poster lives on (or maybe it's always been there) since Swedes, in an international comparison, is a very quiet people. Maybe we don't have a lot to say, maybe we're just boring or maybe there's just not enough of us to make ourselves heard.

The only Swedish word I know that have been adopted in most of the western world is ombudsman (representative), which is an institution that citizens who feel they are wrongly treated or discriminated in a certain issue can turn to, to get justification. In Sweden there are lots of ombudsmän, one for children, one for people with an ethnic background other than Swedish, one for the press, one for people with (legal) sexual orientations that is not hetero (abbreviated HomO, and yes it means the same thing in Swedish) etc. It's not a weltschmerz or zeitgeist trendy word that you would use in New York, more a Brussels kind of thing, but you couldn't have chosen a better word to export to depict a society built mainly on social democratic politics for the last century. With a huge public sector, but also with an intent to care for every citizen.

Big Brother doesn’t just see you, he listens to you as well.


And reading it now just before I published it I realise that I did not keep to the topic or answer any question, but hell...I'm only learning.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Just like home

Just back after almost six weeks in beautiful Sweden. So many stories of trust and love and roots and friendship, but the real sense of place appeared before I even got out of the airport. There's a big bin in the hall in front of the customs with a sign kindly informing travelers that hash is forbidden in Sweden and any person carrying such a substance can throw it in the bin, otherwise they might have trouble entering the country.

It makes me think of Lou Reed and it makes me happy.

I've seen the bins in other countries too, but your always supposed too put fruit or food there. But we don't want that stuff. No half-eaten apples here please. Give us the good shit.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Not Like home, Pt III

Apparently you can do a lot of things with a bucket of building blocks.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Top Ten this that will not happen to you in my burrow, No 9

9. The driver in the car behind you will not be overly annoyed if you stop at a red light

I was going down to Batangas and ran into a red light at a crossing, where I, as a result of my previous schooling, stopped. (I would have done it even if it were no traffic. Here there were cars coming in from both sides). The car behind immediately started honking and my Filipino friend J, who was sitting next to me wondered what I was doing, stopping in the middle of the road like that.

– “Is something wrong”
- “It´s red”, I said, pointing at the lights.
- “Oh, that. No, nobody takes notice of the traffic lights here. Just go with the flow”

Traffic in the Philippines is nothing like home but it basically boils down to one single aspect:

A brief acquaintance told me about the first mail he ever received in the Philippines. It had a short tag in the end, like a randomly selected word of wisdom, which read: ”Welcome to the Philippines – where the law is just a suggestion”. When you realise that what you learned about traffic rules are just suggestions, driving is much easier. Here are some tips:

1. There is the general right of way if you’re coming from the right. But it’s modified to include the size of your car. Thus, if you have a big car (= high status) the right-rule only applies if you meet another big car. Otherwise you get right of way from the I-got-a-bigger-car-rule.

2. Traffic lights, if you can find them, has the following colour code
Green= GO!
Yellow= GO!
Red= Look before you GO!

3. Stop signs, where I’ve learned that you must come to a complete stop has been modified to mean ”you might consider shifting down to third gear before you GO!”

4. You communicate by honking and flashing. Don’t be afraid to use it. This span from the courteous “I’m coming”, “Thank you”, “Please pass” to the usual “Get out of my way” and “…and your mama” honks.

5. Streets, even highways, are public spaces inhabited not only by cars, jeepneys, tricycles and motorbikes but also children, basketball matches, food vendors, and dogs. All non-vehicles except dogs will move when you come.

The picture shows the signs telling you how to get out from SM Southmall. I tried to stop to take the picture, but a security guard had other ideas so I had to go around to get this fantastic paparazzi shot.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Tits and Boobies

For G, who gave me the chance

About half way down to the resort I told G:
- Elegant tit right there.
And it was an elegant tit, nicely displayed, full frontal. We stopped to look at it for a minute or so.
- Not exactly something you go home and tell your wife.
- Nope

G’s wife of course was standing three feet away, and the tit was a Parus elegans, one of 175 or so endemic bird species in the Philippines.

The birdworld is full of innuendos. The Paridae family of course have created numerous imaginative names: Great Tit, Sultan Tit, Stripe-breasted Tit, Sombre Tit, Varied Tit, Turkestan Tit and my favourite the near pornographic White-Necklaced Tit. Then there's the more enigmatic Tit-Like Dacnis, Mouse-Colored Penduline Tit and Fluffy-Backed Tit-Babbler. (I think I’ve seen one or two of those in various bars).
And if you’re not in the forest looking at tits you can always go to the beach to see the Boobies or Shags.

It does make you wonder what bird taxonomist get off on:
- Look Donald, I found a brand new species of bird in Borneo!
- Kickin' ! Watcha gonna call it?
- Haven’t decided yet. I’m thinking 'bout ‘Golden-Breasted Jug’, or maybe ‘Melodious Hooter’
- Sweeeet.

What about the ladies? No, there are no hunks, no beefcakes, no Georges' and no Clooneys. There are an extreme amount of –peckers and –cocks, but to my experience this has never been a key factor in female first impression towards male. Rather has it been an icon of masculinity thus further emphasizing the chauvinist naming of birds as general. The penis-innuendo birds span from the male-fantasy flavoured Guianan and Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Cock-tailed Tyrant and the elusive Dickcissel to the more patronizing Jameson's and Woodhouse's Antpecker. One might wonder if Jameson and Woodhouse named these birds themselves, and if so, why?

Bird taxonomist has not been so outspoken with their affection of the humour of the rear end. You have to explore the Latin names to find the Arses (monarch flycatcher), Poospiza (warbling-finch) or Turdus (thrushes).

To their defense there are some true jesters:
- a recently extinct parrot from the Marquesas Islands got the name vidivici (Steadman & Zarriello, 1987). The genus of course was Vini (in use since 1831).
- a Hawaiian Harrier Hawk in the genus Circus got the name dossenus (Olson & James, 1991). Dossenus means clown or jester in Latin, “without which one cannot have a circus."
- The Father of Natural History Linnaeus named the Hoopoe Upupa epops, almost 250 years before this activity became popular. (The Upupa part of course being street for "your papa" thus making the name into a question, alledegly from the male Hoopoe's desire to have a mate with a technically advanced father). The same year he named the Roseate Spoonbill Ajaia ajaja. “Aj” is equvivalent to “Ouch” in Swedish, which makes me wonder if his secretary misheard him when he dropped something heavy (e.g. a spoonbill) on his toe.

Since there’s usually a valid etymology to the names it’s hard to accuse taxonomist of being sexist or chauvinist, but would the names be different if the natural sciences historically would have been a foremost female affair? Would the Pitta be named Pitt instead (incidentally, Pitt is slang for penis in Swedish so there we go again)? Would we have stood in awe admiring Bulge-Chested Banderas, Tender Lovebirds or Dark Italian Strangerbirds? One will never know.

/ J.

The ornithological meaning of the word tit allegedly has Scandinavian origin but according to wikipedia is derived from 14th century English denominating something small. (We have two regular Parus species in Sweden called –tita. The other members of the Parus-genus save for one is called –mes, which means wimp. Another great example of Swedish chickenhood). The word Booby is possibly based on the Spanish slang term bubi, meaning “dunce”, as these birds had a habit of landing on board sailing ships where they were easily captured and eaten. Shag refers to the bird's crest as in the hairstyle meaning of the word.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Not Like Home, Pt II

Yes it’s a Waldorf salad. Yes of course it should be small pastel coloured marshmallows in it. Whadduya mean it looks tacky? Nooooo