02 November 2005

generic ramblings from sweden


man, I can't believe it that it has been about two weeks since I made my last blog post. So, this means this post will come with this warning - WARNING: AN EXTREMELY LONG POST

You've been warned....I remember before leaving for Sweden, I came across this random blog in blogspot.com about a girl from Netherlands (Holland) who at that time recently went to Australia for exchange student program similar to what I'm doing now. The time period between her posts was becoming less frequent as each post passed by and I remember one of those posts she said something like "Jeez, sorry for not posting as often, I've been busy "living" blah blah blah"... I thought to myself as I was reading what she typed that this would never happen to me, I would make at least two posts every week chronicling my Sweden journey with every exhaustive detail I could conjure up. And after 2 and something months, I find myself in similar place as that dutch girl... oh well :)

But,.. I think I might have a decent excuse for not posting up something lately :)...In the last week of October was my first ever examination week in Sweden. Remember how I said how easy I had it in my first two months in school, that there never was much homework and/or that there were not much "class time"...I sure changed my perspective on the courseload once I realized the magnitude of information I had to absorb to know everything for my two final exams. For my macroeconomics class, I had two different books, one regular American-based textbook for Macroeconomics theory and second book, written by a professor from the school I am in right now. My intial reaction to that second book was "come on, that professor is only trying to make some money by forcing us to buy that book." I kept putting off reading that second book until just a week before the final exam when I finally read the book.

The book "Globalization and Welfare State" written by Bo Söderstrom, an economics professor. The book basically outlined the defintions and effects the globalization had on the Welfare system with a huge focus on Sweden's economy policies (I know most of you are going 'ho hum' now but bear with me :p ). I think I learned so much about Sweden's politics/economic system and the culture state Sweden is currently experiencing now especially with the second wave of immigration and loads of abuse in the welfare system, apparently Swedes take twice as much sick leave as any other countries in the OECD. The book argued about the immigration strategy how it was lacking productivity by placing immigrations in job-deprived communities such as Malmö thereby forcing more immigrations to depend on the welfare which causes Governement's social spending to be at ridiculously high level, about 50% of the nation's GDP which made Sweden's economy experience recession for almost 20 years in mid 70's to early 90's... the book also compared and contrasted with the miracles of Denmark & Netherlands' economy system since they enabled a powerful welfare system and yet they escaped recession shortly after the oil price shock in 70's while Sweden never recovered for another decade later because of mistakes in fiscal policies (devaluating the currency and rising taxes).... heh... My point is that that book taught me so much about Sweden and in retrospect I'm glad that the professor forced me to read that book since that kind of stuff is what I actually wanted to learn about when I am here instead of reading American-Based Macroeconomics textbook where I can always read when I am in Ryerson University. When I applied for the exchange student program, during the interview process I said that I wanted to experience the different perspective and knowledge of business and technology systems which could help further my career in IT, I think I just got that knowledge. And, that I always thought Sweden always had the perfect economy system but it turns out that I was half right, apparently Sweden's economy were nearly perfect for almost 100 years until 1970s even though their economy experienced the WWI WWII and more international economic depressions, their economic system were known as the "Sweden Model", many different countries have attempted to copy the model but without success. The failures didn't occur until recently but in the last 8 or so years Sweden have gained their crediblity.

Anyway... after much studying, I do not think I did well in my finance exam, in fact I will be surprised if I passed it because the exam had many different questions about Leasing, Present Value of Money, Inflation, Discount Rates, Bonds, Stock Options, Loans and stuff like that, in my very first question of the exam, it was something like, 100,000 kronor loan, 20 year term, 12% interest rate, 3.3% inflation, straight amortization... that 12% just stuck into my head after having to make like 50 calcuations using that 12% for the first question then when I jumped ahead to other questions... after 3 hours or something I realized that it was interesting that all questions also had 12% interest... then suddenly it hit me!!... that 12% interest rate was just completely etched into my brain I completely ignored that every question had a different interest rate and by then I was almost done with the exam and I was not sure which questions I had actually used a differnet interest rate or used 12%, I actually had to recheck my solutions for each questions then from there I just got toooooooo confused then just handed in my paper before the time expired. Oh well, this school's policy is if you fail an exam, you can re-take it again, so I'm not too worried since I can re-take it and it won't be shown on the permanent record or anything and I'm also not worried since I'm confident that I know the stuff but just have to read the questions more carefully next time if there is a next time!

My Macroeconomics exam was so much better... I answered every question with confident and finished with plenty of time to spare... this school's exams are 5 hours long!!... but most of us usually finished within 3 hours or so. I won't get to know the results of both exams until sometime later this week or next week.

After the macroeconomics exam, I went directly to Stockholm, Mattias had a small gathering at his apartment in Gullmarspan (I know I spelled it wrong... if one of u swedes want to criticize me, please do comment in my blog :D)... After being awhile in Jönköping, it took me more than few minutes to allow the teckenspråk to be interwined into my communication capabilties :) och att jag ocskå behövde några öl till... och jag är skriv med svenska nu därför jag vill inte min far till förstå mig :p Mattias, Patrik, Stefan, Seb, Niklas, Jeb, and I hung out for few hours chatting before going to the deaf house. When I got to the deaf house, I was soooo tired, (I had woken up at 5am earlier that morning to study for the macreconomics exam, then take the exam, then 4 hour bus trip to stockholm then had to use a foreign language for the rest of the night... my tiredness was understandable :p) Elisabet and I decided to just go home a little earlier than usual.

Then for most of the weekend, I just rested, felt soooo good that I didnt have any school stuff hanging over my head... went to the local shopping plaza, malls, and went to the city... just moseyed around before I came back to Jönköping for the new term which started yesterday for me.

My two courses for this A2 term, is 1) Knowledge Management - its about understanding and how to put knowledge into use, knowledge is the link between the raw data and information. and 2) The Principles and Practices of Information Technology System Architecture and Interaction (I think that course wins an award for the most longest course name in the history of education in any level) Abbreivated by the School, the course is known as PAPOSAI... its actually about Application¨Integration for Service, Informatoin, Portal oriented systems...to simplify it further its actually all about how to make two different information systems to be able to communication with eachother using various applications along with XML, XSLT, ebXML, BPEL4WS, UCCNet, RossettaNet or webservices like SOAP, WSDL and UDDI. uh oh, I think i just made it more complicated :)... simply put in layman's terms, if you have a french person and a russian in a same room, you get a translator to help them to communicate with eachother, thats what application integration is all about.. translating, enabling different systems with different languages to communicate with eachother.

Anyway,... enough about my school, I think I have either wasted your time reading this or taught you some things that you might find useful with application integration and swedish economy history eh? :)....

I want to mention this interesting thing, while talking with Patrik and Stefan last friday night, Stefan is a hard of hearing Swede but he went to Gallaudet for three years in 90's so hes very fluent in ASL and Patrik is a Swede with a deaf family and he has travelled alot he is not as fluent in ASL but he knows English well... while chatting with them Patrik felt that when talking in teckenspråk he feels that he cannot truly express himself and often has to resort to using International Sign Language or ASL for select signs, Stefan said the same way, he said that he found some signs in ASL that fits the written language's meaning much better than what some of the teckenspråk's signs would fit. At that point, I realized with hundreds of sign languages in all over the world, if we all ignore the written and spoken language, it would be fun to work backwards and try to find a sign that best fits the meaning of the expression itself rather than creating a new sign that satisifies the criteria for international sign language. I can't think of a way how to articulate this more simpler but I will attempt to do so by giving some examples such as... in ASL.. you know how we say "not allowed", we actually say "not" then "allowed" in Sweden teckenspråk they say uhhmmm... you know how old ladies like to wag their fingers "no-no!!" but in a single movement, they move their index finger on the right hand from left side to the right side. I think that is a much better "not allowed" sign than ASL's "not allowed" sign. There is a swedish sign I dont like -- "oh i see", they use this Mipple style "3" (for those who does not understand, contact me or mike wiesner personally) and brush their middle finger on the right hand on their right shoulder and repeat few times. I think its the most exaggerated sign for a such insignifcant expression, I prefer ASL's "oh i see" sign, its more low key toned which fits the expression the best. Possibly there is some other sign in some other country that might best fit the expression of "oh i see" or "not allowed".

I just feel that it would be very interesting if we all could decide on one best united sign language that fits the expression charateristics rather than following the systematically rules fixed for some of the languages. I'm saying this because I've come to a point of realization where I feel that it is possible to express myself better in some expressions using Swedish sign rather than ASL. Note that I used 'Expressions' rather than 'Words' because I believe they contain two different principles/rules that comes into use when creating a specific sign. Of course, there will be contradicting opinions for those who read this blog partly because of my inability to exhibit my understanding coherently or partly because you all are just arrognant and narrowminded to say that it is possible ASL is not the perfect language... heh.

Ahh, yeah this has been a long blog :s, I was just about to end this blog but then I realized I forgot to add one event that I hosted about a week and half ago. I missed the Canadian thanksgiving back in early october... I didn't really dwell on it much but then I realized one of the reasons I came here as an exchange student was also to disseminate the Swedes with Canadian culture, I can't just always stand back and completely absorb the swedish culture into me, I should be able to expose them with some of my traditions. Then Elisabet and I decided to host a thanksgiving dinner for the Farkas family. Yup, me, Brandon!! cooked a 12 pound turkey (it was the biggest I could find, I originally wanted a 25-30pounder heh) along with all of the thanksgiving trimmings including mashed potatoes and my family's traditional pasta. Needless to say but Elisabet's grandparents were very delighted with the delicious dinner, they kept saying thank-you to me in awe that I was able to cook a such elegant meal :) of course, thanks to andrew and dad for the last minute advices on how to cook the turkey and how to make "home-made" gravy... everybody was so full... I took some left over turkey to Jönköping and sure enough it was the only thing I ate for several more days heh... nothing beats thanksgiving's leftovers eh? :)

Ok, I guess that's all I have to say for now... I sure made up for some lost blogging time? :p... Since you all have been so good, patiently reading my blog, here's a treat for ya, some pictures for you below :)

uh-oh just talked with Laing and he reminded me to add something, if you are pissed off now, talk to him...theres this cool website... http://www4.ur.se/teckensprak ...
In there, u will see many different links educating people how to use teckenspråk (swedish sign language)... the most interesting part is that almost everybody who signs in that website is actually prominent hearing people who is famous in Sweden (politicans, chefs, olympians, news anchorman, tv actors) They all did not know how to sign before working together to make that website....the purpose of this website was to show the Sweden public that ANYBODY can learn sign language including the hearing people because when the general public (hearing people who doesnt know how to sign) see the website and see those famous people actually signing they will start thinking that maybe they can learn how to sign... I've learned some new signs or learned new words that I already know signs for but didnt know the swedish word for it :)

ok onto the pictures now!...


Me on the Laptop :)

Me with my finished Turkey! (no tofurkey, thank you)

Elisabet and her family lives on this townhouse complex, they live on the far left side of this building.

This was taken just few minutes walk from Elisabet's home, she lives in Bredäng, a suburban community of Stockholm, just like what Etiobcoke is to Toronto. Just showing the nature of Sweden in the city :)

This picture was taken in the entrance of the Bredäng subway station, about 7 minutes walk from Elisabet's home

This is in the central city of Stockholm known as Centralen (The Centre), similar to Yonge Street, filled with busy shopping centres, its always overflowing with people during the peak hours.

Some more pictures of Centralen with some sort of outdoor food market.

Last picture, nothing important, except for that odd oversized Ghost balloon in the middle.

I wanted to show you some pictures of the Gamla Stan (old town), but I did not have the chance to take any pictures, so I'll save that for some other blog post... meanwhile you can finally can stop reading and do whatever you were doing :)


Lisa said...

GullmarspLan (almost perfect indeed!) :)


oneninefive said...

I just got a break in class to read your blog. I want to comment on what you said about sign language.

When I was in England, I never really liked the way they sign the alphabet, however I believe some of their signs were much better than ASL.

I have sometimes thought during my Euro Trip that Deaf people should work together and use the best signs to represent what they are trying to say.


pullformannen said...

"Some more pictures of Centralen with some sort of outdoor food market."

Oh no. You were att Hötorget, 2 km from Centralen - one of the most famous marketplaces in Sweden - almost as famous as Västra Torget in Könjöping.

Brandon said...

ahhh... thanks for the clarification! :)