This noisy, over-pixalated little guy is a “jordgubbe.” “Jord” means “earth” and a “gubbe” is a little old man. In the U.S., we know them as strawberries, though the size and shape (and taste) makes them only distant cousins to the humongous, flat and tasteless American corporate farmed version.
Swedish strawberries are round, entirely red (no white crown extending a quarter of the way down the berry) and sweet. This one was about the size of the top of my thumb from the nail up.
Biking into town for class today I saw a girl on the side of the road with a card table full of one liter boxes of strawberries. I thought of buying a box on my way back home this afternoon but then realized Mariette would see the same table and take care of it. Sure enough, we had strawberries and ice cream for dessert after a “kvällsmat” (evening meal) of salami and cheese sandwiches picnic style down at the handicap beach. The weather remains perfect, about 75, cloudless with a slight breeze. Mariette says she never experienced a May like this when she was growing up. Usually it would be in the 50s or 60s in May and the warmer months were July and August.
People are already beginning to cut loose for the summer: girls walking around in the summer clothes which doesn’t harm the scenery one bit, people working on their tans, and groups of people giddily walking along the coast. If this is May, this could really be a special summer. Climate change resulted in every state in the U.S. having the hottest July on record last year. That could be the same here but instead of uncomfortable heat it will mean absolutely lovely weather all summer.
Our class when to the library today and outside there were summer activities everywhere. Musicians were preparing for a concert and I was about to enjoy it when I noticed a flat tire on my bike so off I went to have it repaired. Here is what I would have seen:
So much for the sunshine and flowers. Last night I did a post about the Swedish economic model and I thought it sounded pretty good. Today, I read about a report someone has just released that says Sweden is moving away from their vaunted Swedish model and that some insurance benefits are now lower in Sweden than in many other developed countries. According to the report, the Swedish unemployment insurance system was the second most generous in the world (probably second to Switzerland, the home of money) as of 2005. According to the system, a person receives 80% of his or her salary for the first 200 days they are unemployed and 70% thereafter. Sounds pretty good except there is a cap of around $2600, so only 12% of unemployed Swedes receive these amounts of insurance payments.
There are other cracks, big ones, showing in the system as well. For the first time in 60 years Sweden’s sickness insurance benefits (52 weeks) are below the average of developed countries.
These reductions are coincident with the election of the Moderates to power since 2006. Should be an interesting election next time around (either 2013 or 2014, I think). A solution, of course, would be for the government to simply create the credit and spend it into the economy, as banks simply create debt and loan it into the economy.
Finally, tomorrow is Pingstafton, or the day before the Pentacost, another religious holiday celebrated in non-religious Sweden. This is the most popular day for weddings in Sweden and like many other Swedes, Mariette’s parents are celebrating their anniversary tomorrow–55 years and still going strong.
Tomorrow also coincides with the Eurovision Song Contest. You will remember the Melodiefestival from March as duly reported here. Well, every country in Europe held similar contests and each country’s winning performers are gathered in Azerbaijan this week for the Eurovision contest that crowns this year’s winner for the entire continent. The show is half contest and half promotion for Azerbaijan’s tourist board and chamber of commerce from what we saw of the qualifying rounds. This past Tuesday and Thursday nights there 18 performances each night and 10 contestants moved on to the finals tomorrow night. We thought many of the songs and performances in the Swedish contest were bad but some of the winners from other countries were truly awful. Wow, I cannot imagine what the non-winners from those places were like. We couldn’t watch more than a few, they were that bad. Anyway the Swedish entrant is ruffling feathers in true Swedish fashion by speaking to activist groups while there which is raising protests from the less-than-forthcoming government of Azerbaijan about her politicizing the event. She is being somewhat of an embarrassment to the host country since they are trying their hardest to project a spiffy, super clean image of their country during this international showcase. I have to admit that the little promo bits between the acts give a very positive image of the country. Then comes along this Swedish chick, who is one the favorites to win the whole thing, raising issues of what is really going on behind the facade of spotless buildings, clean streets and world class culture and sportsmen. Would be interesting to see what happens if she wins. Stay tuned.