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Seamus K - Irish tech industry expat living in Sweden.

Still the best (brief comment on Brexit)

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Camping in Scandinavia – what’s it like?

We got back from a family camping trip in Sweden and Norway a little over a week ago. I thought it would be useful to let people know what the experience was like in case you are considering bringing the tent and a car to Scandiavia.

We had a 2-week camping holiday in the south of France last year. That was a pretty good experience, and we were hoping for something similar this time around. It wasn’t. For a load of reasons.

On our trip we headed west from Stockholm to Karlstad where we spent a night. And from there we continued on to Oslo. The plan had been to go all the way to Bergen. But although we had not seen rain at that stage the forecast was dire for the coming week on the west coast of Norway – 8-10mm of rain each day. And having now seen what the local camping experience was like we decided that it we were to see the Fjords in the rain, it would be with the comfort of a hotel to greet us each evening.

The setup for campers

There are no shortage of campsites around. What we quickly discovered is that they are primarily intended for people with caravans and camper wagons. Our first inkling of this was when we rang up to book plots and were told that if we had a tent we could just turn up.

When you do turn up, the camping spots are pretty unsophisticated – usually some green spot at the edge of the campsite. There are no designated plots. You don’t get power, shade can be hit and miss, and you usually are stuck in a spot that is on the edge of the campsite, leaving you far from the shower and toilet facilities.

Those facilities were in excellent condition, clean, modern, with loads of hot water. But there was a definite impression that servicing people in tents is something of an afterthought.

Even when you pay there is none of the careful calculation you would see in France for text size, car, number of people, etc. It tended to be a flat rate each time. No one asked how many people, what size tent. We would just be told this is the rate, go down here, and pick any spot you want. Just stay 3m away from anyone else.

Who were we pitched alongside?

When you camp in France, or Italy, or even Austria (no experience of Germany) there isn’t the impression that it is something just for penny pinching students. Families do it, couples do it, and the people in the pitch next to you could be driving an Audi S6.

But in Norway and Sweden I don’t think we saw any natives with children camping. Most of those in tents were from outside the region. There were ubiquitous French and Dutch, and others from as far away as Slovenia and Spain. But family camping seemed to be the exception. And those that did it had older children than our 4 and 6 year old.

 

Would we do it again?

Nope. Not on your nelly. We were lucky with the weather. But we were eaten by mosquitoes in one place, and nowhere did we appreciate the trek to the showers and loos each day. Generally we had more privacy as we were 5-10m from anyone else. But it just felt like a rougher standard of camping that we had before. And it was not comfortable for a family holiday. Maybe when the children are older. But you won’t see us under canvas as a family in Scandinavia again anytime soon.

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Breakfast

Homemade granola

Homemade granola

I finally found a way to enjoy oats in the morning – turn it into home made granola. Then eat with some yoghurt. Yummy.

To make it take:

  • Two cups oats
  • Half cup seeds (I used pumpkin)
  • Half cup raisins
  • Three tablespoons maple syrup
  • Half tea spoon vanilla extract
  • Two tablespoons coconut oil
  • Pinch of salt

Mix it all up, and give it about 10-15 minutes on the oven on a baking tray at 150C.

The smell alone in the kitchen afterwards makes it worth it.

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What’s the difference?

I’m a Sex Worker, and This is What I’ll tell my Child.

I worked in the service industry as a consultant. I kept long hours. I traveled at the whim of others. They rented my body out to clients for what they felt like. I sacrificed hobbies, friendships, and family relationships for this. I put my health at risk.

I have yet to hear a decent argument against prostitution that could not be applied to some of the work that I have done.

 

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Missed opportunities

Grrr, I have a wailing and gnashing of teeth underway as I am missing the opportunity to meet and work with this amazing Engineer in a few weeks in San Francisco. I am not part of our team travelling to be there.

My elder daughter and I have started watching all sort of cool geeky stuff on YouTube at night. It was Chris Hadfield* this evening. Tomorrow I think it needs to be Simone.

* She was fascinated by the whole life on the space station thing. And I have been asked three times to explain why everything floats in space. Its great when you can stimulate curiosity like that**

** The one complaint – she was amazed when she saw a female astronaut. I need to beat that submissive attitude out of her.

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Better to be pure, or to compromise?

From Quartz – Ethicists say voting with your heart, without a care about the consequences, is actually immoral

“The purpose of voting is not to express your fidelity to a worldview. It’s not to wave a flag or paint your face in team colors; it’s to produce outcomes”

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Lessons of #Brexit

For over thirty years politicians in the UK were happy to blame the EU for every unpopular decision whether it had anything to do with Europe or not (a common problem in the rest of Europe, the UK ones just tended to do if more often and louder) . The result is that when Cameron made the mistake of offering a referendum the voters voted out – why wouldn’t they. They had been told for 30 years the EU was the problem.

When they are outside they will discover that things are not that simple – Farage has even started rolling back on one of his biggest lies (the £350m extra for the NHS one) within hours.

There are two big learnings.

1) Politicians need to actually be honest with voters. Offering easy, simplistic answers leads to people getting cynical about everything that comes from their mouths. The result is the rise of damaging populism across the democratic west.

2) Complex political problems can not and should not be reduced to simple yes-no questions. I am all for direct democracy, where it is right. But for big difficult questions, voters have shown repeatedly they struggle to take in all the information needed to make informed decisions. And instead, they decide based on unrelated issues (the Irish farmers voting down referendums because grant cheques are late), or with their gut. It is Politicians who are supposed to be the ones that bring in the experts, debate the issues and then make the decisions. That is why we have parliaments in the first place and don’t put every piece of legislation to the vote.

If only where an easy answer to this. I like to demand realism and honest of my politicians. But the ones that give it are few and far between. Because in the short term, the easy  “we didn’t want to do that, but the EU made us” gets them votes, and allows them to deflect blame.

Note on the image: I am living in my 3rd European country. I have an Irish passport, Austrian drivers licence, and Swedish ID card. I consider myself a proud European. I would be devastated if my country had made the decision that the UK has. Fortunately it looks like everyone in Ireland, including the “ourselves alone” brigade are 100% clear that staying in the EU is a vital national interest.

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#Euro2016

If you are following Euro 2016 please do enjoy it. But do remember that for an awful lot of us our attitude is:

Ck2PgATVAAA8Tuz

And it is sexist to assume that all men are into football.

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Build my first space station

This evening’s entertainment. Thanks to @CERuge for the design. If you like it you can support it on the Lego ideas site so it may become an official model in the future.

Or you can do like I did and spend about €20 to order all the parts direct from Lego and make it yourself 🙂

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Austrian hiking – in my defence, I was a foreigner

In the run up to the Austrian presidential election the Economist ran an article on the country. Despite living there for about 4 years, much of it was news to me (Austrians really don’t mix with foreigners).

This quote did send a shiver down my spine:

“Under Austria’s Proporz system, jobs, housing and business licences were doled out on the basis of party membership. Laws are written by party-affiliated labour or business groups and handed to parliament to rubber-stamp. Even now two motoring associations and two mountain-trekking clubs exist, to ensure that Austrians need never dally with another political tribe when their cars break down or when on an Alpine stroll.”

Dear God, in the time I was there, I could have unwittingly been a member of the Fianna Fail Hiking Club!

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