Welcome to another issue of Life in the Swedish Army, my weekly dump of entries from my diary, being written as I go through national service in the armed forces of Sweden. See my wu in this node if this is the first of the LitSA nodes you've seen. It contains some background info which will be expanded later when I get to writing a proper LitSA metanode.

Anyway, this week was interesting in many ways, mainly because I was able to push my limits in terms of my mere physical abilities. Know that before joining, I would feel some anxiety should someone tell me I had to run non-stop for 5 kilometers - not that much if you're well-trained, which as should be obvious by now, I was(am) not. One thing has been made certain now, if you want to burn fat, fuck all those lose weight schemes you read about in silly magazines and such. In the army, you can eat lots of food (which is actually quite tasty, usually) and still lose kilos every week, just because of the constant physical excercise you get. Motivation is no problem; there's always someone able and willing to make you run that extra km.

(End of rant about weight loss.) Now for this week's diary entries, covering day 22-28, or July 8-14.)

9th of July, 2002 - 07:35
No time to write yesterday, even though we went off-duty pretty early, right after dinner (1730 hrs). None of the so-called evening duty we'd been putting up with previously, a welcome change to say the least. We spent most of yesterday on more combat excercises, as well as building entrenchments from rocks, logs, moss and other stuff easily found in a proper Swedish forest. This was quite fun, reminding us of our treehouse-building days of long ago, when we were all little kids. The commanding officers were also quite pleased with the result.

As for today, we've only cleaned the barracks and had breakfast so far, nothing really out of the ordinary. I've got to be ready at 0740 though, so gotta go ...

9th of July, 2002 - 21:40
The morning was saved by a lack of time - we apparently did not do a very good job cleaning, something which would normally lead to the CO's having us do it all over again, but with less than 10 minutes to spare, they realized the infeasibility of this idea, and let us off, so we could wouldn't miss our scheduled time at the shooting range. Our excercises there went smoothly much thanks to the great weather, offering neither rain nor excess sun. Very nice. We spent the afternoon practicing how to handle stuff like traffic accidents. Tomorrow it's wednesday, which will offer a somewhat heavier schedule. Good night!

10th of July, 2002 - 22:15
Just a short note today, I'm tired as hell and need to take a shower before 2230 hours. Tomorrow we've got a two-hour march scheduled, followed by theory all afternoon, and finally some PE in the form of orienteering, which will involve a large amount of running. A rather intense day, in other words, but once over with the week will almost be at its end. Woohoo. There's an obvious risk that I won't be able to write anything tomorrow, due to sleepiness/exhaustion/rigor mortis, so please accept my apologies in advance should that happen.

(Note: I really was tired when I wrote the above; so tired, I forgot to include what I'd done that day. We had PE all morning, and listened to a speech about footcare in the afternoon. Enough to break any man, I'm sure you will agree. End note.)

12th of July, 2002 - 12:30
As expected, I didn't have time to write anything yesterday, though I'm still alive despite having travelled quite a distance by foot: First the previously mentioned two-hour march, complete with full combat gear and a very heavy backpack (we got about 10 km), and during the evening some (also previously mentioned) orienteering. In lighter clothes and at a somewhat higher pace, but about the same distance as the morning march. Suffice to say, we were all very tired as the day neared its end.

Today it is friday, and we'll be leaving for a week of well-deserved summer holiday. It's has been a calm day including a few hours at the shooting range (learning to throw hand grenades) and a very tasty lunch. Now we're going to take this week's exam. No idea what it'll be on.

14th of July, 2002 - 12:10
It's sunday now, but I'm not going back to S1. And why not, you ask? Because now I'm on summer holiday for one week, meaning I'm free to just sit back and relax, something there isn't much time for in the army. This has the added side effect that I won't be writing anything for days 29-35. Cya in two weeks!

<-- day 15-21 | day 36-42 -->

Sunday morning, and thus my weekend closes (with the exception of sleep, which will come soon) with a sixer of Bacardi Silver and 10mg of Ambien. It has not been a good weekend.

Friday I found out that Gnutella developer Gene Kan committed suicide. Gene is/was a friend-of-a-friend -- my girlfriend is friends with most of the Winamp/Nullsoft crew and used to date one of its members. Death, even when it's far away and happens to people I don't know, affects me as if it were something that happened to people I talk to every day. When death strikes this close to home, as it were, I don't end up feeling paticularly good about it. You know how some people say that $DEADPERSON was in a lot of pain, is probably in a happier place now, etc. Well, that doesn't really do much for me because I find myself unable to deal with the crushing feeling of never being able to talk to $DEADPERSON again, no matter what John Edward would have me believe. And so when a friend of my girlfriend dies suddenly, you're damn right I'm going to be feeling just as awful as my girlfriend is right now, and just as awful as those who were close to $DEADPERSON.

I also found out on Friday that my girlfriend and I had racked up approximately $1300 in cellphone charges. My company pays for my cellphone, and they assume that it should be mostly used for work issues, like waking someone up at 3:30AM when one of the Gig-E cards suddenly fails and needs to be replaced immediately, which is what I normally use my phone for -- to call and wake somebody up and get them on their way to the datacenter. However since I found myself with a conveniently free cellphone, I thought I could get away with spending 4,704 minutes since May on the phone, mostly during off-peak hours. The thing is, I'm mostly working during off-peak hours, or I should be. So I can't really use the off-peak excuse as any kind of leverage because I was supposed to be working and not talking on the phone for three hours at a whack. The punchline here is that I'm going to nearly double my workload. I'll shortly be going from working 45 hours a week to perhaps 70 hours a week, just to pay off that large phone bill I incurred on their phone. It's not that the work I do is hard, it's just that it's so boring and tedious. My work reminds me of a line from the film Hedwig & The Angry Inch:

The communists gave my mother a job, teaching sculpture to limbless children.

Teaching sculpture to limbless children is precisely what I do at my current job. The limbless children come to me, and I tell them things that they cannot possibly make any sense out of, so they keep coming back, begging me to dumb it down for them, all the while they're brandishing their retail-purchased copies of Microsoft FrontPage 2000 or Macromedia Dreamweaver, and then they bleat, on and on, I NEED A PHONE NUMBER THIS LIVE SUPPORT STUFF ISN'T HELPING ME BECAUSE I AM AN IGNORAMUS PLEASE LET ME TALK ON THE PHONE KTHXBI!!!!!11

So basically my increased workload will include approximately 40% more hand-holding/dumb-downing/mindless repetitions and a neverending supply of knock-kneed internet newbies wanting me to put them in their place.

I don't have the option to not do these things because I can barely pay most of my bills. All of them are at least 30 days overdue at this point, and if I don't switch to working many more hours than I already do, then I'll be Grade-A Fucked and I'll likely lose electrical power in my apartment (and, ergo, DSL/phone line, so not much to do with a powerless computer), and I'll lose my car, which has been on the verge of being repossessed for most of this year.

I wish society would evolve beyond the need for money, already. Like Star Trek.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: The economics of the future are... somewhat different. You see, there is no money.

Lily: ...You mean you don't get paid?!

Picard: The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives...


So, now, with the Ambien kicking in and a tear in my eye, I write:

Gene Kan

Loinen presents:

Total Chill Out Weekend

Just to remind all you fellow noders how important it is forget all mundane worries from time to time. So, there isn't that much to tell about the weekend because absolutely nothing was done except some relaxed activities like water skiing and throwing darts (I was the topscorer of the family with 41 points).

Luckily, the weather reports were correct and we had two very sunny days. I have absolutely no complaints about 30+ degrees Celsius but it reminded me one of the disadvantages of being white: I slightly burned my shoulders. Lessee if there will be a daylog: June 12, 2022; Loinen: I was diagnosed to have a skin cancer...

Well, that's something you may expect when you go and chill out on an airbed floating on the sea. I also managed to catch a pike with a fishing rod - a lunch for Sunday. And there were few blueberries to collect and eat - a rewarding duty to accomplish.

That's all physical activities I did at the summer cottage over the weekend. But it wasn't just the body that got some rest but merely the brains. I forgot everything about the MSc and the work involved. I forgot running, the sore ankle and malfunctions of social contacts - especially I mean one dreary phone call couple of days I ago when I slipped out a joke that can be understood in two ways. I tried to explain what my meaning was but the damage was done, sigh..
Well, in order to forget everything I had to rely not just on clearance of mind but on the book titled "Intellectual terrorism - International Situationists 1957-72" followed by two pamphlets by Andre Gorz. Both were not just interesting but very inspiring too. The credits for having some great fun go to Mum, especially her, and the youngest Brother who were there too. Whenever we are together it all goes just absurd. Dad, the great rationalist, provided the fishing company and snoring..

And now I'm back in Tampere, finding myself unable to sleep because it's 28C inside & there's too much thoughts going through my head, mostly induced by two things: situationists and Fucking Åmål which I saw on Thursday.

01:46 EET, good night.

We were in class during a break from fun biochemistry. She was sitting beside me like usual. I pointed up to the front.

“You see that guy? I can’t stand him. He’s such an idiot

“The guy in the red?”

”No the guy beside him, well, yah I don’t like him either.”

She laughed.

“You don’t like anybody!”

“Well… no that’s not true.”

“Yes it is! I guess you just find it tolerable to be with me eh?”

“No. I really enjoy the time we spend together. Seeing you makes this class worthwhile. I look forward to these days the entire week.”

She laughed again.

“Haha fuck you.”

I’ve never been more honest or sincere in my entire life.

Partied all day and all night. I wished my oldest niece wasn't the brat that she is. She thinks she's God over everyone, and that I had to share my bag of marshmallows. Dammit, I paid $1.19 for that bag, and I want $1.19 worth of enjoyment in roasting marshmallows by a huge bonfire.

Also had my first tequila shot in my life. I'm known to be a light drinker, but tonight was my heaviest drinking I've ever had. I didn't get drunk, but I was loaded with alcohol. Only thing that kept me from drinking more is that I was my own designated driver.

moving and shaking

weill in japan: day 12

Some things never change. I've been here for more than a week, and I'm settling into a routine now. To underscore the whole continuity thing, my host mother even went out and bought McDonald's food for the whole family earlier this evening.

rumblings in tokyo

Milestone: I have survived my first earthquake.

I was standing in my second-floor bedroom at around 9:00 PM local time on Saturday evening when the floor started to shake. I originally wrote it off as a side effect of the alcohol I had drank earlier that evening, or perhaps a passing truck. Still, a passing truck might make a wood-framed house like this shake for a fraction of a second; this shaking lasted several seconds. Nothing happened after that: no special report on the radio, no words of instruction from anyone in my family. It was only this morning when they confirmed that Saturday night's shaking was in fact a small earthquake.

Moral of the story: as long as I have enough alcohol, earthquakes are manageable.

same routine, different continent

Today, my plan was simple: get up, do a little cleaning, and get my homework done. All of that was going along smoothly until about 12:00 noon, when my parents here asked me to go with them to a local electronics and computer store to help them pick out a new digital camera and printer. After meticulously explaining the concepts of CCD resolution, optical zoom, and memory card technology in Japanese to my 60-year-old host father, we settled on an Olympus C2 Zoom camera. It should be a good, simple camera for taking snapshots on vacation. Then we decided to look for an inkjet printer.

Right now, if you were to buy an inkjet printer, the box would contain little more than the printer itself. Most printers include a small "starter" cartridge with half the ink of a normal cartridge, a CD with drivers, a manual, and a power cable. That's it. Two sheets of photo paper in the box could print maybe eight pictures, provided that the ink cartridges hold up. No USB cable is included, meaning that the company effectively assumes that you keep extra USB cables around. A "starter kit" for about $20 more contains some essentials, while a set of real ink cartridges will cost over $60. I told my host family to hold off on buying these accessories until after they've used the printer a little. They got a very good-quality photo printer that can print small shots on rolls of paper (sold separately), and which can print pictures straight from the memory card. That's good, because the software used to extract pictures from cameras is almost as bad as consumer-grade scanner software. Hopefully my host family will be able to use the memory card slot on the printer effectively; it looks simple enough. Considering how much all these new toys cost, I think my host father is eager to make it worth his investment.

Although the selection may be larger and the prices slightly more reasonable, the whole consumer electronics superstore idea carried over virtually unscathed from the U.S. to Japan. There are salespeople working on commission stationed everywhere, like the young woman who sold my family on the high-end printer. I peppered her with questions and made side comments to my parents about how printers have so many hidden costs; my parents not-so-tactfully relayed some of these comments directly to the saleswoman. Somehow, I don't think I made the best impression on her.

late shift

It's tough to get back on a college work schedule when I'm still effectively living at home; I have regular meal schedules rather than the 1:00 AM food runs that I usually do at college, for example. Talking with my host family and watching TV are two things that help me learn the language, but they cut into homework time. I also want to some more sightseeing, but that's yet another time killer. Finding the right balance will help me get more than 5-6 hours of sleep when I have homework to do.

Speaking of which, it's getting late now and I've got a train to catch in the morning. Good night.

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