Real estate porn and Swedish salespeople


Sometimes for fun I look at real estate. Sometimes idly, flipping through pictures and descriptions on websites and other times more actively, actually attending viewings and contacting real estate agents to get my questions answered. Sometimes I take my own research to a strange place. When I was interested in Berlin property, I started investigating the weird and wonderful world of foreclosed properties. Of course, the information about foreclosures is only available in German, which is not a language I know – but I was determined to dig into this properly and thus armed myself with a German dictionary and figured out the how, when, where of purchasing foreclosed-upon properties in Berlin. Sure, I never applied the knowledge, but how often do I apply most of the random knowledge that is rattling around in my head (e.g., citizenship laws for too many countries to count).

In the process, both in my real estate porn and in my actual home purchase process several years ago, I discovered that Swedish real estate agents are just weird. “Weird”, I grant, is not descriptive and in this case singles out one way of doing things (the “Swedish way”) and makes it sound as though it is wrong. In fact, it is simply different from what I think property sales and salespeople should be like. Out in the country where I live, I understand that there is not much incentive (they get no or tiny commissions), and to some extent, in cities, the markets are just so “hot” that agents don’t really have to do much.

My thinking, though, is that if I found a property I liked and lived in the US, I would contact the agent and express this interest. They would be obsessive about trying to sell it to me and,in case that did not work out, would actively be looking at other comparable properties and be pressing me on looking at those, too.

On several occasions in Sweden, when I contacted an agent again after looking at a property and seeing it had been removed from the web, they say simply, “It is sold. Sorry.” And nothing more.

This would rarely, if ever, happen with an American real estate agent, who would say, “I am sorry, but the property you were interested in is sold… but I have x in the same neighborhood and have a comparable type of property in X neighborhood.” Selling. Always trying to keep you on the hook. While I appreciate low-pressure salesmanship, this Swedish way feels lazy and not at all like any kind of selling. I have found in most cases that people here do not care if they are helpful or if they sell anything at all.

Romney – Please learn to speak clear English in complete sentences


I wish Romney were capable of completing his sentences, even though I do not necessarily want to hear whatever he is driving at. I also wish he could complement most of what he says not just with facts but with specifics and details. I think we are out of luck on both fronts.

I was struck most starkly by Obama mentioning a contextually appropriate story about a girl he met at Ground Zero. He was quite specific, knew the girl’s name and fit the story into the topic. Romney, on the other hand (as usual), jumped all over the map, straying way off topic, trying to throw in stories of “real people” – but was totally non-specific. He met a woman in Wisconsin (or something) but did not finish. What was the point of starting but not finishing that thought? He met unemployed people before. But he is not good at, because he is not sufficiently human, to weave individual-level stories into his shtick. He should steer away from it entirely.

Not surprised about the lack of specifics since he has never produced specifics at all. “Come on our website…” and you will see how we reduce the deficit. And if he does cite specifics (like his apparent “fewer ships than 1916” detail), they are so off-the-wall.

And that plastic face. Oh, god.

Power outage


I am someone who likes to do a lot of things in the middle of the night. It is quiet, no interruptions. Tonight, my electricity went out at 1 in the morning and did not come back on until after 5, making it impossible for me to do much of anything. NO baking!

For a little while, I was able to enjoy the availability of Netflix (at last!) in Sweden; eventually the computer ran out of battery, though… so nothingness.

For as annoying as this is, it prompts overriding thoughts of how reliant we are on electricity and internet connectivity and how totally helpless we are without either.

Calling candidates out on their nonsense, failures and condescension


Romney’s condescending comments on letting women go home and have flexible hours (as if that is what is going to help women achieve economic parity with men!?) and lying about his endlessly shifting positions on reproductive rights and women’s health care (and ultimately family issues) and his euphemistic and slimy answer about immigration (“self deportation” to where there are “better opportunities” for you once you cannot get the benefits you want in the US?!) make me want to vomit.

I am still not pleased with Obama’s not calling Romney out on some things – quite a few things, he has been on the attack more notably. But what about Romney prattling on about how he would give a bunch of “tax relief” on things like… interest on your savings, capital gains and dividends? How the bloody hell is that going to help most of the middle class (who are often living without any savings and don’t even know what dividends are)? It just proves how out of touch he is.

Linguistic tipping points – Double down bust


I hate the term “tipping point”, but it is everywhere.

Years and years ago, when I sometimes went to a local casino, one of the blackjack dealers, an older guy named “Ted”, liked to say, in a gravelly voice, almost unintelligibly, “Double down bust.”

I have noticed, particularly during the US presidential campaigns that are overwhelming international media at the moment, that there is an unfortunate spike in the use of the term “double down”. This gambling term, which means to double one’s bet or risk, has enjoyed much greater mainstream application as candidate Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on his positions but has often “doubled down” on factually inaccurate information. The use of this term has spread throughout the media, though, and I rarely hear a news story now that is not putting this expression into play.

Needless to say, I don’t like it – especially because everyone is using it. If it were just one guy’s (or one network’s) signature phrase, it might not bother me this way. There is no controlling the way expressions and language spread like wildfire, but certain expressions just do nothing for me.

(I won’t even get into the naming of the dubious KFC Double Down sandwich (“the bun” being replaced by two slabs of chicken), which strikes me as doubling down on clogged arteries.)

Positive side effects of ignoring word limits


My tendency to ramble and ignore word limits on assignments has served me well for once. I had to cut back my school assignment (puny word limit of 1,500 words for which I submitted about 4,000) – but this means that all those words I cut can be refashioned to do the second half of the assignment. Happily I now have a head start (for once since starting this degree program)!

When I was younger and constantly enrolled in study programs, I never imagined myself functioning outside of a study program. That is, things were so smoothly flowing I scheduled my life in a way that always accounted for school, work and all my other obligations. I still schedule my life around the priorities, but it has been such a long time since I was in school at this level (and took it seriously – I often enrolled in university programs in Iceland and did not take them seriously at all).

It is misleading to say that I have a “second half” of the assignment to do. In fact it is more like the final third of an assignment that required a written introduction to a topic, two peer reviews (I had to read and critique two peers’ papers and two peers will do the same for mine), which is followed by writing a conclusion based both on my continued research/learning and the input from the fellow students. I try to be constructive in my peer review critiques – sometimes what people write barely even makes sense because their English is questionable (always makes me feel relief that English is my native language and even greater relief that I am not trying to write papers in another language – I admire these other people’s willingness to do so despite the language not being their own). Of course, I also fail on the word count front in the critiques as well; I am supposed to deliver 500 words (nothing!). I don’t think I have ever managed to submit a critique under 700 words, if not many more… sigh. When will I learn?

The ever-growing to-do list and chain of command


The to-do list is so full, I do not even know where to start. This could produce inertia, but with focus and taking full command of my time, I can focus and tackle all these things – one step at a time. (Just need to be careful not to add too many unneeded levels of debris to the schedule.)

That said, I have a list of stuff I want to bake. If not for the coming week, for the following week. It will happen. I always make time for baking, sooner or later.

Technical difficulties and language questions


Under the wire, I finished my school paper and since then, there has been a technological meltdown. Okay, I exaggerate. I just had a full day fighting against internet disconnectivity chez moi. That’s really one of the most frustrating “first-world” problems I can encounter.

In my academic readings, I found that the writers used the term “unpacking” too many times for my liking. Rarely have I seen so many texts referring specifically to “unpacking” the meaning of things. It annoyed me. Then, annoyed thoroughly, I used “unpacking” myself in my own hastily penned paper.

Today my mother said “we visited with her…”, and I realized that it is not very often that I hear the term “visit with” someone in the sense that means to “talk with”. “Visit” generally connotes that you have gone somewhere to see someone. But in this sense, “visit with” is basically just having a conversation with someone. I have been hearing my mother say this all my life, so it never struck me as odd, but when she said it today, it suddenly sounded strange. I don’t recall hearing very many other people use it this way.

I heard someone say “eighth” today, and it also annoyed me a bit just because the pronunciation can vary. I like “eighth” pronounced with a hard “T” (eighT-th) but many people pronounce it as “eigh-th”, and this always throws me. Neither way is wrong. I just do not like the latter pronunciation.

End of yet another rant.

Will I bake this week? I don’t think so.

The full offer of baked goods, October 4, 2012… and further evidence of my increasing forgetfulness


I used to be well-known for my organizational skills. I don’t know if it is just that I have ceased caring about keeping track of things, that I have too many things to keep track of or that I am just losing my mind. Whatever the reason, I am dropping the ball a bit too often. This time – for the second time in recent months – my latest school assignment sneaked up on me. It is, in fairness, the least important thing to me and therefore my last priority. I know in the back of my mind that I need to get around to doing the reading and writing, but I have some vague idea of when the next deadline is (and my mind fixes this date routinely as a week after the actual deadline). I sign into the online learning platform and discover that, no, in fact, the deadline is not next week but tomorrow. I shift into high gear and race toward finishing. My final product is never my best work, and I do not mind this because somehow it is more fun to live through the race to the finish, to make sure that I can finish under such a tight deadline, even if the final product isn’t great. Since I already have a bunch of completed degrees, this one is not imperative (neither to complete it nor to get good marks). I am doing it on top of all the other things I do (the many work obligations and my baking multitasking) just to keep the gears of the brain shifting all the time.

I devoted the evening to the pursuit of completing the assignment, and I can report happily and with some relief that I have made it most of the way through most of the reading I need to do to write the relatively undemanding paper.

Meanwhile, here is a chronicle of all the baked goods I offered my workplace on Thursday…

*Kahlua coffee cupcakes

*Lemon cream oat bars

*Mini chocolate pudding pies baked into vanilla cupcakes

*Crème brûlée cupcakes

*Dark chocolate hazelnut mini tarts

*Oreo truffles

*Highly experimental red velvet cupcakes

*Dulce de leche bundt cake

*Carrot-pineapple cake with a brownie layer in between carrot layers

*Brown sugar cupcakes filled with Toblerone candy

*Brown sugar shortbread (used brown sugar in place of powdered sugar)

*Licorice cupcakes

*Banoffee cupcakes

*Vanilla orange biscotti

*Guinness cupcakes with Baileys frosting

Ah, and the surprise cupcakes (vanilla with vanilla bean Swiss buttercream)…

And some random shots of everything…