Tag Archives: tomfoolery

The Swedish Reckoning

I want to keep the following thing I wrote from disappearing into the nether-regions of old Facebook posts, so I’m copying it here as well. This won’t make a great deal of sense to most people who come to this blog, so I will give a bit of explanation.

Last week, our youth group met at a different church (that is, not our church). During our meal together, one of the youth at my table noticed a clock that had the regular twelve-hour dial as well as the numbers 1-31 in a smaller size on the outside of the regular time circle. One of them wondered what those numbers were for. I immediately suggested that because of Sweden’s northerly latitude they had a different way of reckoning time than we do—that their day has 31 hours, rather than 24 (several of our local churches are of Swedish heritage).

This story kind of blew up from there (and I didn’t resist): I hammed it up during announcements, coming up with the phrase “Swedish Reckoning,” suggesting that there had been a great coverup by their parents and grandparents, and noting that the Dutch had been joking about the Swedish Reckoning for generations. Youth were searching Google for verification of the existence of the Swedish Reckoning and the 31-hour day. Of course, they couldn’t find anything because Sweden has sensored all Swedish Reckoning information and records, much like China exercises some control over the internet. 

The next day I posted the following on the youth Facebook page. I was quite pleased with what I wrote. Some people thought I was sharing facts—at least until the bit at the end about socks and sandals, which is a long-running inside joke at youth, and is the clue for them about the veracity of this story. In fact, to end on the words “socks in sandals” was perhaps the most satisfying part of writing this story. (One person jokingly [I hope] said I was abusing pastoral trust!)

* * *

Last night at youth, during dessert, I told the youth about the Swedish Reckoning (SR). They had no idea what this was, which doesn’t surprise me, as the history of the SR has long been covered up and distorted by half-truths and misinformation.

There is a remnant of SR at the New Sweden Church, where we met last night. There is a clock that has both the regular twelve hours on it as well as, in smaller numerals, the 31-hour clock, which was historically the Swedish breakdown of the day. In recent years, this has been denied and some have tried to explain the 31 numbers on the clock as denoting days of the month. Of course, this is a thin line of reasoning, as this would not account for nearly half of the months of the year.

No, owing to local Swedish mythology, which quite naturally grew out of their extreme northerly latitude, a day was divided into 31 hours. The clock at New Sweden reflects the desire of Swedish settlers to be able to communicate and engage effectively in non-SR cultures by including the 12/24 hour system. Today, SR is not observed anywhere in the world, other than for ceremonial purposes and at heritage sites, as well as a small sect which lives in a commune in the north of Sweden.

I bring this up because this weekend is the time change, where here in Alberta and across much of the world, we set our clocks back an hour on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Interestingly, the time change in SR was a little bit different than ours, and a lot more confusing. There was no simple “Spring Forward” or “Fall Back” for them, with a an easy adjustment of an hour. Instead, under the SR, in the fall their clocks would be turned back by three and a quarter hours and then three hours later, turned forward by an hour and twenty minutes. The procedure to move the clock forward under SR in the spring was so complicated that a 350 page book was published by the Swedish government.

Now you know!

As an interesting side note, twice each year a small community in northern Sweden celebrates the Swedish Reckoning in a ceremony involving 31 baked pies, a complicated dance sequence (“3.25 steps back, 1.3 steps forward”), and a public reading of Guidelines for Time Adjustment at Vernal Equinox Under the Swedish Reckoning, which has become a sort of religious document for this sect. Their ceremonial garb includes colourful robes, clock hats, and socks in sandals.

Three questions ‘ere I go.

Leaving for a two week holiday tomorrow in which I plan to spend a significant amount of time on the beach. I’m in between books and in the middle of a bunch of others and I can’t decide what I should bring along. “I’m just going to bring a box of books,” I told Dixie. I can’t seem to just pick a book and go with it. I need time to browse, flip through a couple of books, and let settle on settle on me, but I don’t have time for that now.

I’m actively reading Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, so that one will come along for sure. But I suspect that bringing a book about the Sermon on the Mount to the beach is something I will regret. I’ve got stacks next to my bed and indecision weighs heavy.

What about some of the books I’ve started but put aside for the time being: The Brothers Karamazov; Bury My Heart at Wounded KneeA Brief History of TeaA Thousand Splendid SunsBeyond Belfast: A 560-Mile Walk Across Northern Ireland on Sore Feet; The Grapes of Wrath; Wolf Willow (started it ages ago, couldn’t get past the fiction bits but want to get to the non-fiction); Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology.

Or maybe some new fiction or non-theology/Bible non-fiction, something to take my mind off the things that need doing: A Confederacy of DuncesLonesome DoveSuch is My BelovedRumpole for the DefenceAbout a BoyInto Thin AirQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop TalkingThe Neverending Story (which I started today to see if it would stick); perhaps another Wodehouse novel; perhaps I should start reading The Lord of the Rings again.

Or maybe it’s okay to walk that fuzzy line between work and play and read one of those theological/spiritual books I’ve been wanting to get into: Patience with God: The Story of Zacchaeus Continuing in Us; A Thomas Merton ReaderChrist Plays in Ten Thousand PlacesIncarnation.

Or maybe I should just take Willard and find something else at that wonderful used bookstore in Penticton. I’ll probably do less reading than I think I will. Here it is 11:20. I’m fighting a cold and I should be sleeping, but these are important decisions.

Dixie loves packing, bless her heart. So my worries prior to our trips, outside of the cleaning and organizing that needs doing, are: do I have a book to read? do I have several changes of underwear? is my deodorant packed?

One way or another, I’ll have all three ‘ere we go.

I hate surveys.

Whenever someone calls our house and asks if we have time to do a “short” survey, I always say, “No.  No, I don’t have the time.”  The one time I agreed to do a ‘short’ survey I was on the phone with them for 30 minutes or more.  It was about chocolate bars and there were no coupons forthcoming after the survey.

Dixie, on the other hand, loves doing these kinds of things.  She’s inclined to say, “Yes! Yes, I would love to do participate in your survey!”  Which is why we are now receiving monthly phone calls from Statistics Canada.  I thought she was supposed to be doing all of this–so did she–but tonight the Stats Can guy told her he needed to ask me a ‘couple’ of questions.

Let me pause here to reflect: maybe if telephone surveyors didn’t whitewash the procedure and simply tell the truth–“Do you have 30 minutes for a survey?”–the people doing them wouldn’t be such hated individuals (even though we don’t know who they are.  I’m sure they’re very nice.) Granted, they wouldn’t get many people to participate, but we’d all be getting along.

So the guy tells Dixie he needs to ask me a couple of questions.  She hands me the phone and he launches into a speed-talk grilling of inane details. And I was on the phone with him for 20 minutes. Couple of questions indeed.

What I can’t figure out is what in the world Stats Canada could possibly do with the information they received from me.

“Did you make any trips away from home that ended in August 2010?”


“In Canada, in the U.S or elsewhere?”


“What is the name of the country?”


“Did you boat or attend a powwow on this trip?”


“How much did you spend on…? Did you…?”

“Yes…No…Yes…No…. No…. Depends on how you define ‘trip’…. No…. I don’t know….$900….  $5.  No, my wife says it was more like $50. ….10 days. No, wait–11 days. That’s because we counted days of travel, not nights. 5 days with friends…. Yes, we went to the beach, but we didn’t go to the beach to do beach things.  We were just near a beach…. No….  Pretty much all historical and arts. …..No. ….Yes.  About this much. ….If that sounds weird it’s because we worked for half the year and went to school for the other half…..Shopping and religious…. All of them…. No…. No…. Afternoons…. Except Tuesdays and Wednesdays….No…. Is that Thanksgiving week?…  No…. Prior….  Yes….No.”

Seriously.  What manner of graph will come out of this interview’s results?

Surveys drive me nuts, especially if there is no immediate and tangible result (such as a score or rating or evaluation) for me.

Depends on how you define normal.

England posts are forthcoming, just as soon as I weed through and edit any pictures that need editing.  In the meantime, here is a brief conversation I had with a guy at my bank’s credit card department about $80 in long-distance charges for a couple of short calls from Denver to BC:

Me: “Hi, yes. I made a couple of calls to Canada using my credit card from a public pay phone in Denver. Two of the calls were less than 30 seconds long. The third call couldn’t have been more than a minute or two.  Yet I was charged nearly $20 for each one of those calls. Is that a normal charge?”

Credit card guy: “Depends on your definition of normal.”

Me (audibly irritated by his response): “Well, I would certainly say that $18 for a 30-second phone call is not normal. ”

Credit card guy: “OK, I’m tranferring you to disputes.”

Very helpful.  Turns out my credit card company can’t do anything about the charges sent them from American phone companies. The disputes guy told me in a roundabout way that it was foolish to use my credit card rather than a calling card.

I have a 1-800 number for the American phone company responsible for these outrageous charges, where I will register my disapproval, but I’m sure nothing will come of this.

Wheezing Marc

So, listen.  I don’t know if you realize this, but I haven’t posted for nearly two weeks. That’s pretty bad.  I’ve been busy with other things, OK?  Things such as: soaking up some rays on an Okanagan beach, diving for my brother’s eye-glasses in Okanagan Lake, sleeping, playing Canasta with my mom, driving. And so on.

What brings me back today, friends, is something big. BIG. Are you familiar with Talking Carl?  It’s an iPhone app that repeats everything you say in a high voice with a vaguely sarcastic tone. I had some good times with my kids and nieces and Talking Carl on my brother’s iPhone. Good times of the wheezing and crying kind.

For your education and edification, I bring you this: a Talking Carl duel. Watch and listen and laugh, friends:

(via Dixie, who said my wheezy, teary response was predictable. She, in turn, found it at Dooce.)

Sometimes translation is moan

I’m fascinated with how one language relates to another and what that looks like in translation.  One of the special features on Monty Python’s Holy Grail special edition is a scene from the film which was dubbed (i.e. translated) into Japanese with English subtitles translated from the Japanese dub.  It’s fascinating what happens to words and phrases when they are translated out of one language into another and then translated back to the original language.

Earlier today I was reading a Dutch children’s story to Madeline and translating it into English as I read. It’s really quite interesting how much nuance is lost in translation, even between two Germanic languages. Certain Dutch words have no English equivalent that I’m aware of; other words require multiple words in English; some have so many shades of meaning that several similar words put together only hint at what the original word might mean. I imagine it’s the same when translating the other way.

To that end, and for my own interest (because I’m sure that few, if any of you, will be interested), I present you with my literal (“wooden”) word-for-word translation of “Nijntje Aan Zee”.  (Nijntje Pluis is a children’s character, named “Miffy” in English.)

It looks long, but it’ll be a quick read, and near the end I have some fun by translating from Dutch to English to Dutch and back to English again using different translators.

Continue reading

Am I doing some kind of cyber cross-pollination by suggesting you read @XIANITY on Twitter?  I just found him/her via @boydston and it’s absolutely gold material. GOLD, I tell you!  I’ve just started reading the nearly 600 Tweets.  Here’s my favourite so far (they’re posted as news items by various categories):

PURITANS: Jonathan Edwards to @JohnPiper “You complete me”. John Piper to Jonathan Edwards “You had me at Hell”.


(Also, I’m a sucker for a good pop culture reference.  Here’s another one: “CHURCH: Seeker friendly ‘There Will Be Blood’ communion service goes too far after use of milkshake for the cup.”)

(OK, just a few more:

“TULIPS: Unpublished reformation manuscript confirms 6th point of Calvinism that many suspected existed all along: Smug Superiority”

“PROPHECY: Touring Israel & out of his mind with hunger, John Hagee unwittingly delays rapture by eating the red heifer.”

“MUSIC: “I’ll Fly Away” with Tuvan throat singers last straw for creative but troubled worship leader.”

“TECH: Steve Jobs descends from Mt. Sinai and smashes Apple Tablet in anger upon finding impatient mac users worshiping Kindles”

“THEOLOGY: Feuding nerds come to agreement that regular orcs could become Christians, but the Uruk Hai are beyond redemption.”

“THEOLOGY: Young Earth & Old Earth creationists agree to Middle Earth compromise, Hobbits object.)