What is Sweden good for?

I’ve just finished watching a programme about Abba and found myself wondering what else Sweden is known for. It took me a while but I thought of Ikea. Whether that’s good or not is debatable, but I had problems with coming up with more than Stockholm Syndrome, and unsurprisingly, Seasonally Affected Disorder. And then there are the high taxes, which lead to a mass exodus of high-earning Swedes.

Some deeper reflection on the subject and I remembered Coleslaw and Smorgasbords. And that just about summed up Sweden for me. Oh yes, there’s also its policy of neutrality during the Two World Wars, similar to Switzerland’s.

Why bother with books or bookshops?

This morning I decided I wanted to reread some of O.Henry’s short stories. I reached for my copy of his Complete Works and found it was heavy to hold. So heavy that I had to sit down with the hardcover copy I own because my hands were straining under its weight. As were my eyes because the print was so tiny it was uncomfortable to read. I usually have no problem with seeing normal print but this collection was impossible to enjoy.

So I went online to Amazon.com, downloaded “The Complete Works of O.Henry” for $1.99 to my Kindle electronic reader (E-Reader for short) and now I have no problems with the bothersome weight of hardcover books or microscopic fonts.

I am surprised by how I much I enjoy my Kindle because I’m not a naturally technical person. But I had to make the decision to give it a go when I found that the paperback edition of Dickens’ “Little Dorrit” was too awkward to manage. Holding it was a drag and turning the pages was cumbersome if you were trying to read in bed.

The Kindle is easy to use, easy to hold and can store a great number of books. Holding it in bed with one hand is a cinch, turning the pages is effortless and you can make the font as large or small as you wish. It is also marvellous for travelling or when you are sitting somewhere and waiting for an appointment.

I could go on forever about its virtues, but what I really want to say is that books cannot compete with the E-reader. No printing expenses, no transporting of books, no storage in bookshops and how about the price?

Books in Australia are ridiculously expensive and have always been dearer than overseas because of some arrangement with publishers. The end result of that arrangement is that the public has been ripped off for years. I used to go wild in the U.S and buy as many books as I could fit into my luggage because they were half the price that they cost in Australia.

Buying books online was the next step for me and I indulged in it. Did I want to support Australian publishers? Not for one minute, since they were quite prepared to charge us the Earth.

When E-Readers were introduced I did not rush out and buy one immediately. I thought about them for a while. Finally, I decided that the time had come to try one. And I haven’t been sorry. Now I can get all the famous literature for free because it’s out of copyright. I even pay for some books e.g “The Finkler Question” which won the Booker Prize this year. It cost $5.75. Wow!

There are several brands of E-Readers on the market and some have more features than the Kindle. I just happen to have chosen the Kindle for the time being. But even better E-Readers are coming and when they do I will not hesitate to invest in one. It’s still much cheaper then paying for the hard copy.

I imagine that the smaller I-Pad with illustrations and internet would be worth considering. At the moment the I-Pad is a bit too heavy, but if Apple can make it smaller and lighter as they have been suggesting I would be keen to get one.

Meanwhile, I will cuddle my Kindle in comfort.

What is wrong with the 2010 BMW Navigation System?

Imagine you are driving along the streets of Melbourne, Australia. You would like to know where you are. What suburb are you in?

If you are in the latest model of the BMW Series 5, forget it. The main screen will not easily display the suburb or the street you are in. To find out the name of the street you have to look at the adjacent split screen because the main screen will not give you that information. Moreover, neither screen will tell you what suburb you are in.

So you are stuck with only knowing that you are in High Street, Melbourne, for example, but this street is so long and cuts through so many unnamed suburbs that you are none the wiser. “High Street, where?” Malvern? Toorak? Prahran” Hawthorn? And then there’s the problem of other High Streets scattered all over Melbourne

Sure, the system can navigate you to a selected destination. It can even tell you what your altitude, longitude and latitude are, so that a search party may find you in the wilderness. BUT if you are just taking a normal drive in a city or town, then the screen will not tell you what suburb you are in.

This is very frustrating since we would like to know where we are. We don’t care whether we are 30 metres above sea level. Of what use is that to us for everyday driving? And why have the main street names on the screen been changed to numbers? Why do we have to look at the adjacent screen to translate what S21 or S26 refers to?

Ironically, in our previous Series 5 BMW we could look at the screen and read the name of the suburb and the street that we were in. In other words, we knew where we were and we knew which was the neighbouring suburb. After all, location, in my opinion, is just as important as destination when you are driving. Oh how I miss that!

I also miss the pleasant voice on the earlier model navigator. The current one is robotic and offputting. It always makes me bristle with an urge to stand to attention and click my heels.

I have no idea why BMW went backwards in this latest Professional Navigation System. They wanted a change, I guess, but not all change is for the better.

The rest of the car’s features are good. It’s beautiful to look at and drives well, but the problem with the navigator is constantly there, in your face, reminding you of its failing.

We have complained to BMW Australia and they told us we are stuck with it. What a pity!

Good riddance to FIFA World Soccer 2022!

I wish that Australia had not fallen for the bribery fest of bidding for the FIFA World Soccer competition in 2022. I wish that Australia had decided not to suck up to the selection committee. Instead, it should have taken the moral high ground and refused to pay for all those those greedy demands of the selectors. The entire process has an unpleasant stench about it.

We stooped to conquer and were outbid by those nations who were prepared to pay more to hold the soccer matches in their country. Surely, something that has to be bought from people who have demonstrated a lack of moral principles, should be rejected.

I would like to think that Australia is above such activities.

If you have to buy someone’s vote then you really can’t trust that voter. How do you know that the nation which has been bribed will not betray you? Well, you don’t know and that’s what happened to the U.K and to Australia. And I say it serves them both right.

What we have learned from the FIFA fiasco is that the selection process should be changed if the stink of corruption is to be eradicated. In future, perhaps a few interested nations who can provide the facilities should throw their names into a hat and then the winner will be randomly drawn out of it. This should offer poorer nations who love soccer a fairer chance at the “coveted prize”.

Better still, isn’t it time we grew up and stopped competing over stuff that’s as trivial as hosting a ball game? The cost of selling your soul for that privilege is way too high.