Swedish Engineering

Swedish Engineering

My grandpa is Swedish; my grandma, English. Whenever his wife would start reminiscing about the glories of the motherland, my Papa, a lifelong chemist, would always reply, “But you’ll never meet an English inventor. Bunch of druids. The Swedes invent things.” Whether or not you’ll ever meet an English inventor, the Swedes are known for their pioneering spirit–just look at Anders Celcius, who invented the 100 point temperature scale, or Alfred Nobel, who invented dynamite and founded the prizes named after him. In particular, Sweden’s capital city, Stockholm, is a thriving hub where Swedish ingenuity is housed. Nobel Prizes Red carpet. Flashing cameras. Designer dresses and white ties. Did the Academy Awards come to mind? Think instead to Stockholm, not Hollywood. Every year on December 10, people across the world flock to this seaside town to celebrate the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death by awarding a little something called the Nobel Prize. Despite average temperatures as low as 22°F on this day, Stockholm comes alive for the Nobel Prize ceremonies. What used to be just a local event has now become an international spectacle where scientists, doctors, and writers are given the same attention as movie stars. Also in attendance are the royal families of Sweden, members of the Swedish government, and other international guests who represent the scientific and cultural interests of their countries. Since 1926, the few who are lucky or talented enough to be chosen for prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology/Medicine, or Literature (the Peace and Economics prizes are awarded in Norway) have arrived on the scene at the Stockholm Concert Hall—a tall, graceful building with...
Talk to the Hand: Proper Gesture Etiquette

Talk to the Hand: Proper Gesture Etiquette

Many innocent hand signs and other gestures in America can offend residents of another country or even give the complete opposite meaning from what was intended. Here is a quick guide of gestures, where they are okay to use and where they are not, to help you in your travels. The Peace Sign This particular hand gesture is not offensive when used correctly, but in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, giving someone the peace sign with the back of your hand facing them instead of the front is similar to showing them the middle finger in America. Brushing Your Chin Using the back of your hand to flick underneath your chin is rude in Belgium, Italy, and Tunisia, and it’s very offensive in France. To put it lightly, this sign means you are uninterested in having another person around or in hearing that person’s opinion. Thumbs Up Usually meant to show approval or happy feelings in the United States, the thumbs up means the rude expression “up yours” in Australia, Russia, Latin America, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, and should be avoided. The “OK” Sign This particular gesture in the United States means that things are good. In France, however, it suggests someone or something is worthless, and in Turkey, Greece, Spain, Venezuela, and Brazil, it has vulgar connotations and should be completely avoided. Palm Out This signal, with your palm toward another person and all five fingers stretched out, can mean “stop” or even the more rude “talk to the hand” in the United States. In Greece, Mexico, and the Middle East, it has ancient offensive...
Fashion Fusion: Japanese Street Fashions with Western Influences

Fashion Fusion: Japanese Street Fashions with Western Influences

“That is so cute! But there’s no way I could do that because I’m too tall.” Or so Wyoming native Valina Eckley thought when she encountered lolita fashion in the Harajuku district of Tokyo, Japan. Despite her initial assumption, Valina began wearing lolita. During the eight years she lived in Japan, she attained a job working for Baby the Stars Shine Bright, one of the biggest lolita brands with over thirty stores in the country. By the time she left Japan in 2011, another fashion called mori kei was rising in popularity. Japanese street fashions, while mostly exclusive to Tokyo and a few other areas of Japan, are growing in popularity with pockets of fans worldwide. Each fashion expresses its own style, but some of them overlap in color scheme or the general outfit shape. It helps to learn the differences and similarities—after all, everyone appreciates a thoughtful compliment on their attire. Lolita Currently, lolita is the prominent Japanese street fashion. What unites lolita is its use of frills, lace, and numerous accessories; its emphasis on modesty; and its distinguished skirt shapes. The two most common skirt styles are a bell shape, called a “cupcake” shape, and an A-line shape. Beyond these unifying factors, lolita has many subsets, each of which has its own name and look. Classic lolita emphasizes the Victorian, Regency, and Rococco roots of the fashion, while gothic lolita is similarly elegant with darker colors and motif accessories like crosses. Sweet lolita showcases outfits with cute themes like sweets, fruit, animals, toys, and pastel colors. Other lolita subsets derive from the use of specific colors, such...
Kites on the Horizon

Kites on the Horizon

It’s a late Friday afternoon in 1991. Mustafa Haidari stands on a rooftop in Kabul, Afghanistan, watching the horizon for loose kites. After several minutes, the young boy spots a colorful kite gliding on the wind to the north. Haidari, high on the thrill of the chase, carefully climbs down from the roof and breaks into a sprint toward his prize. Kite fighting, or gudiparan bazi, is a national craze in Afghanistan. During summer and fall, the sky is filled with artfully designed fighter kites. Successful kite flying requires two people—the charkha, who holds the string, and the driver, who steers the kite. The best fighters combine good teamwork and years of practice. A fight ends when one team manages to wrap its string around the opponent’s string and cut it, setting the kite loose. The fight can take anywhere from a few seconds to an hour, depending on the direction of the wind and the skill of the fighters. Many enjoy the challenge of maneuvering the kite in the air and attempting to cut their opponent’s kite line, but for others, especially children, the best part is running after the fallen kites and claiming them as their prize. Retrieving a kite is also an interesting—and oftentimes dangerous—adventure: runners must avoid obstacles like power lines, buildings, trees, and busy streets. “I loved running for the free kites as a kid,” Haidari says. “I remember spending every afternoon standing on the roof, waiting for free kites to come by. It wasn’t until I grew up that I decided to start flying them myself.” Eventually Haidari began learning how to make...
Living Free in NYC

Living Free in NYC

What’s the difference between a fresh, hot hamburger served to you over the counter and the partially eaten, mashed-up hamburger you dig up out of the dumpster? The second one is free, of course! Using a dumpster as a dinner table is a common event for a group of people in New York City who practice freegansim: the practice of living an eco-friendly, anti-consumer lifestyle. The ideology behind freeganism is that companies of all levels of production detrimentally affect people, animals, and the environment. According to freegans, businesses contribute to global warming and pollution, support sweatshop labor, and test products on animals. For these reasons, dedicated freegans reject economic systems. This rejection is expressed by boycotting jobs and income. Many freegans instead support themselves (and in many cases, their families) on items they have repurposed, foraged, or grown. In addition, freegans try to minimize their own negative impact in their communities by living in an eco-friendly way. Specific living strategies include recycling, dumpster diving, rehabilitating buildings and abandoned lots, and minimizing waste. Freegans have become adept at finding the gems buried among the refuse of society, especially in New York. Take a look at fallingfruit.org, which shows a global map of freegan resources, or dumpsters. It lists about 255 in the New York area alone. These marked locations are accompanied by helpful descriptions, like “LOTS of really expensive sandwiches, especially wraps. Muffins, bagels. Very popular, so sometimes stuff is gone by the time you get there.” Another freegan says, “We found . . . little pies! Lots of them. Mostly meaty or eggy, like pot pies and quiche, all...
China’s Mid-Autumn Festival: The Light of the Moon

China’s Mid-Autumn Festival: The Light of the Moon

Long ago in ancient China, the sky held ten suns, which shone down all together and scorched the earth. A valiant but tyrannical man named Hou Yi shot nine of the ten suns out of the sky, saving the land from the heat and receiving a potion of immortality as a reward. His wife, Chang’e, hoped to save the world from the tyranny of her husband, so she drank the potion herself and became immortal. She floated up into the sky and joined with the spirit of the moon, and the Chinese have celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival in her honor ever since. There are many versions of the legend of Chang’e, and the festival that sprang from it has just as many names. It is often called the Moon Festival because of the legend and because it’s always held on a full moon in September or early October. It is also called the Lantern Festival for the hordes of paper or silk lanterns (red for luck) that are put up around Chinese cities during the holiday like Christmas lights. It’s also called the Festival of Reunion because, much like Christmas or Thanksgiving in the Western world, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time when families gather together. Zhi Wei Ma, a PhD student at Brigham Young University, says that his family in Yangquan city, China, would always try to gather and eat together during the festival. “It wasn’t cold or hot, so we generally ate outside of the house. The moon was there up in the sky, and we would just eat and chat.” When he was a child, the...