If you did not read my last column (“Sweden: Part One”), I recommend you do so as this column is a continuation of that story. This two-part sub-series is about my study abroad trip to Sweden during the summer of 2000 and some of the lessons learned and amazing experiences I had traveling halfway across the globe.
The name of the small Swedish island where I stayed was and still is called Öland. Öland is a small island in the Baltic Sea, off the southeast coast of mainland Sweden. It is connected to the mainland in the city of Kalmar by a long land bridge. It is a quaint, rustic island with rolling tulip fields, plenty of aged wooden windmills and extremely friendly locals (almost annoyingly so, but not quite).
My home for over a month on this island was a research station tucked away in a large grassy area sparsely populated with trees. But wait, how did I get here?
The Red Eye
That is where we left off in Part One – me boarding a direct red eye flight from Seattle to London. An important part of this first leg would have been getting some sleep on the plane, with the eight-hour time difference plus the nine-hour flight.
I did not sleep. I could not sleep. I do not remember why.
What I do remember was arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport in the afternoon, feeling the jet lag as soon as I stepped off the plane. The disorientation I felt, from the jet lag, sleep deprivation and being alone in a foreign country was intense. It would have been better had I only been traveling with my luggage, but I was also couriering a piece of equipment crucial to the research I would be performing.
I mentioned bees (and more on the bees later), but studying the bees would involve sitting in a tent with them. The tent was designed back on the college campus and consisted mainly of PVC pipe and netting. The chosen container for transport was clever: a large snowboard bag, about as efficient of a method for carrying a bunch of PVC pipes and folded-up netting as there is, but still heavy and awkward.
So, I lumbered through the airport with my luggage and a large snowboard bag – likely confusing the people of London as it was the middle of summer. I made my way to the subway system, the “London Tube,” and all I remember about that ride was using every ounce of energy I had left not to fall asleep.
The Hostel Without the “S”
And then the first ill-conceived decision was made. If you remember, my parents had booked all the travel and lodging, including a specific hostel for the first few nights in London. However, as I wandered away from the Tube and into London, my exhausted and still extremely self-conscious self decided that I wanted my own room in which to pass out. Instead of taking a taxi to the hostel, my parents were expecting me to arrive and check in from, I found the nearest hotel, rented a room, fell face first on the bed, and passed out.
Funny the way time works. I woke up from my deep slumber at about 4:00 a.m., only to realize I was starving and nothing would be open for two to three more hours. I waited, still unbelievably disoriented and jet lagged, still not having checked in with my parents.
After inhaling some breakfast the moment the closest restaurant opened, I proceeded to sightsee in London. That night, I decided to buy a bottle of vodka and get plastered in my hotel room alone. I did leave one small bread crumb for my parents during this solo party. I used my long-distance calling card to call not my parents but my buddies. I was drunk, and drunkenly calling buddies, regardless of the time of day or night, was something I did back then. I would find out later that this call was the first evidence for my parents that I had even arrived in London. They checked the phone records associated with the calling card and saw the call from London. So they knew I was alive.
Stockholm: Part One
After two nights in London, I flew to Stockholm, Sweden, where my parents had booked another hostel. The jet lag had subsided, and my sleep schedule was improving, so this time I went ahead and stayed at the pre-planned destination, a hostel with about eight other dudes. For reasons I do not know and for which I have no excuse, I still did not call my parents.
I remember a group of us went clubbing. I got drunk and fell off the top bunk that night in the hostel. I haven’t been kidding this whole time; I was a disaster back then. The one thing I remember clearly from that first night in Stockholm, which is nowhere near Northern Sweden but north enough, was it still being light at midnight. I had never experienced the endless summer days at the northern ends of the northern hemisphere.
It was then time to catch a bus for the last leg of my route, a 450-kilometer (or 280-mile) bus ride, first heading southwest from Stockholm, then eventually due south to the city of Kalmar, and across the land bridge to Öland.
I slept a good portion of the bus ride. I wanted to take in all the sights, but I was 20 years old and hungover. I also disobeyed a very simple tourist rule. Never fall asleep somewhere with something valuable not somehow attached to your body. I did not carry a wallet on this trip; instead, a small pouch slung around my neck, hidden under my shirt. This was a common piece of advice for traveling alone in a foreign country.
However, I fell asleep on the bus with my brand new camera just sitting on my lap. These were the days of film cameras. It wasn’t that great of a camera, but it was my new camera specifically to document as much of the trip as possible. So, from that moment on, I had to rely on disposable cameras for the visual archiving of the adventure.
I finally arrived at the research station, and you’ll never guess the first words (after introductions) that were uttered to me by the director of the station. “Scott, you need to call your parents.”
Mom and/or Dad, if you are reading this, please know that to this day I am so sorry for the stress and fear (and frustration or anger) this caused. Three days (maybe four) after boarding that plane in Seattle, with you seeing me off at the actual gate (since it was pre-9/11), I finally called you on the telephone. We joke about it now, but I will always wonder what I was (or more accurately wasn’t) thinking.
The research I was assisting with was interesting. My professor (Professor Dobson) had been coming to this research station every summer for years to study the feeding habits of a species of bee endemic to the island.
One of the main questions she was trying to answer was: Were oligolectic bees (bees that feed on only one or a very limited number of flowers) seeking out and finding that one flower genetically, or was it learned based on the food that was fed to them (from that one flower, in this case, the common buttercup) in the larval stage?
During previous summers, the goal had been determining if there was another flower this bee would feed on. After multiple rounds of trial and error, a new flower was found that showed success (a common species of daisy).
A new generation was hatched in the lab, and a number of bees were marked with different patterns on the back of their abdomen (using different colors of white-out). “One white dot” and “two pink dots” and so on.
This was done so I could isolate and release groups of these bees in a smaller tent and record observations of feeding activity. This was my first real taste of quantitative data collection, and building the associated data tables for my thesis was my first real experience with Microsoft Excel.
I released the rest of the bees into a large tent, filled only with daisies, to ensure this generation of bees only fed on this new flower, and would only be able to stuff this new flower into their nests (for the larval food source) when they laid their eggs. I also spent time in the tent with the bees to observe and gather data.
I realized I was part of a very crucial step in this overarching biological question. The natural life span of these bees was short, a little over a month, which was one of the main reasons this species was chosen. The nests created by this generation would only be filled with daisy food. No buttercup food.
The next generation would be hatched in the lab again and given the option between buttercups and daisies. Simply put, if the bees still opted for the original host flower (buttercup), it would strongly suggest a genetic force. If the bees opted for the daisies, it was likely that they were learning which food to eat in the larval stage.
Unfortunately, the next generation of bees did not survive. And “please slap me” 20-year-old me did not keep up with the study. I have since learned that there is a microbial component to the original host flower shown to greatly increase the success rate of the bees surviving metamorphosis. So, it is likely a combination of genetics and environment (nature and nurture) that drive these bees to buttercups.
While not conducting research, I had an amazing time on the island. My mode of transportation was a loaner cruiser bike which I rode all over the place, exploring the island. There was a winding and somewhat hidden dirt road/trail route down to the main town to get groceries.
I met and spent most of my time with a fellow researcher named Pia, born and raised in Sweden. She was about the age of my mom at the time, and we spent many evenings smoking cigarettes and chatting about various things.
She was always knitting scarves and hats and knitted me a winter beanie that I wore for years until it practically disintegrated. We celebrated the holiday of Midsummer (picture me dancing around a maypole). It was on that night that I discovered that there were other types of Schnapps besides the Peach Schnapps I allegedly drank before high school dances. The sun went down around midnight and came up around 3 a.m. (thank you, blackout shades). I met people from Sweden, Germany and Australia and look back on my time on Öland with great fondness.
Stockholm: Part Two
With the research done, I said goodbye to my new friends and started the bus journey back to Stockholm, with my parents fully aware this time. The tent would remain at the research station, so there would be no more “is this guy trying to snowboard in July?” as I traversed my original itinerary in reverse order.
I reached Stockholm late that day, checked into a hotel (planned this time), and had the entire next day to explore. And explore I did. This day in Stockholm was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. And not for any particular reason. No big events. I didn’t meet ABBA and play the tambourine as they jammed out in some back alley club with no front door.
I simply set out from the hotel and started walking. No map. No destination. Just walking. I had my Discman (look it up) and distinctly remember listening to “Third Eye Blind” by the Hieroglyphics on repeat that day. This album is forever burned into my memory from that glorious day.
I walked around the city for probably 10 hours. I always knew where my hotel was, so I wasn’t lost-lost, but I purposely let myself become metaphorically lost in Stockholm that day. While the “in the weeds” specifics of everything I did are starting to fade, that day will remain with me forever.
I capped off the night by getting drunk in a bar next to the hotel, having a very entertaining and lengthy conversation with a local, mostly about how much he hated George W. Bush. We got along great.
The next morning I flew through London and eventually back home to Washington. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
And now, The Mundie Awards.
THE “I RAN OUT OF SPACE” AWARD
Lately, this section of my column has been dedicated to deep dives into one or two players from a fantasy football standpoint.
But here’s the thing. I have taken up too much of your time with this story that it turns out – as I discovered while writing it – needed telling. So I am giving the “I Ran Out of Space” award to myself. There have been and will be plenty of time and columns with my data-driven research, constantly trying to unearth any possible edge for you to use to win fantasy football matchups.
But here, I’ll simply leave you with some advice:
Try something new. Do something outside of your comfort zone, like answering an email about an opportunity to study bees in Sweden.
If you haven’t yet tried an Individual Defensive Player (IDP) format, I highly recommend trying it. If you don’t know how to go about that, hit me up. There are a lot of great people in the IDP world who are happy to help.
If you haven’t tried a dynasty format, give it a whirl. Never done an auction draft (like me)? I am told once you do, you’ll never go back to snake drafts.
Before joining this industry in 2020, I had only played in home leagues since 2007 – standard scoring, snake draft and redraft format. I still play in these leagues, and they are near and dear to my heart. I will play in them until they no longer exist.
I was hesitant to join my first dynasty startup, my first IDP dynasty startup or my first Superflex league. I really only knew one way of playing. It is comfortable, and I am good at it. But stepping outside of that comfort bubble has been very important in the evolution of my experience with fantasy football, both as an analyst and manager.
And maybe I (or you) won’t end up sticking with every format option, but you’ll never know unless you try.
Lastly, do whatever you can to keep it fun. In this world that sometimes seems to grow darker by the day, make sure to keep the fun things in your life actually fun. Losing sucks, but it does not have to ruin your week (like it used to for me). Just remember, as my good friend Herms often says, “We are playing a game based on a game.”
During the Scott Fish Bowl 12 (SFB12) draft, it was the 10th round, and I was deciding between a safe option at WR or taking a shot on new Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker III. I was set on Walker leading up to my pick. Yet, once my pick arrived, my brain started spinning about value and risk.
I asked some friends, and the momentary consensus was the safe WR. Then a friend made a very good point; I am a Seahawks fan, and he simply suggested I take Walker because it would be more fun. Obviously not the logic to use on all draft picks, but in this case, he was 100 percent right. The spinning stopped, and I drafted Walker.
As I have moved toward more analytics-based fantasy football content, my goal is to provide that content in a manner that is as easy as possible to digest. Advanced analytics are beneficial, and I think they can be explained simply and logically. Please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter to explain more about any of the analytical concepts I present in these columns. My Direct Messages (DM)s are always open.
And as always, find me on Twitter, talking fantasy football, joking around, posting GIFs and lending my support where it’s needed @MunderDifflinFF.