Saturday, December 31, 2005

Year End Round Up

I started this blog as an online race report. HereNT actually inspired me to start writing. His blog is very different than mine, which is probably what ultimately captured my interest.

These pages morphed into documenting my commuting and then describing our relocation. I have invested many words into this project. I would never "journal"- I can't even put together a photo album (we have a huge tub full of thousands of photos and 6-7000 digital images unsorted on a hard drive). It will be very interesting to look back on these days at some point in the future. This is a very strange time for me. I am out of work, living in a foreign country. At some point, I will be effortlessly navigating this city, speaking the language fluently, and hanging out with friends of my own.

I don't know what google or imageshack will do with the morass of blog pages and images in the future. These are free services, so I inherently mistrust them. My end of the year project was to load each monthly archive and save them to my hard drive for archival purposes. Firefox (my browser of choice) lacks the function to save entire pages, so I tried using IE. IE kept choking trying to save the pages- and wouldn't save any of them. I then downloaded a Firefox plug-in and was in business. Everything is all neat and saved. All the images are saved in a separate folder, like in IE. I was considering emailing the pages to myself for further archiving, but I don't have winzip on this PC. It blows my mind that it is almost 2006, and windows won't allow a folder to be attached to a message, or that any tools to perform such tasks must be downloaded from a third party.

Why We Moved

Today is New Year's Eve, which prompted me to think about all that has happened over the past year. About this time last year, we made the difficult announcement to my parents that we were moving to Norway. They somehow expected it and were not surprised. Of course a year ago, the entire idea of moving to a different continent was very abstract. Someone recently raised the question why we relocated. Actually, I had seen the person who asked the question biking around the Twin Cities, but never had the opportunity to formally meet him. The reasons we moved are both simple and complicated. In many respects, it is a difficult question to answer, considering the people we have left behind in the US.

First of all, not just anyone can move to Norway, or any other country in Europe. The US has rather unfriendly immigration policies, which are reciprocal in nature. For the sake of simplicity, while Norway is not a part of the EU, there are enough treaties in place that it practically is an EU nation, with the exception that they use their own currency and they haven't butchered the constitution. Citizens of EU countries can easily move from one EU nation to another. Citizens of the EU cannot relocate to the US, nor can Americans relocate to the EU. There are obvious exceptions, such as being sponsored to work in the US with an H1B visa, or moving on a student visa.

My wife Lise actually moved to the US on a student visa. She is a Norwegian citizen. It drives her crazy when people in the US would ask her where she was from and she would say Norway. They often replied, Oh, I'm Norwegian, too. She is the real deal- has a Norwegian passport. If you met her, you would never know, aside from her blond hair and blue eyes- she has no detectable accent.

I will skip over all the good stuff, but we met, dated, and were married. After we married, she received a Green Card (making her a resident alien). It cost close to $2000 if I recall, and was a rather complicated process, but we were able to do it ourselves without a lawyer. The US government makes every step unnecessarily complicated. For example, a simple travel permit is called "advance parole."

We had great jobs, a nice house in a great neighborhood, and life was perfect. I really love the Twin Cities- especially biking and summer weather. I really wasn't jumping up and down at the prospect of giving everything up for the great unknown. When people ask why we moved, I usually say that Lise just wore me down. That is not true, of course, or I would probably be miserable here.

I really have no connection to Norway other than Lise. I don't really have any Norwegian heritage, which is ironic coming from Minnesota. Before moving, we probably made it back to Norway five times in the first three years. We didn't plan another trip once we determined that we were moving. I "liked" it here- not exactly "loved" it. I hate winters and would prefer to move further south, but winters are milder than in Minnesota.

So why did we actually move? I had worked for the same company for almost fifteen years. I really loved my job. The only real issue we encountered was the erosion of our health care benefits- and the cost would be very expensive for family coverage. It had less to do with the specific company and everything to do with the general health care climate in the US. This would not be an issue in Norway. Maternity and education benefits are also much better in Norway. I am almost embarrassed to describe them. Children are like god here. There is probably no nation that treats children better than Norway. That is probably the extent to which politics entered my decision. Families certainly find a way to get by in the US- but in Norway, it does seem to be less of a struggle for the middle class.

Those are all just practical reasons, but in making the mental analysis of costs/benefits, they cannot be ignored. On an emotional level, all of Lise's family lives around here. She grew up on an island, and her entire extended family lived within maybe a six block radius. It was unlike anything I had ever seen or experienced. Cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all played a much more active role in everyday life. I understood Lise's home sickness she would experience after each trip to Norway.

From my perspective, I was trying to be "fair." We lived comfortably in the US, now it was her turn to live in Norway, and it wouldn't be any easier if we waited. We had very few financial obligations. Of course in the midst of all this, a part of me was angry at the very idea that I had married into this situation. I really didn't think she would truly be "happy" living in the US for the rest of her life. The prospect of her wanting to move was always in the background serving up low level stress during our early years together- not that she would move without me. My main concern about moving was always finding work. I was very concerned about being able to have a professional job with a limited understanding of Norwegian. Lise can probably attest to what a reluctant wreck I was.

Eventually I sorted it all out in my head. A move like this certainly appealed to my sense of adventure that had somehow been exchanged for leading a rather safe and secure existence. I really wasn't thrilled about the bike racing scene here, but I wasn't about to make that issue the determining factor. Eventually it boiled down to the idea that I wasn't planning on retiring from the job I had- that I would have to make a career change at some point. And it would have to be a career change. I could not work in health care administration in Norway- at least not until I was professionally proficient in the language. I also realized that I would forever regret not jumping on this opportunity. I figured I would have a complete mid-life meltdown full of regret if I didn't give it a try.

To sum it up, we moved because my wife is a Norwegian citizen and she wanted to move. She is also probably the only person in the world who could talk me into doing anything this crazy.

But there is also another side to all this. Deep down, I knew all along this would happen. We knew each other for more than a year before we started dating. From when I first met her, I knew she was the one. But I also knew this wasn't going to be some short-term relationship. Even back then I knew this was an all or nothing situation- if we even dated, we would end up getting married and move to Norway. I just needed to spend a few years resisting and mentally preparing.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Snow Fotball

There is a live soccer game, broadcast from either Germany or the Netherlands, judging by the stadium billboards- played in a blizzard. They are using a bright orange ball. It is quite a sight.

Not in the U.S. of A.

This is a rather late entry, but since I encounter it almost daily, I feel compelled to post. When I was looking for work, Lise and I ate dinner with a friend from Minneapolis who has since moved to Oslo. We met two of her friends who currently live in Stavanger. One of them works at a barnehage, which is basically a Norwegian daycare. She said they needed more men working there. The road to our apartment passes a daycare. I frequently see a guy or two working there. Never in my life have I met a man who worked daycare or as a kindergarden teacher. A brief internet search turned up articles such as the provocatively titled, Gender 'Apartheid' of Childcare- and that article is from the UK. I'm not considering it as a career move, but it is an interesting phenomenon. I'm guessing many US parents would be afraid to send their child to a daycare staffed by even one man, that it would be bad for business.

What's On TV

So we have this new TV. NRK, the primary Norwegian network is showing The Kid, and old silent Charlie Chaplin film from 1921 at 5pm. It also stars a 9 year old Jackie Coogan, who grew up to become Uncle Fester. I seriously don't understand NRK or NRK2. If they aren't showing something like this, they show some strange live musical variety show where a bunch of people sit around a piano singing songs.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Busy Day

Lise took the day off. I went out for an early ride- managed to get in an intense hour riding around Stokkavatnet and back. We then went to the driver's license office, where my license was summarily taken from me. Apparently I need to take a driving test. I am losing my motorcycle license in the process, since I don't have a motorcycle to take the test on. It was a huge hassle getting it, but I haven't ridden in ten years, so I guess it isn't a huge loss. I have a temporary license, but I have no other photo ID, except my passport, since the bank wouldn't give me a proper Visa card. I almost regretted trying to be a legitimate resident. Actually, I have no idea what I need to do to be able to drive. The police will send a letter explaining everything.

We then went TV shopping to spend our Christmas money that we were literally mandated to spend. We debated between going with a 32" CRT for 4500- 6000 kr or a 28" LCD for 10,000 kr. We seriously entertained going with a LCD model, but we really couldn't justify the cost. I also stumbled across a 42" plasma model for 10,000 kr, but it seemed seriously funky in a not good way. I never heard of the brand, the remote was devoid of any meaningful symbols. We ended up with the top of the line Philips CRT model for 6000. It was a little more reasonable, considering it is fully compatible with our DVD player. We really had to wrestle with the box to squeeze it into the tiny car we are borrowing. It was no easy feat getting in out of the car and into the apartment. The worst issue was getting it out of the box and onto the TV stand. Inexplicably, the TV looks much larger here than in the store. Suddenly the TV stand isn't so huge. We are both very satisfied. The picture is amazing- European TV has always been more high definition than in the US. Also, compared to the 4500 kr TV, this had a much better image. In thinking this through, we were able to purchase a high end CRT for about half the price of a bottom end LCD model. When we buy a house we will consider a wall mounted LCD or plasma model- I haven't even begun to work yet. I really don't understand pricing for the LCD units. There is a 4000 kr difference between high and low end models of the same size. I just don't understand what people are paying for.

We went to five electronics stores- all of them similar to a Best Buy or Circuit City. People take their electronics every seriously in Norway, and there are far more options than in the US. We ended up buying it at Siba. Anyway, it is done. No second guessing our purchase now. Frankly, wide screen TVs are no cheaper in the US anyway. We were going to go out to a movie- The Chronicles of Narnia, but our internet was down all day, and we couldn't purchase tickets. Before it went down, we found the only available tickets at Sandnes were in either row one or two. We really didn't want to take our chances at the Stavanger theater. Advance purchase was a prerequisite, under those circumstances. Tonight, I think we will stay home and watch TV. I wanted to rent a DVD, but I think we are already past that point. The only DVD that I have unpacked is of pro bike racing crashes- the one that was in the player when we moved. Definitely not one of Lise's favorites.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

How to Fry a Battery

What a waste of money. I purchased a NiteRider Trail Rat headlight last fall, and used it on and off (no pun) with OK results. I never liked the fact that it was a dumb battery system- certainly lighter than an SLA battery, but I was always left guessing how long to charge it. Prior to moving, I kept it on a timer. After the move, I was without a timer, and I left it charging for a few days. Now the battery is completely fried- it won't charge at all.

Suddenly my backup light with the boat anchor SLA battery is a bargain- as would hae paying twice as much for a smart battery. These dumb battery systems are a complete waste of money. If I buy a new battery (about $100+ shipping), I would be worse off than if I would have purchased a smart system in the first place.


I managed to sneak out for an hour and a half ride today. It was 25 F- which is very cold. I actually wore my face mask for the first time in Norway. I have turned into a wimp. I remember this temp as being a warm January or February ride in Minnesota. At least it was a sunny day.

Lise worked at the hospital this evening. She picked up a last minute shift. This meant that I would have to drop off the keys to our friend's house. To make a long story short, our friends own a house in Stavanger, but live in the Netherlands. They are home for the holidays and need their keys, which we mysteriously have. Anyway, she called to say she needed the keys now, that she wasn't traveling to her parent's house since her car broke down. Apparently she rented a car at the airport, but the gas tank was almost empty. Shortly after filling the tank, she realized she put gasoline in, but the car required diesel. Lest you think this is entirely ridiculous, in Norway, regular gas uses the green nozzle. I was thoroughly confused the first time I purchased gas. It just didn't seem right using a green pump for regular. So I dropped off the keys and left them in their mailbox.

I started listening to the radio when I do errands. My chief errand is shuttling Lise back and forth to work. There is no employee parking. I randomly discovered English-speaking radio one night when I heard the familiar voice of Neal Conan. NPRs Talk of the Nation was being broadcast. I was ecstatic, as public radio was one of the things I missed about the US. I had no idea there was such thing as Public Radio International. I kept tuning into the same station, but quickly found that it was a little more complicated. It was an Armed Forces station that advertised for Stars and Stripes and broadcast Dr. Laura and Rush Limbaugh at other times (neither of whom are link-worthy). It was a major clash or programming formats. Still, it is nice to catch NPR. Rush sounds even more absurd from overseas. I also caught the European weather. Apparently German has a winter storm advisory tonight.

Two more days of vacation for me. I don't count the weekend. Then I am off to a new job. To be honest, I have some anxiety- not knowing what to expect. I am less concerned about the work, and more concerned about the work culture. After 15 years at my last job, I knew exactly what to expect. Then again, that becomes a little old after awhile. It is nice to be kept on my toes.

Banking In Norway

We interrupt this regularly scheduled posting to point out that last night was the 10,000th time someone visited this blog. Many are repeat visitors- there is a surprisingly high number of regular readers, according to my stat logs. Still, I am pleasantly surprised.

Yesterday we took care of a pile of loose ends around here. For example, I am schedule to take a Norwegian test as a requirement for living here, but I have a work conflict. The gifts I ordered for family back in the US never arrived. I thought I received an extra month of cell phone bills for my US phone. We also tried to establish a bank account for me, now that I have my national ID number.

The US could probably take a page out of Norway's banking playbook. I doubt a terrorist would have any trouble setting up banking in the US. While I still have a stack of American Visa cards, I am unable to have a check card with a Visa logo in Norway, because my work permit expires before the bank card would expire. Of course here they don't even use checks, so it is more like a debit card. The issue is that Visa cards contain a photo ID on the back, and are often used as a form of legal identification, so banks are very cautious about handing them out. Anyway, we will start off with a joint account, and I will be unable to make online purchases, since my card will lack the Visa logo. It seems absurd. Point of sale transactions use PIN codes, rather than signatures, so it really doesn't matter, much. Still, it is the principle that I don't care for.

I suppose I should look into obtaining a Norwegian driver's license next. My job will provide me with a cell phone, and maybe even a laptop.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

TV Time

I am not the audio-visual connoisseur I never was. I wouldn't mind a nice home theater system, but it has never been a huge priority. Conversely, in my music studio, I was always well equipped with relatively high end gear. Prior to moving, we sold our ten-year old TV for close to three beans. We almost gave it away- along with a nice VCR. TVs and VCRs use a different format here- not that it matters with VCRs. Who can find tapes these days?

We sold the TV because Europe is all PAL fomat, rather than the NTSC of North America. Region coding of DVDs aside, my Pioneer player should work with anything that takes component video- in other words, most high end TVs. Norway's low end TVs just have SCART connections, which are a cartridge type cable that includes both audio and video on one cable. They are bulky, but less ugly than having a bunch of different cables flying around.

Anyway, we need a new TV. We are borrowing one from a family who are returning to Stavanger this week. We need to return it. My question is, do we buy a high end regular TV, or a low end LCD TV? We cannot afford a plasma TV, so they are out of the question. A 32" wide 6:9 conventional TV starts as low as about 4000kr. The cheapest 26" LCDs begin around 6000kr. Since these are measured diagonally, and since they are wide aspect TVs, they are "smaller" than the older apect ration sets (shorter). Also, this is the first time I have actually seen "inches" used as a measurement unit since we moved. I am guessing a 6000kr LCD set would require some compromises, so perhaps there would be some price creep up to the 7000-8000kr range before happiness arrives.

I just returned from Elkjøp, which roughly translated means "electric shop." It is the Best Buy of Norway. There were probably four times as many LCD/plasma options as conventional CRT choices. People here take their televisions very seriously. I still don't know where to begin.

Lost In Translation

Last week when I set up renter's insurance, I swore I was quoted a price of 1100kr per month for premiums. Then I literally swore. Our homeowner's insurance was cheaper. Today Lise called to check on why it cost so much, and was told the quote was the cost for the complete year. Order has been restored to my universe.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day in Kvitsøy

We took Figo for a walk this morning before eating the annual pinneskjøtt, colrabi, and potatoes for dinner. It was a beautiful, sunny, but windy day. This is my third Christmas in Norway. I have never seen so much food in my life. It seems there is some sit-down meal or desert every two hours. Last night we had the usual cod, potatoes, and carrots Christmas Eve dinner. Between the meals were cakes, deserts, sandwiches, and everything else.

The nice thing about living here is that I will be able to bicycle next week, rather than lying around as I would if we were vacationing here. I think I gained about ten pounds two years ago over Christmas.

This photo sums up Kvitsøy nicely- sheep and a lighthouse.

Figo is a border collie who loves to go on walks. He protects us from the vicious sheep. Actually, the sheep literally pee themselves at the sight of him.

The view from the light house hill.

The huge short wave radio antennas off in the distance.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Everything Has a Way of Working Out

I received my formal job offer today. The money was more than I expected. For all the time I spent worrying about money and trading in 15 years experience for a huge question mark, I will be starting out right where I left off. There are performance bonuses and a full range of benefits. I am in disbelief- all this, and while making a huge career change.

Someone up there must really like us.

Missing Teeth

No, not me- my cog. I have had trouble with the shifting- to the point where I have been riding single speed. Yesterday I discovered my cog is missing a bunch of teeth. No wonder the chain hops all over the place. Now that my bike shop has arrived, I can swap wheels. Problem solved.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Beautiful Day

Good news is always helpful. It makes a beautiful day even better. Today was rather dry and in the mid-4os, although there was a brisk wind out of the north and it was overcast. As I was leaving, the woman upstairs was outside. She told me that yesterday was the shortest day of the year- so daylight will only increase. In every sense of the word, regarding this move, the worst is behind us.

I decided to bike around Stokkavatnet via the Madlaruta. I actually consulted a map before leaving, which turned out to be an excellent idea. This route took me by where I will be working. It is maybe fifteen minutes away by bike- too close for any serious exercise. Then again, with this weather, it may be just far enough.

Stokkavatnet is a lake- not part of the ocean or a fjord.

There were all sorts of ducks, including those odd black ones with white bills.

I don't think there is any need for sunglasses in this part of the country- ever. I still haven't swapped out my lenses since we moved.

No matter where I go, the TV tower is always a landmark off in the dis

Here are a few photos from moving day- taken well before everything was moved in. They don't quite capture the reality we are living in at the moment.

Great News on the Job Front

I received an email today stating that I will be receiving a job offer in the email for my review. This news could not have come at a better time- just before Christmas. The job begins the beginning of January. This job will truly be a career change for me, as it is in marketing management for a software company. It also gives me quite a sense of accomplishment, since I had no connections to this company. Almost all Americans living around here were gracefully plucked from the US and comfortably situated into cushy jobs in the oil and gas industry. I would not have been opposed to a company paying for our moving costs and setting us up with vehicles and a house, but many of these employees end up still spending half of their time abroad, away from their families. When I was calling to establish insurance, the agent assumed I worked for either NATO or an oil company. I don't think many people just decide to move here. Of course, you need to be married to a Norwegian to relocate from the US. It isn't like their immigration policies are any different than in the US- if anything, they are more strict.

At any rate, I am amazed I have made it this far in less than two months. I expected it to take up to six or nine months to find a decent job- maybe even longer, since I was required to make a career change. Spouses of coworkers who held professional jobs and who were laid off in the US often took many months to find comparable work- and they were seeking employment in their native country, in the same field. I was prepared for the worst. I have limited Norwegian skills, no work history in this country, and am making a career change away from health care. I also hadn't sought work since 1990.

Today I am bouncing off the walls. Yesterday I was going crazy, feeling claustrophobic from living in this submarine-like environment. We are so packed in here that we can hardly move. It is impossible to go from a house to an apartment. The extra bedroom is packed wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with boxes. We were hoping for a guest room for all the American friends and family that will visit. I guess we will be that much more motivated to purchase a house- ASAP.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Did the Sun Ever Rise?

This morning was automobile day. We drove the 323 to a repair shop nearby last night. The battery light never came on during the drive over, so maybe it is just the belt. Actually, it has about half of a belt at the moment- it was completely shredded. My biggest concern was that the car conked out in the parking lot across the street- dying just as it was parked. I guess it was a good enough place. This morning I drove Lise to work with the 626, and dropped the keys off at the repair shop for the 323. I then drove the 626 to the Mazda dealer for some routine maintenance. I rode my bike home in complete darkness- as it was approaching 9am. It is very strange. It was rainy with a cold wind. I contemplated making a ride out of it, but I thought the weather may improve. It actually became worse. It is unbvelievably dark and dreary.

On a different note, I really, really hate waiting to hear back from the job I interviewed for last week. I should know by the end of the week. It is pure torture, waiting, as my fate is temporarily suspended, out of my control.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Too Icy

It is too icy to ride. It is above freezing, but not by much. Large areas of the road never see the sun, so it is very slick outside. I doubt studs would help. I ventured out, made it to the hill and tested my brakes. While the road looked clear, I was all over the place. I stopped and could hardly walk. I returned home. Even I have my limits.

Pagan Christmas

I don't know who chose December 25 as Christmas, but I think there is little doubt that Jesus was not born on that date. Whoever picked the 25th, I wouldn't be surprised if they lived around here. Reportedly, the 25th was chosen because it was close to the winter solstice. I think it is important that something "exciting" happens this time of year, after all, we are down to only about six hours of daylight. "Up north," near Hammerfest, the sun never actually rises. I can't imagine how depressing this time of year would be if we weren't forced to venture out into the darkness into the chaos of last minute gift shopping. The madness of the rush of Christmas supplants any possible depression caused by lack of light. It is like hitting your thumb with a hammer to make the headache go away. When I first arrived, I noticed the difference in daylight. Now it all seems normal. Today the sun rose at 9:28 and it sets at 3:41. On a positive note, tomorrow will only be seven seconds shorter.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Icy Day

Today I walked to the dyreklinikk to pick up cat food. We ran out last night, and I tried to satisfy those guys with crackers, but it didn't do much for them. I also picked up a package from my parents. We are lucky to live so close to everything we need.

I then made an appointment to fix the car we are borrowing. I think it just needs a new alternator belt, and I don't have the tools to fix it myself. Anyway, it is only a belt, so it shouldn't cost too much. I found a repair shop nearby. Hopefully we can jump start it tomorrow or Wednesday. I then started renter's insurance. I was able to do everything over the phone. I discovered another glitch with IP phones. Our caller ID comes up as Oslo, so when I dialed the "800 number" I was automatically sent to their office. After a bit of confusion speaking to someone who spoke no English, I finally spoke with someone in Stavanger who hooked us up.

I spent the rest of the day shopping and moving boxes around. It is rather overwhelming living in the midst of this mess. Hopefully I can ride tomorrow.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Movers are a strange lot. Back in Minneapolis three movers from Mayflower packed our belongings. These guys looked a bit rough, if you know what I mean. They were very polite to us and thorough in their work. I respect anyone that makes a living doing a job that I personally hate doing myself. There are fewer things in life that I dislike more than the physical process of moving. Prior to the move, I had used local movers twice. There is nothing extravagant about paying $400 to two pros with a truck. If you really want to see who your friends really are, forego the pros and ask them to help. Frankly, movers are generally a bargain. Even renting a truck is expensive. I don't know anyone who has actually only paid $19.99 to rent a U-Haul for a day. It just doesn't happen.

Back in Minneapolis I was paranoid about the move. My wife can vouch for that fact. I did not like it that we had signed no paperwork prior to the move. The estimate was merely oral- we had no written copy. Our main contact at the moving company was difficult to track down when we phoned with questions. While everything was inventoried during the actual move, they were not sealing the container on site, since they needed to crate all our glass from various pieces of furniture. I figured if there were any problems, we would be complaining from another continent, weeks in the future.

Our paperwork turned out fine. Final cost was based on weight, and the estimate was almost exact. We paid an extra $300-something for a crating charge, but that was the only real hidden cost. Still, I had paranoid thoughts that we might be extorted on the other end, once our container arrived in Norway.

Our Norwegian movers were better scrubbed than their American counterparts, although one was heavily tattooed (including knuckles and neck) and wearing a Rancid t-shirt. They looked like underfed kids. These guys were amazing. They arrived expecting to unpack everything for us. I told them we just needed the furniture reassembled. The three of them unloaded everything with no complaints, and expertly reassembled the furniture. Nothing was damaged or scratched. It is amazing that our possessions made a journey by truck, train, ship, and truck again over thousands of miles. We are still organizing everything.

Today Lise's parents arrived with a truck and car to help us take borrowed furniture back to Kvitsoy and to help us store extra items at Lise's grandmother's house. Lise's uncle joined in helping. It was an eight hour job to load everything, catch the ferry, unload, and then wait for the return ferry. It is really wonderful how family all helps out in these situations. We have had so much help from so many people on both ends of this move-- it is truly amazing.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Fun with Language

I drove Lise to work at the hospital this morning at 7am. There is literally no parking for employees available. We don't need to share the car, although it snowed quite heavily last night. We maybe have 1/4" on the ground this morning. Of course every square centimeter has been thoroughly salted around here. It is so hilly that icy sidewalks are extra-dangerous.

One interesting aspect about learning a foreign language is how it reminds me how arbitrary language is. I drove Lise to the sykehus, which literally translated means "sick house." Of course it is the hospital- but what does hospital actually mean? I guess hospital probably means "sick house." But there are no other references in English, until you consider "hospitality" and related words- which have nothing to do with being ill- or worst of all, "hospice"- for when people are hopelessly ill. Fortunately, the other part of the word where Lise works is psykiatrisk, which requires no further explanation. Norwegian nicely dispenses with the letter C for any hard K sounds- which greatly simplifies life. Now if only they would eradicate noun genders and dialekter, all would be well. By the way, the -er ending means plural, so they can use an s without an apostrophy to connote possessive. It is all rather handy, except that nobody ever fully finishes pronouncing their words anyway, so I can never really tell if a noun is plural or not.

My favorite word in Norwegian is små dyrlege- which means "small animal doctor." This is much more practical that our use of the word veternarian- which is not very descriptive. Our cats see a små dyrlege down the street. Lise's father uses a regular dyrlege for the farm animals, which are not small. Norway doesn't have an indigenous large animals, like elephants, that require regular medical care, so they don't really have a word for "large animal doctor." Speaking of large animals, when we were walking downtown last week, I noticed a sign at the fish market that they sell hval- which is a word designed to fool foreigners. Hval is actually whale. They sell the stuff in broad daylight- on the street. While legal, I have never actually seen anyone serve it.

Some words cause confusion because I think I know what they mean. I was out biking in the middle of nowhere when I stumbled upon a hundepensjonat. Now
pensjon actually does mean "pension" in some cases, and hund definitely means "dog." However, the two words combined refers to a "dog kennel." While life is very good here, there are no retirement programs for dogs in Norway.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Long Day

My day started off with a 9am job interview- a second interview. The owner, CFO and CIO interviewed me, and started the interview in Norwegian. What is a guy to do? He wanted to assess my Norwegian, as well as see how I did under pressure. I received quite good feedback, but I was really put on the spot. The interview went very well. I won't say any more about it, lest I jinx myself.

When I arrived home, I was told the shipping container was on its way. I had just enough time to change out of my clothes when the doorbell rang. The moving crew was already here. At that point I learned that the container should have been delivered at 9am- that apparently is WAS delivered- somewhere else. Nobody knew where exactly. Eventually they located it and dropped it off- literally. Unlike in the US where it stayed on the truck, they placed the container on the ground in the parking lot across the street. This meant that there was no need for a ramp.

We had a great crew of three guys who reassembled all of our furniture. Everything arrived without a scratch. It is truly amazing. I have all my stuff- and there is a ton of it. Actually all 3800lbs of it. Our apartment is as spacious as a submarine, since we still have all the borrowed furniture jammed in here. We have a lot of work to do.

By the way, I am typing this on my own computer. Since it is a US keyboard, I need to readjust to the punctuation key differences. Anyway, I need to get back to work. Life is good, and I should have a job before Christmas. Best of all, we have a sofa to watch TV from!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Credit Card Anguish

We were planning on ordering gifts online for my family in the US. This sounds simple enough. Well, the Target website was completely bombed. Pages were impossible to load. Amazon was sold out of what I wanted. I ended up at Marshal Fields, or Fields, or whatever it is called these days. I had my order all ready to go and I entered my credit card info- but it wouldn't take it. Actually, I was using my US Bank debit card- which always has functioned exactly as a Visa card. The trouble was, even though I was drawing US funds from a bank in the US- ironically named US Bank, I couldn't enter the address information to confirm my identity. In Norway, the zip code goes before the city, and only has four digits, and there is no state code, and- well, it is in Norway. Not giving up, I made a phone order to a very confused, but helpful customer service person. She had to trick the computer into accepting the order, but all should be well. I am thinking I should maintain a dummy address in the US for credit card orders. There must be an easier way.

I Am a Person

I finally received my personal ID# today, which is the equivalent of a social security number- and - my "health insurance" number.

Also, the shippers phoned to say the container has arrived. Our belongings will arrive tomorrow.

Suddenly I am busy!

It is a bit breezy in these parts

Current Conditions

Updated: 7:20 AM CET on December 15, 2005

Observed At: Stavanger, Norway
Elevation: 30 ft / 9 m
43 °F / 6 °C
Light Rain
Windchill: 32 °F / 0 °C
Humidity: 81%
Dew Point: 37 °F / 3 °C
Wind: 30 mph / 48 km/h from the NW
Wind Gust: 46 mph / 74 km/h
Pressure: 29.59 in / 1002 hPa
Visibility: 6.2 miles / 10.0 kilometers
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds: Few 1500 ft / 457 m
Mostly Cloudy 3000 ft / 914 m
(Above Ground Level)
Flight Rule:
Wind Speed: 30 mph / 48 km/h
Wind Dir: 320° (NW)
3000 ft / 914 m

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

More Rain

Last night I had my own private tube patching party. I have had three flats so far, and a mystery leak from a bad stem, I think. Lise has been working all the time lately. I was actually excited when someone called- with a wrong number. Everything will change when I land a job.

No photos today, either. Visibility was poor. I rode to the post office to mail some Christmas cards to the US. I will never get to speak Norwegian. The Asian clerk saw the address and spoke to me in perfect American English. I then headed off to my usual nearby route. It was sprinkling when I left- more like mist than rain. I left my rain jacket at home, since it was 50F again and I didn't want to overheat. I made it out to the bridge where Harfsfjord meets the ocean. It was very windy- a cold northern wind blowing off the sea. As I headed home it started to rain. I was completely drenched. I don't really mind the rain anymore. What I don't like is all the effort that goes into cleaning up. We have no basement, and there is a fine grit that coats everything when it rains. Not only am I a mess, but I make the house a mess. At least I made it out for a few hours- and I am staying in great shape, considering it is winter and I am unemployed. I had a happy thought- we are almost to the solstice- at which time the days become longer. Today the sun rose at 9:22 and it set at 3:40- and it is still getting worse. At least we don't live "up north."

I phoned the shippers, and our container still hasn't arrived- nor do they know when it will arrive. They made it sound like it was lost. You would think they could track these things a little better. They are still planning on moving our things in on Thursday. We'll see what happens.

Monday, December 12, 2005


The weather was amazing today- warm and almost springlike. I rode to Sandnes to buy new brake cartridges and was pleasantly surprised that they cost less than expected. All they had were Shimano Ultegras, but they cost no more than in the US. I installed them and resumed riding. I noticed that I had worn completely through the pads, and the metal backing had ground into the rim. I hope I haven't created too much rim damage. There was literally nothing left of those rear brakes that I had installed just prior to moving.

I needed to be back by 2pm, so I didn't ride very far. I went back to Vaulen to check things out under a sunny sky. Vaulen is a tiny penninsula that sticks out into the fjord that our apartment overlooks.Looking back toward our neighborhood, Gausel. That big hill is a NATO headquarters that is next to our apartment. Actually, if you were to keep driving up the hill we live on, you will come to their gated entrance with their prominently displayed sign forbidding any photographs. We live next door to a target.

Photographic evidence that the sun was shining today.

A wonderful place for a flat tire. By the way, this photo was taken just after noon. Observe how long the shadows are, already (or rather, still).

That is what I consider a serious cut. Rather than booting it, I put on a spare tire, in addition to changing the tube.

With the sun so low, some areas are almost always in the shade.

Like my fancy mtn bike/touring shoes? Hey, they are easy to walk in. You wouldn't even know they had cleats. My horrible twist tooth cog is even showing rust.

One chronically filthy bike.

Afterwards, I bought groceries. In Norway, red peppers are cheaper than green peppers- opposite of the US- and they are each individually wrapped. Bread is served in bulk, so everyone in Stavanger has handled your loaf before you bag it and buy it. We never have ours sliced at the store, but you can run it through a slicer if you want. In the lower right corner are skoleboller- a mysterious pastry with coconut and frosting- highly addictive stuff. Eggs are sold in the half dozen- and they don't sell mega extra extra super large eggs like in the US. These are real eggs laid by real chickens. Your choice is white or brown. I don't get it either. I also picked up a tube of my favorited cookies or biscuits or whatever they are called- the only item not on the shopping list. All that is left are the raspberry preserves and plastic wrap. I was told to buy the wrap, but had no idea what it was called in Norwegian. I also went crazy looking for it.

When you arrive at the store, you need to grab a cart from the outdoor corral. They don't have strange cart wranglers like in the US. Rather, you need to insert a 10kr piece to release the cart, otherwise they are all locked together. When you finish shopping, you take it back to the corral and insert a little key that locks it back up and that releases the 10kr piece. It is a brilliant idea. Another oddity is that we must pay for shopping bags. It encourages recycling, although we tend to recycle them by using them as garbage bags at home. They are very high quality bags, relative to the pastic bags in the US? Paper or plastic? All you have is plastic.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Same As Yesterday

Weather was identical to yesterday. Oddly, it is no colder at night than day. I went out for an hour and a half- found a new route downtown that more closely follows the sea. I had a brief ride since I almost am brakeless- and this isn't my fixed gear. Tomorrow I must buy new cartridges. I cannot begin to describe how beautiful it is here. I am sure that the longer I live here, the less I will notice. I have never seen so many parents walking small children. You don't see that in the US. Parents wheel really small children around in huge baby buggies. They almost look vintage. Children old enough to walk actually walk. Rain or shine, families are very active here- as are horses. There are horses in the city, and they don't wear diapers. I am displeased.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Weather for Ducks

It was almost 50F today, although it felt much colder with the wind and rain. It was very foggy, so no photos. I headed out to Harfsfjord today, then took the road to Randaberg to explore. I suddenly came across another body of water. It made no sense that it was the sea already, but it was too foggy for me to have any bearings. It turned out that I found Stokkavatnet, a series of very cool lakes. It looked like Canada. Also, I have never seen so many ducks just hanging out. There were a few maps posted for hikers, so I was able to make my way to Tasta, then took the route through downtown Stavanger and back home.

I need to fix my bike. At present I have a singlespeed- with a 42X16 as my lowest gear. It is definitely too tall for these hills. I have an old twist tooth cassette, and I can't isolate the cause of all the autoshifting and chain dropping. Next week I'll have all my tools and a work stand, so it should be much easier. Also, before moving I outfitted this bike with all new brake pads. I had to stop twice today to readjust the calipers. This place eats brakes. I already need all new ones. I hate to think what my rims must be going through. Anyway, I was completely soaked when I returned home, but it was good to be outside, despite the rain.


I phoned Canon, and inexplicably, despite the fact that the slider simply clips on, it is only sold with the entire back of the camera. It coasts $50ish plus shipping. They also have an upgrade program where we could purchase a new camera for only $179 for the top of the line camera in its class. This is sounding pretty good, considering how old this camera is. While tiny wen purchased, it is starting to look rather huge. It is only on those steel-cased Digital Elph models that is as bulletproof as it looks- except for the slider. Anyway, we probably won't do much with this until we have work. The camera still works fine, but if I'm not careful, I will lose the slider forever.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Wishing for a Mountain Bike

I took a series of service roads that access the power lines above one of the tunnels- probably not the best place to take bike with skinny road tires. I have been having trouble with my deraileur lately- the housing sometimes becomes caught on the rack bolt, causing it to shift out of gear, or worse, to drop the chain. This happened as I put all my weight on the pedal, causing a bit of a crash. Good news was that I missed the pile of horse manure on the trail. Bad news is that the slider on my camera broke. I had it in my back pocket, and I pretty much landed on it. It still works, and I am sure I can find a replacement part. Anyway, it was a nice warm, dry day again. It really isn't so bad being jobless when I have this much time to play outside.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Heavenly Weather

The weather was in the mid 40s, and the roads dry- what more could I ask for as we approach mid-December. I rode up to the highest point in Stavanger, a hill with a white radio/TV tower.

The final leg of the hill is straight up with no switchbacks, which really pushed my heart rate into the red zone.

Universitetet i Stavanger below.

My poor bike parked next to a miniature stonehenge.

Back to sea level.

The three swords momument- something about some king that united all the smaller kingdoms to created what became Norway- like a thousand years ago, but don't quote me.

I didn't see any red flag flying today, nor hear gun shots.

The tower, from a distance. It doesn't look very imposing from this angle.