Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Lucky Kid

Not only did Julian luck out by getting great parents like us, but we just received a phone call that he won half of a smoked salmon in some sort of raffle. We didn't even know he was entered.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Julian Nissen

Julian in his grandfather's arms, Christmas eve, in one of his few outfits small enough to fit.

I started a few entries that never quite made it to publication. I started writing a lengthy account of the night of Julian's birth. I soon realized that words could do it no justice, and that it was simply too personal to share. It was one of those 'you really had to be there' moments-- yet it was only meant for the three of us, with a midwife and nurse. It was truly a private moment-- a beautiful moment-- but there is nothing clever or witty to say. The moment spoke for itself. It needed no narration or caption. Julian entered this world. I watched him take his very first breath as he lay on a mat on the floor, beneath a birthing chair. I watched in amazement as I realized I was meeting my son for the first time, how something in my world had forever changed. Julian was now part of our world, never able to return to his comfort inside his mother. For all the hostility and cruelty in the world, it is still an overwhelmingly beautiful place. Powerful forces were at work in the birthing room that night. I quickly forgot my feelings of guilt at the pain and discomfort that Lise experienced. More than anything, I was immeasurably thankful that Lise and Julian were fine. I still am.

We are a week into our new family, and a few observations come to mind. Newborns mostly sleep and eat. There is little involved with "diaper duty," since newborn poo is mysteriously odor free. Julian is starting to grow eyelashes, and he is already much better at controlling his eye movement. When he makes eye contact, it is very intense. While other infants' crying borders on annoying, our son's tear-free cries are music to our ears. His skin color is much better, and he is starting to fill out. He literally becomes cuter by the minute.

I haven't even begun my paternity leave-- this is Christmas vacation. I don't know when I will return to work. My boss stopped by to give Julian a gift on Saturday, and reassured me not to think of work during this time. It is wonderful to be able to take this much time to bond with Julian. It is incredible how much I can love someone who I just met. It will be difficult to rearrange my priorities to include such frivolous activities as work, or even watching TV. But at some point, I will need to integrate my work life with our family life. We still need to put food on the table. Right now I can do little more than look at him-- even though he doesn't do much. I don't see how I will possibly be able to work from home!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

It's Almost Christmas

I cannot stand Chevy Chase, but no Christmas is complete without National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, followed by It's a Wonderful Life on Swedish Television.

En tidel velger fødeloftet

Interesting timing in today's paper: an article about the birthing loft that we used. The title translates to "One Tenth Choose the Birthing Loft." Again, we have nothing but excellent feedback about our experience. On the front page of the paper, some adventurous couple had their photo taken with their just-born child. More information about that couple is in another article. I cannot imagine having a photographer present for the moment. Photos appear to be from the same room Julian was born.

En tidel velger fødeloftet

- Alle vet at en fødsel gjør vondt. Men de som velger Fødeloftet, er ofte motivert til å takle smertene, og de stoler på at kroppen er skapt for å føde, sier jordmor Grethe Teigen.

Marie Rein Bore

- Jeg har hatt greie fødsler før, men måtte ha en del hjelp med nummer en og to. Denne gangen var jeg bestemt på å ikke ha bedøvelse. Du blir så mye friskere etterpå uten bedøvelse.

- Jeg har hatt greie fødsler før, men måtte ha en del hjelp med nummer en og to. Denne gangen var jeg bestemt på å ikke ha bedøvelse. Du blir så mye friskere etterpå uten bedøvelse. Foto: Jon Ingemundsen

Gjennsomsnittalderen for førstegangsfødende var i fjor 28,1 år. På slutten av 80-tallet var mødrene i snitt 25,2 år da de fikk barn for første gang. (Kilde: SSB)

Grethe Teigen var jordmor da Lasse kom til verden sist fredag kveld.

Les historien om fødselen

Sissel og Trond Vollevik fra Sola hadde på forhånd valgt fødsel på Fødeloftet, en egen del av fødeavdelingen ved Stavanger Universitetssjukehus, spesielt beregnet for dem som vil ha en såkalt naturlig fødsel.

- Hva mener dere med naturlig fødsel?

- At fødselen går normalt uten for stor inngripen. Vi gir ikke medikamentell smertelindring, men bruker akupunktur, varmt vann/ badekar og tilstedeværelse som vår form for smertelindring, sier Teigen.

Men hun understreker at hvis fødselen skulle stanse opp og ikke komme videre, kan den fødende flyttes over til fødeavdelingen der de har tekniske hjelpemidler til å få fødselen i mål.

Dessuten kan ikke fødende som har hatt kompliserte svangerskap, eller har annen risiko knyttet til fødselen, få føde på Fødeloftet.

Ønsker flere:
Fødeloftet er et relativt nytt tilbud ved SUS. I år vil det bli noe over 400 fødsler der, rundt en tidel av alle fødsler ved SUS. Jordmødrene på Fødeloftet ønsker at flere skal bruke dette alternativet. Tilbudet er for lite kjent, sier Grethe Teigen.

- Hva skiller Fødeloftet fra en vanlig fødeavdeling?

- Dette er en mindre avdeling, personalet har det ikke så travelt, vi slipper å springe fra den ene fødende til den andre, men kan være hos hele tiden hvis det er ønsket. Dessuten har føderommene vanlige senger, det er mer som et soverom og ikke et teknisk sykehusrom, sier Grethe Teigen.

Mange førstegangsfødende velger Fødeloftet:

Mye psykologi
- Vi håper de får en god opplevelse som de tar med seg videre. Mange er motivert for en slik naturlig fødsel, motivert til å stole på at egen kropp kan greie dette. En fødsel er mye psykologi. Selv om rier kan være intense, er det tross alt flere pauser enn rier, det er mulighet til å slappe av. De aller fleste fødsler går greit.

Det er svært sjelden vi må flytte den fødende for å få mer teknisk hjelp. Den aller viktigste overflyttingsgrunnen er at fødselen stopper opp. Da flytter vi den fødende over på fødeavdelingen, og fortsetter der. Vi prøver også å bli med videre på fødeavdelingen, slik at de fødende skal slippe å skifte jordmor. Etter at de har født, tar vi dem med opp på Fødeloftet igjen, så får de barseltiden der likevel, sier Grethe Teigen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Baby Filtersweep

OK, not the greatest photo, but certainly the greatest Christmas gift we have ever received. Julian arrived 5:15am Monday morning in perfect condition- all 3010 grams and 48 cms of him. Lise is in great shape, and we are finally home from the hospital. Lise bravely chose a natural birth, which meant we could share a family room. The midwives and staff there were top-notch. Julian is already an amazing little guy! Fortunately, he takes after his mother. His birth caught us a little off guard-- he arrived 10 days early. I won't return to work until sometime next year-- and even then, will probably work part time or from home as much as possible. This might turn into a parenting blog-- so be warned.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Interesting Commute

What you are seeing is the inside of a mountain bike tire with a 2cm stone sticking through it. I had a relatively dry ride into work this morning, and heard a strange noise as I was crossing the E39 overpass. It was the sound of air hissing out the rear tire. I had a predawn tube change-- of course predawn means anything before 9 or 9:30 these days. I was worried that I would not be able to find the source of the flat in the darkness, but there was no mistaking it. I cursed my Crank Brothers mini-pump--- the one that only takes 400 strokes to get a tire up to 40psi. I may be exaggerating slightly.

After work I saw a very rare sight: dry pavement. I think it has been about two months since I have seen anything so beautiful. Just to clarify, they were only patches of dryness. It is still mostly wet outside.

Tomorrow I am taking the day off. I have been working too much lately. We still have much preparation to do before Christmas and the baby arrives.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


We caught a few minutes of sunshine today between bursts of rain and sleet. I went to the gym to do some cardio while watching people doing real cardio-- a biathlon was on TV. Usually I go after work and end up watching Scrubs, That 70s Show, or the Sami news-- all of which are texted. The first two are in English, of course, and the Sami news is in some strange Sami language that looks like Finnish, so it is texted as well. Watching their news, I always feel like I am living on the edge of the planet. They live on a region in the far north that consists of parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. On the surface they resemble the Inuit in many ways. If ever I feel life is foreign here, I only need to watch the Sami news. Going back to the gym, since the biathlon was in Norwegian, it wasn't texted, so I used the headphone jack on the trainer to listen. I was surprised how much I was able to understand. Usually TV commentators are so excitable and speak so fast that they are impossible to understand. In this case, the Norwegian was so far ahead that the race was over well before the finish line. Next was curling between Norway and Sweden. Curling is about as exciting as golf to watch, but it makes for good language practice. Besides, the commentators are not particularly excitable in curling.

After the gym I made the mistake of going to Kvadrat-- a large mall near home. I had planned to do some Christmas shopping, but it was insanely crowded. I just purchased groceries, which was enough of an ordeal, and stopped by Bike Brothers to price a new set of mountain bike wheels. I need a new set of wheels for the studded tires for when the weather turns nasty. I want exceptionally cheap wheels, since I anticipate that I will destroy them riding in salty snow and ice. The cheapest they had were about 3000nok--- and I could easily build a set for less money. I will keep shopping around.

When I returned home, Lise was in the middle of her diabolical scheme of making candies to give as gifts. I would have preferred to eat all of them immediately. If it were me, I would continuously make mistakes that I would have to eat myself.

Friday, December 08, 2006

6h 26m 11s

The days are getting shorter. The shortest day is only 15 minutes shorter than today. The real issue is that it has rained daily for as long as I can remember, and I don't think that I have seen the sun since I was in California. It really isn't that bad- certainly not as bad as last year when I was unemployed at this time. So what that it has rained. It hasn't stopped me from biking-- although laziness has. Short days makes the evenings seem to last forever.

My wife's octogenarian grandfather brought over a cradle that he made. It is a very cool gift for our impending newborn. We still need to sort out some water damage to the downstairs bedroom caused by a leaky window. We are going after our buyers insurance on that one-- that is another story. We are as ready as we will ever be, after we pack a bag for the hospital.

Sanity in Policy

OK, the head of the learning center called me back today. I have him my visa number (work and residency-- not my bank card) and he looked me up. Actually, he had to call me back to get my ID# and to confirm my visa number. It turned out he could find me nowhere in the system to indicate that I was required to take language classes. I am also not required to take civics classes either. He said it was because I was married to a Norwegian. All of this is very perplexing, since I know two other Americans who reported taking classes. I am not complaining, but I will confirm this next time I renew my visa.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

On a Different Note

I can't wait for our baby to arrive. We registered at the birthing room at the hospital the other day. They have a wall hanging that is a giant calendar for the year with pink and blue pins for all the babies that were born, with a large sign that says "Welcome to the World." I don't know why that is such a cool visual, but it is. It really is about the arrival in this world. He is pretty much ready to go. I can usually hear his heartbeat by placing my ear at the right spot on Lise's belly. He is getting quite crowded in there. All we can do now is wait. Officially his due date is the 29th, but he could easily arrive next year. If he arrives after the first, it changes when he starts school. In a way, I hope he is a little late. Lise and I were both some of the youngest in our respective classes. Then again, we seemed to turn out just fine.

Norwegian Rednecks

OK, maybe that is not a fair characterization, but I am annoyed by how the conservative party's anti-immigration policies are affecting me personally. I am legally required by law to take 120 hours of Norwegian language classes. I dutifully applied to take classes a year ago. I have a three year window to complete this requirement. At the time I was told there were no advanced evening classes, and that beginner classes would be a waste of time for me. In other words, there are no classes available, and already a year is burned up.

During the past year, I left messages at the school, but received no reply. The other day I finally sent a letter, including documentation of 126 hours of classes I had taken in Minneapolis. I finally received a call from the man in charge of the school. He apologized for not getting back to me earlier, and said that nothing had changed. They had no qualified teachers to teach advanced classes, and no evening courses available.

This situation is absurd. I believe that I am rather well integrated. I do not live in an English-speaking cloister. I have no friends from the UK or US that I hang out with. I am very gainfully employed. I travel much for work, making classes somewhat inconvenient. With a baby due any day, it will be downright difficult to spend four extra hours per week outside the home. I gave the man my bottom line: I was only interested in meeting my legal obligation. He offered that I could take an oral and written test to meet this requirement. I will have to give it a try. It still doesn't change the principle at hand. Even the US draconian immigration policies are not this strict. I am not even part of the target demographic group-- I am married to a Norwegian. If you ask me, I am doing just fine. But that doesn't mean my Norwegian spelling and grammar are any good.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Blue Eyes?

We are less than a month away from the due date, assuming he isn't running late. Our impending parenthood has made me curious about my genetic background. Since I am adopted, I don't have full access to my ancestry, and even the simple things like my relatives' eye and hair color are clouded in mystery. I have met my birth mother on two occasions, and met a few of my half-siblings, but I have never met any grandparents. My birth mother has been rather evasive about discussing the paternal side of my history, and I haven't pushed things, so I really only have half the story.

The other night I phoned my birth mother to ask her some questions about her background. Her grand-parentage was 3/4ths of Italian ancestry. Her maternal grandfather immigrated from Italy to Chicago as a young man. Everyone had wild last names ending in vowels. She herself has very dark features, so I found it very surprising that my maternal grandfather had blond hair and blue eyes. On my wife's side, Lise's family probably has over a thousand years of blue-eyed genes in their bloodline. Oddly, this will put our son's odds of having blue eyes and no worse than a one out of four chance. That takes into account no possibility of there being any blue eyes on the paternal side of my genetics. If either of my genetic father's parents had blue eyes, the odds double to a 50% possibility of our son having blue eyes. I would have never imagined it was even possible that I could end up with a blue eyed child. Of course, it will take months to find out what his permanent eye color is.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Casino Royale

We saw Casino Royale last night-- and I can see why this is such a divisive movie for Bond fans. In my opinion, it was the best Bond in the last 30 years. It was probably the most realistic Bond film ever. Of course, some fans prefer to see the "sharks with laser beams" style of Bond movies, but to me, films like Die Another Day had sunk to be mere parodies of the Bond franchise. It far exceeded my expectations.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Excellence in Packaging Design

As part of my job dealing with high level marketing, I have developed a heightened, yet amateurish awareness of packaging and product design. It all started as I stared at a box of Ritz crackers.
Ritz's design is timeless in its two dimensional minimalism. Observe the hyper-real photographic rendering of the crackers. The stark yellow on black lettering of the inner circle has been stylistically superimposed over the crackers on the bottom half , while the crackers on the top half appear to be cut out above it. This inconsistency is an enigma whose significance keeps my awake at night. The red box screams for attention.

Heinz uses a translucent bottle to produce its red backdrop. Its cleverly shaped white label with a green and gold border to symbolize health and wealth obscure the fact that this delightful condiment contains mostly sugar and salt.

Kraft's Calumet baking powder mixes heavy duty industrial design with the profile of a Native American chief wearing full headdress. To my knowledge, the Native American macrobiotic diet required little use of baking soda. Again, this product uses the color red. I have not determined what is so special about the so-named "EASY-MEASURE LID!" that makes it worthy of an exclamation point.
Lawry's maintains our theme of red product design. Its highly stylized "L" is the focal point of this otherwise informational label, which effectively communicates that this product contains no MSG and is "original."

McCormick uses more fonts than a ransom note in its classic and timeless red and white packaging that communicates with a retro and feel-good wholesomeness: we are not adulterated by trends or fads.

Mr Lee ramen noodles proves that using a 70s font and shallow Asian stereotyping need not adversely affect a packaging project.


I took Monday off to recover from my travels. Tuesday and Wednesday I rode to work in nasty weather. After work I rode to the gym to work out for an hour and a half, then rode home. It is typical November weather here--- rain and wind. Today I drove. I was exhausted, and needed to return our display to the office. It was a quite day-- Thanksgiving in the US. You'd never notice around here.

Blogger Beta

Google will eventually force us to switch to their new blog interface. That isn't such a bad deal, except it forces us to use a gmail account to log-in. I am no fan of gmail. But then again, this is a free service, so I guess I can't complain too loudly. Here is my first post after making the switch...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

CA Photos

Back In Norway

I am awake with jet lag-- reflecting on a great trip. Without going into too much detail, we had a good work trip that bounced back and forth between San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. While we flew to SF last Sunday, I ended up doing all of the local driving-- it didn't make sense to take a taxi to Silicon Valley. Our days were packed with work meetings, and the travel flowed quite smoothly courtesy of our talking GPS. We rented a Corolla in SF, which was nice for the tighter urban driving downtown. Tuesday we flew back to San Diego on Southwest, then drove to Los Angeles at night to stay in Hollywood-- which is truly the armpit of America. I had no clue there were so many homeless people (or adult bookstores.... or tattoo parlors). Most of our Wednesday meetings were down in Ocean County. Thursday evening we drove back to San Diego and stayed back at the same hotel. All in all it was a great trip. I have eaten my fill of sushi. I know the CEO much better (it was just the two of us) and we managed to get along very well-- especially for spending so much travel time together. I am working out spending two months working in the US next year.

I have always loved California, so it isn't an entirely fair comparison to Norway. CA has mountains, dry weather, and we had record November heat (in the 90s). I left with some regret for having lived in the midwest for as long as I did. Then again, this move to Norway has proven that we can live anywhere and do anything. But the reality remains-- we can only really live in one place at a time. If we lived in CA, there would be some other place that I would fall in love with... or perhaps "passing infatuation" would be a better term. While I loved eating sushi and drinking cheap beer nightly, LA had nasty air pollution, and it takes at least a hour to drive anywhere. I can't imagine biking in LA. SF would take at least an hour to bike out of the city, and the weather isn't much better than in Norway. San Diego is a great place to get away, but I wonder what it would be like to live there.

All in all, the US is a country of tremendous opportunity. As passe as I thought I would find it (from a "been there done that" attitude--- where I found the UK and the Netherlands far more interesting for business prospects), I believe my job is perfect for me. I still need to be connected to the US. That doesn't mean that I want to move back. I just like the best of both worlds. I have always been the sort who wants everything both ways.

On a lighter note, despite my liberal and tolerant leanings, I can't help but be mindful of fellow passengers on planes. I had my aisle seat on a KLM 747 from LAX to Amsterdam. Two young bearded Muslim-looking guys sat down in the seats next to me. Both had their heads covered in caps. They seemed a little strange. As we took off, I noticed they were holding hands. I found it strange, but I had seen similar things in India. As the flight progressed, it became clear that these two were more than just friends. If their kissing didn't give it away, they left nothing to interpretation when they entered the lavatory together. I could not have more seriously been wrong about my initial impressions of them.

I slept most of the flight. After The Devil Wears Prada was over, the next thing I knew we were served breakfast and landed an hour later. It was the best transatlantic flight I have ever had. It seemed to last three hours in total. If only I could sleep now.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I Love Southern CA

I spent the day driving all over Ocean County and San Diego County for meetings today. I love this place. I have always loved this place. San Diego was my first experience with "palm trees," and it left an enduring impression. In hindsight, I have no idea why I ever returned to Minneapolis after my first trip to SD back in the early 90s--- when in fact I had absolutely nothing to lose by relocating. Of course, I have a true masochistic streak when it comes to climate, and post-college have move continually north, rather than south.

But then again, this is California, which is nothing remotely related to "reality." I cannot imagine living here. Despite the climate, this seems like a cruel environment to ride bikes.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

San Diego

I am in San Diego-- have been here a few days. I mysteriously lost an earlier blog entry regarding the trip. The first time I was here I stayed in a dirt-cheap hostel. Now I am at the Hotel del Coronado--- an amazing resort hotel on Coronado island. The first time I was here was the first time I was on a plane. How times have changed. I can't even count how many flights I have taken. The temperature has been in the 80s all week. It is beautiful here.

I watched a few movies on the flight here and in my jet-lagged middle of the night insomnia. Here are my mini-reviews:

Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
I was disappointed. Jack Sparrow is an excellent character, as are Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan... in an excellent "Disney character" sort of way. The trouble is that the special effects played a too prominent role. The "scary characters" bordered on the absurd, and possessed unpredictable physics. Also problematic was Swan kissing Sparrow. I am quite convinced Sparrow plays for the other team. Next time, more Sparrow--- and less dead creatures.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
I generally do not like Will Ferrell, but paired with the most excellent John C. Reilly and, well, it was as close to magic as Ferrell will ever see on screen. Actually, Ferrell is more entertaining and less offensive than he has ever been. NASCAR is such an easy target that I can forgive him for almost anything... except the French-bashing that is somehow pulled off without being completely idiotic. Definitely not a must-see.

You, Me and Dupree
Is it just me, or is Matt Dillon starting to wear a little with age? And can Owen Wilson only play one character? Kate Hudson was almost adorable in this movie, but Michael Douglas was merely phoning it in. Michael Douglas? Either his agent should be shot, or he is donating his salary to charity. Not the worst movie ever, but it seemed to be rather misdirected. As far as it tried to go, it should have gone all the way and descended in complete farcedom.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Something about in-seat on-demand video compelled me to watch this Uma Thurman/Luke Wilson "effort." Rainn Wilson must be completely typecast as a dork/loser by this point after almost reprising his Arther/Six Feet Under role. Anna Faris from Brokeback Mountain was the high point of this movie-- for whatever that is worth. I will briefly embed a Brokeback Mountain review, since we recently rented that movie. Actually, Lise and I each picked a movie-- I wanted to watch Donnie Darko, but they didn't have it, so I picked Jarhead. Lise picked the only movie I hoped she didn't rent: Brokeback Mountain. Actually, Brokeback was a very well acted movie-- but not at all what I expected. Knowing it was a "gay cowbow movie" I fully expected that it was set in the 1800s. But I guess I am just like that. Jake's other movie was a bit of a mess-- although it is to be expected for a "war movie" for a war that only lasted four days.

Lords of Dogtown
I spend half the movie trying to figure out if that was Heath Ledger. After I decided that it was, I was wondering what the hell he was doing in this disaster. Dogtown and Z-boys is FAR superior-- and the real deal. Why watch a "movie" when the documentary has far better skate action and character development? Skip it. They could have just as well animated this wreck.

Buffalo '66
I don't know if it was insomnia that kept me up watching this movie, or if this movie kept my up on the basis of its own merit. I had seen this movie in video stores, having no clue what it was about. I watched it simply because it was on at 3am on HBO. I was floored at how excellent his Vincent Gallo/Christina Ricca vehicle is. Simply amazing. Ben Gazzara and Anjelica Huston are priceless as Vincent's parents. I have never seen family dysfunction magnified to this extreme without dripping into absurdity. I have never felt such sympathy for such a loser character. Christina Ricci was practically a child when this movie was made, but truly steals the show, which is no easy feat when paired with Gallo.

The Dukes of Hazzard
I was reaching psychosis by the time this movie came on. It is truly sad that this film was ever made. At least the Charlie's Angels films clearly showed that the filmmakers were in on the joke. DOH took itself far too seriously as being a feature film based on the TV show--- without a hint of irony. Imagine an earnest Weird Al imitator. It just isn't right.

Donnie Darko
For $9.99 I purchased this at Best Buy--- almost cheaper than I can rent it in Norway. This is my new favorite movie, even though I have only seen part of it. It also completes the Jake trifecta.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Daylight Savings

In honor of daylight savings, I present the following (not that it is in any way related):

Friday, October 27, 2006

"It Was So Windy...."

How windy was it?

It was so windy that the beam from my headlight wouldn't stay on the road.

It was so windy that I flew to work.

It was so windy that when I pulled into work, all the cars were blown into the SE corner of the parking lot.

It was so windy that people were commuting by umbrella.

It was so windy that I was already undressed when I arrived at work.

I seriously don't know what I was thinking when I decided to bike to work today. I have never crashed from wind, but came close. According to a Norwegian wind speed chart, it is "vanskelig å gå" today. Our house is protected by the hill from the wind. I could hear it last night-- non-stop, until we went to bed. The bedroom is on the lowest floor, opposite the wind. This morning I heard the gentle roar of the wind as I ate breakfast, but again, we are protected. It wasn't until I was outside and saw the carnage from the garbage man that had blown all over that I realized I might be in for an adventure. When I reached the forest at the top of the hill, the trees were singing and dancing. But hey, it least it wasn't raining!

Sunday, October 22, 2006


In two weeks I fly to San Diego.

The past week I have spent the evenings on the phone, arranging meetings during the trip. I have been very focused-- no procrastinating for me.

Last Wednesday we had friends visiting us from the US. We had a great time. I have rarely had the opportunity to be a tourist here. Yesterday we took a boat tour up Lysefjord.

Other than that, it has been status quo. Lise is doing well. I am doing well. Hopefully I will be able to resume blogging in the near future.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Still Here

I have been rather quiet on the blogging front, primarily because I am so busy for work. I have been very busy with this new US initiative, and it is rather overwhelming. I must resist the urge to procrastinate. I am almost exclusively biking to work these days, but little else. Today the temperature was in the mid-40s, but at least it was dry.

The US ambassador embarassed himself by complaining that Norway's import tax that favors diesels discriminates against US automakers. I don't know what kind of drugs this bozo is taking, but who in their right mind wants or needs an American car in Norway? There are extra taxes on engine displacement and horsepower--- and probably weight. The speed limit is 90kph maximum. Roads are narrow. Cars are so expensive anyway that people finance them for up to 10 years. Most American cars are lucky to last that long.

How does someone even define a US-made vehicle in these age of globalism? Saabs are now Mazdas with a touch of GM. Volvo are Ford. Opal is GM. Mercedes is Chrysler. It never ends, and I am probably wrong about at least one of these relationships. Adding to the absurdity of his statements, Norway has the population of Wisconsin or Minnesota. I don't think a country of this size will help GM dig themselves out of their own grave.

As I close, I want you to close your eyes and imagine the following scenario. Actually, keep your eyes open so you can read the rest of this, first. Imagine if the income of each US citizen was posted on the internet for the entire world to see. Sound crazy? Well the annual tax list was released last week in Norway, and the national past-time of looking up everyone's income has begun anew. Thankfully I have zero income for 2005 in Norway, so you can move along. The media publishes lists of all the local richest people. It is all quite perverse in my estimation, particularly in a culture that avoids conspicuous displays of wealth (unlike the US).

On a related topic, the IRS doesn't like how we claimed my wife's student loan interest for 2004. I will have fun tracking down that documentation after moving across the world. She attended school in the US, but the loan origninated in Norway. If I recall, I claimed it for 2005 as well. Oh well...

We are finished painting, finally. New we can live in our house, rather than work. We are lucky to have a house! Already, it seems prices have risen dramatically. It is almost impossible to find anything that is not an apartment for under 3 million nok these days. Recently, a house went for over $100,000 more than its asking price. Land use is so controlled around here that it is doubtful that the real estate market will ever collapse.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Monster baby pram

(Barnevogn). I had my first run in with sticker shock for baby carriages. People take their baby carriages very seriously here in Norway. A base model Teutonia without any accessories starts at about $1000 for a new one. Last year's models are 25% off. But then you need the bags, including the bag for the baby. And they can cost another $500 to have the carriage 'properly' outfitted. It seems everyone has a carriage here in Norway, if they have babies at least. In the US, it seems that infants are rarely seen in public unless they are being carried from a car to a store. We ended up buying a two year old Teutonia used. It came with more bags then we know what to do with. Now we just need a baby to put in it.

I am painting so much that I have to dictate this blog to Lise. It is after 11pm and I'm still at it. Note from Lise: 'He is doing a fabulous job painting our living room'. I don't know what's come over me, but I wish I could bottle some of this energy for future use. Lise thinks it's the paint fumes. We finished the dining room in kiwi green, I think we can live with it. I am now applying 'sand' to the living room. But it looks more like a 'putty'. Special thanks goes to Lise for tolerating my ecclectic music collection.

Friday, September 22, 2006


This spring, it seemed summer would never arrived. I was concerned I would be stuck wearing long sleeves all year. I now believe that the season are later here. I am still biking to work in the early morning wearing short sleeves and bike shorts. It is in the mid-60s usually- in the morning, and the temperature rises just a little to the low 70s this time of year. I see back in Minneapolis it is about 10 degrees cooler these days. Maybe it isn't so bad here after all. With all the biking I do, I can't help obsessing over weather.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Coolest single in quite some time: The Editors, Blood. They are kind enough to give you the entire video. I had to laugh at an interview when the singer was asked what he thought about the comparisons people make between The Editors and Joy Division. He didn't see it at all.

Granted, it is over a year old, but if you want a flashback to the best of the 80s, check it out.

I have been manic painting the house, working late at the office, and avoiding sleep. I'm still calling it jetlag.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Darn Kids!

Today I slept in, then took the Look out for a nice ride. The weather was incredible. Lise was driving her aunt and mother to the airport. Later we went out and picked paint for the living room and dining room. They had a new color chart, and impulsively, we unanimously changed our minds with no arguing. We only seem to argue over home improvement concepts. We also picked up a light fixture for the kitchen. This house came with very few lights, and it is dark earlier. It is 8:30pm and we have the last vestiges of twilight.

I came home and began refinishing the door to the front terrace. I then painted all the blue trim on the fence. The job went quite smoothly. When I was all finished and all cleaned up (with oil based paint), I noticed a set of human paw prints on the threshold from the sliding glass door to the rear terrace. There were further "paw" prints on our kitchen floor... and our new kitchen table. There was some blue-handed kid who snuck into our kitchen, leaving his handprints everywhere. I cleaned them up with mineral spirits (gotta love that name) and we resumed our dinner on our back terrace. Dinner was interrupted by a little black kitten who was starved for attention. Eventually this little guy mad a break for our open back door. He hopped on the wet paint on the threshold and left little blue kitty prints all over our kitchen floor. There was no winning tonight.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Jet Lag

I am back at work, back in Norway, back home.

It stinks going back to work when heading east. We were lucky to be on an Airbus to Amsterdam, but the video on demand systems kept me up much of the night. Nothing quite like watching the fantasy plane crash scene from Fight Club while on a plane.

We returned with twice as much luggage as we left with. I am hording shaving cream, so if you notice price fluctuations, you know why. There is almost no selection of shaving cream in Norway. It is probably the absolute worst thing about living here-- so you can see how much suffering I must endure. I also returned with some studded tires. If anyone can explain to me how Finnish Nokians are cheaper in the US than in Norway, I'm all ears.

What else? There is so much. The weather was warmer in Norway than it had been back in the states the past few days before we left. I was up late Wednesday, then rode to work Thursday. I was in a complete fog, albeit very productive. I had warned my boss that I turned into a hurricane while away. I did not disappoint. In my bedraggled state, I actually got off on the wrong floor when taking the stairs, much to the confusion of my coworkers. To be fair, our office was formerly located on that floor, albeit months ago.

Last night I had trouble sleeping, or maybe I only dreamt that I did. Fridays are always the worst mornings, since the crushing cacophany of monster garbage trucks churns trash inches from our open windows in the pre-dawn hours. This morning, I slept past the alarm. I had serious doubts morning had yet arrived, despite sunlight to the contrary. I laboriously rode to work again, cursing the hills and the giant slugs on the trail. It was warm, with that fall-like quality to the air-- the smell of fear that summer is almost over.

The same lame bike was parked near my spot again. I swore it hadn't moved. The previous day it was in the same spot, despite my unusually early arrival to work. I was convinced it was left there. I moved it a few inches. I probably broke some commuting taboo, but I had two locks attached to the post. I leave them there at night. The Kryptonite is developing a dermatological condition-- most likely rust. It is reluctant to open these days. It could probably use some grease. Anyway, I figure I have dibs on the parking spot, since the lock will outlast the building.

Work was uneventful, except the self-imposed stress from feeling my trip to the US was less productive than I had hoped-- from a work perspective. On the other hand, I feel renewed and invigorated about work. I feel validated beyone any shred of doubt that we made the best decision imaginable by moving to Norway. I harbor no fears about missing the US, no envy that life is better on the other side of the ocean. Call it cognitive dissonance or denial, but I think we have a great thing going on here. Except that I have to go to India again in October, then back to the US. It will be jet lag all over again.

I didn't think it would ever be possible to travel too much-- particularly when someone else is picking up the bill. While I am on that topic, I noticed something very disturbing at the Northwest website. Roundtrip tickets originating from Norway to the Minneapolis cost HALF as much as those originating from Minneapolis. Not that I don't benefit from the disparity, but since it is the same distances covered and the same exact routes (only backwards), what is the point? I stumbled across this when I was pricing first class upgrades. Of course, they cost ten times as much as flying economy out of Stavanger. That is too rich for me.

When I arrived home, I was spent. I did, however, manage to hook up a Vonage phone that I picked up in the US so American customers and partners can call me back domestically. I remember life working in the US when even making a long distance call was a paperwork fiasco, and international calls were next to impossible, if not outright blocked. I picked an east coast timezone so I don't receive calls too late, and a 203 area code, like I am from Connecticut just outside NYC, or something like that. Despite all the disclaimers, warnings, and so on, I managed to fool the system. It took my foreign credit card as I used an old US address. Vonage had no provisions for four digit zip codes, country codes, etc. Of course, if someone calls 911 from here, my parents are in for quite a surprise. In Norway, if not most of Europe, they use 111, 112, and 113-- or something like that. They are separated by ambulance, fire, and police, though I highly doubt in that order. A little secret here is that anyone can dial 911 regardless. I have no idea why they don't just use that for emergencies, although 111 is certainly more practical if you are in an awful hurry and you have a rotary phone. A lot can happen while that 9 is taking its time strolling around the dial.

The pregnancy seems to be going very well. All I can say is how amazing it all is. And that we have so much to do around the house!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cyclist Behaving Badly

A few days ago I was driving up River Road to borrow a bike from a friend. I saw some commotion at a stop sign. It was a guy wearing a full Grand Performance team kit, circa 1995, riding helmetless on a celeste Bianchi. He stopped, stepped off his bike, and was yelling and screaming like a lunatic, challenging a motorist to a fight. He looked silly enough riding without a helmet-- but picking a fight?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back in the US

I had no idea what to expect. I spent the weekend at my hometown for my class reunion. It was cool seeing people again, but most people did not make the effort to attend. The usual local boys were there, as were a few from the extended area. Still, there are several interesting people that I have not seen since graduation. My wife was likely bored out of her mind. She receives extra points for enduring the event without a drop of alcohol.

We are back in Minneapolis for a few days. We stopped in at work. It was an interesting experience. I really did not miss work, but it was good to see everyone again. I feel like we did our time in Minneapolis, that our work here was finished, and that it was time to move on. It wasn't nearly as emotional as it could have been.

Tommorrow I will bike. I gave a frameset to a friend before moving. He has since built it up into a cool fixed gear. Thanks Wayne!

What I don't miss about the US? It is difficult to explain. People are much more aggressive drivers. People blast their car stereos in parking lots. People are generally louder and larger than life in their public interactions (ie. scolding their kids, etc.). Manners and proper decorum are relatively rare in the US. On the other hand people are more superficially friendly, say hello to strangers, are more ingratiating, and so on. Beer and gasoline and dirt cheap here in the US. "American" cars look rather crude and unrefined. Distances between things are much further away. The sunlight looks different. It is hot here. All in all, I think I have settled in nicely in Norway. I miss the US much less than I thought. On the other hand, it seems like life in Norway is so far away-- that we never really left. Regardless, I am so thankful that we have what we have. I cannot imagine returning if we were struggling in Norway. As it is, returning only reinforces my belief that we made the right decision.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Kan få to millioner M&M-kuler i finnerlønn

Funny how I jokingly blogged about the M&M reward, and next thing I know, the paintings resurfaces. Looks like the informant can have his candy, although he will have to eat them behind bars, where he is incarcerated for his role in the infamous NOKAS case.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

M&M Reward

How about 2 million M&Ms for returning Munch's Scream, stolen from an Olso museum? Any takers? They are the dark ones.

Heading to the US Tomorrow

I have been quiet, as I have been very busy getting work taken care of so we can leave tomorrow. I am looking forward to returning, but not looking forward to the flight, if that makes sense.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Criterium Tomorrow

I had about two minutes of excitement from when a coworker informed me there was a crit almost across the street, until I found out it cost about $100 to enter and it had a 40,000nok total purse. There are just three race categories: juniors, women, and men. To be fair, it includes a time trial, hour long crit, and a hundred mile road race. I believe it is the Skagen Crit that has been bumped from downtown due to road construction. I also believe it is for semi-pros. Regardless, I already missed the entry date--- like I would have even had a chance. At least I can always watch.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Interesting Day

I did not bike to work today. Rather we had the ultrasound at the hospital. As this is not a parenting blog, I will just leave it as this: it was one of the coolest things I have ever seen and experienced. We certainly knew there was something lively inside, as we have been able to feel him (as we found out today) for a few weeks already. Everything looks great and healthy. Also, we are further along that we realized-- are most likely looking at a Christmas baby, rather than in mid January. I realize billions of people have gone through pregnancy and birth, but when it happens to you, it is an entirely different story. I am so accustomed to tuning people out when they discuss such matters. Now I am beginning to relate.

After work, I went to an event sponsored by the British Embassy. The world's second largest oil messe is in town. I had a nice meeting with the Oslo representatives. I would have sworn they were Brits rather than Norwegian, by the way they spoke.

On a related note, the other day when I was cycling past the Statoil station down the street, I noticed they had constructed grandstands facing a gas pump. It made no sense until I saw the news last night. It is a hydrogen "pump." There are all sorts of hydrogen concept cars in town. They look cool, although the Mazda sports car mysteriously loses 140 horsepower when running on hydrogen.

What is wonderful about today's high oil prices is that companies can afford to drill responsibly. They have never paid so much attention to the environment (in the north sea) as they do today. Maybe there is hope for the future.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Suit That Fits

Last October I purchased two new suits before moving here. It was probably not a smart time to buy clothes, since I had been biking 40 miles a day on my commutes to work. Commuting in particular keeps me in the perfect cardio zone. My suits fit perfectly.

By Christmas, after having no gym membership, constant rain, dark days, and general ennui, they no longer fit so well. They still fit, but not like they did a few months earlier. I next wore them after returning from the first trip to India-- over May 17th. We had eaten at four star restaurants nonstop for a week. Again, the fit just wasn't there.

Yesterday, everything was back to normal.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I flew to Oslo today- left at 8:15 and was home by 5:30ish. I spent less time in the air than I would spend in busy Twin Cities traffic. We had a great meeting. When I arrived home I noticed in the news that a Russian plane crashed. Not at all a happy thought.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Blue Monday

Not my mood, but an obscure New Order reference. We were looking out the office window at work and saw a huge ship heading toward Stavanger. Ola pulled up this site and we found out it was some 300m long cruise ship heading toward downtown. The info here is amazing. It is probably of little interest to anyone outside the region, but hey. Here it is.


Yesterday evening I could see huge thunderheads across the mountains- a rare sight. Gradually it grew darker and darker. Eventually I heard my first thunder around here. It made my day. There wasn't much, but it gave me a fix until I am back in the US.

This morning, there was a mammoth mushroom cloud over the ocean, illuminated by the sun rising in the east. At maybe seven or eight miles tall, it could easily be over a hundred miles away. It was a natural work of art.

I rode to work today. It was about 60-ish. Not too cool. Tomorrow I travel to Oslo for the day, so no biking to work. I am becoming intimately familiar with the Sola airport. I will be on Norwegian Airline, which is an experience. It is ideal for work travel. I grab my laptop bag, head straight to the gate, show my driver's license, and sit anywhere I want on the plane. No standing in line at check-in. We then catch a ticketless train to downtown Oslo. I swipe my credit card to board, and to leave the station. I am then charged for how far I have traveled. I know the routine already.

It was interesting having the Americans visiting. They spent most of their time on Kvitsøy at a summer home. They have already seen far more of Norway than I have. Our visits have been to see family in the past. Now that we live here, I only do work travel. I really need to explore this country more.

I am feeling much better today. I think that the air pollution in Chennai really started to affect me. It is too easy to take clean air and water for granted. India has neither.

Yesterday Lise picked a bunch of blackberries and blueberries growing wild in our neighborhood, then made a smoothie. Wild berries grow all over in this area. It isn't often we can be hunter-gatherers of our own food. For dinner we had cod that the Americans caught- another local food.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Class Reunion

Warning: the following blog post is decidedly maudlin. The self-serving remarks are the sole result of posting on a Sunday, and are not the views normally held by the author on any other days of the week. Tomorrow we will return to your regularly scheduled postings of biking, work, and life in Norway.

My twenty year class reunion is nearing--- Labor Day weekend. It will be our first time back in the US since we moved. I must be getting old and sentimental, because I actually am looking forward to this.

For many years, I had a real ambivalence about the 80s and my high school experience. Pardon me while I wax autobiographical for a moment. I am from a small town that much resembles Mayberry. It has changed a little with the recent influx of Mexican laborers who work in the non-union factories in town— and from the newly built riverboat casino. But back when I lived there, it was your typical mid-American town of about 2000 people.

I don’t think it is any secret that I really didn’t like living there at the time. There were simply too few people. I graduated in a class of 54 students. It is just a step or two beyond a one room school house. But don’t think for a minute that the size of the school had anything to do with academic quality. Our class was off the charts in standardized test results, college entrance exams, etc. Hey, it was Iowa. At least I realized that high school would never be “the best years of my life.” My goal was to get a decent education and go off to college. Beyond that I had no clue what I would do.

I also figured out that I could get an almost free education through scholarships, so I threw myself at getting good grades and ended up with a bunch of scholarships that paid for most of my education at a private university—but that is another story altogether. Somehow, I ended up as class valedictorian. It generally is not the best path to social popularity to be that academic, but it was a small town where everyone played a variety of roles. I doubt I could have ever played football or basketball as I had, if I went to a metro school.

With just 54 students, we all knew each other too well. Most of us began kindergarten together. I think I knew everyone’s parents. There is something claustrophobic about spending years in that kind of environment, where most peoples’ destinies are well-established before first grade. But it doesn’t really matter. We were all in the same boat, and tried to make the best of it. I am sure that if I went to a huge school, there would have been an entirely different set of “issues.”

To make high school even more challenging, at the height of my need to establish my independence, I was attending the same school where my father taught. Children of known authority figures, like clergy, police, or teachers, are usually socially doomed in some way. Actually, I think that I managed the circumstances OK. In hindsight, I didn’t have to endure any of the cruel hazings that many of my classmates went through. So my parentage definitely had some benefits.

Of course, life at college quickly confirmed how different life could be elsewhere. I loved college life— for the most part. Some of the late-80s materialism was a bit much, and career-wise, with a full twelve years of Reagan-Bush politics, I was a little nihilistic by the end. MBA grads were taking tickets in movie theaters— I certainly wasn’t ramping up to fit into a specific career. Besides, everyone drummed that businesses all want liberal arts grads. That was a myth that should have been debunked a long time ago. But there I was. I figured my major really wouldn't matter much anyway. We were all supposed to be dead from a nuclear blast well before my student loans would ever be paid off. It was a real zeitgeist.

I never really kept in touch with my high school classmates. I attended the five and ten year reunions. I skipped number 15, as it seemed to be a meaningless interval. Five years is probably too soon. Not much happens the first five years anyway.

My parents are not from the town where they still live. I doubt they ever imagined they would live there the rest of their lives when they moved there some 40 years ago. We have no ancestral roots there. I actually wouldn’t object if they retired somewhere warm, but I don’t see that happening. Most of my classmates who still live in the area probably have family going back at least 100 years. I have never felt those kinds of roots, but I respect those that do.

It is strange that I ended up so far from home— in Norway of all places. I can assure you that there was nothing in my past that would have predicted this. I was the guy who turned down a semester abroad during college because, well, I really don’t know. Somehow I had some idea that travel abroad was really, really foreign. I had never flown on a commercial plane until I was in my mid-20s. Before meeting my wife, I had only flown three times. Now, there are some months when I fly three times.

I guess where I am going with this is that for me, this reunion is a little like holding a mirror to my life. I really don’t care to compare my life with what my classmates have done, although I am sure some comparisons are inevitable. Rather, it symbolizes “what have I done the past twenty years?” Twenty years? I was only 17 when I graduated!

When I think back to being 17, nothing in my life has turned out like I expected it to—mainly because I had no expectations. I had no game plan, no timelines, no agenda. Some people may consider that to be a little aimless or unfocused, but all along the way my needs have always been met. Besides, getting there is half the fun. On the big things, like moving to Norway, we carefully planned and mapped out as much as we could. But even so, it involved a huge leap of faith, since not everything can be planned —we had no jobs waiting for us, for example.

Rather than regarding these “how did I get here” absurdities as Zelig moments, they just illustrate how small the world is, and how easy it is to reshuffle the deck and make huge changes with our lives.

But back to the reunion: I am genuinely looking forward to it. It is interesting how time can color my perspective. We all went to the same school and shared most of the same realities for a major portion of our most formative years. All things considered, I had it easy in high school compared to many people. And I don’t take myself too seriously to be able to see those years for what they really were- a rather innocent time when we weren’t really kids and we weren’t yet adults. And I could have lived in a larger city or attended a larger school and faced an entirely different set of issues, or my life may have turned out exactly the same way.

There is really only one thing missing in my life, and that is well on its way and due in January. OK, in all fairness, that is also something we carefully planned out. They say no one is really ever ready to be parents, but can’t imagine that we would ever be more ready.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

End of Week Recap

Tuesday was a blur- catch-up after a week out of the office. Wednesday flew by as well. I picked up my mountain bike after sending it on Monday for its three month checkup. The bearing was fixed, and the shifting is perfect. I would have fixed both, but I just didn't have the time. I was annoyed that they wet lubed my chain, but I guess it is a matter of taste. This isn't my rain bike. Afterward I picked up some American friends and helped get them to the ferry. Thursday? I can barely remember. Friday I think that I started to crack. I have been running at full speed for weeks. I just didn't feel right and left work early, having no energy. Later we went to Kvitsoy. I returned on the mid-morning ferry, and Lise on the evening ferry. I am still tired. Next week I travel to Oslo for the day on Tuesday. I am booked full until we leave for the US at the end of the month. I need a vacation, but I fear it will be even more running around as we scramble to see everyone.

Monday, August 14, 2006

It Can Happen to You

Last night we arrived at the airport three hours ahead of time as recommended. There was a heavy rain, forcing hundreds of Indians waiting for friends and relatives under the entrance overhang. In Chennai, people must pay money to wait for people inside the airport, so indoors is usually reserved for the stereotypic "driver holding a sign," although there is no shortage of those outdoors either. At any rate, there was a huge bottleneck to get into the airport.

Once inside, we were told we had to wait 45 minutes to actually enter the airport area, since our flight was leaving at 1:45am-- later than two other wide body planes heading further east. After our wait, there was a mess to get to the luggage scanners. In Chennai, they are in the middle of airport-- you actually watch your checked luggage being scanned. They had warnings about no liquids, gels, extra batteries, and who knows what else in carry-on luggage, so I repacked my laptop battery in my checked luggage. The real security hole with this is that they place security tape over your scanned luggage and give it back to you to approach check in. Of course, somebody could have something entirely improper in their jacket or purse, which is NOT scanned at this point. They could then slip it into a pocket of their scanned and sealed luggage, and it would be placed into the hold without further scanning. They use orange "security" tape and they don't "seal" every flap and zipper in a soft side case. I don't like this set up of returning luggage to passengers for check in. After being scanned, we should never see it again.

My boss and I joked around about asking for a business class upgrade. I suggested that we not ask, and offered an explanation that I believed people were more generous under those circumstances (since if you ask, they are responding to your asking, not acting generously of their own volition). While checking in, I was a little concerned when I noticed that we had the wrong rows on our tickets. I was in row 12 and he was in row 11- rather than 54 and 55 respectively. At the point I was about to ask about it, the ticketing agent told us we had been upgraded to business class. We decided this was indeed an auspicious day for travel.

We next endured another hour waiting for immigration control. Most countries don't seem to care who leaves, but not India. Cruelly, they had only one agent working our serpentine line, until reinforcements finally arrived. We headed upstairs, and my boss insisted that we wait in the Lufthansa Business Lounge, since we had tickets. We had to sort out a few issues with that, since we needed invitations that we did not possess to enter the lounge without charge, but we shortly agreed to pay the 300 rupees for the two of us. In other words, it was around $3 each, and we had free beverages and food. We eventually stood up to leave when a flight attendant infomed us that the plane was not boarding, and that she would tell us when it was. We waited another hour, then were whisked to the front of yet another security check-in for our carry-ons and then to the front of the boarding line. We were soon in our seats.

Keep in mind that this is a 9.5 hour flight. Our seats were so huge that I almost needed to undo my seatbelt to reach into the pocket in front of me. Our food was served on linen table clothes, with cloth napkins. We were served in real glassware. Lufthansa has always seemed to have steel "silverware"- so no broken plastic sporks. They had a brief wine list and menu. The seats reclined way, way back (without bothering those behind us). The most cheerful flight attendants worked our section. Even the bathroom was much larger. We were in heaven. I doubt I can ever go back to flying economy class.

I slept much of the night, if you consider they served us dinner at 3am. I also caught glimpses of a terrible Bruce Willis movie, 16 Bocks, although Mos Def was quite good (despite his irritating, affected voice). When we arrived in Frankfurt, we stopped for coffee. Like our flight out, the service was horrible. I believe that the business model is such that airport restaurants expect ZERO return business from customers. While I admire German efficiency in most areas, airport food service is not one of them. After a three hour layover we were on our plane to Norway. On board there was a group of maybe eight Russian men drinking vodka and eating McDonalds that they had carried on. It seemed one was always squeezing by to head towards the bathroom. They were loud, but more amusing than obnoxious. Later, several were smoking in the airport restroom-- something not permitted in Norway (although, I am quite sure it is completely socially acceptable to smoke at church in Germany).

Lise picked me up at the airport. She is showing quite a bit more than when I left-- or maybe it just seems that way. It is great to be home again and to breath fresh air. The pollution in Chennai was so terrible that it made my eyes water and throat burn. India already seems like it was only a dream, or a distant memory. It is such a different world that little of it carries over into life in Norway. After catching up, I took a long shower and washed the remnants of the past week away. All I need to do now is stay awake long enough to watch my Swedish "soap opera."

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Notes on Chennai

I have been very busy all week. Too busy to blog. We have literally worked from 10am to midnight daily-- if you count our working dinners. Although we have spend some time in Indian homes. The first was a few days ago when we stopped by a Swedish family's house. They have lived here almost 13 years. A few nights ago we stopped by our designer's house to view his art gallery. His work is excellent-- what I would consider decorative abstract style. I would love to buy a triptych for our new house, but I have no clue how to get them back to Norway. I also feel like I would be exploiting him, even at his asking price. He lived with his wife's parents. Tonight we ate dinner at another employee's home, and met her husband, two children, and her mother. Her kids spoke better English than most of our employees. It was a little uncomfortable since they had already eaten, so the watched us eat. Also, the glasses and plates had a little water on them when our food was served from being washed. That always makes me EXTREMELY nervous. I didn't eat much. I was obsessed with thinking about the source of that water. If it was tap water, I will have a hellish flight home tomorrow night. My presumption is that she knows better. Tap water will even make Indians ill, but my understanding is that quantity matters, and many locals can tolerate incidental doses of it. Nonetheless, it is nice seeing how real people live--- particularly our employees. It is nice to know they live comfortably. We see people of all types everywhere, and I have no idea what our people do or where they go when they are not at work. Tomorrow is my last day here for awhile. Already we are discussing when I will return.

Tomorrow night we fly back to Norway. The flight leaves at almost 2am. It is a horrible time to fly. I am guessing the plane will be empty, since the Indian Independence Day is on the 15th. Each year the State Department warns Americans about being in India. It isn't related to any particular intelligence other than the fact that terrorists love to show off on Independence Day. As for the flight, we can use a carry-on, but no liquids or gels. That is fine with me. Last time my boss had to send his laptop into the checked luggage, he never saw it again. I pity the poor Americans who cannot take their laptops with them. The damage/baggage loss waivers won't cover the price of a missing laptop, and there is no choice. Historically they have recommended NOT to check fragile or essential items. Now they are forcing people to do so-- and they are basically uninsured. Seems like a genius business model.

I find the US airlines' reaction to the recent news in the UK to be a bit extreme. While I want safe travel as much as anyone, life goes on. To live in fear is to let terrorists "win." Still, I don't understand the terrorists' fascination with planes. There are far less secure targets available that can provide even more damage. It seems that they have converged on airlines in a cat and mouse game, as a way to snub their noses at the safety precautions that have already been put in place. Still, it never seems to end.

When I look at Tamil Nadu, the Indian state where Chennai is located, the population is mostly Hindu. Last night we waited for a table at a hotel bar/nightclub, and it seemed odd to see women wearing pants and sleeveless tops. Southern Indians dress very modestly. A local hotel was shut down for two weeks when a photograph of an Indian couple kissing was published in a local paper. When we walked by the hotel bare where it occurred, there were two huge signs forbidding cameras in the bar. Western movies are censored so they do not show kissing on screen. Most of the women wear saris around here. Young people of both genders usually live with their parents until they are married-- and even then, they often continue living with a parent. Love marriages are almost non-existent. Rather, they are almost always arranged. Young people in generally accept these cultural values. Despite the emergence of a thriving middle-class, traditional values are still intact. They are not at war with the world. I see countless Hindus with marks of various colors on their foreheads to denote a ritual to their demigod. These people are taking their economic and social transformation in stride. Meanwhile, just to the north is Pakistan, where it appears most of the London terrorists have their roots.

Chennai Revisited

Friday, August 11, 2006

And Now for Something Completely Different

Rather than dwelling on the terrorism alert that the US State Department is issuing to Americans in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Delhi, I present you with this, which offers a pointed insight into an issue that any foreign traveler to India can relate.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Back in India

I made it. A strong storm hit just as we were leaving the airport. It is late. I am tired.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mr. Grumpy

Windows IS a Virus
The other day our home PC had another meltdown. It has had a dubious past. It was a white box PC custom built for my music studio. At the time, Rambus seemed like a good idea. A few years ago, within a week, the IBM hard drive (which was also highly recommended at the time) had the dreaded click of death, and the mobo completely fried. Thanks to ebay I was able to replace the mobo, and I swapped out the IBM for a cheapo hard drive.

I started running into some data corruption issues-- blue screens of death and a bizarre issue where no network settings were accessible in the control panel. I had to reinstall Windows XP a few times over the years, but it was of little consequence as this box was retired from music duty. Just before moving here, it had another meltdown, so I installed a second version of XP on the same drive. Everything was moving along smoothly until Monday, when the PC would boot, flash a BSOD, and reboot--- in an endless loop. I thought the hard disk was acting up, so I purchased a new one. Last night I installed it and rebuilt everything. I was a happy camper until Windows Update came along and I was back to square one! Endless rebooting. On a fresh install of XP on a brand new hard drive! This was immediately after Windows Update. There was no system recovery that could fix this. I was livid. An entire evening wasted by Microsoft.

Today I booted from another HD and accessed and edited the hive file to fix the rebooting loop. I then reinstalled XP and was up and running quite quickly. Still, I hate this incompetent product, and am seriously considering Linux at this point. At least I can have fun fussing with it. At least I can get even with MS at work. They like to think they are a competitor to us.

Part II
I am mildly grumpy tonight for other reasons. It is very light out at 10pm- hot and rather humid. I am leaving for India again in a few days. I wish I wasn't taking a chunk out of this beautiful summer. When I was preparing to move to Norway, I was preparing for the absolute worst. This summer has been the warmest in 105 years- a wonderful summer by any measure. I probably catch MORE sun than I did back in the US, since it doesn't get so ungodly hot that I try to stay in the shade. Today was actually hot. I was caught in a light shower as I commuted home from work with my laptop. I also had another small mountain bike crash as I caught the bars on a tree that I was trying to squeeze through. Yesterday it was a wet rock-- slippery than ice. Riding off the beaten path guarantees a few spills. I usually do not stray to far when I have the laptop bag, but this new area was a little too tempting to resist. I then made my way up by NATO headquarters, and found that they had closed my trail. I had discovered a route that was almost all off-road, or at least unpaved- from home to work. I guess I will be taking the road for this section for awhile. What is tragic is that NATO will waste this excellent view for some nondescript office building.

So I made it home early to fix the PC and to oil the terrace. I cleaned it the other night with some caustic chemical weapon that you can buy at the COOP. I was a little skeptical of its efficacy until the power sprayer we had borrowed from Lise's brother to rinse it off sprayed a little onto my arm. It had a pleasant burn to it, if you are into that sort of thing. I think it is some sort of hardcore base. At this point I felt sorry for all the little critters living beneath the terrace, which accounts for our entire backyard. Of course tonight, there is too much chance for rain, so I will wait until tomorrow. Ordinarily, I would pay someone to handle these sorts of tasks, but it simply isn't done around here. I cannot think of an analogy, but the only reason I might be able to wiggle out of my home ownerly responsibility would be because I was a crazy American. So everyone paints their own homes, fixes up their own houses, and so on. Besides, what better way to meet your neighbors. Mine almost seemed offended that I hadn't asked to borrow his power sprayer. I also joked that I didn't fully grasp the metric system, and had purchased 50m of garden hose. Actually I was well aware of the length, but it was the economy of scale that appealed to me. 50m costs only slightly more than 20m. And besides, this is some crazy German hose-- the only option in hose- and it is pure hose. There are no connectors. Those are an added expense. I figured I would just cut the hose and buy a few extra sets of couplers so I could use it more efficiently. Or, if you know anyone who needs some hose, let me know.

So hopefully tomorrow I can finish outside. Tomorrow Lise's parents will be staying "in town" so they can catch a very early flight out of here. Later we will pick up some Americans that will be staying here for a night or two while they are around. Sunday I leave for India.

So I am a little grumpy because I planned for the worst. I never really wanted to move here in the first place, and was so emotionally prepared for hardship and suffering, that I don't really know how to deal with everything being perfect. Lise and I were joking how the dishwasher still isn't perfectly mounted (I don't have the tools right now). She put it into perspective by saying that within the last year, we sold our house and cars, quit our jobs, moved abroad, found new jobs, a car, a house-- so we can get things done. So it really doesn't matter if we take a time out from painting while the weather is so nice. Or that I don't mount the dishwasher perfectly right now. We take care of the things that really matter. The other part of the "everything is turning out better than planned" is that we are expecting a baby in January. We wanted to wait until we moved here, but I never dreamed we would be situated so well, so quickly. I would have never anticipated how wonderful this all is. The waiting business is a little strange. Metaphorically, I feel like a little kid already counting down the days until Christmas-- when the days just creep by, barely moving. Usually, as an adult, Christmas is here and gone before we know it. Of course, the other aspect is that we won't know exactly when it will happen. But this is way cooler than just a having a live-in designated driver for months on end.

It is getting late. I have bike to work daily for the past three weeks, except once when I was running a little late and discovered a flat tire. The hills for the commute can get to me. When I take the long way home, it has 1000ft of climbing. When I am tired, I don't like thinking about it. The distance is nothing-- but there is nowhere to ride without some interesting topography.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Another Beautiful Day

I cannot believe how warm 70 F can feel. It was another perfect day. I rode home from work to pick up more water, then headed out for the "mast" across the water. The ride ended up being over 2500 ft of climbing. Still, I took it easy. The view was amazing- sailboats everywhere. I returned home and painted like a lunatic. I am so sick of the white paint. It is time for some color. Of course, now we need to actually decide. It is almost 10pm with the sun still shining brightly. This has been a good summer.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monster Jellyfish?

As if the frigid water temp isn't enough of a deterent, we now have "monster jellyfish" off Sola beach (the big beach in town). Why can't we have killer sharks like everyone else?

Source of Flats

My mountain bike is three months old-- give or take. Anyway, when I removed the tire, I noticed that the rim strip- plastic, by the way- had shifted, and that there was a metal shaving from a ham-fisted wheel builder. The power spoke driver had apparently missed the spoke head, and went skittering away across the rim, gouging it to the point where I could slice vegetables with it. There is no point fussing about it, so I took a dremel to file off the rough edges. I replaced the rim strip and gave it a coating of electrical tape for good measure. It will add a few grams to this boat anchor of a wheel. I don't think I need to worry about the rim cracking where I filed.

It is 11:15 and it is dark "already." There have been few nights where we have enjoyed our city lights view-- we rarely retire before the twilight ends. It looks like we live in a big city from this vantage point.

Been Almost a Week

Last week I rode to work every day. The weather has been amazing- borderline Minnesota summer weather, although rumor has it that the heat is killing people around the world. It has been hot here. I have been using the mountain bike to ride to work. Most of the route I take is off road. I usually bike through a forest preserve on my way home to add to the miles-- the route is simply too short as is. Last Thursday I made an epic ride to Bersagel and back. That might be an exaggeration, but it is quite hilly over there and I was almost there when I remembered I had a webex meeting with a company in the USA scheduled for 8pm. As it is ridiculously light out- still- I had lost track of time. I was thinking I was past the point of no return, and decided to continue the loop. I was much further from home, and was racing against the clock. By the time I made it home, I discovered my meeting needed to be rescheduled.

Saturday I took an easy ride. The weather promoted mountain biking- overcast and waiting for rain that never arrived. I ended up flatting in a wild raspberry patch. There are raspberries everywhere. I need to watch out for hikers collecting berries that just pop out of nowhere. They literally grow wild around here. Anyway, I couldn't find the leak, so I just replaced the tube and kept riding. I arrived home and patched the tube. Sunday I took a similar ride in the morning before we headed out to Kvitsøy for some sun, sea, and grilling on some random island. I actually caught some more UV rays, so I will look like a normal swarthy person by the time we make in back to the US in late August. This morning I was ready to ride to work, despite the rainy forecast. My rear tire was flat again. I just didn't have time to deal with it, so I drove to work.

After work we needed to paint. But before painting I trimmed our hedge- which is like a fence, and had to take a quick ride. The weather was just too perfect--- again, it did not rain and was sunny, hot, and humid. These days are a treat for me in Norway. I decided to take a little time trial up to a big hill on the other side of the fjord, then to Dale, and home. I made the first seven miles at almost a 22 mph average, although in all fairness, I was riding in traffic and drafting cars. As soon as the road turned upward my average dropped significantly. Still, I made great time-- just over an hour for a quick, hilly workout.

I returned home to paint. Seriously, any couple that can paint together can stay together for eternity. Then again, we haven't decided on what color we are painting the upstairs. Right now we are taking care of the hideous greenish blue wallpaper that is all over the downstairs and stairwell. We accomplished a lot of painting tonight, but we are running out of the off-white paint, and will need to pull the trigger on the rest of the colors.

I had another webex scheduled for 9pm tonight, but it was canceled due to technical problems. It is with a potential partner from New Zealand-- and it is 7am tomorrow already. Anyway, I now need to fix the flat. My favorite TV show starts soon. It is on NRK, but is a Swedish show, titled Skjergardsdokteren. It is a mixed blessing that it is Swedish. The good news it that it is captioned in Norwegian. Unfortunately, it is captioned in nynorsk. This means everything is spelled funny. I need to read it aloud in my head, since much of nymorsk is like a phonetic spelling of the west coast dialect. Still it drives me buggy. I regard it as the Norwegian esperanto- a fake language. But most Norwegians are quick to point out that most of written Norwegian is really Danish anyway. TV is mandated to caption a certain percentage of shows in this written nynorsk dialect. Too bad they use it for the best show on TV.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Kids Say the Darndest Things

I was returning from the store down the street after dropping off our recycling and picking up some bottled water. On our street were three kids of assorted nationalities-- three boys, maybe eight years old, play-fighting with wooden swords. As I approached I heard one kid whisper to the others, "han er fra USA." As I walked closer, the bravest of the three asked, "er du fra USA?" I said yes and asked where they were from. One was from Turkey, the other from Afghanistan, and the last one was from Norway. I had no idea who these kids were, but apparently they must have overheard something from his parents. I thought it was rather amusing. I assume their sole window to the US is through their TVs. They must think I come from a strange, amazing place.

On a different note, I have been surprised how much diversity there is around here. When I say "surprised," I mean it in a good way. Then again, a little diversity goes a long way in Norway, when blond hair and blue eyes are the norm. Even someone like me tends to stand out. Ironically, there is probably more variety here than in our old SW Minneapolis neighborhood. But I still can't find a decent Mexican restaurant anywhere--- in all of Norway or all of Europe.

A coworker recently purchased a bike, and today began riding to work. We almost lived across the street from him when we lived on the other side of the hill. I think it is fairly accurate to suggest that I may have inspired him to ride to work. He would 0ften pass me in his car as I rode to work-- and for all the times he offered me a ride home when the weather was nasty, I never took him up on it. I hope he continues. Regardless, I have a new found respect for him for even trying.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

First Fixed Ride of the Year

I few weeks ago I built up my fixed gear-- rebuilt it, actually. Today I took it out for a ride, and it was such a heavy gear on these hills that I thought I had the wheel in backwards (with the 15t cog). I stopped and counted the teeth. I actually was using the 16t cog. Anyway, I took the flattest ride I could for an hour and a half. This is definitely not fixed country.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Finally Found It

There is a radio mast on top of one of the hills on the other side of the fjord. I noticed there was a road visible on satellite maps. I had biked to Li on several occasions trying to find the mystery service road, but I could never seem to find it. Today I made another voyage. As I was riding down a gravel road, a guy stopped his car and got out to talk to me about something. He was asking if I was biking off-road. I told him about this mystery road to the "mast" and he told me he would run up that hill- that it was great training. This stranger then drew a map in the gravel-- explaining that it was a private road and was unmarked. I thanked him and was on my way. Eventually I found the road near a farm house. As a private road, it just means that don't want cars on it. In fact, the road had a gate over it, but there was walking entrance. It appeared to be part of the recreational hiking system of Sandnes.

I started riding up-- non-stop up. There were switchbacks to break up the sight lines, and horse manure everywhere. The trouble with manure is that it means there are flies everywhere-- in fact I inhaled a few. I noticed a huge snake had molted and left his skin behind on the trail-- maybe not a "huge" snake, but not a little garter snake either. The point is, I didn't even know there were snakes in Norway. I also saw a little deer. It was one of those European deer that looks about as big as a huge dog. Anyway, after much sweat, I made it to the top and was rewarded with an amazing view in all directions. A couple of hikers were hanging out at the top as well. I snapped a few images with my phone camera. I will definitely return.

In looking at the elevation profile from my monitor, you can see a high pressure system has moved in (in other words, I was not below sea level today). I was struck by the fact that literally a stone's throw from the sea water below, I was at about the same elevation as the Minneapolis airport-- which is about as far from the ocean as you can be. Anyway, it was a very nice ride.

I might mention that I live on the peninsula to the left of the fjord (visible from the smaller area map to the left of the satellite image). It gets a little tiresome living on a "half island" because I can only really bike south if I want to get anywhere. Also, I am finding mountain biking a little more interesting these days. It places me closer to nature. Also, it was a little cooler this morning, and for some reason it just feels better riding on trails and through woods when it is colder outside. I still need to find some club rides, but I think it is quiet right now while everyone is on vacation.

Phone cam goodness (next time I should bring a real camera).

Friday, July 14, 2006

Belated London Photos

(Or, we finally have internet... I think.) Bridges, the Eye, a castle, a palace, a mime, BMW cop cars, a cathedral... not in that order: