Friday, March 31, 2006
Last night we had a special dinner for our clients and partners. I opted for the reindeer. I ate Rudolf, and he was quite tasty.
We had a bit of a scheduling fiasco that I won't go into at the moment, but as we were waiting, four other flights left for Stavanger. When we finally left, the flight back lasted maybe 25 minutes- which makes a three hour wait in the airport feel unacceptable. We had an amazing clear view of the coast on the way back to Stavanger.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Aside from the cool name, they obviously are cool people. It isn't everyday that I receive an unsolicited offer to field test a set of waterproof panniers, or any products for that matter. As I stare out the window looking at more rain, thinking of riding in the rain yesterday, and rain the day before, and the day before, there is no decision. Of course I am interested. I have found that I am transporting more and more "stuff" to and from work- my workout gear, extra clothing for work, my laptop. In Minneapolis, my wife shuttled all the extras. As my bike napped in the shower room, I didn't even need a lock. Of course here locks appear to be optional- although coming from a city, I don't think I could bear the thought of leaving it unlocked at work.
The main issue I am having with rain is that my clothes don't fully dry during work. Since this is a blog, and you either know me or you don't, I will delve into the realm of "too much information." I have acquired a case of athlete's foot so bad that I am contemplating amputating a few toes. Actually, it is getting better already, but it is a hazard of wet socks. Of course I change socks for riding in the rain, but it seems hopeless keeping my feet dry. I have also learned that the true litmus test of how waterproof panniers are is how paper looks when it is removed. My maps are in very rough shape these days. So if you don't hear from me for a few days, it probably means the helicopters are searching for me.
Tomorrow I leave for Bergen for a few days. It is a beautiful city- that actually receives even more rain than Stavanger. We were sorting out the menu for a fancy feast after a conference we are sponsoring, and the restaurant actually serves whale meat. I think I will choose the reindyr, which sounds good unless you visualize a claymation Christmas special. Or maybe the elk? I am looking forward to this conference, and will feel more useful chaperoning our English business advisor- who speaks not a word of Norwegian.
See you on Friday evening....
Monday, March 27, 2006
Speaking of neighborhoods, we love the neighborhood we are in. If we were not underground, we would love it even more. For some odd reason, this area wasn't developed until relatively recently- perhaps because this hill is located near NATO headquarters. Our present side of the hill is populated with every expensive homes, such as the one we rent an apartment in, and apartments. Apartments in Norway are actually units that people buy. There is almost no rental property to speak of, which is why we live underground in a firetrap.
Anway, we found this side-by-side on the other side of the hill. It had everything we were looking for. The floors could be redone- they were cheap laminate in several rooms, but aside from that it was in excellent shape. Actually, we both wanted to buy it before we even saw it in person- assuming the photos did it justice and it wasn't inhabited by a chain smoker. We toured it yesterday. It even had a room to store bikes. It is located on a dead end street at the top of the hill. To me, it seems more like a mountain- since my heartrate almost redlines when I climb halfway up on the side we currently live. The back yard is undeveloped park and walking trails. There is no through traffic. I don't know how we will make it in heavy snow or ice, but now isn't the time to worry about such things. The house is even positioned well for good sunlight.
We both liked the house. We left the showing and prepared our offer in the car. My plan was to bid above the asking price to psyche out any other potential bidders. We already knew how much the house across the street sold for last weekend, and we priced our bid accordingly. Lise's friend suggested we set the expiration time a few hours away, rather than 24 hours as the form stipulates. I submitted the bid to the realtor, who balked at the timeframe. I reminded him that it was above the asking price. He told me he would check with the owners later. We received a call saying the owners would not accept our 8pm timeline, but would extend it to 2pm today. I accepted those terms. I almost felt we should lower the offer, since it was contingent upon that timeline, but let it stand. We still had to work with these people.
We knew today was going to be a long day. Our offer was 9% over the asking price. Fifteen minutes before the final bids were due, I received a call that our offer had been met. It was now running at 10% over, with one more hour to go. Lise and I discussed it and planned to wait until 10 minutes before offers were due with a very slight increase. Lise handled the phone as I sat on my email at work. Lise took care of the bid, and the next ten minutes slipped by. We were later informed we had the house. I think we could live there the rest of our lives- which is a strange feeling. We will move sometime in late June. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Saturday, March 25, 2006
We rented a DVD last night. I am very annoyed that I couldn't play it because of region coding. I still have a US coded DVD player. What kind of idiotic scheme is this? For an extra 499nok I can buy a decent DVD player and have the best of both worlds. Region coding is a stupid as locking a cell phone. There is always a workaround- although in my case it means buying another player. There may be some way to hack the coding, but I am too lazy to bother. I really wish I knew what "they" were trying to accomplish.
Finally, I am starting to make plans to travel to India for work in April or early May. It looks like this will really happen. I need to send my passport in to the Indian consultate for a business visa. I might also be traveling to Indonesia or Malaysia during this trip. My boss offered that Lise could join me on this trip. We will see what develops. Travel to India is rather expensive, even from here. I just need to make sure I don't end up with hepatitis or malaria.
It is extraordinarily windy today- the kind that stands you right up when you try to bike against it. I rode the the gym to workout. I know it sounds a little odd, but the wind chill was very cold today. I really need to shed this winter weight.
Tomorrow we view our "dream house." It is located on the top of the hill we live on, on the other side. It overlooks the fjord and the valley into Forus. It is affordable- 3 bedrooms with a garage and a view. If it looks even half as good in person as in the photos, I am sure we will make an offer. The trouble is, there are very few properties in this size and price range- so there will likely be a bidding war. We are crossing our fingers.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Monday, March 20, 2006
That is the easy part. The hard part is finding a house in a nice neighborhood, with three bedrooms and some sort of garage, with a view, and on a bus line for at least one of us- at a price we can afford. We have already viewed maybe seven houses the past two days. We have decided to gut it out and wait for the perfect one. Oh, you can forget about yards. Some houses have a tiny patch or strip of grass, but they are rare. I am guessing I won't find anything with large trees- or a double garage. And what is particularly distressing is that no houses have air conditioning- meaning that I can expect this kind of weather all year.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
I don't like St. Patrick's Day- never have. I will probably open a can of worms here, but if someone really needs to feel "proud" about being Irish, doesn't that speak to some sort of problem? You don't see the Belarusians making a huge issue about their ethnicity. There may be local Cuban or Kazakhstani days, but people aren't getting completely inebriated over it, like it is a humiliation they must endure. The St. Patricks's Day drinking is so bad that Armed Forces Radio ran ads all day reminding soldiers there would still be beer available on the 18th.
I hated being in St. Paul on the 17th. You would have thought it was ground zero for Saint Patrick- that he founded the city or something. I am not Irish and I had no desire to pretend to be.
Funny thing about life in Norway is that I completely forgot about it. I was reminded by the radio, but there was no evidence at all that the Irish even existed.
On this belated St. Patrick's Day post, I leave you with an Irish curse:
May the curse of Mary Malone and her nine blind illegitimate children
chase you so far over the hills of Damnation that the Lord himself can't find
you with a telescope.
I seriously want to scream and bang my head against the wall after trying to decipher my tax obligations. There is no excuse for the arcane tax structure that lacks any sensical plain-English terminology or descriptions. It is like our efforts for obtaining a Green Card-- maybe if they didn't over-engineer the process, fewer people would enter illegally. And that is my point- if the US government wants my money so badly, why don't they make it easier for me to pay? My guess is that the accounting lobby has ensured their future survival by eliminating any easy track for "doing it yourself." Finally, to add insult to injury, I have moved to an almost communist nation where they take all our money anyway. Not really- but nobody in their right mind considers Norway to be a low-tax state.
A coworker thought he was being rather clever when he asked me to walk by this billboard for a photo.
I am not famous for being well-oriented and knowing my way around unfamiliar environments. The transportation responsibilities for this trip fell on my shoulders. Frankly I was amazed that I could so easily find the car rental in Hamburg, navigate to CeBIT on a tight schedule for opening ceremonies in Hannover, and find the hotel in Bremen. Actually, there were two hotels from this chain located two blocks apart, and we initially stopped at the wrong one, but no big deal. We also extended the car rental from one day , to three days, to the full week. Herz was easy to work with in this regard. We initially planned to take the train each day. I cannot imagine what that would have been like. Also, having a car for as many as six of us ended up being cheaper than all those train tickets.
I found a much better version of the Town Musicians of Bremen. I think it is from the original Grimm tale.
A certain man had a donkey, which had carried the corn-sacks to the mill indefatigably for many a long year; but his strength was going, and he was growing more and more unfit for work. Then his master began to consider how he might best save his keep; but the donkey, seeing that no good wind was blowing, ran away and set out on the road to Bremen. “There,” he thought, “I can surely be town-musician.” When he had walked some distance, he found a hound lying on the road, gasping like one who had run till he was tired. “What are you gasping so for, you big fellow?” asked the donkey.
“Ah,” replied the hound, “as I am old, and daily grow weaker, and no longer can hunt, my master wanted to kill me, so I took to flight; but now how am I to earn my bread?”
“I tell you what,” said the donkey, “I am going to Bremen, and shall be town-musician there; go with me and engage yourself also as a musician. I will play the lute, and you shall beat the kettledrum.”
The hound agreed, and on they went.
Before long they came to a cat, sitting on the path, with a face like three rainy days! “Now then, old shaver, what has gone askew with you?” asked the donkey.
“Who can be merry when his neck is in danger?” answered the cat. “Because I am now getting old, and my teeth are worn to stumps, and I prefer to sit by the fire and spin, rather than hunt about after mice, my mistress wanted to drown me, so I ran away. But now good advice is scarce. Where am I to go?”
“Go with us to Bremen. You understand night-music, you can be a town-musician.”
The cat thought well of it, and went with them. After this the three fugitives came to a farm-yard, where the cock was sitting upon the gate, crowing with all his might. “Your crow goes through and through one,” said the donkey. “What is the matter?”
“I have been foretelling fine weather, because it is the day on which Our Lady washes the Christ-child’s little shirts, and wants to dry them,” said the cock; “but guests are coming for Sunday, so the housewife has no pity, and has told the cook that she intends to eat me in the soup to-morrow, and this evening I am to have my head cut off. Now I am crowing at full pitch while I can.”
“Ah, but red-comb,” said the donkey, “you had better come away with us. We are going to Bremen; you can find something better than death everywhere: you have a good voice, and if we make music together it must have some quality!”
The cock agreed to this plan, and all four went on together. They could not, however, reach the city of Bremen in one day, and in the evening they came to a forest where they meant to pass the night. The donkey and the hound laid themselves down under a large tree, the cat and the cock settled themselves in the branches; but the cock flew right to the top, where he was most safe. Before he went to sleep he looked round on all four sides, and thought he saw in the distance a little spark burning; so he called out to his companions that there must be a house not far off, for he saw a light. The donkey said, “If so, we had better get up and go on, for the shelter here is bad.” The hound thought that a few bones with some meat on would do him good too!
So they made their way to the place where the light was, and soon saw it shine brighter and grow larger, until they came to a well-lighted robber’s house. The donkey, as the biggest, went to the window and looked in.
“What do you see, my grey-horse?” asked the cock. “What do I see?” answered the donkey; “a table covered with good things to eat and drink, and robbers sitting at it enjoying themselves.”
“That would be the sort of thing for us,” said the cock. “Yes, yes; ah, how I wish we were there!” said the donkey.
Then the animals took counsel together how they should manage to drive away the robbers, and at last they thought of a plan. The donkey was to place himself with his fore-feet upon the window-ledge, the hound was to jump on the donkey’s back, the cat was to climb upon the dog, and lastly the cock was to fly up and perch upon the head of the cat.
When this was done, at a given signal, they began to perform their music together: the donkey brayed, the hound barked, the cat mewed, and the cock crowed; then they burst through the window into the room, so that the glass clattered! At this horrible din, the robbers sprang up, thinking no otherwise than that a ghost had come in, and fled in a great fright out into the forest. The four companions now sat down at the table, well content with what was left, and ate as if they were going to fast for a month.
As soon as the four minstrels had done, they put out the light, and each sought for himself a sleeping-place according to his nature and to what suited him. The donkey laid himself down upon some straw in the yard, the hound behind the door, the cat upon the hearth near the warm ashes, and the cock perched himself upon a beam of the roof; and being tired from their long walk, they soon went to sleep.
When it was past midnight, and the robbers saw from afar that the light was no longer burning in their house, and all appeared quiet, the captain said, “We ought not to have let ourselves be frightened out of our wits;” and ordered one of them to go and examine the house.
The messenger finding all still, went into the kitchen to light a candle, and, taking the glistening fiery eyes of the cat for live coals, he held a lucifer-match to them to light it. But the cat did not understand the joke, and flew in his face, spitting and scratching. He was dreadfully frightened, and ran to the back-door, but the dog, who lay there sprang up and bit his leg; and as he ran across the yard by the straw-heap, the donkey gave him a smart kick with its hind foot. The cock, too, who had been awakened by the noise, and had become lively, cried down from the beam, “Cock-a-doodle-doo!”
Then the robber ran back as fast as he could to his captain, and said, “Ah, there is a horrible witch sitting in the house, who spat on me and scratched my face with her long claws; and by the door stands a man with a knife, who stabbed me in the leg; and in the yard there lies a black monster, who beat me with a wooden club; and above, upon the roof, sits the judge, who called out, ‘Bring the rogue here to me!’ so I got away as well as I could.”
After this the robbers did not trust themselves in the house again; but it suited the four musicians of Bremen so well that they did not care to leave it any more. And the mouth of him who last told this story is still warm.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
I finally washed the car at the Statoil down the street. It is actually cheaper than in the US, where there are all sorts of water usage taxes. I then went on a nice bike ride in the 40 degree temperatures. I really need to get in shape. All this restaurant food has taken a toll on me. I forgot to mention that back in Bremen we ate at the same nice Italian restaurant each night, until the last night we had the ill-advised idea of trying a Mexican restaurant. When will I learn? Mexican food in Europe is terrible. It just doesn't work. Tappas is alright, as are every other ethnicity- but Mexican is best prepared by Mexicans. Anyway, enough ice has melted that I should be able to bike to work next week.
Next we looked at buying a house. We already met with the bank last week. I found that I could have a Visa card- despite what the last two bankers said, or rather lied about. I was worked up that we would pull our money out and bank elsewhere if I couldn't have a cash card with a Visa logo so I could use it abroad and in parking ramps. I had been given very lame reasons why I was not eligible in the past- which was odd considering who easily I received a credit card from a competing bank. We met with a very nice banker who only spoke Norwegian, but she spoke so clearly that she was rather easy to understand. We will be able to borrow as much as we need- so we should be able to find something livable. We are fortunate that we have already been through the house buying process in the US, since I think it helps us structure our search. An interesting aspect about buying in Norway is that they buyer does not use an agent. Sellers agents take a much smaller commission. Of course there is a 2.5% sales tax on homes. Another oddity is that some townhouses sell with a secondary maintenance loan- so if you buy the house, you also buy the balance on the loan to fix the roof or whatever. Those townhouses tend to sell for less.
A typical 2 -3 bedroom side by side or "apartment" in the 80-100 square meter range tends to run around 1.7 to 2 million nok. We could purchase a full house way out in Klepp or Time for the same money, but then we would need to own a second car, pay for a ton of gas, and spend a lot of time in traffic. Norwegians tend to pay more for houses and spend less on extensions of the living or dining rooms- in other words, going out to eat or out for drinks or coffee is far less common. People entertain more at home. Many people have space to sit a dozen people in their dining rooms. My preference is something easily accessible with a view- even at the expense of giving up some room. This is a beautiful country- I need a view- mountains, ocean, or fjords... I am not picky. Last time we were house hunting, I dreaded it. This time I can't wait. We start tomorrow.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
A few oddities about the trip- when I checked out, I was charged for a few "premium movies." The hotel had a ridiculous setup where if you even turned to the movie channels, you were billed for watching them. The fact that I comprehend no German did nothing to help my argument.
When I returned the rental car, I witnessed the most efficient check-in system ever. They also went over the car with a fine-toothed comb, looking for damage.
I am tired. I have to work the next few days, since our India contact is still in town, and I have many things to coordinate with him. All I want is to be home.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
In the story a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster, all mistreated by their masters, leave them and meet in a desolate place. They decide to go to Bremen, known for its freedom, to live without owners.
On the way to
Later that night, the thieves return and send one of their number in to investigate. It is dark, and he sees the eyes of the cat shining in the darkness. He reaches over to light his candle, thinking he sees the coals of the fire. Things happen in quick succession; the cat swipes his face with her claws, the donkey kicks him, the dog bites him, and the rooster chases him out the door, screaming. He tells his companions that he was beset by monsters - a horrible witch who scratched him with her long nails (the cat), a giant who clubbed him (the donkey), and worst of all, a terrible demon who screamed in his ear. The thieves abandon the cottage to the strange creatures who have taken it, where the animals live happily for the rest of their days.
This fable has a straightforward meaning: The four animals (in pictures depicted as standing atop each other) represent the classes of the citizenry, their masters the feudal regents of the time. Bremen as a free trader's town, was their natural goal for living without masters.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Friday, March 03, 2006
I have never felt deja vu anywhere in
No short anecdote begins with ”when I was young,” but when I was a kid, we lived in a neighborhood with mature trees in a post-war house until I was six. It was a Mayberry neighborhood in a Mayberry small town. I remember a vaguely global awareness as I would dig holes in the front yard in an attempt to tunnel to
We moved across town to a new subdivision. We lived on the edge of town, on
I attended a private university that was founded in 1881 or something like that. It had a campus full of oak trees, and old vine covered buildings (except for the new, air-conditioned buildings of the business and law schools). I felt very at home, until I graduated- at which point I had no use for living there anymore. After school I moved to
Everything up to this point was
Living here is sometimes strange. I am sitting on the sofa we had in
Back to déjà vu - I don’t believe it means anything “real” in the sense of having any precognition or that I have experienced something before in a previous lifetime, but still, it is an oddly comforting feeling. It makes a place feel more familiar than it really is. I seriously wonder how long it will be until I experience a genuine moment here. I know this is the right place for me to be. Of course, another thing to consider is that it could easily be as foreign for me to live in Florida, or Texas, or the Southwest- perhaps more foreign? And I miss huge old trees more than anything right now. There are a few pine trees in view across the street, but none in this yard. I told Lise before we moved that I wanted a house with big old trees. This means we can probably never live on a treeless island, but I won’t rule out a summer home.
I leave for Germany Wednesday for 8 or 9 days. I don’t think I’ll be able to survive that long on a 20kg baggage weight limit. I hear that their TV is dubbed and we won’t have internet at our hotel. I am guessing that home will feel more like home than ever after this trip.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Don't brush your teeth with caviar. Personally, I won't eat any "food" that comes in a tube.
Black Boy White Pepper. Need I say more?
Beware of horses on the bike trail. Be more aware of the manure they leave behind. This photo was taken well before the recent snow that still covers everything.