Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Belated House Photos

Here are a few shots I took before moving in. We have some painting and other work ahead of us. The previous owner wired some cable to an office. It was this cable that caused the internet problems. I hooked the modem to a different cable connection and it eventually logged on. We are back online--- and have our IP phone.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Still No Internet

Quick notes--- we are loving this house! It is vertical-- meaning three finished floors. Two of the bedrooms are on the ground floor. As it is built on a hill, the back of the house consists of a storage area, laundry room, a bathroom, and a, well, shower room? The bath and toilet are separate. Strange but true. The main living area is on the second floor, with another bedroom/office, kitchen, dining room, living room, and front and rear terraces. It is nice having more of the view upstairs-- rather than bedrooms as most houses in the US have. The upstairs in an open loft with some crawl space storage. Not a lot of head room upstairs, but enough floor space to make a decent guest room or entertainment room.

Tomorrow the internet repairman will arrive in the morning. Hopefully we will be back on line soon.

Friday, June 23, 2006

No Internet at Home

Things have been very busy.

Good news: We moved into our house.

Bad news: My wife's grandmother died and the funeral was Wednesday.

I only have internet at work at the moment... probably shouldn't be posting too much.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


I have lived in Norway a little more than half a year. Today it is up to 63F and it feels like a cool 80 from back in the US. People are running around half naked. What will I do when we return to the US in August?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Americentric Idiocy

No politics discussion-- this is strickly about life on the other side of the Atlantic. I have taken over operations of our India office, as I may have mentioned. We own the majority of a daughter company that does web development, in addition to functioning as a cost center for our company. Anyway, I frequently need to financial manage web projects. Most of the vendors that deliver hosting, dotnetnuke modules, and so on are ecommerce businesses themselves. Most require credit card transactions. Most are based out of the US. Most have no one answering a phone if we have problems.

Most require a STATE field for the credit card billing address.

Most will not accept a four digit zip code.

Most do not have nation fields.

Most make it very difficult for non-Americans to do business.

Seriously, you would think it was the 18th century, that there were no easy mechanisms for credit card transactions. I encountered enough of this nonsense over Christmas trying to shop online- from US websites and shipping to US relatives. I would expect better from some of these dotcoms that we TRY to work with.

Note to American companies with a web presence-- particularly those that offer services (where NO shipping is involved). The US is only one corner of the world. Please make it easier for the rest of us to send you our money. I am beginning to take this personally.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Work Visa, New House, Work Visa, New House

We took the day off today to acquire our house. It was scheduled to go down at high noon. In the meantime, I went to the police station to update my work visa. It is a bit of a racket to begin with. It costs about 800nok per year. My first year was mostly a waste, since it was valid from the date it was approved-- but I didn't begin using mine for almost six months. So I only managed to get a half year out of it. I tried to renew it with plenty of time to spare, but they are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays-- and then I had the fiasco with the Indian Embassy. So I squeaked by and renewed the application just before the due date. I just received the approval letter the other day.

So today I waited in line with all the immigrants to Norway. We were quite a motley assortment of Russians, Thai, east Europeans, Pakhistanis, and me-- likely the lone American. After waiting forever for my number to come up, I submit my passport, a photo, and my approval letter. I am then informed that they are leaving for lunch-- that I can wait until after they finish, or come back after 3pm. I reluctantly chose 3pm. Funny how government employees are the same throughout the world.

We made it to out new house by noon, then had an ackward wait with the previous owners for the bank to make the transfer. The realtor didn't bother to show-- which was fine by me. I really disliked him more and more. He was quite possibly the rudest agent I have ever encountered. I wouldn't mind if he were merely a sleazy salesman, but he was in a league of his own. Finally the banker clicked a mouse button, a phone rang, and we were handed the keys. The previous owners were a real class act. The house was spotless, and they did some gardening and hedge trimming while it was vacant- completely unexpected.

When I picked up the passport at 3pm, I noticed they made a typo on the expiration date. While the letter mentions it is good for a year, on the visa it expires in 8 months. Looks like I need to make another trip. Of course this visa takes up another full page in my passport-- and has its own photo. I find it strange how in all my travels, India and the U.S. are about the only countries left that actually stamp the pages. My trip to Barcelona could have been made without a passport-- my driver's license would have been good enough. There were no customs anywere. The only people who wanted ID were the airline ticket counter and the hotel. I really hate the odd size of passports and look forward to the day when they will become electronic like a green card.

I then waited at the house for our appliances to arrive. I was a little frustrated that they would not install them. I appreciated that they brought them up to the kitchen, but a little more service would have been nice. I think I can manage. By the way, it seems European appliances are better made than the U.S. ones. The dishwasher and washing machines only need a cold water hookup, as they heat their own water, the stove tops are all ceramic, and most dryers these days have their own condensors so they do not need to be vented. We are waiting to buy a dryer. We have managed this long without one.

I then did some packing and left for a bike ride and Lise headed to Kvitsøy. I rode almost to Ålgård and back, just to get out in this sunny, warm weather. I then moved a few carloads of "stuff" and met Lise to help her unload a massive vanload of boxes from her grandmother's storage.

Our main PC is completely fried. It won't boot beyond a blue screen of death. I have been through this too many times. I am cursing the fact that I didn't use FAT32 for the C drive. All my documents will be inaccessible if I boot from another hard drive. Oh well....

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


My favorite city in the world is officially Barcelona. It is simply amazing. The weather is perfect, as are the beaches and the people. I never really considered Spain before- as a country or as a people. I will retire here. It is unfortunate that I cannot spend more time here-- and that Lise couldn't be here with me. But I will definitely return with her.

I am a little surprised how few people speak English-- but it hardly matters. I have been able to shop across the street from the convention, take taxis, eat out, etc. without problem.

As a business trip, the results have been remarkable. I have been working non-stop, from 7am until midnight, but we are generating huge leads for sales and partners. After the first night we considered it a complete success.

I won't belabor the point, but I love this city. It is like Paris on the Medeteranean, or however you spell it. Oh, and it is in Spain. Prices are a little spendy here-- but I need to remind myself that despite the Spanish language and the palm trees-- this aint Mexico. Pack up our belongings and send for Lise. I want to stay.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Nordsjørittet Race Report

For an exercise in complete masochism, I refer you to the Nordsjørittet-- a "mountain bike race" of 80-something kilometer from Egersund to Sandnes. I present you with the fact that I have owned a mountain bike for maybe a six weeks. We drove down to Egersund, rather than taking the train. Originally, Lise was going to meet up with a friend down there, but plans changed. It was too late to take the train, and actually it was very nice to take a wide assortment of clothing so I had options based on the weather. When we left, the temperature was around 46 degrees. It rose to the mid-50s during the day- which after you live here awhile, seems like the mid-70s. The sun was shining-- beautiful. Of course it also means the wind if out of the north-- the direction of the race.

I was feeling better than I had all week. I was a little discouraged by how far the drive was, knowing full well that I would have to race all the way home. Eventually we arrived and set up. There were people everywhere. There were a total of five starting waves, elites, and ones through four. I chose group two, since I had no idea how technical it would be. Looking around, I was thinking I should have chosen the ones, but it was too late to do anything about it at that point. Eventually the ones were coralled for their start, then we filled in behind them and waited fifteen minutes before our start. There were hundreds in our group. When we started, it took me over a full minute to get to the start line-- and I lined up toward the front. Eventually we were on the road. Many people were riding a relatively leisurely pace. We quickly turned off the road onto a very loose gravel travel. At the bottom of a hill, a poor guy from the first group was being imobilized on a stretcher. It looked like his face had been torn off-- not what you want to see a few km into a long race. The uphills were so steep that people in front had to dismount and walk up, creating a chain reaction-- so we really had no choice but to walk.

The race ended up being a mix of gravel, where I tended to loose a lot of time, and pavement, where I ended up passing everyone who just passed me. I really need more mountain biking skills. The gravel was so loose that there was terrible traction, but it seemed to bother me more than other people. Eventually we made it to the North Sea (nordskjø) where there was some very deep single track. There was no passing as we rode through these nasty ruts. We came out to a clearing that was getting very technical-- rocks almost like a staircase. I was getting very nervous, but then everyone had to dismount, so it really didn't matter. We crossed a few streams (hopping across them, rock to rock while carrying our bikes), biked through pine forests so dark I couldn't see anything in front of me, biked through nasty mud pits, across pastures, along the sea again, then back on some roads.

By this point, both water bottles were empty, and my legs were cramping up. I had to pee. It wasn't a good situation. After leaving a muddy hill of foot, there was a water station. I grabbed two cups, then decided since we had done this much walking, peeing isn't going to matter much, so I made room for more liquid. It is always difficult to stay hydrated under those circumstances, and my calves were cramping up already.

The rest of the race was more of the same. Up, down, gravel, pavement, gravel. Eventually we reached familiar territory. I knew we were not far from Sandnes-- and we were flying on pavement. I couldn't wait for this to be over. It would be one thing to ride 80-something kilomters on the road, but I would guess that less than 25% was on pavement. I was a muddy, dusty mess. My good fortune didn't last for long as we ended up on gravel trails again in the heart of Sandnes. Then we were routed though a strange series of gates to the finish area. Finally it was over, and I saw Lise at the finish line. I don't think I have ever been so happy to finish a race. I might post some photos later, but I need to get ready for some work travel for tomorrow.

Friday, June 09, 2006


An annoying aspect of living here is that people strike. Bankers are threatening to strike. On the upside, we were both paid early- today rather than the 15th (or whenever it is). On the downside, we might not get into our house as scheduled- on the 15th. We will see what happens.

Week in Review

Busy, BUSY week. Monday was a holiday. Tuesday I checked out appliances for our new house (we move next week). Wednesday we purchased a dishwasher, fridge, and stove-- and they were not cheap compared to US prices. I recognize no brand names around here. We ended up buying an Asko refrigerator and dishwasher, and some other odd Nordic brand for a stove.

Afterwards we met up with some friends and went to a comedy show, Puppetry of the Penis. It was part of the Norwegian Humor Festival. They played to a packed theater. It is exactly what you think- except they really don't use any accessories. Two ordinary Australian guys played with their "equipment" on stage-- usually making animal shapes. At least it was in English. Actually, there was absolutely nothing sexual about it, and it was quite hilarious. I have to give them credit for making a living out of this-- tickets were about $50US. Doing the math, these guys are making out like rock stars. We caught their show in Stavanger, but they are playing in Sandnes as well-- in a community-owned theater. And while their website is censored, the local media had no trouble printing the full-frontal in the news-- the Eiffel Tower, if I recall.

Last night we had a gaming night and pizza party at work. We all played a crazy network battle game. My boss, the best boss in the world, pulled me out of a meeting a little earlier and just gave me a Garmin GPS unit. We needed a door prize for our Barcelona event, and I was thinking a GPS would be interesting, since it isn't something everyone already has and it fits with the idea of what our software does (helping businesses find their way). I mentioned it was probably the only gadget on my wish list. So he just gave me one! Very cool and very unexpected. I have been very busy applying for government grants for a new initiative-- and if I weren't doing it, he would be.

All of my print jobs came together at the last minute. We leave for Barcelona at 6am Sunday-- but before we go, I have a massive mountain bike race tomorrow. I have been fighting a cold all week-- and riding very little. I am not looking forward to this. I wish I felt better. After work today we met a friend who we knew from Mpls-- she lived in Lise's building and was later in both or our weddings. It turns out her brother and his girlfriend are moving into the house across the street from where we are moving. It is a small town. It was beautiful outside, so we sat in the sun. We then headed to Sandnes so I could pick up my race number.

Now I just need to get ready to ride.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Summer (Sort of)

It was way up to 56 degrees today- warm enough to wear shorts and short sleeves. I wouldn't dream of riding around half naked in these temps back in Mpls, but it felt completely balmy here today. Best of all, there wasn't too much wind. I headed south, and rode almost to a place called Brua (or something like that). It was beautiful. Road biking really is great here-- on the few days it can be properly enjoyed.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Perfect Day

I was complaining at work about the unavailability of decent mountain biking areas after yesterday's debacle with boulders the size of soccer balls. A coworker told me about the Melshei area, and pointed me to an incredible map site, I had been disappointed with google earth, as they had really horrible resolutions for much of Norway. This site showed such a close-up of our new house, that you could tell what I was wearing if I were outside when it was taken (we have two more weeks before we actually move in). It is really quite amazing.

Anyway, I had a general idea of where Melshei was, so I headed through Sandnes. I ended up stuck behind a cement truck on 44, and a group ride caught us. I should have asked where they were from-- they looked like a decent group. We drafted off the truck for a few miles, then I peeled off and up the hill out of downtown. I easily found the forest area.

I think I am turning native. It was a whopping 48F on this, the first day of June. I wore shorts on my ride-- out of principle. I was actually quite comfortable. There were all sorts of trails. They were mostly in a wooded area. Some were service roads that eventually degenerated into singletrack, then a mess of boulders that were impassible. Other trails were nicely groomed, and apparently marked for biathlon-- which doesn't make much sense, since I can't imagine they have enough snow there. There were several kilometers of trails-- enough to keep me interested for a few hours.
The trail spilled out into a pasture surrounding a lake.
Overall, it was a perfect day. After tomorrow we have another three day weekend. Another religious holiday. Living in a church state has its benefits.