Monday, February 26, 2007

Homesick Already

I leave for London in the morning. This will be my first work trip since Julian arrived. I miss him already and I haven't even left. This is more difficult than moving to Norway! I will only be away for two nights. I guess this is a good warm-up before leaving for the US for three weeks later in March.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


This is a bit late, but Thursday is wind night here in Stavanger. Last week was the same situation. I wouldn't notice this sort of thing if it were not for the fact that Friday morning is garbage pickup, and the wind blows the dumpsters all over the street. This Thursday was particularly bad, and the recycling bins, which were not due for pickup, were banging against our bedroom wall all night. I don't sleep particularly well when the wind is howling at 50mph. I think it has to do with my midwest American upbringing where we never had wind for the sake of wind. If we ever had this kind of wind, there was usually a particularly destructive storm attached to it. The other night was dry wind. Wind and only wind. No rain, no thunder, no lightening- nothing but wind. Apparently it was bad enough that they evacuated one of the oil platforms around here. I don't think I would feel any safer in a helicopter under those conditions, but I am guessing that a small boat would feel even worse.

Baby Passport

Crudely redacted, as this is the internet. There is probably an east European crime cartel that employs a sweatshop full of people searching for this sort of thing. I find his height amusing, since he really doesn't stand-- and he is probably already a few cm taller. The washed-out antiquish quality to the photo makes it look a hundred years old.

For you Americans, Noreg is the nynorsk word for Norway. Nynorsk is a concept designed to confuse immigrants or others interested in learning the language. It is like an alternate reality. Actually, it is more like Esperanto-- a contrived, written version of Norwegian designed to reflect spoken dialects. It never really existed as a written form until the government mandated its use. It seems to receive about 10% use in media. I am no expert, and I am quite sure I have butchered the true meaning of nynorsk, so perhaps I should qualify this as "what nynorsk means to me." Apparently someone in the 1800s felt that written Norwegian too closely reflected Danish, so he "invented" it. From what I have seen, written Norwegian and Danish are very similar, which is quite odd, since Danish people seem to speak something that has no resemblance to Norwegian. It is like they speak Norwegian with rocks in their mouth. Everything sounds like it is spoken from the back of the throat, or that the words are being gargled. I am exposed to Danish in product packaging, since it often is written in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and maybe Finish. Finish has no relationship to Swedish or Danish, and is only included due to its geographic proximity. However, the Danish and Norwegian words are often nearly identical, which makes me wonder why they even go through the effort to separate them. We also receive Swedish TV here, and while the written language has less in common, I can decipher at least some of it when spoken. Anyway, as far as I am concerned bokmål is real Norwegian, and nynorsk is Norwegian with speed bumps-- I have to sound out half the words in my head to figure out what they mean. The good old wikipedia has more than you would ever want to know about this-- including the real reasons behind its use.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Norway's Stupidest Criminals

I know "stupidest" isn't a word, but it should be. The car thieves who drove off in the neighbor's car were picked up in Egersund the other day. Apparently they made it that far before the needed gas. As if it wasn't dumb enough to take the car, it was even dumber to fill the tank with gasoline-- considering it was a diesel. Of course the story doesn't end there-- even "stupider" is that they took it in to the shop to be repaired! The shop guy apparently contacted the police, and the car was recovered. This really leads me to wonder how stupid these people were to attract the attention of the mechanics. But I reserved stupidest of all to the politi here in Norway for letting these people go. Apparently none of the other property was recovered, and it doesn't appear there is any effort. At least the car is on its way back. Then again, I don't know all the details of Norwegian law, but these people will probably end up getting a tax break or a subsidy for their crime.

Speaking of which, there is some arcane law that says I am entitled to a substantial tax break for last year's taxes and next year. Apparently they want to give "immigrants" a good start on life here in expensive Norway. I don't really need it, but I won't complain. I am sure Julian will spend the money.

Finally, speaking of the little guy, his passport arrived today. It is almost as cute as he is. It is truly crazy cute--- with his little photo taken when he was two months old. If only renewing my US passport was so easy!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Everybody Does It

Picture 044, originally uploaded by filtersweep.

The woods were crawling with families with kids. I never saw this sort of thing living in the US.

There was still a layer of ice on the lake

Picture 048, originally uploaded by filtersweep.

Sunday Walk

Picture 042, originally uploaded by filtersweep.

Or maybe it was more of a hike pushing the baby wagon.

Baby Passport

Julian and I had a great time last night. There actually was a terrible guy movie on-- Metro with Eddie Murphy. It received an awesome 5.2 stars out of 10 at IMDB. I don't recall machine guns or helicopters, but it does have Michael Wincott, if that counts for anything. I was amazed how quickly the night flew by-- especially considering I had an early start. Who knew that a 2 month old could keep me so entertained? I was seriously looking forward to hanging out with Julian alone, and he did not disappoint. I think it was nice for Lise to feel a little freedom to be able to get away for more than a few minutes.

Today, Julian had his passport photo taken. He looks so little and so serious in the photo. He is required to have his mouth closed, and it really changes his appearance. It looks like a little baby mugshot.

Speaking of photos, we had about 209 digital photos printed out for only 1 nok each. I couldn't even buy paper and ink for that price. They turned out wonderfully, but the accurate aspect ratio of digital camera looks a little odd. I like the 35mm film ratio better-- they are more rectangular than the squarish prints of digital. Maybe I am just old fashioned. Then again, I grew up during the instamatic era, when prints were even more squarish. It was strange going through the photos, that turned out very well, by the way. Julian was so tiny when he was born. It is amazing how quickly he is growing.

It is below freezing and snowing now. I must remember to swap out the tires in the morning. I had the brilliant idea that I will put slicks on the winter wheels for city riding during the non-winter months. Tonight summer seems impossibly far away.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Urban Decay Forums

I stumbled across this urban decay forum out of the UK. Freaky stuff.


This morning was very foggy. I didn't give it much thought as I prepared to leave, but I could hardly see the edge of our terrace in the back yard. Each day grows 5 minutes longer, meaning in less than two week we have more than an hour more sunlight. I took my time getting ready so I wouldn't bike in darkness and extreme fog.

As I set off, I wondered if school was out today. I believe it is winter vacation here, where everyone is supposed to go to the mountains to ski. There were none of the usual kids running all over the place walking to school. Despite my recent posts regarding our neighborhood crime wave, this country is a ridiculously safe place to live. I see kids of all ages walking to school, which seems even more dramatic in the pre-dawn darkness of winter. Most kids wear reflective vests, and some even carry flashlights or have ski headlamps as they walk through the woods to school. I swear some of these kids look so tiny that I fear they are walking to day care!

As I went down the big hill to take the back road to work, I realized how cold the fog was. While the temperature was just above freezing, and there was no wind, this was one of the coldest commutes I can recall. It was a strange fog-- very thick, but it didn't cover me in mist as fogs often do. As I rode to work I lamented the fact that I haven't been riding for fun at all lately. I cannot remember the last time I rode anywhere when it wasn't transportation. Of course, having a cute two month old at home is better than doing anything at this point in time. Tonight I have him all to myself as Lise is heading out to see a play. She is having a girl's night out. I told her Julian and I will have a guy's night in- beer, cigars, and watching movies with machine guns, helicopters, and explosions. We will probably skip the cigars. And the beer. And the bad movies.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Its Getting Personal

Our neighbor's newish Audi was stolen Thursday. These are the neighbors whose house was broken into a few weeks ago. Apparently the thief found a spare key and came back for the car- that had been kept in the garage most of the time. It was parked on the street the night it was stolen. It is very creepy that this person returned. Apparently there was a driver's license left in the car that was used to open a new cell phone account. I hope the police can somehow track these this person down. You would think with the GPS in phones, the Autopass for the tollways, and all the video cameras everywhere that something could be done. Then again, it is mostly a nuisance burglar-turned car thief. It is really sad.

Do You Speak English?

It was a very busy week. But now that I think about it, most weeks are busy. Friday I needed to drop off some print jobs downtown. It was on one of the few streets that I was familiar with- Kvitsøygata- and only because my wife is from Kvitsøy and the street name stuck in my head. I was very impressed with the shop and the design work they perform. We need new roll-ups for our U.K. trip. Thankfully we are using the lightweight aluminium stands, since we will need to drag those through London, then to Manchester, and back again. Anyway, I drove to work. It was just as well that I had the car. It was insanely windy. Thursday night seems to be the normal wind night around here. It is notable in that we have garbage pickup Friday mornings, and our containers end up blown all over the neighborhood. They are identical to the types of containers we had in Minneapolis, by the way.

Today I went grocery shopping while Lise stayed home. I went to Ultra, since they have coffee beans that I can grind for the espresso maker. I would just as well go to Mega, but it was raining, and I preferred the underground parking. Ultra is as close to a Lunds or Byerlys that you will find here. In some respects, it is nicer. Like Byerlys, it is expensive. In the dairy aisle some woman from the UK asked me if I spoke English. She then had all sorts of questions what distinguished one butter from the other. Some had no salt, some half salt, some had yogurt, some were blended with margarine. She asked the right person. The store today was seemingly filled with people from the UK-- I heard English English spoken everywhere. I wondered if they understood any Norwegian. I am always curious how other foreigners experience life here. My life here would be very different if Lise were not Norwegian. I also was left with the thoughts that maybe I should make friends with more native speakers of English. It isn't that I have trouble communicating, but sometimes it is nice to speak English with people when it doesn't feel like they are doing me a favor.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Innebandy (Not Hit by a Bus)

Yesterday we had our innebandy tournament at the sports hall down the street. I was "volunteered" for this post-work activity-- having never played it before. It didn't seem too complicated-- basically three-on-three floor hockey. I played mostly defense-- but with only three people, we were all over the place. Our first game we tied. The second was brutal-- there was a rather psychotic player from the opposing team who was into full contact. During the game he ended up flipping out, screaming, throwing his stick against the wall. I am not one to be incited to the point of violence, but he was so abusive on the court that I am quite certain a fight would have erupted had he not been ejected from the game. This also ended in a tie-- and afterward, I thought the hot head might be coming over to apologize, but no. He was emphatically trying to offer excuses for his behavior. Game three we ended up losing. We were all exhausted. We didn't make the playoffs, which was fine-- as Lise and I had dinner plans at the neighbors.

Today I could barely move. My shoulder are bruised up from the contact, my legs sore from all the running around, and my back in worse pain that it was before. It hadn't been doing too well from biking-- I can't ever really stand when I ride on ice. I stopped by the hardware store to pick up some tubing so I could bleed the brakes. I finally finished popping the new pads in, and I should be ready to ride to work Monday. Tomorrow we head to Kvitsøy for Mother's Day-- but I am most excited for Lise and her first Mother's Day.


I don't think anything makes me smile like seeing Julian smile. At almost eight weeks, I think it is something a little more than a reflex.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


I was looking at the package of "blue mold cheese" literally translated, and once again, I was reminded how direct (and efficient) the Norwegian language is. Nobody in the US could conceive of marketing a blue mold cheese product. Rather, we prefer all sorts of sensitive euphemisms. This mentality permeates much of the rest of the culture as well. People tend not to be so superficially nice as in the US. That works for me, as I tend not to respond well to empty praise. Hey, it tastes the same no matter what you call it.

I tore apart my rear disc brake after stopping by the bike shop to pick up a new set of pads. I was shocked to find that the old pads were nonexistent. Unfortunately, they are the wrong type. I also lost a bit of brake fluid in the process--- hey, I'm new to this disc brakes on bikes thing. I guess I will need to drive to work tomorrow. I had earlier packed up the winter tires in the back-- and I mean back. Lise was going to take the car in, and we were worried about the child seat in the back. I was able to load all four tires behind the back seat of the station wagon in this cavernous car. There are no seats to fold down. I guess I will leave work a little early to have the tires swapped. I will be spending the afternoon playing innebandy- which is some sort of floor hockey. I am sure that I will feel every year of my age by the time I am finished. This is work related-- some sort of tournament for our office park. It is being played in a sports hall next door to home-- so I have no excuse. I was literally drafted for this duty. I guess I can take one for the team.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Stavanger Photos

There was a request in a recent comment that I post more photos from the "village" where I live. There are a boat load of them at flickr that have been taken by others. I live on a peninsula near beaches, mountains, flat farm land, and of course the ocean. This is probably not the part of Norway people think about when they see postcards, although pulpit rock is near here-- one of the largest tourist attractions in the country. The fact is, Norway is more modern than the US in many respects. Almost all of Stavanger is cabled for fiber optic internet, for example. Cell phone reception is amazing-- even in tunnels. Rather than a fishing village, think off-shore oil capital.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Seriously Ill-Prepared

This morning the temperature was hovering just above freezing. There was slushy snow outside, but nothing major. I opted to use the regular wheel set for my ride in. It was not big deal.

While at work, it started snowing, the temperature dropped, and the snow accumulated. It was going to be an interesting ride home without studded tires. I somehow managed, but there were some very slippery spots. I was amazed how well regular 2.1" mtn bike tires get by on regular snow, but I was slipping and sliding on icy pavement. I avoided as much pavement as possible, and made it home in one piece.

When I arrived home, Lise's mother and great-aunt were visiting. Lise's mother had asked me to fix her bike, which wouldn't stay in gear. I had asked if the gears were on the inside or outside, and was told "outside." I said I could fix it. Of course the bike ended up having an internal Nexus 3-speed hub. I was out of my league, but did my best-- and there was no way to test ride it. It seemed to not be skipping. Who knows. Those are such bulletproof hubs that it is quite possible that it is back in good form. I also tossed on the studded tires. No worries tomorrow morning.

Monday, February 05, 2007

There Goes the Neighborhood Revisited

Our neighbor's house was burglarized this afternoon- in the middle of the afternoon. It is disturbing on a number of fronts. We know the couple that lives there-- actually met them before they moved in and it was something of a coincidence that we became neighbors. It is a long story that sounds more complicated than it really is, but he is the brother of one of her friends who was a Norwegian living in the US. He works off-shore, so he is away for a few weeks at a time. They have a three month old girl.

Lise left the house with another neighbor across the street to walk down to Kvadrat (a mall having the dubious distinction of being Norway's largest). About the same time, our other neighbor left for a few hours. When she returned, her door was locked from the inside, which was odd. She then noticed silverware boxes open on the floor. She came over to our house at that point and called the police. When I came home, Lise had her hands full watching the two babies, and our neighbor was home with the police.

We later found out that the neighbor next door saw the burglar. She was a mid-20s female who was on foot and carrying a bag. She waited a long time at the front door, then went around to the side of the house. The witness didn't do anything, thinking she was a friend. She felt horrible when she found out what happened. Apparently she entered through a partially opened window in the back.

While the woman was on foot, and unable to take much, what she took completely mean-spirited. Their daughter was recently baptized, and several engraved silver gifts were taken-- as was the video recorder containing the tape of the first few months of their daughter's life. A laptop and other items were stolen. It has given me a new perspective on how our digital videos and photos are stored.

We live in a nice neighborhood on a dead-end street where cars are not even allowed to drive. Everyone here knows each other. It was just bad luck-- random, that she was burgled. (Sorry to be such a stickler here, but a detective friend pointed out that to be robbed would mean that the owner was home. )

On one hand, I appreciate that this wasn't some creepy guy who poses a threat to the physical safety of the people living around here. The police seem to think it is some drug addict. It takes a desperate person to do this in the middle of the day. All the belongings were easy to carry. She was on foot. But it truly stinks that the items she took hold so much more than their mere monetary value.

The other issue that makes this particularly disgusting is how unnecessary it is. Addicts are practically coddled in Norway. The corrections system is so liberal here that she could probably end up on some payroll to NOT commit any crimes-- and belong to a union-- and receive a lifetime supply of free drugs.

The Best Part of Waking Up

It is so difficult leaving a warm bed in the morning. This is compounded by Julian sleeping in our room. Every morning starts with two cups of espresso. It has become my new addiction. At least the days are growing noticeably longer-- I can feel it each day. Biking to work in the morning poses a few psychological barriers. It isn't much of a physical feat. This morning I woke up to a dusting of snow. I spend an hour working on my brakes last night before I realized that the rotors I had recently purchased were different than the stock brakes. I purchased narrower rotors- with the same outer diameter. These should work, but the fins were catching on the pads, making a noise that I originally thought was from a warped rotor in the rear. After microadjusting, they were finally in alignment. I was not about to switch wheels at this point, and the snow looked too light for studded tires. At least it was dry.

As I was leaving, I noticed it was raining. On a positive note, the rain had melted all the snow. Keep in mind, there was snow everywhere just a half hour earlier. I quickly changed into my rain gear. This proved to be a wise move, as the wind was very cold, and my ride was through sleet, snow, and rain. I felt like my nose was being sandblasted off my face when I hit the wind. It was probably the least pleasant commute to date- perhaps only rivaled by a commute where I broke a tire bead, or the time I broke the seat post.

As I approached the locker room area, I could tell that "Stinky Guy" had ridden to work. When I opened the door, the stench was overpowering, and the man himself was standing there. He must be lacking an olfactory system-- his rancid sour-smelling clothing almost make me nauseous. I don't even like the idea that my towel hangs anywhere in the vicinity of his clothing. I have contemplated bringing air fresheners, etc. but he doesn't commute often enough for me to remember.

As I shaved without a mirror in the shower, I encountered the worst feeling short of a medical procedure- catching my fingernail with the razor. I don't know what it is about this that makes it feel so uncomfortable, but I hate it. It only seems to occur when I don't have a mirror. Shaving "blind" is difficult enough as it is. I always miss spots and cut myself. You would think that after decades of shaving, I could "do it with my eyes closed," but somehow it isn't that easy. At least I had hot water today.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

All Bundled Up

We take Julian for a walk daily-- well almost daily. Photos of our neighborhood here.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Food Processors

We have some fancy KichenAid food processor that was a wedding gift from the US. Of course we need to drag out a 60lb voltage converter to use it here. Lise typically uses it when she makes pizza (the best homemade pizza ever--- rivals most restaurant offerings). Anyway, I swear it takes more work to clean a food processor than the work it actually saves-- especially when used for dough. There are an infinite number of nooks and crannies where "processed food" can hide. It is like biodiesel-- a net loss in energy.

Friday, February 02, 2007

End of Week Recap

I biked every day, except Wednesday. It rained every day as well. Oddly, even if it is not raining at home in the morning, I have discovered that it will rain at some point during the commute. Tuesday I had the misfortune to see what appeared to be an accident in our neighborhood. I missed the actual incident, but it looked like a pedestrian had been hit and was still lying in the crosswalk. It took forever before I heard sirens. I hate seeing that sort of thing, no matter what the circumstances.

My boss is at our office in India. I am sitting this trip out. Usually his absence means that my "to do" list shrinks. This is not the case. In addition I need to prepare for our US trip in March. We will soon be hiring a VP of Sales in the US, which means I need a lift in job titles. Titles do not mean much to me-- but it looks like I will end up with something with the word "president" in it myself. It seems a little pretentious.

Julian had a good week-- until last night when it seemed he did not sleep at all. I still cannot believe how wonderful he is. He is noticeably heavier, has outgrown most of his newborn clothing, and is starting to smile. Some people suggest this is merely a reflex. I am convinced there is an advanced cognitive process that takes place- that he observes all the work everyone around him is doing- particularly his mother! He thinks to himself that all he has to do is scream, and someone feeds him. He can sleep all day, is waited on hand and foot (literally). He knows he does not even have to get up to go to the bathroom- he can pee and poop wherever he is. He knows what a cushy life he has-- and smiles, laughing inside at all of the rest of us. That is my theory, at least.

Today Lise had a doctor appointment, so she picked my up at work to watch Julian. The weather was beyond miserable, so I headed to a bakery downtown, near her doctor office. Before I could even take a bite of food, she phoned to say her appointment was done. It took all of four minutes-- in and out! In the US it could have taken an hour- although, to be fair, much of that hour consists of waiting. Waiting to sign in. Waiting to be seen. Waiting in your underwear in the exam room. Waiting for the doctor after the nurse takes your blood pressure. Waiting for the doctor to come back. Waiting for a lab. Maybe socialized medicine is not all that bad.

After the appointment, we headed to the immigration office to fix the typo on my residency visa. I found out that it expires early because my passport expires in May. At least I have an extra month. I also found out about the language requirement for permanent residency, and why I was confused. The law states that anyone who enters the country after Sept. 1, 2005 is required to take the classes. I entered on Novemeber 1 of that year-- after the date, which led me to believe I had to take the classes. But- my visa was issued in May of that year- before the date- and they go by the visa date, not the date that we actually moved here. At any rate, I am not complaining. She was the coolest immigration worker I have encountered in Norway.