Tuesday, December 25, 2007


It is Christmas and we are on Kvitsøy. The weather was terrible yesterday, but it hardly mattered. We spent the day indoors with food and opening gifts until all hours of the night.

Julian received and amazing assortment of toys, clothing-- even children's furniture. Toys today are mostly made of plastic, and his have motorized wheels, buttons that light up, and play songs or speak. Everything makes noise. Everything requires batteries.

We all agreed that at one year old, he has more toys than any of us had during our entire childhoods. It really made me think about all the people in the world who cannot even meet their most basic needs. My wife's brother said it well: "Being born in Norway is like winning the lottery."

It is rare to truly appreciate what we have. Speaking for myself, I tend to take it for granted-- after all, I am not surrounded by extremes from the other end of the spectrum. In a few weeks I will be heading back to India-- where the extremes are overwhelming to the point that they are desensitizing. What a different world Julian is growing up in--- and what a different world than my own-- decades ago. I really hope that we do not spoil him, and that he will learn the value of what he has. On the other hand, is it even possible to spoil a one year old?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


birthday1 057, originally uploaded by filtersweep.

Lise went a little crazy with the birthday cake last night.

Birthday Photo

birthday1 072, originally uploaded by filtersweep.

Julian turned one today. I cannot believe how quickly the time has passed.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


It took a little over two years on living in Norway before being served lutefisk-- at this case at the company Christmas party. It was one of several buffet offerings, and I had to try it. It was quite edible, and didn't come close to living up to its reputation as a horrible food. It is a salty cod with a very strange texture. It was served with bacon, so it tasted like.... bacon. I wouldn't go out of my way to buy it, but I would eat it again if it were served to me.

It really does not deserve its infamous reputation, unless Americans do not know how to prepare it properly.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Customs/ VAT

Public service message to everyone sending gifts from abroad: the limit for customs/VAT is 200nok in Norway. This means that if a company ships a package with a declared value above 200nok (about $40USD), I will need to pay a good chunk of money to pick up the parcel. I have no idea exactly how it works. It seems to add about 60% to the price. I believe there is a 25% VAT and maybe an equal amount of fee for the COD service. I recently received a package from Amazon that was valued at approximately $60, and it cost an extra $36 to extract it from the post office. If this were shipped as two separate packages, I would have paid zero fees--- and maybe $10 in extra postage. Or, if someone would have reshipped the package for me, and declared its value at 199nok, there would have been no extra fees (although who knows how much shipping could cost).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ice, Ice, Baby

This morning I woke up to the aftermath of some sort of ice storm--- ice everywhere. I could have skated to work. I tossed on the studded wheels and headed to work. A kilometer or so from home, I thought I dropped my chain--- but it actually BROKE. I had to hobble home on ice in my bike shoes. On examination I bent one of the plates. I can only attribute this to my massive strength, as this is my light-use mountain bike. I removed two links and put in a new pin and was on my way. I had no alternatives--- there was no way I was driving on this.

I only saw two other cyclists this morning... both walking their bikes (and it appeared their chains were intact). It was treacherous even with studs on some of the hills--- which are very steep-- but I made it in one piece. It still amazes me that I can bike across glare ice--- people were falling down walking.