Tuesday, January 30, 2007

There Goes the Neighborhood

We live on a street that has maybe eight houses. Each houses is a side-by-side. Houses have one of two floor plans, depending on what side of the street they are on. The typography is the determining factor here. Our neighbor's house is for sale, two houses down- the same layout as ours with a few updates. It is selling for 1.2 million nok more than we paid for ours. OK, to be fair, they knocked out a few walls to open up the entire main floor. They extended the main bathroom into the laundry room. They added a few skylights in the loft. They have redone their floors. But it is the same house in the same neighborhood, with a lesser view.

I read in the paper yesterday that properties have been selling for a million nok more than the asking price. The neighbor's house was only 700k more than asking price. I am beginning to wonder how we were ever able to find our house. The real estate market around here is completely out of control. New development is so severely restricted and there are so few "affordable" houses on the market that buyers end up going nuts bidding on homes. It is probably a little slower when you get into houses costing a million US dollars and on up- but for your average family home, a one hour open house is all it takes. I wonder if the previous owners of our house feel like they gave it away.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Green Again

Friday I was stuck at work late, watching brief blizzard conditions. When i finally left, I ended up sliding down the hill, feeling the anti-lock feedback of the brake pedal, hoping silently that I would stop before I reached the intersection. The roads were very icy. As I headed up our hill, there were cars stuck, and cars behind them backing down in reverse. I was able to slip by and maintain my momentum to make it to our street. After some effort, I was able to clear the final hill and final corner to reach our garage. I must get the snow tires on soon!

Last night we took Julian in the carriage and went out to eat at Dolly Dimples, the only restaurant in walking distance. Their Italian pizza was quite good. It continued to snow as we walked home. The snow eventually turned to rain. By morning the temperature was maybe 8 or 9C, and there was no evidence of snow remaining. Everything is green again. We took Julian for a walk today, and contemplated which day cares to include in our application. We need to choose four. While it is almost a year away, the enrollment period closes in a few days. Of course, we cannot imagine leaving him anywhere, but we have months to sort this all out anyway. It is nice to make it home by 4pm and still see daylight. It almost smells like spring today. Lise thinks winter is over- after almost a week. Of course now it is raining again-- which is even worse. At least the weather here always gives me something to complain about.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Disappearing Snow

Yesterday afternoon the temperature poked above freezing, and I rode home through a slushy mess. I was stuck at work late as we met with one of the consultants we had worked with in the US. At least work was finished for me around 5pm. I had the option of attending an event that tried to match local venture capitalists with technologies in need of investors. I have been working that angle from the US, and decided that I would rather be home.

I decided that riding in slush is worse than riding on ice or snow. The traction isn't as good. Also, my back has been sore lately, likely from paying extra attention to weight distribution as I ride up and down hills. It generally doesn't make much sense to stand while riding, since it tends to unload the rear wheel. I have also been fighting off a cold. These factors all collided to point to one conclusion: I would drive to work today. My guilt quickly melted as it started to rain. Rain at 3C is no time to be riding if it can be avoided. Besides, I have ridden enough for one week.

Today I must finalize travel plans to Manchester, Stockholm, Prague, and San Francisco for a series of events we will be sponsoring. This has thrown my passport renewal into limbo, since Manchester is in four weeks. My plan B is to re-apply when my parents arrive in May-- that will knock one month off from any foreign travel. I am not looking forward to being away from Julian. I guess that is a good sign. I even feel like I need to rid myself away to leave for work in the morning. He looks too ridiculously cute for words when he is sleeping in the morning. Each day there is something subtle and new about him. Now he is beginning to smile, and his eyelashes are gradually growing in. I would hate to miss something while I was away.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Winter Commute

This morning I had a mild interruption to my routine that interfered with my checking behaviors. I was so bundled up that I was five minutes from home before I realized I had forgotten a minor detail--- my helmet. On any other day, I might have considered skipping it, but there was even more snow and ice than the previous day. I conjured up memories of previous crashes, and returned home to pick it up. It was not worth saving ten minutes. Of course I made it round trip without a mishap, but you never know.

This evening I left my laptop at work so I could put the tires through their paces without worrying about crashing-- or at least not destroying the laptop.
This is the lovely changing facility that I use. There is a coed locker room near the workout room, but it is completely occupied. I actually prefer this dungeon environment, as it allows me to hang my clothes up to dry wherever I feel like. Nobody uses it-- at least not often. Sometimes a stinky guy hangs his clothes there-- clothes that smell, not him. It is nauseating to smell whatever it is, but I digress. These snowy days leave me with free reign of the place. We have showers, by the way, in the fallout shelter. No, seriously. They are decent, although the place still smells funny from a fire that started in the sauna.
The view from the bike parking lot. They went a little nuts with the sand last night.
Through the forest. I can make it home without touching more than a few meters of pavement if I choose.
It stayed cold all day, and the snow stuck to the trees.
OK, there is a little more pavement under the icy tire tracks. It leads to a pasture bike route.

It is getting darker. Some days I take this back road home. Today I headed up the hill off road.
It still grows dark quite early. There is a gravel path beneath the snow. There were kids sledding everywhere in the darkness ahead.

I have decided that I like snow biking better than rain biking. I stay dry. I tried skidding a few times, but the studs really dig in, and I probably have better stopping than in normal conditions. After all, loose gravel, slippery rocks and roots, and dirt do not offer the best traction to begin with. It really is not very cold out either. And best of all, it is a better workout. Living in Minnesota has proven to be a huge missed opportunity for snow biking. I guess we can always move up north to Finmark.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Studded Tires

My boss suggested throughout the day that he drive me home after work. I suggested that I biked by choice. Some people just don't get it. I have other options. I could even attempt to drive in this mess. Actually, it is very generous that people offer to go so far out their way to help. He has even offered to loan me an extra car that he doesn't use in the past. Granted, the road conditions were a little extreme. I guess it is the thought that counts, and maybe I am a little crazy.

After work I was struggling with my Kryptonite U-lock. I leave my regular lock at work, around a beam. Today it was completely frozen stuck. I had to use the back-up Kryptonite that was also stuck. Somehow I managed to open it in the morning, and it was something of a struggle to liberate my bike in the evening. While I was fussing with it, another intrepid cyclist prepared to leave. He didn't even lock his bike-- out of the few bikes that made it in today, I was the only one who locked up. I eyed his studded tires-- some basic commuter tires with a few studs. He was staring at my Extremes. I couldn't tell if he was curious, envious, or thought I was a nutjob for requiring so many studs. Then again, they are called Extreme for a reason.

I took off across the glare ice parking lot. It defies logic that I can bike across something that I could not even walk on without falling down. It still stresses me out and freaks me out that the physics of this even work. Ice is to be avoided at all costs. These things thrive on ice. I left the lot and headed through the woods. I discovered a new way home across a pasture, since I could follow other bicycle tracks. I made it all the way home without stopping, including the hill behind our house that should be called "the slide." My neighbor was playing with her son in the street. She commented how dangerous it was to bike on this ice. I still can't believe it is possible to bike on this. Tonight it is still snowing. It should be another interesting morning.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith- Mini Review

As Lise was heading out to run some errands this weekend, I impulsively suggested that she pick up a movie rental at Statoil down the street. As you may imagine, a gas station with a socialist-inspired name might not exactly have the greatest selection- which it doesn't. When she returned, I asked her what she picked up. She said "I don't think you will like it" as she tossed my the DVD case. Upon seeing her selection, I suggested that she made a great choice.

There are three essential ingredients to a good movie, as I have noted elsewhere. They are, in no particular order, machine guns, helicopters and explosions. Machine guns appear throughout Mr. and Mrs. Smith. I recall at least two good explosions. I was a little unsure if this was going to be a great movie, since it took well over an hour before the helicopter appeared, but it was definitely there. This film delivers on all three counts. Three thumbs up.

Not Lost in Translation

Just when I think my ears are deceiving me, or that I am missing some key word in deciphering Norwegian, I realize that news bit really was about dogs with allergies-- particularly cat allergies. I wonder if they can be allergic to people.

Ice Bike

I made it to work today with no broken bones. This was the first ride on studded tires. I was actually more worried about wrecking my laptop in a crash than anything else. Bones heal, after all. It is completely counterintuitive to ride across glare ice on a bike-- at least coming from the road bike world.

The temperature was in the 20s-- the coldest we have seen this winter. I worn snowboarding gloves, which were probably a little much. I was on the edge of overheating wearing a base layer, long sleeve jersey, and a light winter jacket. I think the psychology of Celsius indicating anything below freezing as being less than zero messes with my head. The ambient light reflecting off the snow helped illuminate the usually dark woods. My only concern was staying on the trail, but no matter where I went, someone already had biked there, so it was just a matter of following the existing tracks.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I walked up the hill in our backyard. It is so steep and icy that the school children could barely make it in their boots. Other than that, my only other concerns were staying out of ice ruts. When I made it to work, I hadn't set any speed records, but I made it in one piece. The parking lot was a skating rink. I was mildly embarrassed to see (only) three other bikes already parked-- none of which had studded tires. Those people are nuts.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


We spent the day with Julian's grandparents on Kvitsøy. The day started out with wonderful sunny weather, but it eventually turned to rain, then wind, then wind and snow. Snow never seems to stick on Kvitsøy, the way it hangs out in the sea. As we headed home and left from the ferry landing, the snow became thicker and thicker. I had a flashback to the man changing to his winter tires in the parking lot down at Statoil earlier in the day. This guy must have watched the forecast. My worst fear was that we would not make it up the hill by our house.

As we drove home, we managed the main street hill with relative ease. My concern was taking the sharp narrow corner, where inevitably would be almost impassible on a good day with the neighbors who park illegally on the street. The grade was too much, having lost speed to make the corner, and the rear-wheel drive German technology with an anti-slip rear was just no match for the conditions. I was stuck in less than 2cm of snow. I backed down the hill to the street, and tried my luck further up the hill to the second entrance to our street. Technically it was not a through street from the other end, but these were not normal circumstances. Again, after turning it, I could not make it up the hill.

I let Lise and Julian off to walk to our house, and found a spot on the street to park-- legally. I am at the point where I am ready to change the wheels myself- since the tires are already mounted. I only wish I had a proper floor jack. Of course, this means that tomorrow, traffic will be a nightmare if I chose to drive. Tomorrow will be the inaugural voyage on the Nokians. I cannot bear the thought of taking the bus.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

More Wind

This is actual miles per hour, not kph. I had hopes of getting out for a ride today, but might reconsider.

Friday, January 19, 2007


I finally got around to it. I have been sitting on a goldmine for years: the filtersweep.com domain name. Rather than selling out and letting it go for six or seven figures- as surely it would fetch on the open market, I am using it for far less nefarious purposes. We'll just have to see what google metrics thinks of all this madness.

Freezing Today

It finally dipped below zero. There was a thick layer of slippery frost over the street and sidewalk. I was lazy and drove to work.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lost My Mind

The last two days I have resumed biking to work. It was a nice tough to be on new wheels and fresh rubber. I was worried that I was spoiled from driving the first few weeks of January, but I quickly readjusted. The past two days, the weather has been very close to freezing, and rainy all day. For some reason, it doesn't bother me in the least. I purchased a Helly Hansen base layer with a gift card from work. It really is no warmer than any of the other base layers, but it is new-- like the wheels and tires. New is better? I haven't been cold at all. Actually, I overheat from my cheap (non-breathable) rain gear. I am beginning to wonder if we will ever see snow here.

Tonight there was hail and high winds during a stretch of the commute home. I felt like my nose was going to be ripped off my face as the sharp ice blasted away at it. I started taking a new route to and from work-- almost entirely off-road and off-pavement. Granted I have to ride through a dark forest and across a muddy pasture, but it is far more interesting than taking the back road by the potato fields.

I guess I am surprised how well I have adjusted to the weather.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Video Star

I won't sink to the depths of doting new parenthood by posting videos on the web of Julian sleeping, but it is pretty cool being able to share him on video with my parents back in the US. Communication is extremely easy these days. I still cannot believe how cheap and easy it is to have a US 800-number in our home. I remember as a child what a huge deal it was when someone called long distance-- and international calls were almost unheard of. Sound quality was terrible- people literally sounded far away. With the internet, I have virtually free video calls to anywhere in the world. Still, it is not the same as being there.

I have an idea that I will end up having much more insight into my own parents. It is strange to imagine that my parents looked at me the way we look at Julian. I believe it will make me a better son, somehow. It is ridiculously humbling to imagine starting out life that way, and yet we all did.

Four Weeks

Yesterday Julian turned four weeks old. Four weeks! Funny how time is relative- the last four weeks of Lise's pregnancy were possibly the slowest four weeks of my life. Actually, that is less a reflection on her, and more about how much we looked forward to meeting him.

Things I have learned in the last four weeks
Newborn poo doesn't stink. It smells more like bread. Of course, as Lise pointed out, he really poops what she actually eats. Apparently, he is entering a period where he will only poo once per week. I have yet to see it. The thing is, I would be crying non-stop if I only went once weekly.

Made in France
His diapers are made in France-- just like my bike tires. Yesterday we purchased what I joking refer to as a "diaper machine." No- it doesn't change him automatically, but it individually wraps each dirty diaper so the bathroom doesn't stink. Well, maybe not stink, exactly--- but I never claimed it was odorless.

Adult Faces
Lise and I have both observed this phenomenon: after looking at Julian all day, our own faces appear to be huge. Lise's nose, eyes, lips-- even her head, suddenly appear to be disproportionately large. Again, the theory of relativity at work.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Random Thoughts

My brother has a blog. This was quite an accidental discovery. I would link to it, but unfortunately, it is quite dead. This is my petition to revive it. He is quite dry and witty, and has had a series of jobs that gives him a unique insight into human behavior. He is now starting a new federal job, so it could be a sensitive issue to share too much of his "insights." I am sure he is also going to be ridiculously busy getting settled in.

I also discovered a blog by a former coworker from the US. She is Swedish, and her husband from the US. They relocated to Sweden about a year ago. It is interesting reading about similar experiences in adjusting to living in another country.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mild Winter

It turns out that little bit of wind we had was from a major storm. Somehow, it was classified as a hurricane, and even had its own name, "Per." It disrupted trains when trees fell on their power lines-- they are electric around here.

I received new wheels for Christmas so I could run studded tires on the "old" wheelset. They are a little flashy, but the price was right. Originally I planned to buy a wheelset that I could destroy in the salt and slush--- if it ever arrives. But then I thought it made more sense to use the stock wheels for the nasty stuff. These were 2006 Mavics that were drastically reduced- something I seldom see in local bike shops.
I had to purchase an extra set of disc rotors. I found a great deal from a mail order shop out of the UK. It was such a good deal that I ordered an extra cassette as well. When the order arrived, I owed something like 200nok in VAT! I am quite sure I was even paying tax on the postage, since it ended up being about a third of the total price. It was COD for the tax at the post office- so I had no choice. Suddenly this was not such a great deal. After lamenting about this at work, my coworkers explained that I should have placed a series of separate orders to remain under the tax threshold. I threw some new tires on as well- the old ones were a mess, and I practically ruined the rear with that flat on my last commute.
These are the ultimate studded tires (below): Nokian Extreme 296-- featuring, uh, 296 carbide studs. Of course there is no point using them on dry pavement. I haven't seen any snow or ice yet this year. We actually have a crocus poppin up in our flower bed by the front door. It almost smelled like spring when we took a walk with Julian today.

Inspiration: I didn't race much last year, and I don't feel like I am in very good shape these days (in the dead of winter), so I redecorated the worksop for a bit of inspiration.

A Little Wind

I think I figured out why everyone has tile roofs around here.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Passport Woes

I need to renew my passport. My first challenge is finding an open window when I don't need it. I will be returning to the US sometime in March for work, and might need to go for a few days before then. I am doing everything I can to avoid traveling right now. I should renew the passport before I renew my visas. Of course, as soon as I renew it, I will also need a new visa to India, and that was a fiasco that last time.

The US embassy here is very strange. If I travel to Oslo, I can pay in kroner. If I mail it in, I must pay in cash--- in US currency. Either way, could they make it more inconvenient? I have a little US cash lying around.


I have thought about making a few new entries, but things have been very busy, as you may imagine. Unfortunately, work has been busier than I would have liked. I have had to develop a training curriculum for our India office while following -up our US trip. I felt guilty returning to work. Julian is too cool, and it seems wrong to spend time away from him. On the other hand, we still need to put food on the table. I have tried doing a little work from home, but he is too much of a distraction-- not that he requires so much attention, but rather because I could just look at him all day, even if he is only sleeping.

I am amazed by how quickly we have adjusted. It seems like we have always had him, that he has always been a part of our lives--- when in fact he is coming up on four weeks old. Even that is a strange concept. I can't believe it is four weeks already-- it seems he was just born. Already his smallest clothes are becoming a little too tight.

I fear that I will start sounding like a blithering new parent. Everything we are going through is what every new parent experiences. But like the pregnancy, and birth, everything carries more significance when it involves us personally. It has also heightened my sensitivity to these issues in others. For example, a coworker is expecting in June, and I remembered the exact due date. Normally, with my Y-chromosome, I couldn't even remember the gender of a coworker's baby after the birth, and you can forget about me having any clue as to the weight or any other details.

I drove to work all week. The weather has been terrible here, but still, no snow. Yesterday it was warmer here than in Venice or Mallorca-- althought the rain was "falling" horizontally. Next week I should start biking. I have the Nokian Extremes ready to roll, but with global warming, or whatever it is, I probably won't need them this year.

We are borrowing a digital camera. Our Canon has the dreaded E18 error. I had never heard of it until doing a google search. Apparently, Canon should name this model the E18. The lens is stuck open, and it is useless. Completely annoying.