Monday, December 29, 2008
There are several episodes available on youtube-- of Julian's favorite TV show. A fantastic review is available at Strange Harvest. While it is produced by the same crew that made Telletubbies, it is heaps better. Not that I advocate that two year olds watch too much TV--- but this is something quite unique.
Friday, December 26, 2008
What could be cooler than a pedal tractor? Every time we walk by one parked in our neighbors' yards, Julian want to play on it. Now, thanks to his uncle and grandparents, he has one of his own. Best of all, it isn't a John Deere (not that there is anything wrong with them--- it is just that everyone in our neighborhood rides them).
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I didn't really give it another thought, until tonight. After dinner, Julian was running around the kitchen with his spoon. He opened the silverware drawer and tossed it in. Everything suddenly made perfect sense.
Friday, December 05, 2008
There were quite a few people in the waiting room when I arrived. I never quite know what to expect with the Norwegian medical system. Last time I went to the doctor, a few years ago, I saw a different doctor--- who looked like she was seventeen. Eventually I was called back and given a blood test. After a brief wait the doctor saw me. He informed me that my white count was elevated, so I was definitely sick (in case I did not know). I wanted an antibiotic, but he said that it was likely viral. He could well be right, but this cold has lasted far too long. Normally a cold lasts a week at the most. I asked him about this, and he said that if I wasn't better next week I could come back. This seemed to ignore the fact that I have struggled with this for quite some time already. I wouldn't normally see the doctor for a cold. I didn't see the point of waiting a few more days. This is not a good time to be sick, with a very pregnant wife and a two year old at home.
So here is where it gets strange. He wrote out a prescription for Cosylan, a cough syrup with ethylmorphine, and he pretty much acted like I hit the jackpot to receive it. Apparently it is illegal to drive when taking it. I would have much preferred an antibiotic. I had the prescription filled-- it is a massive bottle-- 350 ml. I'll try anything at this point. Still, I don't see how this is better than possibly "abusing" an antibiotic.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I probably had as much fun as Julian. In many ways, life here is very different than where and when I grew up-- but sledding is a direct point of reference back to my own childhood. I still have very cool memories of my father taking me sledding. We used my the sled my father had as a child-- and despite how its weathered patina, we much preferred it to anything more modern. It was simply faster and could be steered better. Julian doesn't share the family sled, but sledding conditions are a bit different here-- so he has what is essentially the standard Norwegian sled (even though it is a Swedish brand). It is more than capable of handling the both of us. As he is not yet two, he can only copilot. Besides, he hasn't quite grasped the concept of steering and braking yet.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
We attended a Guy Fawkes celebration over the weekend. It was full of English expats. I had no idea how many lived around here. I also had no idea of who Guy Fawkes really was. Generally it is a good thing to have a holiday named after you--- unless you were Guy Fawkes. We had sparklers, snacks, and a bonfire with effigies of Guy and the pope--- capped off with fireworks. A splendid time was had by all.
Friday, October 31, 2008
I weighed my options: I could proceed to work--- paranoid about icing out at any moment, or head home and swap out my wheels. By the time I made it home, I opted to drive. Nothing appears to be broken, although my knee, hip, and shoulder hurt. No doctor's visit for me this time. I was lucky I crashed on ice--- it generally reduces road rash.
I commuted all winter last year, and thought I had a good handle on the weather and ice conditions. I didn't ride with studs until January. It isn't even November. I guess I won't make this mistake again.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
We have had a bit of flurries the past few days, so I dug our the mountain bike yesterday to commute to work. While heading down the hill, I thought the derailleur cable snapped, as it wouldn't shift at all. I was stuck in the lowest rear cog. I have exposed cables on the top tube, so I just grabbed it and held it to shift to a steeper gear--- otherwise it would have taken all day to bike to work. I must have been quite a sight.
Last night I picked up a new cable, and I started working on the bike. I needed to know which cable end to snip, which required me to see the old cable first. What was odd was the the cable was still stuck in the shifter. Having some sense about me--- which is rare when I am impatiently trying to fix this bike, I disassembled the shift mechanism. It was pretty much exploded on the inside. I could see that everything was loose--- that the nut holding it all together had come off. After an hour of messing around with tiny parts that rivaled the innards of a mechanical watch, I had everything back in working order. I am amazed how many parts have blown up on this bike. It really reinforces that fixed gear is the way to go--- when possible.
This morning it was below freezing. I was patting myself on the back for having the foresight to fix the mountain bike. The fixed commuter would have been no match for the heavy frost on the streets. My self-congratulatory tone was quickly shattered as I was sliding uncontrollably down our street. The frost was too thick for the knobby mountain bike tires. Usually there are no problems with frost when the temperature hovers around freezing. I opted for the bike path and a slow decent down our street. I watched as a woman crashed on the road-- riding a commuter bike in street clothes. On the path an old Norwegian woman told me I should be using studded tires. I would never hear a comment like that back in the US. I hobbled in to work, riding off-road as much as possible. It was a bit slick-- and the studded tires will be on next time. It is too early in the season for this!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
The days are much shorter now--- and I need lights to bike in the morning. Today it was right around zero when I woke up. Still, I rode my winter fixed gear--- with road slicks. During lunch I was discussing this with a coworker who commutes by bike. She is afraid to ride during these temperature, but I reassured her it needs to be a few degrees colder before the ground freezes. It will be a few months before I grab the studded tires on the mountain bike. The trouble with this time of year is we have two options--- cold/dry or wet/"warm." Today was dry and cloudless--- and cold.
In other news, I am not traveling to the US in November. I calculated my frequent flier miles, and I would have had 49,993 in total for the year---- just missing the next level of benefits. But it doesn't matter-- I am not going. I have two coworkers in the US who are more than capable. I will be quite content if I stay away from airports for the next several months--- like until the baby is born.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Saturday, October 04, 2008
I planned on giving myself an hour--- this would account for traffic and maybe getting a bit lost--- since it is illegal to bike through the tunnel or on the freeway (the normal route). This meant I would have to catch my usual route somewhere along the way--- the usual bike route. The bike route involves several roads that are for bus and bikes only--- so I am out of practice how to access them, and they are poorly marked. In other words, I need to take the back roads.
I ended up cutting it closer than I thought--- taking 53 minutes. Had I missed this ferry, the next one left about three hours later. I was a sweating, stinking mess when I arrived in Kvitsøy.
Given that we are having a very nasty storm, I will likely toss the bike in the back of the car and catch a ride home.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
During the day, the weather turned rainy--- and I had not brought my shoe covers. I don't believe I will take that risk again until May 2009.
Tomorrow I have to bike to the ferry landing on Merkjavik. Lise and Julian will already be out on Kvitsøy. I can never have a relaxing ride to catch the ferry--- no matter what I am in a terrible hurry. Last time I flatted on the way, and almost missed the boat.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Monday, September 29, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Eventually, the hand-me-down TV broke down and I purchased a new one. I quickly learned that modern TVs are completely ill-equipped to receive broadcasts, so I started up with cable, and have not been able to live without it since--- but that isn't really the point of the story. In the mid-90s I purchased a PC and of course had to have internet. With dial-up, things were rather slow, and in those days, the online community was mostly comprised of "early adopters." I don't recall much of the political process when Clinton was re-elected in 1996, other than he was rather uncontested. Of course, the economy was riding on the bubble fueled by the same technology that I had just bought into-- the internet.
I didn't take much of an interest in politics in 2000. I voted of course, but I never dreamed Bush would win the election. Even in 2000, my news window to the world was largely TV--- generally CNN. By the time 2004 rolled around, I was much more plugged-in to the online news world, and I watched almost no network TV. In many ways, I was out of touch with reality, as I saw very few political ads, and I tended to gravitate toward political views that closely reflected my own.
What is unique about 2008 is that not only is the internet something almost universally used, but youtube, political blogs, and news aggregation sites like fark and digg are very widely read. If you compare politics today to politics 10 or 20 years ago, in the past, there were gatekeepers to the media. A story wasn't really news unless it bore the stamp of one of the major networks. CNN broke ground during the first Gulf War to legitimize cable news, and of course Fox came along with their mostly editorial propaganda network to wild success--- while lowering the bar and blurring the lines between news and opinion. In the background, more and more political blogs emerged, resulting in the situation we have today. We have access to far more information than any other point in history. If I miss watching Sarah Palin's interview with Couric, I can watch it whenever I want on youtube. Every word McCain utters can be scrutinized for accuracy--- since every word is somehow recorded and magically shows up on the internet. Countless amateur "journalists" in their pajamas create a grassroots network that examines every angle of politics. No longer are we dependent on the arbiters of good taste and journalistic decorum. We have all become journalists. Anyone can leave a comment on their favorite right or left wing blog and "be heard."
This is not without its dark side. Despite all of the information at our disposal, nasty untruths are easily passed off as fact. A startlingly high percentage of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, for example. It involves nearly zero effort to fact-check this types of rumor. This leads me to believe that despite all the information out there--- or maybe because there is too much information--- people tend to believe what they want to believe. It is easy enough to find a source or community that supports any sort of belief.
Another dark side to technology is how we have access to all news everywhere in the world, and once information is in the wild, it cannot be reigned back in. Back in the early 90s there were all sorts of sci-fi writings about cyberwarfare. It seemed like a very abstract concept at the time. Now we have arrived. When Russia "invaded" Georgia, there was a cyberpropaganda war in place. Russia, accustomed to decades of existence in an insular "iron curtain" lost the battle. Some of the continental media coverage was at least partially open in reporting that Russia claimed a legal foundation for their actions, and that they were acting defensively. The US and UK media portrayed Russia as far more aggressive. But if there is one thing that past ten years have taught us, it is to be skeptical of the media. Left or right, nobody really seems to trust it, but rather filter it according to one's own beliefs.
We have more information than ever at our disposal, and yet have even less of a clue what to believe and what the truth is. Could a "group" like 9/11 "truthers" even exist without the internet? In the good old days, it seemed the three broadcast networks all led off with the same two or three stories in the national evening news. There was nothing to question.
The silver lining in all of this is that I have access to everything I need back home in the US. I have an 800 number where friends and family can call me--- on an IP phone (over the internet). We have email, and video calls with my parents--- again, over the internet. It isn't like 100 years ago--- leaving on a steam boat, crossing the Atlantic, and maybe sending a few letters, but otherwise never seeing family again. We are connected more than ever--- yet politically, I fear the US is more divided than it has ever been.
This situation is nearly hopeless, as it seems all brands pollute their pristine chocolates by introducing these synthetic bananas. Nidar? Are you reading this?
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Some people cannot wait for the weekend when at work. For me, it seems I never have enough time. I have been working like a madman to prepare from my London trip on Monday--- only to find out it was rescheduled yet again. I am not happy. This is the second time they have rescheduled, and the second set of flight tickets that are burned up. Flying to London is so cheap and easy from here that it is generally more economical purchasing cheap, non-refundable seats. On the other hand, if they are canceled twice, I might need to reconsider. But I am more bothered by my wasted time. I will be going sometime in the future--- a few months from now. So my next trip is to California in early November-- when the weather here is at its absolute worst.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Today we took a little boat trip around the islands. Kvitsøy is comprised of 365 islands in total. It was a bit chilly on the water, but at least it was not raining.
In the center of the photo, you can see scaffolding around the house we are fixing up.Kvitsøy has a very traditional-looking lighthouse--- very much a rarity around here. While there are several lighthouses in the region, most are more like a "light house"-- like a traditional looking house with an attached tower or turret for the light. This lighthouse is still functional.
There were a few fine sailboats docked downtown.
There are rock formations sticking out of the water all over the place. It is a bit tricky boating around here.
Massive shortwave radio antennaes--- broadcast all over the world. The anntanaes are on a revolving track, since their broadcast is directional.
To the left of the lighthouse is a harbor master station. This is like air traffic control for ships. They control all of the boat traffic in the region from here.
Off in the far distance you can see mountains. In Stavanger, we are too close to the mountains to be able to see them over the foothills-- so we just see the hills on the other side of the fjord where we live. The floating objects are part of a mussle farm, from what I have been told.
Downtown is rather quaint. I am almost convinced there is a law that all houses must be white.
Julian's great-grandfather's weatherbeaten boathouse.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
On a different note, I had a few glitches with my recent travel to Boston. I couldn't check-in online when I left Norway. At the airport, it turned out there was a "comment" on my case, and the agent had to phone KLM in Amsterdam. When I was in Boston, I was told I had to stop at the transfer station back in Amsterdam. This has happened once before--- no big deal. It usually just means that they couldn't book a seat at that time.
At the transfer area, I couldn't handle the transfer at the kiosk, so I entered the cattle queue. When my turn at the window finally arrived, the woman asked if I had any problems before. I recounted my issues in Norway, and asked what the problem was. She said my name was on a watch list. This makes no sense. For those of you who know my name, you know how absurdly common it is. Why would they not use something a bit more unique--- like a passport number? Oh well--- it is apparently only a problem for me in the Netherlands, and I made it home.
Random Brush with Fame
On the plane, a very tall, vaguely familiar looking woman was seated right in front of me. Then it suddenly occurred to me: it was Kathrine Maaseide. When I told Lise about seeing her on the plane, she said she was surprised I even knew who she was. I told her that she was wearing very low-cut jeans, and leaning over. I recognized her by the tattoo on her bum. A sad commentary, I know. But we are talking about Olympic beach volleyball.
Monday, September 08, 2008
When I arrived at my hotel, the cheap Hilton I always stay at, I experienced my newly elevated status as a Gold Elite Hilton member. This hotel room is embarrassingly huge--- larger than any apartment I ever had-- and it costs the same as a normal room. For my free perk, I chose internet access. They have an excellent breakfast buffet here, but I much prefer my spartan "breakfast" of a triple shot of espresso and maybe a scone at a coffee shop. Any breakfast involving cooked meats slows me down too much.
Tomorrow I head up to Maine for a meeting. Tuesday I relocate to a different hotel for an event we are sponsoring that lasts until Thursday. I then settle back in here and have a customer meeting on Friday. In the middle of all of this I am hiring a new person and am preparing for the following week's London trip. I return to Norway Friday evening. I will be home before I know it.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
The first interesting aspect of the appointment is that there is no hygienist. My appointment was strictly with the dentist. I began by giving him a brief rundown of my dental history (I still have all my wisdom teeth, for example). He took two X-rays---- thankfully only two. He then took a few photos of my fillings using some tiny dental camera. He then showed me the images on a monitor and explained that my old amalgam fillings were expanding, and would eventually crack the tooth entirely. The consequence of waiting until the tooth is cracked is that it can cost tens times as much money to treat. I needed three of the fillings replaced. The rest of the appointment was uneventful, and I scheduled an appointment in October to have them replaced, and paid for today's appointment.
Lise and I carpooled, since my office is on the way to the university and I was running late from the dentist. I started describing the appointment, and Lise could practically finish all my sentences. She referred me to him, and apparently he told her the same thing about one of her fillings. On one hand, it was a bit suspicious, but on the other, something is clearly going on with one of them, and amalgam fillings were recently banned in Norway.
I thought the dental camera was a bit unusual, and commented about it at work. None of my coworkers had seen such a thing before. I had never seen one in the US. The other notable difference between the US is that he did not advocate flossing as much as using a special kind of plastic toothpick. Anything is better than flossing, so I will give it a try.
Work was busy, as are most days leading up to a work trip. I leave for Boston Sunday. I found out later in the day that I am heading to London the Friday of the week I return. It seems like I was just there (in June). This should just be an overnight trip, as my meeting is in the morning. Other than that, my only other trip scheduled is to San Diego in early November. I should be able to see my parents during that trip.
After work we picked Julian up at the daycare. We dropped the car off at home first. We really want to keep him in the habit of walking home. When we arrived, he was sitting at a children's table with five other kids, all of them busy playing with crayons and markers. He seemed to ignore us--- looked like he was having a great time and was in no hurry to leave. Eventually we made it out of there and walked home. We played in the playground on the street until it began to rain heavily.
It feels like summer is over. It has been rainy the past few days. I normally hate driving to work, but it rained so much last night that my bike shoes were still wet. It is time to switch out to my winter riding setup--- which is mostly waterproof. It is raining again tonight, and I am sure it will be wet tomorrow in the morning.
I am writing this on my new laptop. I really needed one, as the new software we just released was crushing my old one. The new setup is much faster. Of course it is no easy feat moving everything to the new machine, and Windows Vista is a complete joke. But I was sick of working on XP for so many years--- I needed a little change.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Summer feels like it is almost over. It was almost cold when I rode to work on Friday. Wednesday I actually drove--- for the first time in recent memory. I took a half day off to be with Julian at the daycare. When I drove home after work, it was almost painful. Traffic was ridiculously slow--- all the way to the freeway, then on the freeway. I can literally bike in less time than driving. This time of year, schools are back in session and everyone is back to work. I am not missing anything by biking.
Friday night I hung out with a bunch of American expats--- the same group I met with in February. There is something nice about being around expats. It is a rather unique status. I would not otherwise be friends with any of these people.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
An interesting sidenote-- all the kids in his group have blond hair. Everyone but Julian has blue eyes.
Unlike in the US, daycare is practically run like a school here in Norway. It would be almost equivalent to home-schooling him if we did NOT send him. Ours in run by the city--- as are most. It was good to check the place out.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I believe this almost fits a purist's definition of "irony." My Polar S720I needed a new battery. I replaced the battery myself a year and a half ago. The trouble was that after so many battery changes, the screws were getting worn. I fired off an email to Polar and received a response from Polar Norway. They had no screw kits, which was unfortunate. The marketing value alone from selling a "screw kit" would be well worth their effort. They offered to change the battery for a fee. Not wanting to be without the monitor for a week for such a trivial task, I was reluctant, until I discovered they would do a full refurbish for around 500 nok. This included a new cover, case, band, and battery. Basically everything but the electronics, or so I was told. I nearly jotted down the serial number off the back of the case, until I realized I would never see the case again anyway.
Or would I?
Today I found an envelop in the mail. It was returned after nearly a week's absence. I checked it out. Sure enough, everything looked new. I examined that back--- same back cover, same serial number, same old screws.
Other than that, I truly looks new. Assuming it works OK, I must say, I am satisfied. Considering how much they cost new here in Norway, it is a bargain.
The other bit of news in the mail was an ominous looking envelop from the IRS. I had a particularly complicated tax situation in the US this year-- and even owed money, despite not have lived a day in the country. Contrary to what anyone would have you believe, nobody moves to Norway to live as a tax exile. Especially from a low tax nation like the US--- low relative to the socialist tendencies of northern Europe. This envelop was frighteningly thick. I actually opened it BEFORE the monitor envelop. All it turned out to be was a document I need to return indicating that I had lived in Norway the entire year. No big deal there. And I swear, we expats all receive "very special attention" form the IRS. All correspondence I have received from them since moving has been oddly personal in nature. I miss the good old EZ-days of form letters and filing by phone. Then again, we receive more of that then we might wish for in Norway--- where the government completes our tax forms for us, we sign and return. You would think the US could enact such laws.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
Zeke really was a good cat--- never caused any trouble. He had grown much more affectionate recently, and seemed to want to be around others the last few weeks. It was difficult to pet him because he was so bony. We knew something was wrong, but he gave no indication that he was uncomfortable or in pain. I thought this was part of the aging process for cats, but I guess it was more than that. I believe our other cat senses Zeke's absence.
I have never been through the loss of a pet before. Zeke lived a long life-- a rather pampered indoor existence. He was healthy up until recently. He lived an interesting life in two countries. He will be missed.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Monday, August 11, 2008
Yesterday I started rebuilding a rear singlespeed wheel for her using a beautiful vintage high flange Campy Record hub laced to a FIR rim. "Made in Italy" is the order of the day. It is always nice having spare parts lying around. Fortunately I had spokes that were the right length--- some nice DTs.
Tonight I fished the bike out of the shed. I did a quick google search on rust removal, and found all sorts of references to odd products and substances I had never heard. Further research indicated that hydrochloric acid was the active ingredient. Some down home advise suggested vinegar. That sounded much better than searching for some obscure wood bleaching agent. To my great chagrin, white vinegar worked just fine. The rust peeled off with a bit of finger nail rubbing. I gave the bike a full cleaning, and it looks better than new. It really is a sharp bike--- a lugged Centurian RS with a bunch of new components. I dropped a gear for her so she can more easily handle the hills. Before Julian arrived, we went on some epic rides, but it has been some time since she has ridden. Running single speed, she can coast down hill, so gearing isn't quite as crucial as on a fixed gear. This weekend I will take Julian in the trailer and we will have to try it out.
On a different note, I will be back in Boston in early September. My fun days of being at home will soon be over. I also have a trip to San Diego planned in November. Hopefully I can drop in and see my parents then.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
We have a full-size station wagon. It handles very well, drives like an actual car, and has a similar footprint to an SUV. It just doesn't sit as tall and is lighter (and thereby gets far better gas mileage). In the US, the wagon is all but dead, unless you consider the compact wagons like a Matrix. It seems to me that the minivan replaced the station wagon, and the SUV replaced the minivan as the family vehicle of choice.
When I was a kid, the station wagon was the ultimate in cool. Of course, we never had to wear a seatbelt, and we sat in rear facing seats way in the back (where it would be considered child neglect to place a kid today). But it was long before the minivan came around.
I hereby raise my glass in honor of the misunderstood, and largely ignored, humble, practical station wagon.
Monday, August 04, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Yesterday I took the day off from painting and went out on a real summer ride-- 2.5 hours on a loop to Høle. It is along Rv 13, dubiously described as "Route 66 of Rogaland." It is probably my favorite route, but it takes an hour of riding before it even becomes interesting. Then there is a massive hill, and then I am confronted with always forgetting how far it is back to civilization. Taking a Sunday ride on the last day of vacation for most people put me in the path of countless RVs-- many with German plates. But I have a special "thanks" reserved for the idiot who patiently waited to pass me, only to give me a half meter of road. I could have touched his RV. My guess is many of these are rentals. They are all white. At least they are not the American monstrosities with extended mirrors that eat cyclists. There was only a brief stretch of sketchy RV fodder-- the road leaving the ferry crossing at Lauvik. I didn't need much encouragement to turn off on the road less traveled--- knowing fell well it would be a long climb and no shortcut.
Did I mention that it was hot yesterday? At least 30. When I made it home, Julian was still napping. We fed him and headed to the beach at Sola. It was a circus trying to find parking. We ended up parking in a massive no parking zone, along with about a thousand other cars. No worries--- there are likely three police officers on duty in the entire metro region during summer holiday-- and on a Sunday. We met up with our neighbors. Julian had a blast, and I even made it into the water up to my ankles. Even on a warm day, the ocean in these parts makes Lake Superior seem tepid. I was pleased to see no jellyfish. There have been times where jellyfish are everywhere, and I didn't want Julian to have to deal with them. It was worth it to take the day off from painting.
Today the weather was the same hot, cloudless skies. I have essentially painted the entire house, if you don't count the fence in the back yard--- or the windows and doors. Tomorrow I will likely start on the second coat-- which should go much faster. I need to reload my iPod. I have inexplicably been listening to nothing but 80s classics, with a few 70s classics like ELO tossed in for good measure. It is probably the same music I was listening to last time I painted a house--- when I was a kid. I will have one hell of a sun tan by the time I am done. No one will believe I wasn't living at the beach these few weeks.