Saturday, January 31, 2009

Limping to work

Since my shifter I broken, I can only ride in the lowest gear in the rear. I have been taking the hilliest route possible to work this week, since I either am riding up steep hills, or coasting down. It is less frustrating than taking a flatter route. Coincidentally, this is the same route where my shifter exploded. I have been obsessed with finding it. Fortunately we have ever-growing daylight. My efforts were rewarded yesterday when I found it on my way home. I don't know what I will do with it-- maybe patch the shifter up until the one I ordered arrives.

I am frustrated with the bozos at Chain Reaction cycle. I emailed them along with my order reminding them specifically not to include shipping in the customs declaration-- otherwise I will pay a massive duty due to bizarre laws in Norway. Shipping places the order above 200 kr. I received a reply stating they cannot lie on a customs form. I am not asking them to lie. I am reminding them on the regulations--- something that is occasionally missed by ham-fisted web retailers. I will not be happy if I end up paying the post office on this one. And that is the trouble. Kiwi-- our version of the "Kwik-E-Mart" serves as our local post office. Throughout Christmas they struggled to find our packages. These folks are not people to negotiate with about improperly marked customs forms.

Friday, January 30, 2009



This animation pretty much captures the manic effort involved with Julian's new found affinity for dressing himself.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Exploded shifter

This morning I opted to ride to work entirely off-road. It is a rather byzantine route, through a forest, around the NATO base, up a hill, across a farmer's field, down a service road, across more fields, and through the woods. As I was tearing down the service road in the predawn hour, I was vaguely aware that I really couldn't see where I was riding. At that moment, my entire rear shifter fell apart. I skidded to a stop and begin a frustrating search for the shift lever. Eventually I found it in the dirt and gravel. I resumed my commute in my lowest gear-- the default. It was a long ride in.

This evening I went down to reassemble the watch-like parts yet again. When I started lining up the lever, I noticed I had nothing to line it up with. Both levers had fallen off. I only searched for one. There would be no rebuild. It is below freezing-- I need this bike with the studded tires tomorrow. Looks like I will be limping in again.

I consulted my online options. I had no hope that a local bike shop would sell a lone rear shifter, and it was a good time to upgrade anyway. This shifter never really worked as advertised-- or perhaps I am spoiled by my crisp Dura Ace performance. I consulted a duty-free Swedish online shop. It would cost a small fortune-- like 700kr for a set. I checked my UK connection--- 191 kr--- beneath the 200kr threshold. Duty free for me. Paying the COD and import duty would nearly double the price. Let's hope they don't include shipping in the customs declaration.

It will be a rough week or so riding in on a "3-speed" mountain bike--- but I figure I could be dispatched to the hospital any day now. Julian should have a sister any day now.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Random Kvitsøy Photos

It was a clear day today-- windy, a bit cold, but sunshine.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Party

We attended a local inauguration party. The place was crawling with media. I saw a camera crew from NRK, radio from NRK, and both local papers. Julian charmed one of the newspaper photographers, and ended up in one of the local papers.

DIY Auto Repair

Yesterday Lise was downtown and called me to say the car would not start. We encountered the same issue a few weeks ago in Kvitsøy, but it appeared to be an isolated incident. Now I knew it needed a new battery. She asked if she should call for a tow. I said I would be there ASAP with a new battery. I couldn't bear the thought of paying a thousand dollars for a dealer to fix it. I have no idea what it would actually cost, but I imagine a tow in Norway and a battery would cost close to that amount.

A coworker was kind enough to drive me. We stopped by a parts store and picked up a battery for 1500 kr--- more than $200. I thought that was a bit steep for a battery, but remembered how much I was saving. We found the car downtown, and I set about removing the old battery. It was in the car, accessed through the rear hatch above the wheel well. I have never seen a battery so well attached. My crecent wrench was no match, so I had to make another errand to pick up a socket set. By the time I returned, Lise had convinced a building contractor to crawl back there and remove the battery clamp. And I mean crawl. With the battery disconnected, the hatch would no longer open. Crazy BMW.

I finally managed to swap out the battery, and the new one was a perfect fit--- I mean it was the identical size. This often is not the case with replacement batteries-- so I was feeling like it maybe was worth the price. As I replaced it, I noticed a small tube passing through the fender well. I assumed it was some sort of vent. When I returned home I did a bit of research, and realized I needed to connect the tube to the battery itself--- as it vents off the explosive hydrogen gas that is a byproduct of the recharging process. I can see the advantage that it is easy to change, and it stays clean, but I have no idea what was ever wrong with keeping it under the hood.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

There goes the neighborhood

There is talk of building Norway's tallest buildings down the hill from where we live. I will believe it when I see it. I am all for it. There is nothing historical about the area--- it all was underwater at one time. Many years ago they drained it. People stood on the shores with baskets, waiting to pick up all the fish. They didn't realize it would take days if not weeks to empty.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Maintenance Weekend

We are in the dead of winter-- rain, rain, and more rain. Late last week I noticed my rear tire wasn't holding air, my bike wasn't shifting so well, and the front brake was a bit weak. I expected I would need to replace the pads (for a disc setup), but it turned out the fluid reservoir was missing a screw, and I was leaking fluid. Topping it off fixed the problem, but I will need to find a new screw somehow. The rear tire turned out to have a leak from an old patch, so I patched the patch. We will see how well that works out. I disassembled the shift mechanism and gave it a quick fix. I really should replace the entire shifter, but at least I can use it now. It has a bad spring. Commuting is hell for bikes.

Of course this morning it was quite warm. Very windy, but warm. I rode the regular wheel set, rather than the studs. What a difference that made. I just need to make sure I replace the winter wheels before it is too late and I crash on some ice again.

Julian ran a fever over the weekend, and wasn't quite himself. So far this is the worst thing about being a parent--- dealing with him when he is sick. It is not that he is so difficult to handle, but rather that there is so little that we can do to make him comfortable. We managed, and he was better by Sunday and went to daycare today. I picked him up, and found him and a bunch of other two year olds all sitting around a table with Play-Doh. He wasn't too motivated to leave.

Other than that, I am starting to feel like we are just waiting for the baby to come. We are almost at the point were it could be anytime. This week we have our meeting at the hospital-- but it seems like we just had Julian's meeting, and I doubt there is anything new. This time we have the added dimension of having someone take care of Julian during the birth. Overall, we are quite ready.

Monday, January 05, 2009

-10 C Commute

Back to work, back to biking. My morning routine turned into a harsh reality as it was ten below this morning. It looked like it had snowed, the frost was so thick. But -10C really is not that cold. If I were back in Minneapolis, it could just was well be -10 F. Tomorrow it should be a balmy +3.

Saturday, January 03, 2009


Do any stores these days actually sell furniture? Or has IKEA made it acceptable to build everything yourself?

We are getting ready for the new addition of the family, and are working on getting more organized. Rather than opting for IKEA right out of the gates, we went to Skeidar to shop for a dresser to use in the entry way to keep hats, gloves, keys, etc. orderly. We found the perfect item, and picked it up at the loading dock--- in two flat boxes. It was quite a drawn out process to assemble a dresser. Each drawer needed to be put together, as did the dresser itself. Unlike an IKEA item, this actually came with its own glue. At any rate, it is solid and assembled.

We next needed a closet for Julian's room. I tore out the old closet when I put in the new floor. We checked a holiday sale at Living, but the small "wardrobes" were very poorly constructed. IKEA had them beat in terms of quality, so we spec'ed out what we needed at the "showroom" and headed to warehouse to pick up the boxes. IKEAs own product list was badly mismarked. It took us a bit of discussion to figure out that the list we were given was meaningless. Nonetheless, we found what we needed. We also picked up a storage chest for Julian's toys. Somehow we managed to load everything into our station wagon and drive home--- with the hatch closed. Sure the steering wheel was touching my chest, and I almost needed to phone the fire department to be extracted from the vehicle. But we made it. Our neighbor helped me unload the closet frame-- the box literally weighed 100 pounds.

Assembling the closet went more quickly than assembling the dresser. Of course Julian only wanted to play IN the closet while I was putting it together. Now his room in complete. Well, almost complete. We conveniently omitted installing the handles to the closet door, so as of now, it is childproof.

World's Best Pizza Recipe Revisited

A little more than a year ago I posted a pizza recipe that has since been modified, and in many ways simplified. For an executive summary of the changes, it no longer involves refrigerating the crust, and the sauce no longer uses tapenade.


2 cups of flour (heaping, this isn't rocket science)
7 oz cold water
25 g active yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Olive oil

I use 25g of fresh yeast. Around here, it comes in a cube. I drop it in about 7 ounces of water. Mash up the yeast so it is mixed into the water. Add a tsp of salt and sugar. In a grand mixer with a dough hook, add a bit more than 2 cups of flour. Coat the hook in olive oil. Add a tsp of olive oil to the water mixture. Turn the mixer to its slow speed.

Mix until the dough clears the sides of the mixing bowl. It will most likely end up as a big lump of dough. If too much of the dough is sticking to the bowl, you probably need to add a bit more flour. The key is to keep it in one, cohesive, elastic mass.

Once you are satisfied that it is elastic, but not too wet or dry---sprinkle a bit of flour into the bottom of a bowl, place the ball of dough into the bowl, pour a spoon of olive oil on top of the dough, cover with a clean dish towel, and let rise.

3 or 4 fresh vine-on tomatoes
1 clove garlic
2 tsp plain pesto

Dice two tomatoes-- and choose tomatoes with flavor-- not the watery cheap ones. Press the clove of garlic. Place into a bowl. Add the pesto and a bit of salt and pepper. Mix well with a spoon. Place in refrigerator until needed.

Prosciutto (sliced-- enough to cover pizza)
Ruccula (cut up)
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese

The toppings are not an exact science, but this is my favorite. Preheat the oven for almost as hot as possible. A hot oven will yield a better crust. Use a light coating of olive oil on your pizza pan, and sprinkle lightly with flour to avoid sticking. Stretch the dough in pan. Spread sauce on the dough and grate a little Parmesan cheese. Evenly spread prosciutto. Apply ruccula. Top with mozzarella, taking care not to drown the pizza cheese. Place pizza in oven, on one of the lower racks. Bake for 7 minutes. After seven minutes, check the pizza. Take care not to overcook the crust. When it is finished, remove from the oven and let it set up for two minutes before cutting. Eat.

All sorts of oven temperatures can yield good results. For a chewier crust, cook at a lower temperature and on a rack toward the middle of the oven. Also, the amount of topping will affect cooking times, as will the thickness of the crust. The hot oven technique is not recommended for thick pizzas.