Sunday, September 30, 2007

Trampolines

We'd noticed many trampolines in Trondheim yards, but it wasn't until we were up in the Tyholt tower that I really appreciated just how many trampolines there are. Here is one block... if you look closely you'll see that more than half of the houses have trampolines!


Click on this photo to see the really BIG enlarged version. I found 11 trampolines. How many can you find?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Grandma and Bumpa


Pam's mom and stepdad arrived today, after a one day airline delay due to thunderstorms. Grandma Ann and "Bumpa", as the kids call him, took the family out to eat at the Tårnet Egon, the restaurant on the Tyholt Tower (Tyholt Tårnet) that Pam and I went to on her birthday. I spent 15 minutes on video-link watching the kids play with the new toys Grandma and Bumpa brought them.

Back in the USA, I went to a Styx/Foreigner/Def Leppard concert last night (like a reunion for aging rockers) in Seattle. As we drove by downtown on the way to the venue, I admired, as always, Seattle's Space Needle. Built in the 60's, the Needle is still modern-looking and totally deilig (delicious). While Space Needle is arguably more beautiful than the Tyholt Tårnet, Trondheim's Needle has already garnered a special place in my heart. The Needle belongs to Seattle, but the Tårnet is ours.

How many cities, I wonder, have their own Space Needles, and does every one of them come with a revolving restaurant?


Monday, September 24, 2007

Update on Dora

A couple of posts back, I wrote about my fascination with the grittiness of the downtown dock area and the neighborhood across the street. Allan sends me some information on this area -- it removes some of the mystery but compensates by increasing the weirdness:

"The industrial site that is the Bowling Alley, is called Dora, and was built by the Germans as a submarine docking station. It is open to the fjord on the other end, and subs can go in under water. It has such thick reinforced concrete that it was impossible to remove after the war, as much as everyone wanted to. Now it is protected as a historical site, and Trondheim is trying to use it in effective ways. It is a very awkward place.

"[The building you thought may be a nightclub] is a building of punks as you say, but not a night club. The area has its own name "Svartlamoen" meaning Black Lademoen. (Lademoen is the part of town nearby that is not so gritty.) It is the Height Ashbury of Trondheim, and was the scene of much political strife. It was intended to be torn down and rebuilt by developers, but the punks put a stop to all the plans after several years of protests and sabotage. People came all the way from Denmark to be along in the campaign. Well known artists painted building walls, that were meant to be torn down, to keep them from being torn down."

In the picture here, Dora is the massive building whose corner you can see in the upper right (called the "kultur bunker"), and the triangular neighborhood is this historic district of Svartlamoen. Thanks Allan!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Geology Day Downton

The wild weather continues, and after a visit to the Science Museum we walk to the central court in town where stands the Torg. The Trondheim Torg is a soaring granite tower. Standing atop is Olav Tryggvason, the Viking founder of Trondheim who died trying to unite all of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

In the square today was a village of canopies. We ducked inside from the rain and found ourselves learning about how oil is discovered and what the oil-saturated stone looks like, and then about the different kinds of marble in Finnmark and the unusual underwater globulous formations of minerals. It is Geology Day, and we make off with T-shirts, keychains, pens, and samples of the beautiful varieties of stone native to Norway.


Running back to car in the rain, we walk past pedistrian alley businesses and a vibrant indoor mall.

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The kids loved this statue of Hjalmar Andersen, 5 time world record holder and winner of 3 gold medals in the 1952 winter olympics, beloved native of Trondheim.

(When I first wrote this post, I spelled his last name "Anderson"... a big no-no as my Norwegian friends pointed out! Spelling it with an -on is the Swedish way to spell the name. Sweden and Norway have an ancient rivalry, and while it is now friendly, the rivalry stretches back a thousand years, most of which was not friendly at all!)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bike Tire Trouble

Anna came in last week to report she found a pin in her tire, and when she pulled it out it made a "blowing sound." Here's the pin, stuck right in the side of the tire, and exactly matching the pins in her bulletin board upstairs. Freak accident? Or Young Scientist? Anna's curiosity turned into a surprise project for Daddy. Yup, this is the "good stuff" of parenting all right.


Peter took a spill on his bike yesterday while the family rode on the downhill path to Petter's Pizza. Cut his side pretty good, poor little guy.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bowling Party

On Saturday, Maggie went to a birthday party for her friend Stine (pronounced Steena). All the girls in 5th grade were there; they went bowling and had a blast!


Maggie spares on a split! ... Maggie with Frøy

The bowling alley is on the top floor of this industrial building near the docks.

Here's some kind of nightclub perhaps, across the street. I was intrigued by the grittiness of this area of town, so very different from the rest of Trondheim. It made me want to be young and in a punk band...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Home, so to speak

It is strange to be back. The first strange part was seeing the gas prices at a gas station. It wasn't the price of gas itself, but rather for the past month I've been scrutinizing diesel prices ranging from 9.50 to 10.85 NOK per liter, and to see 3.11 as the price of fuel created a very strange mental dissonance. It made no sense, and for about 5 seconds I didn't understand at all what it meant.

Steve picked me up at the transit station and I crashed on Steve and Marcia's couch last night and will again tonight. Today I had an early meeting on campus (someone has a very funny sense of humor) and worked in the office all day. After being up for 27 hours and then sleeping poorly, I've been treated with an all-over tired body buzz.

iChat is working remarkably well as usual, and I've talked to Pam and the kids twice today, once this morning when they were all going to bed, and again this evening just as they are getting up.



I stopped by the house today, which we're renting out right now, and there's a horse in our yard!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

RPGaming

Monday was my last full day in Norway for a bit. I am returning to the States for fall term, but I will continue to update this blog. I have many photos and stories to share, and I will be passing on news from the kids. Pam will start her blog soon.


I pulled Maggie and Peter from school today and we spent the afternoon playing D&D instead. To quote Caracatus Potts: "It will give the other kids a chance to catch up!"* It was a teary morning on Tuesday as I left ThIS. I walked downtown and caught a Flybuss to the Trondheim airport, then two flights and one more bus ride later, I find myself back in Ferndale.

Keep checking the blog, I'll continue to update several times a week! I've enjoyed getting your emails. Kisses to you!

* for 5 bonus points and a spin of the wheel, who is Caracatus Potts?

Playing hooky with Maggie and Peter

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Babies!

The baby hamsters are big enough now to hold (gently!) and they can now forage for and eat regular food. We've named the babies: Bellingham, Nottingham, Buckingham, and Pig. "Pig" is Maggie's idea: a play on the "ham" theme. Ham... Pig... get it? That's my girl!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Hike to the Cave

Ingvill and Magne invited us over to their home this afternoon. Ingvill is the head of the Matematikksenteret, and I'll be working with her in January. We had a sandwich board for lunch with cloudberries for dessert. They found many kilos of cloudberries near Magne's parents house, and shared them with us.

After lunch, we went for a hike along the beach to a very interesting place...

Maggie tried walking Zeta, their brown Alaskan husky. Zeta is very energetic, and so it was a good thing that Maggie was strapped into a harness!

The beach is very nearby, and we followed a trail that led alternately through airy forest and along the rocky coast.

Finally, we reached a cave. The cave was carved by the Germans during WWII to use as a secret munitions storage area. Once inside, it quickly becomes very dark and a flashlight is a necessity. The cave winds around through the stone for about 100 meters, passing through a large chamber and finally exiting through a second opening further down the coast.

The weather was crazy today, alternating between sunshine and rain, which is of course the perfect recipe for rainbows. On the way back, we stopped to play on the beach and were treated to a full double arc rainbow. This was the second of three rainbows we would see on this hike!

Good friends, good food, and a fantastic hike, made for a perfect day!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Small Victories

Today I purchased and replaced a tail-light bulb on the car, had a key duplicated, and ordered a pizza. This was an impressive list of accomplishments for the day! The simplest tasks seem like major victories when you're in a different system and you don't know your way around.

The pizza we ordered from Petter's Pizza just around the corner, and we stumbled upon a great secret: if you want cheap pizza, buy it from the pizza place near the student housing!

After school, Maggie cycled over to a friend's house for a playdate and for dinner. Her friend, Frøy, speaks hardly any English but the two of them have a wonderful time cracking each other up and writing comics.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Mobilized

We got a cell phone, or mobile phone as they're called here (pronounced moh-beel). We had been satisfied with our Skype plan, for $9/month we get a phone number in the U.S. that family and friends can call for a domestic rate, and we get to make calls anywhere in the world for 2.1¢/minute, including any Norway calls we need to make. The drawback? No local Norwegian number for our friends to call us. (You can get local Skype phone numbers in some countries, but Skype can not provide emergency 911 service and so they are not allowed in Norway).

The math center on campus had an extra cell phone, oops, mobile phone, and it turns out all we needed to do was purchase a SIM card. The card cost about $24 and includes $16 of airtime. Outgoing calls cost about 30¢ to connect plus 15¢/minute, but incoming calls are FREE. It may turn out that our $24 card will last us all year, so combined with Skype, we have a domestic/international solution for about $12/month.

Here's a map. It makes this blog look very professional, don't you agree? This is a map of cell phone penetration in Europe, colored according to the ratio of cell phones subscriptions to population in each country. Norway is in the >100% range. 107%, actually... there's 4.8 million mobile phone subscribers in a country of 4.5 million people. Dang!

In truth, now there's 4.8 million and 1 mobile phone subscribers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Hamster Invasion!


Allan's daughter Maia has given us her collection of dwarf hamsters. After having them for several years, she needs a break, and so we are adopting them for the remainder of our time in Norway. We have a daddy, a mommy, a youngster, and 4 newborns. The mommy and her babies are in one cage, the youngster is in her own cage because the mommy will attack her if she's near the babies, and the daddy is in his own cage because he will try to (a) eat the babies, and (b) mate with the youngster. He's 100% instinct.

They are extremely cute, quite small (the size of mice), and very active, gentle, and fun-loving. They enjoy being handled and played with, so they're perfect for the kids. One of them has been named Hamsterdam but we are soliciting names for the others.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Pam turned 37 today! She's gone from being a square to being in her
prime. (A little math humor there. Sorry.)

Be sure to send her an email wishing her a happy birthday!

And a happy birthday it was, too. Today is election day in Norway and the elementary schools are all closed to be used as polling stations. So even though it's a Monday, Pam got to have a vacation from work, a little extra birthday present from the government of Norway.

In the morning we opened presents, in the afternoon we went to work in her classroom (yes, she's very dedicated) and this evening we went to have dinner at the Egon restaurant in the Tyholt tower. The Egon restaurant in the tower is 74 meters high and features a floor that rotates once every hour to give a complete 360 degree view of the entire city. It was fun to pick out landmarks, see places we've visited, and get a feel for how the city all connects. It was stunningly beautiful (nearly as beautiful as my wife!) The food was very good and quite reasonably priced, and they feature a pizza and salad buffet. Next time we'll bring the kids.


Pizza Night

Sunday night we went to Allan and Alison's house for pizza. The kids loved rolling and tossing the homemade whole-wheat dough and creating their own pizzas.

Afterwards, the grown-ups retired to the attic where Alison has an expansive art studio. Two sets of huge windows give tremendous views of the city and the fjord. Later we played games over ice cream and tea. Pam played Blokus with the kids and I played pool with Nikolai. We we shocked to discover the clocks showing 10:30. Thanks for a wonderful evening friends!

The Beach on the Fjord

On Sunday we headed to the waterfront. We found beautiful rocks to climb on and a stunning view of the fjord. A paved walkway along the water invited us to explore further, we followed it around a hill, past an oil research center, until we could see the boats and docks of northern Trondheim.

The fourth photo shows one of the few islands in the fjord, Munkholmen, or "Monk's Island". Settled in 1105, this was home to monks in medieval times. A fort was built here in the 1600s, and it later became a prison. The walls are covered with layers of secret messages. This former prison shares the fate of most prison islands and is now a tourist attraction. In the summer it is a popular boating and swimming site and hosts amateur theatrical productions.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

McHappy

Question from Florida: Do they have Happy Meals in Norway?

Answer: Yes! Here's a picture from the menu. It's even called a
"Happy Meal" and one of the options for the entree is a McToast,
which is a grilled cheese sandwich. The milk comes with a straw
filled with little chocolate flavored balls that dissolve as you
sip. A Happy Meal costs 37-39 NOK, which is about $6.50.

Infinity 2007

Every year since 2000, I've met with my friends Dave, Rob, and Mark for our annual Infinity Group conference. Dave and I are math educators, Rob is a neuroscientist, and Mark is a molecular biologist. We've moved all around the U.S., three of us have become PhDs (with the fourth well on his well), we've watched each other get married and have kids, but we've always managed to meet every year for a weekend to hang out, share ideas, and give formal presentations about our work.

This year, we decided to meet in Portland, Oregon, where Dave lives. We set the date for September 7-9, and Rob and Mark bought their plane tickets well ahead of time. Then the Norway plans happened, and this would have been the first time ever that one of us had missed the conference.

Well, with a couple of MacBooks with built in iSight camera, a free Skype connection, and careful time scheduling to account for a 9-hour time difference, I was able to join the gang via live video feed. I gave my talk and participated in theirs, and while it wasn't quite as good as being there in person, it was certainly good enough.

Great to see you guys again! Thanks for a great conference, and we'll see you live and in person in 2008! ... in Beijing?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

She's done it!

Anna went outside today to practice riding her bike by herself. 10 minutes later Maggie and Peter ran inside insisting we come out right away. And when we did, there was Anna riding her bicycle non-stop, no training wheels, no broomstick. She's done it!

This morning we had a pancake breakfast with Scott and Theresa, our friends from ThIS. Scott is the high school art teacher, Theresa volunteers as an aide.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Learning to Ride

We took the training wheels off of Anna's bike yesterday. She handled herself very well right from the get-go. Here's her 4th attempt:

Today she wanted nothing more than for me to run beside her and steady her (it seems noone else will do -- an honor and a curse!) , but the task is killer on my back. So a broom and a length of plastic filament later...



I barely need to balance her... she'll be riding on her own in no time!

Daleks 2

The obverse of the Norwegian 100 kroner note shows Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962), a Wagnerian soprano and one of Norway's greatest opera singers. (Hear her debut performance in 1936 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra here). But what is this disturbing image on the reverse of the bank note?

Yes, it is quite clearly a Dalek, perhaps even a Dalek/Cyberman hybrid!

So what is the connection between Flagstad and Daleks? Is it a coincidence that the year she died, 1962, is the exact year before Doctor Who made its debut on BBC? I'll let you connect the dots...

I apologize for including the Dalek song in a previous post. I will make up for this lapse in judgement by offering another Dalek song: I am a Dalek, by the punk bank The Art Attack (1978). I am still searching for an opera-singing Dalek, perhaps the missing piece of this Flagstad-Dalek puzzle.