Friday, September 7, 2007

Random Observations 3


As far as we can tell, there are no preservatives in food. How can we tell? Food goes bad very quickly. We are used to keeping bread in the cupboard but now we keep it in the fridge. Leftovers used to last us about a week in the States but now we need to eat them the next day or they’ve gone bad. Apart from keeping chemicals out of our bodies, the other bright spot is that our fridge no longer fills up with uneaten food!


Standard Method: Divide price in Kroner by current conversion rate (5.82 today) to get price in USD.

• Example: 1,5 liter bottle of Coke costs 19,00 Kr. Converting in my head: 3 times 5.82 is 15 plus about 2.4, that makes 17.4 with 1.6 left over, 5.82 into 1.6 goes, ummm, about a third... no about .3? So bottle of Coke is about $3.30
• Result: Damn! I ain’t buyin’ no bottle of Coke for $3.30!
• Analysis: Method too difficult. Result too painful.

Mike Method: Divide price in Kroner by 10 to get price in USD.

• Example: Bottle of Coke costs 19,00 Kr. That’s $1.90.
• Result: Damn! Two bucks for a bottle of Coke? Well, okay I can live with that.
• Analysis: Method very easy. Result bearable.

Pam Method: Don’t convert!

• Example: Bottle of Coke costs 19,00 Kr. That’s 19,00 Kr.
• Result: Yum, Coke!
• Analysis: Method a no-brainer. Result is happiness. The Tao of Norwegian shopping. Ahhhh...

I tried the Pam Method at the grocery store the other day. I brought home 1 kg of chicken for 199,00 Kr., and didn’t give it a second thought... until about half way home. I couldn’t help it, the numbers just crept into my head as numbers seem to do with me, and I realized I just spent $35 on two chicken breasts. No, no, it’s just $20, take a deep breath, use the Mike method...


I’m learning Norwegian with Pimsleur courses, 5 hours of lessons can be downloaded for about $30. I highly recommend these lessons. Two months ago I did their Spanish course and I learned enough Spanish in two weeks to get by in Spain. Now I’m learning Norwegian, and I recognize the same structure to these lessons as in the previous lessons.

The first thing they teach is how to ask “Do you understand English?” This is likely the the most important phrase to learn (except for maybe “Help I’ve cut off my leg!”), for with this phrase you can find someone to translate for you.

In Nowegian the phrase is “Forstå du Engelske?” I had to look up each of these words, for while I can say this phrase, I’ve never seen it written. The course is entirely audio, which bothered me at first (does that word start with an “F” or a “V”?) but now I appreciate it; I can say the phrases exactly right without accent because I concentrate on the sounds, not what the words look like.

Allan suggested a more polite way to ask someone this question: “Can I speak English to you?”, asked in English not Norwegian. Asking someone “Do you understand English?” is a bit demeaning, almost like asking “Do you understand the Pythagorean theorem?” I’ve been using Allan's variant, and I quite like it. It's a lot more humble, and people seem entirely not threatened by the query.

By the way, I’d say about 80% of the people I’ve asked so far can not only speak English, but they can speak it extremely well.


Folks are very well-mannered on the road and driving in general is very pleasant. This yield-to-the-right rule, however, is driving me insane. Imagine you’re cruising down a main street and a car approaches from an unmarked side street to the right. Quick! Do you need to yield? Is this a right-of-way street? Do you remember seeing signs with yellow diamonds on them? The street was a right-of-way street a few blocks ago but have you seen a sign recently? Did it change? Make up your mind fast because if it’s NOT a right-of-way street, that guy approaching to the right has no stop sign, no yield sign, no sign at all -- he’s just planning on you stopping to let him turn!

And therein lies the problem. Streets change from right-of-way to non-right-of-way streets and trying to remember which is which and for which parts is taxing.

Why this rule? My guess is that originally it saved on signs. With this rule, it is possible to have intersections with no signs. This is a country that prides itself on low space pollution -- there are no billboards and very few overhead power lines. As it become necessary to have arterial roads uninterrupted, the right-of-way roads were introduced and yield signs places accordingly. And thus, stop signs have been done away with, but in their place right-of-way signs have sprung up. I suspect sign reduction has not occurred at all, and confusion on the roads has increased.

Oh well, at least police cars are nowhere to be found! ( We STILL haven’t seen or heard a single police car, motorcycle, or foot patrol officer anywhere!)

1 comment:

  1. Actually there are very few roads that change from right-of-way to not just like that, you guys are just so unlucky to have the only one I can remember from the top of my head on your route from your house to ThIS.
    Anyway, there is a trick if you are unsure if the road you are on a "forkjørsveg" road. The yield sign is the only triangular sign that is turned upside down. The reason is that it should be possible to recognize it from the opposite side, so a quick peek down the incoming road looking for the triangle pointing down saves the day.