Thursday, November 29, 2007


Yes, the name of my building at NTNU is the Realfagbygget. There's just no good way to read that name.

They gave me my own office this past week. Here it is... it's got my name on the door and everything. There is a nice view through my window 4 stories down to the cafeteria.

There's cool stuff all over campus and thoughout this building. Here's a picture of the Foucalt pendulum in the Realfagbygget. It's a pendulum on a very long wire. A magnet in the center turns on and off to keep the pendulum swinging. Due to the rotation of the earth beneath it, the pendulum changes the direction of its swing, making a complete rotation every 24 hours. There are little metal pegs set up around the outside, and every few minutes the pendulum knocks one over. I don't know who sets the pins back up again.

The Rest of the Week

What a week! It started snowing in Trondheim the day before I arrived and never stopped, but the weather stayed warm-ish for my visit. The result was big fluffy snowflakes and beautiful scenery everywhere.

Here's Maggie with Adam and Hannah, sledding at school. Maggie is in her pajamas with her stuffed cat because it's reading day at school. Adam has become Maggie's best friend, and he left to return to Australia for good this week. Maggie was very sad.

Our car has studded tires which bite extremely well into the hard-packed layer of snow covering the roads, resulting in terrific traction even up steep hills. My shoes, too, have "tire chains", or Yak-Tracks as they're called, which came in very handy several times this week.

Many folks leave their wipers up overnight so they don't freeze to the dash. Some people put plastic or cloth sheets over their windshields also to keep the ice off. Seems like Norwegians have learned a thing or two about living in the snow...

The conference was terrific. I made new friends from schools all over Norway, from Bergen and Oslo and several towns with whose names I couldn't understand but which sound lovely and exotic.

I was treated to dinners each night at various restaurants. On Sunday, Pam and I joined the conference crew at the Grenaderen, a banquet hall on the river across from NTNU. Here we awkwardly joined a table of teachers from Bergen, but we quickly warmed to each other and we ended up with invitations to visit them later this year.

On Monday, I Yak-Tracked from ThIS to NTNU (about 25 minutes) listening to Norwegian lessons on my iPod. I got my new office and mingled with conference folks, happy to see the folks from my Math Trail group the day before.

Pam could not join us for dinner that evening because she was hosting a Family Math Night at her school. All but one of her students came! (Askh was sick at home). I did some juggling math for the group and got a team started making a geodesic dome out of newspaper tubes, then I had to leave in a hurry to go downtown for the second dinner of the conference. With only 15 minutes to make it there, I strapped on my Yak-Tracks and RAN, downhill on icy streets. Wow, those Yak-Tracks work well! I didn't slip once and I made it to the Brittania hotel with minutes to spare.

We did puzzles over dinner, and I woke the next morning still thinking of puzzles. Here's one for you: a stick is broken into three pieces. What is the probability that a triangle can be made from the 3 lengths?

On Tuesday I gave my talk to nearly 400 people in a huge auditorium. It was a hit! In fact, it was the best response I've ever had to a talk. On this, the final night, Ingvill took a small group of six others (Pam and I included) to the Havfruen (the Mermaid), the finest seafood restaurant in Norway. The fish chowder was exquisite, my mouth is watering as I write this! We had a tour of wines, a different kind with each course. Most very excellent!

Here's Ingvill with a bib they provide for those having Lutefisk, a horrible dried fish treated with lye. It's a national dish and popular at Christmas. I'll have to try some eventually, and I'm not looking forward to it. The bib says "Lutefisk lover... make love tonight!" (Ingvill did not have the Lutefisk!)

I awoke at 4 am Wednesday morning and got picked up by a Flytaxi to take me to the airport, and 20 hours later I found myself back in Bellingham.

It was an amazing week -- I am very much looking forward to spending 6 months learning with my new friends at NTNU.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Maggie has started her blog. Find it on the Naylors in Norway homepage. Be sure to send her a comment!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Trondheim Math Trail

Today we kicked off the math conference with a Math Trail around Trondheim. I was very worried this morning as the snow was falling in clumps, and I did not bring a pair of boots (too much stuff to bring to pack boots!) But the sidewalks were passable and it was warm despite the snowfall.

In groups of 10 we explored the city, solving math problems along the way. Here I am on the footbridge in town with the moon low in the sky.

This sculpture was fascinating: it is based on a magic square. It took me a while to figure out the magic-squareness of it. The secret lies in the heights of the posts. In each of the four corners are 9 posts. The center posts of each set of nine are all the same height -- these are the 5s. They are connected by a blue square in the middle of the tangle of metal above (which you can see better in the first picture below). The other posts are of heights to represent the other digits 1-9, and they are arranged in a 3x3 magic square layout in each corner. I will return to study this in depth... is the magic square different in each corner? Are there only 4 unique solutions to a 3x3 magic square (discounting rotations and reflections)? And is there a pattern or meaning to the way the numbers are connected between squares?

This evening, Pam and I joined conference-goers for a banquet at Grenaderen, a hall on the river near NTNU. We sat with a group of teachers from Bergen, and after some initial awkwardness (we were strangers in a group of friends and did not speak Norwegian), we ended up having a great time and scoring invitations to visit Bergen and come see their school. A very nice day indeed!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Modern Art

Slept in very late today. I could tell it was late when I woke up because it was getting light outside!

We went to a modern art museum today... very bizarre. My favorite had to be a toss-up between the statue of a woman peeing on a dog (photo withheld in the interest of good taste) and this one, a cubic meter of human hair:

Anna got excited to walk into this room. "A yoga room!" she enthused!

The three carpets were actually some of the best works in the museum, a trio of beautifully rugs entitled "Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll." Here they are:


We've been suffering without a dryer since we've moved here, using a rack to dry our clothing. By "we've been suffering" of course I mean "Pam's been suffering." This afternoon we bit the bullet and bought a big beautiful [insert 'b'-word synonymous with 'dryer' here].

3 p.m. Sunset

November 24th, the sun set at 3:00 pm today, the day length is 5h 51m and shrinking at the rate of 6 minutes a day.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Genuine Thanksgiving

Tonight we went for a Thanksgiving feast at Allan and Alison's house. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, rolls, Waldorf salad, broccoli, wine, Julebrus (a special holiday soda), pumpkin pie with whipped cream... a true traditional Thanksgiving meal. Wow!

Afterwards, we amused ourselves with Stupid Human Tricks and then Alison treated us to some classical guitar playing. We went home very very late, with very very happy bellies. Thank you friends!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Homecoming

I arrived in Trondheim on Thankgiving, took the Flybussen into town, and having arrived early, decided to surprise Pam by hauling my luggage up the hill to ThIS rather than wait for her to pick me up from the bus stop. I didn't think I could really pull 150+ pounds of bags uphill in the snow, but I did. I had to stop partway up and fish out my Yak Traks from my bags because I could no longer get enough traction to proceed. Yak Traks are like tire chains for your boots, they snap on and dig into the ice. It was a Herculean effort, especially after a very long trip, but I made it. I got within one block of the school when I saw Pam pull out of the parking lot and turn the other way. D'oh! I had to call her from the school to say "come back!"

It is just great to see everyone again! So much lovin'! The kids look so much bigger, especially Peter who looks like he's grown a couple of inches sinch August.

Here we are having dinner on Thanksgiving: Petter's Pizza! Yum!

Monday, November 19, 2007


I've been asked about Pirbadet, the outstanding aquatic center in Trondheim which Pam and the kids visited a few weeks ago. Here's a few photos I took from the web. Monk's island is front and center through the windows. A huge curvy hottub with hidden alcoves is placed right up next to the windows for a spectacular tubbing experience. For the kids there are waterslides, play areas, and evening movie parties. It's the kind of place you want to stay at all day long.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Darkness Update

Today, the sun will rise at 8:44 am and set at 3:21 pm... a bit more than 6 hours of daylight. By 4:20 pm it will be pitch dark. It's 5 weeks to solstice, the days will continue to get shorter and shorter.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Leaky Barns

As the snow comes down in Trondheim, it would be nice to not think about the rain coming down in Washington, especially of our barn back home, the basement of which floods every year during the rainy season. Too bad every neighborhood has a sign like this to remind us. (Clue as to what 'Barn Leker' means: you'll also see these near the Barnehage (kindergarten)).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Shopping Carts

At most stores, to get a shopping cart you unlock it from the other carts by inserting a 10 kr. coin into a slot (you can also use an American quarter). This releases a short chain and you can take the cart. When you are done, you slide the cart back in with the others, snap the chain back into the lock, and your coin is returned. Beautiful!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pam Blogs!

Pam has started her blog! Check it out:


Thursday, November 8, 2007


Many businesses in Norway have these buckets of boot condoms in the lobby. Snap them over your muddy slushy boots on the way in, and the floors stay nice and clean. It's funny to see a building full of people walking around with blue plastics feet!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Candlelight Walk

It is now dark by 4 pm, and it will keep getting darker. Pam takes the kids to the Tyholt Tower for dinner, and they walk carrying enclosed candles. Every window in every building is illuminated, either with candles or with the room lights, the Norwegian way to stave off the darkness.

From the perspective of the rotating restaurant 47 meters above ground level, Trondheim glitters like a blanket of diamonds. The winter may be long and dark, but it sparkles like magic.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

These are few of my favorite stones...

Want to stump a geologist? Ask him to name his favorite stone! Allan gave me a few of his favorites... wow! Pictured at left are garnets, which naturally occur as rhombic dodechedra (* see below). I wouldn't have believed it being handed the small red perfectly formed crystals. They appear to be precisely carved in geometric shapes. He gave me a few pieces of the stones in which they are found, and sure enough, you can see the garnets with their perfect faces embedded in the rock.
The other stone is mazi quartzite, a chromium quartz that shimmers a metallic green. Allan brings back a lot of this rock when he visits Finnmark each year and gives chunks of it to his students. (Finnmark is the name of the county in the extreme northeast of Norway bordering on Finland to the south and Russian to the east. It's the largest county in Norway, larger than the entire country of Denmark, but it only has a population of 73,000.) Here's a link to pictures of the quarry, it's rather amazing:

* About rhombic dodechedra: If you build a pyramid on each face of a cube so that the faces of each pyramid line up in the same plane and the pyramids on the other faces, you'll have this amazing shape. It has 12 identical faces (thus the "dodecahedron" part of the name) and each face is a rhombus, or diamond shape. This solid is space-filling, meaning that if you had a bunch of them, all the same size, they would pack together tightly in 3D space with no gaps between them. Rhombic dodecahedra have many fascinating and beautiful geometric and numeric properties.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Anna's Riddle

Anna likes to play a guessing game over video. (In fact, it's pretty much what she likes to do over and over and over and screams when it's time to share with her siblings. So take note, Grandpas! We need you to take over!)

She asked me this one:

"I'm thinking of something that is red, and starts with the letter L."

No, it's not a lollipop or a llama or a lunchbox.

She sees that you're struggling. "I'll give you a clue. It's something you do every day."

Can you solve it?

Trick-or-Treating in Trondheim

The kids wore costumes at school and went trick-or-treating in the neighborhood of some girls in Maggie's class. (The girls are very kind, friendliness comes naturally to them.) Pam and the kids went to a Halloween party and were surprised to see all of the adults were dressed up in high-fashion costumes. Most of the women were witches in slinky black dresses, and some of the men wore tails.

It pleases me that it is popular in Norway, and it surprises me very much. Turns out Halloween originated in Ireland and is celebrated in Scotland, England, the Isle of Man, and is spreading to lots of other countries, like Australia and New Zealand. It seems a lot of people like to have a day to wear weird costumes. It's always been my favorite holiday, in fact, I've got a good story about how I once saved Halloween. I'll tell it to you sometime over a beer.

In Pam's class, the kids read "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" the week before, and they carved pumpkins ( are small and hard, like large gourds) and put out lots of candles. Pam found some candles with metal lids, which doesn't count as an "open flame" and so can be used indoors at school. She was excited to have her classroom lit with candles when the kids arrived in the morning, until the kids walked in and Cecilia looked and them and said, "Ummm... those are the candles we put on people's graves." Pam was aghast for a moment, but quickly recovered and they became part of the spirit theme. Creepy!

Imagine this:

In England long ago, families would eat little "soul cakes" during the evening and children would go door to door singing, or "souling" and receive treats. At midnight, the house lit brightly with candles, the family would gather around in silence awaiting the return of lost souls. A glass of wine would be offered to welcome them back to the world. How cool is that?

Friday, November 2, 2007


And finally, the fourth day of the week named for Norse gods: Fredag, named for either Frigg or Freyja, depending on who you ask.

Frigg is the wife of Odin and goddess of marriage, motherhood, love and fertility. She knows the destiny of every person. She tried to prevent the death of her son, Balder, by making every object in nature take an oath not to kill him. Unfortunately, she forgot to ask the mistletoe, and Balder was killed when he ate a fig made of mistletoe.

Freya is closely related, she too is a goddess of love and fertility, crops and birth, sensuality and beauty. She is a lover of springtime, flowers, music, and cares for the elves and fairies. Her husband is the god Od (another form of Odin?)

Freya is a bit feistier than Frigg, though. She wears a cloak of feathers that allows her to change into a falcon, she rides a chariot pulled by two cats, and she owns a battle boar that can turn into her human lover. She shares slain warriors with Odin: half of them go to his palace in Valhalla and the other half go to her palace, Folkvang.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Thursday is named for Thor, Norse god of Thunder. Thor is the most popular Norse god of all. He originally became popular because he did not demand human sacrifices like many other gods, but his popularity continues even to this day.

During a thunderstorm, Thor rides through the heavens on his chariot pulled by the goats Tanngrisni ("gap-tooth") and Tanngnost ("tooth grinder"). He wields his hammer, Mjollnir, causing great flashes of lightning. He also wears a belt, Megingjard, which doubles his strength. At the day of Ragnarok, Thor will kill his greatest enemy, the serpent Jormungand, but he will die from its poison. His sons will inherit his hammer.