Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jack Attack!

This time I came on the right day. Pam's father Jack is here! Unfortunately, Pam is sick and was in bad shape last night. And yet, she went in to teach this morning, claiming there were too many important things to do with her kids today! It's hard to get her to slow down.

Yesterday, rain and hail and snow and sunshine, a bizarre mix of weather. We made a quick trip to Ikea, and they had Christmas things out already. I was slightly annoyed (it IS still September), but then I had a free gingerbread cookie and with the cold weather outside I started to feel warm and happy inside with Christmas-y thoughts and songs in my head. This morning we awoke to a temperature of 1°C, making me wonder where autumn has gone.

I've got a big day today – I'm giving a presentation tomorrow, and yesterday I had kind of a surprise. I promised my boss a research article by the end of October, but because of either language issues or my own flakiness, he wanted it by the first of October, which is... tomorrow. So I wrote the paper yesterday and now Tor is graciously translating it, and I've still got a lot left to do for my talk tomorrow. Thank goodness we've got an awesome coffee machine!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Better early than late?

I went to pick up Maggie from the movies yesterday. Wrong theater. Drove to 3 theaters trying to find her. None were showing the movie she went to see. Forgot my phone. Drunk guy got into my car and asked me to take him to Melhus. Wasn't too happy when I told him NEI. Made calls from payphone -- with all my phone numbers stored on my cellphone which was at home, I was thankful I taught myself some mnemonics! No answers, anyways. Finally went home to get my phone and more info, rather stressed that Maggie was downtown somewhere.

I got ahold of the parents of Maggie's friend, and as it turns out I showed up an hour early. And the film "Up" was called "Se Opp" in Norwegian (should've figured that one out) which is why I couldn't find it. So, armed with the correct info, I went back downtown and picked her up, at the right place and at the right time. Shwew!

An hour later, I went to pick up Jack at the airport. He didn't get off the plane. Called Pam to double check information, AND... I was a day early picking him up.

Crazy way to spend an evening. Better early than late, I suppose!

Monday, September 28, 2009


I'm preparing a talk I'll give on Thursday about memory. Part of the talk relates to the structure of mnemonics, those silly phrases or sentences you learn to help you remember facts. An example is My very educated mother just showed us nine planets. The first letters help you remember Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Since the talk with be partly in Norwegian, I made the rounds in the office today gathering norsk mnemonics from my colleages. What fun! I found ways to know the southern coastal cities, the northern fjords, the Swedish rivers, and north African countries.

There's even a Roy G. Biv equivalent in Norwegian: ROGGBIF. It helps you remember the colors in a rainbow. 'Bif' = 'Beef', but 'rogg' doesn't mean anything at all, so it's some kind of fictitious beef. Still, it's just as good as Roy G. Biv, wouldn't you agree? What's funnier though, is if you enter 'roggbif' into Google translate. It knows exactly what roggbif is:

Well done, Google. One of the more amusing Norwegian mnemonics is this one for the names of the planet (earth in Norwegian is 'Jord'): Mange vakre jenter med jur spaserer uten noe på. It's a bit racy, so I'll let you translate that yourself!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Norwegian Fast Food

"Norsk Hurtigmat" the sign said. Norwegian fast food. Wasa brand crackers prepacked with brunost between slices. Yum... looked good to me. I've become quite fond of Wasa crackers and brunost. Wasa crackers are very crunchy with whole grains, a bit like sawdusty cardboard, perhaps. And brunost, or "brown cheese", is a plastic-y caramelly substance made from boiling down the leftover water from cheese manufacture. Put them together, and it's some kind of heaven.

And liver paste! So good! And smørbrød with cheese and slices of red pepper. And rundstykke with raw salmon on top. Mmmm... especially the salmon. My parents are from England, so I wonder if I have a Viking gene in me somewhere. I like the weather and I like the food. The food!? How weird is that?

Walking across campus last week, there was a Wasa van parked next to the quad, with a couple of women holding baskets. It was just what I hoped it would be – free samples of crackers with brunost spread. Score!

Saturday, September 26, 2009


It is Research Days (forskningsdagene) in Norway, and many cities are celebrating science this week. As part of the festivities, Trondheim hosts two days of exhibits outside the Trondheim Torg in two huge tents. I manned a booth with my friend Allan, talking about the past and future of numbers. "Engelsk eller norsk?" I asked each group of people coming to the booth, and then gave my spiel in either language. We propose that our way of writing and saying numbers will eventually change, in light of the changing role of numbers in our lives (from signifying a number of something, to signifying a name or a label, such as phone numbers, PIN codes, and the like). For me, the most satisfying moments were giving folks a handout and saying they could tell their friends or parents about the most idiotic thing they learned at Research Days from some crazy guys from NTNU, and having some kids say "Crazy? No, very smart I think." Yes! Someone gets it!

It was so much fun. On Friday we were open from 9 until 3, and our visitors were mostly school groups who made the walk or took a bus downtown for the event. All of the classes from Trondheim International School came down, and it was fun to see my kids and their friends. Saturday we were open again for the public, and some kids returned with their parents for another go around. There were many exciting things to do: eat pancakes cooked with solar power, sit in a vehicle that goes 1000 km per liter of fuel (no lie), build electronic things, analyze your DNA, dig for skulls in a sandbox, play math games, build and test robots, and so on.

Saturday night, I should have been quite tired, but instead I felt energized, and we had a friend over for games and drinks. Awesome couple of days!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Keeping my hand in

Been working with Pam's class this week on juggling, and the 7th grade class on ratio and proportion. With a dugnad coming up this weekend, I'm feeling like a good contributor to the school this week! And, it's awfully good to be teaching still...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hytte Hunt 1

New Phone

On Monday we bought Maggie her own phone. We had so many troubles getting our Tele2 account activated and putting money on it, I was dreading going through it again. But this phone is locked into a Chess account for a year, and it was ridiculously easy to get it activated. Tele2 is slightly cheaper, but I'd rather have things easy than cheap!

Takk for besøken, Ann og Ike!

Ann and Ike returned to the U.S. after a very nice visit. We'll be welcoming Pam's dad next week, and just got news that an old college friend will visit us in December. My parents will visit in the spring, so we'll have all kinds of visitors this year. Kjempebra!


We "lost" our kitten for an evening. Anna was very upset in the morning and so made this sign that says "tapt! Liten svart kattunge!" Before she could hang it up on the street corner, the cat came back.

2 steps forward, 1 step back

My brain is full. Or something. I feel like all the progress learning Norwegian has ground to a halt and words just aren't going together right. It's probably an illusion – I think a series of successes has raised my expectations for myself beyond where I actually am. It feels like everyone's speaking a foreign language again. Okay, so this is a "1 step back" week. 2 steps next week? Forward, I hope.

Fixed the car

Finally, our car no longer drips oil on our feet while we drive. I finally just cut the line to the oil pressure gauge and put a screw into the pipe. After 7 weeks of covering our feet with packing paper to try to keep oil from staining our clothing (sometimes unsuccessfully), we can finally drive worry free! Of course, the pressure gauge doesn't do anything now. So it goes...

Hytte Hunt

Last night, we went to an open house for a hytte (cabin) just south of Melhus, about a 50 minute drive. Pam has enjoyed hytte-hunting on the internet, and this was our first visit to one. Inexpensive and quite nice, on a small lake. Of course we won't be buying anything soon, not until we've seen many and are familiar with the different areas near Trondheim.

The drive filled me with deep joy to see such beauty and serenity so close to home... hills and lakes and farms and trees and cliffs and islands. It is incredible to imagine life and living in these settings. I took many pictures through the car window that I won't bother posting, the pictures don't evoke anywhere near the level of emotion we experienced on this drive.

I realize now that we need to take many more drives in all directions, let the beauty of this land soak in.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Downtown on a Sunday

Lovely day, walking around downtown in the sunshine. Took Ann and Ike on a walking tour, starting in Bakklandet, down the hill across the pedestrian bridge, to the science center, to the Torg for lunch, and then browsing around on pedestrian streets looking through windows. Nearly everything is closed in Norway on Sundays, with the exception of restaurants, gas stations, gardening stores, and certain shops below a certain size (100 square meters, I think).

Then home for naps and then a trip to the rocky beaches at Lade, one of our favorite places which we hadn't yet visited. We wanted to make the most of the sunshine, and the sun was still shining late afternoon as we walked down the path to rocky shore. We were greeted by a short-lived rainbow, a nice 'welcome back to Lade!' The wind howled down the fjord making it a cold visit. Still the kids had plenty of fun climbing on the rocks, making a boat, and Maggie somehow managed to wade in the water knee-deep chasing said boat.

We went downtown for pizza afterwards and are now gearing down for bed. A lovely lazy weekend... I find myself excited and eager to get back to work tomorrow.

Ike at the pedestrian bridge connecting Sentrum to Bakklandet

Anna at the Torg

 Beautiful colors on the stone of this downtown church

A couple of views from along the Nidar river in downtown Trondheim

Maggie and Peter experiment with the wind at Lade

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sunny Saturday bike ride

The rain resumed. Rain rain rain. No one in Trondheim seems happy with the weather this year. Ann and Ike left for a roadtrip to Lillehammer or thereabouts on Thursday, looking for adventure. Fortunately, the forecast called for sunshine to the south. They should be back any time now.

Friday night Martin and Elisabeth came over for beer, games, and nonsense. A very nice evening.

This morning -- sunshine! A beautiful fall day at long last! We rode bikes down to the library and traded in our books. Maggie got more comic books, Anna got some videos, and I picked up two more Kurt books and a Mummitrollet book. You have no idea how excited I am to read more Kurt!

Here's three photos from the afternoon's trip of things that made me smile. The first is an ad at a bus stop for Seigdamer, fruity jelly candies in the shape of women, which we've always thought were very funny because they have boobs. The ad reads "If your man so much as glances at her boobs, just eat her up.

The second is a store with a name that always makes me wonder. The third is a sign for DVDs on sale, "÷ 50". If it actually meant "divided by 50%", it would mean the same as "multiply by 2", thus implying they are on sale for twice their normal price. In truth, the symbol "÷" means "subtract" in Scandanavia, so the price is "minus 50%" which is the correct meaning.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Warhead at Hegra, Water at Leirfall

Outside the Hegra festning gate is this warhead. It reads:
This is the top piece of an 1800 kg heavy German bomb which on 25 April 1940 was released over Hegra Festning. The bomb exploded, and the top piece ended up at Ingstad farm east of Stjørdal River.

After the festning, we visited the stone carvings at Leirfall, probably 1500-2000 years old. With the rain coming down, the nearby waterful was flowing swiftly. The carvings are on a broad flat exposed area of rock. Horses and long boats with animal heads them and people, and dozens and dozens of carved footprints, and expression of "I was here!" Water sheets over the surface of the rock, running in riverlets, wearing out the designs in some places. These carvings will be gone one day.

Hegra Festning

It is raining and promises to rain all day. We drive to Hegra anyways, all 7 of us in the old Mercedes station wagon. It's a lovely drive through the wet. Construction traffic at the Hell bridge convinces us to take to the country roads and navigate with an atlas. It turns out to be a fine decision, along country roads along a river, past giant beauiful barns, to the festning.

The rain stops when we reach the festning. It's as amazing as ever, on top of a beautiful wooded hill with all kinds of outdoor corridors and indoor tunnels to explore. The leaves are changing colors and there is an abundance of blueberries, ripe even though it's very late in the season.

It was built in 1910 to defend against an attack from Sweden from the east or north. Norway had just declared its independence from Sweden. After 30 years, it was clear that Sweden was serious about Norway being its own country, and so the festning became overgrown and not in use in 1940, when the Germans attacked. Local militia groups (everyone in Norway is a soldier) convened at the fortress, restocked weapons on risky missions, and held out against German troops who couldn't even find the castle under the snow. After a good run of several months keeping the nazis at bay, German command got ahold of maps which showed areas of weakness in the fortress. They brought in howitzers and shelled the fort continuously until the soldiers surrendered.

We've never taken a tour of the festning, and I'd like to sometime, but I'm glad we haven't yet. The fortress is nice to explore, discover what is around and beneath this fantasy-scape.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ann and Ike visit!

Grandma Ann and Bumpa Ike arrived on the only sunny day this week. And brought candy and Oreos and all kinds of good stuff. See Anna dancing the background? Woo-hoo!

That evening we walked to the Tyholt Tårn for dinner. We saw the two servers who had helped Maggie the previous night and got to thank them. They were super-nice.

A very hyggelig evening!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Maggie lost and found

Speaking of the Tyholt Tårn, it had a starring role Monday night. Maggie was lost for a while but found again. Yesterday, she attended a birthday party and then came home to do some baby sitting, 3 blocks away. Leaving at 9:00, she didn't show up at home. We went out on foot and by car. At 9:30, Evelina was driving around also, and then Elisabeth at 9:45.

It was nice to know that we are in a very safe community, but we were feeling scared for Maggie who was probably panicked at this point we guessed.

At 10:00 we called the police, who had just received a call of a girl lost and now sitting in the Egon restaurant at the top of Tyholt Tårn. They gave her a hot chocolate, a balloon, a toy, and a ride home in a police car. What an ending!

Maggie never lost her cool. She got turned around leaving our friends' house and soon realized she was lost. So she headed to the tower thinking she could get home from there. She got lost again and so headed back to the tower. Nice that you can always see the tower! This time she went inside and up to ask for help. Smart move.

So, a little scary. Time to learn our streets!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Poker Night

Plenty of jokes about Hell, a very small town near the airport. I've been there twice this week to get the car fixed.

This evening we went to some friends' house to play Texas Hold 'Em... a very fun night! We walked 20 minutes both ways, slowly due to Pam's injured knee, but she claims it was good to get the joint moving, and today she feeling pretty good. We walking under the watchful glow of the Tyholt tower. It's always feels mysterious to see this creature, and it's so close to our home.

On an another unrelated note, here's the yinyang of cheesy bread. Peter only likes the middle part. Maggie only likes the crust. A lucky combination, wouldn't you agree?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pam's Birthday

A rainy weekend. We stay inside and play music, Peter and Maggie play fantasy games together and Anna plays with Sofia who is staying with us overnight.

Thursday was Pam's birthday. We went downtown for sushi at Kyoto, located right next to the palace park. Excellent sushi, not too expensive, slow service. While we were eating, the kids had supper, cleaned up, wrapped presents, then Evelina and Sofia came over. The 5 of them decorated cakes that Maggie had secretly baked last night, decorated with banners and balloons, and jumped out with a "surprise!" and a guitar serenade. Very nice!

Friday was forest day for the kids and a very fun and productive day at work for me. Poor Pam, still recovering with her hurt knee, had to stay at the school. But in the evening, we went to a small get-together with our Australian friends who wanted to do something nice for us because we've helped them out quite a bit, and that was very very nice.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Barnas språk

I phoned Anna at a friend's house and she spoke to me on the phone entirely in Norwegian... well, a bit of Norwenglish thrown in, but I was excited. When I picked her up after returning from fixing the car window, and she spoke to me English but entirely in a Norwegian accent. Later in the evening she asked in Norwenglish: "Kan vi snakker norsk, ikke engelsk, og du kan hjelp meg if jeg don't forstår?" So, I have a norskspråk buddy at home! Kjempekult! (Supercool!)

THEN -- Maggie, the reader, has picked up Fisken and is suddenly interested in reading it. She asked if I could read it with her at bedtime... it has been many years since she has wanted a bedtime story! So we snuggled up in bed and she read each sentence and then told me what it meant, and she could read it at about a 85% comprehension rate. I was impressed!

And Peter? About the only Norwegian I hear him say is "Du er så dumm!" Well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad!

Here's a little note Anna typed on my computer screen when I wasn't looking. There's 31 zeros after than 1, which makes it 10 nonillion. One of the larger numbers I've seen in a while.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


My first book I read in Norwegian was an Erlend Loe novel with English annotations. It took me a couple of months and was painful to read, maybe a page or two each day.

My next book was Kurtby, also by Erlend Loe, more of a children's chapter book. It took me about 2 weeks, and was a bit less painful.

I got another Loe book, Fisken (a gift to Maggie from Frøy), and read the first half in an hour on the airplane to Oslo, and the second half on the airplane returning. No pain at all!

Conference in Lillestrøm

"Lillestrøm" means "Little current". This town is located where a smaller river (lille strøm) meets Glomma, the longest river in Norway (STOR strøm!). Glomma is 610 km long, the Mississippi is about 3800 km by comparison.

Anyway, the conference was fantastic, rich with technology and special effects. Between talks, we saw a dance group, an a capella group, and an electric harp player -- all excellent. Usually the conference is held late October and draws 2000 teachers, but this year there only 500. Because the elections are coming up next week and the minister of education is a bit nervous about them, he moved the conference up to early September. The result was much fewer teachers could come. It was still a big group for Norway!

My talk was the last one, and it was well-received, so I am quite pleased. I return home having spent two days speaking and hearing Norwegian almost constantly. My brain is full!