Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tree lighting

Last night Anna had an "almost sleepover" party, with friends over in jammies for games, pizza, necklace making, and snuggling under blankets watching a movie. They had a great time.

Today, I took Anna to a bowling birthday party, followed by witnessing the tree-lighting downtown. There was a band and singing... it was good to see but not the event-of-the-year. Maggie meanwhile went to a mosaic-making party with friends from school.

Anna bowled a 108.

Vacation Downtown!

Josie, a teacher from ThIS, is spending the weekend in Germany and offered us the use of her apartment downtown. So... why not?! She lives right near downtown in Solsiden ("sunnyside"), an area of shops and restaurants and apartments on the water. We "checked" in late afternoon, and then set off exploring. We found fun shops, had dinner at BK, and discovered a downtown shopping center (Byhaven) with a children's play area including ball pit.

We arrived back late at the apartment and cozied up for movies, falling asleep quite late and quite happy. The next morning, Pam took the kids around downtown again while I stayed in for some quiet time.

Using Josie's apartment was a superb idea – it really did feel like staying at a hotel on vacation, but a very inexpensive vacation. Thanks Josie!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Seattle surprise

New frozen pizza we found at the grocery store today: the triple cheese Big One. It caught my eye because of the box. Take a look: the Seattle skyline! Nice!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Our first time in Norway, we celebrated Thanksgiving with American friends with a big traditional meal. This time, we're feeling less energetic. At the international school, they celebrated with a Thanksgiving dinner luncheon, and so I joined the family in the lunchroom for turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, veggies, and lots of gravy (or "brown sauce" (brun sus) as they call it here).

Totally delicious! And with no cooking or dishes to clean, it's a winner in my book!

It's been interesting to reflect on the meaning of Thanksgiving and our own personal connection... Thanksgiving is a celebration of the time when the first settlers in America came from England would have starved without help from the natives. Here we are settling in a new land, and we too would have had a rough time were it not for the generosity and friendship from the natives here in Norway. Thank you friends. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Today was day 2 of our November math ed conference. I have had days of non-stop fun, talking math, giving a workshop and a plenary talk, and meeting all kinds of folks from all over Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark.

Last night we had a big dinner downtown, and so I walked down after the conference, stopping in Bakklandet to meet a group of teachers at a pub beforehand. They were teachers from Telemark, the northernmost state in Norway, and they were very fun. We laughed and laughed and laughed, all in Norwegian. Well, Norwegian laughs sound pretty much like English laughs, but the talk and the joking around was in Norwegian. At the dinner I was in charge of the puzzle contest; I gave instructions to the crowd and later reviewed the answers, gave brief explanations, and award prizes, all in norsk. After the dinner, a lot of us went to the Dublin pub downtown, and then I walked home several kilometers uphill, arriving very tired at 1 a.m.

My workshop and the plenary talk went very well, and I've had offers for more speaking engagements. A success all around.

I've been talking Norwegian nearly the whole time the last few days, and feel like I've gone up a level. Tonight I am helt sliten – completed exhausted. But I told our math resource people (math teacher specialists from all over Norway) that I'd meet them for dinner downtown tonight, so I need to gather up some energy to get myself down to city center. They're a very fun group.

I'll sleep well tonight!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Old friends, new friends

Had friends over last night for Scrabble... in Norwegian! It got funnier and funnier as the beers disappeared, and we ended up having an incredibly good time (and learning some funny Norwegian words as well!)

We have a special guest in Trondheim for our upcoming conference, the president-elect of NCTM. Mike comes from Portland, Oregon, just down the road from Bellingham, Washington where we come from. I spent the afternoon with him today, showing him around Trondheim, and tonight we went to a pre-conference dinner where we sat with a group of teachers from the far north of Norway and laughed and laughed and laughed. Mike's a super-nice guy – I made a new friend today.

It was another very nice weekend. Tomorrow, the conference begins!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Test Day!

I'm applying to take a Norwegian language course at the university. I've never had a formal course in Norwegian, so I have to take a placement test, and that test was this morning, 0900-1200. I haven't taken an exam in many, many years, so this was kind of exciting for me. Generally, I like tests. Yeah, geeky I know.

Anyway, an early night last night reading a Norwegian book in bed (Hexene), and a good breakfast and a big mug of coffee-to-go this morning.

It was fun! I immediately wished I had read my grammar book last night instead of Roald Dahl. Reflexive verb forms... possesive pronouns... does this word change with plural form or not?... should I write two words in this blank because it sounds better?... mmmm...

The test was 5 pages of fill-in-the-blanks covering the basics of language, and then a 300 word essay on my choice of 1 of 4 topics. Several things I know I got wrong, but all in all I finished early and found the exam to be rather easy. A good sign.

There's no guarantee that I'll get any place in any class, so we'll have to wait and see. But it was fun and I hope I get to take a class this January.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tooth Fairy

One of Anna's teeth came out at school and she lost it, so she wrote a note to the tooth fairy to explain the situation. We were discussing wording, and I suggested she write something like "Can I have a coin anyway?" but Anna sharply cut me off. "No! You can't ask for money, or you won't get it!" She decided instead on a simple message saying that she wished she had the tooth.

She wasn't sure whether to write in English or Norwegian, so she wrote it in both:

Dear Tooth Fairy. I lost my tooth at school. I wish I had it for you.
Kjære Tannelv. Jeg mistet min tann på skolen. Jeg ønsker at jeg hadde det for deg.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Family Math Night

Tonight was family math night at ThIS. Pam and I have been planning for weeks, and this week especially we've been consumed with preparations. We showed up 1.5 hours before the event, with dinner for those teachers who would not be going home after school and before the event. There was a lot of set-up to do, with every classroom from kindergarten (barnehage) to 6th grade participating, something like 9 rooms of activities plus the library. In each room there were at least 2 activities to get parents and children doing math together, and in the library we built newspaper geodesic domes.

We had prizes and geometric snacks, all we needed were adventurous families... and we got them. We got nearly all of them, actually. The school was crowded and alive and we had to finally kick people out at the end because they weren't done yet. Throughout, the teachers were just awesome -- yay ThIS teachers!

We were home late, quite pleased and very tired. Now there's the conference to prepare for...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Few people in the office yesterday so we had a smaller group at lunch, and today I was a full part of the conversations. Little by little by little, the language grows. I had two long phone conversations as well, and didn't struggle for words. Pam is becoming more confident and verbose also. My exam is Saturday!

I stayed home with sick kids today -- a good opportunity to build some geodesic domes out of newspaper tubes. We tested these for building them at family math night tomorrow. At bedtime, Peter and Anna slept inside one of them!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Began reading "The Witches" by Roald Dahl. It's one of Maggie's favorites, but I've never read this book before. It's a delight to read in Norwegian, and even more delightful that I'm finding it rather easy. Reading used to take a whole day to read four or five pages, but now I can read at about half the speed I read English... children's books, at least.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Playground, Fading Light

3:00 in the afternoon, and the sun is setting. The weather is still freakishly warm for Norway in the middle of November, so we decide to take advantage of what little light and warmth we have left in the year and go for a walk. Earlier today, Pam and I were at a visning, or house viewing, in Bakklandet and passed a good looking playground in Singsaker, a short walk down the big hill from our house.

Walking to the playground... wow! The sky was fantastic, lighting up the fjord in shades of purple. The playground turned out to be exceptionally fun, with some very good rides. The sky got more and more fantastic as we played. Maggie and I raced back home, running up the hill. It's a hill I walk up every day coming home from work, and I a bit surprised to notice that a few months ago the hill was torture, but now it's rather easy.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Murder Mystery

We hosted our first murder mystery dinner party in Norway. Slippery Sid, the contortionist, was murdered during his circus act, and one of us in the room is the killer. But who? And why? As the evening progresses through dinner and dessert, we follow our scripts and question each other – and everyone has a motive. Our friends are wonderful actors and really got into the spirit of the evening. Pam was the bearded lady and I was the creepy ventriloquist/hypnotist. Was it one of us, or the ringmaster, the trapeze artist, the strongman, or the victim's girlfriend? Or maybe it was my puppet Benny! It was a satisfying mystery, a good dinner, and a fun and funny evening!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Work Party

Festen! Friday night we had a work party with the three organizations on our floor. I am ever so impressed with the work parties I've attended. Great food, games, contests, drinks and dancing. Wow! It started with a funny speech, then we were assigned teams for a series of 5 challenges that included questions and activities from math and science (there was even some work in chemistry lab). While I was useless on some of the challenges (I'm not well versed in names of Norwegian scientists), I was a big help on the math and history questions, and our team ended up winning the medals! African food was catered and dang it was good! We had more games during dinner, and some of us ended staying until way way past midnight

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Meteorite Day

Did a little math show for the morning assembly at ThIS to generate some excitement for our upcoming family math night. I told a circus story involving moebius strips that was pretty cool. Then I had to run run run to the university to catch up with Peter's 4th grade class. We were at the university today for a geology trip to meet my friend Allan, geologist. Their teacher promised me a big surprise. I would not be disappointed.

A parent of one of the kids in the class had a suspected meteorite their family had found in a swamp in the 1980s. They finally decided to get it analyzed, and decided to turn it into a class project. What fun!

At the university, Allan started by letting the kids play with all kind of rocks, including a genuine meteorite from Norway. There have been only 14 meteorites discovered in Norway so they are quite rare here. Most meteorites are found on glaciers, where not only is it easy to spot them on the ice, but they are most definitely recognized as being out of place. 13 of these meteorites live in Oslo in a museum, the 14th is here in Trondheim, and the kids and myself all got to handle it. It really just feels like a burnt heavy rock, but it's strange to wonder where it came from... another part of the solar system, from deep space, from another planet...?

After we learned about how the solar system formed and what kind of materials planets are made of, we went to a huge workshop to investigate our suspected 15th meteorite. Meteorites are usually black and burnt on the outside, somewhat magnetic, heavy (three times denser than water), and contain chondrules or little spheres within their structure. This stone was not burnt on the outside, but well-corroded from years and years of sitting in an acidic swamp. It is the right density, and slightly magnetic. It was also found somewhere where it was out-of-place, so these are all good indicators that it might be a meteorite.

In the workshop, a university student operated a special coring machine to cut out a cylinder of stone from the rock. I realized that if this were a movie, the rock would split open and an alien baby would come out and probably kill us all in an exciting way, but this didn't happen. Instead, we got a core, which Allan peered at with a magnifying lens. Could he see the tell-tale chondrules or not?

The interior of the stone was very black, and Allan couldn't see chondrules clearly. Maybe... maybe not... too hard to tell! Our next stop was the thin-slicing lab, where the stone can be sliced, mounted on a slide, and then polished to a thickness of a few microns so it can be put on a microscope. Parts of the core would also be sent to another lab for chemical analysis. Unfortunately we will have to wait one week for results.

I was cleaning up a table the possible meteorite was on, and because the surface of the stone was so corroded, the table was covered with rock crumbs. I swept them up to throw away, but it seemed like a shame to throw out meteorite dust, so instead I put the dust in my shoes. I've been walking around on meteorites! Cool.

If the stone turns out to be a meteorite, the class will write a paper on it and send it into the news. We should know next week... stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Pam joined a handball team with women from the international school. She wanted to be scorekeeper, but they made her goalie instead. She's taken the role quite seriously – going to late-night practices two times per week, tie-dying her goalie shirt, and even buying her own handball to practice with. The team joined the league late, so their first game was only two days after their first practice, and most of the players didn't really even know the rules. They lost 36-2.

I went to see their 3rd match... at 10:30 at night. It was really fun! And yes, they got smeared, but they really seemed to enjoy themselves. This time, they lost 24-3, which if we apply some actual math, we can claim it's a 225% improvement over their first game (36/2 = 18:1 rate, 24/3 = 8:1 ratio, 18/8 = 2.25). Or maybe a 56% improvement (8/18 = .44, so the ratio dropped by .56). Statistics are nebulous that way.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


We just found out it's Father's Day in Norway! Let's see, it's 11:25 pm, so it's Father's Day for the next 35 minutes at least.

Neighborhood Art Show

Anne-Gunn invited me to her Nabokunst show... a group of artists all in one neighborhood have an annual show/sale. Pam and I came to show Saturday expecting amateur arts and crafts, but instead we found very high quality art by very talented artists!

Here's a picture of Pam with my friend Anne-Gunn. She does beautiful and creative sewing and knitting, including moebius scarves. She's our resident math artist at the matematikksenteret.

Then we met Cathrine (pronounced katrina). She used to live in Oslo and make confections for the king and queen, but now she the confectionist (or konditor) for a hotel here in Trondheim. We were blown away by her coconut and white chocolate covered passionfruit confections. Knut does beautiful things with weird-shaped pieces of trees, making largely spoons and bowls. Pam describes these as "troll-bowls", a very fitting name!

We also met other artists who made textiles, jewelry, and an artist (Trina) who make beautiful mixed media frame works. Bård was here also, a 3-time world champion fly tyer.  Jack and I visited with him last month – not only is a fantastic fish-bait artist, he's an incredibly nice guy as well (see previous post).

We stayed until it closed, then I came back again the next day to some more Christmas shopping. We bought a lot of things and made a lot of friends here today. Both times, I left feeling warm and happy and good about life. Artists... I love them!

To round out a great Saturday, Daniel and Evelina came over, we put our daughters to sleep upstairs and we did a round of tasting of Christmas beers – six kinds in small glasses. Daniel liked the Dahl's and Ringnes Juleøl, I liked the Hansa Ekstra Vellagret (dark and spicy) and the Aass Juleøl.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fox, Shelter, and Lego

On campus today, this very large fox the size of a medium-sized dog. Heavy tail.

I came in on a Saturday to set up a math stand to entertain/educate kids who are competiting in a Lego League robotics championship. Kids ages 10-16 from near and far, coming to build and program robots. I set up an area with lots of snap together polygons and pictures of the Platonic and Archimedean solids, and spent 3 hours building cool shapes with interesting kids. It was fun to talk to them and their parents in Norwegian... I'm finally starting to get the hang of this language!

Here's one more picture: in the basement of my building is a massive bomb shelter area, past two sets of heavy steel double doors. I've heard many buildings in Europe have these kind of rooms. Cool, and creepy!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sweetheart mittens

Here's some friends of our borrowing a "pair" of mittens for the walk home. It's actually 3 mittens, the middle one is a double especially made for holding hands. Awwwww....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Last night we watched a show we bought from iTunes on our 48 inch TV plugged into my laptop. Awesome! Norwegians use inches, isn't that funny? They use them to describe TVs and bicycles. There's international influence for you! They call them "tommer", or "thumbs".

Finished Kurt Quo Vadis last night. Another delightful tale by Erlend Loe. This one went quickly. There's only one Kurt book left.

In the lunchroom I begin to understand whole sentences and many of the words people are speaking, but I often cannot quickly enough assemble them into meaning while simulatenously listening to the next sentences, but the first time I feel there is hope that I may be able to pass my lunchroom final exam this spring.

Taught another class this afternoon, fractals and complex numbers with 9th graders.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Had some friends for dinner last night -- lots of dinner dates lately. And taught two more classes at ThIS today -- lots of teaching this last week also. One more class tomorrow, and then it's time to focus on some time-sensitive projects.

Today we had family Norwegian lessons again after school. With daylight savings kicking in, it's suddenly darker much sooner, but we've continued to have more sun and "warm", so we're feeling lucky.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween in Norway... Knask eller Knep!

Quiet start to the day, then Pam took the kids shopping to give me a break. I helped a teacher move some furniture into her flat in Bakklandet with some other teachers, and then we went for a spontaneous walk down to a pub. It's been warm weather this week, and it's still holding out for Halloween!

After an early dinner (stuff 'em full of veggies first!) it was time to get ready for Halloween night. Maggie dressed as Athena, goddess of war, went trick-or-treating with friend Frøy in her neighborhood. Peter went off with Louis to meet a group of friends of school. I walked around our neighborhood with Anna, dressed as a cat.

Halloween is a new holiday in Norway, perhaps only 5 years old, but it is catching on quickly. The trick-or-treating tradition has caught on quickly with children, but adults are a little slower on the uptake. Kids start around 6 pm and seem to finish around 8 or 8:30.

Peter and his friends went door-to-door in Bakklandet, an area of close-knit neighborhoods with lots of children and artists, and he did extrememly well.  In our neighborhood, though, we saw maybe 1 in 20 houses were decorated, even though we live right next to an elementary school. We knew the decorated houses would have candy, and they did. We stopped at other lit-up houses and got lucky on a few, but not at others. Anna and I quickly decided to stop only at the decorated houses. We did a big loop around the neighborhood, scoring a modest amount of candy. Mostly, I think, she was just happy to be out walking around with her dad on an exciting night. Her dad was happy with that, too.

Back at the house, Pam had decorated outside with warm candles and welcoming signs, and we had maybe 30 kids stop by in a groups of about 4-8. "Knask eller knep!" they call out (meaning literally "treat or trick", the reverse of in English).

We are delighted that the kids can go their separate ways with friends and be safe. That's one of the nicest things about Norway.

After the kids were in bed, Pam and I played Catan with some friends and slept very soundly. So, we'll have a quiet day today. Well, "quiet" is relative of course. The kids are bouncing around and yelling upstairs joyfully right now. It's all sugar-powered. I better go and cut up a few plates of vegetables to put around the house.

OK, one more picture: here's a treat Peter got at someone's house, a GIANT candy bar. He says that I think the person didn't know what to do with a Trick or Treater! I hope they weren't nervous that he would do a malicious trick if they didn't come up with a treat – he must have been their very first Trick or Treater. Yes, the children are teaching the adults. While Anna and I were out, we saw two small groups of boys ran past us, going house to house, pushing all the doorbells (many houses are duplexes), waiting impatiently 15 seconds, and then running to the next house if there was no answer. Many knocks were unanswered, and I can easily imagine people hiding inside, fearful in the private Norwegian way, thinking that they must try to remember to make cookies next year.

And so comes change to Norway. A new tradition is dawning. The children have it and will keep it and pass it on forevermore. The young are doing their part to train the adults. I expect Halloween will be big in Norway in a few years.