Sunday, January 30, 2011

Last day of Ski course

Another weekend of skiing. Again, I sat inside of the lodge, Skistua as it's called, and worked on artwork for a conference this summer. My arm is still weak from my injury last week, so I've earned a 'bye' on skiing today. I met a ceramic artist in Skistua who has done some mathematical work, and he's promised to call and invite me to his studio. It's a magic place.

The closing ceremonies for the ski course were fantastic. All of the kids skied through a reception line and were handed certificates, hot dogs, chips, and juice. A marching band tramped through the snow playing jaunty tunes.

Peter and Anna were very happy with the classes. Anna can walk up big hills now and can plough down like a champ, and Peter has learned to make turns on his snowboard.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wallpaper house and music with our neighbors

Some friends of ours bought a house that was featured in the newspaper recently as "The Wallpaper House". This house was owned by some fanatical wallpaperers, and the result was weird enough to make the news. Our friends had a party tonight to celebrate the house before they stripped the paper down. What a strange sight it was! Nearly every surface in the house is papers, around every groove in door frames, cabinet covers, inside cabinet covers, pipes, wires, under the stairs, over vents, on the bathroom scale... They did a beautiful job with the wallpaper, there's just SO MUCH of it!


Afterwards, we paid a visit to our neighbors, finally making good on an invitation to pop over any time. We were so glad we did! They're a very nice family of musicians and we had a beautiful evening of wine and song. We heard some amazing jazz bass guitar by their son, singing by their daughter, and piano by the dad.

One of the songs he played for us is Grieg's Op. 12 No. 6, called "Norsk", often translated as "Norwegian Melody". He explained how this song sounds so much like Norway to him, the sound of the mountains in the spring. Here's a video of someone playing the song:

And if you'd like to play it yourself, here's the sheet music. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Kitty's birthday

Peter's stuffed tiger had his birthday today. We celebrated with crepes and cupcakes. Happy birthday, Snow Kitty!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Anna juggling

Anna and Maggie have juggling class every week. Today Anna had more than 50 throws juggling 3 scarves today. Here she is in class. Go Anna!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

UN development index

OK, I feel a little bad about the "coolest countries" posting, so here's a hat's off to Norway with the release of the 2010 development index (released at the end of November). It's a measure of standard of living, averaging comparative measures of "life expectancy, education and standards of living for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare." (thank you wikipedia). Norway tops the list again this year.

Norway may not have made the "coolest countries" list, but we know better!

Ranking of coolest countries

CNN had a funny article today on the world's coolest countries. The USA made #5 on the list. Norway, unfortunately, did not make the top 12.

Norway did get mentioned in the introduction to the article:
The main problem is, of course, every nationality in the world believes it is the coolest -- with the exception of Canadians, who are far too self-deprecating for that sort of thing.
Ask a man from Kyrgyzstan which people cut the biggest dash and he will say, "the Kyrgyz." Who knows (seriously, who would know?) he might be right.
Ask a Norwegian and he will carefully finish chewing his mouthful of Thai green curry, take a swig of Thai Singha beer, gaze wistfully across the Thai resort of Phuket at the sunshine that eludes his country for 10 months of the year, then mumble softly, with a semi-suicidal lack of conviction: "Norwegians."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weirdly warm

Yesterday I was wishing for green again. Today, I got green. Rain and warm continues, and this morning I could see grass in our yard again.

The crazy part is the roads. They had slowly built up a thick pack of ice throughout the winter, and now they have broken into parts with deep fissures between them. It's like driving through a field of icebergs. The car bounces up and down, slipping right and left as the wheels are forced into frosty canyons. Everywhere there is water, flooding into deep pools at the bottoms of streets.

Right now it's 9:30 p.m. and the temperature is 5°C (41°F). The forecast calls for similar weather for at least the next week. We may see all the snow go away. Crazy.

It was another wet day at skiing as well, but the kids loved it today. I stayed inside the ski lodge, drinking coffee and making conversation with strangers and acquaintances. It was entirely good.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Yes, a wet day. Anna loved her ski lesson, Peter not so much. But grilling hotdogs in the ski hut afterwards is nice. Tomorrow, we try again.

January blahs, warm weather, and skiing

We are in the middle of the January blahs. I don’t mind the encroaching darkness in December... it is magical. The world is lit by candles, everything feels cozy, and of course it’s one party after another. But come January, it’s back to work, it is still dark and cold, and the skies turn cloudy so the little light there is filtered into grayness. We find ourselves longing for green, for sun, for calming breezes across grassy fields.

Instead, we have rain. Yes, it’s been very warm the past two weeks. By very warm, I mean a bit above freezing. The snow is washing away, the roads are clearing revealing old layers of gravel spread during icier days. Mornings are a challenge – the wetness freezes into a frictionless coating overnight, and we must watch our steps, staying on the sharp gravel.

Yesterday I slipped carrying skis up from the garage. I came down on my shoulder and inflamed an old circus injury. Many years ago practicing trapeze I tore a shoulder muscle, and now the wound is back, announcing itself with a large red swollen bump. I am useless for skiing today, so here I sit in the ski lodge while my children take their first ski course of the season out in the rain.

They’ve moved the starting location for the kids’ ski courses this year. The email describing where to meet is cryptic, describing places that are known to everyone who grew up in the area but difficult for an outsider to find. They just don't list these place names on online maps. Finally I unearth a trail map tucked away in a corner of the internet and glean a general idea of where to go, but we park in the wrong place anyway and have a long way up to the meeting place. Peter is exhausted by the time we join his skiboard group.

They will be wet today. Skiing in the rain. Last year temperatures were the lowest in recorded history, and now this winter is shaping up to be unusually warm. 2°C (36°F) all week, in January, almost inside the Arctic Circle.

I’ll stop typing now, it hurts to hold my arm in this position. I think I’ll make a sling when I get home.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Peter had an interview today for a summer camp program, CISV (Children's International Summer Villages). It was founded after WWII as a way to promote world peace. The idea is to get children to make friends with other children around the world. It’s hard to go to war with people like yourself, and if kids can learn that people with different language, culture, and appearance are really much like themselves, maybe it will help.

“Delegations” are groups of 4 kids and one supervisor from the local area, who get together several times to become friends. Then in the summer they head off to meet 11 other delegations from countries from all around the world. They spend one whole month away from home doing team building, roleplaying, and multicultural activities.

I was very proud of Peter during the interview. He really wants to go, and knew it was important to impress the interviewer that he knew enough Norwegian to be able to talk to and become friends with the other kids in his delegation. I’ve never heard him talk Norwegian so well before, asking well-formed questions and seeming to understand most of what was said to and asked of him.

He passed, and has been offered a position in the program. If we accept, he’ll be spending a month in Amsterdam this summer. Exciting!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Quite a vacuum cleaner

These things shouldn't make me laugh anymore. But they still do.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Birthday! The tradition is bowling. We met a bunch of friends downtown and bowled our hearts out. I only bowl once a year, but I love it. I surprised myself this year: a 148 and a 168, the highest scores I’ve had in a long time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Birthday puzzle

It's my birthday today. Hurray! On the table this morning are some presents wrapped in mathematical wrapping paper. I haven't opened them yet, but I did enjoy identifying the formulas.

Here's a quiz for you: One of the formulas has an error. That is, one of the formulas is supposed to be a well-known formula, but it's written incorrectly so it's some other formula. Can you find it?

Leave your answer in the comments!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Perfect temperature?

My friends tell me the perfect winter temperature is –4°C. "It's winter," they say, "it's going to be cold and you just have to get over it." What you don't want is cold and wet, and –4° they claim is the best temperature for dry cold. I must agree, I find the temperatures very good this year so far. They've been staying between 0° and –5°, and it feels great.

Check out this picture of the slow sliding off our roof. It's hanging down over the roof edge like a table cloth. It looks cool, but it's a sign of poor insulation in the roof.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Saturday we took a family trip to the main library downtown. A chance to load up on some new Norwegian reading materials. They had this awesome castle made mostly out of old books:

What a great idea!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Last week Pam and I went to Kos, an upscale sushi bar in the city center. On Fridays they have an all-you-can-eat sushi and dim sum bar for 279,- (that's a very good price for Norway). Highly recommended! The food was excellent and the atmosphere is tops. The danger is of course eating too much... and we definitely tried! My meal would have cost two or three times what I paid had I bought it separately!

I saw in the news the other night that they've started having parties there where the sushi is laid out on a model's body. Here's a link if you're curious.