Friday, February 25, 2011

Vitensenteret open house

Graduation day from experiment club for Peter, and all of the families were invited for an open house. We had a blast playing with all the toys – the science center is really very fun. We also got to ride on the Orbitron, the first time for me on the device. They strap you into a set of rings that rotate on different axes, and by shifting your body weight you can go into all kinds of spins in all directions. It was a riot! Here's Maggie giving it a spin:

Peter made a friend this week in his group, so that's nice as well. Here's the diploma award ceremony. My phone camera freaked out, but the effect is kind of cool.

Peter had a great week, and I'm pretty impressed with the program they put together. Kudos to the Vitensenteret!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Eksperimentering klubb

Peter's enrolled in an experiment club at the science center for winter break. For 4 hours every morning he engages in a series of experiemtns, using windtunnels, making circuits, setting stuff on fire. He loves it!

Here's the logo for the science center, one of my favorite logos ever:

And if you're hungry for a crazy home experiment/stunt, here's a flying teabag trick:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nidarosdomen tour

Today we took a family tour of the Nidaros cathedral. For 600 kr. you can book a private tour, which we did with another family. This made it a pretty good deal. I have never had a tour of the cathedral before -- and I enjoyed it very much. Unfortunately, the eastern section was having the stones cleaned, so we missed the very best parts (they should have told us that when we booked it). But our guide was very good and plenty to tell us about the other parts of church. We got a tour of the crypts below as well.

We'll book another private tour this summer, and see the other parts as well as the tower.

Photos aren't allowed inside, so here's a beautiful drawing by Henning Meyer instead.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Røros Martnan

They should have called it the "Røros furry hat and sausage festival". We arrive with high expectations for the culture festival, and indeed the town is crowded and lively. There should be food, crafts, dozens of musicians and craft demonstrations all day long. The festival has been going on all week. We wander up and down the streets, poking around in the hundred of stands set up everywhere in this old village. The mercury sits at –9°C, the warmest it's been all week in Røros, and for that we are thankful. We see stands with furs, sweaters, furry hats, sausages, candy, furry hats, blankets, furs, sausages, mittens, hats, sausages, furry hats... hmmm... after a few streets, it seems to be all the same. Has every vendor of reindeer pelts and fuzzy hats come to Røros today?

We did hear a few musicians outdoors. A band was playing in a giant teepee where they were also serving food, and that looked like a great place to be, but it was so crowded we couldn't get much further than just beyond the entrance. In the main hall, there were stands featuring heat pumps, tractors, and more sausages. It felt like a county fair without the animals!

After 2 hours, we left, slightly disappointed. But that was our fault, we'd come expecting an art festival, but this was a "goods and culture festival". We should have read the fine print! There were many good things to see, though, and we did have a good time. Here's a few shots from the event:

Anna hugs a stuffed llama

Pam checks out goods at a Sami craft stand. The Sami are Norway's indigenous people. They have their own language, culture, clothing, and flag. Actually, their flag is one of the best flags I've seen, designed in 1986 and the winner of an art contest.

Stopping for a mug of gløgg, the traditional Norwegian winter drink. This stand sells ceramic mugs full of gløgg for a good price.

Røros' main street with the church steeple visible up the hill.

Maggie and Anna posing with antlers in front of a Sami tent shop.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Colorful ice, the world's largest spark

Today we drive to Røros for the Handel- og Kulturfest. After much debate – train or car? – we decide to drive. I love taking the train and enjoying worry-free and comfortable travel, but it will cost much less to drive. We head out mid-morning, looking forward to the day's adventures ahead.

One of the best things about driving in the winter are the ubiquitous frozen waterfalls along the highway. Highways have been cut along the edges of mountains, resulting in many roadside waterfalls. The smaller ones are generally not very noticeable in the summer, but in the winter they freeze into majestic walls of icicles. These are often colored in blues and greens and yellows, perhaps from minerals leeched from the earth, or perhaps from optical properies of bubbly ice.

At this time of year, the frozen water looks tired. It is thick and not well-defined, the product of repeated thawing and freezing throughout this unven winter. The colors, though, are no less dramatic.

Along the way, we sing along to the radio and to the iPod. We always begin with Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again", but soon settle into Odd Nordstoga as the music of choice on this trip. After an hour, we begin to suspect we've missed our turn somewhere. We've been using the car lighter to run the iPod transmitter and not our GPS, so we stop to switch gadgets and check our location.

Oh yeah, we are FAR off course. We were supposed to turn off onto highway 30 a long while ago. The GPS recommends we continue forward to highway 3 and loop around, hitting Røros in the other direction. We've just added an hour on to our trip – ugh.

No worries! We were MEANT to have done this, we are certain. It is a chance to see highway 3, a place we probably never would have seen in our lives had it not been for this error. Now we just need to keep our eyes open for the big adventurous thing that the fates have decreed we are destined to find.

As we near the town of Tynset, a big sign announces what we are looking for: Se verdens største spark på torvet! ... See the world's largest spark in the square! "Sparks" are a kind of kick-sled on blades that are a popular way of transport in icy areas. We've had fun riding sparks before, and now an opportunity to see the world's largest spark! Irresistable!

The bridge into Tynset is interesting, the first half is shaped as a large semicircles, and the second half is shaped as two smaller semicircles. Math problem: if the two smaller semicircles are half the diameter of the larger semicircle, which is greater: the circumference of the large semicircle or the combined circumferences of the smaller semicircles?

Driving through Tynset, we see many sparks parked outside of houses, businesses, and chained to the bus stop. This really is a spark-crazy town! In the center, we find it. The world's largest spark. Overjoyed, we hop out for photos. Sorry Tynset, we're behind schedule and don't have time to explore further. It looks like a lovely little town. Next stop: Røros!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Elevator vandalism solution

In my elevator at work, the two basements are called "U1" and"U2". Kids are always peeling off the the "U2" label on the elevator control panel, presumably because it's cool to have a U2 sticker. When I was on the elevator this morning, I shared the ride with a maintenance worker who was replacing the button label. I noted with amusement that they had decided to give the button a new name:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Horizontal and vertical

The Norwegian words for 'horiztonal' and 'vertical' are 'vannrett' and 'loddrett' respectively. I noticed right away that 'vannrett' means 'water direction', which is pretty cool. In English, our word 'horizontal' is based on 'horizon', the direction of the horizon. It's a little funny that the horizon is less important in Norway, a mountainous country where most people would not see a nice level horizon. Water, on the other hand, is horizontal no matter where you live.

'Lodd' in 'Loddrett' means 'plumb', a lead weight on a string. It's original usage was to find water depth, so we have a nice connection in Norwegian between these two words, and they both trace to the sea. In English, "vetical" means "relating to the vertex, or highest point".

Here's an etymological tangent: in olden times, anyone who worked with lead was called a "plumber". After a while, most people used lead only for water pipes, so the meaning shifted to mean someone who works with pipes. (Yeah, I know, can you imagine having your drinking water come through lead pipes?) The chemical symbol for lead is Pb, for 'plumb' I had always wondered about that one – didn't you?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sirkus - parents' night

It was parents' night at circus class tonight. Anna unfortunately has been sick and couldn't go, but I did get to do class with Maggie. After some stretching and warm-up exercises, we built pyramids and then juggled. It was fun to get down with some serious juggling practice that I hadn't done in a long time. Building pyramids were fresh and Maggie and I did lots of cool balancing forms together. It was kjempe-fun! Maggie was really brave, and even scored a new record with ball-juggling.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Kindergarten film

I'm going to be a Norwegian film star. Yay! Yesterday I spend the day back at Skistua with a film crew, planning our program for today's filming. I'm making a series of films for kindergarten teachers that show how to do mathematics activities outdoors. Norwegians are very big on outdoor activities, as you can guess.

Today we met at the kindergarten and did some introductory activities inside, then climbed onto a bus and rode out to the ski area. It was windy today, and after one minute my face hurt. How would we would survive a whole day of filming in this cold?

And yet we did. Norwegians laugh at the cold! I found after an hour I was so numb I didn't notice the cold myself. We managed the wind problems with the sound, and made several trips indoors to warm up with cocoa and warm apple cake. Our activities were all centered around sledding, and the kids really enjoyed competing in the various events. Here's a picture of the kids making a series of concentric circles in the snow to be used as the target for our "nearest to center" activity (one kid was anchored in the center holding one end of a rope while the other kids walked in a circle holding the other end).

The filming culminated two weeks of intense planning and I'll tell you... I will sleep well tonight!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Anna's party

Today we reserved the gym at school to hold Anna's party. 12 girls running around, dancing disco, and playing games for 3 hours. It was fun and exhausting.

In the evening we joined friends for dinner and socializing. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


We've had a spell of warm weather and the snow and ice had all but disappeared. Now some snow is back, but it's still nice out. I've been walking to work, marveling at the return of the light. It gets so dark, and then light comes back so quickly. You can notice the difference day to day, and it's only accelerating. Here's a couple of pictures taken from my phone as I walked home. I was struck by the lighting, with sunshine behind me and dark dark clouds ahead. With the sun low in the sky there were great reflections off of buildings a special quality to the light that's hard to explain, but that gives a feeling of excitement, a feeling that *something* is coming...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Anna is 8

How quickly they grow... Anna celebrated her 8th birthday today. We opened cards and presents from grandparents. As is our family tradition, the birthday kid gets to pick the restaurant. Anna chose Peppe's pizza, probably our favorite pizza place in town. Spendy, but good. They brought her a complimentary sundae. We will celebrate her birthday again next weekend with her friends -- things are a little too crazy right now to have throw a party today.

Friday, February 4, 2011

New Math Room

There's a new math room at the Science museum in town, and I was invited to the opening. The theme of the room is Thomas Angell, a figure from Trondheim's history who contributed much to charity in the first half of the 1700s.

Pam and I hobnobbed with local politicians and other important folk before we were greeted by Thomas Angell "himself". He talked a bit about his life and showed us the math exhibits based on his experiences. The room itself is quite lovely and the workmanship on the exhibits is exquisite.

Here's me with the director the math center competing in a game, and another picture with my business partner Gerd and the builder, Stein, who has created the exhibits. I've been working with Stein on some other projects -- he's a really great guy I look forward to working more with.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Saw this frozen under an inch of ice in the parking lot at work: a Mercedes hood ornament. I don't know why I took a picture, but I thought it was cool. So here it is.