Monday, May 28, 2012

Russe list

I got ahold of my first list of Russe stunts. During Russe period (the final three weeks of high school where students wear offcial costumes, party and do crazy things), participants can complete challenges and then they get to add small items to their hats. Some of the stunts are funny, some involve sex or alcohol, and some contradict others (you can get an award for abstaining from alcohol during the entire period, for example) so it's impossible to earn them all. Not all of them encourage irresponsible behavior, either, so it's possible to collect many awards without losing your moral compass if you so desire.

I thought the lists were confidential, but a recent Russe showed me her list and then I found many others online. There were 132 stunts, or 'knuter' ('tough-nuts') listed on the official Trondheim Russeknute list, and then every school has their own that they add (Katedral skole had 209 on their list). I've translated the list and I present a sampling here to give you an idea of the kind of challenges and the variety. I've cut down the list quite a bit, but if you search for "Russeknute" you can find many such lists. Looks like fun to me!

1. Knot in hat: 24 hours without sleep.

3. Lollipop: Hand out Russe cards to children in hospital.

4. Ruler: Sit under your desk for a whole lesson.

5. Safety Pins: Request sex tips from the mother of a fellow Russe.

6. A crust of bread: Wear bread like shoes a full day of school.

7. Gold Pin: Swim outside before 1 April.

16. Kvikklunsj Paper: Do business at the police station with cross-country skis, poles and rucksacks.

17. Piece of cloth: Wear Russe pants throughout the entire Russe period.

30. Toy car: Drive ten rounds in a roundabout

32. Bit of packaging: Eat a burger in two bites

42. A one-crown coin: Buy a case of 0.33 l beer only one kroner coins.

43. A five-crown coin: Buy a meal from Burger King and give it to a beggar.

45. Parking Tickets: Pay for one hour parking in the middle of the city and occupy the space with you and a tricycle

55. Reflective tape: Operate radar control in the 30-zone with a reflective vest and hair dryers

70. Plastic Apple: Report a worm in your apple to the police.

72. Piece of a page from a dictionary: Speaking a language other than Norwegian for an entire class period (your own invented language is allowed!)

75. Eraser: Stay overnight in the yard of a teacher

83. Number slip: assist a customer in a random store

85. The money from the trip: Operate a pirate taxi from Monkegate to the Torg with a tricycle.

92. Lollipop Paper: Buy ice cream and give russe cards to an entire kindergarten.

98. McDonalds bag of salt: Drive naked through the drive-in at McDonalds and ask for a milkshake.

105. Kebab bread: Place a kebab in the blender and drink it

123. Pickled herring: Go with a frozen fish on a leash in the northern gate and look for a vet.

125. Toy car: Climb through the back seat of a car waiting at a red light.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Beautiful weekend. Except for the strike.

We took a trip downtown yesterday to enjoy the city and the sunshine. Trondheim is closing down for Pentacost. Businesses are closed Monday, and many are closed down this weekend as well. Parking was free. We found ice cream, and folks from Bergen Chocolate where handing out free milk chocolate bars in the center square.

Many public workers are on strike in Norway right now, including sanitation workers. Trash cans all over downtown are overflowing, it looks horrible. I looked around for empty bags so I could clean up a little, but there were none to be found. We picked up a few pieces here and there and tried to make some smaller piles, but there were 6 or 7 cans just like this one in the center square alone. Too bad. I feel bad for folks visiting Trondheim for today only – what an impression they must get of the city.

The game and comic book store was still open, we enjoyed browsing the aisles, watching a match of Magic: the Gathering, chatting with a fellow Rubik's cube enthusiast, and buying a couple of T-shirts (Peter got one that says "ONE MORE BLOCK... ONE MORE BLOCK... ONE MORE BLOCK..." It's a Minecraft reference).

The sun was beautiful and we are feeling relaxed on this long weekend. At home we dug in the garden a bit. Nice day.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

I morgen, i morgen...

I morgen, i morgen, men ikkje i dag. I dag, nei i dag gjer eg ikkje et slag.  – Jacob Sande

Tomorrow, tomorrow but not today. Today, no today I'll not do a thing.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Abel Prize day in Tromsø

Me with the Abel prize winner
The Abel Prize was awarded on Wednesday in Oslo to Hungarian Endre Szemerédi. The Abel Prize is the equivalent of the Nobel Prize, created because there is no Nobel Prize for mathematics. The day after the ceremony in which the king grants the prize, the winner visits one of the universities in Norway for a day of lectures and special events. This year the university was in Tromsø, far north inside the arctic circle.

I was invited to be the guest speaker in conjunction with this event, so Pam and I shipped the kids off to stay with friends and headed far far north yesterday morning for what would be an unforgettable day.

From the Tromsø airport we proceeded directly to the new and fabulous science center, Nordnorsk Vitensenteret. Here I got set up for my talk and delivered it to 200 sixth graders. The original plan called for two shows with 150 students each, but a teacher strike just started today in Tromsø and some of the schools were shut down, so the two shows were combined and I was granted a little extra time for my talk, for which I was thankful. The talk was really very fun, and I got to feel like I was the opening act for the star of the day.

Nordnorsk Vitensenteret
Afterwards we met the Abel Prize winner and a host of other officials. Here I am with Endre and with the mayor of Tromsø who's wearing the traditional mayor necklace, a very heavy piece of silver jewelry. "It's your 'bling'," I joked with him.

We had lunch with university faculty, attended Endre's public lecture and then visited the Polar Museum. At the museum we sat with a historian who was currently studying in Tromsø writing a book on the Austria-Hungarian expedition to the North Pole in 1870, a happy Hungarian connection for our Hungarian prize winner.

Harpoons outside of the Polar Museum
We sat in a circle inside the museum and talked exploration with a historian
We had a couple of free hours before dinner, so Pam and I explored Tromsø and did some shopping. What a lovely city! Tromsø is known as the "Paris of the North" because it was an important trading town and men would bring back the latest fashions from Europe for their wives. Tromsø thus became the most fashionable city in the north. Pam agreed that the shoe shops in Tromsø are the best she's seen. We loved the atmosphere of this city, even though it was raining. The mountains are high and close and the city is tight and cozy. There aren't many chain stores in the downtown but a host of small boutiques, many connected together inside presumably to facilitate winter shopping when Tromsø must be very very cold.

The view from our hotel room, showing the mountains, bridge, and the Ishavn cathedral. Spectacular!

The Tromsø library at the top of this hill.
Plenty of plazas and artwork in the city
Dinner with the dignitaries
Pam and I were both invited to dinner with Endre and a small group of dignitaries. Dinner was replete with speeches, an endearing Norwegian custom. The mayor even sang a comedy song he wrote for the prize winner. The food was amazing and the drinks kept flowing. We were in fine spirits this evening and I made many new friends and received several offers for projects and collaborations.

Another great harbor view from the breakfast room
Breakfast this morning at the Rica Ishavn Hotel was one of the best breakfast buffets I've ever had. They served just about everything, including American pancakes – a very rare find in Norway! They even had a dish of omega-3 fish oil capsules, which must be very important for the endless nights during the winters up here inside the arctic circle.

I liked these clocks, giving times for Early, On time, Late and Very late.

We took a morning flight out, arriving home just before the children got home from school. It was a very special day, in a very beautiful and enchanting city. We want very much to visit again during the summer. This city is real gem.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Martin's boat

My friend and neighbor Martin is building his own model boat. His goal is to have a radio-control boat powered by a steam engine that he attach fishing lines to and sit on the shore at his hytte while he trolls for trout. It's an amazing concept!

He's building the board from scratch, his own design. A few months ago he showed me the ribs he designed and cut from wood. Tonight I found him out in the yard applying fiberglass to the hull. Nice!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Shrimp party on Elvegate

I work with a group of retired engineers who build models for the Trondheim Science Center. They call themselves the DaVingineers, as several of their best creations are models based on DaVinci designs. To celebrate the end of the season, the director of the group had a shrimp party at her house. She lives on Elvegate, which is on the river right in the heart of downtown. These houses are in the most desirable location in the city, a block that was taken over by German officers during WWII.
Our hostess had set forth a beautiful table in the yard on the river's edge. Then she brought forth the shrimp, two huge bowls of shrimps. Gigantic bowls of shrimp. I have never seen so many shrimp at once. And they had heads with big eyes and antennae, and each one was clutching several hundred eggs at its belly.

I confess I have never had shrimp with heads on before. I had to secretly watch others to see how to rip off the heads and clean the shrimp. It didn't take long to catch on, but it was a bit weird. The shrimp were delicious.

We had absolutely beautiful weather for an absolutely beautiful evening. I noted how strange it was also that I had many deep conversations about life and war and science, all in Norwegian. I've still got miles to go in language learning, but I'm definitely getting it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Midnight (?)

Yep, I was up until midnight last night. Here's what the sky looks like at its darkest in late May.

At work, folks generally dress very nicely, professionally. Now that the warm weather has started, everyone is wearing t-shirts and casual clothes and asking me why I'm not wearing shorts. Norwegians become entirely different people in the summer, maybe because there is no gradual season change to give continuity to life. In a very short time it goes from dark winter to bright summer. You do indeed feel like a different person.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Start of endless daylight

Today is May 20th. From today until July 20th, there will be no darkness in Trondheim. The sun will never be greater than 6° below the horizon, the limit for what is know as civil twilight where no lighting is needed to see inside of a city. (Between 6° and 12° below the horizon is nautical twilight where no light is needed at sea).

It is now very difficult to feel sleepy or to notice that it's time for bed. This is the time of year where Norwegian children stay up all night. It's after 9 p.m. and the sun is high high high above the fjord. We've been unintentionally going to bed later and later, close to midnight, and I'm waking up very early in the morning because it's so light. The funny thing is even with less and less sleep, I'm not feeling tired. We are definitely physiologically connected to our environment!

Lade Dog Park

Pam found a dog park today! Trondheim has two off-leash dog park, and because of the success they are establishing 4 more this year. This dog park is in Lade, fairly near our house but not walking distance. Indy loves it here. He runs and runs and runs with other dogs, and it's a nice opportunity to exchange pleasantries with other dog owners. Norwegians as a rule won't make contact with strangers except under special conditions. One of these conditions is out hiking, where every hiker is instantly a friend. Another condition, we discovered today, is at the dog park, where all dog owners are automatically friends.

Happy dog! And happy owners, too.


Finally we had the weather and I had the energy to get our trampoline set up yesterday. We bought this from (Norway's Craigslist) cheap last year, but just when we got it the owner of the house we were renting tore up the yard putting in new drainage and we had nowhere to set it up. Now we have moved and have our own house with our own yard and do as we like.

The kids brought all the pieces up from the garage and Peter, Anna and her friend Catie all worked hard to get it set up. It went very quickly, and 30 minutes later we were hopping. They played on it all day, even setting up blankets and pillows to read on it later in the evening. Anna decided she would sleep on it, but at midnight I carried her back inside to bed. It's still not that warm yet.

There is much happiness in the yard now! 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Anna's play

Anna has six extra-curricular activites each week. I'd think it far too much, but she can't get enough of learning and doing things, so who are we to stop her? One of her activities is a community drama group (in Norwegian). Today they had their play, a 20-minute performance in the library. Anna played the part of the swimming coach. The kids got roses afterwards and walked down to the Burger King to get ice cream. She was thrilled!

Exchange students

Our German exchange students went home today. We were worried about not having much space, but it went fine. They were a little difficult to get involved in activities, it seemed their hobbies were sleeping and listening to music with headphones. We gave it good go nonetheless, forcing them to play games, go on outings and join us for meals. They were certainly nice and seemed happy, but they were difficult to engage unlike our Italien exchange students last year.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bones in the library

One of Trondheim's surprise treasures is inside the downtown public library. The library was built on the site of the old city hall, which itself was built on the site of a church yard from the 1100s. When the library was built, the old ruins were discovered and they were incorporated into the library itself. It is now possible to see sections of the church yard wall and a set of three skeletons, a man, woman and child which are displayed exactly as they were found. All this is visible from a bridge in the lobby of the library. In an adjacent room, artifacts and art from this time are displayed in a mini-museum.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

17th of May

 Raining today, not a great day for a parade and cookout. I confess, we would have skipped the festivities this year if it we weren't hosting exchange students. So much too early we met at the school at 9:00 a.m. to walk down to the starting location for the school to march in the parade. After getting Maggie and the two German girls settled in with the school group, Anna and I split off to engage in a mission of much more importance to her: Russe hunting! Russe carry cards with photos and sayings on them and give them out to kids. Anna is determined to get 100 cards this year. We set off into the rain and the crowd in high spirits.

We found a crowd of Russe outside of Katedral Skole and Anna was in card-collection heaven! She and I traversed the length and breadth of the city, bopping to the beat of drums in the parade line that we hardly watched. We begin laughing for no reason, and I became very glad I was running around in the wet on this ridiculous endeavor. Even though there was no sun, I could feel sunshine beaming from our faces, warming everyone around us. We finally paused for hamburgers in a Burger King so she could count her loot. Her total: 137 cards. She was very satisfied.

Back home we rested – I needed a nap. Later in the afternoon we went to a children's event with marching bands, cookout, and games. We left early, but Peter stayed for hours to play with friends, coming home soaking wet. It was a fun and silly day.

Gratulerer med dagen, Norway!

Anna was thrilled to be invited for a picture with her beloved Russe
This guy was impressed I knew the creature was a Charizard. That's the evolved form of Charmander, of course.

The backs of Russe coats are often decorated with fabulous artwork

Counting the cards in BK: 137 in all. A fine catch!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


We have two exchange students from Germany staying with us for the week. We fetched them from the airport on Sunday and they'll be here until Saturday. Our house is very small and we tried to say 'no' to taking in extra people, but the school grew desperate and we relented. The floor in Maggie's room is now completely taken up with an inflatable mattress.

I slipped out of town on Monday for an overnight work seminar in Stiklestad. Stiklestad is the site of a famous battle where King Olav II Haraldson died in 1030. There is now a conference and culture center at the site where viking battle reenactments are done.

We had good meetings and good food, and it was nice to be able to retire to my nice quiet room away from the noise and chaos in our little house back in Trondheim.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Recycled art

Students at Biralee International School made art projects all week from recycled materials. Pam was in charge of supervising the construction of a life-size polar bear. She didn't know what she was doing, but the bear turned out awesome. She and the kids built a wooden frame, covered it with chicken wire they shaped with pliers, and then covered it with paper maché. At the end of the week they had an art show. Their projects were fun and hilarious. Check out her fine work, and the work of others below.

Flower vines made from old blue plastic booties
Orphaned gloves from the lost-and-found become funny animals

Pam's polar bear

Robots and hats were some of the other projects

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Prepping for spring. Finally.

Weather has been warm and cold, alternating between promises of spring in April and then snow during the first week of May. This weekend it looks promising again. We'll wait until the 17th of May to decide.

Saturday after Maggie's confirmation I took Peter to a school fundraiser car wash. We washed the car... I couldn't help but get involved as well, even though I was still in my nice clothes! Pam took Anna to the nursery to get flowers to plant in the yard, and then I took Peter to get a bicycle. We found a very nice model at a XXL for 800 kr. (about $135) which is pretty unheard of for a new bike. It comes with 3 free service visits over the next 3 years, a nice bonus.

We're ready for nice weather! We've been ready for it for a looooong time.