Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans

My deepest sympathy goes out to all those in New Orleans dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Even the locals in Denmark are aware of it and share their concern. I hope the rest of the United States can lend their support to make this difficult time better.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

GO Vikings!!

We took a day trip today to Roskilde, which used to be the capital of Denmark before Copenhagen was. It was a crazy busy bustling town, and getting there was equally crazy. After asking for instructions to get on the train three times from three different people we finally got on the right train and landed ourselves in the middle of a chaotic train hub in Roskilde, then looked for the train station for the next 20 minutes. We finally found it, and a map, and headed to the very beautiful Roskilde Domkirke (cathedral) in town that hosts many famous dead kings and queens in beautifully displayed coffins surrounded by statues. It is probably the most beautiful church I've seen, although a little creepy. I refrained from foul tongue while I was there and even felt weird taking pictures. Then we went to the Viking museum by the Roskilde Fjord (lake) and saw some viking ships that have been hauled up out of the water and put back together. We also learned a lot of really interesting viking history and quizzed a woman that works there about the vikings, as well as the castle we saw yesterday and what went on during both those time periods. Now I feel very smart and hope to retain this information for at least a week so I can impress somebody with it. The museum was very exciting and warrented a hotdog rolled up in a danish, which was delightful. Then all the shops suddenly closed at 3 pm because it's Saturday and we were forced to go back to our hotel, where I now await the arrival of our boss and a fancy dinner tonight (it's lobster tonight!) that can be expensed now that the business part of my trip is about to begin. We leave tomorrow for Helsingør, where the conference is (and the Kroneberg castle!) and conference begins tomorrow night.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Greater Copenhagen

We had a GREAT time in Helrød today, a town north of Copenhagen (40 min by train). We saw a really cool CASTLE that is now a museum, a really pretty castle garden, and did some shopping in the shopping district, which was much quieter and more accessible than copenhagen's.

I have been eating loads of Danishes and haven't gone running since we got here (I've been walking about 8 hrs a day so my legs are too tired at night for it). I'm going to have to do some extra gym time when I get back probably - although maybe not, I am doing a lot of walking and the Danes seem to stay thin on all the danishes they eat. The danishes are really good and you can get them in a variety of forms, like with chocolate on them, or apple vanilla pudding stuff, or braided, or with spinach inside, or wrapped around a hotdog (this is particularly heavenly), or with cheese and bacon on top. We are basically living on danishes, which is ok by me.

What is kind of funny is, the 'Danishes' by some may be considered the danish people living here, which would make the paragraph above particularly funny. I should clarify that by 'danish' I mean the pastries that the Danes are so famous for (made famous apparently by a very good Danish chef who took some of these pastries to Austria and became well known there for them).

Danish!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Denmark, I'm HERE!

Greetings from Denmark, it turns out this country is fairly technologically advanced and we have computers in the lobby (although no toilet in our room). There's always a waiting line for the computers though so I must make it short.

The plane ride was great, we arrived exhausted but stayed awake all day and managed to see some sites, today it rained but we still got around some and had some good fish, and we continue to try to adjust from some pretty serious jet lag. I'm compiling a list of the really noticeable (and sometimes surprising) differences between Copenhagen and Minneapolis, but that will be posted later due to time constraints and instead it will have to suffice for me to share the first thing we noticed upon arrival: the computer keyboards here have Æ where the colon should be (æ where the semi-colon should be) and an Ø right next to it. Ø is apparently pronounced 'er' and every street name is completely unpronouncable (and easily forgetable, hence frequent confusion over where we're going).

Actually the first thing we noticed when we arrived here are that the escalators are flat. That's right, instead of stairs going up it's a ramp going up. The second thing we noticed was that the 'shower in our room' is in fact a see through box with a spigot and drain that is taking up the only unoccupied space next to the beds. The third thing we noticed were the keyboards.

I better not get started. Someone is waiting. Now, even though it is early afternoon to all you boring Americans, I will be going to bed.

Good night!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Farewell again

I packed last night for Denmark - Whew! - and am taking off tonight. We arrive sometime mid-day tomorrow and the conference starts Sunday. My internet access will be limited so I bid you, my readers, a temporary farewell until my return.

Farewell!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Iceland

We're flying Icelandair tomorrow to Denmark and naturally will have a short layover in Iceland. Since I've never been to Iceland my attention was drawn to an editorial on Iceland in the Sunday Tribune last week (Iceland: The fairies, the fair sex and the far-out foods, by John Flinn, from the San Francisco Chronicle), and it was so good I feel obligated to share some of it:

"
So what follows are a few of the things I discovered in Iceland. Nearly everyone who visits Iceland discovers these same things, and it should be noted that Icelanders are a little tired of having them pointed out. Nevertheless:

They believe in fairies: Icelanders are probably the most educated people on the planet, with a 99.9 percent literacy rate, and nearly one in 10 ends up writing a book during his lifetime. Yet, according to the Icelandic Tourism Board, 90 percent of them take fairies, elves, trolls and other manifestations of huldufolk -- "hidden people" -- quite seriously.

Public engineers routinely reroute roads, pipelines and underground cables to avoid disturbing fairy habitat, often at considerable expense. Construction of golf courses and even harbors has come to a standstill when the wee folk appear to have been offended, and a woman named Erla Stefansdottir, who claims to be able to communicate with them, is frequently consulted by the Reykjavik city planning department.

They're obsessed about our obsession about their sex lives: It's been going on for a while, but the latest round started, as all cultural phenomena seem to do these days, with Oprah. Back in April, on a show about women around the world, a Reykjavik anchorwoman, Swanhildur Valsdottir, got everyone in a lather by saying, in front of an audience of 30 million people, that Icelandic women didn't consider it any big deal to sleep with someone on the first date.

Icelandic feminists were outraged, angry letters poured in to newspapers and Valsdottir was vilified for perpetuating promiscuous stereotypes.

In the middle of the flap, the Grapevine, an excellent, irreverent, English-language Reykjavik tabloid (and my main source on this topic) published the results of a 2004 global survey by Durex, the world's largest manufacturer of condoms. On all the major benchmarks of sexual behavior, the paper reported, Iceland was at or near the top of the list. Perhaps understandably, this didn't calm anyone down.

They eat revolting things: And by this I don't just mean hrutspungur, which are pickled ram's testicles; or svio, a sheep's head that's been singed to remove the wool, then cut in half, boiled, and either eaten fresh, eyes included, or pressed into jelly; or slatur, Iceland's version of haggis: sheep innards tied up in sheep's stomach and cooked.

All these things sound like lip-smacking treats compared with the notorious hakarl, Greenland shark that has been buried in sand for four to six months until it's good and putrefied. Then it's dug up, hung on a hook a few more days for a final rot and then served to a presumably ravenous public.

"

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Home Sweet Home!

We made it home after a full train ride amongst Back Street Boys fans (playing tonight downtown) and Twins fans (also playing tonight downtown) but managed to get off the train unharrassed and walk home. We are pooped so decided to watch our latest Netflix rental, the old Disney animated Robin Hood movie, one of my favorites from childhood. What a great movie! And you know what? Prince John and his sidekick snake, Hiss, are uncannily like a widely hated modern political leader and his puppetmaster.... hmmmm, they seem to be quite good at stealing from the poor to give to the rich just like Prince John and Hiss - we just need a modern Robin Hood to save us all!

I also got halfway through another Janet Evanovich mystery novel on the plane ride back, "Seven Up," what a great book! I'm still trying to work out what part of Jersey the narrator's from though - they call it the "Burg" but I'm not sure where that is exactly.

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Dripping Springs



We went for a hike yesterday in the Organ Mountains to Dripping Springs, a historic site of a resort hotel from the turn of the century. The dripping springs was the water supply and we passed the old livery where they kept the horses and livestock, but we didn't make it far enough to the ruins of the hotel itself. It was a high altitude, and we passed a "Fire Safety Zone" where they had pre-burned the brush so that there was a safe area to go to in the case of a brush fire (and a sign that said "don't try to outrun the fire or pour water on yourself, simply seek out the Fire Safety Zone and stay here until you can be rescued"). All the kids did great and kept up high spirits through the entire adventure, but we were starving afterwards and went to the La Posta Mexican restaraunt in Mesilla Village (an old part of Las Cruces). A sign on the side of the restaraunt reads, "This is the original La Posta. The only station that remains standing on the bButterfield Trail. For more than a century and three quarters, these old adobe walls have withstood the attack of elements and men and have sheltered such personalities as Billy the Kid, Kit Carson, and Pancho Villa. Now Mesilla sleeps, but La Posta still offers its traditional hospitality and fine food to all who wander here." Good mexican food is scarce up in the very white state of Minnesota so we stuffed ourselves immobile and had to be wheeled back to the hotel where we had afternoon tea in the cool shade.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Hail Las Cruces!

We arrived safe and sound in El Paso, TX after a fantastic plane ride full of Sunday paper goodness, no delays and no problems. We rented a car in El Paso, stopped for some fine Mexican food, oohed and aahed over the Southwest Terrain (where are the trees? where is the grass? wow! mountains!). My aunt had a bout of post-plane-ride-sickness and threw up a few times on the drive to Las Cruces but other than that it was a georgeous easy drive.

We arrived Thursday night in time to watch the sun set over our Motel Six and the city of Las Cruces. It was fantastic, my attempted photography really doesn't do it justice.

This morning we went for a run on top of a man-made dam but saw no water anywhere, except we presume in the two colorful water-towers we passed. It is so dry our sweat evaporated instantly, and so sunny that even when it's not that hot and relatively dry it feels like it's too much. We managed a good run though. When we got back we got to meet our new seeing-eye-dog cousin Poncho (a beautiful chocolate lab my aunt just started using in June, so he's still learning and walked her into a few people and a few walls).

I also got to meet my new brother Corey, who is cute as a button and happy as a clam. In this picture (far left) he's cradled happily in the crook of my dad's arm. In case you're wondering, yes, he's adopted.

We also wandered around a little and saw some other good stuff - everything here is something you wouldn't see in the midwest, so therefore is fascinating. The flowers grow funny, the shrubbery looks weird, the sky is big, the sun is bright, the ground is sandy and the houses are stucco and yellow or orange.

Probably the highlight of everyone's trip is my 3 1/2 year old cousin Bea, who has managed to pick up a British accent since her mom is British (her dad is my father's brother, he and his wife met in Hong Kong and now live in the London suburb of Chesham). So she says "Mum" "Dud" and "moine" but also throws in a few words like "cheeky" and her mom threw us off with "cozzy" (short for swimming costume, eg bathing suit). The rest of the cousins mock her constantly, which we had to put a stop to since she's only 3 1/2 and didn't understand everyone's fascination. Apparently her British accent isn't the standard London accent (like her mom's) but is more of a Chesham accent, which may be considered like a hick accent to the Londoners, much to her parent's astonishment and perplexion. She must have picked that up from the neighbor kids. Maybe she'll return with an American accent, who knows?

Better sign off and get back to rockin' out!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Chocky Milk

Reader advised: this post may make you hungry for a certain chocolate-flavored heavenly treat, or make you puke. It could go either way, but whichever way, I waive all liability.

Last week or so, I read in Runner's World that a good post-run snack for energy replenishment is Chocolate Milk. Yeah, that's right. I'm not a huge fan of milk so what I personally prefer is chocolate soy milk (chocolate Silk is the best). After reading that, I spent the rest of the week wishing I had some chocolate Silk. I even went so far as to try to find our Swiss Miss and put it in some soy milk but I couldn't find the Swiss Miss or figure out whether cold milk would suffice or if I had to heat it up first (which of course I didn't want to do because that would be hot chocolate, not chocolate milk). Saturday night my obsession went full-blown and I spent the entire night sweating on the couch completely distracted by the thought of a tall glass of chocolate Silk and how sweet it would taste. I couldn't just go buy some because we're heading out of town Tuesday and trying not to leave too much perishable food behind in our wake. So what I was really wishing was for a quart of chocolate Silk to just suddenly appear in the fridge. I even went to the fridge and stared into it with the door wide open longing for such.

And such a thing happened. Not Saturday night, when I merely stared into the open fridge longingly, but Sunday morning, when I was actually looking for something else and found it squished into the back corner of the top shelf. It had been completely forgotten, bought this winter with a February 5 expiration date. But that's the fantastic thing about soy milk, it lasts for years and years (especially when unopened) and expiration dates just don't really mean anything. Or at least that's what I told myself when I poured a nice tall glass of it (and it was so cold and perfect) and slammed that down, then slammed down another one several hours later. Oooooh, it tasted so fiiiiiiiiiiiine. It was so sweet and chocolatey and smooth and heavenly and perfect.

And as I blog now about it I am reminded a little of a talk I went to a few years back about the desperate quest to fight cavities and one attempt to put cavity-fighting bacteria in chocolate milk for kids to drink. The speaker was from the Netherlands and called it "Chocky Milk" and I kept thinking he meant "Chalky Milk" so was imagining bacteria-laden chalk-flavored milk, which of course made me want to hurl. When I realized later he meant chocolate milk, and the bacteria were totally the same as what's in yogurt (well not quite but pretty similar), the talk took on a whole new meaning. Now I think, Mmmmmmm, Chocky Milk....! and I imagine my six-month-old chocolate Silk that appeared suddenly in my fridge on a Sunday morning when I so desperately wanted it.

Now we'll all wait and see what happens to me tomorrow. Will I have a new breed of bacteria in my mouth that miraculously prevents cavities? Will I want to hurl? We'll have to wait and see! And meanwhile, I still have at least one last glass left in that miracle quart of chocolate Silk.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Supersized August

I've declared August Supersized due to all the exciting events that have happened and that are planned. As such, I award myself 10,000 points for being right in the middle of it right now. Since nobody else has any points, I win! The reward is a large pancake breakfast made by my husband (yum!).

After a big week of slumber parties, my naked coworker finally flew "home" last night although her Northwerst flight was delayed four hours due to "mechanical problems" (the kind where they push back the expected flight time only fifteen minutes at a time so you end up hanging around the airport all night). The mechanics at Northwerst are pissed due to eminent outsourcing and are striking on Tuesday, the very same day we fly out for a family vacation in New Mexico. It'll be interesting. My next flight, to Denmark, is NOT Northwerst, thank goodness.

Our oven broke last Tuesday (and will be replaced next week) leaving us with two home-made pizzas that required the services of our friendly neighbor's oven. Our friendly neighbor is starting her third year of graduate school and was in the middle of a very familiar sounding 6-month long anxiety attack/nervous breakdown. All you can say to a person in that state is 'that sucks for you, is my pizza done yet?', but it made me enjoy my Supersized August all the more.

Supersized!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Okie Noodling



An interesting sport is that of catfish noodling. I watched a PBS documentary on it (Okie Noodling) that we rented from Netflix, which makes me an expert. Let me enlighten you. Okie Noodling is a sport whereby fishermen catch catfish with their bare hands. The hands are the hook, and the line. They get into knee-deep water, wiggle their fingers in front of a catfish hole and wait for the catfish to come nibble, then they grab the catfish (sometimes 40 or 50 lbs) with their hands and haul them out of the water. It's considered very dangerous and is only legal in four states (Oklahoma is one of them).

Here's a summary and first-hand account from a "Field Story" published by Cabela's:

The person doing the noodling wades into a body of water where catfish are known to lurk, then reaches underwater and starts feeling for holes in the bank, in logs, under rocks and so forth. Catfish get in holes like this when spawning. Female catfish lay their eggs, then a male cat moves in to guard the eggs. The noodler feels for these holes because he knows when he reaches in, if a cat is on guard, it'll bite him. Then he can grab the fish--maybe--and pull it out.

The deal is, the noodler never knows for sure what's in the hole he's probing. It might be a catfish. Then again, it might be a snapping turtle, a beaver or a snake. Mr. Noodler's down there holding his breath, getting all tingly with excitement, while he thrusts his hands in dark underwater hidey-holes to see if anybody's home. He loves this stuff. He thrives on the adrenaline rush it affords. Some guys get their thrills driving race cars, or skydiving, or mountain climbing. Others get their kicks noodling.

If Mr. Noodler finds a hole empty, he moves on and finds another hole to noodle in. If somebody is home, well ... that's where things can get interesting. I learned this first-hand when I went on my first noodling excursion. Now, I know what you're thinking. This numbskull just said the stupidest thing he'd ever seen was a guy noodling for catfish. Now he's telling us he went noodling. Who's the stupid one?

Well, granted, you have to be two McNuggets short of a Happy Meal to try this stuff, but for the sake of journalistic integrity, I felt it was my duty to participate--at least once--so I could write a realistic account. And so, one day I found myself taking a deep breath, diving underwater in a lake and reaching into a dark hole while several noodling enthusiasts cheered me on topside. A catfish was home. And when I realized it was indeed a catfish--not some critter that might bite off my fingers--I was, at least initially, happy. The catfish, however, was not pleased with my intrusion. Rather than wait for me to catch him, he decided to scram--full speed ahead. He rocketed from the hole and slammed into my chest like a tiny torpedo--all five pounds of him. I surfaced like a whale, blowing water six feet high, then leaped onto the bank and told my laughing companions that my hand-in-holes research was done.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

O Happy Day!

Today is the best day EVER, mostly because....

MY PAPER GOT ACCEPTED TO PNAS!!!! WHOOOOO!!!!!!

Also because:

- The reviewers were extremely enthusiastic about my paper and requested very minor changes

- I had two RANDOM PEOPLE comment on my blog and I am THRILLED to have broadened my audience another notch

- I adapted an ENTIRE SONG for my blog and it's so funny I've been laughing all day today about it (and also because of the above two)

- My naked co-worker and I had a super-fun slumber party last night and I woke up happy in the first place (although I admit a little tired from all the hostessing).

O Fine Day!!!

Hijacking Wi-Fi

Apparently it's still not explicitly illegal to steal your neighbor's wi-fi. So what to do? Steal away my friend! Unless you need something reliable, then it may be a good idea to get some of your own.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Welcome to the Hotel J & D - Rock!

(Sing to the tune of "Hotel California")

On a lit city bus route, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of the homeless, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night
There they stood in the doorway;
Shirts matching and all
And I was thinking to myself,
'This could be Heaven or this could be Hell'
They gave me a thumbs up, then showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say...

Welcome to the Hotel J & D - Rock
Such a lovely place
Both have a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel J & D - Rock
Any time of year, you can find it here

I found Netlix on the table, and a made-up bed and all
They got lots of pretty, pretty photos of themselves on the wall
How they dance in the backyard, sweet summer sweat.
They dance after drinking, they hope you forget.

So I called up the D-man,
'Please bring me my wine'
He said, 'I've been a Manhattan man since nineteen ninety
nine'
And then they start calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say...

Welcome to the Hotel J & D - ROCK!
Such a lovely place
Both have a lovely face
We livin' it up at the Hotel J & D - ROCK!
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis

Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And the D-man puts on his cooking apron to cook a dinner so nice

But J-Funk took me to the gym,
I took her cycle class before the feast
I stabbed out with my steely knives,
But you just can't kill a beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the bus route back
To the place I was before
'Relax,' said the D-man,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
but you can never leave!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Jamba!


I am in the middle of a fabulous weekend of entertaining. My mom and brother drove up with their bikes for their annual long weekend visit to Minneapolis. Since they've already been up here a few times we've pretty much seen all the sights and done all the stuff, so I was a little nervous we'd have trouble this weekend but no worries! There's still plenty to do. Yesterday we biked downtown (and used for the first time the cool middle-of-the-road two-way bike lane, which places you amongst the cars and feels a little surreal). We had some delicious Chipotle, went down to Loring Park (and flower garden!) and visiting the oddly famous Spoon and Cherry sculpture in the Walker Sculpture Garden. We also drifted through the Saint Anthony Main area and the always beautiful Stone Arch Bridge (and saw the new museum they're putting up - wow!).
Then we came home and watched the Worst Movie Ever Made - Jersey Girl (worse than Out of Sight, the previous Worst Movie Ever Made). This morning I taught another spin class - the third I've taught this week - and then we went for another bike ride... this time through Saint Paul, down Summit Avenue and to the Grand Ol' Creamery (world famous), stopped at a Jamba Juice on the way back for a smoothie, then back home via the River Road. Tomorrow we're changing it up and are going to watch my Studly Hubby's soccer game, then go to a beach party at Lake Harriett. I've never actually swum at any of the Uptown lakes - I always thought they were polluted or something - but I have been assured they're not and that Lake Harriett is a very popular swimming hole so I thought I'd experience it before I leave.

Jamba!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Why DO men have nipples?

Because women are better!

That's my explanation. The explanation offered by the authors of the book Why DO Men Have Nipples (coming out Tuesday) is this:

While only females have mammary glands, we all startout in a similar way in the embryo. The embryo follows a female template until about six weeks, when the male sex chromosome kicks in. Men, however, have already developed nipples by that time. link

Ha! I think either way, you can conclude that women are better.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Good Stuff

Here's a list of the Good Stuff going on this week:

1. My studly hubby made me a delicious blueberry pie Sun night. Blueberries!
2. An experiment I did today went terribly right when it had been doing nothing but going terribly wrong all week last week.
3. I got handed three classes to sub this week and next at the Y that will land me some sweet spending c-c-c-cash AND broadened my horizons because one of them was something I've never taught before - an abs class
4. I chose to further broaden my horizons by going to the class I was to be teaching, a class which I've never gone to before, and then ended up having a lot of fun (and getting quite sore which wasn't helpful).
5. I trainwrecked the abs class when I taught it but survived nonetheless
6. I think i lost a pound worrying about teaching this abs class
7. My boss is gone this week so everyone is taking off early and taking long lunch breaks. Whee!
8. This horrifying heat wave is about to break... and we'll finally have some decent weather this weekend (keep your fingers crossed)!
9. We made a Successful Airport Pickup Monday night when my naked coworker flew in from Portland on her way to a conference in Madison.
10. The janitor has not called me fat yet this week.