Friday, June 11, 2010

Det var hyggeligt

We've had a very wet "spring" so far in Copenhagen and summer isn't shaping up to be much better. May provided us with slightly more than half of the historical average sunlight hours for that month and nearly twice the rain. June may not be much better. I'm careful not to complain too much - the cooler weather makes it more manageable for Alexa carrying the little one who will arrive in early August. The one memorable burst of summer sunshine started the day after our choir's summer concert and persisted for five days including the birthday party I describe below. That magic could only last so long.

During this mostly rainy period we've enjoyed another burst of social events including a picnic with some nice friends, a lunch outing with a couple other families that we meet with every few months, a 50th birthday party for a friend from work, and Anya's vuggestue's summer party.

The picnic was on a wet, windy Ascension Day. We staked out a spot on the ramparts around Kastellet and put out our spread of food hoping for the clouds to part and provide some sun. Bemused passers-by bid us "velbekomme" as is customary when encountering someone during a meal. For dessert we retreated to our not-yet-unpacked apartment for a little warmth. Det var hyggeligt.

The lunch outing is something we greatly enjoy. We take turns with two other families hosting lunch over the course of the year. This time we met in Allerød on a misty day. We took the train and got Anya to take an early nap in order for her to be "frisk" when we arrived and not have to sleep through the whole lunch. Mommy and Daddy took a long 90 minute walking tour of Allerød. It's always wonderful to be treated to Danish hospitality, and we feel lucky to have made such kind friends during our stay here. We enjoyed a delicious lunch and talked while the girls played. Afterwards we took a walk (the rain had stopped by then). Det var også hyggeligt.

Last weekend we learned what a proper 50th birthday party is like in Denmark. This party was held in a tent under clear blue skies, so my friend is very lucky. We met at his house and introduced ourselves to the guests after getting a "welcome drink." It's customary here to greet everyone present when you arrive, but I'm so bad with names that it's all a bit overwhelming. As we weren't the last to arrive, those that followed us weaved through the group introducing themselves to us and everyone else. The meal followed and was a delicious three course dinner prepared by a friend of the "birthday boy" who happens to be a chef. During the meal people stood up to give speeches and to raise their glass in honor my friend. The speeches (all in Danish) were complimentary and humorous reflections on their past experiences together. At least two of the guests were friends he had known since he was 7 years old. I find that remarkable, but it may be one of the benefits of living in a small country. There was also a song someone had written and we all sang along. All this took place over the course of five hours after which point we had to go home and relieve the babysitter, only after noticing that someone else's watch read 11:30. As we were leaving, the dancing was starting. We were the first to leave and the party went on past 3 a.m. Det var også hyggeligt.

The summer party at Anya's "school" was held indoors due to the rain. We got to visit with some parents and enjoyed watching Anya as the children sang songs. She jumped and did the hand motions as she watched the school leader play the piano. Anya enjoyed the opportunity to go back to "school" in the evening. Det var også hyggeligt.

"Hygge" is something that many Danish tour books talk about. I won't try to describe it, but you can click on the link to read more.


Monday, April 26, 2010

78 Steps

We moved into a new apartment two weeks ago. It's just down the street from our old place. It has the added convenience of an elevator which was the main motivation, especially with the new baby on the way (a little over three months - eek!). Needless to say there are plenty of boxes still to unpack and some more rearranging to do, but we'll get there. Despite the elevator, I'm sticking to my policy of using the stairs when I'm not carrying anything heavy. We'll see how long it lasts. We're on the fifth floor and there are 78 steps up the back stairs from the cycle parking area in the courtyard. I'm able to get to 62 (the fourth floor) before I really start feeling it. After two weeks I thought that would improve, but maybe not.

We all went back to the U.S. for 2½ weeks over the Easter holiday. It was good to see everyone there and Anya really had a great time playing with her cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles and other friends. It was fun to see how she adapted to the car culture. Toward the end of our visit and for a while after returning to Copenhagen she wanted to know about the cars people drove. It was very exciting for her to see someone she know get out of a car. We don't use the car much here, so she's been a bit deprived of that experience.

The volcano in Iceland was big news for a while, but did not affect us since we did not have any travel plans at that time. There was no ash fallout here contrary to the news coverage we picked up from the U.S. which made it sound as if the crust had split from Reykjavík to Romania and was spewing lava from Madrid to Moscow. Part of me is waiting for the "big one", but my rational side is trying to dampen that enthusiasm. The curse of being a geologist.

In lighter news, the queen had a "round birthday" a couple of weeks ago, turning 70. Here's a picture I snapped on my way out of work with the flag raised in her honor. She must have ordered a nice, sunny day for the festivities.

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Slow Food and Danish Politics

My cultural adjustment of the week occurred on Thursday. Our team at work went out for lunch after presenting to someone important. The traditional Danish lunch included three kinds of herring, salmon, eel and plaice followed by the main course. I'm used to that by now but still not a fish lover, by any means (I opted for the curry herring and the plaice). The large beer made it all go down better. It wasn't the herring, or the eel, or the beer at lunch on a workday that required the adjustment. It was after lunch when we filed out and a friend in front of me thanked the chef for lunch. The chef said, "You're welcome," then apologized for lunch being so fast. Had it not been for the fact that my boss's boss's boss had a meeting that started 1½ hours after lunch began, we might still be there. As it was, the chef felt that 1½ hours was too little to enjoy a proper meal. There's something to be said for that.

Still on the subject of food, Anya has discovered a new one. Raw parsnips. We'll see if it lasts, but it's fun to see her gnaw away on parsnip sticks.

Not having posted since Christmas, it's hard to believe winter is nearly over (hopefully). Traditionally, this is a time to hole up with the family and friends. We've done our part, visiting with good friends and also Alexa's relatives from Sweden, Irene and Clæs, who were kind enough to make the trip to visit us. We're always happy to have visitors, but even three social engagements in two months feels like a busy social calendar for us! We've also been swimming with Anya several times. Swimming includes a ride on the train which is always a hit with her.

Anya celebrated her second birthday in February. She had a party with Mommy and Daddy over breakfast. Another party followed at her day care a week later. Following Christmas and a series of packages with Christmas presents delayed by the customs inspections, the birthday seemed like a continuation of this new activity of opening presents on a nearly weekly basis.

The state of U.S. politics made me reflect on the Danish system which I've wanted for a while to try to capture from an outside perspective. There are currently eight parties with members in parliament. The parties are from left to right (as best I can figure it):

  1. Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten)
  2. Socialist People's Party (Socialistisk Folkparti)
  3. Social Democrats (Socialdemokraterne)
  4. The Danish Social-Liberal Party (Radikale Venstre)
  5. Liberal Alliance
  6. The Liberal Party (Venstre)
  7. Conservative People's Party (Konservative Folkeparti)
  8. Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti) - link only in Danish, naturally

First of all, the names seem to reflect how things have changed over the years. The Danish name for the Social-Liberal party is the Radical Left. These "Radicals" sit in the center of the political spectrum. The Venstre (Left) party is on the conservative side of the spectrum. What passed for progressive left politics in 1870 when the party was founded is now mainstream. Second, the large field of parties makes it more likely that someone can find something that suits their views rather than supporting the lesser of two evils. Third, the large number of parties makes it virtually impossible for one party to gain a majority, making it a necessity to work together to solve the countries problems (we can hope). The last point is that parties can have platforms that are difficult to pigeonhole into the Progressive-Conservative standard that has evolved in the U.S. An example is the Danish People's Party, an ultra-nationalist party opposed to immigration and E.U. participation; but supportive of expanded welfare programs (especially for the elderly - their base), stronger punishments for criminals, and (according to their website) animal welfare.

Enough politics... If you've read this far, I congratulate you for your persistence. You should be rewarded for your interest with this bit of news. Alexa and I are expecting a baby to be born in the beginning of August. Wish us luck! Anya hasn't caught on to it yet, but we think she'll be a great big sister!

Other activities this winter have included walking on the frozen lake near our apartment, riding the bicycle to/from work in the many snowstorms, watching the snow pile up on our car (melted yesterday). Winter is forecast to make a comeback later this week, but hopefully we've seen the worst of it. Now I'll stop complaining since others have had it far worse.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (God Jul og Godt Nytår)

Christmas has come and gone. Hopefully it was merry for everyone reading this. This year we stayed in Denmark over the holiday. We missed our family and friends in the U.S., but we happily also missed the blizzard that would have greeted us the weekend before Christmas. Anya enjoyed the holiday, especially anything associated with Santa. Several stores in our area had mechanical Santa figures which caught her attention. We may have encouraged her by stopping to see them when we went out to walk. The best part was visiting Santa in his sleigh at Tivoli. Anya was amazed to finally meet the "real" Santa. Santa/Julemanden was very nice. He told us that he's going back to Greenland on the 31st and will take a week-long nap.

The focus of attention here before Christmas was the COP15 climate conference. There were lots of protests and noticeably more people in town. Copenhagen is not a big city, so the addition of 50-75 thousand people makes quite an impact. Only once did I get close to a protest. I was on my way home from working on a Sunday (a rare occurrence) just after noon and stopped at the grocery store by the train station near our apartment. When I came out, there was a protest march passing by, surrounded by police on foot and in police wagons. Shortly after I saw them, the protest was broken up and many of the protesters detained.

One trend that was noticeable during the climate conference was that it steadily got colder during the talks. By the weekend after the conference, the lake near our apartment had frozen over and the swans and ducks were reduced to either sharing a patch of water the size of our kitchen or waddling across the ice to scavenge for a bite to eat. It stayed frozen over Christmas. The day after Christmas, we went out with some stale bread to feed the ducks. With the ice on the path, the cold weather, and many people being out of town for the holiday, the ducks and swans (and coots and gulls and terns) were not getting the handouts they've grown accustomed to. They got assertive and some ducks even climbed up on the backs of swans to try to get some of the bread.
In closing, we'd like to wish you all the best for a happy, heathy and peaceful 2010.


Friday, November 27, 2009


It's been a long, dark, not-so-cold November in Copenhagen. Things improved marginally after the first half of the month with only 3 hours of sunshine. One piece of trivia is that this will likely be the first November since 1860 without a frost (nattefrost). There are still a few days left, but the weather pattern seems to be set.

Alexa's off at a rehearsal with Nordiske Stemmer (Nordic Voices). Their first concert is Sunday afternoon. It's a newly formed chamber choir of professional singers (mostly church musicians). Here's the concert invitation.

I put Anya to bed tonight and thought I would share some of the lullabies we sing for her. While we speak English with her, we've resorted to both English and Danish lullabyes at bedtime - usually the same ones (Now the Day is Over and Sov Sødt Barnlille). I even made up my own, since many of the English lullabies I know involve either criminal negligence (Rock-a-bye Baby) or bribery (Hush little baby, don't say a word...):

Sweet dreams, little Anya, sweet dreams
Good night, little Anya, good night
You've had a big day, but now it's time
To say, "Sweet dreams, good night."

Sweet dreams, little Anya, sweet dreams
Good night, little Anya, good night
The cow's in the barn, the bird's in the nest.
So say, "Sweet dreams, good night."

Sov sødt, lille Anya, Sov sødt
God nat, lille Anya, God nat
Dagen var stor, men nu er det tid
At sige "Sov sødt, god nat."

If you have any other recommendations for good English (or Danish) lullabyes, please include them in the blog comments.

In food news, we've been making weekly visits to a new shop down the street. It's a smørrebrød takeout/catering place run by a Thai proprietor. They make a very good "Thai gryde" at a reasonable price. We've been going there for takeout instead of Mo's pizza. On the topic of food, we hope it was a good Thanksgiving for all of our friends in the U.S. We roasted a chicken because our oven is too small to fit a proper turkey inside it. There's also some pumpkin pie in the refrigerator calling me.... The closest thing here to Thanksgiving is Mortensaften which is celebrated with a family dinner featuring goose, or more commonly duck.

I mentioned the televised Danish talent competitions in previous posts. Recently we saw some musicians that were truly talented on DR's show "Spil for livet" (play for your life).

In other news, we're taking Danish lessons again for a little while. We're hoping to get a boost that will help further with our conversational skills. Wish us luck!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"White and Nerdy"

Not much to write about, but a few pictures.

Today while we were feeding the ducks, swans, seagulls, coots, and terns (equal billing, no pun intended) a segway tour cruised by (photo). It might be a good way to see the city, but I couldn't help but think of the Weird Al parody video "White and Nerdy" (1:20). There are also of cycle tours of Copenhagen which are a little more discrete.

As you can see in the photos, the weather here is decidedly autumn and quickly descending into what passes for winter. With today's end of daylight savings time I'll be turning on the bicycle lights for my ride home from work. I have a couple more weeks before I'll need them in the morning (small comfort).

Also today, we encountered (for the second time this year) men dressed in US civil war uniforms (at least they were the same vintage, blue with "US" on the belt buckles). This time I got a decent picture. They were speaking Danish. Not sure what they're doing in Copenhagen, but by the time I got the nerve to ask they had marched off in search of some rebels. Next time I see them, I'll ask them what their story is.
Another season of Denmark's TV talent show ended on Friday. Our favorites were third-place finishers Camilla and Jonas, a brother-sister duo (12 and 14 years old). They are adorable, but they can also play. The winner was Kalle Pimp, a rapper, who was also good (if rap is your thing) and we could even understand some of the words!

I'll leave it there.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Summer Wrapup

Once again, it's been a while. Now, with a few minutes to kill (Alexa's at a choir rehearsal and Anya is asleep) I can update the blog. Since last time, we've had a visit from Alexa's aunt and uncle, met some friends from Houston, "discovered" a Mexican restaurant, and enjoyed being with Anya - the happy 19+ month old!

With Alexa's aunt and uncle we spent a week at the end of August at a summer home in
Marielyst on the island of Falster two hours drive south of Copenhagen. As before, a vacation with Anya seems to fill up the car and then some, so we loaded the car and Alexa, Anya and Alexa's aunt caught a train while Alexa's uncle and I drove down separately with the loaded car. The weather during our week there ranged from terrific to marginal, luckily no days were complete washouts. We stayed close to the beach, so we spent some time enjoying the Baltic sea breeze, playing in the sand and wading in the "it's not THAT cold---" water. Some long early morning walks through the neighborhood and along the beach (thanks to Anya's enhanced vacation early wakeup schedule) gave us the opportunity to see hares and pheasants and not least to get some exercise to burn off the calories from the improvised s'mores. The week away was a nice chance to visit and relax and see a new part of Denmark.

Alexa's aunt and uncle were kind enough to cheer me on in the
DHL relay (på dansk her) which takes place every year and can be considered the world's largest running event with over 100,000 participants this year (20,000+ teams of five, each runner runs 5 km) in an event spread over five days. I managed to finish in just under 24 minutes which I hope to improve on next year. Our team was in the top 10 percent of finishers - a surprising result for any team that will take me as a member...

The following week we had a nice, but short, visit from friends from the church we attended in Houston. They were in town visiting relatives and took a couple of hours to visit with us and meet Anya. It was nice to get caught up on news from Houston and to pass along our greetings and good wishes to everyone there.

One of our happiest stories of the past month is that we found a passable Mexican takeaway restaurant. It's not that close (probably a good thing), but for taste and authenticity it's equivalent to an average place in Houston which is good enough for us. A disclaimer - after three years here our standards may have eroded, but it was still good enough for Alexa to want to go a second time.

Some recent changes in the neighborhood are worth noting. First, a statue of Victor Borge was erected and dedicated earlier this year. Since it's appearance in the square named for Mr. Borge, it has become a work of interactive art with people dressing him up or adorning him with accessories. The picture shows him as he was a couple of weeks ago. Not long after we saw him in the middle of a conversation with two older gentlemen (though not older than Mr. Borge) holding two ski poles. We look forward to other whimsical efforts and we can't help but think Mr. Borge would have a good chuckle. In other neighborhood news, an international incident has resulted in the Taiwan Restaurant being taken over. It is now under new ownership as a Chinese restaurant renamed "New Shanghai Restaurant". No word yet on whether this is a prelude to a wider attempt to reunite Taiwan with the mainland.

And (for anyone still reading...) we've enjoyed seeing Anya grow over the last months. She is learning new words (both Danish and English) and has started saying the names of some of her classmates. Her favorite animal sound is a toss-up between "arf, arf" and the new contender "caw, caw" that she learned from the hooded crows in Marielyst. She loves her books (pictured with "Daddad" reading Are You My Mother?) and is really taking a liking to our cat, Kevin. Early morning wake-ups are the norm, so bedtime for mommy & daddy has moved up accordingly. For that reason, and to further encourage our Danish efforts, we took the leap and dropped the "medium" cable package. So, no more CNN international. We still get all the main Danish and Swedish channels, including late runs of many American series, but since we're not watching much TV anyway, we can use the $200/year we save on something else. Speaking of Danish - the Talent 2009 program which last year featured the Robot Boys is running again. Sad to say, but the talent level is a little thin. That said, we enjoyed the efforts of Celine with the uncanny animal impersonations. Anya will have to practice a lot to reach that level.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sensommer dage (late summer days)

Summer is passing quickly. Since the last post we had a nice visit with friends Gregg and Linda from Houston. We enjoyed visiting and took in a few sights with them including the Copenhagen Zoo, Frederiksberg Have, Stevns Klint, Køge and Dyrehaven. At Stevns Klint (Klint=Cliff) we saw the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary (the surface corresponding to the extinction of the dinosaurs). They saw more on their own (including Odense, Svendborg) when we had to go off to work/vuggestue. Anya very much enjoyed their company as did we adults.

Alexa has started back at work teaching English and Anya continues to enjoy vuggestue. With the vacation season over, her friends are returning as are my coworkers at the office. Many people take 3-week vacations in the summer, so things can really slow down in July and early August when children are out of school.

While the nice weather lasts, we'll be trying to get out as much as possible. Anya enjoys watching people and dogs ("arf, arf") at the parks, seeing the ducks and swans on the lake ("duck, duck") and going for walks along a busy street ("bus, brrrmmmmm!").

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summer days

We took a one-week vacation to a campground on the east coast of Fyn (location) where we rented a small cabin. We were very lucky to get beautiful weather, the only rain occurring one night while we slept. The rest of the days were sunny and warm. At times, too warm. Vacations are certainly different with Anya, but we quickly settled into a routine which made everyone happy. Anya is an early riser, especially with the early Scandinavian sunrise. After an early breakfast and maybe a stroll around the campground we were off to the toddlers' playroom. After an hour of fun we were back to the cabin for a snack then off to the nice indoor pool for some swimming fun. Anya really enjoys being in the water. She could watch mommy and daddy going down the water slide and all of the other swimmers having a good time. After working up a nice appetite from an hour of swimming, it was back to the cabin for lunch then a nice naptime. Afternoons included a ride on the campground "train" and spreading out a blanket in the shade to watch the cars go by (bbrrrmmmm!). A walk around the campground and a swing in a shady playground wound things up before dinner. Our one day trip took us to Egeskov Slot, located about 40 minutes away by car.

The last week was Jazz Festival in Copenhagen. We went to three events with Anya. The Jazz for Kids performance we attended was excellent. I will forego any comments on the other two performances because they were free other than to say that the performers were enthusiastic.

Yesterday we had friends over to visit with their (nearly) one-year old daughter. Anya was not feeling well and slept much of the morning and again in the afternoon before turning in for an early bedtime. Today, to our relief, she was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and with no signs of what we thought was the cold that daddy brought home from vacation.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

First day of school

Our big milestone this week is Anya's start at day care. She has had lots of fun, but has not yet stayed for the entire day. When she's acclimated, we plan to drop her off at 8AM and pick her up at 3PM. Up to now, she's only gone for the morning. The staff has been excellent with Anya and the other children.

One of Anya's favorite activites is watching the garbage truck (pictured) which comes once or twice a week. The system here is that we throw out combustible waste into a metal tube. The truck comes by periodically to suck out the garbage from our apartment block and take it off to the waste incineration plants. The waste heat from those plants is returned to us in the form of hot water and heating (link1, link2). Anyway, Anya is much more interested in cars and trucks than dolls, and this is a big, noisy truck. She also likes playing ball, but only if there isn't a car or truck within reach.

Friday (Constitution Day) was the last public holiday (½ day off) until Christmas Eve.

In other news, last week marked the third anniversery of our move to Denmark. We also received notice that our residency/work permit extension was approved, so we'll be staying longer.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

April Sunshine brings May . . . what?

April and May in Denmark mean public holidays and the beginnings of a real spring that brings everyone outside to enjoy the lengthening days. That is if it isn't cold and raining. This year we've been very lucky. April in Denmark set record highs this year for both temperature and sunshine. In the Copenhagen area, April averages 167 hours of sunlight. This year's total was nearly double that with 312 (see chart).

With all the sunlight we've been out as much as possible walking, enjoying picnics in the nearby parks, and eating at outdoor cafés. Having a few extra days off around Easter made it extra nice.

During the week before Easter (immediately after the last post) we took trips to two art museums, Louisiana and Arken where we saw a large Max Ernst exhibit and a collection of works by French impressionist works. The best part was watching Anya pass judgement on each of the paintings or sculptures as we strolled through the museums. Anya would consider each item on display and turn away if it did not appeal to her. If she approved, she would extend her hand in an odd benevolent gesture. She seemed to especially like portraits featuring closeups of people with expressive faces. Also, some of the modern art, for example works by Asger Jorn were a big hit. Another (less esoteric) trip took us to Ikea. I can't write much more about that.

The Saturday before Easter we spent in Malmø. It was our first visit there and we found it to be nice for a walk around the downtown area and a stroll through the park. We did some shopping and took advantage of the lower prices on top of the 70% discount on exchange rate between the Danish and Swedish currency. I'm not sure if the savings made up for the train fare over and back, but we enjoyed our visit nonetheless. We ate a good lunch at a cafe downtown and explored the St. Peter's Church.

Anya will begin going to vuggestue (day care / lit. "crib room") in June. We're excited that she'll get to meet lots of new friends, and in a couple of years she can correct our Danish mistakes. The staff are very professional and we're comfortable that Anya will be in good hands.

Farfar and Farmor (J&P) arrived last week to visit us. Anya has enjoyed having some new people to entertain and we've enjoyed having some new entertainers in our troupe.

Following up on an earlier post, the new pizza place down the street (Mo's) has taken over as our primary pizza joint. As for the bagel shop, we're waiting a while to give it another chance.

I'm going to post this before I get tempted to include any more things...

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

Spring is here

Spring is here, finally! Yesterday was a glorious bright spring day, as was Friday. We took the train up to Klampenborg north of Copenhagen to enjoy a walk in the woods, soak in some sea breezes, and have lunch at Bakken - the "other" amusement park in the Copenhagen area. Anya enjoyed watching the people at the park and on the train. Anya's favorite word right now is "Hi" or "Hej" in Danish. They both sound the same and have the same meaning. The bonus for her is that she gets a nice reaction from some people when she says it. Many people ignore her, but she's persistent and will often at least get a smile from even the surliest looking people.

One Danish word we're sorry to have learned is "aflivning." We discovered last week that our cat, Sammie, had a large tumor in her intestines. She was not quite nine years old and had always been very healthy, so we were shocked to say the least. The first clue we had was when we saw that she was no longer eating the remnants of the soft cat food we use to conceal Kevin's medicine. She has always had a good appetite. We don't think she suffered but we both feel sad that Anya won't get to grow up with her. Despite being testy with guests, she was sweet to us and nice to Anya. We'll remember her fondly.

Since our last post, we've made the change to daylight savings time, as it's called in the U.S., or simply "summer time" as it's called here. Personally I think Denmark should opt out of this system, just as they did with the Euro. There's plenty of sunlight to go around in the evenings during the summer, and whether the sun sets at 9:00pm or 10:00pm is not that important to me. Of course, my feelings may be colored by the concern that we'll be to get Anya to sleep this summer well before 9:00pm (bedtime has already slipped from 7:00 to 7:30) when it's full sunlight outside.
As expected, we got the car back from the shop looking nearly new again. That good news was tempered by the theft of my bike a week later. Now with a new bike and a nearly new (looking) car, here's hoping I won't have to report anything else to the police.

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Sunday, March 08, 2009


For those still checking in, a rare update. It's difficult to write much here because the daily routine has taken over and the winter seems to drag on. Here is a picture of Anya in the nifty backpack we got from some friends. We still use the stroller too, but this is a nice way to get out and about. The train station is in the background and some signs of spring (yellow flowers) are popping up from the ground. Summer still seems a long way off.

The car situation is nearly resolved. We shopped around and found the second estimate to be $500 lower than the first. Happily we received a contribution toward the repair costs (not insured) from the apartment dwellers where the New Year's Eve party took place. All in all it was kind and generous of them to help out since they had no legal obligation and the police dropped the case. As for the police, I shouldn't have expected them to go all out with swat team and helicopters to find the perpetrator, but they could have at least put a stamp (or return address) on the letter they sent to inform us that they had dropped the investigation. The letter arrived in a plastic bag with a note that we could open the letter and be obliged to pay 25 kroner (more than $4.00) or return the letter to the post office unopened and pay no fee. Suspecting the letter might relate to our car situation we opened it only to be disappointed to hear that the case was no longer being pursued. Anyway, the car is being fixed (slowly) and should be ready next week. The windshield had to be imported and the first one arrived damaged. If all goes well, we'll be on the road again next weekend and hopefully all of the road salt will be washed away by the recent and upcoming rainy weather.

Two new businesses are opening down the street. Mo's Pizza and Bagelman may work their way into our routine if the food is palatable. The closest pizza shop has crust like crispy pita bread and it always rains when I pick up orders from our favorite pizza shop (not sure why). The bagel shop will be a nice option. With the pizza and bagels, Alexa said we might as well be living in Brooklyn.

Anya has turned one year old since the last post. She is growing up before our eyes, developing some picky eating habits. It seems her favorite foods in order of preference may be banana, apple, and broccoli. Hopefully the broccoli stays on the list. The food not on the list sometimes ends up on the floor, but is usually eaten grudgingly after she's convinced herself there is no banana (or apple or broccoli) left on her tray. She definitely has her own ideas about what she wants. One example is that she doesn't want her nails cut, so we've resorted to sneaking into her room a half-hour after bedtime to trim her nails while she's asleep. Maybe there are parents out there with better solutions, but that's working for us for now.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Turning the corner?

As I may have shared before, January is a difficult month in Denmark. Winter stretches out ahead and the revelry and pynt (decoration) leading up to Christmas and New Year's is long past. The weather is reliably cold (but not that cold) and wet (in a misty, drizzly way) with the sun a rare fleeting sight low on the horizon. You don't have to take my word for it - this is all dutifully archived by our friends at the Danish Meteorological Institute (

Despite all that, we can actually look ahead to February when things begin to turn the corner and March when each day is noticably longer than the last. The public holidays around Easter and the weeks after give way to the manic days of May and suddenly it's SUMMER! So, as you can see - summer is just around the corner... isn't it?

Anya has been doing "sooo big" raising her arms to demonstrate how big she is. This sometimes gets mixed up with waving bye-bye because we taught her both at the same time. She loves to hear us whistle - rewarding us with a toothy grin!


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Are you ready for some (amerikansk) football?

The newspaper yesterday brought the good news that the Eagles-Giants game will be televised today live (7:00 p.m. Denmark time). I should know better, but after the Phillies success this year - anything is possible. So with our evening plans set, I can go ahead and update the blog for the first time in a while...

The latest blog hiatus corresponded to my paternity leave, a six-week stretch from the end of November to the beginning of January. This included a four-week trip to the U.S. (Maryland and Pennsylvania) where we were able to introduce Anya to a large part of both of our families. She seemed to thrive on meeting all of the new people. The trip was not without some excitement. Anya's first plane flight had to be cut short after the wing flaps malfunctioned and required us to return to Copenhagen about a half-hour in the air. After a fast landing and a few hours of sitting in the airplane we learned that we would not be using that plane and would have to rebook our flight. The overnight stay featured a cold shower in the hotel and a complimentary dinner at a Pakistani restaurant. Fortunately, the next day's flight was uneventful.

Adjusting to jet lag had been difficult since returning to Denmark, especially so for Anya. Since it's dark for most of the day, she doesn't have much to go on. We're keeping her routine going and she's nearly there, except she's been waking up at 3:30am (which is just as dark as 7:00am, so who can blame her?). Aside from jet lag, another shock on returning home was discovering that the new year's festivities in the fourth floor apartment above where our car was parked included tossing bottles out of the window. It will go to the shop this week for a broken windshield and several dents. The police have been informed - we'll see what happens.

Finally, best wishes to all for a happy and healthy new year.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mmm Mmm Mastering "M"

Anya has been entertaining us with her babbling. She participates in the dinner table conversations and after a long stretch of experimenting with vowels, a consonant is a welcome sound. The letter for the week is "M". "Mah mah" and the occasional "Oh bah mah" get a good laugh from her audience (i.e. mommy and daddy).

Along similar lines, we got a laugh from this video from the Phillies World Series Championship parade which shows that Philadelphia fans are not just insensitive louts who would even boo Santa Claus. There wasn't much excitement in Copenhagen when the Phillies won, and it was strange to be somewhere where nobody really cares. At first I compared it to being a soccer fan in the U.S., but after thinking it through it's more comparable to being a team handball fan, rooting for your home team from afar. At any rate, it's exciting to think that after 28 years they finally have another championship. Let everyone else say "Wait 'til next year." I'm still enjoying this one.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Robot Boys and Old-Time Baseball

A couple of weeks ago we watched the finale of Denmark's "Talent 2008" program, another in the continuing series of reality shows and "Idol" spinoffs that have swamped the world. The thing about doing these in Denmark is that it's such a small country that there's a good chance that the people on these programs are only 2-3 degrees of separation away from most people in the country. Given that Danes are generally modest, I'm surprised that they got as many volunteers as they did. Anyway, the winners "Robert Drengene" (The Robot Boys) put on a good show and came away with 250,000 kroner. This clip is worth watching (from their semifinal performance). This clip is from their first performance in the competition. I like watching the judges' and audience's reactions. Another participant who didn't make it past the semifinals is pretty amazing with the hand flute (starting at 1'15").

Today I listened to game 5 of the World Series. I'll tell you who won... it was the Yankees taking the series by winning the final game 10-6. Oh, did I forget to mention this is the 1949 world series? Since we can't watch the games from 2008 here, I've had to satisfy myself with some baseball history which I came across on the internet. The full game is online complete with Gillette razor ads and every pitch from start to finish. I was struck by how evenly matched the teams were: Berra/Campanella, DiMaggio/Snider, Rizutto/Reese, not to mention Jackie Robinson at the height of his career. Also, it was a treat to hear Mel Allen and Red Barber call the game, bringing it to life over the radio and even a device that they would never have imagined in their day (my iPod). It was also the first World Series game played under lights (turned on late in the game which runs just over 3 hours).

Anya is having fun playing the "Uh-Oh" game where we give her something and she drops it to the sound of Mommy saying "Uh-Oh". This is good for 15-20 minutes of good fun. She's also sitting up in her new Norwegian high chair to eat her meals.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Out and About II

It has been a busy few weeks. Anya's weekly routine, along with any other appointments, includes "baby singing" and mothers' group meetings. Baby singing is held at our local church and is led by a violist from the national symphony who happens to be from Wisconsin, though she has lived her for 30+ years (I guess she likes it). The class is all in Danish and includes 10 children and lots of fun activities accompanied by singing or viola. The mothers' group is the second in which Alexa has participated. The first dissolved after several mothers moved away. Being English-speaking groups, the mothers are all from somewhere else and move on for various (generally work-related) reasons.

Late September saw our first dinner out with Anya staying with a babysitter. We were invited to join some people from work for a dinner at a nice restaurant north of Copenhagen. We dropped Anya off with the babysitter (at a friend's/coworker's house) and we were off for a nice night with adults. We missed Anya, of course, but she slept peacefully and was happy to see us when we picked her up. This was followed the next day by a "team-building" event that Andy had at work. It involved sailing out of the Copenhagen harbor and back (about 4 hours total) followed by dinner at another fancy restaurant, this one run by a famous (in Denmark) chef named Bo Bech. The restaurant won a Michelin Star and featured all kinds of interesting creations on the menu, the highlight being deep-frozen almond milk, cooled in liquid nitrogen, whichs sublimated immediately in our mouths. The dishes were interesting for their creativity, but also for the absurdly small portions.

The last week of September took me on a field trip to northern Spain. There was beautiful countryside, good food, nice people, and of course - rocks. This picture may appear to be from a fancy hotel bathroom, but it was part of a new ampitheatre carved out of a mountainside where there used to be a quarry. The rocks reflect several episodes of alteration which give the interesting patterns. Earlier in the week, we were in the Sierra del Cuerra montains from which we could see the Atlantic coast when the clouds lifted. Although it was fun, it was difficult to be away from Alexa and Anya. I'm glad I don't have to travel more than I do.

In the past weeks we began working our way through Matador. This a famous (again, in Denmark) Danish television series. It has nothing to do with Spain or bullfighting, Matador translates as "kingpin" or "Monopoly" (according to my handy Dansk-Engelsk dictionary). It is 24 episodes set in the years 1929-1947, of which we have the first eight. We're already hooked, and fortunately the DVD's have English subtitles, though we could get by with the danish subtitles (for the hearing impaired) as we sometimes do.

On a final note, I include a picture of our orchid which unlike other plants we have had in the past, thrives on benign neglect.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Vores vaskemaskin er gået i stykker"

The last weeks have us back in the routine after our vacation. Anya has started a baby singing class that meets on Fridays through November. She enjoys it very much. I ran in the DHL relay on September 4th. Teams of 5 run a total distance of 25km through a park near our apartment. This was my second time participating in the race which was followed by a good barbecue which negated any health benefits gained from running the 5km distance.

We spent the last week of August on Sjællands Odde, a cape located a 1½ hour drive NW of Copenhagen. We had some good weather, some bad. The area is very nice with water close by in all directions and beautiful farmland for long walks. Brombær were ripe for picking and the house we stayed in had all the comforts of home. Anya did not know that she was free to sleep late, since we were on vacation, but it was a nice change all the same.

The weather was beautiful this past weekend, making us feel a little guilty thinking of our friends in Houston who suffered through hurricane Ike. We're glad we weren't there, but we've been thinking of those who were. Fortunately it wasn't a worst case scenario. Saturday we took advantage of a large street "loppemarked" (flea market) nearby our apartment. We mostly purchased baby clothes and other accessories. There was a very good turnout due to the good weather and the number of sellers. Given the high prices here and the rate that Anya is growing, we'll be keeping our eyes open for others as a good way to keep her in clothes.

Today I got to practice the phrase :"Vores vaskemaskin er gået i stykker" which means our washing machine is broken (literally has gone to pieces). It has periodically (and with greater frequency) been failing to pump the water out after washing. For the unsuspecting victim, this condition can lead to a flood of water across the bathroom floor followed by a few choice expletives uttered when soaking up the consequences with any available towels. We put up with this for a while because we could see when it didn't drain then change the settings or run it through another cycle to get it to pump out. When that approach stopped working, the plumber came to look at it and called in a technician who "fixed" it in less than 15 minutes. It took three loads of laundry to learn it wasn't fixed. So, our patience is running out along with our previously large supply of Danish coins (thanks to the møntvask, i.e. coin wash laundry down the street). Along those lines, I direct you to this link provided by my dad. Here's hoping my next post will herald the arrival of our new washing machine...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Min nye ordbog" and Olympics in Denmark

One of our early sources of information on life in Denmark was Joel's Blog (link not working at this time). In one entry he expresses his satisfaction with his new dictionary, or ordbog (lit. "word book"). Since Anya arrived, our formal Danish lessons have stopped and we are supplementing with Danish programming and newspapers - alternately the tabloid Nyhedsavisen and the intellectual Weekendavisen (wiki). We are planning to subscribe to receive Politiken (wiki)1 or 2 times per week.

Anyway, I digress. Our new Danish dictionary contains a pronounciation guide - something we'd been lacking beyond the basic material in the small Berlitz dictionary. As we and other Danish students have learned, it's the pronounciation that trips us up. We can manage with the grammar, and our vocabulary is getting bigger (slowly), but without knowing how to pronouce these new words on the page they're not much use in conversation. To supplement in the pronounciation department, I've discovered a large number of Danish podcasts that will keep the melodious tones of the Danish tongue in my ear, should I choose to hear them...

Enough on Danish. We have enjoyed watching our first Olympics in Denmark. Being up with Anya in early morning hours has allowed us to see many events live (6 hour time difference from Beijing). The sports broadcast here are often not what we're used to seeing in the US. We got the normal offerings of track & field and swimming but also copious amounts of handball, badminton, ping pong (sorry, I just can't bring myself to call it table tennis), and sailing. There was some drama with the Danish sailing team in the 49er division (don't know what significance 49 holds). There are no "human interest" stories and events are covered start-to-finish (including the marathons, triathalon, long distance cycling, preliminary swimming and track heats, all of it). Much has been written about Danes having low expectations, so no medal is taken for granted and there is genuine joy in getting a bronze medal not to speak of gold. As of this writing, Denmark has achieved its goal of seven medals. In all, it has been a good few weeks for Denmark and for us.

In Anya news, her food reperitoire now includes broccoli, buckwheat cereal, rice cereal, avocado, prunes, and carrots.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I dag er Anyas (halvt års) fødselsdag

Today is Anya's ½-birthday. She celebrated by turning over and pushing up today without getting her arm stuck. We celebrated by eating some birthday cake after she went to sleep for the night. Recently, after learning to turn over, she's been waking up to discover her arm is stuck underneath her. She calls for mommy and daddy to fix this situation and then begins the process again. She's always happy to see a friendly face at 4:00am.

We had a very nice visit with friends on Sunday and enjoyed a nice Danish lunch with gravad laks, shrimp, herring, chicken, Danish meatballs, leverpostej, and lots of accompanying goodies.

I came across a new (to me) Danish word in some of the reading material from the visiting nurse. We're preparing to feed Anya solid food and the nurse provided a 100+ page book published by the government. Granted there are lots of pictures, but it's very thorough nonetheless. It recommends cooking more for dinner and saving the "rester" for the childs lunch the next day. Rester=leftovers. I can remember that.

The sunset cannon just went off - 9:04pm, the days are quickly getting shorter, autumn is not far off. In four months it will be going off sometime between 3:30 and 4:00pm.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Holiday time

July is a quiet time in Copenhagen - that is, if you're any distance away from the tourist attractions. By some accounts, half of the population is on vacation in late July which in concrete terms means short lines at the post office, numerous shops with signs indicating that they've closed for 2-3 weeks or more, and plentiful parking in the neighborhood. The weather has just turned from predictably uncertain to delightful and we're looking forward to a nice weekend doing nothing special.

Mom/P and Dad/J visited for two weeks and flew back last Tuesday. Anya was alternatingly charming and cranky but mostly cute. Here's a picture with us at breakfast. It was fun to watch how her hair grew over two weeks. She and her parents enjoyed the visit with her grandparents.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Så har vi kørelys

It will be a little harder to meet random strangers now that we've gotten driving lights (kørelys) installed on the car. Traffic law in Denmark requires lights to be on at all times when driving, so it's easy in the bright summer days to forget to turn them off, resulting in a dead battery a short while after leaving the car. This has happened twice, both times I was able to find helpful strangers to get me back on the road. The last time was in Dragør during G&L's visit in April. It was a sunny day and as we left the car, I even looked back to ensure the lights were not on. To make a long story short, two drivers offered aid. Both were happy to take time from their weekend to help a stranded American speaking poor Danish. This was also true the first time it happened (in 2006) when I spoke no Danish at all. In Dragør we learned not to get a jumpstart from a Peugeot (apparently the electrical systems are not compatible). The Opel provided the juice we needed and we were soon on our way. Thanks to G&L for their patience and understanding. Anyway, those days may be over now that the lights are hooked up to the ignition.

We're having a relaxing weekend following our multiple social engagements the previous weekend (when it rains it pours). We had vienerbrød for breakfast in honor of my bithday followed by ice cream in the evening, so I'm headed for sugar detox next week. We had planned to eat out at a café for dinner and the weather was cooperating, although reluctantly. We ended up getting takeout because the cafés were packed with people having supper before the Bruce Springsteen concert.

Last weekend included a very nice barbecue in our apartment courtyard with lots of other families from the surrounding buildings. We met some delightful people and discovered how many young children live in the immediate area. The next day was the choir summer party where we ate dinner at a "familiehave" (lit., family garden). When we arrived a group of men dressed in American Civil War uniforms (mostly blue, one gray) and women in period dresses were just leaving. I wish I had asked what the occasion was.

Anya is doing very well and her parents are only moderately sleep deprived, that is to say I can still operate a motor vehicle. Here's a picture of her at the choir dinner sporting her sun hat.

Another source of entertainment this weekend is watching the celebrating gymnasium graduates. Gymnasium, as far as I can tell, is equivalent to college preparatory school. After the rigorous year-end exams, the graduates celebrate for about ten days wearing their distinctive white caps and riding around in the back of large trucks.

Lastly, on the subject of "some people have too much money," see the following pictures. This is a private yacht that has been moored in Copenhagen harbor this summer, Alexa and Anya's stroller provide a scale for the first picture and in the second - yes - that is a helicopter. Why it's painted battleship gray, I'm not sure. Maybe to ward off pirates. More can be read about it here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father Day

Here's a picture that makes this father happy...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Not-So-Ugly Ducklings

There has not been too much to talk about here. We pretty much spend time taking care of Anya and being impressed by her cuteness and continued development. She's now into cause-and-effect where she does something to get daddy to act ridiculous and then repeats it ad infinitum to see how long daddy plays along. It might be kicking or shaking her legs or opening her mouth really wide. Daddy's so silly. She's also more vocal and experiments with making sounds. The happy sounds are after a nap or during a fun diaper change. The other sounds are when she's tired and can't fall asleep.

We've enjoyed the beautiful weather here. We are forecast to break the May record for sunlight hours. That doesn't guarantee a nice summer, but we can enjoy it while it lasts. We enjoy after-dinner walks in the sunshine and treat ourselves to meals at outdoor cafes. Light is lingering late into the evening now. Riding home from choir rehearsal in the 10:15pm twilight was fun. The choir concert is next week and we're singing mostly Scandinavian songs which we prepared for the trip to Holland in early May.

Part of spring is watching the arrival of a new generation of our web-footed friends at the lakes near our apartment and in the moat around Kastellet. Here's a picture of some recently hatched not-so-ugly "ducklings".


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Womb-bear and The Box

Two things have made our life easier over the last two months. These two things are "Womb-bear" and "The Box".

Womb-bear was a gift to Anya from Alexa's mother. Besides being soft and cuddly he has special powers which make Anya and her parents fall quickly to sleep. Womb-bear can be activated to reproduce the sound of a mother's heartbeat and circulation which babies hear in the womb - a pulsating, swushing sound that will be familiar to anyone who has been involved in an ultrasound exam. Outside the womb it is meant to sooth a fussy baby. While Anya is far from fussy, she can occasionally be excited enough at bedtime that it's difficult to put her down. That's when we call in "Womb-bear". Unfortunately, we don't really know how long it takes for Womb-bear's powers to take effect on Anya because it seems to work equally well on adults as it does on babies.

"The Box" is something we learned about from a friend at work. It is provided by a company called Aarstiderne ("the seasons"). A box comes each Wednesday to our door and contains organic fruits, vegetables, a large bottle of juice, some interesting seasonings, and a treat. It's usually enough to make meals for a few days where we only have to buy meat to supplement the vegetables. We also get recipes (in Danish) which teach us some new words and give us some surprising good meals. Most of all, without leaving our apartment we get the basis for healthful meals with ingredients we would not normally have a reason to buy on our regular shopping trips.

I must mention that a third thing has made life easier for us over the last month. That was the visit by mom/Peggy who helped out with everything, especially while Andy was on a business trip to Qatar. It was a minor shock to resume all those things we had stopped doing when she graciously came to help. We're still eating some of the meals she prepared and froze for us. Anya (and her parents) greatly appreciated her love and attention over the two weeks.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spring again

Spring on the Danish calendar arrives on March 1 each year. No worries about solar equinoxes (equinoxi?) or the first sighting of a migratory bird. This may be one area where Denmark as a society is optimistic. In reality Spring arrives somewhat later and we had a taste of it today. The temperature reached 11C/53F and people were out in droves. We took a walk with Anya in the stroller to the harbor (pictured) and back around the ramparts of Kastellet. The sun was shining and buds are on the trees. A few short weeks and we'll be able to expect more days like this and warmer. We missed the first day of ice cream season this year. That also arrives on March 1 and, unlike the weather, reliably offers free ice cream at various seasonal establishments.

Moored at the harbor were several British ships. I can't help thinking that people here (if they have any taste for history) may get a nervous tick when these foreign naval vessels visit the port. See here or here.

Anya is doing well, has grown to approximately 3.4 kg/7.5 lbs. She is noticeably more active and expressive from week to week. It's fun to watch her grow. I'm back at work now with new perspective of a first-time father. It seems that work is both more important and less important at the same time. More important seen from the role as providing for Anya's future but also less important in the sense of the adage that no one on their deathbed ever expressed the wish that they'd spent more time at the office.

UPDATE - I wrote this post yesterday and the picture to the left illustrates how quickly things deteriorated after a beautiful crisp, clear morning. Note the flags, not nice weather for riding home.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Thanks for your patience... Anya's been home for two weeks and we're getting used to the routine, just in time for daddy to go back to work a week from now. We're learning new skills like one-handed keyboard typing, finding our way around the apartment in the dark at 2AM, and reading the many Danish baby-care publications provided by the hospital. Regarding the care we've received, we can only be overwhelmingly positive. The nurses, doctors and midwives has been highly professional and compassionate - except for an strong reluctance to provide over-the-counter (in the U.S.) pain medication.

The cats are co-existing well with Anya, despite a drop-off in petting time, though Kevin's hair is definitely in need of some attention and Sammie is still disturbed that we shut her out of the bedroom. Fortunately(?) we're so sleep-deprived that her scratching at the door is not enough to keep us awake.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Anya Marie

Anya Marie was born the 6th of February at 2:00am at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen. She was 6.03 lbs and 20.1 inches long. Both Alexa and Anya are doing well and we're getting excellent care from the hospital staff.

We're hoping to set up a "web album" with pictures as soon as we find the time... Stay tuned!


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Melodi Gran Prix

First things first - no baby yet. We're only 3 days over the due date. Alexa may not agree, but the upside of an extended pregnancy is another "last restaurant meal" before the baby. Tonight we went to Chico's Cantina to make another stab at finding a good Mexican restaurant here in Copenhagen. This was better than the last place we went, offering free chips and salsa, a nice atmosphere and friendly service. This time we had the enchilada platter which was okay (cheese-good, chicken-okay, beef-not so good). We may go back and try the fajitas. The sparkler-adorned sorbet dessert was a nice touch.

On Saturday we settled in for the Melodi Gran Prix finals. This competition in Denmark determines which artist/group goes on to compete in the annual Eurovision Song Contest. People vote via text message and the results are compiled by region to determine the winner. At several dinners and parties we've heard our friends reminisce about Eurovision and Melodi Gran Prix competitions from years past, and we found ourselves getting a little caught up in the experience. Andy voted for "La' mig være" performed by The Dreams (lyrics). Alexa voted for "Den jeg er" performed by Charlie (lyrics). All of the other songs in the finals were sung in English. The winner was "All Night Long" by Simon Mathew.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Land of Lego

Today is the 50th anniversary of the introduction of Lego. The Danish story can be found here. Google celebrated with a Lego-logo. Some Lego facts:

  • 7 boxes of Legos are sold every second;
  • 36,000 lego pieces are made every minute;
  • 400 billion pieces have been made since 1949, enough to build 10 towers to the moon;
  • the highest Lego tower built to date is 28.74 meters (94 feet);
  • six Lego blocks can be combined in 915 million different ways (not including different color combinations);
  • the name Lego comes from a combination of the Danish words "leg" (play) and "godt" (well).
Legos will become a bigger part of our life in a few years. Until then, I'll enjoy walking around the apartment in bare feet without fear of stepping on one of those little plastic bricks (sorry Mom & Dad). I'll look forward to a visit to LegoLand in a few years.

In other Denmark news, the national men's handball team won the European championship. This is the biggest sports news since the soccer/football team won the European championship in 1992, but like football/soccer I just don't get it. I would say that handball is more exciting than football/soccer, but I need someone to explain the finer points to be able to appreciate it more. More news about that here and here, and a description of the game for people like me.

Since I'm writing this, you can guess that we're still waiting for the baby to arrive. We're doing fine and will be all ready, as soon as I get the car seat installed...

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Are They Happy in Allerød?

Thanks to Mom for letting us know about the segment on Denmark broadcast on 20/20 last week. It looks like word is getting out - this was a report based on a study released in April which confirmed the earlier study in 2006.

There are many Danish place names that end in ...rød. Hillerød, Birkerød, Asminderød, Lillerød, Solrød, Søllerød, Usserød, and Vipperød. It was explained to me that rød is an old way to spell clearing in Danish - rydning is the current spelling. Some of the town names I can translate using my little Danish-English dictionary: Lillerød (small clearing), Solrød (sun clearing), Søllerød (measly clearing). My favorite is Allerød, a town north of Copenhagen. The literal meaning of Allerød is clear from their town seal. Yes, those are three tree stumps.

As for the baby - due at the end of the month - I'm reminded of the drilling reports I read early on in my career as a geologist. The drilling reports are daily reports summarizing all the drilling activity for the engineering staff back in the office. They're full of abbreviations and I kept coming across "WOW" which at first glance would indicate something really exciting. As it turns out it is shorthand for Waiting on Weather. So, now I can say that we're WOB.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Welcoming the New Year

We enjoyed being in Denmark to welcome the new year. Last year we traveled on New Year's Eve and arrived in Copenhagen the morning of Jan. 1 to find fireworks debris everywhere. We could only imagine the excitement. This year we were able to watch the fireworks from the comfort of our own apartment. Pictured here are the remains of what was launched from the intersection 20 meters from our front door.

Growing up, fireworks were associated with Independence Day. In a way similar to what we saw here, makeshift shops selling fireworks appear shortly before the big day. What was different here, aside from the season, was the power of these fireworks. In the U.S. a person could buy a range of things from firecrackers to small bottle rockets to roman candles. Big rockets that create the colorful sky bursts high in the air were part of professional fireworks displays, and not something launched by you neighbor from the street in densely populated areas. Here they are both legal and abundant and enthusiastically launched to celebrate the New Year. There was a mild prelude over two days which sounded like it could be the background to a reporter's interview in a war zone (scattered cracks, whistles, and booms).

At sundown on New Year's Eve (shortly after 3:30pm) activity picked up with a crescendo building toward midnight when the sky really lit up for about an hour before tapering off slowly. I have to emphasize that this was all done by individuals. Most of the concentrated action was contributed by what is essentially a fireworks display in-a-box. These are boxes with dozens of rockets arranged to launch sequentially with different colors and patterns when they explode in the sky. We had a good view of the intersection closest to our apartment where people gathered to launch their fireworks. At one point on our street, 4 men - all well past middle age - set up to launch their rockets from the middle of the street. When the second rocket went astray and glanced off a third-floor window across the street before exploding above the parked cars nearby, they scampered off like guilty adolescents to a marginally safer location. We could also see (and hear) more fireworks in the reflections of the windows across the street. Those were being launched from the next intersection northwest of us and from the lakes just a bit farther away. A bike ride later on New Year's Day showed that "our" intersection had more than average, but was by no means exceptional, based on the volume of fireworks debris.

A couple more pictures here showing the Christmas decorations around Kongens Nytorv near the city center. A statue in front of the national theater (old stage) bedecked with a wreath, and the lights decorating the department store, Magasin.

The Queen's New Year's Eve speech part 1, part 2 is a traditional part of New Year's Eve. This year she spoke to the country of the need to care for each other and to welcome immigrants whom the country needs (for its labor force) as much as the immigrants need Denmark. She also sends New Year's greetings to Greenland and the Faroe Islands, both part of the Kingdom, though with degrees of autonomy. As people trying to learn Danish, it was good for us to watch because she speaks very clearly. This leads us to ask, "Why can't everyone speak like that?!?" Anyway, frustration aside, we have made progress since last year. It's difficult to notice day-to-day, but during the holiday season, we've found ourselves in similar settings far more able to comprehend the conversation going on around us. Here's to hoping that trend continues in 2008!

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Godt Nyt År

Our Christmas holiday has been a bit of a wash with us both managing to catch colds. It remains to be seen whether it is the same cold or two different ones. We did manage to hold a dinner party for friends on the one day (Thursday) we were both healthy. We had a Latin-American themed dinner with Cuban black bean soup, tacos with corn tortillas, guacamole, and salsa (all from scratch), among other toppings, along with Mexican beer and Argentinian wine. It took almost the whole day to prepare, but it was worth it. We also had leftovers for the next two days.

On the Danish front, we've been reading a book I received/won in the gift exchange during our choir dinner. It is Kunsten at Græde i Kor which was the basis of the movie, The Art of Crying. We read a couple pages aloud and translate while taking in the rays of our "happy lamp" each morning. We're almost through chapter 1 and we're enjoying the quirky view of late 1960's rural Denmark.

Baby is growing and kicking and preparing for the world outside. We're still expecting her at the end of January. With that in mind, and aware that our expectations on timing may be optimistic, we bought a bunch of stuff this week and populated the baby room with what I blandly refer to as the "software". We've had the "hardware" - furniture - since October. Some of this stuff is impossibly small and the rest is just too cute. There are two days left in 2007, and I'm still mulling over Mom's suggestion that a 2007 baby will give us the tax deduction for the whole year. Alexa was not impressed with my fiscal responsibility after I proposed that option.

I'd like to end by saying "Tak" to all who have checked in on us. It's nice to know people care enough to click on our site and see what we've been up to. As always, you're welcome to email or call with your news (no pressure). If you need our contact information, just post a comment and I'll send you an email. Best wishes for a happy, healthy, peaceful, fulfilling New Year!

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