Religious Orders

Rusty Old Norwegian Coin

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:48am

Religious Order: Travel

This post is for Andrew. (He has a thing for coins.) While in Norway, we spent a few days in the Lofoten Islands, basing ourselves in Henningsvaer. We had rented a fisherman's cottage, which is a common thing to do around those parts.

Once day, we came back to the cottage and I spotted an encrusted coin, laying on the ground in front of the cottage. By encrusted, I mean so encrusted that it could have just been a slug or some other disc of metal. You really couldn't tell what it was. Nor did its size correspond to any the current Norwegian coinage.

So, of course, I picked it up and tucked it away in a pocket until we returned home.

Back in the states, I left it in some vinegar for a few hours, then gave it a scrubbing. Had to actually use an SOS pad to get down to the actual coin. Turned out it was a 2 øra piece from 1937. Sweet!

Øra are basically like pennies. There are 100 of them to the krone. But, unlike the US, the Norwegians don't really use them anymore. Everything is just in terms of kroner. Only once, during the three weeks, did we get change in øra. It was a 50 øra piece. The previous time we visited, over a decade ago, they were still using øra, but the smallest coin was a 10 øra.

So, what's my 1937 2 øra coin worth today? At the current exchange rates, it's worth about four tenths of a cent. (The vinegar and SOS pad cost more than that!) As a collector's piece, you could buy your own, in much better condition, for less than two bucks.

But, still, I think it's kinda cool that I found this crusty piece of metal and it turned out to be loose change from over 70 years ago.

Here are photos of it, if you care:

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Never Ever Ever Ever Ever Ever Fly Though O'Hare

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:48am

Religious Order: Travel

You would think that I would learn my lesson. But, no. In my defense, I was trying to save the project some money and the cheapest flight back from Reno was through O'Hare.

The flight from Reno to Chicago was fine. We actually landed 15 minutes early. And that was nice, because I only had 55 minutes between planes. Luckily the next gate wasn't that far away.

Unfortunately, as I arrived at the gate, I saw that my flight out was running 20 minutes late. So I sat down, knowing what was coming.

First the time slipped to 30 minutes late. Then 40. The flight at the next gate was cancelled, with the next flight being in the morning. At this point, I was resigning myself to a night in Chicago. Then a miracle occurred! They started boarding my flight! It was, at that point, running only 45 minutes late.

Ah ha, but there's a catch. By our pilot's best estimate, we were somewhere in between 75th and 100th in line for take-off. An hour and 15 minutes later, we finally reached the front of the line.

So, instead of landing in Richmond at 11pm, I landed at 1am. After snagging my bag and driving home to Williamsburg, it was 2am.

What I haven't mentioned yet was that, upon landing in Chicago, my wife phoned to let me know that a hose under the deck had burst, so the two of us spent the next hour under the deck in the water and mud and dark, with flashlights, screwing on a new hose, which was harder than it sounds.

We finally hit the sack at 3am. We slept soundly until 1pm the following afternoon.

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, fly though O'Hare!

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Boobies!

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:48am

Religious Order: Travel

Yesterday was a pretty good day. It had its downsides, to be sure. I had to wear a coat and tie. I had to sit through a five-hour meeting. I had to travel solely to attend the meeting. The place to which I travelled was Miami, which was even hotter and more humid than Williamsburg. (The whole Virginia Peninsula is basically one big swamp.)

But the upside was that I stopped by Miami Beach for, literally, five minutes. And I saw boobies in the wild! That's right. There was a girl sunbathing topless. No, I didn't take a picture. I'm not that crude. But I am crude enough to stare for a minute. She had a nice set-o-perkies, which isn't really my favorite kind. But I'm not complaining.

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It's All Our Fault!

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:48am

Religious Order: Travel

We enjoyed uncharacteristically good weather while in Norway. We'd go to a city, the sun would come out, and residents would mention that it was the first break in the rain in days, or even weeks. We had been joking that it our presence itself that was providing the good weather. We predicted that it would turn to crap as soon as we left.

We were right.

Summer Storm Shocked Oslo

Some neighbourhoods were still cleaning up on Monday after a sudden and severe thunderstorm struck the Oslo metropolitan area on Saturday. Lightning sparked fires, strong winds knocked down trees and torrential rain saturated the city.

Some life-long Oslo residents said they'd never seen anything like it.

We're very, very sorry.

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The Goat

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:48am

Religious Order: Travel

While in Svolvær, we were hoping to see the Svolvær Goat. No, it's not a real goat. It's actually a rocky mountain peak sort of thing. It's basically an outcropping of rock, ending in two upright prongs, like the horns of a goat.

The thing is only 120 feet tall. The gap between the horns was said to be just 4½ feet wide. Folks who manage to climb it then jump from one horn to the other. (We weren't planning on doing anything like that. You actually need to be a real climber to scale those 120 feet.)

We scanned to horizon all-round, but just couldn't spy it. Very strange.

Then later that day, we were strolling through town and I happened to glance up and see a tiny dot of blue sky peeking between rock on the ridge-line. It was the Goat!

Damn, it's hard to see! It's way off in the distance, not near the peak of any of the surrounding mountains. And, at only 120 feet, it's tiny.

Check out the photos:

While it looks tiny from town, I'm sure it's terrifying up close. What's more, part of the slightly lower horn flaked off two winters ago, increasing the gap to something like 6 feet, as well as making the landing area on the lower horn much smaller. Yeesh! No thanks!

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I'm Back!

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:48am

Religious Order: Travel

Not from outer space, but from Norway! Yep, three week vacation in Norway.

Here's a tip for when you travel. If you hide your MacBook somewhere in the house before leaving, make sure you note where you hid it. Because you won't remember three weeks later. (Still haven't found it.)

More posts to come, along with some of the nearly 8000 photos we took!

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Norway Itinerary

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:48am

Religious Order: Travel

In case you're interested, here's our itinerary from our big Norway trip:

June 11

Departed from Washington Dulles, bound for Oslo.

June 12

Arrived in Oslo after a long flight. (Watched Monsters, Inc. three times.) Took a short nap. Walked on top the new Opera House. Went to Vigeland Park to look at statues of nekkid people. (Alas, no Hula Girls.)

June 13

Walked by City Hall, which looks like two blocks of Gjetost, then by Akershus Fortress. Took a cruise in the Oslo Fjord during the Færder regatta, an annual big-ass sailboat race with literally thousands of boats. Visited the Holmenkollen Ski Jump and adjoining Ski Museum. Climbed the stairs to the top of the jump. Scary!

June 14

Visited the Munch Museum. Took the ferry to Bygdøy and went to the Kon Tiki Museum, the Fram Museum (which is actually the big-ass boat itself), and the Maritime Museum.

June 15

Took the train to Geilo to visit family.

June 16

Visited two local knife factories. Was given a wood handle at one, for no particular reason.

June 17

Revisited the factories in the hope of seeing the robots online. No luck. Bought a $10 blade to go with the handle and they threw in a collet and two sheaths. Put together, I'll have a knife that retails for $160, no lie. Drove through the mountains to the Langedrag Mountain Farm, a nature park. Fed reindeer and an arctic fox. (Moss and Jarlsberg cheese, respectively.)

June 18

Hung around town.

June 19

Took the train to Myrdal. Took the Flåmsbana to Flåm, seeing a Huldra on the way. Visited the Flåm Museum. Took a boat to Bergen.

June 20

Flew out of Bergen, landing in achingly beautiful Ålesund. (Ålesund burned to the ground in 1904 and was completely rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style.) Visited the Ålesund Museum and the Norwegian Centre of Art Nouveau Architecture.

June 21

Took a bus to Hellesylt. Took the ferry to Geiranger, through Geirangerfjord, perhaps the most beautiful stretch of fjord in Norway. Took a ferry back through the fjord to Valldal.

June 22

Took the same ferry back to Geiranger, making for our third pass through the fjord, then caught a bus through the mountains, back through Valldal, and on to Åndalsnes. Then took the overrated Raumabanen to Dombås and another train to Trondheim. Disaster strikes as I fail to see a hole in the sidewalk while carrying my full backpack. Stepping partially in it, I twist my right ankle and start to fall. I twist my left knee trying, in vain, to stop myself. I land on my left knee, scraping away a quarter-sized patch of flesh. I then land on my left elbow, followed by my palms. Not good.

June 23

Limped along the Gamle Bybro. Limped through Nidaros Cathedral and the Archbishop's Palace and Museum. Listened to the usual propaganda about Saint Olav. (Basically, he tried to convert the Norwegians away from their perfectly good pagan beliefs over to the scourge of Christianity. When they kicked him out for it, he returned with an army of Swedes. And, for this, they adore him. Go figure.)

June 24

Took in the way-cool Ringve Museum of musical instruments. To kill some time, also went to the Museum of Decorative Arts, which was actually quite interesting, containing a good number of teapots. Grabbed the overnight train to Bodø.

June 25

After the ten-hour train ride to Bodø, my foot with the sprained ankle had swelled up like a little football. I think the swelling in the ankle itself acted like a tourniquet. Could barely get it in my shoe. Limped to the Norwegian Aviation Museum. At the end of the day, caught the boat to Svolvær in Lofoten. From there, caught an expensive taxi to Henningsvær, which is a small town out on an island with one road leading to it. A road that had just closed due to 4½ foot rock falling on the road and making a big-ass divot. Taxi takes us back to Svolvær and helps us find a room for the night.

June 26

Picked up rental car. Drove around Lofoten until the road to Henningsvær opened up. Checked out the Lofotr Viking Museum. Did some laundry. (Only $16 per load!)

June 27

Drove to the end of the island chain. Walked on a white sand beach. Observed cool fresh water springs making cool patterns with the sediment on the beach, which no one else noticed. Visited the Norsk Fiskevaersmuseum in Å and the Lofoten Torrfisk Museum

June 28

Drove back into Svolvær and managed to pick out the Svolvær Goat! Saw the Lofoten Cathedral, the Museum Nord Lofotmuseet, and the Lofoten Aquarium. Drove through Smedvik, where a near-relative grew up.

June 29

Caught the bus to Harstad. That's it.

June 30

Took the early morning boat to Tromsø. Once there, started with Polaria. Took the Fjellheisen up to Storsteinen for a good view of the city. Went to the Arctic Cathedral, which is looking a little run-down, truth be told. Stopped by the Polar Museum. Then headed out to the airport and flew back to Oslo.

July 1

Returned to the Munch Museum, solely to pick up a bunch of art prints. (These were the only good deal in Norway. Suitable-for-framing prints for $24 each. We bought five.) Headed back to Vigeland Park, with a detour in the Vigeland Museum. (The Museum contains many of his other works, including many of the models from which the statues in the Park were derived.) Took many, many photos.

July 2

Spent some time at a relative's cabin, just relaxing. Then went to the Nobel Peace Center.

July 3

Flew home. Even longer flight.

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Norway WTF

Posted: Friday August 15 2008 @ 7:48am

Religious Order: Travel

Here's my stupid American post. It's my list of things I either don't like about Norway, or just don't understand. The crippling expense of everything isn't listed. It's not their fault that we've trashed our own economy. There's only eight things listed. And I had to work at it to get that many. Basically, I love Norway. Except for these eight things:

Trampolines

What is the deal with the trampolines? We saw them everywhere! On the train, we once saw a row of six houses, four with trampolines. On a bus, we saw five within the space of a block. I don't get it. We asked relatives about it. They were surprised that most Americans don't have one in the yard.

Tiny Stupid Showers

No one in Norway can design a shower. Maybe it's just a fundamental flaw in their engineering programs. Look, it's easy, slope the floor towards the drain and put a raised lip around it. But, no, they don't do that. There's no floor separation and any floor slope is tiny. The result is that the whole bathroom floor gets wet. Some places actually had a squeegee on a long handle to use in pushing the water towards the drain. If you need a floor squeegee in your bathroom, you've done something wrong.

Oh, and they're tiny, too. And nobody give me any crap about being a fat American. Yes, I am a fat American. But there was plenty of room for my fat ass. The problem was that I could barely move my arms.

Corn on Salads

The Norwegians put corn on their salads. Always. Instead of croutons, I guess.

It tastes fine. It just seems weird.

We don't like fish, okay?

Yes, we know y'all love fish. We don't. I've tried fish. I just don't like it. Stop acting like this is some moral failure on my part. (Or I'll feed you something spicy enough to make your blond head explode!)

Fluent English

Their English is too damn good. This leads to two problems.

First, it makes it hard for me to practice the tiny bit of Norwegian that I actually know. They can tell right way and immediately switch over to English. It's particularly bad in Oslo. Too much English. Spoken. On signs. Everywhere. You barely know you're in a foreign country.

The second problem is that it's very sad to realize that most Norwegians speak better English than most Americans, including our dumb-fuck, coke-snorting, drunk frat-boy of a President. I'm not talking about immigrants here. (I cut them and first-generation kids considerable slack. And unless you yourself are fluent in more than English, you should too.) I'm talking about native speakers that just can't use the language.

No Dryers

In the entire three weeks, we had access to a clothes dryer exactly once. They just don't use them, partially because they don't feel the need to wear clean clothes every day. So they just don't wash as much. (Yes, they do get smelly sometimes.)

Instead, they hang their clothes out to dry, which is great and a habit that we should emulate. Except it's a little difficult when you're traveling and not staying in one place long enough for things to air-dry.

And the one dryer we did find cost us $16 per load.

The Goddamn Sun

It never gets dark in the summer. Even in those areas in the south, where the sun actually sets, it stays light. And, despite what you may have heard, not all places have heavy curtains to keep out the sun at night. It's cool at first. "Wow! It's midnight and it's still light out!" But then you start waking up, thinking it's like 10am, and it's really only 3am, and you can't get back to sleep. Then it sucks.

Special note: Norway follows Daylight Savings Time in the summer. So if you really want to see the midnight sun, you need to stay up until 1am.

Stupid Norwegian Kids Aping the Worst of American Culture

Look, kids, if you're gonna ape American culture, don't pick the really dumb-ass stuff. I'm talking about wearing your pants halfway down your ass, showing off a good foot of your boxers. Black kids look stupid enough doing it. Your lily-white ass makes it even worse. Stop it!

Oh, and unless you're actually from New York City, wearing a Yankees cap just makes you look like a tool.

And stop smoking so much! And stay off my lawn, damn kids!

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