Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

book report

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

Last night I finished, in a big splurge, the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s about a boy in New York City who lost his dad in the September 11 attacks, and about his family, particularly his grandparents who were deeply traumatized by the bombing of Dresden.

Very well written book – very moving indeed on many levels: the effects that 9/11 had on the boy and his mother, the responsibilities of being a parent, the general effects of war on people for years afterwards. Highly recommended.


Monday, December 25th, 2006

A very pleasant christmas thanks, we had a great couple of days. Lots of singing, seeing as yesterday was a Sunday, so I had to do the morning service, then the midnight service (obviously later in the day), then the morning service again today. Music went pretty well – one of the nice things about St. Mark’s is that the congregation sings out, so the carols were pretty nice.

Last night our friends Kristi, Silje and Kjetil came over for dinner. I cooked a great big hunk of beef, which came out extremely well, plus some fingerling potatoes and caramelized shallots. We all ate far too much, but still made space for Emma’s excellent white chocolate cheesecake, and Kristi’s pecan pie and pudding.

Today we’ve just had a pretty mellow time, which has been perfect. At church this morning there was no childcare, so Emma took Silje and Toby along in the procession. It was totally cute seeing two little people in red robes carrying jingly bells, and the kids really enjoyed it. Back home we opened our presents and got some great things. One of the great things about Toby is that his enjoyment of presents is in no way proportional to the dollar value, so he is as excited about getting an apron for baking or a small car as he is about the totally great Playmobil pirate ship. I enjoyed the pirate ship myself because it took about two hours of assembly – good to unlock my inner child for a bit.

I should mention also that the Santa thing went pretty well – Toby was so pleased to see that Santa had eaten the cookies and drunk his milk, and that Rudolph had eaten the four brussels sprouts, that Emma got all emotional. Again Toby was really pleased with the simple things, including Lightning McQueen chapstick (he was initially just as excited when he thought it was a pack of two batteries) and another couple of pairs of dinosaur pajamas to add to his collection.

vacation pics

Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

Just uploaded a bunch of photos from our trip – you can see them here.


Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

On Saturday we went to the beach for another dip in the ocean – it was just beautiful. Our plan was then to drive up to the Dockyard area of Bermuda to see the dolphin show and have a nice pub lunch. However on the road out we came across a major traffic jam (major by Bermuda standards anyway) with lots of police and uncertainty about the cause. We heard rumors of a tsunami coming. This turned out to be a false alarm but it was a little spooky. The local paper now says that people are seeing the funny side, but it was rather strange to be there.

After lunch the traffic had all been cleared up and we did get the chance to see the dolphins and get a nice walk in the sunshine. We also enjoyed making sarcastic comments about the non-existence of a trail of devastation.

more in bermuda

Thursday, December 7th, 2006

We’re a bit more than halfway through our vacation in Bermuda and having a great time. We just had two excellent days of weather in the mid 70s F – yesterday we spent all afternoon on the beach, soaking up the sun and swimming in the ocean. Perfection. By contrast, Minnesota had windchills this morning of colder than minus 15F, described by the paper as “shriekingly cold”.

Last night Emma and I took her parents up on their kind offer of babysitting so that we could go out for a fancy meal. Here’s where we went, it was really excellent. They had a wine buffet – $23 for as much as you liked with 8 different whites, 8 reds, a couple of bubblies and a rose. I was a tad shaky this morning as a result but it was worth it.

sunny weather

Sunday, December 3rd, 2006

We’re on vacation right now, in beautiful Bermuda where Emma’s parents are living for a few years (tough one). It’s a real tonic to be somewhere so nice in December, especially as Minnesota’s weather has taken a tumble – highs in the teens F compared with mid-70s (about 23ish C) here. Also it’s very verdant here, a great contrast to the bare trees and general lack of color at home. We’ve been taking it fairly easy but seeing some local sights and enjoying basically hanging out.

The houses here are fairly spectacular, but I could tell I was a Northern boy earlier today. We drove past a great big house on a small island today – they have a jetty for their boats. However the first reaction I had was, “I don’t fancy clearing the snow from all those stairs.” It has never, ever, snowed in Bermuda.

post office

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

Just got back from the Post Office – it’s almost 70F outside, very clement for November.

At the post office desk the postal clerk bloke commented on the fact that I was sending stuff to the UK:

Bloke: You’re a long way from home, aren’t you?
Me: Well this is kind of home, I’m sending stuff to family
Bloke: So are you a citizen?
Me: No, not yet anyway. Maybe in time for the next election so that I can vote as well as paying taxes.
Bloke: Sounds good. You know if you came from a third world country you’d be able to be here without paying taxes!
Me: Um… Well I pay my own way, you know?
Bloke: And we’re glad for it! It’s the American thing to do.
Me: [exits Post Office]

contrasts in sportsmanship

Monday, October 30th, 2006

We’re really proud of Toby tonight. He had his fifth swimming lesson, and this week it was assessments for who should go up to the next class (here’s a listing of the very beginner levels – Toby is currently in the Little 1 class). The first couple of weeks he was clearly uncertain about being in the water but last week something clicked for him and his classmates, and they’re zooming around, going underwater, swimming with a lot less help from their teachers (still using a float though) and full of confidence. It’s great to see and he’s obviously pleased. So he has been approved to go to the next class in the new year.

On the other hand, I’m currently watching the Minnesota Vikings getting hammered by the New England Patriots. The Vikes are all over the place, and generally disorganized. Considering how much these guys get paid you’d think they should be doing better. Also a New England defense bloke weighing over 325 pounds just headbutted the Vikings quarterback in the back – not sporting.


Thursday, October 19th, 2006

A piece in Slate about the disproportionately high influence of Scots on political and media life in Britain as a whole (my friend Matt is Scottish and media editor for the Guardian). It also mentions that Scots get more spending per capita than anyone else in Britain.

All interesting and well and good, but it doesn’t mention, let alone explain, why the Scots are so miserable and complaining about why they feel run over by the English, and why there’s such racist anti-English sentiment in Scotland.

adam smith

Friday, October 13th, 2006

A few days ago I filed a post which mentioned Adam Smith, and the disgusting 70s building named in his honor on the campus of Glasgow University. Here’s a link to a photo of the building. It doesn’t look much less grim in color.

Seeing the building reminds me of going to morning lectures while hung over, and I was wondering whether that had tainted my recollection of the building, but I don’t believe so. It truly is an eyesore. We also had the Boyd Orr building which was built at around the same time. It’s hard to say whether it’s more unpleasant than the Adam Smith, but it certainly did have the added excitement of causing a wind tunnel effect around the sidewalk at its perimeter which would occasionally blow unsuspecting students into the road and into the path of oncoming traffic (a safety barrier was eventually added). Here’s another photo which shows the Boyd Orr in some context with the rest of the campus – note the stately spires of the main building on Gilmorehill, which was designed by George Gilbert Scott. Finally, this photo shows the neighborhood in the 50s before many of the beautiful terraced houses were demolished to make way for concrete and Progress.

UPDATE: I just checked out the biography of the person whose name is attached to the horrendous architecture that is the Boyd Orr building. Well, quite an eminence – Lord Boyd Orr won the Nobel Peace Price in 1949, and was a leading light in nutritional research. Amongst his accomplishments he basically founded the world-renowned Rowett Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland. I’m kind of horrified at myself for not having known this before, and feel a tad let down by Glasgow University for not making all students aware of this extremely impressive person.