Surfers in the Back Row

Ooops, got caught on camera getting some work done during a talk at a conference ... looks like I wasn't the only one, though ;) And here I am tweeting on my pad after the battery on my laptop ran out.

In the woods without a car

I've tried it before, heading up to the cabin for just a night or two with the train and having the neighbors pick me up from the train station 8 km away. It works, because I can get enough food for 2 days in one bag.

But this time I'm up for 4 days, so it was the question whether it is doable for longer. The result: with good neighbors, it works!

I took a suitcase up with me - clothes, books, some food just in case, stuff that needs lugged up, and that was my downfall. It took forever to get the suitcase back from EasyJet, and I missed the last through train by a minute. Normally the DSB is always late ....

So I waited for the next one along in 20 minutes, and got off in Lund to wait 30 minutes for the next small train to take me one town down where I could wait another 20 minutes for the next train to take me on, getting me there just before midnight. Then I got lucky - I spied the express bus - leaving in 10 minutes for the other county seat that is just as far away from the cabin as the one that has the train station. Even being a bus, it was 25 minutes earlier at this regional town that the train would have been at the other one. I gave my neighbor a half liter of brandy I had picked up at the airport, making him very glad to drive me anytime I need a lift!

The neighbors lent me their car in the afternoon so I could get supplies. And then I didn't need to go anywhere - I'm working and writing this weekend! This is my very favorite place hackspace for writing:

Yes, the lilacs are still in bloom here.
And these are from my garden!

Tomorrow I'll be heading for church - they actually organize a pick-up service inside the county. So I chose one of the services, an open air service on the beach, and called the telephone number. Someone will be picking me up a half an hour before the service, I am really looking forward to seeing how this works!

Now, time to watch the Eurovision Song Contest.....


Lost and Found

Friday was one of those losing-things-days. As we got off the boat to the museum island, one of the girls asked why there was a picture of their mother on the boat. She checked, and the id photo extra she carried with her was gone. It was stuck inside a picture frame, the girl said. Oh well, some one had found it. It was not valuable, just strange to think of that picture traveling back and forth between the mainland and the island.

Up at the Fram I decided to sit out in the sun and read. I went to check my watch to see how much time we had - and my watch was gone! It was not an expensive watch, but it had large numbers (good for teaching!) and a light so that I can check the time in a movie theater.

Being without a watch is downright weird. Seems I check my watch a lot. There are alternative ways of obtaining the current time - but digging out one's mobile phone is not the same as sneaking a peek at a wristwatch.

Later in the day, one of the girls left her favorite, cool Irish hat at one of the museums. So at breakfast Saturday we decided to go on a treasure hunt and retrace our steps.

On the boat we found the picture right away. It was right there, stuck in the picture frame. We debated getting off the boat at the first stop, but decided to deal with the easy stuff first. She was sure it was lost in the museum. We got off on the next stop and headed for the KonTiki museum. Sure enough - the cap was in the lost and found! We took the bus to the place where I noticed my watch missing, and started tracing back through my steps. Amazing, how much you can make yourself remember. Just can't remember what happened to the watch.

We took the boat back into town - so we got a nice cruise - and checked at the boat kiosk lost and found. No luck. Oh well, 2 out of 3 isn't bad. And now I have an excuse to get a new watch :-)

The Holocaust Museum in Oslo

What? A Holocaust museum in Norway? What did they have to do with the Third Reich? Enough, it tuns out, that there is a need for a museum and a research organization to keep this memory alive.

A good friend, Einhart, retired professor for European history at the University of Oslo, was a member of the steering committee that founded this museum. We were privileged to have him give us a private guide through the exhibition. The house in the Bigdøy area of Oslo is the house that Vidkun Quisling  lived in. That was the Norwegian turncoat who was minister oresident during the occupation of Norway by the Nazis during the Third Reich. A day after taking office he had questionaires printed with a few "harmless" questions that all Jews in Norway were to answer. He rounded up and deported 771 Norwegian Jews to Germany, most of them died in Auschwitz.

I was wondering there was such a museum in Norway. It seems that the Norwegians long denied having had a "Jewish problem". It was during the course of restitution - the government had conveniently confiscated property from the deported Jews - that a foundation was set up so that not only the Jewish community would have something, but that future generations be educated about what happened.

The entrance to the building has a large sculpture with a Hollerith card on it and blinking lights showing 'just some innocent data". This is an installation by Alfred Dreyblatt. There are lights showing the innocent data coded on the card. Both our mathematician friend and I thought it was very good, since we both programmed with such cards back in the Middle Ages. We had a hard time explaining it to the girls, though, even though one is in her first semester of studying computing. How weird, punching holes in cards.

We entered the museum with Einhart and started pestering him with questions at the film exhibit with the few photos made of rounding up the Norwegian Jews and deporting them to Nazi Germany. These were Norwegian citizens making other Norwegian citizens pack a suitcase, leave their homes, and board a ship, the S/S Donau, headed for a German concentration camp. As soon as they were gone, they divided up the economic spoils amongst each other.

There were a few other odd happenings - two gypsy families that happened to be outside of Norway were denied entrance back into the country that they were citizens of. The Norwegians wholeheartedly embraced the Nazi ideology, participating in racial classification, and publishing antisemitic cartoons, articles and pamphlets. And no wonder - they were being lauded as the ideal race, the Nordic person. It was kind of flattering. And with the Jews safely deported, Norwegian soldiers joined in with the Germans in their unholy fight.

Oh, there was still stuff to do - they had to decide what to do with th quarter and eighth Jews. What race were they? They developed the idea of the "Jewish way of looking." This was an easy-to-administer test. If the examiner thought you looked at him in a Jewish manner, you were Jewish. Full stop. Einhart told of a talk he gave on the Jewish situation in Norway that was simultaneously translated into sign language. The term for Jew is signed as a big, hooked nose. Religion became race became destiny.

There was a story of one girl who dawdled packing her suitcase and missed the boat. A few pictures of people, children, a few stories, and some video interviews with the few who survived the camps. 34 did so, only one remains alive today.

The final rooms tell a story of a country in denial. When the survivors returned, they were largely ignored. Other people were living in their houses, had taken their furniture, had taken their crops and fields. It was trying to sort out questions of inheritance - the Norwegians were quite Prussian in their insistence on proper papers such as death certificates. The Germans at the concentration camps didn't bother with such niceties. It apparently took an act of Congress to get them declared dead, the day that people arrived at Auschwitz.

The final room contains the names, birth and death dates of thoe killed. Unfortunately, there are a few listed named Israel or Sarah, these were second names given to the Jews by the Germans to mark their Jewishness. It is a small exhibit - and a big job to teach the current generations about the past, so that it is never repeated.


A Nation Proud - and Drunk

It was Grunnlovsdagen in Norway, May 17, the day they commemorate freedom from Denmark in 1814. This is a major holiday, both in terms of the traditions that are followed and the amount of alcohol consumed. In addition, this was the first celebration after the terrible attacks of July 22 of last year, in which an apparent lone right-wing assassin killed 8 people with a bomb detonated outside of a government buildings and then drove to the island of Utoya and there shot 69 people, mostly young people, at a Labour Party camp before being captured.

This terrorist deed in a peaceful, open, and free country could have easily turned it into a police state, much like the hysterical USA. But Norway decided that they did not want to give up their lifestyle, and have been determined to not cave in.

The entire day, nothing was said about Utoya. No political speeches. No king declaring something or other. Oh, the heros of the disaster were invited to be VIPs at the Barnetoget, the children's parade at the castle. And every pore of every body was oozing: We are Norwegians and a free people and we like it that way.

We started the day early (although we enjoyed some wine we had along the night before) at 8.15 and managed to get to the castle by 9.25. That was just in time, we actually got places right along the police railing where we cound see the palace balcony. We waited for the festivities to begin and watched the people streaming in.

They were dressed to the teeth, most of the women in traditional regional
costumes (which cost upwards of 4000 € and weigh over 8 kilos) and many of the men as well. The rest of the men had suits and ties on, and everyone was wearing red.white.blue bunting or carrying a flag or two or both. Many of the kids had helium balloons purchased from the many men standing around selling a bunch of them.

Finally, the festivities got underway. A covered wagon with a group of fiddlers drove up, followed by some folk dancers. The king and the crown prince and princess and various other members of the royal family stepped out on the balcony. A choir showed up and some musicians and a flag or two, and they sang "God save the Queen" (except they sang in Norwegian about their king). This was followed by the national anthem. And then the children's parade began. Endless groups of children singing, playing instruments, waving flags. Many "multikultural" children were also carrying flags. The daughter of the Crown Prince apparently one of the 27.000+ participants. In between adult marching bands from all over the country performed. And each dipped thier flags as they passed by the King.

I finally talked the rest into leaving after an hour, it was just more and more of the same. We had coffee in a very fancy (=expensive) restaurant and then headed off to see the resnt of town.  We hiked up to the Vigeland Museum, a garden of delightful nude statues. I wonder if this is even mentioned in American guidebooks? Back in town we purchased a day ticket for public transportation and used it to take a boat trip - the sun was shining, it was delightful on the water!

The town was still crawling with people. The marching bands, being all dressed up and awake, marched and played through various streets. Groups of Norwegians strolled aimlessly through the streets. The seniors in high school were wearing overalls of red or blue (one is for those specializing in humanities, the other for sciences) that were decorated with their name and various oddities. Each overall has a pocket with clear pastic - their id cards are in that pocket, presumably so that the police know where to deliver them when they are picked up in the streets, drunk.

We tried to find someplace for dinner - but all the restaurants were filled with rowdy and drunk Norwegians. We finally managed to get a beer at one place before they closed the kitchen, so we ended up with bread and cheese meant for breakfast. We hope the stores will be open again tomorrow....


Oooof to Ooooslo

We are heading up to Oslo for the Norwegian national holiday weekend. WiseYoungMan is minding the shop - at least he can't wreck the car this weekend again...

I haven't been to Oslo for many years. I used to work for Norsk Data, we flew up (or took the overnight boat) quite often. I'm not expecting my favorite haunts to still be there, but we'll see. And a visit to the Holocaust center and the museum of modern art are already booked, as well as a table in the sports pub to watch the Champions League game. Maybe they have WLAN there and I can surf a bit like I do at home :-)

We'll see if my Norwegian is still usable!

Double Nickels

I spent all of last week at conferences and dealing with the car that I forgot the blog posting I was planning about reaching double nickels. 55. I could apply for all sorts of senior citizen discounts in the US. I'm now a "silver surfer". A 55+, as the digital natives love to refer to their elders.

Where did all these years go?

I've been in Berlin for 21 years. 15 before that in Kiel. 19 in the US. Yup - adds up.

I guess it's time to start making lists of things I want to do before I retire.

  • Get that book written!
  • Visit Australia & Japan
  • Decide I hate making lists
I'm just going to ignore that age thing.


Bye-Bye Car

Uff. We invested a good bit of money into the car at the beginning of the year (new tires, rebuilding the motor) so that it would run until the inspection ran out the end of August. We were planning on getting a new car then, and have been lazily visiting the showrooms.

I had WiseYoungMan drive me to the airport on Tuesday. I was nagging him from the get-go: no starts like that young man, watch where you are going, DON'T TEXT IN TRAFFIC! He dropped me off and I left instructions as to when he was to pick me up the next day when I got back.

I was picked up by WiseMan - for a bus ride. WiseYoungMan totaled the car Tuesday evening. He's okay (glad for that), but he insists he's not at fault. The car just broke out to the left, luckily no cars were coming the other way, and he smashed the car into a wall. Luckily he wasn't going fast, he somehow managed to get the car driven home. So we had the junk man come and look at it, I got a few hundred Euros for it (making me suspect that I could have gotten more if I had shopped around). WiseYoungMan got all my stuff out of the car, and it was hauled off.

I was so sad to see the car go - after all, it's been a member of the family for about 8 years! Driven all over the place, it's kind of my mobile office. Sure, it's usually dirty (although I just sprung for a deluxe car wash on Monday!), but it was my mobility tool. Lots of adventures we had with the car, I was really sad to see it get towed from the parking place.

Today, I had to bike to work. And then biked out to an auto showroom - they don't tend to be easily reachable by public transport and/or bikes. I'm not sure what I want. And I'm not sure how I'm going to sort out getting to Sweden for Pentecost. Maybe I don't need a car?


Former students

I love meeting up with former students! Yesterday I joined four of my first Master's students (there were only 7 in the group, it was - and still is - a tight-knit bunch) for coffee in Friedrichshain. It was wonderful hearing about both the personal stuff - weddings, kids, new cities - and the work issues. It was fascinating to hear them describe how things are done in the Real World. And gratifying, once again, to hear "you were right, you know."

I know. But I like to hear it over and over again.

Three of the four were also in the first Bachelor's group that we had - I see them in my mind's eye on those first days of university. Unsure of themselves in this strange place. Determined to be the best. Wondering what that small, oldish woman up front would be able to teach them. These are the fruits of teaching - to see that you have contributed at least a small part of making them what they are today.

They noted that they felt grown-up now - and didn't need to mess around with programming and hardware any more to prove to themselves that they could do it. They know that they can, and have moved on to other things: product manager, team leader, chief programmer, doctoral student.

Having a day like this really lifts my spirits! Thanks for telling me where you were meeting, guys!