Hej från Oslo

Hello from lovely Oslo!

Elina's apartment in Oslo is right on the Majorstuen square, one of the poshest neighborhoods in the city. It's an enormous apartment too, so there will be plenty of room for the 17 guests to spend the night tomorrow.


David & Hedwig

When I arrived last night, Elina, David & Hedwig were just preparing to sit down for dinner, so I joined them.

Elina in her lovely kitchen.




Kajsa & Kristofer showed up a little bit later in the evening.

The view from the balcony is quite nice.

The dining room.

The weather was not so great today, but we made the best of it and took a long walk in the rain.


Going to Oslo

This afternoon, I'll catch the 16.00 flight to Oslo, where I will spend a few days celebrating the New Year with Elina and her friends. She is Swedish, but she moved to Oslo for a her job about a year ago. Soon she'll move back to Stockholm, so this New Year's Party will be the last chance to visit her in Norway before she moves back. Norwegians usually know how to throw a good party, but just in case, I'll be bringing along some (relatively) inexpensive beverages from Sweden.

Speaking of Norway, I just watched the part about Christmas in Norway from Rick Steve's European Christmas. The show is available as a free download via iTunes, so check it out!


Blog template updated

As I noted a few days ago, I have migrated my blogs to the new Blogger. After moving my blogs over, I initially updated only a few of them to the new templates. These were the blogs that I had not customized very much, so there was less work to do to carry over the customizations into the new template. Now that I've had a little time to acquaint myself with the new templates, I've figured out how to carry my customizations forward.

I upgraded this blog to Blogger's new desgin and updated the template to a variant of Douglas Bowman's Minima Stretch template. The content now fills the entire width of the browser window, allowing more content to be displayed in a given amount of screen area. The blog archive section is now arranged hierachically; and I will eventually add labels to many blog postings to categorize them by topic. I wanted to add these new capabilities and to increase the blog's readability, but I also tried to maintain the feeling of the original design as much as possible.

Blogger's redesign offers a great deal of flexibility. Some folks have made clever modifications, such as adding the ability to switch themes on the fly. I might add new features to my blogs in the future.


Boulder open #50 at Karbin

_MAL9231, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Here, Kjell tackles a tricky route on the back boulering wall at Karbin, during the December 22 boulder open competition there. I placed 22nd in the competition. I posted 31 photos from the evening.

Recent updates from Stockholm

Last night, I sat down and spent a few hours catching up a bit with my blogging. It has been an eventful week, and I've had my camera with me so there have been lots of photos to upload.

I had a lot of fun at Erik's company Christmas party on Monday night. We had a few drinks at a pub, had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant, and then went dancing at Café Opera.

Tuesday's climbing session at Klättercentret was a lot of fun. Lisa, Matt & Anna were there. KC has completely changed the bouldering walls. Almost none of the problems from before my U.S. trip remain, and the new problems are quite difficult.

Wednesday night, I went salsa dancing at La Isla. I saw lots of friends there and danced with many charming ladies.

Finally, I went for sunset walk near the lake yesterday evening. There wasn't much light, but I took my tripod with me and managed to get a few nice photos by using long exposures.

In other news, you may have noticed that the appearance of some of my blogs has changed. I have updated them to Blogger's new system and have migrated my blogs from my old Blogger account to my Google account. As a consequence of the “upgrade,” it is no longer possible for me to make large batch uploads of photos using Hello. This is because BloggerBot does not appear to allow logins using Google accounts — only old Blogger accounts. Once a user has migrated his blogs, BloggerBot stops working. The folks at Google announced last month their intention to retire BloggerBot permanently by the end of 2006; so I suppose this loss was inevitable. I will try to find a more efficient way to upload photos to the blog. Unfortunately, none of Google's current offerings is as efficient or versatile as the one they're discontinuing.


Jake & Sarah's wedding

Today, I finally got around to posting the best photos from Jake & Sarah's wedding. The wedding was in Dallas last month and was essentailly two days of partying with family and friends. I had a terrific time, and enjoyed getting to visit with so many lovely people. But most of all, I was overjoyed to see my cousin Jake marrying such a lovely and sweet woman.

Congratulations again, Jake & Sarah!


Lucia 2006

Today is Lucia, a special holiday celebrated each 13th of December in Sweden. Lucia is second only to Christmas among winter holidays in Sweden. Lucia traditions including listening to choirs singing holiday songs and sipping glögg.

If you can't find glögg in your local supermarket or wine shop, there are plenty of glögg recipes on the net. Here's my suggestion:
  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • ½ cup sugar
  • a dozen or so cloves
  • a few sticks of cinnamon
  • seeds from a few cardamom pods, crushed
  • peel from an orange (or lemon)
  • flesh from an orange, sliced (optional)
  • ½ cup vodka and/or brandy (optional)
  • a few slices of ginger (optional)
  • raisins (red or white)
  • sliced blanched almonds
Add all ingredients except the vodka, raisins, and almonds to a saucepan. Let the mix simmer for a while, but do not allow it to boil! How long your let it simmer depends on how spicy you want it. 20-30 minutes is usually sufficient, but some prefer to use a crock pot and let the glögg simmer for several hours. Add the vodka and/or brandy to the glögg just before serving. Serve in small mugs or glasses. Add few raisins and almonds to each mug. Serve with Swedish gingerbread cookies.

I'll never forget the first time I celebrated Lucia in Sweden. It was in 1999, when I was in Sweden for job interviews. It was my first time to visit Sweden, and I stayed with Lotta's cousin Anne-Louise and her then-boyfriend (now husband) Kristofer. Anne-Louise and Kristofer treated me to the Lucia concert in the candlelit Storkyrkan (big church) downtown in Gamla Stan. The beautiful choral music was poignant and uplifting. Afterward we walked to a nearby square and bought roasted almonds from a vendor. We munched on the sweet nuts as we browsed the other stalls in the winter market, ice and snow crunching between our shoes and the cobblestones. The next year, in December of 2000, I returned the favor by inviting Anne-Louise and Kristofer to the same concert.

Here's hoping you have a wonderful Lucia!


Muddy bike ride in Järvafältet

Matt and I went for a nice ride in Järvafältet yesterday around lunchtime. It has rained a lot in Stockholm during the past week, so the ground was quite muddy in places. Even so, we had a great time and rode once around the bike trail there.


Safely back in Stockholm after 5 weeks in Texas

This post started out as an observation about the weather, but then I realized that I should write a few words about my return to Sweden first.

I returned to Stockholm yesterday, after five weeks in Texas. I had a wonderful time with my family and friends and because the vacation was so long, I was actually able to relax a bit too, rather than feeling I had to run around every day to fit in as much as possible during my stay.

The flight back to Stockholm was a bit interesting. My flight to Newark was delayed a couple of hours due to congestion in the New York area. According to the plane's pilot, the whole area from Washington up to Boston is usually too crowded for the number of flights scheduled, and so delays are common. Unfortunately, I had only one hour between flights in Newark, so I missed the flight to Stockholm. I wasn't the only one going to Stockholm from Austin. There was one other person with the same itinerary. When we learned that we were in the same predicament, we began to chat a bit. Her name was Delta, and she was visiting Stockholm on business. While on the ground in Austin, we learned that it wouldn't be possible to make our connecting flight to Stockholm, so on the advice from the flight attendant & gate agent, we rebooked through Amsterdam.

When we arrived in Newark, Delta and I hitched a ride on one of the electric cars so that we could get to the other gate as quickly as possible. We arrived just a couple of minutes after they had closed the doors of the plane, so we missed the flight to Amsterdam too.

We went over to the customer service desk and rebooked our flight for a second time. Amazingly, we managed to get a connection through Oslo. It was only a few minutes afterward that we boarded the flight. The flight from Newark to Oslo was less than 7 hours long, so it went quickly. We watched the film Lady in the Water on the flight. It was interesting, but I cannot recommend it.

In Oslo, we mistakenly walked out through Norwegian immigration and customs, so we ended up having to go back through the security checkpoint again. Once inside the international area of the terminal building, I bought a few bottles of alcohol. Because Norway lies outside the European Union, there are no taxes on alcohol for folks travelling outside of Norway. A lot of alcohol is sold at that airport, I can tell you. Norwegian alcohol taxes (the taxes ordinary Norwegians pay) are some of the highest in the world.

The flight to Stockholm was very quick — like flying from Austin to Dallas. When all of the baggage had arrived on the conveyor belt, neither my bags nor Delta's were there; so we both filed claims with the helpful chap at the Servisair desk.

I said goodbye to Delta and caught the bus into the city. Once at home, I had a shower, unpacked my carry-ons, and had a hot bowl of soup for lunch. Two of my three checked bags arrived at seven in the evening: my suitcase and my computer. I'm glad to report that the computer survived the trip without any trouble, and I'm typing this post on it right now.

My mom gave me her old iSight camera as a birthday gift, and I have it connected to my Mac. I'm looking forward to using for video chats with friends and family.

I had a bit of a disturbing experience when I first walked into my flat: the place smelled awful. At first I thought it might have been some food that had gone bad, but then I localized the smell to the bathroom. It turns out that the water in at least one of the vapor traps had evaporated. There are vapor traps in the toilet, the floor drain, and the washer drain pipe. I put water in each of them and opened the windows to air the place out for a bit.

Later in the evening I joined Daniel and Jenny for a quick trip to the IBM office where I helped D. install the memory I bought him for his lovely little Mac mini. I stayed up late last night: partly this was due to jet-lag, but partly to watch the planned space shuttle launch. The launch was scrubbed due to thick clouds over KSC.

This morning was cloudy, but the skies cleared off around noon. I was not too surprised to see that it's colder in Austin than it is here in Stockholm.

This is partly due to the fact that it's nighttime in Austin; but even considering this, it's strange. This past December has had very few freezing days or nights here in Stockholm. The weather is strange sometimes.

A few minutes ago my third and final piece of checked luggage — my bike! — arrived at my doorstep.

I had packed a bunch of other stuff in with the bike to make the most of the fifty pound weight allowance. It seems the bike had a bit of a rough ride. Labels on the box indicate that the bike arrived here via Amsterdam. And oddly enough, a bottle of Tabasco sauce was missing from the box. I packed two in there, and only one arrived. I hope some Dutch airport freight handler is enjoying it right now.

I'll have to see if all the nuts and bolts arrived too. I hope so, because I'm hoping to take the bike for a spin tomorrow or Sunday. Although it's a bit muddy and wet out, there's no ice or snow on the ground, so if I manage to put the bike together, it should be decent riding.

Tonight I plan to go climbing at Klättercentret. I never managed to get in a climb while in Austin, so I look forward to tonight's session. My right wrist had been giving me a bit of pain about a month ago when I went to Austin, and now it's fine. So perhaps the time off from climbing was a good thing.

All is well in lovely Stockholm. Now I'm going to the ICA to get some groceries and to restock the fridge.


Yesterday, I went for a quick ride in Walnut Creek Park with Dave Hill. It was my first time to visit the park. It's quite nice, with several challenging creek crossings. Now that I have had a chance to ride it a few times, I am feeling much more comfortable with my new bike.