Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving

Hopefully everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Our Thanksgiving was somewhat eventful, as Linzy's Grandma fell ill and ended up having to go to the hospital on Thanksgiving day. She is fine now, but had to spend several days in the hospital while they ran some tests, and so most of our Thanksgiving activities involved waiting around the hospital for test results and doctor's visits. Not exactly what we had in mind for the weekend, but at least everyone is healthy.


Read the whole post.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Swedish Food

The cuisine while I was in Stockholm the past few weeks was interesting. It was more similar to what we eat in the US then, say the middle east would be, but at the same time the options available are different.

The menus typically consisted of several types of fish (Char, Herring, possibly Pike), some game meat (usually Reindeer, occasionally Elk), and possibly some veal. There were almost never salad entries available, though some meals came with small spinach salads on the entree plate. The usual accompaniment for any entree was potatoes of some kind. Any sauces were usually mushroom based (Chanterelle typically).

Over the course of the two weeks I had all of those items, as well as some duck and many raw/strangely cooked fish appetizers. Of the entrees the char was probably the best, although the duck that I had was well prepared and not greasy at all. Reindeer, once you got past the red nose, tasted a lot like venison and was very gamey. Although a co-worker had a rack of Reindeer rather then a steak and said that it was much less gamey.

Another interesting thing was that there was tons of fresh fruit available: with breakfast, in bowls to take with you, in large boxes in the break rooms at the office, etc. It was strange because vegetables were very scarce, yet both seem equally difficult to grow in a wintry climate.

On the plus side, the bread in Sweden was universally delicious. It was downright shocking how good the bread was no matter where I got it. The breakfast buffet had piles of fresh bread, the little place near the office where I got a baguette sandwich most days made terrific bread, etc.

One thing I did not have was Swedish Meatballs, at least directly. I did have some meatballs with breakfast one day, and the two hamburgers I had both tasted like meatballs, but I did not ever order (or see) a purely meatball entree.

As far as restaurants, if you could ignore the across-the-board ridiculously expensive prices (at a pub - $20 entrees, at a real restaurant expect $75-$100 a person), there were many good places to eat.

Hands-down the best was Kungsholmen, both for variety (though you should get the Char) and atmosphere. Second best was (strangely) the hotel restaurant, but only when they switched their menu to Argentinian for a week and had surprisingly terrific bacon-wrapped black angus fillets. When it was a traditional Swedish menu it was merely run-of-the-mill. The Gondolen was overrated, although the second time I went there my duck was very good. Another notable place was a small restaurant we found in a basement in Old Town which, while overpriced due to its location, had a very nice menu.

Despite the good bread and interesting food, it was nice to get back home and return to the kinds of food I normally eat.


Read the whole post.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back from Sweden

DSC_3130Over the weekend Linzy and I made it back from Sweden safely, although not without some excitement.

The day we were leaving happened to be the first substantial snowfall of the winter in Stockholm (it had snowed a couple times previously, but not in a way that stuck around). The snow snarled up the roads so that our trip to the airport took forever, and then the flight to Amsterdam was delayed because the plane got delayed leaving Amsterdam for Stockholm (it was apparently just a there and back trip for the crew).

Unfortunately we were only able to allow an hour between the two flights. So with the delay we thought we had missed the connection. After standing in line for a bit to talk with the transfer desk it turned out we hadn't missed our flight because that flight was having mechanical problems, but we had to run across the massive Amsterdam airport to catch the plane home. In the end we made it, but I really thought we were going to end up having to spend a night at Amsterdam waiting for the next plane back to the US.

IMG_0838

Stockholm was not 'on my list' as somewhere to visit, and while it was a nice place to visit I think there are many other places I would go before making a return trip as a tourist. I would definitely advise against going in November, as the weather is pretty unpleasant. It was about 32-35 degrees every day with a constant 20-30mph wind. It also rained or lightly snowed just about all of the 15 days I was there. Also, it gets dark about 3:30pm, which is fairly depressing. On the other hand, I am sure the extra-long days and mild weather of summer would make it quite enjoyable.

Regardless of the weather the trip was interesting, and it was definitely cool to be able to experience Sweden. The people were friendly and helpful, and there was no shortage of things to keep us busy. Linzy and I had a good time seeing the various museums and sites over the weekend, and she also enjoyed exploring the town during the week while I was working.

IMG_0855

Read the whole post.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Swedish Royal Palace

DSC_3056After visiting the Vasa museum yesterday, today was devoted to the Swedish Royal Palace and associated museums. The palace didn't open to noon, which fit in well with our rather late start today, but also meant that we weren't able to make it to the Royal Treasury. We were able to see the Tre Kronor, Royal and Guest apartments, the Armory, and an Economic/Mint museum.

The Tre Kronor museum was probably the most interesting. It focused on the 13th century castle that the current Royal Palace is literally built on top of. It was pretty cool to walk down a few flights of stairs from the Renaissance-styled palace and see 13th century bricks and stonework, as well as all sorts of the artifacts that they found underneath the castle.

Unfortunately the weather was not as cooperative today, it rained all morning and then eventually turned to snow about 2pm. That didn't stick around, but the colder weather did. Still we had a good time checking out the various museums and wandering around Old Town.

Believe it or not, This is not actually the palace. That is much bigger, though similar looking.
DSC_2964

The church behind the palace (that's Linzy standing against the wall trying to get out of the wind)
DSC_3043

One of the side streets in Old Town
DSC_3035

A suit of armor in the Armory
DSC_3029

In the basement of the Armory they had a number of the royal carriages on display.
DSC_3010

Read the whole post.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stockholm Pictures

DSC_2955Today was the first that I didn't work 12-14 hours so Linzy and I got a chance to explore Stockholm a bit. It was also tolerable weather, cold but not rainy, which made it easier to get around.

In the morning we took the ferry over to the Vasa Museum and spent several hours there checking out the ship and the associated displays. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the nearby neighborhoods admiring the architecture of the local buildings. Tonight we have reservations at the Gondolen, which has a view of Old Town from 33 meters above the river.

The Vasa, the most complete 16th century ship in the world (95% original materials).
DSC_2848

The ship sank 20 minutes into her maiden voyage, less then a mile from port, thanks to a combination of being too tall and narrow, having insufficient ballast, and being too top-heavy (too many cannons, too many sculptures, etc).
DSC_2841

The wikipedia article on the ship has a more in-depth description of the debacle of the Vasa's maiden voyage, which is pretty amusing in a morbid, epic fail, sort-of-way.

DSC_2791

DSC_2959

Read the whole post.

Monday, November 10, 2008

KLM

Anyone who has flown Northwest (now Delta) lately is well aware that the airline is more-or-less charging extra for everything but seatbelts these days on domestic flights. International is a different story, but then again since the tickets are twice as expensive, I suppose it should be.

Anyways, on my trip to Sweden this week, I flew Northwest to Amsterdam (which was fine), and then had a two hour KLM flight to Stockholm. I was expecting the quick flight to be similar to a Northwest domestic flight, or perhaps the cattle-car RyanAir flight that I took long ago from London to Dublin.

Instead the KLM flight spoiled us with a meal, drinks (including beer and wine), desert, and coffee. It was crazy, and took a concerted effort to fit all that into a 1 hour 50 minute flight. A strange thing was the choice of sandwich for the meal. Half was goat cheese, walnut and fig, and the other half was rosemary lamb. Not exactly what I was interested in at that point, but they do get points for trying.

Read the whole post.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

And By Repaired, We Mean Replaced

A little over two weeks after my XBox 360 crapped out, my repair is complete and I have a working console in the house again. The process, while quick in the grand scheme of things, and not just because I was forced to lose sleep thanks to Civilization 4.

Getting the coffin shipped to me took several days, and so then by the time the console got shipped back the weekend stretched the shipping time to nearly a week. Then it took a day or so for them to acknowledge receipt of the console, and then they spent 3-4 days repairing the console before sending it back. And that was the fastest part of the whole process, arriving a full day before the scheduled delivery day.

I was pretty nervous when I saw the 3-4 days spent repairing the console, because I really didn't want my own console back, refurbed. Luckily what they sent back was indeed a brand new console manufactured on 8/30/2008 (though I don't know if they change the mfg date after refurbing them). So getting a new console was good, but it made me wonder what, exactly, they were doing with the other console for 3-4 days worth of 'repairs'.

Still, at least I have a working console that hopefully should have the fatal flaw in the GPU soldering fixed so that I don't get any further red rings of death. I definitely missed having it available for gaming and DVD watching.

Read the whole post.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

About Face

It has been over two years since I broke my mp3 player, and up to this point we were getting along just fine without one. Now, through a random fluke of timing, we own not one but two new mp3 players.

The timing fluke was similar to what happened this spring when in less then a month we ended up buying two new cameras to fill two difference niches. This time, Linzy decided she wanted an iPod and eventually settled on a Nano last month. Which I was specifically forbidden from using or borrowing for trips. Given that, I was planning to get my own iPod Classic early next year as I will most likely have several trips for work that involve exceedingly long plane flights. Then just a few weeks later the emergency trip to Sweden came up, and suddenly that iPod Classic purchase was looking a lot sooner then originally planned.

The end result is that we are now part of the millions and millions of other people lining Steve Job's pockets. I'm still annoyed that there is not even remotely any competition in the mp3 player space, but there are some advantages to buying exactly what everyone else in the world bought in terms of accessories and compatibility. Despite the fact that I am embarrassed at buying two mp3 players when we were just fine with no mp3 players a month ago, the iPods seem pretty nice and Linzy really likes her shiny blue Nano. And that is enough for me.


Read the whole post.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting

I foolishly went to vote prior to going to work this morning. I'm not quite sure what I was thinking, showing up right as the polls open. Normally I try to go a little later in the morning after all the other early-rising Minnesotans try to get their voting out of the way early. But today for a variety of uninteresting reasons I couldn't go in to work that much later and so tried to go vote early.

The line was out the door as probably 150 people had the same plan as me, so I spent about an hour waiting to vote. The strange thing about the line was that once we got inside the church the line was theoretically supposed to split into two lines: one for A-L, and one for M-Z.

Everyone was waiting in the A-L line, while the M-Z line was literally walk-up. 50 people stood (sort of) patiently waiting for their turn to check in and periodically a random person would go to the M-Z table. I was talking with a co-worker today about his polling location where the A-D line had the same issue.

I wonder how much was due to an uneven distribution of last names, and how much was due to people not realizing that they could just jump ahead and go right in the M-Z line.

Read the whole post.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Scandinavia

On Saturday I will be heading to Stockholm, Sweden for work for a little over two weeks. I'm somewhat excited to go, since I've never been to any Scandinavian country before, but realistically there are many other places that would be higher on my list of countries/cities to visit.

Still, the hotel I'll be staying at appears to be at nearly the dead-center of Stockholm, and seems nice on the website (it should be for ~1900SEK a night). And I'm going with a bunch of sales guys, so I'm sure there will be no shortage of fancy dinners.

Thus this week is filled with last minute preparations for being away from home for at least 15 days like catching up on laundry, finishing up the fall yard work, buying a couple suits for the customer presentations (my only current suit is a college-era interview suit and hardly appropriate now, even if it fit), and other random things that I've been procrastinating on but now have to get done.

My Grandma is saying that Stockholm is known as the "Venice of the North", something that seemed ludicrous given the cities Minnesota-like climate, but Wikipedia backed her up. So perhaps the city will be a lot cooler then I am expecting. And not just because they were already getting snow last week.

Read the whole post.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Gophers Game

On Saturday I went to the Gophers football game with Brenden. The game was a lot of fun, although the Gophers ended up losing on a last second fluke play. The game was tied with under a minute left, and the Gophers had gotten the ball and were trying to drive down the field to kick a game-winning field goal. After picking up a first down, a pass got tipped twice, intercepted by the Northwestern defense and run back for a touchdown through the entire Gophers offense, costing the Gophers the game.

The game was interesting the whole way, with Northwestern jumping out to an early lead, the Gophers clawing their way back and eventually getting a lead but never really putting the game away.

This year is the first one for Brenden's seats in a new section of the stadium, and they have a bit better view overall of the field then the old ones down on the goal line. However the fans in the section tend to be of the old and cranky variety.

Just behind us was the most bitter 'fan' ever. The only time he said anything was when something bad happened to the Gophers (and then it was to yell 'I told you these guys suck!'). You'd think he was a Northwestern fan, but he was wearing Gophers apparel, so his bitterness is apparently why he goes the to games. Which is pretty much insane.

Another interesting fan was the lady in front of Brenden who was annoyed the whole game at how loud the stadium was, and at one point turned around and yelled at Brenden for 'having too loud of a voice'. She also didn't like getting up to let anyone in and out, and would spent 30 seconds sighing and making annoyed sounds whenever someone was trying to get in or out of the row.

Despite the sub-optimal surrounding fans this year, next year it will all pay off, when the new outdoor stadium opens up. An outdoor stadium certainly would have been great on Saturday as the weather was absolutely perfect autumn football weather. Even though the Gophers lost I had a great time at the game and was really glad that Brenden invited me to attend.


Read the whole post.