Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Friday...

...and the paint is STILL NOT DRY!

This is because
a) the painters are morons and painted too thick of a coat of the linseed oil paint using regular bristle brushes instead of the special brushes and left the same bloody streaks and globs as we had before.
b) there is no b.

These were different painters suggested by the architect in charge of the project. Does no one in Denmark know how to paint our oh-so-special windows required by the "special" Historical Preservation Society (oh, those folks are special, so very very special)?

Painters: 0 Windows: 2

After one night of sleeping on the floor in one of the spare rooms not currently a refrigerator we decided that screw the paint, we were going to close the window in the bedroom and get a proper night's rest. I did open the window again this morning and got wet paint on my hands. WET PAINT!!

ARGH!!

Do you know what it's like, cooking dinner and washing dishes while wearing a scarf and a woolen hat? It's like camping, but without the joy of knowing you are on vacation.

Would some one please whisk me away to somewhere hot where they serve drinks in coconuts?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Brrrrrrrr!

It's two degrees above freezing and I sit here in the house with half the windows open!

Whut? Have I gone mad? It's two degrees above freezing!!

Well, when the new windows were installed there were some problems. This is what happens when you live in a historical building and the historic preservation society takes an interest. The windows had to look a certain way and be made of wood and could not be double paned and had to be painted in linseed oil paint. There are only so many companies that do this and so we used the company that had done other windows for this building in the past. This was a logical step, yes/no?

Except that the company had changed hands and the new owners were not really all that interested in historical accuracy and pushed the craftsmen who made our windows to work faster than one should. So the linseed oil paint was applied too thickly with the wrong type of brushes and then the windows were installed before all this thick gooey paint could cure.

So we ended up with gloppy windows that turned YELLOW!

Thankfully when the historic preservation society stopped by to check on us, they were also appalled and demanded that the company do something. Including changing the hardware on the windows because brushed stainless steel is INCORRECT. It must needs be white hardware. Seriously, the people are a little nuts about historical accuracy. Historical accuracy is all nice and good until it means you end up spending 24 freezing your butt off because your windows are open and you also spend more on heat because your windows are not 21st century eco-friendly. I wonder if we ought to be using lead-based paint on the walls, after all, that is what would have been used back in the day...

Anyway, the painters arrived this morning at 7:30. Yes, you read that right. SEVEN FREAKIN' THIRTY IN THE BLOODY MORNING!! They had said 8:30, but apparently were just too excited to go to work that they didn't want to stop and get coffee or something. Not that you can get coffee because even the coffee shops are closed that early in the morning. That's not true. A lot of Denmark is up and functioning out on the street at 7:30 am. But still, no one likes to be woken up by the arrival of painters who are ahead of schedule.

So in they came, I toddled off to a different bedroom to go back to sleep (on a folding mattress, I am NOT amused today) and they proceeded to make a racket, a mess, and a freezer of my home. See, the windows cannot be closed for 24 hours. That means my office, living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway to the bathroom, and bedroom are all open to the elements. Which are cold. For the next 24 hours.

I have set up a temporary office in the smallest bedroom that faces the courtyard and was not affected by the window replacement. It was my other bedroom this morning and later today it will serve as a dining room. I sort of feel like a receptionist in an office. I'm sitting here at a bare table with nothing but my computer, a desk lamp, and a glass of water. Nothing on the walls, no piles of research (yet). And I have a chair on the other side of the table... really it looks as if I'm waiting for a client or something.

In addition to the absurd conditions I'm working under, I'm wearing a full set of long underwear with woolen outerwear. If I was wearing waterproof pants and a jacket, I could go skiing in this get up. Well, if there were snow. At least there is no snow. Yet. But the clothes keep me warm enough for when I have to zip down to the bathroom or spend an extended amount of time in the kitchen.

Tonight will be a joy. We'll probably be camping out in this room. One person on this folding mattress and someone on the couch cushions. Thank god for flannel pajamas! Oh, and also Gammel Dansk and Aquavite - two crazy liquors that you can drink during the day in Denmark when it's cold. Gammel Dansk with breakfast and Aquavite (schnapps) with lunch!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Home alone...

My husband is off in Brussels for a few days. He's doing some program about blogging about the EU. I'm not entirely sure what it is he's doing, other than being in Brussels. This is not because I do not listen to my husband when he tells me things. It is because he doesn't particularly understand what this program he signed up for is all about. So "something about blogging about the EU and I get to go to Brussels" was about all the information I got from him.

I *think* he thought it would be a lot like the newspaper, every now and then he would write an article to put up on the internet. Now it appears that what he's expected to do is run a blog that promotes EU related news. He got a free trip to Brussels - I imagine this organization wants SOMETHING from him.

I figure I'll know more once he gets back.

Unless he's been kidnapped by white slavers and sent to Siberia. Or something.

Can you tell I'm bored? You can only do so much work before you really REALLY want to be distracted.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Homogenization

Denmark is the land where homogenization is prized. You can stand out, but just not too much. If you are a foreigner, you stand out no matter what you do, and this means taking your lumps from time to time. But there is one thing that unites us all, all of us living in Denmark, at least. It even unites Copenhageners with Jutlanders (this, you may not know, is a miracle)! It is the weather. Foreigners will immediately notice that it's cold and dark and wet here in the winter and that it's rather miserable. They may not want to mention it, because they don't want to offend or hear the dreaded words "well, why don't you leave then?" But hear me now: all Danes hate the weather in the winter. Their collective dislike of January-March binds this country together in shared misery. It's sort of a comfort to me, really, to know that we all hate it, foreigners and Danes alike. It gives us common ground and something to complain about. Want to chat up a Dane? Start with "you know, the only thing I don't like about Denmark is the cold, dark, and wet months."

Things that I notice about these months:
Do not expect to see any happy Danes. Do not expect anyone to help you during these months. Expect everyone to be shorter tempered and less friendly (even if you don't find Danes friendly in the first place, it is much worse during this time of year). Everyone in the country is going through major sun withdrawal and fighting the urge to hibernate. It makes everyone grumpy.

I for one notice the extreme changes in my own person between days of sun and days (weeks, months) of no sun. The level of energy, intelligence, and will to live drop to almost zero on the dark days.

Today is a dark day and I have to get off my butt and down to the police station to pick up my visa. Gar!

*snort*

funny pictures of cats with captions

And yes, it's another new look for the blog. I liked the colors of the old layout... but the text area was too narrow. This picture, for instance, did not fit in the space allowed. And you really needed the whole picture.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Happiness

Happiness is in being filled with hope that things might just get better.

I've heard numerous non-Americans point out that Obama is only human and we're all getting carried away. That we're deluding ourselves that this time things will be different and we'll see real change. That really, it's all just politics as usual and we'll discover that soon enough.

Thanks for your vote of confidence, folks. I am pretty sure that all Americans are aware of the above. But for the moment we have hope and hope is more important that money in your pocket. Although money in your pocket would be nice too. America is all about hope. You could say that the country was built on hope. Hope for a better life than the one you left behind or the one you were living this morning. Hope that things will be better for your children or your children's children or at least somebody's children.

W. gave out a tax rebate thinking that this would make Americans happy - the whole "money in your pocket would be nice" idea. But the people were not happy. People being polled felt things were getting worse, not better, even if they did appreciate a little bit more cash that month. This is because money in your pocket, while nice, is not worth much if you have no hope.

We like to talk about the Depression a lot these days. Back then there were a lot of holes in people's pockets, not money, but we as a people pulled through. I think a lot of it had to do with hope. FDR gave the people hope. And a kick ass stimulus package, yes, but also HOPE. Unlike Hoover, who promised the people a chicken in every pot, FDR promised a hard road, tough times and sacrifice, but a light at the end of the tunnel.

Without hope that things will get better, how can we get up in the morning and struggle through another day of misery? If I didn't hope that some day things will be better, I doubt I would bother to get out of bed. I mean, what's the point of fighting if there's no chance that life will improve? Some people would like to tell us that this is reality, kid, so deal with it. To them I would like to say, what a sad life you lead, if you are never hopeful that things will be better.

Without hope there is no reason to do anything, because no matter what you do, nothing will get better. Is this the reality that people want us to accept? Thanks, but no thanks, I'll live in my fantasy world for a bit longer, thank you very much.

I'd rather live for hope than for revenge, money, or power. I'd rather hope that life will get better for myself and for all humanity than accept that I will always be short of cash at the end of the month and that children will die at the hands of those entrusted to protect them.

I may not be able to live off hope, but I know I couldn't live without it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

If only coffee came in IV form...

I am no longer a creature of the night. I am a creature of the day. I will continue to repeat this in my head as I try to stay awake.

I got a haircut, which was lovely. I can now see and do not have to pin my hair back with barrettes. It's very spiky, the hair on my head, which is probably due to the hair wax. I will not know what I truly look like until tomorrow or if I decide to take another shower. I'm avoiding this action because I just bought new soap that smells deliciously of lavender, but since lavender is a relaxing sleepy smell, I might just doze off in the shower and fall over.

Obviously more coffee is in order.

The plus side of spiky hair is that it does a very good job of hiding the grey hairs. There's now a plethora of them all over my head. Apparently I am going to go completely grey by 40. I'm rather bitter about this, I was hoping I wouldn't have any grey hairs until I had children, so I could blame them. Now I'm just going to have to tell them that it was their father that did this to me.

Yes, I speak of children in the plural. I am not necessarily planning on having children in the plural. But it sounds weird to talk of children in the singular. At some point there will be A child and at that time we will revisit the idea of more than one. Plans for a child are in their...er... infancy, so to speak. It's currently a very abstract notion because my life is suddenly very full of lots of different time sensitive goals.

I spent last night reading up on the global economy. It was WAY more exciting and interesting than I thought it would be. This didn't take much, I admit, because I was rather dreading what I thought was going to be a horrific trawl through supply and demand (much like my high school economics class, in which I learned that passive resistance only works if you have a majority and absolutely nothing about economics). I have read some Karl Marx, some Adam Smith, and some Karl Polanyi (want an economic theorist in the family, name your child Karl) in my research into Roman Economics and theories of emulation and distinction, so I wasn't a complete neophyte in the world of modern economic thought, but the term "zero-sum economics" does not come up ever in discussions of the Roman economy (most of the arguments and theories on Roman economics center around whether or not you think the Romans had a economy and if so, were they aware of it, and if so did they do things purposefully to make their economic position better) (the answers are, in my mind, yes, sort of, not really). Reading about currently global economic theory has actually shaped my thoughts on the Roman economy (yay for cross-pollination of ideas), I'd love to be able to go into it more in depth, but at the moment it's all a bunch of firing neurons and not a coherent argument. Maybe it'll end up in my dissertation or maybe it'll just kick around in my head for a while.

It's actually quite a lovely day today. The sun is out when it's not drizzling and the rain of last night washed the city from top to bottom (it was quite the rain). The streets are very clean except where I am because the garbage trucks came and picked up our trash but seem to have dropped quite a lot of it. It's also not that cold, considering that there are very few clouds today. It would be a perfect day to be out and about, except that I stupidly stepped funny yesterday while running up and back from the library. My ankle and foot are killing me. No swelling or discoloration, so I have no idea what I did, but I'm going to keep off of it as much as possible today.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Urg, The Truth Comes Out, and a Kitchen Disaster.

"Urg." That's what my stomach had to say about another meal of pasta and pesto. I don't particularly blame it for not being happy... but keeping me up all night with cramps was not what I had in mind.

Meanwhile the truth came out about how my husband feels about my hair. He's been pointing out that "if it bothers you, you can get it cut" for some time now. Apparently that is polite Danish for "you look like a damn fool, get a haircut moron!" Although, in order to tell me the truth, the closest he got was telling me that it "looked messy." I had to really press him to get him to admit that he really wanted me to get a haircut because he wasn't liking the mop on my head. And he looked so miserable to admit it. I almost feel bad for making him speak a not-so-pretty truth. But at least I got it out of him. And I'll now go and get a haircut.

I have been walking around the kitchen for few days feeling like Lady MacBeth. Every now and then I shriek, grab a towel and begin vigorously scrubbing the counter while sobbing "it won't go away!" This is due to the kitchen disaster of a few days ago. Kitchen disasters are so variable. There's the injuring yourself, ruining dinner, running out of or not having the correct ingredients (especially 5 minutes after the store closes), setting fire to the kitchen, and making a mess. I made a mess. Which resulted in me not having enough of one ingredient and distracted me enough that I almost ruined dinner. I only managed not to injure myself or set fire to the kitchen by the grace of god. It began with me asking my husband what he'd like for dinner. I have a really varied repertoire these days, so this took some thought. And then he chose a meal that surprised me. He wanted Caribbean Rice with Beans and Cornbread. I was surprised because it's much closer to my favorite cuisine (Mexican) than his (Californian) (yes, I realize that's weird, since I am a Californian, but it is because I am a Californian that I love Mexican. This makes sense if you are from California, just go with it.).

Anyway, I was happily prepping the cornbread when I got to the stage that says mix eggs, milk, and vegetable oil. I had the eggs already whisked in a bowl and was measuring out the milk and oil. Half a cup of milk, quarter of oil. Since it is damned hard to measure a quarter cup in my very large 4 cup measuring cup, I put in the half cup of milk first and then add the oil before pouring the whole thing into the eggs. Now, for reasons that *completely* escape me, I was actually using a small metal measuring cup that I found deep within the bowels of the cabinets. So I didn't need to put milk and oil together first...

Moving on. I had half a cup of milk in my little measuring cup and was lifting the (plastic) bottle of oil and bringing it close to my person to that I could open the bottle when the bottle slipped in my hand. My hand, being a clever little bastard, tried to catch the bottle by the lid, which is where it all went horribly wrong.

The top came off.

The bottle crashed down landing on top of the measuring cup sending half a cup of milk all over the kitchen (and myself) followed quickly by an arc of vegetable oil. I'd say about a cup of oil was tossed around the kitchen. Midway through dinner prep and I have to stop and change clothes and clean the kitchen. Boo. Hiss. Gar-friggen-dang-it-all.

Milk, it appears, is fairly easy to clean up. Mop up. Wash everything down with hot soapy water. Done.

Oil, not so much. Not a big surprise, really, but it is amazing how oil gets EVERYWHERE. And it's completely invisible once it is outside the bottle. Unless you have wood or white countertops, I'm guessing. But I don't have those. I have black and grey speckled counters. Once you wipe up oil, you then wash everything you can think of, including your cookbook which will never again be the same, with hot soapy water. But this doesn't get rid of the oil! Oh no. Because it's hiding.

Hidden oil, or even oil slicked places that you have washed with soapy water becomes sticky. Sticky and oily all at once, which defies everything I thought I knew about chemistry and physics (which, admittedly, isn't much even though I took both in high school). So here it is, days later, long after the everything has been eaten and I am still finding oily or sticky patches on my countertops!!

Oh, and as to how this almost ruined dinner. Well, I didn't have enough milk left after the spill to make the cornbread so the husband had to pick some up at 7-11, meaning dinner was very late. Also, I was so distracted that I somehow thought that 1 tablespoon of butter was 30 g. One tablespoon of butter is in fact 14g and so there was WAY too much butter in the rice with beans as well as in the cornbread. It tasted okay, but butter was seeping out of the rice and the cornbread had a rather odd crust.

Friday, January 16, 2009

*Snort*

Sometimes I do really like modern art. Especially if it does something just provacative enough to make us stop and think but not to get so upset that we miss the point. To this end I give you:

EU Stereotypes Or "Entropa" which is it's proper name.

And for Denmark we have the following image:


It's made of Legos, which are Danish in case you didn't know, and if you squint a bit, it looks very much like the (in)famous Mohammed cartoon (Mohammed wearing a turban that has a lit cartoon-style bomb in it).

For what it's worth, I live in Mohammed's left ear.

Fantastic News!

I have Danish residency!! I can stay here legally!

I've actually been here legally since August, so they tell me.

Mind you, the letter was in DANISH, so if I didn't have that wonderful husband of mine, I'd still be sitting at the table with a dictionary...

Nevermind.

I am now legally entitled to healthcare and I can get a job (so I can begin contributing 50% of what I earn to the Danish system).

Anyone know any jobs out there for a non-Danish speaker? Or more correctly, a person who speaks rudimentary Danish, but understands almost all food words. And knows a lot of numbers, up to 49, in fact. It's not so much that my Danish is bad, as really really spotty.

Whoot!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pasta

I love certain pasta shapes. Like macaroni. You can put ANYTHING on macaroni and it will taste amazing. I understand that pasta is pasta... but why make different shapes if it was all the same? Pasta may be pasta no matter what the shape, but it tastes different, I swear!

I am insistent on this matter: macaroni tastes better than spaghetti.

Maybe that's because I always put cream or cheese based sauces on macaroni. I prefer cream and cheese based sauces to tomato or pesto. And the doctors wonder why I have high cholesterol. Ha!

Anyway, the Danish Boy came home for dinner 4 hours ahead of schedule and I hadn't come up with any clever dinner plans that involved loads of frozen vegetables. When this happens (the part where I don't have dinner plans, not neccessarily involving frozen vegetables) we have pasta and pesto. Specifically spaghetti and pesto. We have a small fist-full of regular spaghetti and a small fist-full of whole grain spaghetti (which I am not so fond of in spaghetti form, macaroni form... oh yes, bring on the whole grain!) - I thought to combine the two to make enough pasta for two. The DB did not like this idea. He wanted to make the macaroni and have macaroni and pesto for dinner. He was tired and hungry and therefore rather cranky. Not that he'll ever admit it, however.

Somehow, despite my feelings that you can stick anything on macaroni and it will taste good... I really didn't want pesto. We eat it so often I felt that this would be a tragic waste of good pasta. So I had about a minute to come up with an alternative sauce plan. I had a can of tomatoes (eh), half a cup of cream that was soon to go bad, some white wine, plenty of onions and garlic... a plan formed. One that did NOT involve the tomatoes.

I made a white wine-cream sauce. It would have been PHENOMENAL had I managed to defrost bacon in 30 seconds, but sometimes you just have to feed your spouse before they go postal.

I call this: Archaeogoddess's Amazingly Fast Emergency Pasta Sauce. It's based on some other white wine-cream sauces I know.

Ingredients:
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 fat garlic clove, chopped finely
1 healthy tablespoon of olive oil
1/4 cup of white wine
1/4 cup of chicken broth (or in my case 1/4 cup of water and a small bit of bouillon cube - love the bouillon cube)
1/2 cup of cream

400 g of uncooked pasta - which is probably almost 4 cups but I'm not sure, I actually made 500g and then just saved some unsauced pasta for lunch today.

Directions:
1) In a nice wide frying pan, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until onion begins to soften, do not burn the garlic. If you think you may accidently burn the garlic, start the onion and after a minute add the garlic.
2) Add wine and broth. Boil and reduce to about half the volume. Approximately. This does not take very long if you are using a frying pan. If you are using a saucepan because you think sauce=saucepan, I don't know what to tell you. I have never made a successful sauce from scratch in saucepan. Instant sauces, yes. Sauces that require reduction? Nope.
3) Turn down the heat and add the cream. It'll probably boil no matter what you do, but it didn't seem to do anything negative to the taste, so don't worry about it if it boils, because you want a hot sauce, but make sure you keep stirring because you don't want it to burn.
4) Season with salt and pepper.
5) Pour over drained pasta, mix to coat, serve. Yum.

The trick is to get the sauce to pasta ratio correct. Too much pasta is urk, not enough is liable to make you mad you didn't save some sauce.

Reheating non-sauced pasta is easy. Boil water. Throw cooked pasta into water. When the water returns to a boil, the pasta is reheated. And it isn't rubbery or gross at all! Genius.

Then, if you are a mad sauce queen, like me, you have left-over hollandaise sauce in the 'fridge and have been wondering if you should just eat it with a spoon. Never fear, pasta with hollandaise sauce is tasty tasty stuff. If you have some sort of flavored salt to crust over it, the better.

Did I mention that for a person who is 5'8" and weighs 130 lbs, I have crazy high cholesterol?

(Okay, if you are actually worried about my cholesterol, don't be. When I tested high a few years ago I was able to bring it down by cutting out ranch dressing and whole-fat milk and I stopped putting cheese on everything. Here in Denmark I have no access to ranch dressing, I am not drinking that much milk, and only low-fat, I eat a lot less cheese and I eat a lot more muesli and yogurt and whole-grain rye breads. I am pretty sure I am exaggerating the level of my cholesterol.)

I do miss deep fried cheese sticks with ranch dressing dip, though. I get to eat that fantastic artery clogging concoction about once, maybe twice a year when I go to the Blue Fig in Amman, Jordan (anyone out there in Amman or going to Amman, I tell you, the Blue Fig, order the appetizer plate. Oh, merciful heavens!). I won't be going to Jordan this year, it looks like. Sigh. No cheese sticks for me.

No, I am not going to learn how to make them. That would be like giving a heroin addict his very own poppy field.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hoops jumped through: one

Alright, I made it through the first part of the foreign service test process. I managed to apply and I am now signed up for the test. I have a month to prepare. Oh great!

If only the History Channel would now do a series called "Things you might need to know about the government" and "Management skills 101"...

Yes, there is a suggested reading list. No, these books are not in the local library. Or the Uni. library. Some creativity will be in order.

I think when I go in to take the test I have to sign a non-disclosure agreement and agree not to tell anyone about the questions I was asked. Although I think this would be a waste of good paper, because within five minutes of finishing the practice test my brain was so fried I could barely remember my name, there is no way I'll be able to remember a question.

I think I may also have to take the test naked, as my instructions on what NOT to bring into the test center include just about everything you can think of.

They will also take my picture and my husband has suggested I get a hair cut before then. What? Is my proto-mullet bothering you, honey?? Actually it's not a very good mullet, because there is absolutely nothing business like about the front and the back is hardly party worthy. (For those not in the know, the mullet comes with it's own catch phrase [yeah, it's that cool of a hairstyle] which is "business in the front, party in the back". Sad, I know.) A better description about what is on my head would be "mop." It is JUST short enough that I cannot put it in a pony tail, no matter where on my head I try to place it. And the bangs are still not long enough to tuck behind my ears.

That's okay, the test center will probably shave my head to make sure I'm not hiding any recording or messaging devices when they strip me down before the test.

Creatures of the night.

My husband and I have become complete creatures of the night. We get up at about 3 pm and go to bed at 6 am. He's been working intermittent night shifts with the taxi and it occurred to us that we might as well just go with it. It doesn't matter too much to me when I write and this way he's getting 8 uninterrupted hours of sleep. Night time has less distractions anyway. Although it does seem a bit odd to figure out what to do about dinner and make sure I do the shopping before I even have lunch.

I probably ought to go shopping right now. But I'm not going to. We have GOT to eat up all these random food bits left over here and there. I have BAGS of frozen vegetables and about four different types of pasta. If I go shopping I won't be motivated to be creative with what I've got. Last night I excelled with the salmon. Came up with my own marinade and baked it beautifully.

I do have a frozen bag of assorted seafood that I ought to use as well. But GEEZ I hate shell fish. And squid. Oh and anything that has tentacles, in case you try to fool me with octopus. Honestly, GAH!

I obviously do eat fish, but I usually do my best to ensure that it in NO WAY tastes like fish. Or looks like it either. Pickled herring tastes like vinegar, deep-fried breaded fish tastes like lemon juice and/or hollandaise sauce (if you put enough of either on there), salmon tastes like whatever you put on it provided it's strong enough to mask any flavor (dijon mustard, a hint of white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, dried tarragon), and tuna should be fresh and liberally doused with mayo. Or, I do like sushi, as long as I have lots of wasabi sauce. I think I eat sushi ONLY for the wasabi sauce. Watching my husband eat deep fried small squid once almost made me lose my supper. My appetite was shot. Oh, the horrors. They had curly tentacles!!! And little pointy heads!!! That's not food! I don't know what it is, but I am NOT eating it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

When did I become such a wuss?

I'm freezing! I'm wearing two sweaters and long underwear. In about 30 seconds I'm going to run into the other room and get my woolen knee high socks (purchased for skiing in Norway and the best cold weather clothing investment I've ever had) and put those over my regular socks. I will probably also crank up the heat AGAIN.

This is because it's 20C (68F) inside.

I keep telling myself, it's not really THAT cold. My sister in Minnesota has it FAR worse. Heck, growing up in California, during winter we kept the thermostat at 70 and it wasn't that bad.

Is 68 really that much colder? What is it about 2 degrees (Fahrenheit, mind you) that turns me from a normal human being to popsicle?

Danes are used to such temperatures. After all, as babies, they are left outside in baby carriages in all kinds of weather. (That blog has great pictures, mind you, of the famous baby pram that I keep trying to describe to people, but some how fail miserably.)

On the plus side, I am much better adapted to the heat. So when it gets to, oh horrors 35C/95F I am not prostrate with heat exhaustion. My m-i-l begins fainting from the heat when it hits 30C/86F.

Unfortunately it only gets to be that warm for a few days a year. Usually when I'm in the Middle East. The rest of the time I'm wearing sweaters while Danes are in tank tops.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

*stunned silence*

Wow - a moment of metaphysical wowness. I have a comment on the previous post from someone I've never met and therefore have never pushed my blog upon! When I read it I had this moment of profound shock and awe. There is always in the back of your mind, as you blog, that the blogosphere is open and free to the millions of people who have internet access and that there is the probability that someone somewhere will read what you've written. But to have actual proof of this is something completely mind boggling. I know I have about four readers who may be reading my posts. Four people I have shoved this blog at and have some evidence that they do, in fact, read it.

But there are also the unknown people who lurk and read. Who are they? How many do I have?

I have got to figure out how to put some sort of counter on the blog. Or maybe not. I'd hate the counter to get to six and then stop. That would blow my temporary high regarding my famousness and popularity.

No, I didn't start blogging to become famous and get a book deal and live the rest of my life in comfort and joy. Not that this would have been a bad thing... But I was quite content with my four readers (all friends, because really, who else would read my drivel). I still am content with that number of people.

The book deal, comfort and joy does sound nice, yes?

Anyway, apart from the stunning revelation that there are other people out there on the internet, I have decided that I really must stay away from knives. Especially when it is cold. I blame the coldness of the kitchen for the slight slip yesterday that took off a small chunk of my nail on my right middle finger. No blood though, I brilliantly sliced only the top half of part of my nail off. How talented is that?!

There was the mincing of garlic one moment (and this is why I am desperate to move and be done moving every three months, because then I could get to my garlic mincer and be done with this fine knife work using a chef's knife) and then next holding my finger under water waiting for the blood to begin gushing. I've sliced off my fingernails before. Both with an automatic cheese grinder (oh yes, I stuck my finger in an automatic cheese grinder, completely by accident, about 12 years ago - I also stuck my finger in an automatic typewriter when I was about 5 and my mom hit "return" not seeing I was helping her push the rolly bit along) and with knives and it's always resulted in a lot of blood. The running down your arm kind of bleeding experience. So I expected blood. I waited and waited and nothing happened. I taped my finger and finished cooking. Later I examined the nail and discovered my own little miracle. There is just enough nail left on that part of my finger to protect it. And it'll grow out in probably a week. I didn't cut THAT much off. I thought I had originally, but that was the shock seeing my finger, not the cold rational of the Archaeogoddess a few hours later.

On a more positive note, I took the Foreign Service practice test yesterday. You have to time yourself, which turned out to be difficult. I have never quite learned that function on my watch and there were some incidents where I thought I had paused it but had not so I gave myself an extra two minutes to finish, but then I finished under time anyway. I like tests. I really like multiple choice tests.

I didn't do so well on the general knowledge part. I did okay, but I know very little about labor laws or management skills. I got all the math questions correct, which was shocking, but then they didn't ask the train question (two trains are traveling towards each other blah blah blah). I did really well on the English part of the exam. This was a bit of a shock, because English was always one of my worst classes. I seem to have picked up the important bits though. I can tell their, there, and they're apart. I can apparently recognize a dangling modifier, even if I can't define the term or even point to one. I did get a little distracted by the articles that I had to read for reading comprehension. They were interesting and I wanted to google them to read more.

I ought to do some reading to prepare. Unfortunately the books suggested are not in any of the libraries in Denmark. Go figure. So I will have to get creative.

For now it is back to dissertating. The other day I ended up making additions to four chapters based on three pages of someone else's dissertation. Mostly with footnotes. I had an epigram from Martial that I had quoted from one source but I didn't like the translation, this dissertation gave me another source for the same epigram and I prefer that translation - it is much closer to what I understand the Latin to be. Oooh, that is an awkward sentence. I found the correct citation of Livy so I could go and find the information I knew was there, but not exactly where. There is nothing like trying to remember where you saw a passage in a large text. You can skim for days and never find it. With other books it's not a problem, you don't have to site the chapter and verse, but with ancient texts you do.

Right, enough talking about dissertating, it's time to do it!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Free of paint

I have been freed from the painting madness.
1) It's down to fiddly bits, like beams, which I can't reach even with the ladder.
2) I have two fellowship applications to write before Feb. 1st
3) I had to sign up for the Department of State Foreign Service Officer test which will be held in February
4) I should study a bit for that test
5) I should also do some dissertating

One of the joys of graduate school that people often forget is that during the last year of academia you are supposed to be applying for jobs and things. I want to take a break from academia, so looking for professor positions is right out. I'm also not really into the idea of the post-doc, since that is more research and what I really want to do is finally do an 9-5 job and at the end of the day - LEAVE. Even when digging you only spend so many hours in the field and then you get to return to the cabins and have a bit of a rest. You also get weekends off. Academics be wearing me down.

Anyway, the Foreign Service sounds quite promising... if I can pass all the various hoops one has to jump through. When I take various job quizzes... you can take the academic out of academia but you can't stop her from taking any damn quiz I come across... I score very high on public relations and service oriented jobs. Funny, since I don't see myself as a people person. But I have it on good authority (random internet quizzes and my best friend) that I am good with people. Nuts!!

So then taking the Foreign Service quiz about whether or not you should try for a post, I scored high. And then scored high in the career track "consular" which would involve helping people. I've done reading up on it and it is looking like a possible career move.

It would mean giving up archaeology as a career. That part sucks.

But there is no guarantee that I will make it through the selection process, nor pass the security background check. So let's not worry so much about that right now. Don't count chickens and all that. (Chickens? Hell, I don't have any eggs!)

I'll still be looking for archaeology posts. And if an academic post presents itself, where I think I am not only qualified, but the teaching/research ratio is good and publication requirements are minimal (heh, like that'll ever happen), then I'll apply for that too.

The end is in sight... which means I have to think about making a living. Ugh.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Wisdom... let me impart some to you

In my previous post I warned you about the nail trimming capabilities of potato peelers. Now let me tell you about knifes. Knifes are sharp. If you can't cut something with your knife, it may NOT be that the knife is not sharp, but that your, let's say "onion" for example, is not so crispy fresh. If you decide to proceed with sharpening your knife without testing the knife on something else first, like ANYTHING ELSE IN YOUR KITCHEN, then you should make sure at all times to watch the KNIFE and NOT the SHARPENER. In fact a GREAT idea would also be to married or dating someone who is not blood squeamish.

I live, you learn.

It wasn't that bad, I hit my hand with the knife I was so happily dragging through the sharpener and gave myself a good sized paper-cut-like injury. But there was some blood. The love of my life, who can lift heavy things and reach the high up places, is not one for blood. He called me out of the kitchen where I was staunching my wound to look at the Danish chimney sweepers, who still wear traditional clothing for their job. Which, yes, does include a stove-pipe hat. I took the opportunity to show him my war wound whereas he beat a hasty retreat. Had to get back to painting. He later apologized for not helping me with the bandaging but he "didn't realize it was bad." This is because he couldn't bear to look. It's okay. I can do first aid on myself most of the time and have no problems tearing medical tape with my teeth.

Blood and needles don't bother me. But I can't deal with vomit. When we have small people I will deal with skinned knees and he will handle the stomach flu.

So my right hand is out of action for painting purposes. That's fine, I'm left handed... oh, but if you do nothing but paint with your left arm all day... you wear it out. Arm, wrist, elbow, you name a part of my left arm, it hurts. But sore hurts. Not like tendon tearing hurts. I'll be fine.

I can see you all now thinking "gee AG, you need to take better care of yourself" and "stop injuring yourself! take things easy!" This is what my husband says to me, right before he asks me to grab the other end of the couch so we can haul it down three flights of stairs. (I did throw the christmas tree down from the balcony rather than carry it, but it wasn't really heavy to begin with.) To me "taking it easy" involves drinking wine on the couch and watching episodes of Stargate SG-1 (now playing on our new tv channel "for men" - should include "and for archaeogoddesses"). But I don't think this is what he had in mind.

Anyway, you all worry too much. I tell you these things so that you will LEARN from my errors and become better, wiser, stronger people! So take this lesson with you: knifes are sharp.

Most people learn these things early in life, I was obviously not paying any attention at the time.

Painting blues

It's all taping and painting, taping and painting. The tape is taking the skin off my hands and then the paint has to be scrubbed off too, making my hands shadows of their former selves. Ugh, the horror! Not that I could have been a hand model at the best of times, but this is outrageous. And I keep taking off the fingernail on my right index finger with the potato peeler. What kind of an idiot trims their nails accidently with a potato peeler?? This kind of idiot. I haven't cut myself with it yet, which is a good thing, but I have the most odd looking fingernail now. Dangerous things potato peelers and masking tape. Paint you expect to be kind of dangerous. It is full of terrible vapors and you must keep it out of your eyes and for heaven's sake don't drink it - but the warnings on masking tape do not include: warning, will not stick to oil based painted trim but will remove skin!

We are still waiting for the floor man to make his grand appearance. We're sort of on a tight schedule here, so he'd best hurry up. We're going to rent out our place through an agency that rents to ex-pats working in Denmark. Since many of these assignments are several years long, they bring their families, so our huge apartment should be a real winner. We need to get it up to snuff so we can be ready to move at a moments notice.

I hate moving, but I hate worrying about foreclosure more. This will take care of that problem, with any luck.

Meanwhile the bank is freaking out and being complete asshats. When we moved the branch we use as our local branch was suddenly not so local any more, so Danish Boy got around to asking to be transfered to the closest branch to us currently. And was DENIED! They don't want him at their branch!! What? Can they do that? Who knows, but they did. The manager called the DB last night and told him not to bother to come to the meeting on Friday because they weren't going to transfer him to their branch. She didn't want us in her branch. Have a nice day!

As soon as we get all this apartment stuff straightened out we are switching banks. Once my residency is approved, I am opening a bank account somewhere else. Ridiculous! They've always been jerks, but this takes the cake.

And I got a letter from my dig director, asking when I should be flying into Israel this summer. Er? You want me to think of that right now? She did agree that this was WAY early to ask, but we need to book rooms for us at the British Institute and they fill up early. So best guesses were made.

So busy busy busy. The living room is now officially white. Horrible sterile white. Ugh.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

I've got prune hands!!

The walls, ceilings, and exposed beams have been washed. It took ALL FREAKIN' DAY!!

This is partly because I had to keep going up and down a step ladder to reach the top of the walls and the beams and the ceiling (although after the first couple of inches of ceiling I decided that my very tall husband could do that bit). Another part of the problem is that some moron decided that walls should go from the ceiling all the way down to the floor! Honestly! The floor is way down by my feet! There was a lot of bending and squatting and kneeling and finally as my knees and ankles and toes gave out, sitting.

We used three bottles of industrial strength cleaner.

And this is because of the main obstacle to our progress - the disgusting state of the walls. I did manage to do one room in under an hour and with only one bucket of soapy water. The rest... well... Let me put it this way, in one room we found foot prints on the wall... four feet up. In another room it looked as if a small child had drawn on the wall with crayons. We didn't let out the room to any small children, so you really gotta wonder what was going on. In another room we found lots of smooshed bugs on the walls. Now if I squish a bug, I use a kleenex and then wipe the wall vigorously to remove any hint of squashed bug. I guess I'm just weird that way. Just about every wall had a thin coat of grey oily dust. Eww. From now on no one will be allowed to breath or shed skin cells in my house. No one!

We also defrosted the deep freeze. It's been three years and we removed two buckets of ice. I know I said "defrosting" - but we got impatient and it became deicing. That was also rather gross, because when people spill things in a large freezer, they don't empty everyone else's crap in order to clean up. I don't particularly blame them, it's a big freakin' freezer and things were organized so that everyone had a space... well, in theory... so you didn't want to move things around for fear of losing someone's stuff. Or worse, losing your own stuff. But it would have been nice if they'd organized themselves from time to time and said, "Right, there is so much ice in here we can't fit the ice-cube tray in the ice-cube tray space... There will be a massive defrost party on Saturday!" Oh well. It's clean now and it didn't take THAT long. I got to poke and hit things and enjoy the crashing sound of ice slushing and crunching as it fell beneath the onslaught of my spatula.

Dang I'm tired.

Friday, January 02, 2009

This Site is Under Construction

Or more specifically, the apartment.

First was the wall removal. There was a dividing wall in one of the rooms, making one large room into two small areas that weren't really useful to anyone for anything. You could just fit a double bed on one side (provided you both wanted to climb into bed via the foot) and on the other side a wonky outer wall meant that you could fit the bed and several other items... but then you had this weird space on the other side of the wall to figure out what all to do with. I suppose you could use it as a changing area... but still, it was a badly placed wall.

So out it went.

This is when we discovered the very odd construction of the apartment. Seems when they did the renovation back in the 70's, they built the walls first and then laid the new floors on top of the old floors but only laid the new floors up to the wall. So when you remove a wall you are left with a GAPPING hole in the floor. Underneath which you could see the original floors dating back to the 1800's when the building had been redone after the fire.

We had the floor repaired, which was a bit tricky since none of the boards line up, but the carpenter is fine fellow of a man and with a bit of hand crafting managed to do it. The floor-sanding man will be coming at some point soon to check on the floors and discuss how exactly do we want to go about sanding all the floors in the apartment, apart from the two rooms that have already been done and which we are currently living in. Yes, that sentence ends in a preposition, but does it look like I care? Nope, I have other things to do than think grammar.

Today was the first day of our massive project. The dear husband has actually already been plastering holes for a few days now - there were two rather large holes left in the ceiling where the electrician had originally drilled through to put wiring into the no-longer-extant wall and these took some time to fix. Denmark does not apparently have the sort of DIY know-how to fix drywall, but the internet helps out mightily.

But anyway, back to today and step one of said project. In all the rooms that need to be painted (everywhere except the kitchen and the hallway that got a fresh coat this summer) the furniture had to be moved and everything came down off the walls. Christmas and New Years are now officially over as everything had to be put away. All the screws and nails had to come out, any shelves or shoe storage devices had to be removed and anything too large to be put in the hallway (the freezer) is now in the center of the room.

How many rooms does this apartment have? Uh, a lot.

Entry - needs paint and floor work
Living room/dining room - paint and floor
Bedroom 1/Office - perfect, thank you very much
Bedroom 2 - paint and floor
Hallway/kitchenette - floor
Kitchen - floor and we need to paint the cupboards
Bathroom - paint (it needs floor work, but it's been linoleumed and we aren't even going to attempt to redo it what with the drains and shower and other stuff, it'll be fine in it's spring green colored splendor)
Bedroom 3 - paint and floor
Bedroom 4 - perfect
Bedroom 5 - paint and floor
Bedroom 6 - paint and floor

So having moved everything away from the walls and having removed everything FROM the walls, the Danish Boy has been running around with plaster and a putty knife and is happily (okay, not so happily) trying to make things look pretty.

Trying. We have chipboard wall-paper. Ask the Brits about how much this stuff sucks.

Not to mention that the morons in 1970 didn't bother to seal their drywall or use joint filler in the joints and so there is much cracking, tearing, and overall distress to our walls. It would help if the walls weren't at such crazy angles. I am convinced that part of the building is slowly and surely moving away from another part of the building. Like tectonic drift, the wall in the entry way is heading west while the rest of us go east. The front door, which ought to be part of that westward traveling wall, is determined to come east with us. The whole thing is coming OUT of the wall!! We beat it, to try to cow it into submission, but to no avail.

Once the holes are filled... and dry... we need to wash the walls. You would not believe how disgusting the walls are. Maybe you would. I'm not the cleanest person on the planet (comes with the digging in the dirt) but I am not sure how people have been able to spill food on the wall and then not notice. Whatever, they have to be washed before we can paint. Then there will be the taping and the papering of things that need to be taped and painted, since the trim which is all over the place, not merely around the doors, floors and windows like you would expect, but wherever those mad 70's renovators felt the need (note, our ceilings not only slope because we are in the attic, sometimes the whole ceiling level drops down to meet the exposed beams and some times it rises up so we have over a foot of space above the beams! Logic knows this place not.).

I don't think we'll wash the walls tonight. Probably first thing in the morning tomorrow. We also need to put up some more chipboard in the space left by the removed wall. Yeah, that'll look real purdy.