Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sometimes you wonder...

I felt rather bad for our Danish teacher today. It was not a good day for many of the kids in class. Some are dragging themselves to school even though they are ill (Ali was so sick he couldn't put two words together in Danish or English to save his life and even if he could, he lost his voice), others don't show up for days and then are completely lost. My teacher, Helle, had the following conversation with one of these constant no-shows.

Helle (in Danish): Write down what you will talk about, two subjects and three books.
Girl (in English): What is this for?
Helle: Your test.
Girl: What?
Helle: Your test.
Girl: What test?
Helle: Your Danish test.
Girl: Can I talk about anything?
Helle: Yes, as long as it is in Danish.
Girl: Danish?
Helle: Yes, Danish.
Girl: I can't talk in English??
Helle: No, this is a Danish class, you have to talk in Danish.
Girl: How am I supposed to do this, I don't know Danish!

Helle has the patience of a saint, but I think she'll be tossing back a few drinks this evening.

There was also a long conversation with one of the male not-often-comers where we were trying to figure out how he can drive a car but have no driving license. Turns out he HAS a drivers license, but because he's been gone so much he doesn't know any of the words for transportation, including the most important: kører = to drive. You also use this verb when you ride a bus or a train and "drivers license" in Danish is kørerkart (only probably spelled differently, I don't have my book to check). Makes perfect sense: kører/driving, kart/card. But he was very insistent, he didn't have that, he didn't need one because he's Polish.

Eh?

Even in English it took some time, he thought Helle was asking if he had a CPR card (identity card). Which in Danish is CPR-kart.

Meanwhile, the kids in the back of the class were having a lively discussion about the huge party they went to over the weekend and how drunk they got, so they didn't do the handout we were given at the start of class and were completely lost when we had to read out the answers.

It's frustrating, this language is hard enough to learn as it is, I really don't need the distractions and people who don't bother to come to class to slow us all down. They'll be weeded out in two weeks when they fail the test, but it's damn annoying right now.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Plan for the worst, so you can be pleasantly surprised.

I believe in planning for the worst, hoping for the best, but expecting something closer to disaster than success. It sounds very depressing, I suppose, but I go through life pleasantly surprised most of the time. Mind you, I think it only works because I endeavor to do my best, no matter what the outcome I think will be. If I fail at something, I don't want it to be because I didn't try hard enough.

So knowing that I had a family function I planned for the worst: a full on assault on my non-Danishness. I thought up plans of attack and counter-attack and how to rebuff unwanted comments.

It's all about the preemptory strike.

So the first time someone spoke to me in Danish, I quickly responded, "I really don't understand any Danish other than a few nouns and some very boring verbs." Are you learning Danish? "Yes, but I'm only in my second week and the language school expects it to take up to three years to learn Danish." (That's sort of a lie, I have three years to learn Danish before they cut me off, but the language school did urge me to go everyday so that I can finish Danish before my three years are up. I took from that suggestion that they expect it to take me around about three years. Anyway, it's a great number and worked wonders.) Do you speak Danish at home? "No, my teacher advised us that for the sake of our marriages, we shouldn't turn our spouses into Danish teachers."

And that was pretty much the conversation I repeated with people for several hours. But it did work. I also avoided the people who are most likely to bring up my Danish. I only responded in English to questions in Danish.

I was also one of the few people NOT hit by the two year old nephew. He's a horrible child. No discipline. He hit his aunt and when she told him not to do that, he burst into tears and ran to his mom and told her that his aunt was being mean. Thankfully, the aunt told her sister (childs mum) what happened, but still he didn't get into trouble. He called me a foreigner and "lort." Nice kid. I told him in my best Danish that I was going to move into his room and stay with his mom and dad forever. The only Danish I spoke all day. He was horrified. NNNNEEEEEEJJJJJJ! he yelled. I walked away, smirking. I think I need to learn how to say, "you are a horrible child and someday someone is going to beat the crap out of you and I'm going to laugh."

We did have assigned seating. I got lucky and the guy across from me was a civil engineer who works with GIS so I could talk to him about remote sensing of multi-phase sites vs single-phase sites (archaeology speak, good fun).

I did get the question, "why the hell are you living in Denmark - you are from California!! You are crazy to leave!! Why!!??" a few times. I really need a nice response to this. The old, "I married a Dane" doesn't work on people who are smart enough to know that this means my husband could have gotten a green card. And I hate the twenty minute long explanation about how I'm working on my degree so I can't work and he could and he wanted to switch careers and so we wanted to stay where the education is free and the next thing you know the economy drops out, we are stuck with a beautiful, but overly large piece of property and while the health care here is crapy, it's free and I have access to it whereas in the US I can only go to my University health center which would mean living in Rhode Island which is not something I particularly want to do because there are no jobs blah blah blah.

Anyway, I didn't die. There were only two songs and they were after dinner before dessert, so I wasn't fainting with hunger. It was also all you can eat buffet and there was no pork, but lots of salads. So instead of drinking a lot to fill up my time, I ate a lot instead. Good times.

And we won't have to do it again for a while. Whew.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brain Melt

My brain is melting. That or the hamsters have been partying a little hard lately. The bastards didn't even invite me, ungrateful wretches.

Yesterday when my husband came home, he pulled an apple from his bag and I exclaimed, "Oh, you had the last egg!"

Egg?

I went to a academic paper yesterday and had a very hard time understanding what was going on. My notes look like a crazy person was trying to take notation. I wrote "the wall was put up in 275" instead of "wall built 275" which would have made it a lot easier to keep up with the rest of the paper. I wasted time trying to remember how to spell Constantine rather than writing "Const" which is my normal modus operandi. (Hey! I remembered "modus operandi!")

I've been staring at my conclusion for a while now and managed to only get one sentence out. I think it might be a keeper, but I'll probably have to wait until Monday to check. I know my other chapters make sense because I remember reading them a while ago and they did, but trying to read and summarize them now is like trying to put frosting on a cake with your bare hands. Only less fun and without the excitement at the end of having something tasty you can eat.

Did that sentence make sense to you?

My nose is sorta stuffy and I think my glands are swollen. If this is a cold, I'm going to cry.

Sounds like it's time for tea.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

This is me.... begging for pity.

I am not looking forward to this weekend. The christening... it approaches mercilessly. (And I just discovered that there is no such word as unmercilessly. Unmerciful. Yes. Mercilessly. Yes. Unmercilessly. Not a snowballs chance in hell. Sigh.)

We still have to buy a present, discussions (hostage negotiations?) are underway to determine
A) How many people are going to go in on a present?
B) How much does this mean we have to spend?
C) Who's going to buy the present?
D) Can someone just tell me what the hell we are giving BEFORE I arrive at the christening this time?

I'm praying that we don't have assigned seating. I don't feel like playing small talk. I don't want to hang out with exceedingly proper Danes who all know how to do things the "right" way and correct me when I'm wrong, like I'm a child. I have WAY better things to do with my time this weekend than eat boiled potatoes and pork. Is it too late to suddenly become Jewish?

I do not want to play "teach the American to speak Danish". I feel a rising tide of rudeness creeping up my body. By Saturday it's going to explode across the table. "I'm sorry, the American does not wish to speak Danish with people who are too stupid to understand her. It's not that I speak poor Danish, it's that you all are stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. So spise lort og dod, danske svine." Or something to that effect because I can't really spell Danish. Because if I have to show that, yes, in fact I am better at saying 'rød grød med fløde' than you thought I would be and Oh ho ho, yes, it is SO FREAKIN' FUNNY to talk about how no one can say it correctly, Ha Ha, yes, tell me another story about how you tried to get another foreigner to say it and they failed in such a funny way... I'm going to stab someone with a knife. I'm going to stand over their body, knife dripping blood, clutched in my fist, as I scream "you know why I can say 'rød grød med fløde'? Because EVERYONE ALWAYS ASKS ME TO!"

I'm going to have to shave. And my pelt was just getting soft and luxurious again.

I'm whining. I want pity. I'd throw a pity party for myself this weekend, except I have to go to a stupid christening.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ask and ye shall receive a recipe!

This recipe has been adapted from "The Cuisine of California" by D. Worthington. Just so you know.

I'm going to give you the recipe as I've modified it because frankly there is not enough sauce otherwise. I mix things up by using both metric and American measurements because I can. Or "have to" is probably more accurate.

Chicken with Mustard-Tarragon Sauce
Serves 4-6 (is SAYS, but in this house it serves only 2)
Serve with steamed rice and some sautéed veggies. Oh, and a white wine.
Time to make, including prep: aprox. 1.5 hrs. (That's me including the time it takes me to get the ingredients out of their cupboards before I even start thinking about cutting stuff up.) Cooking time: 30 - 40 minutes.

Ingredients:
3 tbsp butter (divided: 2 tbsp, 1 tbsp)
2 tbsp oil (divided: 1 tbsp, 1 tbsp)
500-750 g chicken breast fillets, boneless and skinless (you can do this recipe with the breasts whole or chopped, I go with cubed because I usually pour the whole thing over rice and I hate to use cutlery while eating) (As I think about it, I have no idea how much chicken I normally use because I buy one package and chop it up. The original recipe calls for 3 whole breasts, halved... but I'm not really sure what they mean by "whole breasts".)
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup of white wine (a little more will probably not kill you)
1 cup chicken stock (I use one cup of water and half a bullion cube, because that's how I roll)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup whipping cream (or all 250 ml of your carton)
3 tablespoons of mustard (dijon, whole grain, the meatier the mustard the better)
1 tbsp fresh tarragon OR 1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme OR 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste

Now what?
1) You need a large skillet. (I have also used a pot because my skillet is a bit small and tonight I'm going to use my dutch oven because I'm doubling the recipe.) Heat 2 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of oil in the skillet and saute your chicken over medium heat until golden brown. Remove the cooked chicken to a separate plate and cover to keep warm.
2) Add the rest of the butter and oil and when hot, add the shallots until softened. Add wine, stock and garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce. (If you want to make a mustard-tarragon glaze, you'll need to reduce until there is only 1/2 a cup of liquid and then you should only use 3/4 cup of whipping cream, but to make a sauce I usually don't reduce all that much. Or at all, come to think of it.)
3) Whisk in the cream and mustard and bring to a boil. When it's slightly thickened toss in the tarragon, thyme, salt and pepper and whisk well. Taste and adjust the amounts as needed. (I usually throw in more mustard. I REALLY LIKE mustard. And sometimes I'll add another dash of wine.)
4) Pop the chicken back in the pan and go on and pour all the chicken juices that have collected on that plate back in too. Cook for about 5 more minutes if you've cubed your chicken (because it should have cooked completely during the sautéing process and now all you need to do is warm it up) and possibly longer if you have not. No uncooked chicken here please! (If you are sautéing veg, now is the time to throw them in the hot butter or oil.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My husband's approaching birthday

I can't buy him anything. Although I am going to use the free tickets I get for bartending at a music event next week to take him out on a "date," it's not really something I had planned as a birthday present. Anyway, we be po' and have to use our extra cash to buy a present for the newest niece. Christenings are crazy around here, at least in my husband's father's family. The wish list is all kinds of über expensive, designed to developmentally enhance your child, anti-allergenic, organic, free-trade items that she'll outgrow in four months.

You know what is also free-trade, organic, anti-allergenic, guaren-freakin-teed to developmentally enhance your child for free?

A stick!

(To play with, you horrible people! One of my favorite toys growing up was a stick that I found in the back yard. Best damn toy evah!)

And it's biodegradable too!

But then, it's not really about how good for the environment or the economy of third world countries that an item is. It's the expense. Because the most environmentally friendly option is to use her cousin's hand-me-downs. But that is SO not going to happen here. This is all about keeping up appearances.

I mean, who the hell buys their infant Georg Jensen child silverware?? They don't eat solid food!! And when they do, they eat with their hands!! And when they finally master fine motor skills, you either have to train them up to full sized silverware, meaning you've only used their little child silverware for, like, three months, or you have to take the damn silverware everywhere. God forbid you lose one of the set, they're freakin' expensive!

Actually, I don't think they are ever taken out of the box, but shown around to guests and family, "see we love our child so much we only asked for the finest in designer silverware, we're keeping it as a memento of her childhood, so when she wonders if we loved her, because we left her out in the backyard in the snow in her barnevogen and told her to go play with her expensive toys rather than interact with her, she can just look at this and know that we did."

Sorry for being bitter, I'm just irked that I'm being asked to buy crazy expensive stuff for a person who will only be able to use if for a short time and who doesn't care who made it or if it's even new. I have to buy expensive crap for a person who poops her pants!! WHY???

Anyway, because of this, there is no way I'm going to be able to buy something for my husband or go out to dinner. So instead, I offered to cook him something special. Anything he wanted. Four recipe books to chose from. What did he chose? The same damn thing he choses ever year. Chicken with tarragon cream sauce. It's the one meal I think I can make in my sleep. He likes to have it with lots of extra sauce and then we spoon it over rice. But it's my go-to meat dish. We eat it quite frequently.

Anything else? I ask. Nope. Nada. He relented and said that if I was going to be insistent about having vegetables I can't use any that are non-organic or from outside of Denmark, because he doesn't want them. That's fine. That leaves me carrots and potatoes. I can do stuff with carrots and potatoes. (God I miss salad.) I've also noticed that almost all of the organic veg is now being trucked up from Spain. (I hate this time of year.) All the fruit and veg are a bit questionable, environmentally speaking. (That's alright, another damn niece or nephew turns up I won't be able to afford organic again.) So my grand plan is: cold potato salad with prociuttio as a starter, chicken with tarragon cream sauce, rice, and baked carrots for the main course, chocolate tart for dessert. I have four freakin' cookbooks! I'm not just making the one dish I can do from my head!!

I can make the chocolate tart tonight, I think, or tomorrow right after class. I'll then make the salad, but not assemble it until just before we eat. The carrots will take an hour, plus some time for prep, so I'll prep them first and then I'll prep the chicken tarragon. I'll start the carrots cooking half an hour before I begin cooking the chicken. Put salad together on plates and back in the fridge. I start the rice at the same time I start cooking the chicken. Half an hour and finito. Every item can hang out on the hot stove while we eat the salad.

Yeah, I think I can do that. And have it all on the table at 7:30? Oh yeah. I think I can do that indeed.

Lars: And in weather news...Lena?

Lena: Thanks Lars! The continuing struggle, known as "Winter v. Spring" here on Danish Network News, took a rather nasty turn during the last 36 hours. What started out a "cat fight" - mostly yowling and hissing, although some spitting was observed- as Winter slowly gave way to Spring, has erupted into... well, Lars, what can only be termed a "cat"-agory 5 fight, as howling winds, snow storms, and intense sunshine kept the inhabitants of Århus pulling on and then pulling off their stylish Salling sweaters! The sudden and inexplicable snowstorm of yesterday, which lasted all of five minutes, was thought to be a one-off. However, today we've had reports of numerous snow showers, some have even called them "blizzards," dumping snow in and around Århus every few hours. These storms are sudden and very short. No sooner have you struggled into your jacket than the skies clear and an amazingly intense sun not only melts the snow, it evaporates it! Those trying to catch some rays should beware, strong cold winds have been reported, leaping over buildings and into courtyards, bringing branches and small children. Watch your heads, folks!

Lars: So Lena, what do you suggest for the residents?

Lena: Well, Lars, I think it's pretty clear that you should keep your children inside. We don't want them blowing to Odense! But I think we can safely say that Winter isn't going to give up without a fight!

Ole: Can you tell us when we should stop wearing our winter jackets?

Lena: Oh Ole, you know that around here we just decide one day to stop. En masse. All at once. Didn't you get the secret Danish memo? That's why we're all freezing our butts off. We put away our winter jackets last week and we can't get the out again until October. It's the Law.

Ole: Oh, okay, but when will spring be coming?

Lars: Ole, you are a riot today, did your wife put bad rejer on your rugbrød in your madlingspake?

Lena: Ole, we may never get warm or dry weather, but when the tree in the Archaeogoddess's yard begins to sprout buds, it's usually a sign that we won't have any more snow for a few months. That's how we tell the seasons on DNN!

Lars: And has it Lena? Has it started to sprout??

Lena: Not yet, I'll keep you posted! But that's it for weather news today. Back to you Lars!

Lars: Thank you Lena! In other news....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why the Danish Royal Family rocks...

Okay, so it wasn't the funniest of CNN reports, but everyone was fine and another nut who thinks he can make stupid jokes about bombs on planes is safely locked up. Do you think that as they dragged him away he was trying to explain "Danish humor" to his we-aren't-laughing Danish security officers?

Danish humor is not "funny-ha-ha" but "were-you-dropped-on-your-head-at-birth" kind of humor. By the way, after hearing a particularly bad Danish joke, asking "were you dropped on your head at birth?" is an excellent repartee and your skills at Danish humor will be considered finely tuned. Because being dropped on your head at birth is considered funny in Denmark.

Anyway, the point of this post, although it is pretty pointless, now that I think of it, is that what jumped out at me from this article was that the crown prince and crown princess were flying for an official trip to Washington on a commercial flight. Yeah, probably first class, but still, commercial, not private jet.

The Danish royal family has more sense than American automakers. It's not that big of a surprise, but then remember just over 200 years ago America decided it couldn't be governed by a king who talked to trees, but the rest of England was, like, whatever man, we'll just lock him up and wait for him to die, what's the big deal?* Royalty and sanity are not always bedfellows.






*yes, I am aware that the American revolution had little to do with George's preoccupation with tree conversations and mostly to do with what they saw as unfair taxation without adequate representation in Parliament and that if it hadn't been for the Regency, England would have suffered greatly for lack of a sane king and it was in fact a very big deal at the time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Jeg kan ikke parle pas français.... whut?

A long time ago, I came to the realization that my brain was like a file department. Many rooms dedicated to holding various files on things that I know or think I know. This department is run by perennially stoned hamsters. Data reacquisition is slow and spotty and the little bastards get the munchies every now and then and eat some of my files. Which is why I can remember where I put my keys but have no recollection of that conversation last week about what's going to happen next Thursday. Getting them to concentrate sometimes is an exercise in futility. And their favorite place to hang out and munch is the language room.

So today during break I met up with two of the guys from my class. Ali is from Tunisia, he speaks Arabic, French, English and now some Danish. Marcus is from Switzerland and speaks German, French, English and a bit of Danish. When Ali and Marcus talk together, it's often in French. Ali completely forgot himself today and asked me a question in French.

The hamsters went nuts. One was screaming "That's not english!" and another yelled back "But I can't translate it from Danish either!!" About the same time that one managed to figure out it was French, Ali had caught himself and apologized. But from the depths of my file cabinet came the sentence "Jeg kan ikke parle pas français.... whut?"

There was much laughter.

But it happens quite frequently, when I'm in Danish class and I can't think of the word, I drag a foreign word out of the files and throw it out there. Default is often French, which is the language I know the most after Danish. But sometimes it's a brand new made up word. If I can't possibly come up with the word in any language, I often "Danglisize" it by adding -er at the end of the word. -er in Danish is pronounced "uh" or "oh" or even "eh" and sometimes it's even correct!! And sometimes I just get a completely blank look from the teacher.

At least I'm having fun. Our class has sort of a shared-misery vibe and we laugh hysterically at Danish. Especially the long words with k's and d's and too many letters that aren't so much pronounced as swallowed. I doubt I'll ever be comfortable using it around my husband's father's family, who seem to take life and Danish way too seriously, but so far I've been able to use it to talk to my dear oven-fairy and the very important CEO who called and wanted to talk to my husband (who is head of the board of the apartment complex, among the gazillion other things he does with his time).

At this point I'm handing out cool points to Danes who will speak to me in baby Danish and don't correct me or try to teach me new words. My husband's ex-step-father has points into the stratosphere. But then, he doesn't speak much English, so if we are going to communicate, we have to be imaginative. It's pretty nice that he still wants to communicate with me though, it's not like I am a great conversationalist in Danish or charades. Meanwhile, my husband is going to get himself slapped if he tries to correct my grammar or pronunciation one more time. My confidence in my hamsters is pretty low, it doesn't take much to send me into sullen English-only silence. The problem is that he wants me to correct him in English, so he's only trying to return the favor. I hate to turn down help, but at this point, it's not helping, it's hindering.

Now how the hell do you say that in Danish?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another bloody dissertation post...

So, I dragged myself through this French article and all I gotta say is, sometimes scholars really just phone it in. And then other scholars obviously don't read all the articles they cite. So while I'm trying to discover what fish mean in Roman art right before they tip over into Late Antiquity, I certainly did not find the answer where *someone* said it would be. The article I read was a collection of other similar pieces of art that had fishing and still-life as a motif. Oh well, I'm not going to now spend the next two months researching xenia for one lousy sentence suggesting how fish might be related to life, the universe, and everything. I'd really like to stop writing now, thank you very much.

I did find a new silver treasure in it though. Much to my dismay. But the transliteration from Georgian to French meant that google gave me nothing. Ever entered something into google and gotten NOTHING?? Madness!! So I emailed a scholar at my husband's urging (he's like that, telling me not be scared of scholars with jobs and just ask them what I need to know) and found out what I needed. And now I gotta let that guy know when I finish, because he's interested in what I'm doing. Sigh.

The German article surprised me. It was easily read and VERY useful. It was well organized and thought out and the scholar actually said "we can never know for sure what these symbols mean" which comes a shock. Scholars never admit they don't know. If all else fails, they cite some really early random German article from some feschrift or another. I pondered the wonder of it all and then noticed something rather important. The article was published in 1946. Um, who the hell was in Germany publishing articles in '46? OH! It's SWISS!!

Dear Swiss scholars, THANK YOU for not out-Germaning the Germans and keeping your German as non-German as German can be. Keep up the good work! Oh and thanks for the chocolate and the funny clocks.

Finished all that off and a crazy section on the Scriptores Historiae Augustae in which I got to cite "America (The Book)" and use the word "maleficent." Not to mention "apotropaic." Apotropaic is NOT in my real-world dictionary, as I discovered when I wanted to use "apotropaism," but is in my computer dictionary. "Apotropaism" is in the dictionary on line, but by then I'd lost my excitement over the word and went with "apotropaic ritual."  "Tyche" on the other hand isn't in my computer dictionary at all. One of the things I lost in the computer disaster of '08 was the Word dictionary I had carefully created after adding numerous Greek and Latin thingys. I have to do it again and every time I panic right before I push "add." What if I've spelled it wrong??

So one last time through this chapter and POOF, there it is, another highlighted note to myself (this is WHY I highlight notes to myself, I'll never find them again unless they're bright yellow), "get this book for the description of this plate, no it is NOT in the catalogue you think it is, you damn fool!" Is what I should have written, seeing how I spent the rest of the day trying to
A) find the damn catalogue and
B) prove to myself that it was in there and
C) kick myself a lot before ordering the damn book it IS in
Thankfully I had at some point already found the citation and put it for myself in the dissertation.

Sometimes rereading notes to myself is like that scene in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure where Bill decides that what he'll do is steal his dad's keys in the future and leave them for himself in the past and then BANG, the keys are there. Only in reverse.

I spend too much time indoors, don't I?

Right, so ordered book, hasn't come yet. Gotta check on that. Meanwhile... I'm sort of out of things to do other than that conclusion. So I need to read a bunch of conclusions and see what I can come up with. I hate writing conclusions. Usually my conclusion becomes my introduction, with the tenses changed. That's already happened and now I have a lovely introduction. So... in conclusion... I need to learn how to conclude.

Can I write: "I hear the creature creeping towards me. I don't know how much time I have left. If you find this, know that I tried to do my best and give my love to AAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHH...."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"A lot of food for a lot of people" means food for myself and my husband for only two days

Seriously, if a recipe says "serves 4," chances are we will have no leftovers. I'm thinking that people who decide how many servings there are belive that this is a complete breakfast:

That's my husband's first breakfast, mind you.

You'd think we'd be fat, from the huge amounts of food that we eat. Where does it go? I think I may have the same kind of hole in my stomach as my dryer. Stuff goes in and VANISHES without a trace!

Anyway, I'm constantly on the look out for good recipes so we don't get stuck eating the same stuff again and again. I also try to be seasonal, because trying to buy food out of season here is bad. Bad for the environment (trucks driving produce thousands of miles), bad for your health (in order to get them to last that long, they are often frankenfruit and chemical-veg), and bad for the wallet (so 'spensive!). By now, late winter pre-spring, the veg section is pretty poor pickins and I'm so desperate for fresh something that I'm buying bell peppers and I don't care where they're from!! I may be carroted out, you see, because I've been eating carrots for months.

But during this time of year I have one advantage over the Danes. I can mash potatoes. The concept of mashed potatoes seems to be lacking, at least among my in-laws. They boil or they bake them. And by bake them I do not mean in the sensible normal way, in their jacket, but by peeling and then finely slicing them most of the way through and then baking them until they are hard little hockey pucks. I HATE that way of making potatoes. Why do you do that?!? Now, to be fair, my step-mother-in-law must have made mashed potatoes at least once because she taught my husband how to mash them with a beater with some olive oil. Coming from the land of meat and potatoes, this makes me cry. Look, Denmark, just back away from the potatoes okay? Great googely moogely.

Mashed potatoes are GREAT late in the season, when your potatoes are say, not looking their best. Peel, boil, mash with butter, sour cream, hot milk, and/or cream. Brilliant!

So I had some left over sour cream from when I made tarts. (This is how I figure out what we'll have for dinner, I see something in the fridge and say, oh I should use that up! I then design a whole dinner around that one item.) And when I saw this recipe on-line, I HAD to try it. Potato and Corn Mash is quite possibly the yummiest mashed potatoes EVAH! You should probably have a lot of salt and pepper on hand and do lots of tasting, it took quite a lot to bring it up to my salt needs, but then there is a lot of mashed potatoes in this recipe. I had to use the beater, which means NONE of my corn mashed... I will get a potato masher... this is ridiculous. A beater is fast and easy on the arm, but ridiculous all the same. And I chucked in a knob of butter and all the rest of my sour cream and beat it into a soft and fluffy pile. I am not sure how much sour cream it was. More than half of the small tub of Thise Creme Fraise or whatever it's called.

What was amusing was that Kay (the author of the recipe) thought that this was enough potatoes for "a lot of people." She must have served this with eight other dishes, because my husband and I polished off most of the bowl... either that or the two of us is just a lot of people.

We didn't just have the potatoes! I'm weird and sometimes very lazy, but not THAT lazy or THAT weird, thank you very much. I also whipped out Cajun Meatloaf which I'm not sure if it is particularly cajun... or maybe it is? How would I know? The only time I've been below the Mason-Dixon line was for a conference in Atlanta. I've also been to San Antonio, but that doesn't seem Southern or Cajun, but rather Crazy Western. But Pastor Ryan (recipe author) says it is and who am I to argue with a tattooed priest?

So nevermind the correctness or incorrectness of the title, this is DAMN fine meatloaf. I've never had such good meatloaf before in my life. Moist, flavorful (and not in a ketchup kind of way), and completely unlike "fake rabbit" which is what they call meatloaf in Denmark. The recipe I linked to, however, DOES make a HUGE meatloaf. At least in a Danish oven, which is abnormally small. It was more of a meatslab and the amount of fat that dripped out of it (well, I'm poor, I'm not buying the best ground beef at this point, especially if I'm still trying to get organic, free-range cow, I can't afford to also get low fat) means that when I make it again (and OH YOU BET I WILL!) I am going to put it in/on the deep cooking tray.

Hint to people living in Denmark - use "rasp" for the bread crumbs. "Rasp" means "bread crumbs" and as long as you don't get the sweetened ones, you'll be alright. Some of you will already know this, but I only just learned after trying to cook here for FIVE FREAKIN' YEARS. I've been all makin' my own bread crumbs . My mom used to do this for our meatloaf (I love the woman, but our family recipe for meatloaf is just awful) and we'd end up with soggy chunks of bread in the middle of the loaf. *Shudder* No wonder I didn't try this recipe right away.

It's also kinda labor intensive. I need a bigger mixing bowl, for starters. And I had piles of chopped veg in different areas of my kitchen awating cooking. Note to self: do not add oil and heat pan until you see how much freakin' veg you have! Then you don't have to grab a pot and pour hot oil from a hot pan to a cold pot!!

But my god, what a good meal! My dear Dane was ecstatic. And although the meatslab wasn't entirely cooked in the time it said (probably because it was fatter than it should have been in order to fit on my cooking tray) we cut the ends off and worked our way towards the middle, which stayed in the oven, cooking. By the time dinner was over and we were full, the bit of loaf left was perfectly cooked and ready for leftovers.

How much leftovers did we have? I mean, the meatloaf is 3 lbs of meat, not to mention all the vegetables that go into it and I mashed 3 lbs of potatoes with more veg added - that's a lot of food right?

Well, it's a good thing I made 8 servings of soup on Monday, because we'll need the extra (probably only a bowlful for each of us) to fill out tonight's leftover dinner. We ate 2/3 of the loaf and 2/3 of the potatoes. I also have two leftover tarts that I can reheat and a box of ice cream. Really, it isn't any wonder that we never have any money. We're eating it all!

I'm very glad these were tasty recipes, because I tried some money-saving recipes from the FoodNetwork and they were SO BLAND and horrible. Danish Boy tried to be nice about it. But I told him I was never making them again. UGH! So far I haven't had a single good recipe from them. Sigh. But I've always had a successful meal from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

That sounds like a shameless plug, doesn't it? But dude - free recipes on-line!! And they're good!! I just want to spread the joy.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I would gladly have Jon Stewart's baby


I just wanna throw that out there.

There is this widely held belief that funny people are not smart. I think it dates back to the class clown in elementary school. You know, the kid who used to put pencils up his nose because that was the only way he could gain approval? And because you knew one funny kid in your class and you knew he was a total idiot, you extrapolated your experience and assumed all funny people were not necessarily the brightest crayon in the drawer.

And by "you" I do not mean to point the finger at "you" the reader but more of a general drunken pointing around the bar at "youse" who may not be in the bar at all, but is in fact a cow in the field over yonder.

So don't be all up in my face and saying I'm calling you stupid. Especially if you were the class clown. You all scare me with the pencil thing - don't you know it can go into your brain and you could DIE!?!

Anyway not all comedians are smart and not all nerds are brilliantly funny. But sometimes you get really funny crazy smart people. Jon Stewart is one of these people. Yeah, he's got writers to help him out, but in the hot seat, going head to head with someone, it's all on him.

I call on you to witness the YouTube Jon Steward vs. Crossfire showdown. Check out time stamp 7:51: bow-tie boy (what WAS his name?) says, "Wait, I thought you were going to be funny!?" And Stewart replies, "No, I'm not going to be your monkey." I usually lose track of the conversation at that point because I'm hootin' and hollerin' and making a damn fool of myself, pointing at the screen and doing my impression of "That's the Way." It's not pretty.

But most recently there was Crammer vs. Not-Crammer. The whole thing built up over several days and I only just got around to watching all of it. Hey, yesterday I rocked my dissertation, thank you very much, I need me some articulate comedic commentary to make the little angry German in my head go away. But you can see in this episode where Crammer, having just gone on Martha Stewart and beaten the heck out of some dough after she says he should think of someone he hates... like Jon Stewart..., goes on The Daily Show and tries to make nice. Sort of smooth over the whole thing. See, Crammer got GREAT publicity out of this "show-down of the hosts" (reported on all news media - CNN WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? I'm shocked Wolf Blitzer didn't do 'round the clock coverage and the Countdown to the Debate of the Century), and now on The Daily Show he wanted to sort of say, "yeah, we could have tried harder. Oh well, what can you do?" Smile, shake hands, walk away and declare victory.

Stewart wasn't having any of it. He goes after Crammer with a mission, to point out that Crammer, among others on CNBC, knew the crap that was going on behind the scenes and then instead of calling people on it, were cashing in on it and encouraging others to cash in too. On a Business NEWS Network. I think Stewart put it best the day before, when he talked about creating an atmosphere of excitement. That's what these programs were doing. I mean, Crammer's is called "Fast Money" it's all about how to make money fast. (There are some clips shown that suggest that not only did Crammer know that there were questionable activites, but that he was going to promote them anyway. Oops. Never have the discussion about how you are going to do highly questionable things when there are cameras around. That's like rule #1 of romantic comedy. If there is a camera it will be on and you will rue the day you walked in that door!)

There is a very valid point that didn't get hammered home (well, there were a lot of points to hit) that I'd like to talk about, muhself. Crammer mentions in the interview that he's only a commentator. But his show is filled with advice, not commentary. His motto is "In Crammer We Trust" and he comes across as a financial advisor, advising the viewer on what to do with their money and where he thinks the market is going to go. His excuse on why he is not responsible for the chaos that came from his advice is that he wasn't giving advice, he was just commenting.

But does a commenter take calls and tell people to buy or sell stock?? I mean, a sports commentator is in a booth above the field looking down and talking about what's going on, he's not coaching the damn game! The sports commentator is saying, "Ah, did that look like a mask-grab Bob? I guess the ref didn't see that one!" "Oh, no wait, Jim, there's the yellow flag now!" "Boy is couch Fred going to be mad, that was Jack's 33rd personal foul this season, I think he'll be out for the championships!" That's commenting!! (And can you tell I don't watch sports?)

But I must be confused, I mean, hey, I still find The Daily Show one of the best news programs on TV. (And it will be as long as Wolf I-can't-stop-talking-to-let-my-coanchors-you-know-anchor Blizter is moderating. Wolf, SHUT UP! Your monotone makes my flesh crawl, you pretend to be stupid in order to lead an interview which insults your viewers intelligence, and you never say anything remotely interesting! Get back into the trenches and learn to be a reporter.)

Anyway, this all connects with my life in a very important way, I just managed to work "America: The Book" into my dissertation. I came across "My Life" by Bill Clinton in a bibliography on coin hoards of the second-seventh centuries and I've always wondered if it's actually cited in the text or was thrown in the bib for comic effect. It made my day! I read a lot of bibliographies and I get very bored. I was rather morose as I couldn't work any sci-fi or fantasy comparisons into my dissertation, because I also want to perk up some graduate students life someday. Thank you, Scriptores Historiae Augustae, not only did I manage to get something odd into my bibliography, but you actually made it relevant!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

O Wonderus Internets!

So I had a comment from an amazing person, GutsyWriter, which I traced back to her blog (as one does). The post she had today included a video. It was kinda long, 20 minutes and while I was intrigued by her post, I wasn't sure if I was going to watch it or not. I ought to be putting new data into my dissertation. But then, it was lunch time and I can't type while I eat a salami sandwich with jalapenos (you have to keep the top of the sandwich tight against the bottom because those jalapenos want OUT, you really need both hands).

I highly recommend this video. It's smart, it's funny, it's not really that long. It's about creativity, intelligence, and education. I felt very validated for my choice of profession, even if I never make any money at it. I also feel slightly embarrassed for being one of those disembodied heads he mentions. Explains my inability to keep myself from running into things that are quite obviously hard and unyielding. If you have ever been educated in a school setting, you will relate. If you have children who are going through the system, you will relate. If you think British people are funny, you will relate.



I think I would very much like to have an art room now. I want to get my paints out and do something with glue. That would be the room for any kind of creative expression, not just picture art, because creativity comes in all kinds of forms and I want to celebrate them all!

An old funny tail...

This tail... er... excuse me... tale happened years ago, but a picture brought that night rushing back, scents and all!

funny pictures of cats with captions


My parents live out in the country. Growing up we were constantly exposed to the wildlife. Skunks, raccoons, 'possums, turkeys, rabbits, and insane squirrels. The menagerie of pets, which in truth were only slightly domesticated, included dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, mice, fish, a satanic dwarf hamster, and a lizard.

What I'm getting at is that I grew up in a country zoo.

The cats were, well, cats. So when you drove up to the house, provided that they weren't lounging in the drive way giving you That Look, would come running to met you. More precisely, they would run until they felt you could see them running and then they would slow, saunter toward you, stop and lick their butt just as you went to pet them. Having proved what little regard they had for us, they would then twine their way around your legs until you fell over or stepped on one, incurring the Wrath of the Feline for years.

And they really liked meeting you at night.

In the dark you can't see the cat running towards you until something hard bumps into your legs. In daylight the cat may only rub against your ankles, but in the dark that same cat is CONVINCED that the place between your legs as you try to walk up the path is THE PLACE to be.

So driving up to my parents house at night, you first get out of the car and wait for the cats to arrive. You then shuffle your way up to the house, having ascertained the approximate position of each cat. The relative position of cats, like atoms, can only be theoretically determined. The minute you see the cat, the cat is no longer there.

Anyway, on one particular evening I arrived at the old homestead and got out of the car. In the light of the porch, a yellowish light, due to an unfortunate lightbulb purchasing event, cast a glow over the... well, we'll call it a yard for the sake of argument. "Patch of mown weeds" sounds like I grew up in a trailer park. Three figures launched themselves off the porch, tails up and ticking (cat tails do not wag, but I can't think of a better word than "ticking" at the moment... those waving tails remind me of a metronome). The one in the front is dark with a big plumed tail. Ah, that's my good kitty! I adopted a cat all of three months before I moved away to a college dorm and I hadn't been forgiven even years later. But here he was, first in line to greet me! What joy! My fat fluff ball loves me!!

I reached down to pet the tufted head as it reached my legs and then was assaulted by the smell.

At first I thought my poor cat had had a run in with a skunk.

Then I realized it WAS a skunk.

The skunk waddled past me and off into the night. He had eaten his fill of cat food and was ready for something new. The two other cats greeted me as if there was nothing wrong with what had just happened. Almost as if they were saying, "what? Oh Earl? Yeah, he comes around from time to time when Ethel kicks him out of the garbage trailer."

I found MY cat steadily ignoring me on the porch. He gave himself a good butt licking to show his distain for my presence.

Lord I miss having a cat!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

And the choir sang with voices angelic...

I was visited by a wonderful man on Friday. An angel? A saint? A fairy-godmother? I never quite caught his name, but it was probably Lars. When in doubt with a Danish man's name, your best guess is Lars. Followed by Thomas.

For such a short round man, he bounced into my apartment with a light, quick step. He filled the air with professionalism and humility that I found both shocking and refreshing. He wasn't what I was expecting at all. His work bag was tidy, he smiled and made eye contact. He listened to me. He didn't, not once, wave his hand in a dismissing manner while I was explaining my problem or when I peeked to see how he was coming along.

And he fixed my oven.

His English was not so good, my piss-poor Danish was stretched to the limit, but he seemed to understand what I was telling him about the stove top. First he discovered that even though I had carefully followed the schematic my husband had drawn, two of the wires were reversed. Note to self: do not let tired husband draw schematics ever again. Other note to self: get both of us tested for dyslexia. Further note to self: never ever try to dismantle a bomb. Then I had to explain that the oven wasn't working from before I mangled the reinstallation. He checked, told me "Det er FFFTHHHHPTH." "Du rigtig? Kan du... er.... POOF!?" I asked. "Jeg kan ikke køber ny... um nu, so jeg skal har POOF... um.... please." Danish doesn't have a word for please. You have to say it in a polite verb form. I don't know these verbs yet. It's something like "I pray that you pass the butter."

Anyway, the following translation of above conversation is not a direct translation, but what was supposed to be said if we were, say, speaking the same language. Sort of a "what was understood to be said even though it wasn't":
Lars: It is completely and totally broken.
AG: Seriously? Can you fix it? I can't buy an new one now, so I really need it to be fixed, please.

He smiled. He said he could. And he did. He had the part in his van. Normally when someone comes to fix something, even if you have told them "the knob on my radiator that regulates the temperature has fallen off" they come out, look at it, say "well, the handle on your radiator that regulates the temperature has fallen off" and then tell you that they need to order the part and come back, in say a week, to fix it. They will then bring the wrong part or will not have the right tools. And you will sit in your cold room and cry. Or come up with a crazy plan to warm up the room using your halogen work light.

This isn't what happened Friday. Friday my oven was fixed and I made tarts. Wonderful, fully cooked top and bottom, tarts.

Lars, my fat little oven fairy, I love you!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

When realization hits you like a ton of something heavy

When I was little, someone asked me, "which weighs more, a pound of sand or a pound of water?" And I thought really long and hard and decided water. It took even longer for it to be explained to me that a pound of something WAS THE SAME WEIGHT as a pound of something else. Sometimes I just get caught up in the details and TOTALLY miss the big picture.

Kinda like how this post is supposed to be about realizations and I'm nattering on about weight measurements.

Anyway, two days ago I noticed that I had a rather large lump on my head. My husband had a peek and said, my god woman, you've been bleeding, how the hell did you do this? And for the life of me, I couldn't remember. I'm pretty bad about stuff like this, I often have odd unexplained bruises on my legs from where I walk into things when I'm not paying attention or on my arms (which look an awful lot like defensive injuries) from leaning on my desk at a bad angle for a long period of time and stoically refusing to give into the pain and move them (and then being shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, to see that it left a mark)! If I ever end up in the hospital from one of my rather insane mishaps, he'll probably be arrested for spousal abuse. But I didn't have any other unexplained bruises, so it's not like I knocked myself unconscious somewhere. You'd expect there to be some bruising if I fell unconscious to the floor, right? Eventually we came to the conclusion that I must have hit my head while I was concentrating on something else, probably when I was under the bed, retrieving stashed clothing.

But not ten minutes ago, as I went to sit down and call my best friend, I scraped my head against the ceiling (slanted ceilings, we live in the attic) as I tried to avoid the piles of research on the floor, couch, desk, bookshelf, and table. Trying not to knock these things over, while holding the phone in one hand is a recipe for some kind of disaster. And as soon as a whacked my head, a few light bulbs came on. They said:
1) ouch!
2) ah, now I remember doing this two days ago!
3) hey, is that leftover popcorn?

So the mystery was solved, I now remember how I hurt my head. Of course, now my head is hurting AGAIN so that sucks. There isn't any blood on the ceiling... which is almost a shame seeing how hard I whacked it. And that WAS popcorn, but it was stale, thanks for asking. Meanwhile, I have GOT to try to remember to maneuver myself a little more carefully in the future... or at least the next week so my head can heal.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Who wears the pants?

I wears the pants!

Who else is going to go into the basement and dispose of two rather ripe rat corpses?

And who else is going to reset the traps?

Yup, I got me some PANTS!

However, next time someone finds a rat corpse, I'd rather appreciate it if they'd tell me sooner. No matter how manly my pants may be, it is not a pleasant task once they go squishy.*




















* Even fresh, it's not a pleasant task, it's just more uggy once decomposition sets in. Enjoy your dinner, folks!

Nerd Herds

I am an unrepentant nerd. I'm not a geek. To be a geek would be to have a mastery of technical devices. I could probably take my computer apart. I could probably put it back together. I could then wrap it up in a nice package and give it to you as a rather expensive paperweight.

What I'm sayin' is that I'm not so good at the geeky stuff.

Doesn't mean I'm not interested in it. I like to geek by association.

But I am definitely a nerd.

Nerds herd. That is, one nerd is uncomfortable. One nerd will desire and look for another nerd. And then another nerd. And then ANOTHER nerd, until you have a nerd herd. Official nerd herds are often called "conventions" and are usually proceeded by a special understood-by-nerds-only title. Often including part of the name of the city in which the convention is held.

For the record, I have never been to a convention. Mostly because I'm a little unnerved by the obsessed fans. I like my nerd herd to be well-rounded and grounded in reality.

RenFaire is a nerd herd gathering. I'm sorry for those of you who go and think you are somehow above nerdom. But I've never been to one of these either (not for want of trying, I DO have a RenFaire costume I made myself and have worn for MANY halloweens, it's just when there was a RenFaire I was either out of the town or had a paper due the next day [procrastination sometimes shoots you in the butt] or was WAY too poor to pay the fee to get in). I've always been rather bitter about this. Even my PARENTS managed to go to a RenFaire at least once. (Total nerd moment: the RenFaire episode of Reading Rainbow was one of my favorites.)

A group of classicists are by definition a nerd herd even if some of them have never seen Star Wars. The chances of meeting a classicist that hasn't seen Star Wars are fairly small, but they are out there and are usually nerdy in some other delightful way.

So here I am in Denmark - there's a Viking Moot! An open air museum! My husband is very understanding of my history obsession (he shares it, the big lug). Usually though you go to these as a visitor and not a participant, although I hear you can do some archery at the moot. I'll need to limber up (yes, I took archery in college, recurve not compound). There *are* Viking reenactment groups, who knows, maybe some day I'll find myself with all kinds of time on my hands and go swing a sword at someone's head.

But my Dane doesn't really get my fantasy or sci-fi nerd sides. He's tolerant. But confused. He's taken me to see all of the Harry Potter movies. He's sat through Star Wars. Will he be able to handle, then, the new Star Trek movie?

Relief may be in sight. I've gone and met me a Danish nerd. We're beginning our own little nerd herd. There is nothing more wonderful than hearing "You ALSO watched Farscape?!" and "OMG, what do you think Brienne cried out at the end of 'A Feast of Crows'?" And then to send each other links to weird science articles, what bliss!

This may be my husband's out. If he finds he can't bring himself to once again go forth and sit for 2+ hours eating popcorn and listen to me squeal with joy, he won't have to. Then again, he finds my enthusiasm entertaining. He might just be willing to do it for that. And the candy.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A kitchen disaster THAT I DIDN'T DO!

So we got the old floor ripped up in the kitchen, meaning that the stove-top oven and the refrigerator had to be moved into one of the spare rooms for a few days. No worries. But for some reason the oven is wired into the wall, instead of just plugged in. We discovered this goes for the washer and dryer a while back, so we did what we do, we draw a schematic and de-wire the oven. I like schematics. They remind me of lego instructions and wonderful days sitting on the floor of my room piecing spaceships together one brick at a time.

Anywhat, we couldn't put the oven back right away after we returned because we needed to let the floor cure. Finally it's time. Only my husband is tired. Cranky tired.

He has three stages of tired: silly, butt-head, cranky. Cranky is horrible. There aren't words to really describe it. He just becomes this impossible person. Everything you do is wrong, slow, and obviously designed to make HIS life a living hell. Later, after he's had sleep, he'll apologize, but when he's in the throws of crankiness, I just keep my head down, do my thing and practice my zen face.

We maneuver the oven into position, he squats behind it with the screwdriver. I try to hand him the schematic. "I know what I'm doing" he snaps, "go get ready to make dinner or something." As much as I would like to whack him over the head with a frying pan, I'd then have to drag his sorry butt to the trash, and I'm just too tired to do that. So I fill a pot with water, I chop an onion, I mince three cloves of garlic. We're going to have pasta casserole ... tada, I've done all I can do until the stove is ready.

Husband finishes and flips the fuse.



Okay, there was no flash of light. There also wasn't any smoke. But that didn't keep me from leaping about two feet in the air. I check the oven and peek over to look at the wires as my DH stomps his way back to the kitchen. He's installed the wires in a mirror reversal of the schematic. Now he has to swear and stomp around the kitchen and yell about the injustice of the world blah blah blah... and my nerves are now officially shot. Zen is right out.

I kicked him out of the way, told him to mince the garlic some more, and sat down to do it myself. Since I'm the one who always does the lights and other electrical jobs around the house anyway, you'd think that I would have done the oven myself. I should have. But cranky mccrank forgets that the only reason I keep him around is to get stuff off the high shelves and warm my feet, not DIY.

The big bang blew out half of the hot plates on the stove top. We have since opened up the back of the oven looking for more fuses, but there's nada. We have to call someone in and possibly buy a new stove/oven. But, trying to regain my zen, I pointed out to my bundle of cranky, I can still make dinner.

Since he's now at a loss as to what to do, I give him small simple tasks. I have to remind him to slow down because he's careening into walls and has hit his head on shelves and things and frankly his frantic behavior is STRESSING ME OUT! Trying to regain the zen. Breathing slowly, I add basil. He tries to rearrange the kitchenware. Breathing harder. He rearranges the dishes. I will now spend the next three days unable to find my damn coffee mug. When he approaches me with the small mismatched bowls, I stop him. "WHAT are you doing with THOSE?" "I'm putting them away." "They go BACK on the SHELF." "But they don't match the other plates, why can't they go under the counter in the back?" "Because I USE THEM EVERY DAY TO MAKE YOU DINNER." Mise en place does not make sense to cranky husbands. Cranky husbands would do well to remember to not upset the hand that makes you food, never mind what you think is aesthetically logical.

My attention is diverted only for a few minutes when I realize that I've not seen nor heard my DH in a few minutes. This is worrisome. Not because I think he's dead, or sitting down and resting, but because it means that he's up to something. Yup. He's decided to move the refrigerator back. So he's taken everything out and is removing the shelves. Guess who has to help him move the damn thing? Guess who is also trying to prepare dinner? I help him move the 'fridge, zen gone, enter frustrated wife. Lots of grumbling. You want cranky? Oh, I can give you cranky. Think you're in a snit? Oh, no, I will show you a snit. I have to stop at one moment to remove the casserole from the oven seconds before it goes from done to burnt. "Dinner's ready" I say, "let's put everything back in quickly so we can eat." Nope, he has to clean the refrigerator first.

AIEEEEEEEE!!

This is why zen masters are always monks. There is no way you can be married and keep your zen.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Also in Danish news: excuses on why Danes are not friendly.

Ah Copenhagen Post, what would I do without you?

This just in: foreigners, even in SCHOOLS, surrounded and forced to interact with DANES, find that it is still ridiculously hard to make friends. The excuse, according to a Danish assimilation agent, is that Danes make friends when they are young and then are too busy to make more friends.

'Cause you know that in the rest of the world, we don't make friends before we're 20 and then because none of us work long hours or has anything better to do with our time, we find it SO EASY to maintain friendships and make even more friends!

One thing the article did get right was mentioning the Danish obssession with privacy, in the "I'm not going to tell anyone about my life" kind of privacy, not the "don't stop and interfere with the way I do things" or the "behind closed doors" kind of privacy.

Yeah, Danes will go hang out on the beach with all their junk out on display, but god forbid they tell each other about anything that's going on in their lives. Getting my husband to tell his own father what's new with us is like trying to bathe a cat.

I have four close Danish friends, all of whom I made the first year I was here. I didn't think it was that odd at the time. I'm now discovering that I'm a freak of nature, a foreigner who made good danish friends. And these friends actually contact me from time to time to make sure I'm okay, especially if I do my disappearing into the dissertation act and forget to email them for a while. One of them is on a mission to make sure I leave the apartment a bit more regularly for beer. Bless her. All four also have to put up with me telling them all kinds of amazingly personal things. I tend to wear my life on my sleeve, having learned the hard way that trying to be circumspect in your troubles and woes is hazardous to your health. They've all taken it in stride. In return I know a lot about them. Dreams, wishes, and disappointments.

I'm a really lucky bastard.

The only time I've ever run into a problem was when one of these friends wanted to introduce me to her circle of friends. Many people assume that the people they like will like each other. But these girls were not having it. We all met up for lunch and once my friend introduced me and then insisted that they all speak English (with advice that if they did speak in Danish, watch out, because I know more than I'm letting on), suddenly these three girls had to be somewhere else. They changed their orders to go and ran away. My friend was SO mortified. I was gracious about it and didn't take offense. After all, those girls were missing out on the bestest, funniest, Archaeogoddess on the planet Earth, their loss. But then again, for most of my life, most of the friends I've had did not get along. I think I would have been shocked it we'd all clicked. I've always had various circles of friends with varying degrees of intimacy. That made more sense to me than the previously mentioned theory that the friend of my friend will be my friend too.

But some of the tales I've heard on the expat blogs can make a girl's blood run cold. Tomorrow night, when I get together for some hygge with some of my friends here in Denmark (two Danes, one Pole), I am going to thank them and raise a toast to Danes who reach out to foreigners. May all the rest fall in a bog.

What would my life be like...

if I didn't have the internets?

How would I have been able to find this image? How could I have shared it with you?


I know the apostrophe is wrong. The question is: is this a passive-aggressive note or a heartfelt joy-in-the-midst-of-sadness that an expat is finally escaping Denmark?

Either way, someone has taken the "good riddance" concept a little too far, no?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Wasted?

My Danish friends always say they are wasted when they mean tired. At first I tried to tell them that, no, this did not mean what they thought it meant. Then I realized that everyone said wasted and meant tired and it was just not worth trying to undo years of universally weird English. Maybe in other English speaking lands they say wasted when they mean tired. Just don't come to America and say that to the cops, m'kay?

Anyway, last night we made it home to amazingly new (looking) floors. The kitchen floor has always been hidden under cork tiles and so it's a shade lighter than the rest of the house, but it looks freakin' amazing. I gotta go dig out one of the spare throw rugs to put in front of the sink. Maybe I can convince my husband that we need to go to Ikea to get one that has color, because the whole damn house is now white and wood. The bathroom, thank god, is still horrible green and grey, beat up, dirty and full of mostly empty bottles of shampoo. The door, however, looks brand new, it is very very shiny white. I rock that paintbrush, yo!

So having been gone several days and forgetting to grab the mail key on our way out, we finally got our mail. And I had a letter from danish class, telling me that my first day is Tuesday. But it's Wednesday night. Doh! And it's late at night when I got around to reading it because I didn't know I was going to have to get up 6 hours later and so futzed around, calling my best friend, oogling the floors, cleaning my email in-box, etc.

This morning sucked.

And since I didn't have a chance to read through my notebooks from all those years ago, it was like, um, what is the plural of green? Am I thirty or thirteen or did I just say something completely off the wall? And my spelling is shot. When we did dictation today, I could answer all the questions correctly (like who did what to whom and what color was it anyway),but when it came to check how I'd written it. Double doh! Stupid silent letters.

You can sneak some of your bad danish by if you just mumble. De, det, and der can be completely hidden if you just smash it into "er." But you are totally screwed when the teacher asks you to write it on the board.

Funniest question of the day: one of the students wanted to know why appelsin juice wasn't called orange juice since it's colored orange and the Danes do have the word orange for the color orange. And the teacher was trying to explain that appelsin was the fruit and orange was a color and that orange juice in English is named after the fruit, not the color, and that it just happens that the color and the fruit are the same in English, but they are not in Danish. He didn't seem entirely convinced.

So I'm home, I'm tired and we haven't put the fridge or the oven back yet so there's no way to make a hot lunch. Do I take a nap on an empty stomach or do I spend an hour trying to make myself food when I can't see straight?

Nap first. I'd rather be faint with hunger than bleeding and tired.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Foreign Service Officer Test

Didn't pass. Gotta wait a year before I try again. I pretty much expected this, since I didn't feel I'd done that hot on certain sections and I know what I need to study before I try again. But it would have been so nice to pass and maybe get all the way through. I'd like a career. That pays.

Oh well, back to praying that I look good to someone else or it's going to be cleaning jobs for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Homeless in Aarhus

Well, the floors in the living room, dinning room, kitchen and hallway (being one big continuous floor without interruption, should I just say "floor"?) are being refinished which means I cannot be home. We've taken up residence in CabInn, which isn't that bad. It's cheap, it's downtown so getting a shwarma and hitting the city library was no problem. But I have no control over the temperature. I'm freakin' freezing in here.

This morning we made our way to Brabrand/Gellerup to look at some apartments. Yes, we'll be moving to the last ghetto in Denmark. No, we aren't part of some gentrification project (me, gentrified? are you kidding?), husband thinks this will be a very good way to really get inside the immigrant experience, since he'd like to do a series of articles about it. I think he also has white-guilt. And he might get to practice the little arabic he knows. My arabic is limited to things you yell at tourists who walk into your excavation and things you yell at the teenage workers who would rather play with their phones and smoke cigarettes than move the dirt you just put in the wheelbarrow. I'm pretty sure I won't have to yell at someone to move their wheelbarrow or to go away because it is forbidden. But you never know. I just want to live somewhere cheap so that we can pull ourselves out of this financial meltdown.

We'd really like a two room apartment, because the three room is HUGE, 101 sq meters. Which, for normal people might not be that big, but we've just downsized and I don't have the stuff to fill it. Two rooms is also cheaper. But we cannot live in a one room - 40 sq meters. That's just madness. The apartments that small have no ovens, just two hot plates. And the laundry is located in freakin' Germany, instead of the basement where laundry belongs.

So the three room apartment we looked at today was... welll... not exactly squalid. They patched up the holes in the walls and painted it all nice and fresh. But the bathroom and kitchen date from when the building was first put up in the 70's. You step into a tiled volcano to get into the shower - which is an accident waiting to happen. The kitchen is pretty foul, but has an oven and space and hookups for a dishwasher. The management will let you take out a loan to replace the kitchen, though, so maybe we could do that. 'Cause, URG.

The perks would be the crazy low rent, the view isn't too bad (there is greenery), it was shockingly quiet and fairly tidy (a few notable exceptions, but mostly tidy), Bazar Vest, and the most interesting political commentary on the Palestinian government factions scrawled on the walls of the elevator. There seemed to be more Fatah supporters than Hamas.

So how do I feel about it? Pretty neutral. I would rather live in a prettier place, where the buildings aren't hideous concrete blocks. But it will be cheap, so cheap that we can start to pay off the debts and maybe even put some money aside like all the financial advisors advise. I won't be weirded out by the immigrants, that's for sure, I'm already surrounded by people I can't understand (and not just language-wise). But if we go with this three bedroom, I still can't have a cat. Sigh.

I'm going to have to finally figure out the bus system or learn to bike in traffic.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The News Today

Can you tell I'm avoiding doing French? I thought I noticed you noticing.

There are a few different sources for Danish news in English. I can read enough Danish to make my way through a newspaper (if you can read 20% of the words, you can generally figure out who did what to whom, if not necessarily why) but I would rather be able to speed through all the news websites that I usually check on a daily basis, so it's the Copenhagen Post and Jyllands-Posten in English. Some of the articles are the same and some aren't, but try finding news about Denmark on CNN.

Anywhat, there was an article today (maybe posted yesterday or even the day before... the plan to check all news websites daily is more a goal than a reality) regarding Danish military conscription. My dear husband was conscripted. The man can't see more than a meter in front of him without glasses, but they found him "fit for fight" (heh). He was miserable. Someone would yell, "now run over there and shoot that target" and he'd think to himself, "why? The target never did anything to me. And if the target were an enemy, it's very unlikely that it would just stand there and wait for me to aim this overly large rifle at it and shoot it. Can we talk about this? Perhaps reach a two state solution that does not involve running and shooting at immobile targets?"

In the upcoming apocalypse, he'll be organizing the first democratic government and I'll be in camouflage, under the bush, waiting for your dog.

Ahem. Returning to conscription, I think if you are going to conscript you have to conscript everyone. Or at least everyone needs to be eligible for conscription. Because if everyone faced the threat of the draft, it would be a hell of a lot harder for the government to draft us all for war. People are mighty complacent when their ass isn't on the line. But then, I'm not a big fan of conscription. I mean, would I want to go fight a war where not only myself, but the guy next to me ended up on the front because we were both so unlucky as to have our numbers drawn? Doesn't really inspire confidence. I think volunteer is the way to go. And if you can't get enough people to volunteer, perhaps you should take a long hard look at yourselves and see what's wrong with your policies.

Speaking of EU policy

*snore*

Wow, it's like narcolepsy!

Anyway, reading the Copenhagen Post, there was this gem of an article.

Here's the main point:
During talks at the EU Commission in Brussels yesterday over the Metock ruling - which allows non-EU spouses of EU member country citizens to obtain residence permits without having previously lived in an EU country - the integration minister reiterated the Liberal-Conservative government’s wish to repeal the ruling’s conditions.

The short of it (and it's pretty short) is that Denmark doesn't want to give non-EU spouses (married to EU citizens) residency unless you have lived together legally in another EU country. It's one of those "um, whut?" sort of decisions that make you wonder what passes for intelligence in the Government these days. We ran across this when I was applying for residency. For about two weeks we wondered if we'd have to move to Sweden just to fulfill this requirement.

Why not just make the law "no non-EU spouse will be given residency unless you can say rødgrød med fløde three times fast."


On a related tangent: Because I know several Poles, I know some really random Polish words. I can't spell them, but I know of few. The Poles think it's very funny to hear us try to say Polish words. Until, that is, we gave them the word "indubitably." It happens to be one of my favorite words, because it feels good in the mouth. But Danes don't have trouble with this word. I've been wracking my brains (both the one in my head and Abby Normal's which I keep in my sock drawer) to find something. Then, at the end of this video - it appears! Ask your Dane to say "the squirrel is in the refrigerator" tonight and see if it works. Oh, and let me know if you know anything that might trip up the Danish tongue.

Well, that sucked...

Suddenly, without ANY warning whatsoever I was attacked by some sort of malaise. Usually my malaises are induced by things like lethargy and ennui, but this one was physical in nature, it itched. And not in a "I want to fly to Fiji" kind of itch. Or a seven-year itch. But as in a "oh my God are there FLEAS in here??" kind of itch.

There are no pets in this apartment.

(Pity.)

But also no pets in the apartments underneath this one. And as far as I can tell there were no fleas on me. Which cannot explain why just now I ran down the hallway, stripping as I went, and dove into the shower.

There are no tell-tale bites. No bumps of any kind, like hives, or a rash or anything. I have lovely looking skin, without a blemish. (As long as we are not looking at my face. I really need to stop eating all the salami and dipping my bread in olive oil.)

What was it?

Personally, I think I'm developing an allergy to French.

My husband the blogging neophyte

My husband JUST PUBLISHED his FIRST blog post. He got himself mixed up in this EU blogging thing that I don't quite understand... probably because my mind starts to wander when anyone, even the man I love, begins to talk about EU policy blogging.

Give me funny stories about cats. I'll pay a lot more attention to funny cats.

Anyway, I had to walk him through some of the basics. "The title of your post goes here" and "Use the right click on your mouse to get spelling suggestions" and "the blog is just auto-saving a draft, don't worry, it hasn't published it yet." Unfortunately he is working in WordPress and I've never blogged there - although the people who do have LOVELY blogs - and so I was a bit confused. It's also this group blog thing, so there are all these other posts and tags and all kinds of things wandering around on the site.

So it may be a bit stiff (it reads like he wants it to: an online news article), but I'm so proud of him for actually sitting down and doing it. Someday I may teach him to embed links.

Someday he might actually read this blog.

Urk.

I LOVE YOU DARLING!!

*phew* That was close.