Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Qu'est-ce que c'est?

This is picture is somewhat relevant to the story....
I received a rude wakeup at 5 am a few days ago, when it sounded like a team of construction workers had descended onto the house from a helicopter. Well that might be exaggerating a little, but at 5am it was LOUD (and dark). I may have mentioned before that I live approximately 500 meters from a psychiatric hospital, where Norway likes to send their finest insane criminals. This tends to cause me some jumpiness at 5am. I live on the 2nd floor of the house, but generally in the winter I am too lazy to go down and lock the outside door to the stairwell, because well I'm lazy, I don't want to get my feet cold and my fleecy slippers fall off going down stairs. So I normally just lock the upper door into the apartment and go to bed. This was one of those nights. So my first thought after jumping out of bed was that an escaped prisoner was trying to hack his way into the house. So I ran into the hallway and sure enough, I could see that the motion sensing light in the stairwell was on. Now being it is 5am, I just woke up and I'm not really that smart anyway, I OPENED THE DOOR, to see who was in there. Fortunately for me, I did not receive an ax into the forehead. I didn't see anyone, but I heard something... which sounded suspiciously like a crazy person talking to themselves. I ran over to the small north window that looks towards the driveway into the garage. I see a shadow! Someone is walking alongside the house and mumbling. I've got you now serial killer, I thought. I ran over to the kitchen window facing the street to try to get a glimpse of the psycho as he came around the corner.
OK, it was the guy delivering the newspapers, singing along with his ipod. whew.
That didn't really explain all the noise until I went back over to the south windows, where I could see that the section of roof from this picture was now bare. The entire load of ice and snow had slid off at once. Since the roof is tiled, every time the ice bumped over a tile it shook the crap out of the house, waking me up and setting off the motion sensor. Mystery solved, although somehow that did not really help me go back to sleep. Next I will start working on that remote locking mechanism for the outside door....
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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sigrid and Maria

I can't be the only that sees some physical resemblance between Sigrid Undset and Maria Amelie. Maria Amelie ( real name Madina Salamova ) is an undocumented Russian immigrant to Norway who has lived here since 2002. She has been in the news constantly in Norway in recent months, as the Norwegian authorities are preparing to deport her back to Russia. I have been reading her book "Ulovlig norsk" for the past few days. It is written in Norwegian so it takes me a while to get through it but I have managed about 50 pages now. She has quite an interesting story to tell. She actually managed to graduate from NTNU here in Trondheim with a master's degree, in spite of never having proper legal status. I happened to have a 500kr note laying next to the book cover the other day, and I thought "wow, she looks a lot like the woman on that 500kr note." I didn't know anything about Sigrid Undset either, so I had to look her up. Interestingly, there are 2 other coincidences between them. They both wrote their first books in their early twenties, and Sigrid, although celebrated as a Norwegian author, was not actually born in Norway either. She was born in Denmark to a Danish mother and a Norwegian father. Sigrid went on to win a Nobel Prize for literature, but who knows what will happen to Maria. It seems almost certain she will be deported in the near future, but I believe she would be able to re-apply for residency here after some period. Maria's case has generated quite a lot of controversy here in Norway, I am wondering if Sigrid were still alive what she would say about it?

On a completely un-related note, I watched a nicely dressed woman in the neighborhood this morning trying to push the family car out of the driveway while her husband backed it up. They were stuck in the snow and melting ice but they were half blocking the road so I couldn't get through until they moved the car. Anyway after 3 or 4 tries of rocking it back and forth, they got it loose and it went back into the street. Of course the instant it shot backwards, she lost her footing, slipped and fell ass first into a huge puddle of melted snow and slush. Which goes to show you that when there is a car stuck somewhere, always volunteer to be the DRIVER!

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011


This topic will probably only be of interest to U.S. expats or soon to be expats. Being that it is getting close to tax time I wanted to mention the FBAR, which concerns foreign bank and financial accounts. Basically if you are a U.S. citizen who has signature authority over a foreign account or accounts that totals more than $10,000 at any time during the year, you must file this form the following year before June 30th. The form is not that difficult to fill out, but if you meet the criteria, DON'T FORGET! The government has some very severe penalaties for ignoring this requirement.
Here is one typically cheerful note from the instructions:

Can cumulative FBAR penalties exceed the amount in a taxpayer's foreign accounts?
A. Yes, under the penalty provisions found in 31 U.S.C. 5314(a)(5), it is possible to assert civil penalties for FBAR violations in amounts that exceed the balance in the foreign financial account.


Note also that you do not mail this to the same address as your tax forms, it goes here:
U.S. Department of the Treasury
P.O. Box 32621
Detroit, MI 48232-0621

Here is a link to the FAQ about it: http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=210244,00.html#FR1
and here is the current form: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f90221.pdf

So remember my fellow Americans, your ass may be 3780 miles from Washington D.C., but your wallet isn't!
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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cranberry bread

These are some Wisconsin cranberries I found in the store over the holidays. Suprisingly, they weren't even that expensive for Norway anyway ($5 for 12oz). I wanted to make some cranberry bread from my mom's recipe to give away to some friends. The first effort was a horrible failure. I put too much batter in one pan, because basically I only had one pan. Then I cooked it about 3 times longer than the recipe said, and it still wasn't done.......argh.
Finally I gave up and and threw it out. I got another bag of berries and borrowed some pans from Joel for the 2nd attempt. That one worked. Cold cranberry bread from the fridge with some butter or margerine on it, that is some good stuff.
I managed to get sick twice over the holidays, right before Christmas and right after I got sick for the whole week between Christmas and New Years. That sort of took the fun out of it but we had some nice parties on Christmas weekend anyway. Now it's back to normal work weeks and slightly longer days ( the sun manages to stay up until 3pm now ). In a few weeks I will be back in the U.S. for about 10 days. I will be first at a conference in Las Vegas and then I will stop and visit my family in Wisconsin for a few days on the way back to Trondheim. I am starting my shopping list now for a visit to Fry's electronics in Vegas and probably at least 1 trip to Target as well.
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