You'll have to read on to find out where...
14.11.2009 - 20.11.2009
Hello! I’ve been studying all weekend, have one exam under my belt, and I think I need a little break – here’s my promised update on life post-rocket range!
THE CHRISTMAS TABLE
I’ll be honest, Christmas was about the last thing on my mind when I arrived home from the Rocket Range - as far as I was concerned, I’d received my present two months early. However, I was in Tromsø for less than a day before I heard rumblings of the first parties of the season.
And so, on Saturday night (thanks to some skilled ticket-procurement on Vidar’s part) I found myself at the great Norwegian tradition of Julebordet – literally translated, the Christmas table. And the table was loaded to the breaking point:
Vidar was just as excited as I was about the menu:
- pinnekjøtt (cured, smoked, and cooked lamb, absolutely incredible)
- ribbe (pork boneless ribs)
- middagspølse (dinner sausage)
- stewed red cabbage (surprisingly tasty)
- potatoes (boiled whole, Norwegian-style)
- and (I kid you not) puréed swede.
(The common name for the rutabaga in the rest of the world is the “Swedish turnip”, often shortened to just “swede”. Makes for a rather interesting image the first time you hear it…)
We had a great supper, good affordable drinks, and I even managed to avoid excessive fidgeting with the table decorations by breaking out my Great Western Poker Dice - they were a surprising hit.
(note that minor fidgeting still occured - I'm only human, after all.)
After we were all pokered out, we headed downstairs for the traditional leisure activity of the science building:
(We may or may not have been occasionally late for lecture because of this…)
Jørgen and I made a snap decision and caught the last bus downtown and headed for Driv on Saturday night. The entire harbourfront was stunning on a cool November evening:
We arrived at Driv, I took a deep breath and paid the cover charge (for me, it’s almost like gambling..) and walked into… an empty bar. It looked like my gamble had severely backfired.
And then Erasmus arrived.
No, I’m not talking about the Catholic theologian (for those of you who knew that such a theologian existed). Erasmus, which stands for something long and difficult-sounding, is one thing the Europeans have figured out far ahead of we North Americans. It’s an excellent program that encourages student exchanges within Europe by clearing away much of the red tape involved (and trust me, there are swaths of it). Erasmus guarantees recognition and transfer of credits, ensures that no extra tuition need be paid, and even provides the students with a bit of pocket money.
Oh, and all these students from other European countries? They tend to have fun at Driv on Saturday night. And I know plenty of them.
It was a spectacular night – a few drinks, a few dances, some relaxing conversation out on the harbour pier, and a free game of pool thanks to a skill learned at Notre Dame (when the change machine has been removed, you simply have to know which lever to press). Unfortunately, there were no pool cues – but of course you know that didn’t stop us.
After a few rousing games of crud, I finally arrived home at 4 AM, gave Dad and U Nick a shout via Skype (It was something like 10 PM in Ontario, I think they were rather taken aback by the call) and tucked in.
A GOOD REFERENCE INDEED
In my backpack at all times I have a little orange reference book entitled “Physical and Mathematical Tables”. It’s a highly useful collection of unit definitions, physical constants, atomic properties, logarithms, and many many more. It was first published in 1904, and I believe my edition dates from 1960.
The reason I’m bringing this up: Monday’s Cosmic Geophysics brought a debate on certain electromagnetic units, and I reached into my backpack for the final answer. However, Professor Brekke forgot all about the topic at hand when he spied my little softcover:
“That’s Clark’s book!”
(at this point, I checked, and yup – written by John B. Clark.)
After restoring his jaw to its undropped position, Professor Brekke explained that he’d used the very same book as an undergrad and hadn’t so much as seen one in forty years. He was extremely pleased to see that I was using it, and he ended his lecture with the kind of smile one gets after seeing an old friend.
Oh, and if you’re wondering how I ran across such a book, you might look at the faded blue ink on the front cover:
John R Zrymiak
U of S Regina Campus
MAIL! - CANADA-IN-A-BOX
Partially by my request, Mom and Dad sent me a spectacular parcel with all things Canadian inside:
I’d like to point out the rather strange-looking blocks at the bottom-right. Those are, in fact, chalkbrushes. It’s been my experience that this little invention hasn’t caught on in Europe, as they prefer to use sponges. As you might guess, the sponges become rock-hard in a matter of days, and thus need to be wet to accomplish any sort of cleaning of the board. Wet brushes mean wet chalkboards throughout the lecture, and anyone who’s tried to write on a wet chalkboard knows how well that works…
So, I thought I’d thank my professors for the year that was by giving them this little token from home – and so far, it’s been a great hit. Thanks Mom & Dad!
PRESTVANNET SKATING RINK
Wednesday was a great day.
Why? Well, on Wednesday the “THIN ICE” sign that had for a month stood sentinel over Prestvannet Lake, daily dashing my dream of putting my Bauers to their proper use, finally came down.
And so, my walk around the lake to school has become a skate across it:
(note that’s not me with the hockey stick – still working on finding one for less than $250.)
(Oh, and that’s also not me in the orange – but the picture of Alex turned out far better than the picture of me).
This. is. so. cool. There isn’t a skiff of snow on the entire surface, and it makes even the Olympic ice back home look like a backyard arena. Even if I can’t pack my skates home, they'll have ended their career on a beautiful lake beneath the mountains and the Arctic sky.
(related story: in our quest for a stick and skates, Raimo and I headed to a secondhand sale organized by the local hockey club – alas that I mistranslated the part where it said “Youth Equipment”. Ah well, it was a still a great chance to get out of the house on a Thursday night.)
ADVENTURES FROM THE NOBS
On Tuesday, Raimo, Alex, and I attended a guest lecture from two visiting French exchange students who presented their “cultural learnings” during their time in Tromsø.
Sounds like a strange way to spend a school night? Well, the students in question were Marie and Pierre-Marie.
We laughed, we cried, we even managed to pay attention – no small feat at the end of a school day. Marie & P-M told us of Nantes (the “Venice of the West”, as opposed to Tromsø, the “Paris of the North” – true story) and highlighted some of the key differences between France and Norway (Marie: “It is much coolder here!” [French accent implied]). And then, as Geology students do, they launched into an analysis of the local French topography – the pictures were lots of fun to look at.
We followed up a great presentation with a free meal of Yonas pizza (the good local pizza); I wouldn’t normally mention this, but I have a new one for Dad:
(credit to Mark Boots for coining the above – or at least, exposing me to it)
The majority of the week was spent working on our Satellites & Rockets midterm / report on the Rocket Range week. I’m not going to go into details, but I thought I’d let you know that I've never had this much fun with a midterm. A full third of it involved researching various satellites and their launch, orbits, missions, operations, propulsive maneuvers, and everything. I was on NASA websites, ESA websites, and generally had an awesome time. For marks. This class kicks butt.
Just hours before our departure for the weekend (more about that soon!) Alex asked to bring my camera to his place so he could photograph his work for the online submission (digital cameras: the poor man’s scanner). A quick shot of Alex and his room (which is far nicer than mine):
Oh, and since I was at Alex’s room, I thought I’d highlight one of the strangest features of many Norwegian bathrooms:
That’s right. The toilet is in the shower. Not only that, but the majority of bathrooms (including Alex’s) don’t have any defined “shower” area – it’s just a curtain with a drain in the floor. Even in hotels and bathrooms where space is not at a premium. Cultural learnings, indeed.