As I pen these words, I’m in a small cottage high in the Norwegian mountains and deep in the Norwegian woods…
It’s Monday 13 February 2012. As you may recall, I’m visiting Norway to give the keynote presentation at the FPGA Forum tomorrow. (Note to self: “MUST finish creating that presentation”). Later on this week I will be giving a guest lecture at the University of Oslo (Note to self: “Arrggghhhh”).
The really fun thing is that I’m being accompanied by my 17-year-old son, Joseph. Maybe after this trip he will have a better idea what I do with my time (grin). I had been informed by the folks organizing the conference that February is the coldest month in Norway – and that it can become very, VERY cold indeed, so for the past few weeks Joseph and I have been shopping for cold-weather gear in the form of Field Boots and warm coats (and hats, scarfs, mittens, socks… you name it, we’ve got it).
My jacket is a monster from North Face called a McMurdo Parka (named after the famous McMurdo Station, which is a US research center located in the Antarctic). Now that I’m here I love this little beauty, but “little” is probably not the right word because this beast is similar in size and weight to a large padded sleeping bag. Suffice it to say that if I had packed my McMurdo Parka in my suitcase, it would have been the only thing in my suitcase, so I had to carry it and/or wear it on our journey over here. You can only imagine the problems involved in moving around with this beast on the various aircraft (especially the little rinky-dinky ones).
Joseph and I set off from Alabama on Saturday 11. First we flew to Washington DC, where we had a five-hour layover. We were happily sitting and waiting and chatting when Joseph suddenly said “Wow, look out of the window!” Good grief – the sky was totally gray – snow was falling – and visibility was down to just a few yards. My heart fell – I was convinced that we were going to be delayed, maybe even miss our flight – but just an hour later we had blue skies again and before long the snow had all melted. Phew! That was a close one!
From Washington DC we flew to Copenhagen, Denmark. We arrived around 7:00am Sunday morning and caught our next flight around 9:00am, arriving in Trondheim, Norway, a little after 10:30am. We were picked up at the airport by Jan Anders, who is one of the organizers of the FPGA Forum. Jan Anders [you have to use both first names – equivalent in a way to someone being called “Billy-Joe” or “Jim-Bob” in America] drove us to his small cottage high in the Norwegian mountains and deep in the Norwegian woods – about two hours away from Trondheim.
Jan Anders’ Cottage
After lighting up the wood stove and warming everything up and grabbing a bite to eat, we went for a walk through the woods. Joseph tried snowshoes for the first time, so he walked through the deep snow while Jan Anders and I stayed on the snowplowed trails. I tell you, we were really, REALLY glad for our warm clothes.
Joseph (left) and yours truly (right)
Jan Anders told us that he has temperature sensors logging the temperature in the cottage (he also has automatic systems that keep the temperature in the cottage above freezing). On 1 February, which was only 12 days before we arrived, the temperature fell to –20C (which is –18F). Fortunately, things had warmed up a little by the time we arrived – I think the technical term I would use for the current state of affairs is “Bloody Freezing”
(but I’m not an expert, you understand). Suffice it to say that I am VERY impressed with my McMurdo Parka – not the least the outside pockets, which are so big you can put your hat, gloves, and scarf in one – and still have room for a thermos flask of hot chocolate!
Just call me “Tracker Joseph”
When we returned to the cottage we had a nice hot shower, watched winter sports on television (in Norwegian of course, which made things unusually interesting), and had a big supper. Later we went out for one more walk to help our digestions before turning in for the night. I was hoping to see the Northern Lights, or to at least show Joseph what the Milky Way looks like when you don’t have any light pollution, but it was not to be because the sky was overcast with clouds and snow was falling.
It was almost pitch black outside, so we used flashlights to stay on the beaten path. I’m sure we saw a bunch on Moose tracks (I wish I’d had my camera with me), but Jan Anders said they were too rectangular and they must have been made by humans in snowshoes. I still think they were Moose – I think they are Clever Moose practicing disguising their tracks. (I would back my “Clever Moose” against Monty Pythons’ “Intelligent Sheep” any time.)
You may laugh, but Jan Anders says that it’s strange how you tend to see more Moose coming down close to the villages when hunting season starts in the Fall … almost as if they know that hunters cannot fire their weapons close to human habitation (it makes you think).
The problem is that it’s been snowing all night and all morning – I can no longer see the car outside, just a big pile of snow where I think we parked it – so keep your fingers crossed that we make it out – otherwise I will have to give my presentation remotely by video cam (maybe I’ll do it in mime, just to make it really fun :-)
Last, but certainly not least, on the off-chance you were wondering, the “Stardate”
in the title to this column refers to the number of days I’ve been gracing this planet with my presence (including today). I calculated this value using the handy-dandy Duration Calculator
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