Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Last week while I was away at Youth Conference Jonathan took his first steps. He has continued to practice though. If someone is sitting close to the couch, he will try to walk back and forth between the too, without any coaxing. Today, he took two steps and rather than falling he stopped and looked around and then decided to sit down. I am so amazed. So, at almost 10 months my baby is walking. Only time will tell how long it will take him to really take off. Watch out world.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Heather's Highlights

Fjords from Oslo to Bergen

I knew that I would have to write about this trip so I have thought and thought about how to word the play by play. Finally, I came to the realization that a play by play would be a little to much and no fun for any one. So, I have thought about it and come up with a few of my favorites and a little general information about our trip. If you really want the play by play call, send and email or comment and I'll be in touch.

Hyrum and I just got back from a 10 day, whirlwind trip to Scandinavia. We spent the first day in Stockholm than cruised over to Helsinki the next night and back to Stockholm the next. Then we took an overnight train to Copenhagen and spent one night there. Then we took the train to Oslo, Norway, sent a night there then caught another train across Norway to Bergen. We spent two nights in Bergen then back to Oslo for two more night there and back home.

We were kidless thanks to Hyrum's mom. It happened due to a conference for Hyrum and some other good things that made it the perfect time to go. Our kids still haven't recovered but, we had a good time.
On to the highlights . . .

The first thing of note is that I was grateful that even though I had two delayed flights, which led to my missing a connection I arrived in Stockholm only 4 hours late.

Stockholm was my favorite city. I never felt like I was in a crazy shopping area and I felt like a part of Stockholm especially on Saturday which happened to be Sweden's National Day. We felt like one of the people with a Swedish flag in our bag and walking around the city. Not to mention seeing the crazy football (soccer) fans ready for the Sweden/Denmark game. It was a big deal.

We enjoyed dinner that first night at the Taste of Stockholm food festival. We didn't get anything too out of the ordinary but we did have what seems to be a national dish, Kotbullar or Swedish meatballs. We love them. It wasn't the last time we enjoyed them this trip either.

We had some lovely strawberries and cherries in a beautiful park in Helsinki. We took an overnight cruise from Stockholm to Helsink and back again. There is a little stretch where there is just ocean and the sunsets were beautiful, and they took forever. On average we only enjoyed about 4 hours of night every night. I kept waking up at 4 am.

I really enjoyed the Stockholm City Hall. The City Hall was so interesting because of the deep thought and symbology that went into making it. This is where the Nobel Prize Banquet is held every year. The Royal Palace with it's changing of the guard ceremony was fun too. The ruins of the old Tre Kronor Castle was really interesting.

The best place in Stockholm though was the Vasa Museum. The ship was enormous and was sunk 20 minutes into it's maiden voyage by a little gust of wind. It lay in the harbor in Stockholm for over 300 years and finally someone found it and brought her up over almost 20 years of slowly bring her up in almost one piece. It was so informative and there was enough information but not too much. It was great. The ship was amazing too.

Next we visited Copenhagen, Denmark. It wasn't my favorite place but we've decided it needs another chance, some day. Here we overloaded on musuems. My favorite though was the Thorvaldsen Musuem. He was the sculpter who made the Christus statue. We saw the original in the church in Copenhagen flanked by twelve apostles. That was cool. His sculptures are amazing. I kept expecting them to breathe.

After Copenhagen we made our way to Oslo, Norway. We stopped at the beautiful Frederickburg Slot (Castle). It is the Danish version of Versailles. Here we saw the original Karl Bloch paintings. The LDS Church uses several of these to depict scenes from Christ's life. Before crossing back into Sweden we saw "Hamlet's Castle" from our ferry.

We stopped in Oslo over night and then took another series of trains, boats, and buses to Bergen, Norway and the fjords. The fjords were beautiful and on the train I saw my first real snow in 3 years. It was lovely. It was a beautiful trip with lots of snow, greenery and waterfalls.

Bergen was really a great city. We didn't have a lot of specific things we wanted to see so we got to relax a little bit. We learn about the people that lived there and saw a church that has been around since at least 1280 and probably much longer than that. The houses from the people that lived there several hundred years ago are still there as well as an old ceremonial hall from medieval times.

These places were amazing in so many ways. One of the greatest is that they are so seeped in history. These people and cities have seen so much history and recorded it. As nations these countries are so old compared with the US. For the thinking this trip provided and the education alone it was so worth while. We had a wonderful time but we were also glad to get home to Hannah and Jonathan.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Back home

Just a brief update: Heather and I made is back home without incident, and are pretty much adjusted back to the right timezone. For interested readers, I'll post a full report of our escapades in the next few days.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Scandanavia Day 2: Wandering around Skövde

Today, I didn't have anything to be at until 4pm, and having slept off my jet lag (but not my cold), I arose early got some of the excellent breakfast buffet, and headed down to explore the town of Skövde. The conference hotel is perched atop a local hill, Billingen, and gave an excellent location to survey the surroundings. Today dawned sunny (at 2:30 in the morning!), and my cold was starting to abate, so I decide to make an adventure of it.

Not in Kansas anymore

I made my way down through the forest on the hill beneath the hotel. The woods are part of a nature preserve and had plenty of well worn trails through them. It wasn't very long, but I enjoyed wandering through the forest and seeing the rhododendrons in full bloom. Before long, I emerged in the town, found the local tourist information office, and got a few suggestions of museums and other places to see. Most of them were closed, so I spent the morning just wandering through the town, observing the people.

The road less traveled

I noticed a few interesting things. First, even though the weather was mostly cloudy, windy, and a bit cold, people were out and enjoying their day. Older people were walking to market and home, and there were bikes everywhere. I was impressed by the infrastructure provided for those that chose to pedal their way around. In contrast to Texas, there weren't any SUVs or pickup trucks, but almost everyone who was driving seemed to be in a compact station wagon kind of car. But many preferred to walk.

I got lunch at a local cafe, which was serving (of all things) Tex-Mex that day. I was again impressed that a good buffet meal could be had for only 80 crowns, around $10. After lunch, I visited the local Kulturhus which wasn't incredibly impressive, but did have some interesting art. I saw the church, and then wandered up north of town to visit the city museum. Although almost everybody I met spoke English, Skövde is small enough that none of the signs had English translations. I enjoyed wandering through the museum, but it didn't really have much significance as I couldn't read any of the explanatory material.

After an enjoyable walk back up the hill to the hotel, I rested for a few minutes before attending a conference keynote, and eventually presenting my poster during the poster session. It was a good experience, and I was able to get some more feedback from people interested in my release engineering work, and encouraging sign. The conference dinner was quite good, and I've spent this evening watching the BBC, and doing some work. Tomorrow, the play stops as the conference starts in earnest.

Skövde, as seen from Billingen

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Scandanavia Day 1: Flying into Stockholm

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.
Robert Louis Stevenson

Yesterday morning, I set off on my trip to Skövde, Sweden. I was headed there for an other conference, this one an academic conference on Open Source Systems (OSS 2009). In addition to going to the conference, it's an opportunity to visit with some other collaborators, and get to see a part of the world I've never been to. Getting to the conference turned out to be quite the great affair, as is any trip to another continent.

Heather and I left Austin on Sunday afternoon, driving up to Allen to visit my folks. My flight was out of the DFW airport, and Hannah and Jonathan would be staying with their grandparents after Heather comes and joins me, so we decided to use their home as our base camp for the trip. In driving to the airport, we hadn't even made it to the highway before being rearended. The car was drivable, though, so we continued on to the airport, but were both a little shaken for the event.

The first flight was uneventful, and I had a couple of hours to kill in Newark Liberty. My overseas flight began well, with an amazing view during initial climb passing directly over Manhattan. The picture really doesn't do the view justice, but I was glued to the window for some time. After we moved over clouds, I spent some time working and watching the movie/TV thingamajig at my seat. I didn't get much sleep, but I never do on airplanes.

Upon arrival, I made a quick jaunt through customs, and then took the Arlanda Express train to the Stockholm Central station. It was a little pricey, but a very quick way to get into town. From Stockholm Central, I easily found my train and settled in for a jaunt to Örebro. By this point, I was pretty tired, and had to try and stay awake, just so I wouldn't miss my stop. Since I had all day to kill before arriving in Skövde, I decided to take in the castle and town of Örebro.

I managed to fine the town okay, but it was raining and cold, and I felt a pretty sizable cold coming on. Still, I hadn't yet eaten, so I threw my luggage in a locker and wandered in to town to take a look at the castle and grab a bite to eat. I eventually found the park with the castle in it, and took a walk along the river, all the while dodging drizzle and people on their bikes. I got some food at a local cafe, and had an interesting conversation with a man from the town.

I was planning on spending several hours in Örebro, but after walking the town, suffering through a cough and sore throat in the pouring cold rain, I decided I'd had enough, and made it back to the train station in time to catch the next train to Skövde. I checked into my room, and have spent the rest of the time decifering Swedish TV and trying to get the wireless network to function. My throat is still sore, and I've got a headache, but I've arrived at my destination (at least for a few days).

An observations: Coming to a "foreign" country is always an interesting experience. The language is different, the customs are different, even the food is different, but people are still people, with common challenges and triumphs. As we were flying in to the airport, I couldn't help but imagine what the people in each of the farms or cars was doing or thinking, and I suppose it's very similar to what I would have been doing on a Tuesday morning. I'm thankful for this perspective that travel gives me.