Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The international language of juggling

Last night I (Greg) walked to the north side of Copenhagen, where a group holds a weekly juggling meeting. I found out -- too late -- that there was also the Nordic juggling convention this past weekend in Køge, south of Copenhagen.

I didn't plan to do much juggling this trip, and also we're trying to travel lightly, so I didn't bring any of my own juggling equipment. But I was of course allowed to borrow the props others had brought; the international juggling community is very friendly and willing to share.

The juggling venue was a 3rd-floor (4th-floor to Americans) community room. I showed up about 15 minutes late, and was the first one there by about 5 minutes. Finding the general building was easy enough, but finding the room required wandering and asking random people. One guy, perplexed as to why I was knocking on his door, asked right off "are you Italian?" Not sure why. Finally I found a woman who worked in the building and knew of the group.

Anyway, it felt really good to juggle for a few hours and meet some other people. Mostly Danes, but also an American and a Dutch woman (I think). About 15 people at the peak. Lots of people doing non-juggling things, like poi and devil sticks.

John Nations doing 4 clubs, Kip (sp?) in the back. Kip taught me a few tips about doing clubs, John showed me shoulder throws for 4 balls.

Kip (?) and someone else I didn't meet, passing clubs.

John doing seven rings, Jonathan, and two women doing poi.

Mogens and John passing, an unnamed woman doing 3 clubs...

Palle and a nice 4 club routine.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

First interview

Greg and I visited the national library (a.k.a. the black diamond) today. The building is remarkable -- one whole wall is windows, five storeys high. It is right on a canal, so the view out the window is very pretty. There is a cafe with very reasonable prices (well... reasonable for Denmark) and it has tables inside and outside by the canal. We had some very good sandwiches there for lunch and espressos that tasted like they were flavored with cinnamon or cardamom.

There are two reading rooms in the library. One is stocked with periodicals and the other is for serious researchers. We started out in the research room, but found it to be too strict and nerve-wracking. So in the afternoon we migrated to the periodicals room. Both rooms were packed with students and eerily quiet -- only the sound of typing and an occasional loud sneeze (from me -- forgot to take my allergy medicine). Readers are not allowed to bring in any bags -- only books, papers, laptops and writing instruments. I was able to get a library card, but it only works in the reading rooms. If I need to read a book, I can order it online and have it delivered to a reading room and I can read it in the room. The librarians actually check when you leave the room to make sure you aren't smuggling out any library material.

I found some interesting periodicals, but none related to my research. I know the library has at least some of the journals I read for research, but they must be stored somewhere else. I did get to glance through copies of Spiegel, the New York Review of Books, and l'Express.

I had my first interview today. It was with a civil servant who works with the parliamentary committee I am studying. She was very kind and informative. She even had coffee and danish pastries ready for us to eat while we met. I expected to have about 45 minutes for the interview, but it went twice that long. I have pages and pages of notes and learned some new, interesting things about this committee.

If you are at all interested in the committee I am studying, you can read about it here. You can access information (in English) about Denmark and the European Union here.

Whitsun, Danish lunch, Folketinget

We had intended to go to the library yesterday, but it was closed for the second day of Whitsun (Pentecost) holiday. The royal library is a very interesting-looking building, called the `black diamond':

Which backs up to the Danish Jewish museum (we didn't go in):

Instead, we walked around some of the city we hadn't visited yet, particularly around Christianborg (government and royal buildings). The building below in the distance with the scaffolding is the parliament building.

The parliament is called the `Folketinget.' It's unicameral; they abolished the upper house in 1953. We took an English-language tour of the parliament in the afternoon, with another family from New Zealand (one of whom was also also a political scientist). The Danish pride themselves on their transparent democracy, and it was a very interesting tour. Ivy starts interviewing people in this building today.

We got lunch (actually before we took the tour) at a traditional Danish lunch place (though it was in the tourist area, and we were surrounded by British, Dutch, and apparently a team of Californian bicyclists). For lunch, Greg had a lunch plate (various herring and bread), while Ivy had a smoked salmon salad -- all delicious. So much food that we didn't eat dinner.

We did, however stop for an ice cream in the late afternoon. Greg had basil-flavored ice cream -- which was really quite good!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Art, church, hotel

Sunday being a day of rest, we rested. Jet lag still has a hold. In the afternoon we went to an art museum, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. It was interesting to see the work of some Danish painters and sculptors, but some things we wanted to see were closed off (or, at least, we couldn't find how to get to them). The tucked-away top-floor collection of modern art -- most of which were super-sized versions of everyday things -- were interesting.

In the afternoon we went to the Copenhagen Community Church, whose service starts at 3 PM. They meet on the 4th floor of a building above a pub and the main shopping street. They were very welcoming. A bit more charismatic than what we are used to, but we enjoyed the service. The message was from Psalm 30. After the service, they provide a dinner for everyone, and then there was a business meeting which we were asked to stay for, and even asked to speak at -- about how our home church handles the ongoing work (i.e. the Dayspring chart).

Here is the building the church met in (the top row of windows):

This happened to be going on in the main square (but was not associated with the church we had just attended):

An artistic commentary on trash in the city, in the town square:

Here's a tour of our hotel room. There are three beds, but none are big enough to fit two people.

Notice how the shower drain is positioned in the bathroom, with the shower head directly above it (not visible):

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Copenhagen & Carnival?

Rain today, as predicted. Late start out the door. First task: gather foodstuffs, razors, lotion, glue, other things. Visited three stores to get things, but still don't have superglue to fix Ivy's ailing glasses (I admit I -- Greg -- should have fixed them before we left).

As we approached the Strøget (the walking shopping area, "largest in Europe"), we heard loud drums. It was a Carnival parade, strangely out of place here -- in a Protestant country, very much after Lent and Easter. Apparently it's a regular thing -- there's a Wikipedia entry just for Danish carnival. See below for pictures. And yes, it was raining during this scantily-clad event.

After gathering supplies, we went in search of lunch. We found a reasonable cafe just a little off the beaten path, took a seat, and waited. And waited. All told, an hour after we had ordered, no food had arrived. Our waitress was apologetic, and rather than lunch we got coffee and pastries -- on the house. Some more window shopping at various stores (ever see an $8,000 lamp before?), and we had dinner at McDonald's to compensate for sticker shocks. We were back home and relaxed until bedtime.

By the way, Skype is our new hero. We talk for free to people over the computer (with/without video), and very cheaply to most numbers we want to call -- 2.1 cents per minute to the US or land lines in Europe. It has made our lives much easier. If you want to chat, let me know.

Finally, our hotel is right next to Tivoli Gardens. We initially thought this would be some sort of public garden area; boy were we naïve. It's a kind of theme park, think Disneyland. But we've been told it's very different than Disney -- we haven't been in yet. Last night at midnight we were reminded that we are right next to it when we were treated to a 10-minute fireworks show that seemed to loom over the hotel. Other than that, this hotel has been really quiet. I'll post some pictures of our room soon.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Karen Blixen Museet

Yesterday (Friday) was supposed to be rainy, but it was nice, so we headed on the train for Rungsted Kyst (that second word meaning "coast"), which is the place where Karen Blixen, the famous author, lived. Ivy has read a bunch of her work. The Copenhagen train station was very confusing; hard to find the train we needed (we finally had to ask). And the train was really expensive.

The coastal town of Rungsted is beautiful. It reminds me a little of coastal Santa Barbara (no mountains, though). Karen Blixen was very into three things: writing, painting, and tracking bird migrations. We had to put slippers on to see some of the rooms in the house. The best part, actually, was walking around the grounds -- there are a bunch of long trails that lead through the woods. Lots of birds (it was a sort of sanctuary) and beautiful trees. We came upon a group of horses, across a fence in the next-door riding school. I cut my hand on some barbed wire when I slipped. Fortunately, my jaw hasn't locked up yet...

Last night we dined at a nice French place, then came home and crashed.

Requisite pictures:

That's right, gasoline is about 10.5 DKK = $1.95 per liter, which is about $7.34 per gallon. We've also heard that cars bear a 180% purchase tax (because the Danish make no cars and therefore their industry isn't affected). So a $10,000 car would be $28,000. Cars = expensive in Denmark.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


We spent the afternoon in the national museum. There were lots of exhibits about Denmark through the ages. Some of the highlights were in the coin collection, of all places. For example, there was a Swedish "coin" that weighed 2kg and was about 2 feet tall. At the time Sweden was trying to keep the price of copper high by casting ridiculously large currency. Also, they had an exhibit on currency in the Bible, including the type of silver coins they thought Judas got for betraying Jesus, an example of what could have been a widow's mite, denarii, and other coins that were minted under Herod. Really interesting.

I found a book in the museum bookstore called Prehistoric Cooking. Before looking through the book I had never thought about the difficulty of cooking before people discovered metal.

For lunch we ate smorrebrod -- open faced sandwiches. We got four of them and shared them. All of them had a small slice of whole grain bread spread with butter. On top of that was layered various ingredients like potato slices, beets, mayonnaise, pickled herring, chicken, pork rinds, radishes. It was better than it sounds. It's about $2.50 per sandwich, so we were able to eat all these interesting and healthy(ish) sandwiches for less money than eating a meal at McDonalds (at least cheaper than McDonalds in Denmark). You can see some recipes for Smørrebrød.