Category Archives: Denmark

The fires of nationalism

Since moving to Europe in 2006, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that, in a post-9/11 world, one can travel across international borders without papers, much less being stopped. I’ve visited Norway without any paperwork. Same for Sweden, Germany, Portugal, and Spain. This is because of what is known as the Schengen Agreement — a free-travel zone that currently includes twenty-five countries.

However, Denmark’s ultra-right wing party, Danish Folk Party (DF), has been pushing for withdrawal of this agreement and pretty much every other agreement Denmark has entered into that requires them to cooperate with their neighbors, including the EU. And, in order to drum up support for this position, DF casts every bad thing that happens in Denmark as the fault of Muslims, other foreigners, or the EU, pretty much always in that order.

Had Denmark suffered a single successful terrorist attack by terrorists that were not in the country legally, DF would have an easier time convincing voters that participating in the Schengen Agreement is dangerous. However, despite the fact that Denmark has had open borders since 2001 when it joined Schengen — and has been a prime target for terrorists since 2005 due to the Danish Cartoon controversy — the few terrorism attempts here have been pathetic.

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Carnival, of sorts

I’ve never been to Rio for Carnival, but from what I’ve heard it’s a wild time. And in that respect, Copenhagen’s version of Carnival is surely… less wild. But I’m not complaining — it was good fun.

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There is something primal about drumming. And there was a lot of drumming. And, on the relatively narrow confines of the pedestrian streets of inner Copenhagen, the drumming filled the entire space, creating an effect something like a discotech — you could feel the drumming as much as you could hear it.

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Once our eardrums started to feel a little abused (the drummers, I noticed, all wore ear-plugs) we found a quiet spot to eat outside. Then we found some shade in a park and laid around and ate fresh cherries while Ellen took a nap. Not a bad day. Not bad at all.

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Easter 2011

Rikke-NajaI never much cared for Easter. As a kid I had trouble getting excited about hunting eggs. After all, they’re just eggs. Why all the fuss for an egg? As a teenager Easter meant only that I had to get up incredibly early so I could help hide the eggs for the younger kids. Easter is still not my favorite holiday, but a number of things increase its likability in Denmark.

First, I don’t have to get up early. That’s good. Second, the eggs are never actually eggs. They are chocolate eggs. That’s good too. But most importantly, the Thursday and Friday before Easter Sunday and the Monday after are holidays, making for a nice five-day weekend. That’s real good.

Aww, how cute Somehow the flowers know that spring has arrived Frits showed Ellen how to throw rocks into the stream, and then grew concerned by how few rocks he had left.

There’s an additional reason that Easter is nice though Read More →

Forty two

Lisbeth at Cafe Oven VandeI turned forty two this month. To mark the occasion, my loving and generous mother-in-law Karen took the train to Copenhagen and watched Ellen so that Lisbeth and I could go into town and do things we miss, like see movies, have quiet dinners, and converse without being interrupted every five seconds.

We don’t often get out, so we felt that we had to make the most of it. Our first stop was our old neighborhood, Christianshavn, where we had lunch at Cafe Oven Vande, which in addition to having good food and a nice view of the canal, was also the first cafe I tried when I first came to Christianshavn.

The Dagmar cinema Cellar space downtown Silver shop near Amagertorv

After that we went to my favorite camera store (Photographica) where I bought what instantly became my favorite camera strap ever (the Black Rapid RS-4). From there we went to see the latest Coen Brothers’ film, True Grit (which is a solid addition to their body of work, but not a classic.) We then had dinner at Tight, which features the odd mixture of culinary influences from France, Australia, and Canada (it was fine, but I won’t go out of my way to go back.)

Side street in the pedestrian district Illum, a pricey department store in the pedestrian district DR Concert Hall

We topped the day off with a concert at the stunning DR Concert Hall. This is the second concert we’ve been to there and the concert hall itself is almost worth the ticket price. And it’s not just about the light-show on the outside, or the archeticture. The concert space itself is masterfully crafted. Everything from the color of the seats, to the texture of the walls, to the sound itself contribute to the experience. We saw Agnes Obel. I can see how her work isn’t for everyone, but Lisbeth and I like it a lot, and she might sound better live than on her CD.

Bella Hotel

From our bedroom window we have a good view of the Bella Center convention center, where the largest hotel in Scandinavia is nearing completion, and opens in May. (It apparently goes by the name Bella Sky Comwell hotel, a name that only a board of directors would approve.) And although it may appear that I’ve photo-shopped these pictures, I have not. Colored lights illuminate the hotel, alternating every 20 seconds or so.

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So much wasted jam

Ellen turns two today. This sounds like a good thing, but in reality it’s the start of a long, tough spell. This means that she’s officially in the “terrible twos,” a year of legendary tantrums and fits.

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But in our case it’s worse than that because in Denmark, it’s the third year that is terrible. It’s called “trods alderen” and it’s just like the American terrible twos, except that it occurs a year later and it’s required by Danish law.

So, unfortunately we’ll spend the next two years scurrying about, trying to give Ellen whatever she wants in a pathetic attempt to avoid her terrible wrath.

Notes on Danish TV

I recently realized that I’d better write some of these things down before I get completely used to them.

There are a number of things that were surprising to me about Danish TV when I moved here. Probably the most surprising is the porn. Its not like it’s on every channel, but some channels simply play porn. And I’m not talking about soft-focus Penthouse stuff — this is full-on porn. Only between the hours of midnight and six, but still… porn.

We’re talking about perfectly ordinary channels here. Channels you can get with just an antenna. They play porn, instead of say, infomercials. So the porn is accompanied by ads for car lots and the like. So one minute you’re watching porn and the next minute you’re watching a used car salesman.
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Salted roads, seasoned riders

Enghave station (Dec. 3, 2010)

For the second winter in a row, we’re getting clobbered. It hasn’t been particularly cold, but there’s been plenty of snow, and every time it looks like it’s going to melt, we get a fresh layer.

This may sound bad, particularly considering that we don’t own a car, but in fact it’s great. It’s great because the two biggest problems with Danish winters are that they are wet and dark. Snow may be wet, but it’s not nearly as wet as rain.

Bella Hotel

And the sun may still sets at 4:00pm, the snow magnifies whatever light is available, from the sun in the day, and from streetlights at night. Snow definitely helps make winter less depressing. There are advantages to cyclists as well. For example, when is snows there are far fewer bikes on the bike lanes. Apparently a lot of people switch from bike to train, bus, or car.

But of course there are drawbacks. There may be more space on the bike lanes, but that extra space is often risky to use. Especially in the mornings, there is often a layer of ice beneath the snow. Read More →

Spamathon 2010

For the duration of 2006 I kept all the spam I received in a folder. At the end of the year it added up to about 42,000 pieces — one every 9.4 minutes. At the time I thought that was a lot of spam.

Currently I get far too much spam to bother storing it for a year, so I used a shorter period of time: 24 hours. In that time I got 986 pieces of spam. That’ s one every 86 seconds, and that’s pretty typical recently. That works out to 359,890 per year — eight times what I got four years ago.

The vast majority is for Viagra. The word Viagra appears in 672 of the messages. Interestingly, back in 2006 the word mortgage was one of the most popular words. Mortgage appears in only 1 of the recent 986 messages.

Luckily my spam filter works pretty well. Otherwise this volume of spam would make my account virtually unusable. But it’s still a pain in the ass. Of course I could change my email address, but why should I? I like my email address.

Things will have to get worse before I’ll seriously consider changing the address I’ve had since 1995. And yet, at this rate, I’ll soon be getting a million spam messages a year.