Farewell trusty theme, farewell

The 'Classic' themeIt doesn’t happen to me very often, but every once in a while a creative attempt of mine goes well. Really well. Well enough that it matches or exceeds what I had in mind. (As opposed to falling far short of my expectations, which is normally the case.)

When this happens, I often have a visceral reaction — deep pride and satisfaction mixed with surprise. And if that feeling is what an artist experiences routinely, then I can understand the sacrifices some of them make to pursue their art.

One time this happened to me was about a year after I’d started this blog. I was still very new to blogging, and had not yet begun my career as a web developer, so each customization I made to the blog was time-consuming and often disappointing.

But at some point I was playing around with cropping header images and defining color schemes to match that image, and BAM! It happened. I knew immediately that I had something worth keeping. And with the exception of very minor tweaks, the theme for this blog has been unchanged since then. Until now.

Recently it struck me that my theme has started to seem a bit crowded and dated. And so today I’ve retired the classic theme in favor of something more modern and with more breathing room. (Based on the Bandana theme, of you’re interested.)

But considering that I created the previous theme in May of 2007 — almost exactly six years ago, that’s not a bad run.

The embarrassed expatriate

The Copenhagen Post is the English language source for Danish news. It’s a good resource, and I visit it regularly. Not, however, as often as I would if it weren’t for the comments that readers leave. Virtually all of them, it seems, are from disgruntled foreigners living in Denmark. They are uniformly hostile to Danish people, Danish culture, Danish politics… and so on.

The effect is that, under each article, an impromptu meeting of the maladjusted forms and trades the same simplistic negative views over and over and over again. It’s a lot like reading the comments on “Fox Nation”, except that instead of bitching about Obama, they’re bitching about everything Danish.

Denmark isn’t perfect. There is certainly room for criticism. And I for one would enjoy participating in debates about these issues, but, like so many web-sites, The Copenhagen Post is overrun by the venomous whiners. Read More →

Boy turns forty-four

Me, circa 1975When I was a kid I spent quite a bit of time thinking about not being a kid anymore. I didn’t like being a kid. I didn’t like that I had no authority. I didn’t like not having my own house and my own car. I didn’t like the sound of my pre-pubescent voice, and I pretty much despised my boyish face.

I couldn’t wait to be an adult. Not an adult in the sense that I’d be old enough to vote. I looked forward to being old enough and accomplished enough not to need to prove myself. And yet not so much an adult that my best years were behind me, and all I had to look forward to was telling people about the glory days.

After what seemed like quite a bit of internal debate, I settled on the age of forty-four. Forty-four, I figured, was old enough to be an established, stable, respected adult. A man. A man whose value was proven, but far from tapped out.

(Plus four was my favorite number, so forty-four simply had to be the optimal age.)

And so, here I am. I turn forty-four today. It was a big deal to me then, and it’s a big deal to me now. Much more so that turning thirty or forty. This is the birthday where my boyhood dreams have either come true, or they haven’t.

And luckily, they have. Or at least I think they have. It’s impossible to know what that boy, so many years ago, would have thought of my life now. But I think he’d be pleased, even if he couldn’t understand all the choices I’ve made. (I didn’t necessarily want to get married at that age, for example, but I think he’d be willing to make an exception on that account. I also remember wanting to have a good, manly beard, but genetics conspired against me on that issue.)

There’s no way to know what that boy would have thought about how things turned out. And of course it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m a happy man. I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished with the time I’ve had, and I look forward to what’s to come.

Most of what’s to come anyway. I mean, forty-four is great, but forty-five sounds old!

Ellen turns four

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been four years since Lisbeth and I went to the hospital, entering as a recently married couple with few worries and responsibilities, and emerging as a proud family of three, and with all responsibility and worry that comes with becoming a parent.

My sweet, sweet girl On the way home from grocery shopping My sweet, sweet girl

And now here we are. Ellen is no longer the baby or toddler that she was. She’s the poised and confident older sister that June adores, and a capable and social girl who enjoys day-care so much that she sometimes asks us on Saturdays when she can go back.

Astrid, Ellen's best friend, and her parents Ulrik and Lotta attend Ellen's fourth birthday party Chris, Pernille, Ulrik, and Lotta chat (while June gets busy with eating) June, having long decided that high-chairs are for babies

Four years is a big deal. This is without question the first year that she’s been fully aware that her birthday is coming, and what it means, both in terms of chronology and in terms of gifts and cake. And so this is the first year when I’ve felt like it was really a party for her, and not merely an excuse for her parents to have a party.

A princess castle with chocolate cake bricks and raspberry creme mortar. Our friends Pernille, Leo, and Chris Finally, Ellen is no longer three (seemed like she was three for a _long_ time)

Last weekend we bought her her first pedal bike (which, due to apprehension on Ellen’s part and freezing temperatures,  has not been ridden yet), but she’s still at an age when getting a packet of stickers from her grandparents in the mail minutes before the party starts can eclipse all the other gifts she got.

Ellen and Leo brace themselves for a feast of chocolate cake A princess castle with chocolate cake bricks and raspberry creme mortar. June, playing peek-a-boo with the curtains

We had a great little party, with good friends, good food, lots of cake for the kids, and plenty of beer for the adults. It’s quite possible, in fact, that I had more fun than the kids did…

Christmas 2012

This was the second consecutive year that I’ve not been home for Christmas. I wished I could have been with my family in New Mexico. But as it turned out it’s a good thing we didn’t go this year. The end of the year was rough. I got the flu twice in span of three weeks, and I was still recovering at Christmas.

Hanne with Storm, Siv, and Freja June with Grandma Haren, or 'Bedstemor' June, Lisbeth, and Ellen Kaspar, Siv, Freja, and Hanne Ellen and Storm go about clearing snow. Or playing anyway. Storm

We had a nice time though. It snowed, which always makes Christmas just a little nicer. And this was definitely the first year that  Ellen was fully aware that Christmas was coming, and it was fun to see her so excited.

Hanne pulls Siv and Freja Siv and Freja go for a ride The farm DSC_7448.JPG Freja stoically enjoys the snow Siv and June stoically endure a ride

There were eleven of us, five of which were under four, so it was not the quiet and relaxing break one might hope for, but it is easy to see how, as they get older, the demands will be reduced. Read More →

June turns one

It’s hard to believe that she’s the same creature that squirted out into our bathtub a year ago. Probably because she isn’t. That creature slept a lot and had a feeble cry. This creature, on the other hand, regularly needs be be coaxed back to sleep a dozen times a night, and her cry is anything but feeble.

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Lisbeth and I spend a fair amount of time marvelling at how different two kids with similar genes can be. Ellen was cautious, but June is fearless. Ellen didn’t gather the courage to walk until months after she turned one, but June has been walking for months. Ellen lost most of the hair she was born with, June didn’t lose a strand. Ellen slept like a rock, but June wakes up at the slightest noise. And so on.

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Having a one-year old is a handfull, and it’s easy to get frustrated and look forward to when she’s older and can be left alone for more than ten seconds without tempting fate. But on the other hand one year is an incredibly cute age.

And an amazing age. June hasn’t uttered a single discernable word yet, but she can express herself just fine. She knows what she wants, and she’s plenty capable of telling us what it is.

And, of course, punishing us when we don’t comply.

Not long ago I was talking to an ex-colleague who has one child, and I asked if he and his girlfriend planned to have another. “No way,” he said, “I love my son so much — there’s no way I’d have anything left for a second kid.”

His logic would have made sense to me before June came along. But now I know better.


In early September, my aunts Donna and Kay took their respective husbands Clarance and Frank on a European river Cruise. Their point of embarkation was Budapest, so we flew down to meet them and see them off. We were joined by Lisbeth’s parents, which was fantastic, because yes, they’re fun to travel with, but also we had our hands full with our two girls and needed all the help we could get.

Ellen  rarely naps anymore, but she took a long one in baggage claim upon arrival even though it was only 3:00pm. June explored the entire baggage claim area while we waited for Frits and Karen to arrive. Our apartment, tiny but efficient.

I had very little idea what to expect. I knew that Hungary has been hit hard by the recession, and that wages are quite low, so I expected to see outward signs of poverty. I’d also heard from several people that it’s a great, clean, and afffordable city.

First meal in Budapest. The weather was perfect the whole time. We sat comfortably outside for most of our meals. Budapest of full of grand buildings, ranging from defunct to very well kept. The Hungarian Forint trades at about 230 per dollar, making shopping a weird experience.

We saw almost no evidence of hard economic times. Nothing like Porto, or Dublin, for example. We saw only a few people begging in four days, so that surprised me. And it is indeed a clean vibrant city, with lots to see. For some reason it feels like a bigger city than it is. It feels more like London than Copenhagen, even though it’s much closer to Copenhagen in size.

Just around the corner from our rooms Breakfast near the hotel. Looks worse than it was, but traffic in Budapest really moves along. Around the corner from where we stayed. The steel posts separating the sidewalk from traffic were much appreciated.

Budapest is also quite affordable. Not dirt cheap, but very reasonable, especially by European standards. I particularly enjoyed the restaurants. There are a lot of them to choose from, and the quality of the food and service was quite high given the price. Plus I had what might be the best steak I’ve ever had (I’m not a big steak fan, but wow) on Ráday Street — a must-see stretch of sidewalk cafes that goes on and on for blocks.

Lisbeth, leaving the hotel for a day of sight-seeing. According to Google Translate, 'pince' means 'basement', so this is the 'panic basement'?! There's a fair amount of English on signs and menus, but it isn't always coherent.

At first it’s tempting to assume that the Hungarians in Budapest speak English pretty well. In restaurants, for example, they seem pretty fluent. But this is an illusion that often goes away once you stray off the subject of the menu.

The buildings are, it turns out, a little more impressive to a guy that grew up in the American Southwest than they are to Europeans DSC_6121.JPG It's nothing like Copenhagen, but there are a fair number of cyclists in Budapest

Lisbeth found this out the hard way one night, on an urgent quest for diapers and baby-food. Read More →

Violet Velma Coppock (1921-2012)

I was lucky, for such a long, long time. I had all four of my grandparents until I was almost thirty. It wasn’t until August that my last grandparent passed away.

With all four grandparents, there was nothing sudden or unexpected about their deaths. They each lived long lives, and their deaths were followed by the illnesses and declines that one expects. After all, all four of them made it into their nineties.

But, despite their advanced ages, and despite the illnesses and hospital visits that proceeded their deaths, when each one passed away, it was somehow shocking. Despite the fact you can see it coming for years in advance, nothing prepares you for their actually being gone.

Each time I’ve been left with the feeling that I could have known them better. Each time I’ve felt that there were conversations that we could have had but didn’t. With each loss, I felt that I’ve squandered the time I had with them. Read More →

City center, again

My new office could not be more central. Two blocks from Copenhagen Central Station, two blocks from Tivoli, and two blocks from Rådhusplasen (the town hall). It takes me fifteen minutes by bike to get to work, and that is ideal. It’s long enough so you get your blood moving, but not so long that you’re a sweaty mess when you get to work.

Mom and dad, on the street where my new office is located The new office is, in fact, an apartment that happens to have a living room big enough for six desks There are so many great old buildings in Copenhagen that after a while you stop noticing

The office itself is, in fact, a one-bedroom apartment with an oddly large living room, and a dining room that serves as a meeting room. It has a small kitchen, and a tiny bedroom, which is used for our servers and a printer. For lunch we order from any one of hundreds of places that deliver, so there’s little chance we’ll get stuck eating the same thing week after week.

If we hire one more employee, things will get a little cramped My desk Our meeting room was, no doubt, a dining room at one time.

I really like being so central. I like the fact that I can easily run errands when necessary, and meeting a friend for a beer or dinner after work is no problem.

If there is a downside, it’s the noise. The sounds of construction work, heavy trucks, and sirens is routine. This will be less on an issue now that summer is over though, both because because construction slows down in the old months, and because closing the office windows cuts down on the noise to a surprising degree.

Nikon woes

One of my lenses recently stopped working. (My Nikon 60mm AF-S Micro, if you’re into specifics). This is my micro/macro/close-up lens, and it’s fantastic. It’s incredibly sharp and surprisingly versatile. It was also my first professional grade lens.

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It’s always been a little problematic though: the auto-focus is often unpredictable, and sometimes fails altogether. This is a known issue with this lens. But that’s a forgivable flaw given that this lens can focus from infinity to about one inch from the front glass. Yes, I’ve missed some shots due to this flaw, but I’ve also gotten a lot of shots that I never could have otherwise.

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But, while I was on vacation in New Mexico this summer, I pulled this lens out to discover that it was no longer focusing at all. Read More →