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Category Archives: general

We want them to know when to be an asshole. But to steadfastly refuse to be the guy who blocks the door in the subway car, or who refuses to merge on the highway, or who picks on waitresses, or who sends enraged e-mails, or who talks shit anonymously online.

Esquire, “How to Build a Man,” October 2014

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Everyone take a deep breath, delete the “we finally killed English” joke from your Facebook wall, and stop making terrible “literally” jokes1.

From my understanding of the news breaking, the main culprit is Gizmodo’s post2 on the subject, though one of their sources seems to have nailed it. But before I get to the latter, let’s talk about the former. Here’s how the first sentence starts:

Grammar loving folks who love to point out where commas should be inserted instead of periods and how semi-colons are both simultaneously underused and overused, should pick up their red pens, furrowed brows and pitchforks at the fact that the definition of literally is literally no longer the literal definition of literally.

Son, that’s not how you spell “Grammar-loving,” I don’t know how to pick up furrowed brows, that first comma doesn’t belong there3, and maybe “because of” or “in response to” but definitely not “at.” Sure, it’s not a grammar thing, but “the fact that” is excessive and I guess if you’re going for heavy-handed, you’ve got to just really drive that home at the end of a sentence, right?

At any rate, where that bit’s terrible, the other link from The Week also points out that despite adding the terribly disheartening new definition, Merriam-Webster4 also “added the disclaimer that ‘Since some people take sense 2 to be the opposite of sense 1, it has been frequently criticized as a misuse. Instead, the use is pure hyperbole intended to gain emphasis, but it often appears in contexts where no additional emphasis is necessary.'” Those beautiful, brilliant bastards.

Let me give you an example of another word I think is straight-up stupid. Try this video where an editor from Merriam-Webster explains that irregardless is both a word and a word that people will think you are stupid for using.

So what’s changed is that Merriam-Webster has finally expanded literally’s definition in the second, hyperbolic sense so that when people inevitably look it up, they will know that it is technically the wrong way to use it. They will finally understand that it is both a word and a word that, if used in the hyperbolic sense, people will think you are stupid for using.

Stay literate out there, amigos.

1. Things like “We literally killed English today” or the entire miserable Gizmodo post. While you’re here, I should also mention that he misspelled “make-believe” and “more so” in the second paragraph as well as “humans'” in the final sentence.
2. This is how it appeared on 8/15/2013. I doubt they’ll correct any of it, but, you know, that’s what it said before they edited it (if they do).
3. I am aware of the irony of this clause.
4. This is the industry standard. I used to test apps for a living, but the M-W app is the only one I use every single day.

“But Playboy, at its best, wasn’t just an artifact of its time. It helped make us who we are. Yes, Hefner’s magazine was a Rorschach test. It was also a stick in your eye. ‘It had lightning bolds coming out of it,’ Jimmy Jellinek says. For sixty years, Playboy has been on the right side of history–on sex, birth control, civil rights, AIDS, gay marriage, war, social tolerance, personal liberty–while also serving as a vehicle for that history. But it wasn’t Playboy, really. It wasn’t the brand or the rabbit. It was him. It is him. And without him, it will be no more.”

–Chris Jones, “The Perfect Life of Hugh Hefner,” Esquire Vo. 159, No. 4

When I think about what reading and writing mean to me, I always think of the word trust.

Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction or poetry or whatever, the relationship between reader and writer is based on a foundation of trust. You hate the sentences, you find a nugget of wisdom, you pen the greatest clause you’ve ever elucidated, you craft the funniest set of puns anyone you know has ever seen–there’s nothing fucking more to it. Both sides of the relationship rely on everyone trusting each other that what they meant is exactly what’s on the page. There could be thirteen or thirty different levels of metaphor involved, but it’s all there because the author has entrusted whatever’s there to the reader.

Which is why taking edits is a difficult but welcome experience. I know full well I miss something in any essay I write, be it an error, a subconscious double entendre, and so on. Maybe my content doesn’t perfectly align with the publication, or maybe I’m still cursing inappropriately like a sailor. So something gets tweaked to improve it until there’s a cohesive piece of material that presents all the pieces you need to put the puzzle together.

Anytime I start reading a novel, that’s what it feels like: settling in as the author starts placing puzzle pieces in front of me, slowly adding enough for me to grasp the entire picture.

And that’s the challenge of editing and copyediting I’ve always enjoyed: the author and I aren’t ready to engage with our readership because we haven’t set everything in place. It’s a kind of silent, hidden craft that painstakingly ensures things like format or spelling don’t distract or confuse, only enhance.

The details matter or there is no trust. If we can’t spell correctly, use an en dash correctly, or whatever the issue may be, then why would you give a shit about anything we write about? We obviously don’t care about getting the words right, so why would you believe any of the content is right?

And sure, no one bats a thousand, but the places that care frequently publish corrections. They still want your trust. A correction is at the very least an apology acknowledging that there was a mistake and we will make sure it never happens again (or as little as possible). We’re staying vigilant because our goal is to provide content you can trust.

And if a company doesn’t trust their readers, I don’t want to work for them.

I finally upgraded my primary gaming system, just in time for Sony to cancel PS2 production and for the PS4 hype to start ramping up into full gear. I put it off for a long time, but it’s been absolutely amazing, perhaps particularly since I’ve caught up to roughly seven years of technology in one sitting. But I’m still not going to get a PS4 for quite some time.

For under $300, I bought a PS3 with 250 GB and complimentary copies of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and Eve: Dust 514. I didn’t even have to sit around in fear of the next upgrade, knowing full well that Sony would do what it always does and release a second version that is smaller, more powerful, and full of more goodies–I just went to the store and it was already there waiting for me, complete with a couple of games. And, sure, it also came with a 30-day trial membership for the PlayStation network, but if reading any kind of tech news in the last two years has taught me anything, I already know better than to join what appears to be the world’s favorite network for stealing my billing information.

But here’s one of my favorite things: it plays new games, boasts backward compatibility, and plays BluRay discs. The first two things aren’t the most exciting thing ever, but remember the fight between HDDVD and BluRay? It sounds like the Great War our parents fought over VHS and Beta by now, but this battle’s not only already been settled for me but also even solidifies the argument for a PS3 over an XBOX 360 (and the Wii U was never an option because my phone is already my handheld screen). Don’t get me wrong, I love the Halo series as much as the next preteen who knows more curse words than I do, but if I have to buy a console and a player when I could just buy the whole package–as well as stream Netflix–then why bother doing anything but rejoin Sony’s ranks? Furthermore, does anyone expect the PS4 to invent, I dunno, PrpleRay or DubbleBluRay or something?

Most importantly, though, consider the games. GameStop has FallOut 3 for $5. A game that quite literally changed my life costs about the same as my lunch and entertains me for probably about 200 times as long. The same thing goes for tons of well-established games with solid reviews and huge fan bases–I probably won’t be the world’s most preeminent expert on these newfangled Call of Duty games, but I’ll sure be able to catch up on proven hits and favorites (What’s this shiny Bioshock thing I’ve heard tell about? It’s $20 at GameStop, might as well check it out) while keeping a whole lot more money in my pocket.

All told, waiting until Halo 6, the slimline PS4, or the XBOX 1080 Special Tony Hawk Edition have been out for a while before you rush to get a new console just might prove to be a worthy investment. They’re only guaranteed to refine your console of choice, and none of the games are going anywhere (like that spare cash burning a hole in your pocket). It’s been pretty much the most enjoyable gaming I’ve had in years, and there’s no reason to expect it won’t be a similar experience five, seven years from now for either of us.

Unless Kinect gets co-opted by Skynet, I guess. In which case, I’ll be camped out in Vault 101.

To build a little on last year’s first resolution, I hereby resolve to continue making my grammar document, but to also create a new one comparing the spelling differences between The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, and, when those much shorter lists are ready, Merriam-Webster’s.

New Albums:

  1. Kendrick Lamaar, Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City
  2. Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music
  3. Schoolboy Q, Habits and Contradictions
  4. Jessie Ware, Devotion
  5. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
  6. El-P, Cancer for Cure
  7. Gary Clark, Jr., Blak and Blu
  8. Driver Friendly, Bury a Dream
  9. Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
  10. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist
  11. Nas, Life is Good
  12. Childish Gambino, Royalty
  13. Escort, Escort
  14. Muse, The 2nd Law
  15. The Darkness, Hot Cakes
  16. Oddisee, People Hear What They See
  17. Big K.R.I.T., Live from the Underground
  18. Black Moth Super Rainbow, Cobra Juicy
  19. Twin Shadow, Confess
  20. Homeboy Sandman, The First of a Living Breed
  21. Rye Rye, Go! Pop! Bang!
  22. Jack Black, Blunderbuss
  23. Santigold, Master of My Make-Believe
  24. Baroness, Yellow & Green
  25. Air, Le Voyage Danse la Lune

Albums that Were New to Me:

  1. Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
  2. Homeboy Sandman, The Good Sun
  3. Fitz & the Tantrums, Pickin’ up the Pieces
  4. Ice Cube, Death Certificate
  5. Scarface, Mr. Scarface is Back
  6. Ghostface Killah, Bulletproof Wallets
  7. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
  8. Ohio Players, Fire
  9. Iggy Pop, Lust for Life
  10. Gary Clark, Jr., The Bright Lights EP
  11. Mobb Deep, The Infamous
  12. Gang Starr, Daily Operation
  13. Clutch, Clutch
  14. Andrew W.K., I Get Wet
  15. Baroness, Blue Record
  16. Statik Selektah, Well-Done
  17. Black Sheep, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
  18. SuperHeavy, SuperHeavy
  19. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
  20. Two Door Cinema Club, Tourist History
  21. Wild Flag, Wild Flag
  22. Tedeschi Trucks Band, Revelator
  23. Pretenders, Learning to Crawl
  24. Travis Barker, Give the Drummer Some
  25. Pete Rock, PeteStrumentals

Best List of “Best of 2012” Lists:

I was actually so overburdened by even seeing headlines for 2012 roundups that I started ignoring them. Luckily, I decided to read the only one here, and it’s fairly all encompassing so I don’t have a problem with having this one as this year’s only best list.

  1. The New Yorker’s “The Hundred Best Lists of All Time.”

I found out about today’s slaughter when we were eating lunch in the office.

The tone immediately went from, “Can you believe we got a free, delicious meal? We should totally eat there forever” to “Those kids that survived will never be the same.” “Where were you when 9/11 happened?” “Remember Columbine?” “It’s teachers and kids; those kids will never feel safe in school again.” “Who thinks it’s okay to kill kids?”

Just months earlier, there’d been a similar tragedy in a theater involving a machine gun and a man without the right thought process. And the tweets, Facebook posts, news updates, revealing pictures on Tumblr, and sad feelings started outpouring.

But nothing changed.

All we got was another guy with a machine gun and more bullshit social media. We had town hall questions central to the presidential election. We had whole communities lose a generation. And we got some fucking tweets.

So I thought I was going to be prepared for that. Maybe I’d be up to learning more details. Maybe I’d be ready to learn just how many people died this time. But as I tried to go about my day as if nothing had happened–I don’t deal with senseless murder well and tend to try to distract myself with happier things–I still found the Facebook posts and tweets seeping through those attempts. So I started reading some of it. I found myself willing to rally behind a lot of the “Fuck the NRA” ideas or “When kids die, that should be enough–at the very least–to ban automatic weapons” concepts, but when the more “heartfelt” comments started creeping in was when I lost my mind.

It was the all-caps-lock-outrage posts about the kids dying. It was the idea that you have to hug your family now. Now you have to hug your family–because family’s never been important before. But the posts that pissed me off most were the posts about people’s hearts going out to Connecticut.

What is your heart, a boomerang? My god, you’re a real hero here. You sent your heart and your prayers to Connecticut? And it came back? That’s really far, I bet the postage was expensive. You’ve sacrificed a lot with your heart donation.

So I tweeted the only thing I’ve said about it all day on any social platform (besides what I’m typing): “I’m not reading any of your gun-related social media posts and breaking news updates until you call your Senator or your Rep.” Because nothing else solves this. Everyone is sad about it, but digging deeper into the details of who this man was (is?) or how he came to the decision to bring a gun into a school doesn’t fucking solve anything. No one cares if you’re sad about it, because we’re sad about it, too. You’re not the first person to have emotions, just the first person to tell us all about it.

And that’s when I totally checked out of social media (as well as television and news sites) for the day. I already know what happened. Here’s your archetype: Lonely person feels lonely. Without using the proper psychiatric jargon, a screw got too loose and made that person feel like their potential had gone unrecognized. That person came to the conclusion that people will notice them when they achieve revenge on _____ group of people or ensure humanity understands their greatness by killing _____ group of people and living to tell the tale.

I don’t want to know. There are too many absolutely beautiful things and people in this world for me to focus on someone who needed help, slipped through the cracks, and did something absolutely abhorrent. To get back to one of the lunch questions, this is a human who missed out on the counseling that would have helped them understand society’s rules–specifically, the rule that we don’t kill (or touch) kids. There were signs, but something went wrong and this person was set free in a society that did not subscribe to the same rules they did.

But more importantly, it’s your job as a member of that very society to understand that what we’re doing right now is missing the main two issues: mental health and gun reform. Fucking Christ, what animal needs to be hunted with an automatic machine gun besides the most dangerous game. Yes, I’m saying we can have automatic guns in the military for freedom or whatever, but what zombie horde (OF CHILDREN) are you fighting off that you need a machine gun? But even before that, let’s talk about basic healthcare. I’m not entirely sure we need to have a mental screening before gun purchase so much as we need a healthcare system that can carry the load of a mentally unwell person desperately in need of help.

Maybe you’ve had the flu. Maybe you’ve had, I don’t know, blood poisoning or ringworms or something. Try this on for size instead: the entire chemistry in your fucking brain is off. There’s no “Hey, guy, check out this quick-fix penicillin. Boom, polio over” or what have you. What you have is a history of, shit, to quote an excellent movie and its title, violence. Sometimes violent people do violent things. But there are people who can help those very people or come very close.

And until either you or those specially trained people are helping them, shut the fuck up about how you much you care. Seriously, put up or shut up. Yep–in this case, specifically–either drive to Connecticut to help grieving parents get to and from funerals, hearings, ceremonial events or fucking call someone in Congress. Your social moment did nothing. I literally could not give two more shits about how angry you are because I’m just as angry. Don’t share another goddamn link about who this murderer was or where things went wrong because we have all already heard the story. The glorification just escalates the next one.

At the most basic level of American politics, maybe your congressperson of choice is firmly for or against reform. But there’s a tide here. Your call lets them know they’re in the right or wrong–they can either change sides or bolster the thousands. Unless you’re protesting with signs, email campaigns, letter writing, pitching in in CT, etc., those people making the laws don’t know what’s happening or they’re being paid too much to ignore the repetitive news coverage–and those are the people making changes, not the twenty-second literacy test where Facebook asks you “What’s on your mind?”

Let’s get this out of the way right from the start: I’m talking about prostitutes, women of the night, whores. But that’s the point; prostitutes are people too, despite easy jokes that they’re dead inside. So let’s also talk about what they’re not: gardening implements.

And it’s high time we drew a line in the sand. Hoes and hoeing are gardening devices and activities while, for the sake of clarity at the very minimum, prostitutes should be labeled hos or pursuing a career hoing. It looks a little weird, like an underperforming hose or a shy host, but consider this: whore. No one in their life has ever correctly spelled it whoere, unless that’s another one of those bizarre British alternates that has yet to add a little colour to my understanding of the English language. Just like how bangers ‘n’ mash stands for sausage and potatoes, remove the whore letters and you have ‘ho’ at the very most—never a spud.

Which also brings us to the more earthly aspects of the subject. Things like trowels, rakes, and hoes are all gardening tools used explicitly to reshape or cultivate earth. It’s a human–earth interaction where the earth is prepared for fertilization or planting. The earth comes out on top (pun intended). Sex workers are people, not utilities or tools used to alter non-human objects. It’s supposedly the oldest career in existence and it has almost always taken place between two humans. From my understanding of the profession, fertilization has nearly nothing to do with its impetus.

I can’t pretend splitting the spelling in two won’t wreak havoc on our preconceived usage. For example, when Ice Cube literally spells it out “H-O-E” on “Who’s the Mack?” from his incredible AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, we’ll be undercutting a very important song that debates the idea of the pimp-and-flat-bladed-gardening-aid relationship in many aspects of our society. That’s something we’ll have to be willing to sacrifice. Dictionaries are built on catalogs of published examples of the correct usage. It’s why stupid things like LOL and irregardless have definitions, despite being considered improper words—they have a proven meaning that needs to be expressed for people who don’t understand.

So the next time you’re online and attempting to insinuate that the neighbors’ daughter dresses like she accepts money for illicit acts performed with one or many of her limbs, please call her a ho. If you say out loud that that same girl is dressed like a ho tonight, the homophone still applies, but you’re clearly not implying her boots are metallic and her posture is as wooden as her clothing. Did you spot a friend in a skimpy outfit downtown, leaning into car windows? Please announce on Twitter that you suspect that person is hoing. Or if you have to stage an intervention for a male friend that has been sleeping around in a manner reminiscent of a gigolo, please, don’t forget to call him a man ho, even though man whore rolls off the tongue much more effectively (pun not intended). You need your friends to know they’re not tools.

Most importantly, don’t let hookers do your yard work—they already have a job.

Despite being spread out across England, Spain, and two states in America, my family and I managed to meet in the Oslo airport on Saturday about a month ago. Once everyone was gathered, though, we were immediately lost. I’m usually the navigator, but I wasn’t really feeling cognizant since Norway is six hours ahead of NYC (I effectively pulled an all nighter by not catching any sleep on the plane).

But it turned out fine. We pulled into the town that we share our surname with around 6 pm or so. Yet, it’s hard to call where we stayed a town so much as a set of three farms on a fjord. As far as we could tell, it’s not even really part of the two towns that bookended the fjord. It seems like all that matters is the name of your county and they’ll figure out how to get there from that. No one ever really explained that.

Our hosts were a man name Lars and his wife, Gurid  (pronounced goo-rid). I actually asked my dad a couple times during the trip how to say her name out loud (when she wasn’t around) and he mostly ended with something kind of like “girding.” They explained how theirs is the only one of the three still in operation, though all three had been in operation (and profitable) up until the mid-nineties or so. They also mentioned that it’d be hard to find any cops unless you’re in the city, but every inch of Norway is covered by helicopter for medical emergencies.

They seemed absolutely delighted by this, and when we had a late-evening tea with them the night before I had to depart, the shared the same pride in their healthcare system. Lars mentioned how his son had been sick as a child and Norwegian doctors couldn’t figure out what the problem was. They were told to see specialists in either Sweden or England. They chose England, where their son was cured, and didn’t pay a cent. Their taxes are extremely high, but they’re more than willing to pay knowing full well that it’s saved their son and will save someone else. Pretty great.

As long as we’re talking politics, they were a little shocked by the Tea Party. We all expressed our mutual confusion since you can’t elect people into the government who don’t want government. Why would you want to get rid of “Obamacare” but want more Medicaid? But I mentioned that sometimes generations are remembered for the loudest groups, even though they’re the smallest. The stereotype is that everyone in the sixties was a hippie. Everyone in the seventies loved disco. But talk to people who lived through it, and it’s just another one of many, many things that happened, but not everyone signed on.

So maybe we assuaged their fears that America is gorging itself on hot dogs, praying in schools all day, and playing baseball in meth labs or something. Which brings up another shocking point: Norwegian food has been shockingly Americanized. We had an incredibly difficult time finding a restaurant with a menu replete with Norwegian specialties. Sure, some places had salmon plates or elk burgers, but everything else was pizza and hamburgers. I mean, right across the street from Oslo City Hall had tourist places, pubs (pub food), fancy restaurants (Italian, Indian, and Chinese), and a 7-Eleven with bacon-wrapped hot dogs for 20 Kronor.

Which is pretty much the cheapest thing I saw the entire time. There might’ve been a candy bar that topped out at 15 Kronor, but I probably didn’t see anything under 30 Kronor until my fourth day there–that’s $5. For something like gum or soda. Apparently, minimum wage is $20/hour there, so that kind of makes a little more sense, but it still felt like gut punches every time a bill came.

In fact, we bought two Oslo City Passes thinking we’d save money and have guaranteed parking. It turned out that parking was only in certain areas and we couldn’t find any of the areas, despite asking twice and being given a map. Also, there don’t seem to be any parking spaces available in downtown Oslo unless they’re inside parking garages. Which are also roughly $90 per day; more expensive than New York City parking and O-Town’s probably half the size. But the passes proved a wise investment in the long run. On the first day we rode the museum ferry for free and visited three museums. The next day was a marathon with four museum visits on their Culture Night, when some museums are open as late as midnight. The passes even covered our ride to and from Lars’ driveway outside Oslo (where he let us park our car) that day.

Kind of an amazing feat, considering how most cultural highlights seem to shut down by six. Malls and eateries seem to stay open until about ten, but forget Sunday. When we mentioned that even the beggars weren’t on the streets on Sunday, Lars joked, “Even beggars need rest!”

Don’t get me wrong, Lars has clearly done well for himself, what with his house in Oslo and farm out in the countryside, but this reminds me of a story of Norwegian work ethic my dad told me. The entire Oslo office in his company seems to lose its staff about every three years because they all quit. Now, they have an American manager who will sometimes ask for extra effort or for people to stay late. Something like, maybe an extra hour the night before a huge pitch to ensure nothing goes wrong the day of. People say no to him all the time. Everyone’s in at 9:30, takes an hour-long lunch break, and is out at 4:30 on the dot. They have supposedly incredibly powerful laws that say that’s exactly what they’re entitled to for a full-time salary. I think it’s probably because I worked in retail where staying late meant more pay and that projects weren’t always finished unless I stayed late, but I still stay late pretty regularly in spite of my salary. I just have work to do, so I stay until it’s done. My dad said the same thing about his job and it’s obviously the same case with the American manager. My only conclusion is that even if minimum wage takes care of everyone, Americans have to work their asses off to earn their salary. Or that’s just what I tell myself to keep pretending we can be the greatest country in the world forever. If that’s still our thing.

But speaking of country, I should detail this place a little for you. Oslo’s the biggest city in Norway. Something like 5 million people or so live and work there six days a week and then don’t leave their house on Sunday. Maybe for church. Drive for an hour and you’ve been in the countryside for 45 minutes. Depending upon your direction, you’ll also be at the place where we stayed. On the other hand, drive for an hour from downtown Houston and you’ll be in the suburbs. Take a train from Grand Central for an hour (not including the time it takes to get to Grand Central) and maybe you’ll be somewhere just outside of Brooklyn or in the Suburbs. Jesus, drive from the Financial District to Central Park, and depending upon your route, you might not make it in an hour. At any rate, it’s three farms, two of which have only a barn and a house. The main one had a barn, a main house, and two guest houses. We stayed in one of the guest houses and met the family who rents the other guest house. Everyone said people had been living in the area since the 1100s (Viking time), but the barn’s foundation was the oldest at somewhere around early 1800. All of the houses have windows facing the fjord, and walking down to it is maybe a five-minute walk. We took a rowboat out to fish in it, but didn’t catch anything. People we talked to also sadly mentioned that Utoya Island, of the 2011 slaughter by some deranged asshole, is almost directly across the fjord. We spent most breakfast time not facing that window.

We spent most of our time in the area looking for family members’ graves. We were a little shocked to discover that the government removes tombstones after 60 years. Sure, maybe everyone’s stopped mourning, and the families and churches have maintained records…but no one told us what happens to the bodies. We told Lars and Gurid that some cemeteries in America are as old as America. They also didn’t tell us why the government didn’t just clear more land and bury bodies there. Seriously, the only thing bordering the two churches we visited were lots and lots of trees. One was kind of close to a ski jump, so maybe they’re trying to prevent zombie-related jumping deaths. Nope, that can’t be it.

Speaking of which, Norway really seems to love the great outdoors. I can only imagine that’s one of the reasons the labor laws are so protective. You can legally walk through any forest you like, but are banned from passing through fields (probably to keep people from stealing crops, ruining crops, being mistaken for deer and shot). Skiing is huge and, from what I could gather, ski jumping seems to have been perfected there. But that confuses me quite a bit. My mom asked me if I thought people were more overweight there than in New York and I wasn’t sure. I honestly feel like the ratio of obese people to skinny people was pretty much the same, and probably because everyone there seems to eat nothing but the aforementioned burgers and pizza.

Mom also asked me another question that really stood out for me. After visiting my sister while she studied in Copenhagen, I’d come to assume that Norwegians were just as Amazonian and ridiculously attractive. Yet when my mom asked me if Norwegian women were attractive, I told her they were probably about average, though when those stereotypically Scandinavian women with blonde hair did show their face, it was stunning. A rare occasion, though.

All told, as many expectations were met as broken, though. Everyone we talked to was nice, helpful, and probably as excited by Vikings as we are. Our hosts even went out of their way to look up some of our family history for us, which might not have helped too much considering how there’s a very good chance that some of the people living on the farms ended up just taking the name of the farm. But even if we didn’t get all the things we were looking for, we still had too much fun. Dad said on the first day, “We can do whatever you want; it’s vacation.” So for my sister that mostly meant having at least one ice cream per day, despite temperatures of roughly 60 and below. All told, it was an eye-opening trip full of incredible highlights, and it’s always a joy to be around my family when we do amazing things like that.

Itinerary Summary, in brief:

  • Saturday: Landings, waiting, long drive out to the countryside because of untranslatable Google Maps directions to actual signs, long talk while settling in (when I should have napped), expensive dinner (mom got an elk burger!)
  • Sunday: Slept in pretty late, guided tour of one of the other houses on the farm before the renters went back to Oslo, drive down to the largest ski jump in the world, drive in to Oslo, walk on the top of opera, walk to and around fort, heartbreaking realization that nearly everything is closed on Sunday, settling for dinner at a (delicious) pizza place called Mamma Rosa’s
  • Monday: Country drive searching for family gravestones including a Viking ruin, drive up the hill behind the farms to fossil town
  • Tuesday: Cobalt processing plant, Hedeland Glass Factory vist (which was mostly closing for the day, but still neat), picked up and read about 90% of The Hunger Games
  • Wednesday: Finished The Hunger Games and sister started it, train into Oslo after parking in Lars’ driveway, City Hall tour (absolutely incredible; home of the Nobel Prize ceremony), Resistance Museum, coffee and brownie at Akers Brygge (the mall), walk into town, rain, bookstore, terrible search for a dinner place until we found an American-style pub called Gatsby’s
  • Thursday: Terrible parking attempt and surrender to the same parking garage we used on Sunday; museum boat to Viking house, Folk Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum, and back; dinner at Deli de Luca where I decided to try their iskaffe only to find out it’s pretty much the most delicious coffee milkshake (is=ice cream kaffe=coffee) ever invented; Operahusset (the national opera house) mistake where we found out the lady sold us tickets for the show a week from that Thursday; sister finishes The Hunger Games
  • Friday: Park at Lars’, train in, bonus iskaffe while browsing for Norwegian gifts my girlfriend would like, Internet connection again at Operahusset (the only place I could find free Wi-Fi) while my sister took a tour of the dye shop with people who seemed to kind of wanted to hire her if she lived there, Catching Fire purchase, four museums
  • Saturday: Fishing attempt, waffles–oh my god, the waffles in this country–with Lars and Gurid, Catching Fire completion
  • Sunday: House prep and drive out to the airport for me, driving off to Western Norway for the family