"To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom....Since our office is with moments, let us husband them."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Oslo: A Transportation Quandry

This past weekend was spent in Oslo, Norway, along with two friends from DIS. We had a great time, although the weather was quite uncooperative. Pictures have already been uploaded to Webshots for your perusal if interested. But here is the rundown on Oslo, day by day.

The cruise we were taking was supposed to leave Copenhagen harbor at 5:00 pm, which meant we needed to be on board the ship at 4:30 pm. I skipped my last class of the day to make this time frame not be an issue. Patricia and I left DIS around 3:00 pm, with the idea that we had plenty of time to make it to the dock. We looked up online which bus we needed and we were set to go. But of course, nothing could be that easy. We picked up bus 26 at Radhudspladsen as we were supposed to, and we knew it was the correct bus immediately as there was a fair number of people with luggage. In fact, the destination of the bus read "The Cruise Ships". How could we go wrong? Well, it turns out that there are 2 different bus 26 lines, one of which goes to the terminal, but the other stops at an odd point in the harbor. Unfortunately, we were on the second line, and weren't aware of it, so we rode out to this point, where the bus driver told us to get off. Confused, we asked how we could get to the boat. He responded with very poor English that we needed to walk down a certain road, and that we would be there in 5 minutes. So Patricia and I set off, and called Jessica, who was supposed to meet us at the dock, trying to tell her not to make the same mistake. 10 minutes later we reached the end of the pier (and the bus that had previously left us off passed us). However, we still had another 10-15 minutes of walking to do. We finally ended up at the terminal around 4:20ish and Jessica was able to get there by 4:30, too. All in all, a great start to our trip.

The ship itself was great. It was nothing close to a ferry, but in reality a cruise ship. The rooms were small (as expected), but rather nice for what we paid. The odd part was that every other cruise I've been on (Alaska and the Western Caribbean) have always included food. We didn't pay for food, so I stared longingly at the menus as we ate our PB&J sandwiches. I did end up splurging on some pretty bad cheesecake and a hot chocolate (which was amazing). The rest of the night was spent at a table by the bar and the piano player people watching more than anything else.

The next morning we got up bright and early, 6:30 am, as we were told coming into Oslo is gorgeous. So we grudgingly woke up, put some clothes on, grabbed our cameras, and headed to the top deck. We lasted for about 2.5 minutes, at most. I almost fell over twice! It was incredibly windy, cold, and rainy. Just gross weather. We made the executive decision that sleep was better than the weather and went back to bed.

Upon actually arriving in Oslo the weather became a little better as it stopped raining. The previous night the three of us had sat down and planned what we wanted to do. The first stop was to walk along the old Norwegian fortress that guards the harbor. Unfortunately, we never had time to really explore that area. Next we made our way to another pier where we went on a boat tour of the Oslo Fjord. Basically, there are hundred of islands within this fjord that are all part of the greater city of Oslo. It was fun, although it would have been nicer if it wasn't so cloudy and a bit warmer. When we came back to the pier, the rain started, though, which made the rest of the day fun to say the least.

After the boat ride, Patricia and Jessica went off to do their own thing, and I met up with Hannah, a friend from Carleton who's studying abroad in Oslo. We had a nice lunch, and it was great to catch up with a friend that I hadn't seen since the spring.

I met up again with Patricia and Jessica after lunch at the Royal Palace. We decided that Oslo in general is much prettier than Copenhagen (even with the rain), simply because of all the trees downtown. We then headed off for a train station to see Holmenkollen, the famous Norwegian ski jump, which is a huge tourist site as it has the best views of the city. However, more fun with transportation halted our plans. About 2/3 of the way there our train lost power. We sat on the tacks not moving for about 20 minutes, at which point we decided to scrap our plan and catch a train back. But we were too slow, and missed the train back, and ended up waiting another 20 minutes for the next train.

By the time we got back to the downtown area we only had an hour and a half left, so we decided to go to the
Vigeland Park, which has a ton of statues created by the Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. It was pretty awesome, and my pictures really don't do it justice.

After spending some time there we decided we should probably head back to the boat. First, we had to catch a tram, which runs every 10 minutes. As we were walking out of the park, we realize that our tram is coming and that we don't have time to miss it. We start on a dead sprint to make it to the station in time, which involved having to dodge a quite large tour bus, whose bus driver was not too happy with us. After catching the tram back to a main station we then had to catch a train to the actual main station. Due to uncertainty, though, we ended up missing the first train and had to wait a couple minutes for the next one. Once at the main station we were only a 5 minute walk from the terminal, and we had 10 minutes to get there. No problem. Except we had come up from being underground and had no perspective of where we were, and thus no idea of where to walk. With the time frame closing in on us by the second we decided we should probably take a taxi. But of course, when you need to find a taxi, you can't. 5 minutes later we're in a taxi on our way back to the ship terminal. We had to have been one of the last 10 people to board the boat, but at least we managed to get on it.

That night was very similar to the last, eating PB&J and fruit for dinner (although I also splurged on a ham sandwich and pasta salad), talking for a while, decided to get dessert, which included my first Chai tea since I've been here -- it was awesome -- and sitting up by the piano player in the bar people watching and talking.

General Thoughts, Again
All in all, it was a really fun trip, and Oslo is a great city. It made me want to go back to Norway in the summer and see Oslo again, but also head north a bit to see more of the arctic aspects. The trip has also had a negative effect in the sense that I'm having problems deciding if I am in fact in school or on vacation still. This makes doing work pretty difficult, which is why I'm writing this right now, of course. You might also notice that I've added a "European Food List" on the side of the blog. This is where I'll list some of my favorite food that I find while here, even if they aren't that special -- Danish/Norwegian apples in the fall are amazing! Then finally, I'm considering taking one more trip right before I leave for home in December. Does anyone have any recommendations for a good European city to see in the middle of December for a day or two?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Being in Europe is all about experimenting...

Or isn't that what everyone says? You're in Europe, you're young, go enjoy yourself and try new things, right? I've been attempting to embrace this concept, although as almost all of you know, trying new things is not exactly my forte. The one major experiment I've had so far is with facial hair. Normally, I keep myself clean shaven. Granted I've experimented with laziness and just let things go for a couple weeks, but that never turns out well. So I decided since I'm away from people that will harass me about facial hair, namely my friends, I attempted to do the groomed facial hair thing -- a goatee. Surprisingly, it didn't look that bad, and it was nice to have that much less to shave, but ultimately is just wasn't me, and it didn't look that good either. So I'm back to the clean shaven look, and odds are it's here to stay. Guess I'll get to keep on shaving.

Another experiment is happening tomorrow. I am going to miss my first academic class since 6th grade. I'll be skipping my last class of the day to catch a ferry that will be heading to Oslo, Norway, overnight. I'm going with a couple friends of DIS, and we'll have all day Saturday to explore, prior to getting on the ferry Saturday evening, so that we'll be back in Copenhagen by Sunday morning. It should be a nice, quick adventure. I'm also going to be able to meet up with one of my friends who is spending the term abroad in Oslo, so hopefully she'll have some good suggestions of things to do. You can definitely expect a full review of Oslo once I get back, although it most likely will be interspersed with rants about the Browns as they play the Ravens Sunday night.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Smoke Inhalation

In my complexity of cancer course we are currently learning about various forms of chemotherapy. The text associated with the lectures was pretty intense in terms of level, and I really only gained generalities from it, such as chemotherapy sucks in terms of the toxicities. It sounded brutal, and this was a scientific article! It really makes me not want to have cancer. The other thing I picked up from the article was that radiation therapy can act as a carcinogen, which typically results in neoplasia 10 years down the line. If that is true for other carcinogens, and I end up with lung cancer 10 years from now, I know who to blame: FC Copenhagen and Broendby IF football fans.

This weekend my host family and one of their friends went to see the match between these two bitter, Copenhagen rivals. It was an entertaining game, which FC Copenhagen ended up winning 1-0, but the game itself wasn't the only excitement. The fans decided they would provide some "atmosphere" to the 24,000 person stadium, by lighting flares (some of which were thrown on the field) and smoke bombs, as well as by setting a chair on fire. Couple that with all the Danes that smoke while watching soccer, and I inhaled enough smoke to last me a life time. Nevertheless, it was a pretty good atmosphere for a soccer match. I've tried to capture it in my photos on webshots, but I've also added a new dimension. I recorded some video with my digital camera trying to capture the fans singing and cheering. Take a look and see what Danish soccer is really like (in terms of the fans, at least).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Danish Cedar Point?

This past Friday night a group of friends and I decided we needed to check out Tivoli before it closed for the summer season this weekend. Tivoli is the Danish amusement park, located in the heart of downtown Copenhagen, and about a 5 minute walk from DIS. Supposedly, Tivoli is what inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyworld. In reality, comparing Tivoli to someplace like Cedar Point is insulting to both Tivoli and Cedar Point. It insults Cedar Point because the rides do not even come close to comparing, and it insults Tivoli because its landscaping and design is light-years ahead of Cedar Point.

Tivoli is interesting in that there are two separate fees, one just for entrance (about $15) and one for rides (you can ride all the rides for $20, or pay as you go). Most of the rides are meant for younger children, and since we were only there for the evening we decided to pay as we went. In the end, we ended up only riding one ride, this giant swing:

It wasn't what anyone would call a thrill ride, but it did offer probably the best aerial view of Copenhagen that one can get (there are almost no buildings in Copenhagen that are built higher than 5 or 6 stories). Otherwise, we spent most of our time just wandering around the park enjoying the atmosphere. All in all, it was a good time, but I'm in no rush to head back. I'll probably go one more time before I leave, as they re-open Tivoli around Christmas time, and supposedly go all out in decorating, which I've been told I need to see.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A dad is a dad

My family loves to pick on my Dad (my real family). It's just what my brother, my mom, and I do. It's all in good nature, as I know we all have a ton of respect for him, although in his opinion it might go overboard every now and then. But fear not Dad, because a dad is a dad no matter where you are in the world. Case in point, my host family. What is my 2 host brothers and my host mom's favorite activity -- why picking on their Dad/husband (although I don't think they are actually married, but that's for another post) of course. And just like at home, sometimes it goes a little too far for his liking, and he yells, and it stops. It all sounds all too familiar. I guess this just means its something I get to look forward to down the line.

In other news, I was taken out to dinner by my host family this past Tuesday, at the invitation of one my host parent's friends, Lars. First, Lars lives in this great apartment complex. It's right off the main drag, Amagerbrogade, on the island Christiana. But you would never know it. Once you go through the main doors off the road you enter a courtyard, and as soon as the door close behind you, so does the rest of the world. It is like a little oasis within the big city. You can't hear the people, nor the cars. Instead you are greeted with a courtyard that in reality is like a wild garden, as well as apartments from the 16th century. These are some of the oldest if not the oldest buildings in Copenhagen, as they were spared from the British bombardment and resulting fire in 1807. It was really impressive.

Anyways, Lars invited the family to eat at the community center near where he lives. They were telling me that something along these lines exist in New York City, but I'm not sure. Here is the setup. You walk in to what could be called a cafe as there are multiple tables scattered about, magazines, newspapers, fliers, a foosball table, and a place for live music to perform. There is also a bar that serves beer, wine, coffee drinks, and desert. We ended up here after dinner for an hour or so. Dinner itself was served upstairs in a small room that can seat probably 50 at most. This is why you have to buy tickets for dinner ahead of time. The ticket, besides entrance, gets you water, unlimited bread and salad, and the main dish, as there aren't any options. On this night they were serving veal, potatoes, and a tomato salsa. It was quite good. From what I was told, they only serve dinner twice a week and it is dirt cheap (relatively speaking), about $10, which in Copenhagen is no price to complain about. All in all, it was a fun evening and a good "cultural" experience. For whatever reason, I keep having those. Odd, huh?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Living in a Hurricane

I'm back from my three day whirlwind trip, and at times it really felt like I was living in a hurricane, either with the weather or the schedule. I'm going to give a recap of all the events and my thoughts on them, which means this will be a lengthy post, so I'm planning on splitting it up with subheadings to make jumping around a little easier. Also, all the pictures assosciated with this trip have already been posted on webshots, so check those out, too. Alright, here you go.

The First Bus Ride
Everyone in my group had to meet at Frue Plads at 8:00 AM Thursday morning for our departure. My host dad was heading into town anyways so he gave me a lift, which was appreciated, as that meant I could avoid walking around with my little suitcase. We started things off excitingly with a lovely 6 hour bus ride from Copenhagen to Aarhus. I filled this time with a little studying, a fair amount of sleeping, and seeing a pretty cool film -- Dirty Pretty Things -- about black market organ donation.

ARoS (Aarhus Art Museun)

Our first stop was at ARoS, which is a relatively new art museum in Aarhus (Denmark's second largest city -- 300,000). Their collection focuses on modern art, but with a slight twist. It's the modern art of different time periods, all the way back to 19th and 18th centuries. The more modern pieces were really cool, and I enjoyed walking around -- and taking a few illegal photographs. I also too a few legal photographs of the piece called "Boy". If you haven't looked at those pictures yet, I highly suggest you do. When I was loading the pictures onto my computer, and the pictures of "Boy" popped up, I was actually startled at first. If you look, you'll see what I mean.

Den Gamle By
The next visit in Aarhus was to the Old Town -- Den Gamle By. This "town" is a collection of hundreds of buildings from across Denmark from the 15th-19th centuries that have all been moved to this central location. The point is to try and give a representation of what life in Denmark used to be, so they have people "working" in period dress doing things that would be normal in the time period. It was much like a Danish equivalent of Hale Farm and Village. A group of us wandered around for the hour or so we were there, poking our heads into the buildings, etc. It wasn't anything too exciting, but it was still nice to just be able to walk around.

Hostel in Aalborg
After another hour and a half on the bus we arrived in Aalborg, which is where our accommodations were located. Once we were off the bus we were told to divide ourselves up in groups of 4 for the rooms, but I wasn't paying very close attention and missed this instruction, which left me scrambling for a room as people were heading off. The rooms weren't actually rooms, but instead these little shacks (I of course have pictures if you want to see), with room to sleep 7, and a little table as well. My room had 5 people so there was in reality a fair amount of room. These shacks were positioned right on the water next to a marina, so we had a great view of whatever body of water it was. I do know that it led into the ocean. We were served dinner that night in the hostel, which was quite decent in reality, and then afterwards people headed back to their rooms to get ready for the evening.

A Night Out on Jomfru Ane Gade
The name of this street translates to Virgin Anne's street, but it is not a street for virgins. In fact, this street is known all around Scandinavia and Northern Europe for being the party street, as its entire length has bars and restaurants on both side of the street. Unfortunately/fortunately (all depends on one's outlook), we arrived around 9:00pm to Jomfru Ane Gade, and the typical Danish nightlife doesn't begin until 12:00am. A group of us walked around the "downtown" area for a little bit, and then went to some bars. However, we were tired and done by 12:00am and decided to walk back to the hostel. This meant we missed out on the real craziness of the street, but I think we were all fine with that.

Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction (SMI)
The next morning our academic visits began. Our first stop was at the Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction (SMI) at Aalborg University. Here they study human sensory-motor interaction at multiple levels looking for ways to improve life. Unfortunately, I wasn't quite as attentive as I wished I was, as all the presentations were quite interesting. The researchers there were doing a lot of different things with stimulating nerves to see how it affects the person in general and their brains. For example, one researcher is creating an implantable device that can be clamped around a nerve that will stimulate that nerve automatically in an effort to prevent people from having an overactive bladder. Another researcher is looking to see what reflex nerves are stimulated in response to a painful stimuli, as well as walking, in an attempt to see if electrical/painful stimulation of nerves can help people recover motor function after a stroke. It was really interesting to see this level of neurorehabilitation.

Boernehaven Oesterladen (Danish Kindergarten)
We ate our lunches at a Danish Kindergarten, which was quite the experience. Pretty much everyone on the bus was grumbling about this stop, but I think almost everyone enjoyed themselves at this stop. First, we ate our lunches in their little lunch room -- and at their little tables and chairs, too -- and then spent half an hour or so playing with the kids. A couple things to note about this situation. First, Danish children don't begin learning English until 3rd grade, and all these children were 3-6 years old. Second, most of us knew no Danish or very, very little. Third, Danish kindergarten is nothing like its US counterpart. This was 30 or so kids running around a yard doing whatever they want with very little direct supervision. There was no monitor walking around making sure everyone was behaving. Granted, there are qualified teachers (you have to get a 4 year degree from a university), but they play a hands-off role. They allow the kids to work things out themselves. This results in a little bit of chaos, although not really. The kids were really excited to have visitors, especially such strange ones from Germany (supposedly what they thought via translation), so they made sure to show off. There were kids climbing and trees, playing swords with sticks, swinging, running around, and of course, jumping in mud puddles. There is something comical about a platinum blonde haired boy with blue eyes, being completely brown due to being covered in mud.

Gandrup Laegehus (General Practitioner)
Our academic visits continued with a visit to a small town general practitioner (GP). We actually met with two GP's from the area and they filled us in on their work and the Danish healthcare system. Obviously, the Danish healthcare system is quite different than the American system as there is universal coverage for all citizens, but it also differs in how they practice medicine. This will be an issue I'm sure I'll go into more detail about later, but for now, here's a quick rundown as it applies to GP's. All Danish citizens need to see their GP before they can see any other doctor. The GP acts as a gatekeeper and handles all the primary care. If the GP thinks the issue is more serious, then they refer their patient out to a specialist. The Danish GP's love this system, and think it works. Surprisingly, with this set-up and such a high level of importance placed on the GP's, the state does not require people to have yearly check-ups. Some of the other interesting tidbits that the GP shared with us were that even though the government regulates all people's work weeks to be no more than 37.5 hours, GP's put in closer to 60 hours a week, which is still far less than their American counterparts. They also griped a little about the amount of money they get paid, but I feel like that is everyone. GP's are highly regulated by the government, and in fact, that's who pays them based on a capitation and fee for service setup, but GP's are still required to pay their staff, their equipment, and their facility fees (heating, electric, building additions, etc.). I thought, naively probably, that all of this would have also been covered by the government. The last interesting point I want to share is in regards to the medical malpractice system. This is something that I have no doubt the US should emulate. First, all doctors are required to pay a nominal (we weren't given hard numbers so its kind of hard to do a direct comparison, but I was repeatedly assured it wasn't much) insurance premium to a private insurer. This insurer has a contract with all the GP's and also provides their home, life, etc. insurance as well. More importantly, for patients that are unhappy with the level of care they have received they have two independent avenues for retribution. First, they can file a complaint with the government about the doctor. This is investigated, and if the complaint is valid the doctor can be reprimanded by the government at the level they deem appropriate. Second, they can file a complaint with another governmental agency that independently determines if patient had undo suffering. If this is the case, then the patient is reimbursed an amount that this commission decides, which is paid by the government -- not the doctors. A portion of all Dane's tax money goes into this pot. A lot of times patients receive funds from this agency and the government finds that the doctor did nothing wrong. It seems like a win-win situation. Doctor's aren't being unduly harassed by lawsuits, and patients can still receive compensation when things go wrong -- even if the doctor isn't to blame. Granted, in the states, there would be major controversy as where that money would come from, but as a general concept, I think this is the way to go.

A Danish Beach & Restaurant Raalingen
After the visit with the GP's we were done for the day, and headed for what one of our Danish trip leaders called the prettiest beach in Denmark. After spending 20 minutes or so there watching the waves and the rainbows (the weather was a little rough -- rain and wind), we walked for about 10 minutes to the restaurant where we ate dinner.

The restaurant was a really cool place. It is the oldest privately held estate, as it went into private hands in 1552, and its original construction dates back even earlier than that. We had an absolutely amazing meal there, made even better by the fact that DIS paid for it. We were also greatly helped by the fact that one of our trip leaders, Lars, grew up in this town and knows the owner. First, we were served the restaurant's signature microbrew, which was really good. Then we were left sitting, wondering if food would ever come as we were never given a menu. As an answer to our question grills soon came out to each of the 8 tables, and we were informed that we were going to be cooking our own food. Next, a dish of scalloped potatoes came, and stayed warm underneath the table grill. The first two courses of meat were wild pig and calf, which were excellent, although I think I preferred the calf. We then headed off for the salad bar to hold us over to the next courses. Before more meat could arrive though, Lars decided to order each table a bottle of wine either from his DIS money or himself -- we remain uncertain. The next two courses of meat, which were accompanied by more potatoes, were venison and antelope! Antelope is surprisingly tender and quite tasty, as it has a wild game flavor to it, much like venison. Needless to say, all of us pigged out that night, and had an absolutely unbelievable meal. By the time we got back to the hostel none of us wanted to go out, so we got together in one of shacks and played cards for the night. That night, though, was when the real hurricane conditions set it. It was incredibly windy the entire night. So much so, that a very audible howling could be heard throughout the night as the wind whistled through the masts of the ships in the nearby marina.

Skagen Art Museum
The next day we headed to our second art museum, this time in Skagen, which is at the northern tip of Jutland. Compared to the museum in Aarhus, this was nothing great, as it was all the same kind of paintings from painters all at the same time. I guess Skagen was quite the artists's colony in the late 19th century. Afterwards our leaders treated us again, this time to ice cream, and then it was off to get bikes.

The bikes were for a short bike ride to Grenen, which is the actual tip of Jutland. What we came to was the meeting of the North Sea with the Baltic Sea, which was quite a sight. I took a ton of pictures of this, because I just couldn't get over how cool the waves crashing together was. It was also interesting because as we were walking out to the actual point the tide was coming in, and it slowly enveloped the point, and most of our legs. Surprisingly, at least to me, the general landscpare reminded me a lot of the landscape along Lake Michigan by the sand dunes, because, that's pretty much what they had, sand dunes. Anyways, this was an absolutely amazing sight to see, and I suggest looking at my pictures, although I'm sure they don't do it justice.

The Ride Home
Grenen was the last stop on the study tour, so were now heading back to Copenhagen. Of course, this couldn't go smoothly, that just wouldn't make sense. The high winds that I mentioned we experienced the night before continued all day, and there was a decent concern that the ferry we were supposed to take, and the bridge that was the alternative route, would be both closed down. Luckily, the winds died down as we headed south and the day progressed, giving us safe passage, although the ferry did rock quite a bit.
The highlight of the trip back though was my first experience with the Danish cinema. We were shown the movie "After the Wedding", which was very good. I suggest renting it and watching with the English subtitles. It was a good thing that we made it back without too much trouble though, as people were ready to go home. A few of us were commenting how already Copenhagen seems like home after only 3 weeks, and laughed at this revelation.
Overall, it was a great trip, and from what I've heard from other people, better than others. So for that I'm happy. It was great to see a part of Denmark that most tourists never see, and for whatever reason made me feel like this is now my second home away from home (after Carleton, of course).

In other news, Marta is now at home. I've uploaded some pictures my Mom took of the new addition. From what I understand, Misty is slowly adjusting to life with a new puppy, but she is coping rather well. But man, Marta is cute! Now for the parting thought: who would have thought after getting ramshackled 34-7 by Pittsburgh last week, and trading away their starting quarterback for a 6th round pick, that the Browns would respond with a 51-45 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The excitement!

It has been an exciting last couple of days here and back home (and these are in no particular order). First, my parents have officially bought their retirement home, which is in a great location if you ask me: on Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan! We're going up there for Christmas, and I'm really excited to see it. Second, the last piece of art my parents bought at the Ann Arbor Art Fair this summer finally came, and it looks great. My help was definitely needed on those purchases. Third, I have a good sense of all the extra traveling that I'll be doing while across the pond. It looks like I'll get a chance to go to Berlin (again), Poznan in Poland, Prague and the Czech countryside, Northern Italy and Tuscany, and Vienna. And best yet, some of this gets to be done with Liza. Fourth, classes were done on Tuesday for this week, as we leave today for Jutland. Here's a map of where I'll be going:

Finally, my mom and brother are driving down to the greater Columbus area to pick up Marta, the family's new yellow lab puppy. She's quite cute:

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Flag Hysteria

The Danes are quite fond of their flag. In fact, it typically plays a prominent decorative role at most gatherings. This was the case for both the family friend's 18th birthday party and Victor's as well. The day of Victor's party there were flags in the yard and all over the house. Tables, windows, big flags, little flags, flag candies, etc. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures to really demonstrate this experience. However, today was some sort of event (no one in my host family knew exactly what was going on), because there were flags all over. On buildings, in store windows, and on top of all the buses! I did capture some pictures of this:

On a different note: thank goodness for the existence of wikipedia! I've spent a good portion of today going over the slides/my notes from my cancer biology course, as we have our first exam on Monday and I'm gone most of the weekend. However, most of the information I have is useless as we weren't given any real background info. That's where wikipedia has saved me. I've probably read close to 20 articles today, all of which have done a tremendous job of filling in the gaps where key information is missing. It's really being a life saver.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No Tolerance

I found out today that I have no tolerance for certain things: people who believe that everything American is inherently better, and people that are unable to grasp concepts that are mentioned in class due to the aforementioned superiority complex. This all happened in my Healthcare in Scandinavia course where today we were discussing 7 theoretical healthcare financing setups. These ranged from a system very similar to how the US does it now to a completely socialized setup like in Denmark. Keep in mind that this was a theoretical discussion only, there was no comparison, we were simply looking at the characteristics and pros/cons of each system, independent of the others. The first thing that really frustrated me was when the professor asked for cons for a system that involved compulsory tax payments to a single insurance company/the government. An unnamed student responded that in the states this concept is highly criticized because of the possibility that it will give motivation for people that are not working to continue to not work, because they will have their health care paid for, and therefore this was a bad system. Whoa! When were we ever asked to for that kind of response? It was not what the professor was looking for, and the haughty attitude that it was said with, did not help. He simply ignored the comment and moved on. The next issue was in a similar situation except in this theoretical setup the single insurance company/the government had contracts with multiple providers, and the text stated that this situation led to consumer choice. No one in the class could understand how this was possible. They were all focusing on the economic standpoint, and they are correct there, there is no competition between the providers for the patients that will result in lower prices, but that's fine because the government pays for it. What people failed to see was the competition between providers to provide the best quality of care in order to have more patients use them, especially if they are being paid in a fee for service or capitation program. It was just an incredibly frustrating situation.

On a similar note, now that classes are picking up, I am going to try to comment on anything interesting that happens in them, such as the above or something entirely different.

One surprising thing I learned today in my Human Health & Disease course was that in Denmark MRI is rarely used due to its expense (for some reason its very expensive here, as CT scans are cheaper). This even includes orthopedic diagnoses. Instead, orthopods use almost only ultrasound to diagnose soft tissue damage, including torn ligaments and tendons. A different way to do things, with both pros and cons. The test can be done faster, and cheaper, but the image results aren't nearly as clear. In my opinion, especially if surgery is needed I would want better image results, but that's just me.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mmmmmmmm, Danish Mexican

Tonight, my Medical Practice & Policy program had a dinner meeting to talk about our study trip we are taking this Thursday (more on that in a later post). The meeting was in a cafeteria of some sort for the University of Copenhagen, and the meal was supposedly a "Mexican" buffet. It was the most interesting "Mexican" I think I have ever had. The meal consisted of greens, lentils, bread, white rice with some peas and diced tomatoes, some kind of meatball in a tomato sauce, and baked chicken legs that had some light pineapple flavor. There was zero spice. The food was good, and tasty, but not Mexican. The group of us commented that this must be "Danish Mexican".

Well, when I got home that night, I mentioned this to my host family, and they were affronted that the above meal was considered Mexican. They then reassured me that in fact the Danes do know what Mexican is, and in fact they can do quite well. Maybe some night in the future I'll actually find out.

P.S: Fashion comment of the day: On the bus, I saw a 70 year old man wearing a denim jacket that read "Pure Playaz". Nice.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Oh, the wonders of the internet and crazy, illegal programs

Today has been spent doing homework and fiddling around with my computer. A lot of that fiddling has been trying to fix one of my external hard drives (filled with all of my music), but that has failed, and I just ordered a new one to replace it. It was a pretty frustrating ordeal. When I wasn't frustrated beyond belief with the hard drive I've been watching the Browns play absolutely horribly, and the US against Brazil in a friendly, with lovely Chinese commentary. How am I accomplishing this? There's this great program that I downloaded called Sopcast, which lets people stream their TV feeds online for other people to watch. This results in reduced quality and a time lag, but being able to watch the Browns suck on "live" TV is so much better than getting to hear Jim Donovan tell me they suck over the internet radio feed (the Browns ended up losing 34-7 and played like crap -- and that's being nice). In better sports news the Tigers lost today, which is always good for the Indians, and the US is up 1-0 over Brazil in the 30th minute. Maybe at least them and the Indians can give my teams a couple victories this weekend.


Stereotyping is an inherently bad practice. There is no question in my mind about that. Ever person is different and no cultural generalizations encompass everyone. However, this morning I was thinking about it a little more, especially in regards to the Danish party troubles I have been having. The interesting concept of stereotypes is that they have to have come from something. Meaning, most likely, that the stereotype was established around some truth. And typically that truth was true for the majority of people or else it would have been passed off as an inconsistency and not a stereotype. My real question though is this, once someone becomes aware of a stereotype, and even if they are against the practice of stereotyping, are they more likely to see that stereotype played out in real life based on their on perceptions of events? Just a thought.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A smattering of thoughts (part deux)

I don't have just one story to share, so this will just be a bunch of random thoughts:

  • My goodness is Michigan horrible this year. Isn't the Big House supposed to be a form of home field advantage? And doesn't this normally mean that you don't lose to Div I-AA teams, and an unranked Oregon (that had to travel from the west coast)? I'm actually becoming embarrassed to say that I am a Michigan fan.
  • So my commute home on Thursday was a touch longer, but completely uneventful. The protests ended up being peaceful, although the police were ready for anything. There were paddy wagons all over town, just ready for any trouble.
  • Speaking of trouble, Denmark has had its excitement, though, too. Over the last week 10 or so Danish citizens or legal immigrants have been arrested for having explosive material and being associated with Al Qaeda. Nothing visibly has changed and no one seems really concerned (my host family and other DIS students), but still, interesting.
  • I have now experienced my second Danish birthday party. The first was last week for a family friend, which was a long, boring affair. I mean, its great to see how the Danes do things, but spending 3 hours at a restaurant and saying 25 words isn't that much fun. All day today was my younger host brother Victor's birthday celebration. I gave him copies of Bad Boys and Bad Boys II, which he seemed excited about. Today/tonight has been better as I've been able to head down here when bored, but still, not a lot of talking going on on my part. I guess that's part of the problem of not speaking Danish.
  • Speaking of the family friend's birthday. She was turning 18, which is the big birthday for Danes. At 18 you're able to buy alcohol easily, get a driver's license, etc. So to properly celebrate the occasion the birthday girl was the recipient of a special hair cut, which involved the Danish style of hair extensions. The price, a cool 5,000 DKK, that's just a little less than a $1,000. Crazy.
  • I think I've discovered my new favorite breakfast. Initially, I was having corn flakes and some fruit every morning, but at the end of last week I tried something new. Raw oats, cut up banana, and strawberry yogurt. Highly recommended.
  • I don't think I've talked about my host family much in terms of describing them, and that will have to wait, but I will say this -- they are incredibly generous sometimes. When I first arrived they said they were going to treat me as part of the family and I should help around the house (as I would want it), but it hasn't quite happened to that extent. Sure I help around the house, but a lot of the time my offers of help are turned down. On top of that, last night my parents had a party to go to, and my brother was working, so dinner was on my own. No biggie. I was planning on eating out with some friends, and told my host family that that was the plan. They responded by giving me 100 DKK to cover my dinner. I tried to refuse it, but to no avail. They're supposed to provide me with dinner, so they were.
  • Speaking about going out last night, I learned one key thing: Danes love American music. My friends and I must have passed 4 bars that had like cover bands singing American rock, along with the entire bar, with quite a bit of energy.
  • I don't know what's more shocking: how dirty Copenhagen is on Saturday mornings, or how clean it is on Monday mornings.
  • After a full first week of classes I have come to at least one conclusion/realization. I am spoiled rotten at Carleton. It's so nice to have professors that are amazing at teaching and enjoy doing it. Some of my teachers (they aren't professors, no Ph.D., so I'll call them teachers) just don't seem to know how to teach, which includes being poor at communication. I sent an e-mail to a teacher with a question, and he doesn't respond. Instead, he makes a comment in class that some random person e-mailed him. He didn't even know I was in his class -- of 20 students. So yeah, I'm missing Carleton profs.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"Honey, I want THAT one!"

That's what I imagined this couple saying that I saw today. Late this afternoon, I was walking towards the bus stop to head home for the day when I passed a couple looking at a shop window. The wife was animatedly pointing at things in the window, and every now and then the husband would join in. Overall, I would describe these two as quite respectable in terms of appearance, nothing odd at all; however, there are two "kickers" to this story. First, they were looking at the window of a sex store filled with DVD's, magazines, outfits, and toys. Second, they had to be around 70 years old!

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark

Yes, there is something rotten. In fact, so rotten that the U.S. State Department has issued a warning. First, let me give you the background, at least how I understand it. Approximately 6 months and a week ago, the Danish government kicked a large number of youths (about 17-25 years old) from a government owned house that they had been squatting in for quite a long time. The government determined that they needed the building for some purpose. This upset the youth that were living there, and they responded by protesting, with a slight violent tinge to it (Molotov cocktails), which was eventually broke up by the police with the assistance of tear gas. Well, a week ago was the 6 month anniversary of this event and again the people involved protested. This time it resulted in numerous windows broken from rocks being thrown. Now, these same people are planning in protesting again tomorrow. Only this time there will be 69 groups, starting at 69 different places all with an address of 69. The repetition of 69 is due to that number being the address of the original house. All 69 groups are then going to start marching at 3:00pm towards the town center, where they will rally together. With this group's past history of turning violent, the U.S. State Department decided to issue a warning for Americans to stay clear. My problem is that the protest is in the middle of my commute route and time, so who knows what I'll be in the thick of. I do plan on bringing my camera with me just in case, but I do plan on steering pretty clear of it, as I don't want anything crazy to happen to me. It should be interesting to say the least.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Obama not liberal enough for you? Come to Denmark.

So everyone knows that Denmark is a liberal country with their socialized health care and welfare state perks. However, their liberalism extends far beyond that. I'll give two examples. First, as I was coming out of my room for dinner last night, Marc (15 years old) had a few friends over. They were hanging out in the basement fooling around on the computer, listening to music, and looking at porn magazines. It's legal here, of course. In fact children as young as 15 are allowed to be in porn as long as their parents give permission, because 15 is the age of consent. My second example is along the same lines. Danes are quite liberal to PDA and the like. I have seen or heard stories of women breast feeding in public, people touching each other quite extensively in public, people making out for extended periods of time in public, and people doing quite a bit more, as well. Obviously, everyone being equal in Denmark means everyone is equal to witness each others sex lives, duh.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Windows, doors, and bugs, oh my!

Here is one aspect of Danish culture, and for that matter European culture, that I just don't fully understand. First, they don't believe in screens for their windows or doors. This is fine, and to each their own, but they also believe in airing things out, quite frequently as well. In my house, this means that multiple windows and doors (like the front door!) will be left wide open all day (assuming someone is home). This is fine and all, except for when night descends, because then, the house with lights on, becomes quite attractive to the bugs -- especially mosquitoes. So last night, while listening to the debacle at the Big House (I don't even want to go into that), I gained quite the collection of mosquitoes in my room. In the end, I think I managed to kill about 15, and that wasn't even all of them. The good news is I now have nicely decorated walls. Nothing says "home" like smeared bug guts!