Monday, March 26, 2007

Other bloggers

I'm not the only one behind in my blogging. If you want to get a flavor of how the other travellers are doing, go to to read her blog. She and I have been together in all my cities, except she went to Lisbon and I went to Rome. As you can see, she's pretty behind in her blogging too.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Riot police and the American Embassy

Today we started earlier, like at 8:30am. I got 6 hours of sleep and that was fine.

Okay, before I go any further, I just have to say that I'm sitting in the lobby of the Admiral Hotel in Copenhagen, and there's a private party playing right next to me playing 'Play that funky music white boy' and earlier played 'Dani California' by Red Hot Chili Peppers. There's a group of 20 something people in ties and shirtes talking loudly behind me in something other than English. I'm quite tempted to joing the funky white boys.

Anyway. Today we met the minister of culture who read from prepared notes and gave us copies of KulturCanon, which apparently discussed what was core to Danish culture, then went to the Museum of Art and Design. We had some other meetings, but what stood out was the 3hour meeting with the national police of Denmark and the Copenhagen police. We learned about Danish national policing, how they deal with rioters, met a riot policy commander, saw their body armor and armored police vehicle.'

I interrupt this post to say that the party just finished 'Walking on Sunshine' by Katrina and the Waves and is now playing 'Love in an Elevator' by Aerosmith.

Okay, after the riot police, we went to the home of the deputy US ambassador. Nice, but very much party line. Then dinner and drinks at the bar, and now bed.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Copenhagen and Madison

Yesterday we arrived in Copenhagen and walked around and had lunch and enjoyed the sunny weather. According to our cab driver, the sun appears only in August. He was a little bitter about it. He's from Pakistan and when we asked what brought him to Copenhagen he said that his parents made a mistake. Danes like foreigners, but only as tourists.

By the way, I am traveling now with only 4 other people who I met only on March 8, exactly one week ago. But, having spent all day together for that long, having drunk many beers and wine (they serve wine at lunch and dinner in France) with them, you get to feel pretty close. Fortunately, they are all friendly, hilarious, and seriously smart people. More about that later.

So, we are staying in a hotel in the old part of Copenhagen, near the canal with all the colorful houses on the water. Turns out that the rest of Copenhagen does not look like that. It looks like old Europe with marble buildings, statuary all around, etc. There's a pedestrian only street not far from our hotel with many shops and restaurants on the first floor and flats above. My traveling companions and I have said that we would like to come back with our families.

Cultural lesson of the day: Danes eat in several courses and don't mix food. They start with some kind of dish I don't remember, then there's the poultry course, then the dark meat course, then the fish course, and dessert. They have a different plate each time and find it strange that Americans mix all that together.

Juvenile moment of the day: Here in Copenhagen, we have a guide, Kristina, an older lady who's done this before. She said that she heard we were a partying group. Our reputation precedes us. For lunch today she took us to a traditional Danish lunch place, which serves fishballs. Michael, a professor, practically lost it. I thought he was going to start giggling at the word fishballs.

Then in meetings about climate change and international environmental policy, he's all into the topic, asking all kinds of questions. That makes sense, it's his field. But at other meetings, about the economy, or immigration, or health, or whatever, he asks totally serious questions and sounds so knowledgeable. At his environmental meeting (we're going to all the meetings together) I contributed the word 'cartography' and 'artificial reef' when the speaker didn't know the word in English, and I asked about biodiversity. The rest of the meeting I kept my mouth shut.

The last meeting of the day was very interesting, about immigration in Denmark. I was absolutely floored to learn that Denmark did not start admitting immigrants until the 1960s. As an American, and as a child of immigrants, immigration is normal.

At the last meeting of the day, one of the speakers is special counsel to one of the governemental ministers and he did the exchange trip to the US a few years ago. It turns out that he went to Madison, Wisconsin and arrived the day before Halloween. Madison is known to have one of the largest, if not the largest, Halloween street party in the US. Certainly, the University of Wisconsin in Madison is among the top party schools in the US. If we had time, I would have liked to ask him more about his experience and what he did in Madison. But he had to go home to his wife and four kids. He said he was interested in Wisconsin since he was a little kid and first read Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Little House on the Prairie.

In knitting news, I did finish the yellow Malabrigo yarn pillbox hat on the plane to Copenhagen. I haven't needed it, but it's supposed to get cold and possibly snowy over the weekend. I'm working on a blanket for my husband and after I finish blogging, I may start my lace fichu.

I've been traveling of just one week. It feels like much longer because in that time have been to Washington DC, Paris, and now Copenhagen, and have been getting very little sleep. I think I'm finally changing that pattern.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Paris recap

I am not in college any more. I cannot stay up until 3am, and then get up at 6am for another day of meetings. After about 5 days of this, I think I get the message now.

The days have been filled with meetings. If I was ever ignorant of the fact that France has a presidential election coming up, I am totally informed about that now.

It's quite interesting that during the day, we (this group of lawyers, executives, innovators, etc. I'm traveling) with are quite serious. We ask questions about France's educational system, business support infrastructure, culture, etc. We go to individual meetings where we discuss one on one with French business executives and intellectual elite, or what ever. And then at night we go out and close out bars, go around looking for dance clubs on Tuesday nights, and get back to the hotel at 2 am. More than once now, I have operated on less than 5 hours of sleep.

I am not 18 years old anymore. I do not have the energy to continue this. So I will try to act my age from now on. Yes, yes, I can hear your laughter from here.

If you want to know more about the meetings and the substance of my trip, visit my other blog at In fact, I'm headed over there now, to post something for you to read.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Learning in the hallways

I am finally in Europe, and the country side looks a lot like Wisconsin. Rural, green, mostly flat. Even some cows.

We flew overnight March 9-10 from Washington, DC into Brussels, and then took a high speed train to Paris. We all tried sleeping on the plane, but it wasn't quite enough. At one point, some of us got giggly and punch drunk. I and a few others tried playing gin rummy but we were all playing by different rules. Didn't work so well.

Then when we got into the cab, the radio was playing "Final Countdown" by Europe, which is hilarious because a) some one in our group was just singing the song; b) it's by Europe, and we're in Europe; c) we're giggly and punch drunk from fatigue; and d) the song's so cheesy, it makes me laugh everytime I hear it.

During the last 24 hours I have gotten to know my fellow travellers mostly with a drink in my hand. I feel like I'm in college again. Yes, I'm going to seminars and meetings, but the best experiences so far has been just shooting the breeze with the other travellers, having free ranging conversations that can touch on the music on our iPods, how we style our hair, and how women are held to a different standard that men. And some dancing too.

There are 10 men and 6 women on this trip. There are elected officials, attorneys, corporate movers and shakers, and public sector leaders. Everyone has strong opinions and freely share them. I think we are all liberals, but I have already, in the last 48 hours, learned that some are more conservative with others. In a few days, we will break off into traveling groups of 5 or 6 people, and I'll get to know them all much better.

And so far all of us have stayed up far past our bed times. Last night some of us went clubbing and I got into bed at 4 am. Then I got up at 8am for stuff. I haven't stayed up like this since college. We'll see how long I can keep up this pace.

If you want to get a different take on my trip, a couple of the other travellers are keeping blogs too. You can read Natasha's at and Sam's at They have pictures.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Checking in my carry-on

I'm packed and ready to go for my trip. Everything fits in one roll-on bag and my tote. It all weighs a ton, because half of what I am packing is paper. Brilliant me went to the Martin Luther King center and bought books (hardback), reproductions of his "I Have a Dream" and "I Have Been to the Mountaintop" speeches, postcards, and bookmarks. All paper, all dense, all heavy. I also packed 4 or 5 totebags with my workplaces's logo on it. Cotton canvas, also heavy.

However, I not need to worry about hoisting this boulder into the overhead compartment, because it will be checked in. I have not managed to make all my liquids, creams, lotions, etc. fit in one quart-size ziptop bag so they must be checked in. Plus, the European Union limits carry-ons to 22 inch tall bags (including handles and wheels) and mine is 24 inches. So close, yet so far away.

Anyway, to the exciting part that everyone's been waiting for -- my knitting projects.
First, I am taking 3 skeins of black Cascade 220 to work on Husband's basketweave afghan. I had packed 2 skeins of blue yarn, but he didn't like that shade. So, we will go shopping for yarn when I get back.
Second, one ball of laceweight yarn from KnitPicks. It's variegated red, pink, and yellow, and I plan to knit a fichu with it, or maybe another Argosy scarf, or maybe a drop stitch scarf.
Third, I will add one skein of something, probably the yellow or purple Malabrigo yarn, to make a hat with. I have the Calorimetry which is essentially a wide, wide wide headband, but it doesn't cover the back of the head.

What is a fichu? Glad you asked. It's a little triangle shaped scarf that ladies used to drape around their neck and tuck into the front of their neckline. The dresses had such low necklines, all that skin was exposed to the cold. This would be a great chance to finally knit something lace, with all the books I've collected. I may use the triangular Feather and Fan pattern in Folk Shawls. It works from the top center, right at the neck, and then builds out from there, so I can stop whenever I need to.

So while I should probably think about wrapping up stuff at work, including an audit and grant proposal, and a pending staff meeting that should start right now, I am writing about my knitting. And this is why I knit -- to keep the stress at bay, and to have pretty things to wear.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Storybook knitting

Purlescence has a contest combining fairy tales and knitting. Love the concept. Here's the description from their website:

What would your favourite storybook heroine knit? Literature is full of missed knitting opportunities. This is your chance to set that straight. Think of Rumpelstiltskin, Bluebeard, Red Riding Hood, but don't stop there. Pick a well known character from a book or even a film or TV show, and design a project for her or him. Remember to tell us the story behind the concept.

The submission deadline is April 15, and this is the last contest in this series.

The first thing that came to mind was Jane Austen and a short fitted cardigan. I don't remember much knitting in the movies or books, but in Sense and Sensibility, the movie there were sheep in a few scenes. Emma Thompson's commentary track mentioned that Ang Lee really wanted the sheep to be very wooly but it got to the point that the sheep were too wooly and over heating, so they had to be sheared anyway.

So it makes perfect sense that Elinor, the ever practical one, would knit to keep busy while keeping watch over Marianne or to calm her mind over Edward. Certainly a beaded knitted purse for use at a ball would be appropriate for any of the Austen characters, like Kitty and Lydia in a tizzy over getting ready for the ball.

Or the Monkey King crocheting his vest. The Monkey King has a magical staff that can change size. It can grow long to be a fighting staff or shrink to the size of a pencil, which he then tucks behind his ear. What if it had a notch at one end, and then it would be a crochet hook.

Something to think about over the next month.

Why the blog?

A few words about why I started this blog, and the name.

First, I wanted a place to put thoughts and impressions about my upcoming trip. I'll have a notebook and camera, but it's a month-long trip. That's a lot to try to condense and share at the end. I'll be calling Husband everyday, but there are some people I have gotten into the habit of e-mail often and would like to continue communicating with them. And if I'm logging on to e-mail, I might as well log on to blog.

This trip is for work and I have started a work blog at And if I'm going to blog for work, I need a place to put my thoughts that are not work related, like the yarn shops I visited, or the meals I had, or whatever. One of the cities I'm going to, I went to for my honeymoon, and the hotel will be close to some of the places Husband and I went to, and a big scene in Bridget Jones's Diary: the Edge of Reason is set there. Not quite things to include in the workplace blog. Very, very important to separate business and pleasure.

Second, I chose the name because I have so many hobbies and interests, and this seems like a good way to keep track of everything and to write about my passion du jour. There's only so much Husband can take and this is a place where I can put my thoughts about them.

There's a book called "Who Are You People? A Personal Journey Into the Heart of Fanatical Passion in America" by Shari Caudron. I like the website because the banner at the top shows a guy in a cheesehat. Some of you understand why that makes me smile. She interviews people who are really passionate about something, like Barbie or fly fishing or whatever. They collect these things, go to conventions about them, go to clubs or chat about them. They are relatively normal people who are just really, really into something, and the author explores it. I haven't read the book, just blurbs, and don't think any of my interests are covered, but I understand those people. That kind of inspired the name of this blog.

Third, I think about my mom who is a published essayist. She is such a great role model is so many ways. She has written essays about her opinions, her interests and you all know I've got opinions and they must be shared.

My mom's compiled her essays into booklets, organized by subject or theme. Apparently she has written about each of her kids and put them in booklets, but has lost the one about Brother 2. One of these days I would like to have copies of them. And then have them translated from Chinese into English so I can read them. Sounds like a job for Brother 1 or Brother 2, who actually do read Chinese.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Knitting overview -- the title says it all

Right now I'm on a big knitting kick.

These are my finished objects of which I have pictures, which I will catalog and post in a sidebar some day.
  • sweater vest for Brother 1, based on Petrol, from
  • sweater vest for Brother 2, based on Petrol, from
  • 2 scarves for Sister. One pattern I made up, the other is the Magic Scarf from Crazy Aunt Purl.
  • pillbox hat for self, based on Chinese pillbox from the book Folk Hats.
  • Calorimetry, from for self, for the Excellent European Adventure, which will include going to Scandinavia in March. More about that later.
  • oversized beret, may need felting. That's what happens when I don't follow a pattern and ignore gauge. I really do know better.
Works in Progress:
  • cardigan for Sister, the Bi-colored Cables from Interweave Knits magazine.
  • scarf for self, Argosy from

Only 2 WIPs. Pretty good since I have a hard time focusing on only one project at a time.

Future projects:

  • Afghan for Husband. It will be my travel project, that I take with me on Euro-adventure. He's been asking for the afghan for a while and it'll be essentially many Magic Scarves, sewn together, alternating between turquoise and black. It'll be my momento of Husband, since he won't let me take anything of his with me on the month-long trip.
  • Sandy cardigan for Ma, from the book Big Girl Knits
  • Felted fedora for Ma, from the book Folk Hats
  • Sweater vest for Ba (Dad)
  • cabled sweater vest for Brother-in-Law -- yarn already purchased.
  • Lace of some sort, since I keep collecting lace knitting books.

Lest I give the impression that I only knit for others, I have made a very simple cardigan for myself, based on a pattern in Vogue Knitting. However, it is doesn't fit well and is very pilly, so there will no pictures of that.