Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Super Fun/Dorky Weekend Times

Last Friday, I decided to skip work on Friday afternoon (everyone is on vacation anyways) and play tourist in Aarhus. The first place I went was the Aarhus Viking Museum. Nothing in the museum itself was very exciting, but the location of the museum was. The museum is located in the basement of a Nordea bank on the "Big Square" in Aarhus downtown. Why? Because this was the site of the original city of Aros in the 800s, which would one day become modern Aarhus. There was a skeleton in the floor that had not been moved from it's original location, and a lot of artifacts that had been found in the area. The city of Aros was about 9 feet under the level of the present day city. As I left the museum, it started to rain, so I ducked into the Aarhus Domkirke, or Cathedral. It was a pretty standard Danish cathedral - a lot of people buried in the floor and in the walls. However, there were a lot of really neat frescos, like this one of St. Clement, the guy on the right with the anchor. He is the patron saint of sailors and churches that are near the ocean.

The next day, I went with my friend Ulla to the Viking Moot at Moesgaard Beach, just south of Aarhus. It was crazy! There were people there from all over Europe: Iceland, Germany, England, Romania, Poland, etc. There was a big viking battle between two teams. These two teams were composed of smaller bands that practice and fight together all time. Here is one team getting pysched up for the battle:
The battle began when one team tried to steal the other's land. Here is the battle in full swing (also, lots of blond people):
After the battle was finished, there was a demonstration of special Viking horses. We know that these are Viking horses because the Vikings were the only ones to ever bring horses to Iceland, and this species of horse is now only found in Iceland. Today there are many regulations about bringing animals into the country, because the Icelandic people are worried that the horses could be wiped out by a foreign disease. These horses (they are small - more like ponies) have one more gait than regular horses. This gait is very fast but very smooth for the rider. The riders were showing off the smoothness of this gait by zipping around the field on their horses while drinking full cups of beer and not spilling a drop. Here are some of the ponies:
Finally, Ulla and I ate some authentic Viking lunch: flatbread and lamb roasted over a fire. It was really good! The whole time, I kept realizing how totally nerdy this festival was, but completely not caring because it was also really fun. This is also really funny because Rebecca and Claire, while in India, saw a TV special about this festival. Claire told me about it while in London, and then laughed at me for being a dork when I said that I really wanted to go.

On Sunday, I headed to Den Gamle By, or "The Old Town". This is a living history museum in Aarhus, that has old (1700s and 1800s) houses from all over Denmark. The houses have been moved there to create a sample 1800s Danish village, complete with all kinds of shops and tradesmen. Here is what a typical Danish house from that era looks like.
Also, here is a street scene with a Danish (read: not very tall) skyscraper. Ooh, juxtaposition.
One of my favorite shops was the chemist's shop. There was a special poison cabinet with a cool skull motif carved into it, and a bunch of preserved animals meant to give the shop an "exotic" air. There was a huge snake, a baby alligator, and a "sea monkey" that was a strange, stitched together, hybrid of a monkey and a fish. Another neat shop was the tobacco shop. Tobacco was actually grown in Denmark, especially during war-times when it couldn't be imported. There was a tobacco drying shed that looked pretty much like the ones we saw in Nicaragua, except smaller and with 100% less scary guards with machine guns. Once the tobacco leaves were dried, they used a special machine to roll them into a long rope. This was then cut into whatever length you wanted when you bought tobacco. There was another exhibit about tobacco through the ages, and there was even an authentic "gentleman's smoking lounge"!
How classy! There was also an old graveyard, which I thought was cool.
They also showed all the gravestone maker's tools and had some information about the methods used to make them. There was a ton more stuff at this village, and it was really fun to wander around for the day. I learned a lot more about Danish history and the way life was like in the1800s. It was interesting because the 1800s in Denmark is really different than the context in which I normally thing about the 1800s, with my American West mindset.

And finally, they are making some additions to the museum soon. Please read about building number 2.
OK, let me get this straight. They are going to take elderly people suffering from dementia, who I'm sure are already very confused about various things, AND MAKE THEM THINK IT'S 1974??? Seriously? W. T. F.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Today I bought a jar of the hilariously named "NUTZ" peanut butter. The label has a massive amount of American iconography crammed onto it. Observe:
You've got a football player, some sort of governmental monument, an old-timey car, a hockey player, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. Also, the ingredients list makes sure to assert that the peanuts are "American". When I saw this jar in the store, I knew I had to buy it.

But the act of buying this peanut butter brings up a larger point. Four years ago, it took quite a bit of hunting to find even one variety of peanut butter, let alone to have a choice of creamy vs. crunchy or brand. Now, all the grocery stores carry peanut butter, and there is quite a bit of selection - I've even seen Jiff in a couple stores! This realization got me thinking about other ways in which Denmark has changed in the past four years since I've been here last.

Some of the ways in which Denmark has changed have been good. More peanut butter selection, and a wider selection of food in the stores in general. I've even been able to find tortillas and semi-decent salsa, something that was very hard to locate before. I once made Mexican food for my host family, and we ended up using store-bought crepes/pancakes in place of tortillas. Things also seem to be open later (maybe staying open until 7 or 8 instead of 5), and - gasp! - some stores are even open on Sundays. There have always been a lot of American movies and TV here, but the time lag seems to be much shorter now. Instead of movies coming out here a couple months later than when they do in the US, they come out maybe two weeks later.

But there have also been a lot of bad changes, namely, a lot more violence. It seems like every time I read the newspaper here they are reporting a shooting or stabbing. Luckily, not many people seem to die from these encounters (as my host dad put it, "they're not too good at aiming yet"). Much of this violence stems from conflicts between gang members (which are called "rockers" in Danish). The two main gangs here are motorcycle gangs; one is Hell's Angels, and the other is called AK81. They engage in all sorts of nefarious activities such as selling drugs. stealing cars, and robbing stores and homes. Another problem with the rockers is that they tend to own large fighting dogs, such as pit bulls. Lately, one of these dogs got loose and killed a little boy, and there has been a lot of debate about whether those types of dogs should be outlawed or not.

There are also a lot of immigrant gangs that are contributing to the violence. As in all of Europe, immigration is a hot issue here in Denmark right now. The two countries that have the most immigrants in Denmark are Turkey and Somalia (this is entirely unscientific data, it's just what I have been told). There are also a decent number of immigrants from other Middle Eastern countries, and from Eastern Europe (case in point: I had a friend from Yugoslavia who who turned out to be a pop star there). Many Danes see the increase in violence and crime as a result of these immigrants. Because of this, Denmark has some of the tightest immigration laws in the EU. Recently, Denmark has elections for the EU Parliament. One of the candidates who won a seat belongs to a very conservative party that basically wants to outlaw any more immigration to Denmark, and to send many of the immigrants currently living here back to their home countries. The students in my dorm were all very distressed that this viewpoint has become popular enough win this candidate a seat on the Parliament.

As much as I like all the good changes (they make life much easier when it's Sunday and I realize I have no food to eat), it does make me sad that sheltered little Denmark is being exposed to all these problems.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Copenhagen Weekend

Last week was fairly uneventful, work wise. I started analyzing all my data, which tends to result in me sitting in front of a computer all day long. I am not too big a fan of this, which is probably the cause of my recent case of the lazies, in which I want nothing more than to lay in bed all day reading and eating cereal. Seriously, I never get the lazies this bad! How do I cure myself?!? Tips, anyone?

On Thursday, I hung out with a Dutch girl, Isa, that I met through couchsurfing. She was living in Denmark with her Danish boyfriend and working for Vestas, a wind power company. We had coffee and just hung out. She was really interesting to talk to, and we spent a lot of time talking about the differences between Holland and Denmark. Although the two countries would seem to be quite similar, it turns out they are more different than one would expect. It was also fun to spend some time with another foreigner and poke fun at the silly things Danish people do, such as: eating massive amounts of potatoes, not allowing stores to be open on Sundays, and taking absurdly long summer vacations. Seriously, half the stores in town are closed right now for what is called "industry holiday", a three week long vacation in the end of July.

On Friday afternoon, I headed over to Copenhagen to visit my host family. Earlier in the day, I received a text message from my host mom Mona, asking if I liked sushi. I love sushi, so of course I replied yes, and it turned out that we would be eating sushi for dinner that night. My host dad, Peter, has recently fallen in love with sushi, since it is quite new to Denmark. However, none of Peter or Mona's children like sushi, so they were excited to spoil me with some. But then I started to worry...what if this sushi was super market sushi?!? As much as I love real sushi, I am completely grossed out by super market sushi. I think it is the idea of raw food just sitting around all day in those not-very-cold-open-refrigerator cases. One of the most effective methods that Claire uses to gross me out is buying super market sushi and eating it with gusto. However, my fears were assuaged when Mona picked me up at the train station and we picked up some take-out sushi at a very respectable looking restaurant. I helped Peter conquer his fear of wasabi by showing him how to mix it with the soy sauce, and we had a great dinner.

The next day, the weather was pretty rainy, so we all had a nice day inside. The whole family stopped by to say hi. My host brothers Lasse and Jakob stopped by earlier in the day to say hi, and then my host sister Line and her boyfriend, as well as my host grandma, came for lunch. We had a great Danish lunch with rye bread and tons of types of herring and other meats. And, lots of beer, of course. I was especially glad to meet Line finally, as she was an exchange student in Brazil while I was one in Denmark, so I had actually never met her before. After lunch, the rain finally cleared up and I went for a long walk on the beach and ended up wandering into a really cool nature area with marshes that I had never seen before. The rest of the day consisted of watching Tour de France coverage (Peter is really into cycling) and making more delicious food. We had salmon for dinner. Salmon wrapped in bacon, that is. This is a very common Danish thing to do - have a completely normal and rational meat choice for dinner, but then swaddle the whole thing in bacon. Normally, I am not a fan of mixing meats, but this was so darn tasty that it made me reconsider my meat-segregation stance a bit.

On Sunday morning, I caught the train up to Copenhagen to meet one of my professors from Harvey Mudd, Dr. Nancy Lape, as well as another Mudd student who were there for a conference. I met them at their hotel and we headed to the downtown. We took a short walking tour of the main square and the walking street. Then, I introduced them to some delicious Danish pasteries at a cafe on the town hall square. We then went to the Statens Museum for Kunst (State Art Museum), which I actually had never been to before. It was full of cheery Danish art, such as this piece.
This museum really ran the gamut, from traditional Danish art from the 1700s, to really crazy and shocking modern art. What was neat is that I saw a lot of the same Danish artists that I saw in the Aarhus art museum, and I enjoyed seeing these other works by artists that I recognized. Next, we headed to Nyhavn, which Nancy and Kristina (the student) wanted to see. I guarantee you, if you have seen one tourist picture of Copenhagen, you have seen Nyhavn:
Until around the early1990s, Nyhavn used to be the sketchy sailor's quarters, full of seedy bars and tattoo shops. Now, it is still full of bars and tattoo shops, but they have cleaned up and become trendy. So trendy, in fact, that most Danish people don't even go there - it's mostly full of tourists. Because it's frequented mainly by tourists, most things are more expensive there than other places in the city. But, Harvey Mudd College paid for lunch, so I didn't really care...thanks HMC! It was pretty warm and a halfway sunny day, so it was quite nice to sit on the docks and eat lunch and ice cream. Finally, I said goodbye and made my way out to Kastrup, where I was having dinner with one of the Rotary members, Kenneth, and his family from the club that sponsored my exchange. We had a nice barbeque dinner (Danish people always make really good BBQ, they call it "grill food"). Their son was about to leave for Brazil on exchange, so it was fun to talk to him and it reminded me about how excited I was right before I left for my exchange.

Finally, it was time to make my way home. Kenneth's house was right on the metro line, which is new and runs really quickly and often, but does not interface with the rest of Copenhagen's transportation very well. To catch my train to Aarhus, I had to take the metro to another Copenhagen station, then get on a commuter train back to the main train station, where my train to Aarhus left from. However, it turns out that the commuter trains were running off schedule. Nowhere had there been warning or information about this, so I completely didn't plan for the new schedule. I ended up on a train that arrived at the main station just in time to see my train to Aarhus pulling away. Missing the train by 30 seconds was way more heartbreaking than missing it by, say, 5 minutes. With an hour to kill until the next train, I bought a beer at 7-11 and headed out to the town hall square. It was quite pretty at dusk. Here is the town hall:
And the gates to Tivoli, the famous amusement park:
Here is H.C. Anderson. Danish people are crazy about him. This statue very popular with tourists, and the tradition is to climb up and sit on his knee to get your picture taken. I tried to climb up on his lap once, but it's harder than it looks. I did not succeed, and ended up falling down on the ground.
Finally, here is my favorite Carlsberg advert, "Probably the Best Beer in Town". In this picture, you can also see the large thermometer on the left side of the building. There are two figures on top - one on a bicycle and one with an umbrella, which are supposed to show if the weather is going to be nice or rainy. More often than not, both figures are peeking out, which indicates that Danish people have no idea what the weather is going to do on any given day. Also, the thermometer only goes up to 20C.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Jazz, a Castle, and Danish foods

Saturday was the first day of the Aarhus Jazz Festival. Summer is Jazz Festival Season, and Aarhus is not immune. I went to the opening concert, which was actually big band music, with a couple Danish people I met on the website This is a meet-up website for travelers all over the world. Basically, if you travel to a city and want somewhere to stay, or just to meet up with some locals to have a less touristy experience, you can use couchsurfing to get in touch with someone in that city. You then agree to reciprocate by showing other travelers around when/if you have the time once you're back in your hometown. The website is very non-sketchy, because it uses lots of references and checks to make sure people are legit. Anyways, I joined to see if I could find a couple more people in Aarhus to hang out with over the summer. I ended up hanging out with a guy Brian and a girl Mya, and spending the afternoon wandering around downtown Aarhus, listening to jazz, eating and drinking beer. They were lots of fun, and Brian had lived in Greenland for a couple years, so he had lots of interesting stories about that.

Greenland is very barren and very beautiful. However, their society has a lot of problems, especially the native Greenlandic peoples, because of unemployment, poverty, and alcoholism (much like the problems on many Native American reservations). Many native Greenlandic people come to Denmark in search of jobs but often have a lot of difficulties. In fact, a lot of the homeless people in Denmark (who really only exist in Copenhagen) are native Greenlandic. Just a couple weeks ago, Denmark and Greenland signed an accord that granted Greenland more responsibilities of self-government (it is technically part of the Kingdom of Denmark and was only granted home rule in 1979) over areas such as judicial affairs, policing and natural resources. Denmark, however, still has control of areas such as finance, foreign affairs, and defence. It will be interesting to see if economic/social situations improve in Greenland as a result of this increased autonomy. I happen to own a purse made out of a baby seal from Greenland. It's a pretty good story.

On Sunday, I went to Rosenholm Castle, about 20 km outside of Aarhus. This castle has been owned by one family, the Rosencrantz family, since 1559. Family members still lived in the castle full-time until 1960.
The rooms in the castle were decorated with furniture and artifacts from all the eras in which the family had lived in the castle. One really interesting artifact was a "juice tapestry". Apparently, in olden times, most rich people could not afford regular tapestries, in spite of being rich. Tapestries were only for the super-rich. Tthe regular rich instead bought juice tapestries, which were large pieces of canvas showing scenes that were painted with plant juices. However, since these were not as nice as ordinary tapestries, they were not taken care of very well. As a result, this juice tapestry is the only one in OK condition in all of Denmark today. Here is a small gatehouse outside the castle that is said to be the "first university in Jutland" because it was used to school the family's children.
There was also a museum of household objects from the early 20th century and a lot of rooms set up to look like an early 1900s Danish farm home. I especially liked the blue kitchen:

The Rosencrantz family was very influential in Danish history, and may even be the reason that Hamlet is set in Denmark. You may notice that many of the names in Hamelt are Greek, such as Laertes, Polonius, and Ophelia. Apparently, Shakespeare originally intended to set the play in Greece. The family legend says that a son of the Rosencrantz family was studying in England with another Danish friend, Guildenstern. These guys happened to bump into Shakespeare at a pub and have some drinks with him. They were so chummy, in fact, that they convinced him that Denmark was a better setting for the play and persuaded him to include them as characters.

When I got back from the castle visit on Sunday, I headed into the kitchen to make some dinner. I ran into a couple guys who live on my floor, who started asking me if I had ever had "cord bread" before. I said no, and they told me that they had decided to make it that very night because they wanted to show me how. I was sort of confused about how we were making it, since all they told me was that it required a bonfire, but I went along with it. We made up some dough and headed outside to build a fire. Once we had some good embers, they showed me how to roll the dough out into a long snake (or cord) and then wrap it around a big stick. You then hold the bread over the fire (like roasting a marshmallow) to cook it. Apparently this is a very Danish thing to do at children's birthday parties and when camping. Unfortunately, our fire was not big enough, and it started raining before our bread was fully cooked. We ended up putting most of the dough in the oven, but it was still quite fun.

Just now I was eating my favorite Danish summertime desert. Literally translated, it is called "cold bowl" but I just call it "cookie milk". It is thick milk with some egg, vanilla, and lemon in it, to which you add these small, dry (sort of vanilla wafer like) cookies. It is super delicious and one of the guys I live with has promised to teach me how to make it so I can eat it when I get back to the US. This particular guy is moving to the US in a month to get his PhD at Duke, so he has been teaching himself how to cook traditional Danish foods that you can't buy in the US. This is great for the rest of us on the floor, because we get to eat all of his attempts!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

As promised, some more science.

So, a lot of what I have been doing for my research in the past five weeks (I only have four left - yikes!) has focused on synthesis, actually taking my raw materials and making samples under various conditions. I like being in the lab and doing hands on synthesis stuff, probably because I didn't get to play around in chem labs very much during my time at Mudd (I was too busy being forced to hit bridges with hammers and the like). But there comes a time when I finally have to figure out what exactly I have been making these past few weeks. This is where various characterization techniques come into play.

The most basic materials science characterization tool is powder x-ray diffraction (XRD). The most basic information that this gives you is if your sample is crystalline (the atoms have what is called long-range order, or repetition), or amorphous (the atoms are just all jumbled up). Basically, the way XRD works is that the machine shoots x-rays at your sample over a range of angles. The crystalline planes in your sample will reflect the x-rays only at certain angles depending on what planes are present in the crystal. A detector measures the reflected x-rays and produces a graph showing the intensity over a range of angles. If your sample is amorphous, there are no crystal planes to reflect the x-rays, so you get a scan with no peaks, like this one (intensity on the y-axis, angle, or 2-theta, on the x-axis).
If you have something crystalline, you get a scan with peaks, like this one. This is several scans of a materials I was working with last summer.

The one of the bottom is a reference scan that comes from a huge database of known crystalline structures. Once you perform XRD on your sample, you can use various matching techniques to compare your sample to reference scans to determine exactly what you have made. Once you know what you have made, you can use data about the relative peak intensities, the peak width, peak symmetry, etc, to determine the size and shapes of the crystals in your sample. You can also look at the "2-theta shift" to determine crystal sizes relative to each other. If you look at the top two scans here, you can see that they have the same peaks, but the second one is shifted slightly compared to this first one. This indicates that the crystal size in the second sample is slightly smaller than in the first one. In this case, this was because I had been substituting smaller atoms into the crystal, so I used this scan to prove that I was successful in this substitution.

If you want to get an actual look at your material, you can use electron microscopy, either scanning (SEM) or transmission (TEM). In an SEM, the machine shoots a high-energy beam of electrons at your sample. Normally, these high-energy electrons are generated by heating up a tungsten filiment to a very high temperature. These electrons can interact with your sample in a variety of ways. The first is elastic scattering, in which the electrons hit the atoms in the sample and then rebound with the same amount of energy, but in a different direction. There is also some inelastic scattering, where some of the electrons' energy is dissipated in the collision. This energy has to go some where, so electromagnetic radiation is also emitted in these collisions. Most SEMs only measure the elastic scattering. Here is a random SEM picture (I seem to have lost the ones I had from my research from last summer). You can see the individual crystals, which in this case are hexagonal prisms.
The scale bar on the bottom shows 10 micrometers. Often, a SEM will be coupled with an energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscope (EDX). EDX tells you what elements you have in your sample, and the relative percentages of each element. Again, a high-energy beam of electrons is shot at the sample. This energy is tranferred to the atoms in the samples, and causes the electrons in the sample to "jump" to a higher energy state. However, this high energy state is unstable, so the electron eventually falls back down, or decays, and releases energy in the form of x-rays. The energy of the x-ray differs for each element, so this data can be used to determine which elements are present. This technique is really useful when you have several phases in your sample, because it can help you figure out the relative amounts of the phases by looking at the atomic ratios.

TEM is very similar to SEM, except that instead of looking at eletrons that are reflected off the sample, you are looking at electrons that have passed through the sample. For this reason, the sample must be very very thin. Here is a TEM picture that was not taken by me, but is of a material I worked with last summer:Again, you can see the crystal structure as well as the size of the crystals. I did some TEM a couple weeks ago, and some of the particles I made were in the range of 5 nm! I was excited that I had managed to make something so tiny! Maybe when I remember I will post my TEM pictures of the stuff I made...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


I just got back from a great weekend in London with my good friend Claire O'Hanlon. I arrived on Thursday night (well, Friday morning) from Aarhus. RyanAir was, of course, delayed about 45 minutes. Then, when I got to the Stansted airport, the customs line was huge! I was lucky I was a non-EU citizen, because the EU citizen line was at least three times as long! I waited in line for about an hour, and the customs official then proceeded to quiz me about why I was living in Denmark for the summer, what I was doing in London, exactly where I was staying, etc. It was as bad as getting into the US! I didn't expect this at all from the UK, since all other EU countries barely care if you have a passport, let alone what you're doing in their country. Finally, I made it through, but behind me the line was still just as long, if not longer. I caught a train into London, and arrived at my hostel around 2 AM. Claire, great friend that she is, stayed up to meet me! We had a beer and caught up, and then went to bed.

The next day, we started out our trip by visiting the Tower of London, which is a historic royal fortress and prison on the Thames. The tours there are lead by the Beefeaters of gin fame (just kidding, they have been around for a lot longer than the gin!):
We saw a ton of cool things - the Crown Jewels, lots of old armor and weaponry, and the insides of the various towers. The oldest, the White Tower, was built by William the Conqueror. The coolest was the Bloody Tower, which was used to hold prisoners. There was lots of graffiti carved into the walls by various historic prisoners. Here is the White Tower:
There is a flock of ravens that lives in the Tower of London. The legend is that, when these ravens leave the tower, the White Tower will fall. Here are a few of the ravens.
They were really fat - our theory is that they just feed the raves so much so that they physically unable to fly away!

After this, we ventured out into the East End to eat some lunch at a very delicious hamburger stand that was recommended to me by an (ex-Yakima) Londoner. This area was really interesting because it had a lot of Pakistani and Indian immigrants. Claire had just been in India, so we stopped into an Indian sweetshop and she picked out some delicious Indian desert. Then, we went to Saint James' Park to enjoy them. We saw a lot of birds there (it's a wildlife sanctuary) and one overly-friendly squirrel. That night, we went to comedy show called the News Revue. It was a satire of weekly news events from all over. It was very funny, but unfortunately, Claire and I didn't know enough about British politics to get all the jokes.

The next day we started off with the British museum. We saw the Rosetta Stone - it was a lot bigger than I always pictured it!
There was way too much to see all in one day, but one of the cooler things we saw was one of the Easter Island statues.
Interestingly enough, it is thought to be these statues that caused the collapse of their civilization. In his book, Collapse, Jared Diamond (also author of Guns, Germs, and Steel) discusses what causes societies to succeed or fail, and Easter Island is one of the societies that he focuses on. Apparently what happened is that the various groups on the island spent all their time competing to see who could erect the largest statues. However, these statues were very time and resource intensive, so the islanders over-used the natural resources on the island, eventually rendering it unable to sustain life. This was a really interesting book, I would recommend both of Diamond's books.

After the British museum, we headed to the Cabinet War Rooms. These were the rooms used by the Prime Minister and the heads of the military during WWII. When the war ended in 1945, the people working there simply turned the lights off, locked up, and left, leaving everything completely as it was. They were reopened in the 80s, and restored to be a museum. This was the room where Churchill met with all the generals (sorry for the flash there):
It was also really neat to see all the maps and charts they used to follow the war:

After this museum, we headed home to cook some dinner. We celebrated the 4th hanging out with some Australian girls that we met in our hostel and drinking Brahma, Claire's and my favorite Brazilian beer (which we having been trying to find in the US for 2 years, to no avail). We ended up going out that night with the Australian girls and an Italian guy, also from our hostel. There was a huge gay pride festival going on in Soho, so we headed there for some great people watching. I have never seen so many drag queens in one place!

The next day, we started out at the Imperial War Museum. This museum chronicled all the wars of the 20th century. They had cool interactive exhibits that showed what it was like to be in the trenches in WWI or in the Blitz during WWII. They had a whole apartment set up to look like one during WWII in London. My favorite was this home bomb shelter, that doubled as a dining room table during the day:

After the Imperial War Museum, Claire and I headed to the nerdiest attraction of our list, the Royal Observatory, site of the Prime Meridian! Here I am, standing in two hemispheres at once!
We learned all about timekeeping and navigation. The observatory is up on a hill in Greenwich. There is a big ball on the roof that is dropped at 1 PM everyday. This was so that ships in the harbor could set their clocks to Greenwich Meridian Time without going all the way up to the observatory:
Finally, we pondered the eternal question, "When IS it time for the navy?"
After this, it was time for me to head to the airport. Claire and I said a sad goodbye, since we don't know when we will see each other next. However, my move to Chicago in a year bodes well for future Thanksgiving spent with the O'Hanlon clan in Pittsburgh. I made it back to Denmark fine - RyanAir was actually early, and customs consisted of nothing more than a passport stamp. Overall, it was a great weekend and it was great to see Claire again!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Weekend, a bit later

This weekend, I went to check out the local Aarhus art museum, called Aros. This museum was very interesting, because it had a huge range of art - from very classical portraits from the 19th century, to sculptures, modern performance pieces, and installation art. One really cool thing I though the museum did well was to take advantage of having this wide range of art and juxtapose modern art with older works, like here:
These sculptures were supposed to imitate a playground. The whole room was packed full of them, and you had to follow a twisty path to get through the room.
I think the craziest piece of art was this one:
These are jars filled with preserved horse parts. It was part of an art exhibit from the 70s by a Danish artist who ritually slaughtered and preserved the horse. Somehow, it was intended as an artistic protest against the Vietnam War. It was quite gruesome.
One of my favorite exhibits was a collection of collages and other works made out of day-to-day objects that people had discarded. The objects were combined in interesting ways to make statements about our endless cycle of buying new objects and then discarding them as soon as there is the smallest thing wrong with there. I thought this box was neat.
Finally, the museum is pretty famous for this sculpture called "Big Boy":
Seriously, this thing is huge, like 20 feet tall. I think I actually have seen some works by the same artist, last winter at the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh with Claire. What's amazing is how detailed these sculptures are - each pore and hair is there; they are in fact rather creepy because they are so well-done and life like.

I also went to the beach on Saturday - the weather was great the whole weekend! There aren't really many sand beaches in Denmark (most are quite rocky), so they typically build artificial sand beaches. The one is Aarhus is really nice and is located by the forest I go running in. Here is a picture of some crazy people swimming in the super cold water (I refused to go farther in than one toe):
I also went for a nice walk along the stream that runs through the center of Aarhus; people here just call it "the stream" (which is one of the shortest words in Danish - one letter. It's the a-with-a-circle-over-it. The only other one letter word is the word for island, which is just the o-with-a-slash letter). The stream one of my favorite places in Aarhus. It's a great spot for people watching because lots of people come out and enjoy the summer evenings there. You can see teenage punks, families with little kids, elderly couples, and everything in between sitting on the docks next to each other.

Tomorrow night I leave for London, where I will be reunited with my one true love, Claire O'Hanlon! YAY!