Monday, July 30, 2007

DHARMA Orchid Orientation Film

The last little bit of information that came out of the LOST Panel at Comic Con is the just publicly released Orientation Video for Dharma Station Number #6: The Orchid. It is not a complete orientation video (although are any that we have seen truly complete?), but rather a behind the scenes look at the making of a Dharma Video. There are lots of pieces of information that are thrown in that could be legitimate clues about Season 4 or they could just be more red herrings. Whatever the case, it is nice to see something new two months into this very long hiatus.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

LOST Season 4 Panel Recap

As I suspected, I am not disappointed by the tidbits that Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse revealed in today's LOST Season 4 Panel. Although I have been in Lafayette all day, the faithful people over at The LOST Blog have captured the highlights of what Damon & Carlton told the audience. WARNING: This recap does contain spoilers.

Some BIG Pre-Comic-Con LOST News

Big news today as the sun rises on Comic-Con 2007. The news was supposed to be the big surprise announcement at this afternoon's LOST Season 4 Panel in San Diego, but ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson let the cat out of the bag at a press conference yesterday. It is kind of a *SPOILER* and if you don't want to know about it, STOP READING NOW and don't read anything about LOST until Season 4 is over.

So what is the big news? ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson confirmed that Michael Dawson, played by Harold Parrineau, will be returning to the show in season 4. He didn't elaborate on any other details such as when the return might happen and in what capacity (i.e. flashbacks, flash-forwards or on-island). He also said nothing about Michael's son Walt Lloyd, played by Malcom David Kelly, who we last saw briefly in Locke's vision in "Through the Looking Glass."

Exciting news! I haven't really missed LOST too much since the finale in May, but I have been looking forward to the news coming out of Comic-Con this week. I suspect that producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse will give us a few more nuggets of info this afternoon. With that, I'm also sure it will get me thinking about season 4 and then I'll be counting down the days until February(!).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Roxi's Birthday Fun Jump Party!

Roxi's birthday was Saturday and we celebrated in grand style with another Water Slide Fun Jump. This year we got the "Drop Zone" in all of it's 20-foot splendor.

Needless to say, it was quite a fun birthday!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"Twin Beaks"

I have no idea when this was made but I can't believe I am only seeing it now. Thank God for YouTube!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

27-Hour Day

Roxi and I check out of our hotel room at 4:15 AM in Gothenburg, Sweden. We boarded a plane at 6:40 AM. Eighteen hours later, we landed in Houston, Texas after layovers in Stockholm, Sweden and Chicago, Illinois. We spent two and a half hours in Houston before heading home. We arrived in Lafayette, Louisiana at midnight. We traveled for twenty-seven hours in total on Friday.

All's Well That Ends Well

Our last full day in Gothenburg started out hard. After all of the wine we had in our viking dinner we were a little hung over when we woke up. But we still woke up at around 5:00 AM despite that. Roxi's presentation was scheduled for 3:00 that afternoon so she spent most of the morning getting herself organized. I pretty much took it easy and napped a little while she was doing her work. We did a little souvenir shopping, had some lunch and made our way to the conference.

Roxi was presenting some of her research in a poster session. Basically a bunch of people made poster boards with a summary of some of their research and they are all displayed for other conference participants to as questions and have discussions. I hung around with Roxi up until the sessions started but wanted to get out of her way when people started looking at her poster.

I spent the two and a half hours of the session looking around at other posters and taking a little walk around the campus. I checked in with Roxi a couple of times during the session and she seemed to be having a good response. So I think her conference experience was very positive overall.

We were both pretty tired after our busy week in Sweden so we decided to take it easy and have a leisurely dinner as our flight out on Friday was very very early in the morning. We went to a British style pub and had a great dinner and Grolsch on tap(!). We finished off our last night in Gothenburg with a drink at the hotel bar and then retired to our room to pack.

Our time in Gothenburg was so great. Neither of us had ever traveled to Europe with anyone other than family or classmates. Everyone there was telling us how nice the weather usually is but we really didn't let the occasional rain shower ruin anything for us. There were times the rain annoyed me, but we were still in Sweden. It really couldn't have been better trip despite that but there comes a time when you are ready to go home. Roxi was very busy with the conference and it was essentially a working trip for her. On top of that she and I did a lot of sightseeing together. We were tired but we had a great time and can't wait for our next big trip like this.

A Meal Fit For A Viking

Warning: The following blog post includes some graphic photos of viking food that might be unpleasant for some people. You've been warned.

Roxi and I had been looking forward to the viking dinner since we first booked the tour several weeks ago. We were not disappointed in the least when we arrived in the large banquet hall. We made our way towards the back of the hall and sat down at a romantically candle-lit table. The place settings were pretty simple: a wooden cutting board, a knife, a two-pronged skewer, and a bullhorn for wine. Before the meal began, an announcement was made giving us the order of the courses. The first course would be the bread and salad, the second course would be spare ribs and baked potatoes, the third course would be mutton, the fourth course would be roasted boar and the dessert would be custard pies. Large jugs of wine were already on the table so Roxi and I poured ourselves a bullhorn each, toasted the dinner and began.

As mentioned the first course was salad and bread. This doesn't sound very viking-esque but it was because it was not served in a traditional manner. There was a large basket on the table containing part of a large cucumber, several tomatoes, half a head of lettuce and a large loaf of bread. We were told to make the salads ourselves out of those ingredients. Also on the table was a large bowl of what appeared to be butter with an orange color. We tried it on the bread and salad and it was like butter, but was much saltier with a bit of a fishier taste. It was actually seasoned butter with anchovies. Now I am no fan of anchovies, but when in Sweden...

Soon after the spare ribs were delivered by the viking server. I didn't hesitate to dig right in and enjoy the tender meat. Not long after, the server returned with a basket of very large baked potatoes. With two more courses plus dessert remaining, Roxi and I decided it would be best to split a potato. And just for the record, the anchovy butter on the potato was exquisite.

Next up came the mutton. I thought the spare ribs were tender, but that all changed when I started eating the mutton. It was perfectly prepared in that the flavor of the meat was fully present but not overpowering. At this point in the dinner, we had been inside the fortress banquet hall for at least two hours so it was time to make a trip to the restroom and for Roxi to have a cigarette. Although we had been in Sweden for several days already, we were still both completely surprised to see broad daylight outside. We're just so used to it getting dark during dinner, especially after you've been eating for a few hours.

We returned to the banquet hall just in time to see the viking hosts bring in the roasted boar and begin chopping it up! We made out way back to the table and our server soon followed with large pieces of the boar. It was good as well, but very very salty. Shortly after the boar course, our viking hosts invited us all to climb the stairs to the top of the fortress to admire the view before dessert.

Of course it was still very bright outside, but the sun was closer to the horizon now. The view from the top of the fortress was simply breathtaking. I am still in awe of the geography of the Swedish coast. I never would have imagined that there was such a large archipelago associated with Sweden. We returned to the banquet hall to see that our places had been cleared. The servers brought trays of little pies and a bowl of custard. I of course was not satisfied with one, but after my second, I was pretty full.

On that note, we were told to head back down the hill for our return trip to Gothenburg. We took a ferry boat across to the mainland and boarded buses to return to the city. After all that food and wine, Roxi and I fell asleep on the bus ride back and awoke just as we arrived back at the square in Gothenburg at midnight. It was a long trip from start to finish but I think it was one of my favorite things that we did in Sweden. We got to see so much and experience a part of Sweden that I never would have known about otherwise. And the dinner was fantastic.

Water, Water, Everywhere

I had the best of intentions of blogging about the rest of our Sweden trip on a daily basis, but for the past three days, we have been entirely too busy to even squeeze in a few minutes at the computer. In order to keep my remaining posts about the trip manageable to read, I'll split them up by day.

On Wednesday, Roxi's conference activities only lasted a couple of hours in the early morning, so we spent the day riding on boats and touring island fortresses. It all started with our trip to Nya Alvsborg Fortress a few miles out in the harbor. Unfortunately, the weather didn't completely cooperate throughout the early part of our trip. That didn't stop us from getting to see the harbor during the thirty minute boat ride. The fortress was very cool, but the intermittent rain kept us running for cover. The time we did spend outside netted some great views of the fortress and surrounding waters of the harbor. On a clear warm day, one you could easily spend several hours at the fortress enjoying the sun and lush grass areas. Unfortunately, the afore mentioned rain and cold breeze prompted us to conclude our trip visit after about ninety minutes. It ended up working out for the best because we had another trip planned for the afternoon and evening.

The conference had organized a trip and dinner for the evening. It all started at four o'clock with short bus trip back to the harbor where we boarded a larger boat with about 300 other conference attendees. Our destination was the town of Marstrand about 29 miles away by car, but a two and a half hour scenic boat trip.

As the trip started, the rain began to fall which made the initial travel uncomfortable for those of us who were in the outside uncovered deck of the boat. The interior seating areas were full so we crowded into hallways until the rain stopped. It wasn't long before the skies did clear and we were able to truly appreciate the cruise we were taking. I was amazed at the look of the western Swedish coastline. The entire coast is dotted with thousands of rocky islands of various sizes. Some were rather large and included villages while others looked hardly large enough to stand on. As we made the long trip, Roxi and I moved about the several open air decks to see the beautiful scenery.

At about the two hour mark, the main engines of the boat were shut off as we approached a very narrow straight through two rocky islands. We idled through the straight noticing the goats on one of the islands climbing among the rocks to eat the grasses growing between them. After making our pass through the straight, the engines started up again and we made the final part of the journey to Marstrand.

As we approached, it was quite obvious that this was more of a village than a town. There aren't even any cars on the island. There is however a very large fortress looming over the town. Carlsten Fortress sits on the highest point on the island and was built to protect the then border between Sweden and Denmark. Upon our arrival to the island, we were lead up a cobblestone road into the fortress. We were directed up a long stone spiral staircase to a large banquet room where we would be having our viking dinner.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Yesterday Roxi had to spend several hours at the conference and so she sent me out to do things on my own in Gothenburg. I'm a big fan of guided tours so I decided I'd take the Paddan Boat Tour through the canals and harbor of Gothenburg. It was a very nice tour with the guide pointing out all of the sites along the canal and the harbor on the Gota Alv. With my engineering background I couldn't help but take pictures of the bridges and ship repair facility.

After the boat tour, I still had several hours to kill so I thought I'd head over the Maritiman, the ship museum that Roxi and I saw on Sunday. According to the Paddan Boat tour guide, it is the largest floating museum in the world. It consists of nineteen ships all moored together with gangways connecting them together. It was very interesting to see some of the non-military ships. I've toured battleships before, but it was a change to see what freighters are like.

All in all, it was a fun afternoon, but it would have been better with Roxi. She had a good afternoon as well although spent very differently at the conference. We rendezvoused back at the hotel and then took another walk to have dinner. After dinner we stopped for some fantastic European ice cream. There really isn't anything like it in the US. I'm not sure why someone doesn't make a European style ice cream (Haagen-Dazs doesn't count) because it seems like it could be very successful in the States. Our night ended rather abruptly when Roxi and I returned to the hotel with plans to go to a bar for some drinks, but both of us passed out from the day's exhaustion. Vacation can be so tiring!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Here Comes The Sun

Yesterday was the first day of conference presentations, so we made our way to the university just before lunch. We had some pretty good food for lunch, but I think I am officially tired of herring. After having a couple of varieties with breakfast for two days and then another variety for lunch, I think I've had my fill for the trip. After lunch, I accompanied Roxi to three half-hour talks and then we partook in some sweets, coffee and tea provided by the conference. After checking out some academic books, Roxi and I headed back to the hotel to rest. Although it was only our second full day in Sweden it felt like we'd already been here a week because of how busy we've been seeing the sights.

After Roxi took a nap and I had a rest, we noticed our first hint of blue sky since we arrived. After a little while we noticed that it continued to clear and felt that it was time to get out and see Gothenburg under some direct sunlight. We headed back towards the river to find a dinner restaurant but were having trouble deciding what we wanted to eat. After looking at a few menus we settled on a tapas restaurant.

Roxi was getting tired and so after dinner we made our way back to the hotel so that she could prep for today's conference proceedings before bed. Before I went to sleep around midnight, I took this picture from our hotel room.

Although the picture might not do it justice, it was only just dusk outside! You can see the waning sunlight on the horizon in the picture. A mere four hours later, the sun was coming back up this morning. When I first woke at 4:30 this morning, the sun was already peaking through the curtains on our window! Not quite the midnight sun, but pretty damn close!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Breakfast, Bikes and Rain

Roxi and I made our way out of the hotel last night shortly after my last post and walked around in the unseasonably cold city of Gothenburg. I checked the weather before our travels began and saw that the forecast called for highs in the 60s and lows in the 50s with light showers for most of our trip. At the last minute in our packing, we included our winter coats. It was a good thing that we did because both last night and during our afternoon today we found that it was much colder than forecasted with the addition of a very strong wind. According to locals, July is usually very beautiful, but lately there have been overcast skies with a fair amount of rain. That didn't stop us from enjoying the city, it only made us bundle up a bit.

On our evening out last night we ate at a very nice restaurant, and although we had good food, I didn't feel that we got a true taste of Swedish cuisine. That all changed at breakfast this morning. Our hotel has a complementary buffet that far exceeded all my expectations. In my prior travels to Europe, I have found most breakfasts to be very small with limited selections. This is not the case at least as far as things go at the Scandic Opalen hotel. The buffet included a large selection of what I have been expecting from Swedish food: several types of salted and/or pickled fish, sausage, caviar (in a tube!) and of course meatballs. Roxi and I ventured down to the restaurant very early this morning and took full advantage of the buffet. We liked it so much, we went back right before it closed just to snack a little more before our day began.

Yesterday we noticed that there is as much bike traffic in the city as there is car traffic. Roxi did some reading in the hotel book this morning and found that they have two bikes that they can loan to guests. After our two-part breakfast we took our annotated city map and borrowed Scandic bikes out on a tour of the city. We started by heading towards the opera house on the Gota Alv River. On our way, Roxi spotted a church that she wanted to see. We were just in time to attend a German mass. Of course neither of us speak any German, but I've been to enough masses in English to recognize many of the prayers and even some of the words.

After leaving the mass we continued on to the opera house and walked around the riverfront. The wind coming off the water made it much colder. With all the sailboats in the marina, I couldn't help but wonder how much of the year their owners could use them for a warm sunny cruise. There is a very unique maritime museum by the opera house that I would like to tour on a less windy day. It features several ships moored together and connected by multiple gangways allowing visitors to walk from ship to ship without having to return to the dock.

We rounded out our afternoon by making our way to the university so that Roxi could pick up her registration packet for her conference. It was on our way that the drizzle started. It wasn't too bad at first, but it soon became a steady cold rain. Thankfully we both had our hooded rain jackets, but that didn't keep our jeans from getting a little wet during the bike ride. We finally made it to the university and spent a little time figuring out where all of Roxi's conference proceedings will be taking place this week. With the rain still falling, we returned to the hotel to get ourselves dry and refreshed before an opening reception this evening.

A few hours later we returned to the university for a welcome reception sponsored by a large academic publisher so we got to enjoy a variety of Swedish hors d'oeuvres. After the reception we did a little more walking around the university and visited the Poseidon statue, the symbol of Gothenburg.

We returned to our hotel to see a large crowd of "VIPs" waiting to see a special pre-screening of the new Harry Potter movie at the theater across the street from our hotel. Roxi tried to talk our way in but we were denied. Alas we will have to wait to see the movie like the rest of the commoners.