Sunday, August 23, 2009


Henderson House is awesome. When I got accepted at Carnegie Mellon (CMU) this spring, the question of housing quickly arose. After spending hours of research on the official Housing site, College Prowler and Facebook discussions, I was left with three options: I could live off campus in an apartment, I could live in the finer of the standard dorms, Mudge House, or I could apply to live in Henderson House, a dorm which offered something called “wellness housing.”

Henderson joined the rest of The Hill for house warsAt first, living off campus seemed quite appealing, as I was slightly tired of the dorm-like living arrangements in the army. But as I read the discussions about housing on Facebook, I was contaminated by the enthusiasm (not sure whether that expression is solid or not) that everybody seemed to have about dorms, so I decided to live on campus. Time has yet to judge whether I made the right choice, but the first week has made me a firm optimist.

Henderson House is awesome. The “wellness” –thing is about keeping the dorm substance free and promote a healthy lifestyle in both personal and global perspectives. And since those who live here all had to write a few lines about why they belong in a dorm with such values, everybody are exceptionally great people. The house is one of two silver L.E.E.D. certified “green buildings” on campus, and it has good recycling systems available. And, there is air condition.

There are about twenty freshmen in Henderson House. That is not particularly much. Not compared to, say, Mudge, where there are almost 250 freshmen residents (educated guess). Therefore, Henderson and Welch (the quiet living dorm, which neither have many freshmen) spent much time together during orientation, and we also share the same “Housefellow” and Community Advisor. Welch and Henderson = WeHe.

Orientation, by the way, was probably the most intense week in world history, perhaps second to the seven first days of creation. At the end of the week, we were so psychologically exhausted of meeting new people we didn’t even introduce ourselves to strangers around the dinner table, we just chatted about music, the events and whatnot. I am still having trouble pronouncing “environmental,” though, despite that I have said it hundreds of times (I also find “warrior” to be a hard word).

Talking about pronunciation, Nathan (one of our awesome Resident Assistants) says I have a charming dialect, and will have no problem with the girls. Andrew, on the other hand, a random guy with ancestry from Poland, felt bad when he found out that I “actually talked like that,” referring to my heavily British-influenced accent.

Food for WeHeAs I am searching for a way to sum up these vague glimpses into life at CMU, I get handed a fresh piece of delicious chocolate cake, straight from the oven. It was tonight’s project for junior Daphny and her boyfriend (whose name escapes me); it was the true incarnation of “wellness housing.” Classes starts tomorrow. Henderson House is awesome.


Orientation 2009: CMUtv

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Moving to Pittsburgh

Finally, here comes the blog post you have all been waiting for; the blog post that tells you everything about my new life in Pittsburgh, what I think of my classmates, how the dialect of my roommate sounds, which professor is the most disorganized... But actually, I still haven’t met anyone that I am sure to meet again. So I’ll just tell you the same things I told the guys at the international orientation ice cream social.

Carnegie Mellon TartansYes, I am moving to Pittsburgh. I checked in to the Carnegie Mellon (CMU) campus today, where I’ll probably be hanging around at for the next four years. I’ll major in either civil and environmental engineering or electrical and computer engineering, but I’ll take both introductory courses in my freshman year. I come from Norway, a country that you can probably place approximately on a map, despite that I am the first Norwegian guy you meet. I have not been to Asia, at least if you don’t count the international orientation ice cream social.

I arrived in Pittsburgh two days ago, after a trip that lasted almost 40 hours; when I landed in Detroit, I had to check my luggage through customs, which made me lose my connection flight to Pittsburgh. So they put me on a plane to Philadelphia, but I didn’t catch the flight to Pittsburgh there either, and I had to spend the night. At least I was in Pennsylvania. I got on the next afternoon flight to Pittsburgh, and by the time I came to Oakland, where CMU is located, it was already sunset. Time had come to find the bed and breakfast –place I had found on Google Maps.

It turned out that the bed and breakfast was not bed and breakfast at all, but luxury suites. However, I appreciated that they had a vacancy; after all, I was walking around in a foreign city in the dark with 30 kg on my back and a big, unmanageable blanket in my arms.

The next day I spent exploring the campus area, setting up a bank account, talking to the student health service about my vaccinations, paying the tuition fee, handing in my final grade report and so forth. In the evening I went to explore downtown, and I found thousands of people dressed up in black and yellow, all gravitating towards a big stadium called “Heinz Field.” I figured I might as well follow them and see what happen. I bought a ticked from a guy who had too many, which saved me $20. More than 28 000 attended the game, but the stadium wasn’t even half filled.

Heinz Field
It was a pre-season game between Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals, the two Superbowl finalists from 2008. Like then, the Steelers won. I had never seen a game of American football before, but the kind, old lady that sat next to me explained the essentials, and by the end of the game, I’d figured out most of it. I bought a “terrible towel” in support of the Steelers, but I hesitated to use it when I was told that to wave it was meant as a curse on the other team.

My thoughts on American football: Way too much breaks. The players don’t even get tired! What is it about this fighting for four seconds -thing, and then having tactics for fourty? They should at least cut the “waiting time” in half; maximum twenty seconds from the down till the game must start again. And also, there should be fewer substitutes. What are there, three or four different line-ups available for each team? I think tired athletes would make room for more touchdowns, which, no big secret, is the fun part. Let’s call the new game “battleball” or something, and eventually the old American football would die, and even the Americans will forget that they used to call real football for soccer.

Today I moved in to my dorm, and I took the bus to “Waterfront” on the south shore of the Monongahela River to buy bed linens. I also got slightly lost when I tried a new route to the suite where I had my bag, but not more than what common sense and friendly Pittsburghers could handle. I have learned that 5th Ave and Forbes Ave are the two most useful references for getting around, and that CMU is located about as far from the shopping district in Oakland as it is from the shopping district in Squirrel Hill. My dorm is also on the completely opposite side of campus of the building where I’ll have my early morning classes in math and physics. I’ve decided to get a bicycle. I still haven’t seen a grocery store.

Read more:
Pittsburgh: Best place to live
Tartans: Carnegie Mellon University
Wikipedia: Heinz Field
Wikipedia: American footballl

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Infantry

My national service is ended, and time has come to summarize the year. How was it? Do I recommend the next high school graduates to apply for the infantry, or do I not? I’ll tell you my answer to the last question right away: I do not know. As for the first question, I’ll need a few paragraphs to express the wide spectrum of feelings and experiences that make up the minimum of a decent answer.

Let me start off by telling you that a year in the Norwegian infantry is varied. It is actually very varied; two days are seldom alike. Or, actually, two days may well be very alike. But the year as a whole has been quite varied. It started with basic infantry training for a few weeks, before we got into specialising within our field, learning how to drive the unnecessary complicated military vehicles, and attending other courses that teach us how to act our role in war. Then a series of increasingly complex exercises started, ending with the famous, international NATO exercise called Cold Response. Famous in Norway, anyways.

These exercises taught me a lot about – everything. A little about myself, a few things about God, a great deal about Mother Nature, but most of all about man. It should be said that I have been lucky in such aspects, being even allowed to lead a squad on my own on one occasion, which gave me much valuable insight and experience. We didn’t accomplish our mission, though, as our power unit went out of oil, making our electric oven and liaison equipment stop working. On top on that, I destroyed our Optimus Primus (a gas oven) while trying to improve its mediocre performance, leaving us completely without heat in the cold winter night. The human mind acts in mysterious ways on such occasions.

After the period of exercises, we had quite enjoyable weeks with close combat, war technique and urban warfare, and also theoretical courses in international law, ethics of war and gymnastics. We went searching for unexploded ammunition, had different hikes in the local mountains, and ran different military races, like, for instance, the 30 km run with an 11 kg backpack (including weapon). And, of course, we cleaned and washed the barracks for the next contingent before we left the building (which is actually quite a job).

What most people appreciate concerning their year in the national service is the friendships that are built in the barracks. And I too made some good friends; yet I can’t agree that the atmosphere was that unobjectionably amazing. People were always complaining about something, life was never kind enough, the officers were shit bags, the exercises were pointless, and so on. I’d prefer the atmosphere in my class in high school; there, nobody threw shit at people, and nobody talked behind other peoples back.

Btw, which is the best word: Objectionaryless, objectionlessniary, objectionlessly or unobjectionably?

There wasn’t much to do in our spare time, so I spent much time in the garrison chapel along with fellow Warriors of Agape; we had a choir, a conversation group, quiz nights, and evening services. While the services were all Lutheran, the audience had a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs. This made room for many interesting conversations, in particular at the conversation group were also the non-Christians felt at home. We called ourselves the “friends of the priest assistant,” and in May, a few of us were lucky and alert enough to join the Norwegian delegation in the International Military Pilgrimage (PMI) to Lourdes, France, even though none of us were Catholics. The experience was overwhelming!

The best parts of the infantry was the exercises and the so-called “green days;” surviving snowstorms, driving snowmobile, working on the technical finesses of liaison, hiding in the forest and shooting blanks at the enemy. The memories of challenging runs like the 15 km and 30 km are also worth appreciating. Besides, some of the courses we had were kind of interesting, and the trip to Lourdes was awesome.

The downsides were the dreadful music that was played in the barracks and the slight tendency towards an unpleasant atmosphere in the platoon, with the mentioned whining and humour on the cost of others. It should be said that these tendencies never became more than tendencies, and that most of the soldiers thought that we had a pretty decent atmosphere.

I am glad I spent a year in the infantry.

More on this blog:
Experience I'll remember: Dangerous Mountains
A fun course: Snowmobiling
Thoughts on the ethics of war: Perfidy and Max Manus
A serious matter: Going to Afghanistan