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My name is Lars, and I’m a cheater

My great achievement this weekend was building a table, for my Viking setup. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a “Viking table,” because it doesn’t actually much resemble any known table from archeology, and is a cheat in any case. This is what I did, and why:

The table I’ve been using for book selling for the last several years was a random thrift store find—a table apparently designed for some kind of display, consisting of a circular pressed board top and three dowel legs which screwed into flanges. It wasn’t even close to authentic, but when I threw a sheepskin over it, it looked OK, because the round legs did look like known Viking table legs.

Vikings,mail,Decorah,Nordic Fest

That table had been working itself loose for a while, though, and it finally died in Minot last fall, when a heavy object (me) fell on it. So I needed a new table.

My plan was to try to do something like the actual replica table described in this article, but with longer legs. However, I couldn’t find the article while I was working, so I worked from memory, which was (as is so often the case) unreliable. The table I constructed looks like this:

Viking table Continue reading My name is Lars, and I’m a cheater

Allegory and Why Narnia Is Not One

Jared has the goods on how allegory is defined and why Narnia really isn’t one despite what you may have heard.

How then does he define Allegory? Perhaps the clearest definition in the most common language comes via a letter to Mrs. Hook (found in Letters of C.S. Lewis, 12/29/58):

By an allegory I mean a composition (whether pictorial or literary) in which immaterial realities are represented by feigned physical objects, e.g. a pictured Cupid allegorically represents erotic love (which in reality is an experience, not an object occupying a given area of space) or, Bunyan, a giant represents Despair.

Lars’ Popular Thanksgiving Post

One of our most popular posts, not by the comments it drew but by the traffic it has attracted over the years, is this story from September 21, 2006 about a microwave and a turkey. It’s linked from an urban legend page which talks about a pregnant turkey prank, which may or may not have happened despite being believable (but that page has been removed in the ever-changing Internet).

If you haven’t read either story, here’s your chance to catch up.

Impulsive, madcap me

I’ve gone a little nuts in the last two days, and it bothers me a bit. I expect it’s a sign of oncoming dementia.

What I mean is, I spent money on two things that were not absolutely necessary for me to have, and which were not books.

First of all, I replaced my cell phone. I’ve had my old, bare-bones one for several years now, and had been thinking it was time to replace it. My service provider offered a very good deal on a new Nokia. It has a camera, which is cool, though I don’t think I actually have the technology to upload its pictures anywhere. (Remember, I’m paying 10 cents a minute for calls on this thing. How many pictures do I take that are worth a dime?)

Also, it’s got a flip cover. So at long last, I have a Captain Kirk phone. This is extremely satisfying to my inner Sheldon Cooper.

Also, I’ve registered for the Vinland Seminar in Chicago, in October. Because of my acquaintance with some of the organizers, and my long-distance acquaintance with one of the speakers, Prof. Torgrim Titlestad (who did me the honor of mentioning one of my books in a couple of his), I decided I ought to go. It will be an opportunity to rub shoulders with some experts in the field of Viking studies, in particular Prof. Birgitta Wallace, who used to be the chief archaeologist at the Leif Eriksson Dig in Newfoundland. She carries the eternal honor of finding the butternuts. And if you don’t know what that means, you should research it.

Also I have permission to hawk my books there, so maybe I can make back part of my expenses.

Next week, I’ll probably run off to Vegas and get married. I’ll keep you posted.

My way or the Seg-way

Me on my Segway. Artist’s conception.

So I had a birthday recently, and my family gathered on Saturday to make a big deal of it. In their own, uniquely Walker way, of course.

The perfect Walker celebration involves finding an activity that’s a) something the subject’s interested in, b) fun, and c) slightly humiliating.

They found the perfect thing. First of all, it was a tour of St. Paul, the more colorful of our Twin Cities (there are two of them, reading from left to right, in case you’re wondering). Secondly, it was a history tour—right down my alley. Thirdly (and this was the clincher) it was a Segway tour, giving me (and, to be fair, all of us) the opportunity to look like dorks on the hallowed avenues of our state’s capitol.

It was a huge success. Honestly, my conservative, hidebound reservations about the Segway remain firmly in place. But it would be vain to deny that the things are easy to learn and a whole lot more fun than you think they’ll be.

The wonderful thing about a Segway is that it’s intuitive. You lean forward and it goes forward. You straighten up and it stops. Lean back (just a little) and it goes into reverse. You lean on the handlebar to go right or left. Because the machine senses your movements, and there’s no intermediate stage of controls and levers, it soon starts feeling like a part of you. When you have to yield it up at the end of your allotted time, you miss it, like an amputated (if numb) limb.

I hasten to add that this has not turned me into a “small is beautiful” greenie. The trouble with the Segway is that fun is about all it’s good for. When I ask myself, “What’s this marvelous device in service of?” the only answer I can come up with is, a showy toy for people with a lot of surplus money. It’s a cheap way (cheap in mileage, not in initial cost) to get around town, but most of us carry things when we travel, often bulky things. You can hang a backpack on a Segway, but that’s about the limit of its carrying capacity (I wonder if they sell a trailer).

My hope for the Segway is that American ingenuity can find a way to translate this cool technology into something actually useful—a new generation of wheelchairs, for instance. This is too good to languish as a rich man’s toy.

To my family, in any case, thanks for a very enjoyable day.

A side order of pictures

Photobucket works for me tonight, so I can share some photos from Nordic Fest in Decorah, Iowa.

Here’s an eager crowd learning all about Vikings from the Skjaldborg guys.

Decorah 1

Here’s the Vikings extracting much-needed sustenance from pork chops, the national cuisine of Iowa.

Decorah 2

And here’s my friend, under my own awning, showing off the mail shirt he’s making.

Decorah 3

The big thing that kept occupying my mind all weekend (and my friend got pretty sick of hearing about it too) was the fact that when I attended Luther College, which is also in Decorah, it was forty blankety-blank years ago. Forty years.

When I consider that fact, I’m not surprised by how much has changed. I’m amazed anything remains the same. The fact that some of the same buildings yet stand in Decorah, and that a few of them even serve the functions they did back in my time, seems somehow against nature. When I think that forty years have passed, I imagine that the very hills should have been brought low, and the river should have o’erflowed its banks and found a fresh course. Everybody should have flying cars, and we should all be taking our sustenance in tablet form.

Well, that last part did sort of come true. I do not lack for pills in my diet in this strange old world.