Dec 29, 2006

A somewhat political post

I know, I know. I said I don't do politics on this blog and really, I haven't changed my mind. But some things have been getting my attention lately, and they are politics-related, so here goes.

First off, Gerald Ford. The only president I genuinely liked besides Ronald Reagan. I moved back to California the summer of '76 and it was an election year. Later, I read an excerpt from Ford's book "A Time to Heal", where he says that after Vietnam, Watergate, Chile, oil embargos, etc., he didn't think that it would do the country any good to drag it through a trial involving a former president. So he pardoned Nixon. What baffled Ford was how many people thought that meant Nixon was innocent. I, however, still in my teens, was highly impressed by Ford's thinking. I found him pragmatic and caring. Years later, after everything that had happened to his wife Betty, I came to admire him for standing by her, and to admire Betty for bringing both breast cancer and medication addiction out of the closet.

If I had been old enough to vote, I would have voted for Ford. Y'see, I never liked that peanut farmer from Georgia. Oh, his brother Billy was a riot, making beer and helping Gaddafi, but Jimmy couldn't move his lips when he talked and that drove me crazy. Then there were some other things during his presidency, the most annoying being all the folks from back east moving to California because we had the jobs, and the most upsetting being his handling of the Iranian hostage crisis that made me vote for Reagan. Yes, I did, as did a lot of others.

Looking back, I wonder if the world truly has progressed. I drove Sunset Boulevard to get to work sometimes, and passed by a fancy house owned by some oil sheik's son. It entertained thousands of Los Angelenos, because the owners had painted pubic hair on the marble nudes lining its front terrace. Stuck in rush hour traffic gave many of us plenty of viewing time. (The house no longer exists.) Lots of Arabians in the oil business were living in Beverly Hills at the time. But let me back up to before I entered the world of employment, to high school.

In my senior year (class of '78, in case you were wondering), I took an art class. One girl in my class, Miranda, announced one day that she was now calling herself Persian. This was the typical response of any Iranian who was siding with the exiled shah of Iran versus those who were in agreement with the Ayatollah Khomeini. There were demonstrations in Los Angeles. The police cordoned off some streets, the pro-Ayatollah folks marched down them, and nobody got hurt or insulted. I don't think we could do that in today's world and the thought makes me cry.

Meanwhile, Carter was also busy visiting Camp David a lot. At the time, I had no clue why it was so friggin' important that he get Egypt and Israel together. Didn't we have enough problems for a president to take care of? Like all those jobless people arriving in droves to L.A., making affordable housing impossible to find? All I got out of the process was a joke that is so dated but still makes me laugh:

Anwar Sadat believed that the US was biased towards Israel in the Camp David talks. When asked what made him believe that, he said it was all the freeways named after Israel's prime minister, and pointed to a sign:

BEGIN
FREEWAY

Hah. The 70's. Man, did we have fun - and all without regard for political correctness and at the same time, it never felt easier to cross racial, political, cultural, and ethnic boundaries. We "got down" with everybody. ...I feel like crying again. But onwards.

After failing to do anything to make us Americans feel proud including bringing home our hostages, a feeling we needed after Watergate, OPEC-embargos and Vietnam, Carter taught a lot of us Americans a lesson - one I think subconsciously is the reason Kerry couldn't beat Bush in 2004: We don't like feeling weak. We don't like a president who makes us look weak. We don't like being the butt of other nations' jokes and especially not any nation that's holding our own in captivity. So we voted for Reagan. As it happens, Reagan is also the only president whose person never irritated me. Perhaps because he has Sagittarius rising.

Well, Jimmy Carter started to win points with me by apparantly turning into a far better diplomat and elder statesman than he was president. Then he goes and writes this (and I must admit, it's a bit unsettling to find his book using the search words "Jimmy Carter apartheid").

Now, I'm pro-Israel simply because I see no reason to be anti-Israel, and I'm anti-anti-Semitic, simply because pigeon-holing people and giving them nasty labels is antithetic to peace on any scale. And also not fun (and sometimes not even safe) if you're the one being pigeon-holed. So it's just better not to encourage any kind of meanness between people. You know, what the hippie nailed to the planks said: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The western world's been rewarded for its reaction to the events of 9/11 with bombings in Madrid and London and riots because of the Mohammed drawings published in a Danish newspaper, to name those events that managed to get my attention. Then Israel bombed Beirut anew and all the old pro-Palestinian feelings from the 1970's rose up again in Norway. This time no recognizable scarves, but definitely a palpable anti-Semitism.

Oh, fine, people have got to argue, take sides, have opinions, and that's how it is and how it always will be...and then the synagogue in Oslo was riddled with bullets. In the aftermath, a Jewish spokesperson wished that at least the King of Norway would have said something, and one Norwegian I was chatting with, said, "Why should he?"

Why should he...?

Why should he not?

Nobody seems to see the difference between criticizing a country's actions and attacking people who happen to be affiliated with that country. Everyone here knows that a nation's government is not the same as its population. Yet, we forget that when criticizing foreigners. I know about this. Before the left wing finally loosened its grip in the early 80's, some Norwegians would talk to me as if I were personally responsible for whatever the US got up to. (If I were, Saddam Hussein would still be in charge in Iraq. So maybe it's just as well that I'm not.)

I thought, this is just the usual; it's a national pastime in Norway to bash the US and therefore also Israel.

Then Carter writes his book and claims he is not anti-Semitic when he criticizes Israel. Letting rhetoric like "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" adorn the cover of your book is bound to send a message, Jimmy, the wrong message, because not everybody will read that book, and discover that you really mean that Israel doesn't practice apartheid. I hope that's not what you intended?

Mark F. and I have been corresponding. I have discovered that I suck at Middle Eastern history and Judaism. Many ideas we Christian-derived European folks have are because we all suck in Middle Eastern history and Judaism. I have decided that I need to educate myself (I'm starting by reading a book about Islam by Robert Spencer), because I want to be informed. I want to be able to correct a lot of the mistaken information people have, like believing the Jews stole land from the Palestinians (they didn't).

There's something about what's going on right now, apparantly endorsed by ex-President Carter, that reminds me of something... something bad... something like my grandma would have experienced. She lived in New York City from about 1924 to 1954 and worked for Jewish publishers in the 1930's. She remembered Jewish co-workers, who were upset by what relatives in Europe were telling them, imploring president Roosevelt to do something about that Hitler fellow. He didn't. Not until 1941.

Now that I've "hitlered" my own blogpost, I must end it.

I hope I'm awake the day they come to take somebody else's rights away so I can try to stop them and keep mine.

UPDATE DEC 30: Mark F. has his own post up based on mine.

I have high self-esteem

Popular psychology has a number of tidbits on what can reveal your true self. Over at Whitley Strieber's Unknown Country I have now discovered that I have high self-esteem because I like murder mysteries with a surprise ending. Not that I feel smart when I read mysteries (I never solve them), but that's OK. The bit about why people enjoy mysteries versus suspense stories fits for me, too. I like a rich tapestry of possible culprits, and the best mystery writers offer up a number of logical suspects with ditto motives and opportunities.

I have never thought that no human being is capable of killing. What makes a murder mystery interesting is the exploration of what it would take to make an otherwise intelligent, moral person take such a drastic step (murder mysteries involving a psychopath are no fun). Agatha Christie was good at pointing out that greed, jealousy, and revenge were the usual reasons. It's never more noble than that. But if they're good at covering their tracks, you need a good sleuth to catch them. Which reminds me: I have two P.D. James books to read. I enjoy her sleuth, Adam Dalgliesh.

Dec 26, 2006

The simple life is not lazy

Simplifying our lives does not mean sinking into idleness, but on the contrary, getting rid of the most subtle aspect of laziness: the one which makes us take on thousands of less important activities. —MATTHIEU RICARD


Ah, yes, distractions. I can attest to that, that having myriad of things and choices tends to distract a body, cutting into time that could have been spent on projects that might leave a more satisfying feeling. You know, like when you've spent a little while surfing the internett - and then realize it's been hours, hours not spent doing something else. In other words, make sure you are in charge of your habits, not the other way around.

Nothing in particular meme

It's the second day of Christmas, which is a holiday in Norway, so I have nothing better to do than this (for now):

  1. Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed?
    Open. Unless I have guests.

  2. What was the weather like on your graduation day?
    Sunny and warm. I was living in Southern California at the time.

  3. What kind of winter coat do you own?
    One long black wool coat and a black lacquer one with a python-patterned faux fur lining. That last is waterproof and the one I wear the most.

  4. When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group of people?
    Early this year some time, at some "vision meeting", reading my group's answers to the rest of the assembled co-workers.

  5. Where do you keep your change?
    Coin purse.

  6. Describe your keychains?
    My main one is a leather "coin purse" looking thing.

  7. What is your favorite flavor of jelly?
    Doesn't matter. Jelly never tastes as good as jam.

  8. Some things you are excited about?
    My cracked rib getting better. Finding out what is waiting in the mail for me as soon as normal functioning returns to the society I live in. 2007.

  9. Do you re-use towels after you shower?
    Sure. I make sure they dry between uses.

  10. Have you ever been in a planetarium?
    Yes. Including the kind that have Laserium. :-)

  11. Have you ever received one of those big tins with three kinds of popcorn?
    No. I didn't even know there was such a thing. (Only in America…)

  12. Do you like what the ocean does to your hair?
    No, but those crazy scientists who make hair products do. They invented a spray that'll give your hair the exact same icky quality sea water does as a way of getting a style to stay. I tried it. I'd rather be in the ocean.

  13. Any plans for Friday night?
    TV, and lots of it. Gawd, I hope there's something good on!

  14. What is out your back door?
    Don't have a back door.

  15. What's the most painful dental procedure you've ever had?
    I got a huge cavity in junior high because I ate a lot of candy that year, thanks to a gas station just a block away from the school bus stop. The dentist wasn't aware how deep that sucker was, and started working on me without anasthesia. Man, was that a bad idea!

  16. Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach?
    Why? I carry ID.

  17. Who did you lose your concert virginity to?
    Neil Diamond.

  18. Do you ever leave messages on people's answering machine?
    Yes, and I always sound like a robot but at least I don't always hang up.

  19. How many different beverages have you had today?
    None.

  20. Last thing you recieved in the mail?
    Bills and notice of a package waiting at the post office.

  21. Have you had to take out a loan for school?
    No.

  22. Do you have any famous ancestors?
    Somebody on my dad's side of the family came over on the Mayflower.

  23. Your prom night?
    All I remember is that my date was a fantastic dancer and kept me on my feet all evening, and that my dress started to annoy me.

  24. Do you know all the words to the song on your MySpace profile?
    I don't do MySpace.

  25. Are you any good at math?
    Good enough, though I need paper and pencil.

  26. What were you doing 15 minutes ago?
    As Paula (from whom I lifted this) said: Starting this fucking meme. (Wow, Paula, it really does take 15 minutes to do! And in my case, another 15 to edit because I forgot some code.)

  27. What were you doing this morning at 8 AM?
    Sleeping.

  28. When was the last time you shaved?
    Day before yesterday. Legs and armpits. No, that's all you need to know.

  29. Explain what ended your last relationship.
    Common sense.

Dec 22, 2006

From Mercury to the Garnet Star

The above animation of planets and stars to scale starts with our own planet Mercury and ends with the red supergiant Mu Cephei, also known as the Garnet Star - a very pretty name given it in honor of Sir William Herschel.

Warm and wet

Today Bergen is warmer than Rome, reports our local newspaper, and tells us also that 2006 will be a year where Bergen breaks a number of old weather records: Never before have we not had a frost before Christmas; previous annual average temperature was 8,8C (47.8F), while 2006 can boast 9,3C (48.7F); we have had 56 continuous days of precipitation and will beat the record of 59 days from the winter of 1974/75 since rain is predicted for the rest of the year. Which brings me to the current joke making the rounds:

A bad man had died and found himself in a very, very long line waiting to get into Hell. He observed that every so often, someone ahead of him in line did not enter the Gates of Hell and get thrown into the fire, but instead was tossed aside.

After observing this for a while, he finally asked the fellow ahead of him why some were tossed aside.

"Oh, those are people from Bergen," was the reply. "They don't burn."

And that should tell you how bad it is, because normally there are no jokes about the people from Bergen being badly affected by wet weather. This is because Bergen folk are born with webbed toes, not skis on their feet.

Dec 20, 2006

Dragon Lady

Via Sravana:

You Are a Dragon
You are very charismatic and incredibly popular. People are drawn to your energy, but you are a very difficult person to get to know. You are very active - you are usually hard at work or play. You enjoy drama, and you enjoy anything unusual or eccentric.

Roy's meme

Lifted via Paula: Pick up the nearest book, go to page 123, and post the sixth, seventh, and eighth sentences. I've seen this meme before but have never had a book besides my Strunk and White's "The Elements of Style" close at hand, until now.

"If you want it to be air, act as if it's air, breathe it. Try."
Maybe it's something about the presence of an advanced soul, I thought.

(Answer follows. Reveal by highlighting with mouse.) "Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah" by Richard Bach. The reluctant messiah is trying to explain how he can swim through dirt like it's water. Another earlier messiah chose to walk on water like it was dirt.

Dec 19, 2006

A good reason to be brought into the world?

Norway's approach to technology involving embryos is cautious and conservative. Norway bans in vitro fertilization for anyone except married heterosexual couples, for example. Now, after a debate involving a family that wanted a second child so they could get bone marrow to help a sick existing child, Norway has now decided to allow for genetic testing of in vitro fertilized eggs before implanting - out of the country. It won't be done here.

I have no particular opinion about the technology itself; my stance is one of a mix of admiration for the creativity and a bit of skepticism. Man will think of all kinds of things, good and bad, in the name of science or progress. What's making me write today, is a nagging feeling about the whole issue of having a new, healthy child, in order to harvest it for bone marrow to help a sick, older sibling. What does this sort of "rescue operation" say about loving all your children equally? Will the new child be loved for its own sake? What if its bone marrow can't be used after all? How do the efforts to save an older child justify performing painful procedures on a younger child who is brought into existence because of those procedures? Is this fair or loving to that new child?

I'm sure that parents who are in this situation will assure me that they will love their kids equally, no matter what, but I still have a nagging feeling that somewhere, on some level, that this reason for bringing a kid into the world is just wrong.

Dec 18, 2006

Koselig dugnad

I can tell I'm well again. I'm stir-crazy and bored. I no longer want to rest up; I want to do something!

Right now, I do have something to do: A task I must do every 6 weeks (it's actually 5 since I swapped with the neighbor, thinking I wouldn't be here during my week).

Norwegian has a few words that are impossible to translate properly - not even into other Scandinavian languages. One is "koselig": The catch-all phrase for anything nice, whether it be a visit, a knick-knack, or chit-chat while in line. The other word is "dugnad", which is a type of volunteer work, but more akin to barn-raising than to candy-striping. It is the favorite word of co-ops everywhere. The joint property gets tended thanks to dugnad, or rather, a dugnad committee in charge of organizing said dugnad, which includes lawn mowing, hedge trimming and handrail painting. There are other tasks that are handled in the spirit of dugnad, like letting each condo owner repaint a bit of the foundation of the building they live in, or plant flowers in front of their respective main entrances, or the weekly washing of the communal areas of each apartment building. And that is what it is my turn to do.

I shall now don my raingear, old gloves I no longer care about, unravel the communal hose, and go outside in near-freezing but rainy (and dark) weather and hose down the bit of road that goes in front of our apartment building, and also hose down the bit of path that leads from said road to our main entrance. Then I'll wash the lobby floor and the stairs that run from my landing down to the lobby (1 flight). I'll also wash the hallways that lead into the basement locker areas. I always procrastinate, and yet, once I'm out there, preferably with my iPod in my ears, it's rather meditative.

As a condo owner I am required to perform this duty as part of my contract with the co-op. But it's still a type of dugnad because else we'd either ignore it or pay someone to do it. So here I am, "volunteering" my services so as not to bug my neighbors. And they had better reciprocate. Complaints about neglected regular chores are Number 1 in all co-ops. "Community spirit" is best maintained in Norway by having a good "dugnad" spirit.

Dec 17, 2006

Revamped

I was told about RapidWeaver and decided to give it a try. I had fun figuring out how to customize an existing template and making photos to use for it. So my website is updated in appearance, if not in content.

Dec 16, 2006

Te-Shan says

Just have no mind on things and no things on mind, and you will naturally be empty and spiritual, tranquil and sublime. —TE-SHAN


The above is wonderfully self-explanatory, though the word "empty" may confuse Western readers. Don't worry about that word. It may (or may not) become a bit clearer if you read about Te-Shan's role in Zen Buddhism.

Dec 14, 2006

My body is boss

Not sure what I did, but apparantly, my body is not happy with me getting all ready to be busy again. It therefore pulled a muscle or something in my ribs on Tuesday afternoon. Hah, says my body, that'll keep you from doing whatever with wild abandon!

Fine. I apparantly need a longer rest than the virus is giving me (coughing's almost gone) and this how my body tells me. I've never injured my ribs before in any way so this is new. It makes coughing quite the challenge. I roll over onto the hurt side, press my arm into my ribs and that helps. If I don't, I get a sharp pain right under my boob. For some reason, I just don't feel like letting my doctor see my boob, so I'm going to let time take care of this. Nothing hurts unless I cough or do sidestretches or keep my arms in the air for longer than one shampooing, so I figure nothing's broken and that it's not a hernia.

I'm one of those people who listens to her body and who has a body who will definitely "talk" to her. I get passed a note, and I read it, and I look at my body and nod, and my body nods back, and we enter a secret deal where I let my body get some rest. My body passes me a new note when it feels better. Any change away from usual healthy behaviors is a note from my body.

We get along wonderfully, my body and I. No injuries, no long-term illnesses, nothing chronic, no pain. We do these occassional immune defense system tests or bouts of IBS and that's about it. They are reminders along the lines of, "I function very well for you. I am an excellent container for your soul in this lifetime and I'm easy-going and strong and I heal very quickly. So what's with the gas-inducing tortilla? You know better! I'm not junk, don't feed me junk! And this emotional stuff that's affecting me? Get your head straightened out. Relax and be happy so I can, too! Thanks."

My body is both tougher and more flexible than I am. I am truly blessed.

Astrology: I have the moon (emotions) in Gemini (talking, thinking, note-taking) in 6th house (health, routines). Of course I talk to myself and answer back. ;-)

Dec 13, 2006

10 songs I'm embarrassed I like

I've been tagged by Hanne, a fellow Mac-user here in Norway, to admit to ten songs I'd rather the world didn't know I like. Thing is, I either don't have songs like that, or I've already admitted to them.

Uhm, but if I dig a bit deeper, then I have to admit to liking so-called Christian rock. Hits me just right, like a Disney theme song or your typical "hit song" in a movie about a hit song. They are all basic major chord pop songs, much like the most popular entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. And I do have some songs that I like, but that I know are cheesy.

So here are the 10 worst songs/artists I can think of admitting to owning and liking (in no particular order).

  • There's Whole Lot Of Loving / Six
    Six voices, attractive clean-cut young people, G-rated lyrics, and very dancable major chord pop. No evergreen except in my ears.
  • Loves Theme / Barry White (Love Unlimited Orchestra)
    I actually associate this song with travelling down the Mississippi on a raft with a very cute Huckleberry Finn as played by a young Jeff East in "Tom Sawyer". Other than that, it is one of my all-time favorite instrumentals. Disco beat, and strings strings strings! Love those strings!
  • An old Monza commercial jingle
    It had a nice build-up. A few heartbeats of bliss. Always got my attention.
  • America / Neil Diamond
    Wonderful "anthem" complete with flag, pride, hope, future - and that reminds me: I want the soundtrack to "The Muppet Movie" so I can hear Fozzie say "Patriotism swells in the heart of the American bear." It's like that.
  • From A Distance / Bette Midler
    My new Christmas song of choice. Cheesy electronics (can you say "eighties"?) instead of a real orchestra (ya shoulda sprung for the band, Bette!). A few stupid moments in the lyrics, but most are sane and meaningful. Hits me right. Makes me think of tinsel and hope.
  • I'm A Train / Albert Hammond
    It's about a man who thinks he's a train. Catchy. I wish I had the courage to sing it to myself in public.
  • Village People
    I'll still rock to songs like "Ready For The 80's", "Go West" and "Do You Wanna Spend The Night", and do a bit of voyeuring in my mind to "Fire Island".
  • Ring Ding Ding (Original Radio Edit) / Pondlife Featuring Froggy Frogspawn
    I don't usually go for novelty songs. They get old so fast. But this one, complete with sped-up vocal imitations of a motorcycle engine and body noises that are supposed be either a croak, a burp or a fart, cracks me up. Especially if I think it's a fart. Made in Sweden, of course.
  • A New Day Has Come / Celine Dion
    Nothing screams "Loser" in Norway like liking Celine Dion, but I bought the album "A New Day Has Come", not just the song. Favorite cuts are the title track, "I'm Alive" and "Sorry For Love". Deal.
  • Ole Ivars
    There is one other thing that screams "Loser" in Norway louder than liking Celine Dion and that is liking dance music bands like Ole Ivars. While you're busy criticizing my choice of music, I'll be on the dance floor having the time of my life.

Hey, I managed to fill the list! By the way, I don't own any Christian rock.

Yet.

Dec 12, 2006

Marsha's moving out

Yep, she's a virus, just a virus, a real bitch of a virus, but today my doctor caught her gathering boxes to pack stuff in. I'm on sick-leave till Friday, and that should do it.

I'm looking forward to getting well again. I always say that when I get sick: Oh, boy, am I going to be happy and grateful when I get well! Truth is, I have plenty to be grateful for right now. I have a wonderfully well-functioning immune defense system. It has done everything right from the first moment Marsha moved in.

It was recently reported by Science Magazine (and in Norwegian) that it is important to encourage a fever (not to the point of complications from fever, though), because it's the fever that kick-starts a number of other immune defense responses. Fever makes you lethargic and tired thus encouraging you to rest and not tax your system. The heat from the fever creates some changes that trigger and aide white blood cells.

I can't remember if it's feed a fever, starve a cold or vice-versa, but judging by my recent experience, it's starve both. I've hardly eaten, but I have been drinking a lot of fluids, and been very fond of soup. For the stupid cough that not even a prescription cough medicine with morphine could stop, I tried honey (dissolved in warm water or tea). Works just as well as that nasty stuff you have to measure carefully and take only 4 times a day. The best expectorant (phlegm-thinner) is water. Knowing stuff like aspirin and paracetamol would not only ease the pain of my sore throat, but also lower the fever, I took those things only at night so I could get some sleep. In the daytime, I drank warm liquids or sucked lozenges.

So first gradually getting worse, then gradually getting better, my body, with what seems like the most counter-productive response to an infection ever (coughing so I don't get any sleep, for example), has nevertheless successfully managed to serve Marsha the virus her eviction notice.

Good health is not just about being well. Good health is also about successfully fighting illness. Thank you, body, for being so good at what you do.

Dec 11, 2006

All this time to write and no brain

I've been home from work for a week now, with a virus named Marsha making me cough and ache. I've had plenty of time to be at the computer, to write, but the downside of being sick is that it shuts the brain down. My apologies to my readers.

I need to get rid of my new roommate quickly. Marsha keeps me up nights (and she just may be keeping my neighbor up, too; walls are a bit thin).

Dec 9, 2006

Stupid is as stupid does?

This could be an infinitely long post, because there is no shortage of stupidity. But I can't help but wonder if the world isn't in fact dumber now than it used to be. This is what I've come across recently in forehead-slapping idiocy (the last three just today).

I read this as a factual practical joke in a family. Now, I always thought that school, no matter how much it currently sucks, managed to teach kids that birds come from eggs. All birds hatch out of eggs. How can an adult not know this?

Innumerable calls to some helpdesk stating the computer won't come on, and the call comes during a local power outage. Or: Customer: "If I unplug my computer, will it shut off?" That baffles me. We in the west have all been raised with electricity. We know that to get something working, it has to be plugged in and switched on. We know that things like lightning or electrical errors can knock out the power or a fuse and therefore electrical things won't work. A computer uses electricity. We know this. Don't we?

Consumerist.com tells of a customer who was quoted a price of .002 cents per kilobyte and got billed .002 dollars per kilobyte. A 22 minute phone call did nothing but prove that people apparantly forget that a cent is still 1/100 of a dollar, even when you introduce a decimal point.

Via the Consumerist.com I also learn of shoppers refusing to leave a shopping mall that was on fire. "Mentor fire Battalion Chief Joe Busher says shoppers wanted to stay and buy even as smoke filled the store. He says firefighters had to block the door so customers didn't come in." This I can somewhat understand, as I have myself tried to enter a smoke-filled stairway during a fire drill at work. I was stopped by the fire guard and at first tried to pass him, then I noticed the smoke. We all act on auto-pilot, I believe, but when something does happen, we should have enough sense to stop ourselves from routine habit and consider our own (or someone else's) safety for the moment. One time the fire alarm went in our local shopping center and nobody made a move to leave - not the shoppers, the employees, or mall security. I did leave.

Finally (for today), is a statement (via Archer) so utterly devoid of the use of brain cells, it's almost worth a Nobel prize in its own right. "Just because you can conceive a child outside a one-woman, one-man marriage doesn't mean it's a good idea," [Carrie Gordon Earll] said. "Love can't replace a mother and a father." (From Yahoo's report on Mary Cheney's baby.) There are a number of arguments used by those against gays having kids, like Earll's above, the worry about not having an opposite sex parent or being bullied, and some others. If you want to make a case against gay parents, the above won't cut it. They don't reflect common sense nor actual experience. Kids of heteros often grow up without a father, for example. Kids of heteros get bullied. Kids of heteros manage to grow up without love. What else are kids of heteros subjected to? Drug and alcohol abuse, parental promiscuity, divorce, instability, poverty, violence, sexual abuse - you name it. Any number of things can happen to a kid, even if that kid's parents are straight. Being straight guarantees nothing, not even a relationship with God. You know this. It is stupid to think otherwise.

Proustian meme

(A Vanity Fair Proust questionnaire I got via Paula, who answered far more tongue-in-cheek than I. No, I don't know what this has to do with Proust.)

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

- Believing it will remain perfect.

What is your greatest fear?

- Besides spiders, heights and cramped places? Not being missed.

What historical figure do you most identify with?

- Nixon. He screwed up the second time, and I tend(ed) to do that, too.

Which living person do you most admire?

- My boss. He's very kind and practical and supportive and has been very loyal to me.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

- Laziness.

What trait do you most deplore in others?

- Having a brain and refusing to use it, or having a heart and refusing to use it (often the two coincide).

What is your greatest extravagance?

- iTunes Store.

On what occasion do you lie?

- Never. I choose not to say anything if I can't say the truth.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

- As Paula said, the whole aging deal.

What is your favorite journey?

- Inward.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

- Uhm, what are the virtues?

Which living person do you most despise?

- I don't actually despise anyone. The person who currently frustrates me the most is George W. Bush.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

- None that I know of.

What is your greatest regret?

- Getting sick this week.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

- Me. Not loving myself would mean I was wasting skin and air.

When and where were you happiest?

- Were? That past tense is a total bummer. I'm happiest anywhere and any time I find myself totally enjoying myself without a second thought.

Which talent would you most like to have?

- OCD.

What is your current state of mind?

- Not its usual due to being sick with a fever.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

- Nothing.

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

- Fewer dead members.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what would it be?

- River.

If you could choose what or who to come back as, what would it be?

- Myself.

What do your consider your greatest achievement?

- Get back to me in 20 years.

What is your most treasured possession?

- This here computer and my internet access. And my memory.

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

- Seeing a non-suicidal solution to your problem(s) just as you pass the point of no return in your suicide attempt.

What is your most marked characteristic?

- My name.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

- The same I like in a woman.

What is the quality you most admire in a woman?

- Awareness, self-respect, kindness and humor.

What do you most value in your friends?

- Humor, sympathy, good conversation.

Who are your favourite writers?

- Isaac Asimov, Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Ruth Rendell.

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?

- Jean Valjean.

Who are your heroes in real life?

- My boss and co-workers; they are all an inspiration in how to be happy, whole people. Also, anybody doing his or her best in Iraq.

What are your favourite names?

- John.

What is it that you most dislike?

- Stringbeans.

How would you like to die?

- Paula said morphine overdose. Not a bad choice. My first one is "from drowning after going overboard from a cruiseship at age 92".

What is your motto?

- This too shall pass. It's the only cliché I've ever heard that gives me comfort.

Dec 7, 2006

Types of misery

Misery 1: Fever, sore throat, constant cough, and home from work since Monday (and staying home tomorrow, too). Also trying to get a hold of a doctor without having to take a bus or taxi someplace. I need a doctor's notice for work.

Misery 2: Royal League match tonight here in town, on a soggy soccer field, in driving rain, with hardly anybody in the bleachers. They are definitely trying to play a game, and I am trying to watch, but I understand the lack of enthusiasm from both me and the soccer players.

Misery 3: The joke is, it's time to start building an ark, because it's been raining for 40 days and 40 nights. Nothing like a nice bit of gallows humor while whole lakes form on fields and roads, and a coinciding high tide adds a nice touch by flooding Bryggen. Twice.

Oh, hey, our team just scored! Heia, Brann! OK, a little less misery.

UPDATE: Misery 4: The other team scored just a couple of minutes later. We won 3-2!!!

Dec 3, 2006

This was easy

...but had that Brazilian tarantula done anything else besides walk across my palms, I would have freaked. As it was, her feet felt like tiny catpaws. So, how do you celebrate your birthday?

The idea of One

Most religions state that we are all one, united under God. Looking back on his home planet from space drove that point home to astronaut James Irwin. Even a good number of worldviews and world organizations say the same, though without the mention of a deity. I find the idea hard to grasp. Intellectually, I get it. I see that we all struggle with the same things, and are comforted by the same things. I see that we all have a responsibility to the planet we live on, so we can keep on living on it. But there is a spiritual side, an emotional side to this idea that tends to lie just out of reach of my understanding, so I can't consistently feel one with everybody else.

I have started on a new book (audiobook version), "Light On Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom" by B.K.S. Iyengar with John J. Evans and Douglas Abrams. (Iyengar himself is on the cover with some of the longest eyebrows I've ever seen, and a wonderfully happy face.)

The book is about the philosophy behind yoga, and I recognize some of the ideas already from more western philosophies. What got my attention came 53.5 minutes into my "read":

[My transcript]

If we ever find ourselves apart from or superior to others, pure or more elevated by yoga, we can be sure that we are becalmed or even drifting back into a state of ingorance. It was Ramanuja, the saint and philosopher, who over 900 years ago, exposed a brahminical misconception that we can be above others. On the contrary, practice and purity of life place us among, not above. Just as we have discussed inner integration within our own body, this naturally leads to integration with all other life.

Integrity means "one". One is the number that can go into all other numbers. The fully sensitive and sensible being becomes not a somebody, but the common denominator of humanity."


Ah, no wonder I haven't been able to understand. Becoming one with ourselves will automatically make us one with everyone else. Trying to be one with everyone else while still feeling incomplete or empty as an individual, won't bring about that nice warm fuzzy feeling about the rest of the world. This is a concept, a spiritual reality (and even a psychological one) that I've heard told in other ways. Start with yourself, and make sure you yourself are whole. That will automatically make the world whole for you, too.

Creating Christmas

This year I really feel Christmassy. I usually root for the Grinch come Christmas, but this year I am feeling especially ready for the gaudiness and panic. I suspect it has to do with the weather. Bergen just had its second-wettest November ever (last year's was wetter) with a few other statistical notables: Warmer than average and not one day without precipitation. We're at December 3 and have had only one day of frost so far and that was November 2. The relentless "this would be summer if the trees had leaves" is making many of us long for the picture postcard version of this time of year.

So, inspired by a tree I found, I changed my wallpaper to show snow, and went searching for lights and snow for my Mac desktop. (The snowflakes are animated.)

Dec 1, 2006

The joys of spoiled food

I once asked a Danish co-worker if he liked rømmegrøt (sour cream porridge) and he said no. Nor did he like lutefisk (lye fish), or some other Norwegian delicacies. "I don't eat spoiled food," he said.

Human creativity never ceases to amaze me. Who figured out that live grubs, or whole-fried flying dog, or raw seal blubber, or deap-fried spiders were edible? Or that fish damaged by lye (as in being covered in ash after a warehouse fire) could be salvaged and turned into a delicacy that currently costs USD50 (inluding refills) at a restaurant?

October to December is lutefisk-season. My department have an annual Christmas dinner at Bryggeloftet, a restaurant in the heart of Bergen that serves traditional Norwegian (and a few local) dishes, and does it very well. Some of us choose pinnekjøtt (literally: stick meat), salted and dried ribs of mutton, steamed over birch sticks (traditionally), served with mashed turnips and boiled potatoes, with akevitt and beer as the preferred beverage. Pinnekjøtt is also the traditional Christmas dinner of Western Norway and I usually have it at the departmental Christmas dinner.

This year, however, I was in the mood for lutefisk. It has such a mellow flavor, it actually tastes better than regular boiled cod. The trick is to avoid any gelatenous consistency which you get if you over-cook for more than a second. Bryggeloftet has never failed at making firm, flaky fish. Add pepper, hot mustard and bacon bits for flavor (yummy!), and serve with pea stew and boiled potatoes. Beer and akevitt to drink. My favorite akevitt is Gammel Opland.

I ate everything on my plate and did nibble a bit of seconds. Spoiled fish is a delicacy!

Nov 30, 2006

All you need is love

Keep reading enough spiritual, metaphysical or even psychology books, and you'll find that love is indeed the answer.

Today, thanks to a dispute between two of Norway's largest TV stations, I was reintroduced to the Beatles' song "All You Need Is Love". There is a lot of spiritual wisdom (and encouragement) in the lyrics:


All You Need Is Love
The Beatles (Lennon/McCartney)


Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy.
There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be in time
It's easy.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
There's nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
All you need is love (all together now)
All you need is love (everybody)
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.

(Lyrics from Allspirit who have also noticed the song's spiritual message.)

Nov 29, 2006

Respect and balance

That's what it says on my Dove shampoo bottle: Respect and balance.

Respect - an action. I admit I don't quite get "respect", what it means exactly, how to conjur it up automatically in myself. Generosity or gratitude seems easier. What I have observed about respect, though, is that it seems more universal than love because every living being recognizes it without fail. I have seen both animals and people with mental handicaps pull away when they were disrespected; they knew right away what was happening and didn't tolerate it. So what does that tell me about respect? That it's about not putting anyone else down, it's about not forcing your will or way onto someone else. It's all those good things: Listening well, being patient, having the attitude "live and let live", understanding that no-one else is exactly like you and still meeting the other as an equal. Respect is about acknowledging the rights of other living creatures to breathe the same air as you.

Balance - a quality. Back when I was fiddling around with various vegetarian diets I also tried macrobiotics. Macrobiotics defined foods as neutral, yang or yin - yang and yin being opposites. The idea was to eat as many neutral foods as possible, staying in the middle as it were, avoiding the two ends opposite of each other, in order to create balance. Going from one extreme to another is not balance; it is see-sawing (or even conflict). Recently I came across a comment that no guru goes to extremes but tends be a "middle-of-the-roader". To go to extremes means to lose balance. Think about how over the top some people are in their reactions (politics is a good place to look for examples). Those who see things as extremes (good or bad) are also the most easily upset; they aren't able to stay in the middle where it is easiest to achieve balance. It also takes a lot of energy to live on the edge, even in cooking, so the happy medium is the goal.

Nov 28, 2006

WW2 oil poster

WW2 oil poster

Last night I went to the local marine museum. Exhibits range from the viking era to today's highly computerized ships. One exhibit is dedicated to the World War 2 experiences of the Norwegian merchant marine, who were torpedoed by German submarines as early as September of 1939.

My grandpa sailed on oil tankers in convoys across the Atlantic for 6 years. That's how he came to meet my grandma. She was invited to a party at the Norwegian seaman's church in Brooklyn (New York) and he had shore-leave and attended the party.

A small poster hangs in the museum exhibit, telling of the importance of the convoys across the Atlantic. For me, it is also a reminder of romance.

Ego too big for the universe?

My friend Sravana blogged about a talk given by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. If you like good old-fashioned enthusiasm, you'll enjoy Tyson.

What's making me post about it here, is Tyson's explanation for why we often feel so small, so insignificant.

About 10.5 minutes into the film, Tyson mentions a letter from a psychologist whose job was to explore "the effects of things that make people feel small". In the letter, the psychologist stated that a show showing a zoom-out from earth had illicit just that feeling in him. Tyson thought this sounded wrong because when he looks up at the universe, he feels large. Then it occurred to him that the letter-writer's problem was that his ego was too large to begin with.

Nov 26, 2006

New blog

I have started a new blog today, Budding Yogini. Purpose: A blog dedicated to purely spiritual stuff. Not that my spiritual life is separate from the rest of my life, but I thought I'd gather spiritual and motivational statements that grab my attention in one place.

I didn't look at any astrological chart before I started. My mood was "Let's do this" after thinking about it for months. Interestingly, the chart for my first post does have several contacts to my natal chart including MC conjuncting my Jupiter, Venus conjuncting my Sun, and Mars conjuncting my Mercury.

Why Budding Yogini?

Welcome to the first post of my new blog. This blog will be dedicated to spiritual/philosophical musings. "Budding yogini" (a budding female practioner of yoga) is what my yoga instructor has called me.

Why this second blog? I have always had a philosophical bent, and a need for theism. I have always sought to understand the spiritual side of life. This past year, such things have gained focus for me, as my astrology has faded away.

I've been subscribing to a Zen page-a-day calendar, and will be musing on quotes that have caught my fancy there. I will also be musing on other quotes, spiritual sayings and the like. That is what this blog is for. For things that make me go "Hmmm" or maybe even "Wow!". Or that motivate me to try something I haven't tried before.

And I may even tell you how I and my downward-facing dog are doing.

Nov 24, 2006

It's just a coffee mug

Wednesday, we had a departmental meeting in what normally is our coffee break room, which boasts a sofa suite and a coffee table and photos on the walls from parties, company picnics and the like. Each of us has his or her own coffe cup or mug, usually scattered on the coffee table and reused each day (washing is up to the owner). Yesterday I discovered that my coffee mug was missing. Probably scooped up with the rest of the dishes from the meeting and sent to the employee cafeteria.

It annoys me. It's just a mug. It's not even pretty; it is plain white sporting only the black text logo of a fungus insurance firm (I kid you not), but it was given to me by a very friendly representative of said firm when I was new at my company, over 20 years ago. And I get a secret kick out of drinking out of something that has "hussopp" (literally: house fungus) in big letters on it.

But what I've come to realize really bothers me is that, in spite of that coffee mug being my regular cup for 8 years in this department, nobody has noticed it's mine. It was mistaken for one of the company mugs.

This is definitely one of those stupid minor annoyances in life that can become so major, if it isn't let go. But I'm torn between trying to get that mug back (and I have searched and will search again the cup racks in our cafeteria) and just saying, "Ah, fuck it" and bringing something else to work. Something my cow-orkers won't assume is company property. Like something bright red with "BITCH" written on it.

Hmmm... I think I know what I want for Christmas. ;-)

Nov 22, 2006

OK, enough with the quizzes

I suddenly realized that four posts in a row were me taking tests I knew I could pass with flying colors (i.e. I took them for the hell of it and got results I felt like sharing). So let's talk about tests, shall we?

I don't always march to same beat as everyone else, so those of you who find finals hell on earth should stop reading now.

I can honestly say that tests don't bother me. I like tests. Tests are fun. Tests can sometimes be frustrating right then and there, but I don't spend the night before a test studying for it, or tossing and turning in my sleep. A bit of nerves, perhaps, on the day itself, but once I've grabbed that #2 pencil (or these days, the mouse), I'm fine. In school, I discovered that if I did all my homework, I wouldn't have to cram for tests. I also discovered that my brain doesn't do cramming very well ("You want me to remember all this for the next 24 hours after ignoring it for 24 weeks? Yeah, right.") and since neither it nor I function without a good night's sleep, I'd rather be rested before being tested.

I should be a bit more specific: I like those multiple choice tests, and IQ tests and the goofy quizzes littering blogdom. I take surveys, I fill out forms, I check off all that apply. Heck, I even enjoy voting because it's like a multiple choice test. The hardest tests I've had to take were one in archeology in college because that teacher didn't do multiple choice ("You mean I have to organize what I know into complete sentences and paragraphs???"), and a chemistry test in high school. That chemistry test was one I dreaded. I was ill-prepared, but got out of it by fainting in the bathroom one morning. Turns out I, at age 17, had finally managed to get chicken pox. Two weeks home in bed, and then back to school and a make-up test in chemistry. I got a C. If memory serves, I got a B on the archeology test.

You didn't know I was interested in archeology, did you. It's a cool science; it involves enthusiastically digging around in someone else's garbage, trying to figure out what everything was for. I'm absolutely tickled by the idea that humans have been slobs our entire existence. I'm also fascinated by our existence-long relationship with death, and our general ingenuity. What made me lose interest in becoming an archeologist was the thought of using tiny little brushes to move a square mile of dirt. And chemistry is something I bother with only when the drain is clogged.

Another A

Your Vocabulary Score: A
Congratulations on your multifarious vocabulary! You must be quite an erudite person.

I don't much care for vocabulary tests because I don't really know a lot of five-syllable words, let alone their meaning. It turns out that there are some two-syllable words that are baffling. But still I got an A. Yay! Now to go look up "multifarious" and "erudite".

(Another rip-off from Paula, who got A+.)

Nov 21, 2006

And yet not a straight A student

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
Create a Quiz

By the way, I didn't actually know the answer to every single question, but I made a couple of well-educated (!) guesses. And, silly me, I'm actually quite tickled I got 100%! But I did not pay 100% attention while in high school. Nor did I get straight A's (my grade point average was 3.5). This sentence does not start with a conjunction.

(Via Paula)

Nov 19, 2006

Dedicated

What Kind of Reader Are You?

Your Result: Dedicated Reader
 

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
 
Literate Good Citizen
 
Book Snob
 
Fad Reader
 
Non-Reader
 

What Kind of Reader Are You?

I'm a bit surprised at being labelled dedicated. It must be those piles of to-read books I have. I will admit that I get nervous in homes where not a single book - not even a dictionary, cookbook or bible - is visible. I know that some people do not read books at all. Yes, I think there's something wrong with those people.

(Initially read on Literate Good Citizen Beep's LiveJournal.)

I'm a star!

You are The Star

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Star is one of the great cards of faith, dreams realised

The Star is a card that looks to the future. It does not predict any immediate or powerful change, but it does predict hope and healing. This card suggests clarity of vision, spiritual insight. And, most importantly, that unexpected help will be coming, with water to quench your thirst, with a guiding light to the future. They might say you're a dreamer, but you're not the only one.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

I got this via my friend Sravana who also got the star, too. She picked her card from the Cat People deck. I think the Dragon and the Cat People Star cards are both lovely. For what it's worth, the interpretation for The Star above echos where I'm at right now in my life.

Nov 18, 2006

Labels: Duh.

A friend commented that he didn't bother with labels on his blog. And I realized I had forgotten that other choice: No labels. Kind of like there's nothing on TV and you keep switching channels, totally forgetting that other option: The "off" button. So I have removed labels.

Energized in November

My writing hasn't been that frequent lately. Partly due to the Blogger brown-outs, but mostly due to being distracted by other things, and simply busy. It's a good sign if I go shopping, if I want new things and feel good about getting them, because unlike most women, I don't enjoy shopping for clothes and shoes and stuff like that. It takes energy and patience to go try everything on, so the mood has to strike me, and then I'll go. That's why the big purchases all at once.

September and October, thought bringing joy in their own right, did have a sneaky non-joy. I noticed that when I started to feel a familiar pain in my chest a few weeks ago. I recognized the signs of a broken heart. The muscles in the front of my chest have been tight and I get winded walking up the hill to my building. But I know what it is: Grief. Grief taking its own sweet time to work its way out of my system.

The first time I felt this was when my dear friend Maria died, May of 2000. That autumn, I became increasingly winded, and felt sharp pains right in the front of my chest. It didn't help that what had killed Maria was a heart attack. In March, I ended up with a sickleave because the tightness and pain had become regular. March was Maria's birthday month and we had always celebrated together. The following March I was also out on sickleave but not as long as the first (which was 6 weeks). The third March after Maria died, I was sick again for a week, but I finally realized what was happening, and the March after that, I stayed well and knew I was past the worst of it.

Now it's September/October that's getting to me. My grandparents' birthday months. Yoga stretches are helping to unwind the tightened chest muscles, and awareness of what's happening also helps.

It still pisses me off, this system of dying. Sometimes the statement that the pain you feel is equal to the love you had gives some comfort, but not always. Not right now. I don't like this aspect of getting older: The older I get, the more dead people I know. I don't find it love-like at all to have so many loved ones to count as gone.

Darkness and light tumbling head over heels with each other. Life itself is good; the lit "Vacancy" sign in my heart not so much. Such a self-contradiction this is! I'm looking forward to my trip to California, I'm shopping partly in preparation for that, and partly because I've got some nice parties to go to between now and then. I'm probably shopping and looking forward simply because I can and want to.

But as England Dan and John Ford Coley sing: What can I do with this broken heart? If the past is anything to go by, someone will see the Vacancy sign and move in. I'm looking forward to it. I'm ready.

UPDATE: Our local newspaper ran several articles today about handling life crises. One interviewee said that grief isn't something you get over; it's something you learn to live with. I needed that reminder.

Spillage

New dress for the holidays bought. Wrap-around shape, simple black, long sleeves, below knee in length, and such a low cleavage, I was wondering if I'd fall out. Requires new bra. And some skin care for an area not usually exposes. ;-)

Frustrated shopper: Bras hung in such a huge number on the rack in the store, that half a dozen fall off while I'm looking for my size. That got old Real Fast.

Frustrated shopper 2: What the heck is my size? These won't keep anything in! And don't you just love that whattle-effect under your own armpits?

Reached around for the new package of toilet paper and managed to knock it down and onto the liquid soap dispenser. Soap squirted several feet and onto feet.

Nov 13, 2006

Don't you step on my blue suede shoes

Well, they aren't blue suede. They're actually a midnight Gore-Tex(R). But I'm just so happy to find footwear that slipped onto my feet and didn't pinch, pull, grab, or stab me. They just sat on my feet and let me move around without thinking. So I bought three pairs: One lamb's wool-lined pair of leather boots (not pictured), one pair of bootlets and one pair of slip-on shoes (excellent for going through airport security).

Yoga involves the whole body and lately, with the power yoga class I've been taking, my feet have been getting a lot of extra attention: They are bare, their position is important in getting the poses right, they cramp and protest at being moved into possible but unfamiliar positions, and my yoga instructor will grab them in order to adjust a pose. So suddenly my feet have taken on an importance they haven't had before. I look at the shoe-caused crookedness of my toes and feel a bit sorry for what I've put my feet through in the name of Western, female fashion.

My new purchases have roomy, square toes though they wouldn't accommodate a naturally shaped foot, one never squeezed into footwear. There is some consolation that this is not a new phenomenon; older anatomy drawings show misshapen feet (a little toe bent in towards the other toes and sometimes the big toe, too, making the foot look tapered) because people simply don't know what a normal adult foot should look like. Shoes have been worn for centuries, and shoe fashions have been crazy a good number of times.

Maybe I'll take a picture of my yoga instructor's feet. She can splay the toes like fingers, and she has little tattoos on some of the toes. Pretty feet. Feet as God intended.

But I do like my new footwear.

Nov 10, 2006

Something new to play with

OK, that last post can be considered a test run. It updated all the comments, too. And now I can play with tags, too! This post shall get the ubiquitous label "miscellaneous". Or maybe I'll do that in Norwegian: Diverse. Easier to spell.

Vil de ikke så skal de

There is a Norwegian idiomatic phrase, "Vil de ikke så skal de." A joking way of noting how things work with one of the most common natural laws: Stubbornness. Literally translated, the phrase says, "If they won't, they shall."

I suspect Blogger of being Norwegian. Or that perhaps its users are. It seems too much of a "coincidence" that after weeks of wonky services and longish outages, that suddenly, everything's in place for everyone to move to Blogger Beta. Even us FTP-ing types.

So I did.

And dammit, Blogger had better behave now, or I'll get - stubborn or something. (Now, what to do with that WordPress account?)

Nov 9, 2006

Paper cut

I was forwarded a bunch of photographs of wonderful paper art in e-mail, artist unknown. Fortunately, there a sentence in the e-mail gave me a clue: "We often complain about the lack of resources -- but what if all you had was a single sheet of paper?" That and Google helped me find the artist. Give yourself a bit of wonder and check out Peter Callesen's wonderful paper cut-outs and other art.

Nov 4, 2006

All that excitement!

But who needs that kind of drama or trauma or karma?

Nov 3, 2006

In just one month

...I turn 46. Don't know why that feels like a big deal. I guess because it so clearly puts me in that part of being in my forties that is closer to fifty than to forty.

I'm looking forward to it. I'm curious. And I'm feeling encouraged. I've been to the company doctor and for the second year in a row, my blood pressure has gone down (and my cholesterol up*), and they say that as we age, our blood pressure tends to increase. Not that I ever followed the crowd, but it is an interesting development. I think part of it is no longer having the stress of taking care of Grandma's apartment and finances, and part of it is the change in attitude I had to make a year ago. I do feel better, in general.

I'm also rather enthusiastic about my ashtanga yoga class and how it feels for me. My body, aging and stiff, nevertheless does its best and causes me no pain (surprisingly), which tells me that this kind of yoga is just good for me.

I can't imagine being 50, of aging, of putting so many years between my present and my youth. But that's because inside, I haven't aged. Grandma, when pushing 90, said she still felt 17 inside. We all do. That's the agelessness of our souls, the core of ourselves that is with us all our lives.

I'm getting philosophical. (Like I'm not usually philosophical. Hah.) I always enjoy my birthday. This time, I want to have a body that matches how I feel inside. And perhaps I will, thanks to the yoga. But yoga's primary purpose is not health, but acceptance. Accepting yourself, and not struggling through life. With the yoga poses, I feel like I'm being reintroduced to my body, and making a new friend.

*) Low cholesterol may be unhealthy. My cholesterol has been measured at ranges from 3.9 to 4.4. This year, it's 4.6.

Nov 2, 2006

Orchid surprise


Orchid gift at work 2006-11-01   —  Originally uploaded by thinkbigshrinktofit

I had yesterday off, but just before leaving work Tuesday, I was given a print job that needed to be delivered out of town by Friday. I decided it wasn't worth delegating, so I made up new masters, printed and cut the job myself and was out of here by 5:30 pm Tuesday (vs. leaving at 4 pm).

I must've really impressed my customer because the above orchid plant was waiting for me this morning, on my desk.

Now I'm impressed. And very happy.

Oct 31, 2006

Little monsters

There is no tradition for Halloween in Norway. Yes, as a pagan holiday, there used to be a celebration that got co-opted by Christianity, but the pumpkin-carving, costume-wearing, trick-or-treating version is new. I care not for the modern version of Halloween, in all its current mass-market plastic glory: In the US, it's become a carneval, where people where any kind of costume, not just scary or witchy ones. In Norway, they make the effort to be scary - and obnoxious. This is the fourth year of trick-or-treating in my neighborhood, and the second time one of my windows has gotten egged. At least I had plenty of soapy warm water on hand, since I happen to be doing the dishes.

Oct 30, 2006

Politics, lack of - part 2

In a comment to my post 13 about blogging, Tim says that he never would have guessed I avoid political blogs, and wonders why I do.

I'm in a sort of no-man's-land when it comes to politics:

1. I don't live in the US any more and haven't lived there since 1981, and am eligible to vote only in presidential elections as an expatriate who is a permanent resident of a foreign country. So local issues mean nothing to me. Presidential elections are of more interest to me, but not always enough to get me to go through the rigamarole of getting an absentee ballot. After all, my choices are between Tweedledee and Tweedledum from the two reigning parties, and some far more interesting loser (as in won't get enough votes) from an obscure party.

2. As a foreign national living in Norway, I am eligible to vote only in local elections, not national ones. So every four years, I have to make up my mind which of the 8-12 parties I think is the best. Yeah, right. That's when I find myself thinking like an American and realize that I don't like any of the 8-12 parties. One year I voted for what some call the farmer's party because I thought it was the least obnoxious. They lost completely; I must've been the only one who voted for them.

Lovely track record, being able to pick losers like that. ;-)

Would reading political blogs help? I tried. I actually read a couple in Norwegian but what's the point in following national politics when it's only local that would matter? And anyway, my mind was already made up, or when it wasn't, I found it impossible to decide. I can't relate to a lot of the issues, either. I don't live in the US and see no point in slagging through US blogs; there's nothing I can do about local issues - just the guy in the White House. Perhaps you're wondering about issues that affect my friends and family in the US? Well, I know I don't agree politically with my Republican mother (and no, she's not one of those fundamentalist right-wing nutjobs) so she's on her own, and I don't agree whole-heartedly with my Dem friends, either, so they have to fend for themselves, too. (That said, I did enjoy looking at the ballot for California and discussing it with my friend Beep, but it was more of an intellectual exercise. And rainy Sunday.)

Frustrated with Blogger

Blogger was down all weekend. My post below is back-dated to October 28, which was when I wrote it, but published only today. I don't think it was published correctly, though, because the RSS-feed isn't updated. And now I can't publish this gripe. Grr... Time to make the move to something else, I guess.

UPDATE: Finally! My posts have gone through properly, Monday evening local time, and the RSS-feed is updated.

Oct 28, 2006

Rural sprawl

Thursday I flew to Oslo, to attend an "open house" for the printing industry. I went with my boss and a co-worker who's a printer (I'm a graphic designer, in case you were wondering). I have not flown to Oslo since the new airport at Gardermoen opened, about 10 years ago. I also had not flown with the newish Norwegian airline, called - appropriately - Norwegian. Nor had I flown since the new restrictions on hand luggage and safety checks were put into effect this autumn.

Business trips are a series of taxis, flights, newspapers, coffees, phone calls, papers, and back again. And the 50 minute flight to Oslo is a sure place to run into other co-workers.

We took off in the dark since it was before dawn. We landed in gray and low clouds. My first impression of Gardermoen was that is was typical of the modern style of commercial buildings: A lot of stone floors, accented with warm, narrow-slatted wood walls and skylights. I prefer our local one, with an interior from the decade before: Much more white.

The amusing thing about travelling with others is how it pulverizes one's own sense of responsibility. If I travel alone, and the taxi is stuck in traffic, I worry about missing my flight, big time. But travelling with three others, and one of them my boss, left me feeling that it didn't matter what would happen since we'd be three in the same boat. Since I tend to be a Responsible Person And A Tad Anal, being able to relax, actually going into a frame of mind where I didn't bother to check times or anything, was different for me. The one time I did pipe up, was when we got into the security check line only five minutes before our plane was due to take off. I got us to go change our booking to a later flight.

When Norway was discussing where to put its new national (main) airport, one of the cons regarding Gardermoen (a former military airport) was that it too often got fogged in. Still, they went with Gardermoen, and then the building of the airport express railway caused other troubles and scandals, like blasting a tunnel so table water started leaking, leaving a number of locals with dry wells. I was thinking about that as we sped through a bucolic landscape, dotted with yellow-leafed trees, and dreamy with drifting mist.

Oslo is Norway's capital and largest city, and the greater Oslo area numbers one million. (Norway's population is 4.5 million.) We drove around in sections that were built up in the 1960's and 1970's, climbing up a hill in low clouds to our destination. Instead of taking the train back to the airport, we took a taxi the whole way. With a pre-agreed price, it was cheaper for the three of us. I sat in the back, watching mist and fog roll through the low hills, seeing one farm after another pass by, and I suddenly realized that the big city wasn't that big. Cities in the US go on and on and on, while here, it was just a few miles before the highway left suburbia and ribboned past barns, fields and silo bags.

It is so easy to believe that we've taken over every bit of nature and built everywhere, because of all the urban sprawl, but my trip to Oslo showed me that there is still a lot of rural sprawl, too.

Oct 27, 2006

13 about blogging

  1. Do you like the look and the contents of your blog?
    Looks: I'm OK with the Blogger template and my own photo in the header. Contents: See answer to 5.
  2. Does your family know about your blog?
    Yes.
  3. Can you tell your friends about your blog? Do you consider it a private thing?
    Friends were the first I told about my blog. And how can a public webpage be private, anyway?
  4. Do you just read the blogs of those who comment on your blog? Or do you try to discover new blogs?
    Both.
  5. Does your blog positively affect your mind? Give an example.
    I want my blog to reflect the best of me. I don't want it to be a collection of complaints. I have this thing about the written word; it's so permanent, so I want the permanent to be something positive. In that respect, my blog makes me focus on the constructive, on what may be worth reading even when it's no longer fresh. I think you'll see this most clearly in the posts from this past year.
  6. What does the number of visitors to your blog mean? Do you use a traffic counter?
    My ISP monitors hits to my webpages, including my blog. I get a lot of hits, and recently, an increase in commentors and comments. I'd write even if no-one read me, but it is a definite perk to get feedback on what I write. (Comment, people, comment! Thanks.)
  7. Do you imagine what other bloggers look like?
    No need. Most post pictures, or at least post what they'd like you to think they look like.
  8. Do you think blogging has any real benefit?
    Oh, yes. There are so many different kinds of blogs, with different styles and agendas and information. It's another, modern way to explore and connect with humanity, and in some cases, make new friends.
  9. Do you think that the blogsphere is a stand alone community separated from the real world?
    It's stand-alone the way a Star Trek convention is. There may be a certain subculture and people into the blogosphere for its own sake, but blogs are written by real people in the real world experiencing real lives, so it's not really separate from the rest of life.
  10. Do some political blogs scare you? Do you avoid them?
    I avoid. Not interested.
  11. Do you think that criticizing your blog is useful?
    Not sure what this question is about - critical comments or criticizing having a blog in the first place. But I've realized that the answer is this: No, not useful. It's a personal blog, a personal outlet for my thoughts, my creativity in writing. Criticism of something that personal serves no purpose.
  12. Have you ever thought about what would happen to your blog if you died?
    No.
  13. Which blogger has had the greatest impression on you?
    Someone who no longer blogs - Granny Gets A Vibrator (Grannyvibes.blogspot.com). I was enjoying her writing and following her funny take on life through her blog, when she got a life-threatening illness and had to give up her blog. When somebody's life reaches mine through a webpage and personal words, to the point that I cry, worry, care, and miss them, then yeah, I'm impressed, I'm awed by them and by the blogosphere. A wonderful thing.

Stolen from Paula, another impressive blogger.

Oct 22, 2006

An October greeting


Autumn Ortuvann 2006 - 12   —  Originally uploaded by thinkbigshrinktofit

When I was a kid, I didn't like autumn. Autumn meant gray skies, gray trees, gray ground. I was well and truly adult before I discovered that the gray comes between autumn and winter. Autumn itself is color: Bright, brilliant, contrasting, changing.

Last year's September and October were rough for me; this year's were also. September was Grandma's birth month, and October Grandpa's. Autumn became, last year, a season of emptiness, of everything dying, never to return.

After a shaky start, this autumn is turning into a season of peace and wonder. It doesn't feel like death. It is merely change. A change with so much wonder and subtleties and beauty that it lifts any spirit. No more needing to worry about the future. As sure as there are trees losing leaves, there will be trees sprouting new ones. The days are shortening, but they are also heading for the turn, the solstice, the march towards longer days.

It's not the permanence of things we can trust in, because nothing stays the same. We can trust in the process, though, the continuing cycle of birth, growth, maturity, rest, rebirth - whether it be ideas, ourselves or nature (though last year I raged at the lack of things staying the same).

And I noticed today, for the first time, that a painting of Norwegian scenery done by Grandma was given as a birthday present to Grandpa; it says so in the signature: "To John - Oct 7 1950 - Marion".

There is so much love behind that simple greeting. It is a reminder of all the love they had for each other - and for the children in their care: My mother and myself. October has become a month of hope and hearts.

Oct 18, 2006

One of a kind


HowManyOfMe.com
LogoThere are:
0
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

According to HowManyOfMe.com, there are zero people in the US with the first name "Keera", and 158,983 people with the last name "Fox". (Taken from beep.)

Oct 14, 2006

At a 12th grade reading level

I have a LiveJournal blog. I don't use it; it's just there so I don't have to leave anonymous comments on friends' LiveJournals. As a lark, I used a LiveJournal-oriented Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level test to see what level of reading comprehension my little post would require. Here is the result:

kafox's Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 12
Average number of words per sentence:16.17
Average number of syllables per word:1.77
Total words in sample:97
Analyze your journal! Username:
Another fun meme brought to you by rfreebern

And here's the text of my LiveJournal post that only a high school senior can read and understand:

"I got tired of being anonymous
This ain't my blog or anything. I just got tired of being anonymous when commenting on friends' LiveJournals, so I signed up.
If you really want to find me, check out my homepage home.online.no/~kafox/ or my blog home.online.no/~kafox/blogfiles/."

Turbulence Jet stream


12102006-Mollerdalselven   —  Originally uploaded by thinkbigshrinktofit

It's been quite a week, starting with two days sick and off work, computer problems (still), and last night I dreamt I was in a plane crash.

Where to start. Well, being sick wasn't serious, and definitely due to psychological stuff, and the rest (avoidance) did me some good (also turned out that a guilty conscience about not sending one finished job to the printers wasn't necessary as the job wasn't finished after all; I came back to corrections). I needed a better attitude and went back to work with a new approach. (Co-worker problems.) Upgrading the OS on the computer at work proved to be pre-mature since we have to interface with some pretty old systems elsewhere and the newest OS wasn't having that.

It's not only finally autumn (I wore gloves yesterday), but also that time of year when new calendars come out. This time I bought a Moleskine 18-month diary. Yeah, moving away from the hi-tech (my Zire 72) to lo-tech. I'm so trendy. I love shopping for new calendars. Bought Gary Larson's The Far Side Page-A-Day, as well.

Trendy, too, is power yoga, though the trend is fading in the US, said our instructor. But darned if Thursday night's class wasn't one of the best work-outs I have ever had. I really hate exercising but if I do anything at all for myself on the living room floor, it's yoga. Yoga works wonders for desk jockeys. Yoga combined with working muscles all the way in to your spine is perfection. I am really looking forward to next week's class. I'm sore today but intend to try to do a couple of rounds myself at home before next week. The photo of Møllendalselven (Mill Valley River) in Bergen was taken while waiting for class to start. I was a half hour early and in a part of town I had never been in before and wandered around a bit, discovering some things nice, some things not so nice.

My work week, with it's not so good start, ended well, and my boss let me have all of Christmas off (I have vacation time coming), so I can fly to San Francisco and visit a good friend there. Flights are booked.

I have no fear of flying, but last night I dreamt I was in a plane crash. I opened the door to get off because I wasn't supposed be on this flight, but the plane was already moving. I didn't have my seatbelt on and braced myself. I could see where the plane was headed, as if I was in the cockpit, and when we crashed, I was uninjured but thrown to the floor and breathing in some really toxic fumes. I woke up with the diagnosis acid burns on the inside of my lungs. What to make of such dreams? Then I fell asleep again, and was in San Francisco with my father and his wife, who wasn't his wife (and I haven't seen my dad since 1981), and we were doing tourist things but having a challenge with manure in one neighborhood we parked in. That last I got: I had walked past a container outside a grocery store, and they have a butcher shop; they had apparantly hosed something down and the odor from the puddles was nauseating.

My dreams (when I have/remember them) always fascinate me: They are pieced together like a movie, with changing perspectives (though my eyes are always the camera) and sometimes with variations on a scene in the same dream, but good dialog and definitely good pacing. My subconscious would make a killing in Hollywood. But what to make of plane crashes and bad smells and such (oh, and dozens of cats at one point)? Nothing. I intend to make nothing of it. I recognized a number of elements from my waking, conscious life so I know where the script writer got her ideas. And if there is anything more to this, if I find myself worrying, I'll pray for clarification. And remember to put on my seatbelt.

Oct 7, 2006

Huddling at the bus stop


What I saw waiting for the bus   —  Originally uploaded by thinkbigshrinktofit

The norm for autumn in this part of the world is driving rain. It's "slash-and-drench". I had a number of parcels to lug home from shopping today, and had managed to find a seat in the bus shelter. The pictures shows the view I had.

The woman in a black coat in front of me had a rucksack purse, and the edging on a zipper pocket had turned up, allowing a little bit of water to pool on her purse. That held my fascination for a while, making my wait nearly zen.

People variously had umbrellas or nothing, and were variously more or less dry or more or less wet. Quietly they stood still, or quietly they chatted, waiting for a gas-fueled chance to get out of the rain. It was more hushed than on a sunny day - like a low-pressure system means low-key behavior. I too was waiting, sitting in my red rubber boots, parcels on my lap piled to my chin, and realized that I actually enjoyed this. The rain, the puddles, the huddles, the community that comes from sharing the whims of the weather.

It had been a long time since the last time, way back before summer. Today's gray wetness was like an old friend coming back to visit.

New coffee maker


New coffee maker   —  Originally uploaded by thinkbigshrinktofit

I was in the store looking for a space heater come winter and saw this cute little thing. "Is that an espresso maker or just a regular coffee maker?" The answer was that it was a regular coffee maker with a capacity of two cups. Perfect for single me!

When I got home, I went shopping for coffee. I had a coffee meme recently, and was reminded of one of the questions ("Do you have complicated taste?"), as I browsed the shelf for filter coffee. I saw a green bag of organically grown coffee. Yes, definitely! And then immediately saw the Max Havelaar brand of coffee, a "fair trade" brand that means more money to the coffee grower, not the middleman. Choices, choices. I went with Max Havelaar. If I don't like it, I'll try the organically grown next time.

My second choice of coffee was Swiss chocolate and mint, which is what's in my souvenier mug from San Francisco now as I type. I thought it looked good with my new coffee maker.