Feb 27, 2006

Abstinence. Panic. And abstinence.

Yesterday evening I was zipping along, messing around with some photos, figuring out a clever way to update a website I am webmaster for, and had about two zillion programs and windows open on my computer, and about the same amount of electrical appliances blazing in my apartment.

And there went the lights.

When I finally got the fusebox to cooperate again, my iMac ("lampfoot" type) faithfully started up - without the familiar Mac start-up chime, and without anything happening on the screen except for a very pretty light blue color.

Several attempts were made to get my iMac to start from its hard disk. Finally, I ran hardware diagnostics and it hiccupped at one of my RAM chips.

My baby is sick. Very, very sick. Not even a reinstall of the OS will fix it.

I am without my computer, without regular surfing, e-mailing, Usenetting, etc.

Oh. God. Abstinence.

Oh. God. Panic.

Luckily, there's a Mac repair shop right here in town. Goody. That takes care of the panic.

But Oh. God. The abstinence.

My life has become completely dependent upon a contraption with a motherboard as well as electricity. I get my daily newspaper delivered electronically. If I want to see what my digital camera did, I download it onto my computer. I check my TV-listings online. And I stay in touch with loved ones in other countries via e-mail.

Luckily, there's a web interface for my e-mail and the puter at work (also a Mac - yay!), and there's my old tangerine clamshell, too.

But I want my pretty lampfooted baby fixed!

Feb 26, 2006

Superstition

I'll bet you thought we no longer live in the dark ages, that we are intelligent and enlightened beings who understand how the world works and are not afraid of the dark.

Wrong.

To my great satisfaction. because it finally gives me a word for a phenomenon I've been seeing, an essay in today's local newspaper (Bergens Tidende) states in reference to the current scare about avian flu: "Modern anxiety is not due to bad experience, but that we are afraid of something we don't know what is. In the old days, we called that superstition." (My translation.)

Ah, yes, man will insist that there are monsters under the bed, but like modern special effects, the details are more realistic and believable. Modern man know what causes illness and it isn't due to being cursed or building over a grave. But that is our problem: We know so much, we panic. We panic about flu season (hasn't arrived yet), we panic about the avian flu (hasn't arrived yet), and we panic about all sorts of other things. We've lost perspective and media no longer provides a calming voice of reason. Rather, it fans the flames of fear and drives paranoia - and the sales of newspapers - to new heights.

I am exaggerating a bit. Most folks are keeping their cool. But there seems to be an increasing number of people who will believe the worst. Modern society bombards us with information about the dangers of soft plastics, acidic drinks, etc., and it's enough to make anyone paranoid. One week coffee is dangerous, the next it's healthy. Same goes for carrots. How do you keep your equilibrium? The really scary part is that some of the people causing the paranoia are in charge. For example, the city that I live in put a ban on all public feeding of pigeons. There are several problems with this well-intenioned forewarning:

  • Children are taught to be afraid of birds (it's mostly kids who feed pigeons).
  • Birds will now die of starvation.
  • There is no incident of any case of avian flu in Norway.
  • Even if there were, pigeons are not susceptible to avian flu.

Yes, we have a new form of superstition in our modern society. Our primitive nature sees shadows dancing on the wall of the modern equivalent of our cave. We don't blame ghosts, witches or werewolves, any more. Instead, we blame government officials, scientists and innocent animals.

I don't want to hear any more crap about how stupid I am for believing in astrology. That belief never killed any healthy birds.


(For a more humorous take on modern superstition, there's the novel "May Contain Nuts".)

Feb 25, 2006

A story from down under

No, this is not about Australia. This is about feet. My feet. If you do not want to read about my feet (complete with photo), go check out my profile instead. Yeah, I finally decided to tell you what my favorite movies are. I have way too much time on my hands. But now: Feet.

I have two feet. One left, one right. I have never named them, but have no trouble telling them apart, because the big toes have different shaped toenails, and they don't hit the floor when I walk the same way, so they make different sounds. Until now. I discovered a new beauty salon at the local mall, and booked myself for a pedicure today at noon. I have never had a pedicure before in my life, and was doing it mainly because I thought that after 45 years of faithful, uncomplaining service (I am so blessed), I decided to treat my two unnamed feet to some professional kindness.

They didn't tell me about the scalpel.

They didn't tell me about the filing down of the tops of the nails.

I'm not sure I want to go back, but that will be up to the feet. They make the important decisions: What shoes to wear, whether or not the toes need clipping, how far to walk, that stuff. And they will also decide if I go back. But first impressions were good, in spite of the sharp instruments and an attempt to set my sole on fire.

My feet, all two of them, first soaked in something lavender-scented. Then the knife cut away hard, dead skin. Then some pruning shears took care of the nails.Then a motorized sander blasted what skin was left, and then a small, rotating file filed the tops of my nails down so they actually lay flush to the skin. Finally, a huge glop of motor oil went on all over my feet up to my hairy ankles. I asked the girl doing my feet why she chose this profession instead of carpentry, seeing as how the tools were about the same. She said she was actually studying to be a nurse; this was extra-curricular activity. Kids today.

Anyway, when I was done and finally got to stand on the floor again with my own two feet, it Felt Good. I tell ya, my feet were smiling. I missed one callous walking home (my uneven walk), but it'll grow back real fast, even with the fancy cream I bought for my two feet.

The filing down of the toenails has left my two feet looking far more matched than ever before, though the left one is still sporting the divide between old nail pre-dropping-heavy-souvenir-on-it-last-March and new nail which finally started to grow in September. And now, for your enjoyment (or disgust), here are what my smiling, hairy feet look like.

Feb 22, 2006

Horsey update

Jussi and his rider placed 4th. There were dozens and dozens to compete against, so 4th is no small feat. Congrats!

Feb 19, 2006

Horsey!

I was invited to take a look at a world I discovered I know nothing about: Riding shows. The daughter of a friend of mine, like many girls her age, is virtually in love with a horse. Her friend was going to be competition riding on a fjording (Norwegian fjord horse) named Jussi.

In the days before tractors, fjordings pulled the hay wagons and the plows, and being sure-footed and well-adapted to their steep surroundings, also functioned as mules for mountain farmers. They are a docile but spirited breed of pony (Jussi is actually as tall as a horse). The most striking thing about them is their coloring: a fawn-colored coat with a blonder mane with a brown stripe down its middle continuing narrowly along the animals back and adding a brown stripe to the blond tail. The horse in the picture has been shaved, so his regular furry color can be seen on his face and legs, while his neck and body show his skin color. There were some odd shaving jobs on some other horses, and on one there was a striking contrast between a red coat and gray skin.

I was never one of those girls who got into horses during her teens. I've always liked them, enjoyed drawing them, and I have ridden them a few times, mainly thanks to my mother who herself loves horses and was a good rider, but that all engrossing dedication that some girls go through during puberty was never for me. So here I was, standing around, waiting for Jussi and his rider to trot before the judges. They were running late (no pun intended), so I had time to hang around in the little café and watch the olympic biathlon (skiing and shooting). I was just in time to see Norway's Bjørndalen lose his chance at the gold, just yards away from the finish line. Bummer.

Well, it was Jussi's turn. Trot around, keep straight doing diagonal lines, stopping and waiting when commanded to, keeping a steady pace. The solidly built animal looked good to me. He got a work-out and you can see the steam coming off his breath in this photo. I don't know how well they placed.

I enjoyed my few hours, walking around horse manure, observing a lifestyle for a few hours that is absolutely foreign to me. I saw horseys! Lots of horseys!

Feb 14, 2006

Changed - again

But once again, I'm not sure if the change is due to actual weight fluctuation or just months of drying jeans in the drier. At any rate, the pants aren't sitting where I want them to on my body, so today during lunch, I made a foray into a local clothing store, which offers slacks in three different lengths. I grabbed three pants, all the same size, and all marked "short", and went to try them on.

What I like about winter: I don't have to shave my legs. What I didn't like about this store: With my pants off and their changing room curtains stopping a good foot above the floor, everybody can see my furry shins. I changed pants fast!

All fit, all were bought, and I almost gasped at the price, because I hadn't looked at the price tags. I was just so happy to find pants that fit and that don't require hemming before I can wear them. And my little Buddha belly means I don't need a belt (that's both good and bad news).

After blowing the equivalent of almost one month's rent on pants, I still had some time left and blew some more money on a couple of sweaters (on sale), bringing the sum total up to a full month's rent. Tomorrow during lunch I think I'll look for shoes and/or boots; I still have some money left. Sagittarian economics: If you spend it all - no more, no less - you've done good. And anyway, payday is on Monday. ;-)

Feb 10, 2006

Nailing myself down

Some folks fill out the "questionaire" on their Blogger profil. I have some very bare essentials, including my Sun sign (because of the origins of this blog) in my profile, but Blogger does offer more to fill out: Interests, About Me, Favorite Movies, Favorite Books, and Random Question (currently "How do you pronounce the 'g' in bologna" (I don't)).

I never fill these things out. If I am able to nail myself down long enough to actually figure out what my interests, favorite movies and books are, not to mention who am I and how much do I want to tell you and how paranoid am I going to feel about giving you such information, I find myself editing myself and not being entirely satisfied, and if I do settle down for an answer, it'll be out of date within a month. For example, my favorite food has for years been spaghetti with tomato sauce. Haven't had any in months and haven't missed it, and don't know when next I'll have it.

My aversion to listing my interests is that I believe I'm sending a false message about priorities - i.e. if it's important enough to make the list, I must be really, really into it. I may be, but if you tell me it'll kill me or baby animals, I'll stop doing it right away. I'm just not that invested. Never have been. And I don't necessarily do hobby stuff daily or weekly. Just when I feel like it, which may be every 13th Tuesday starting from when it rained on a Full Moon (I wish I were that predictable).

Favorite movie? I don't want to tell you. You'll think I want to watch it over and over every week. Ick, no. I'd be bored in an instant. Some movies I have liked enough to own on DVD (and because they were on sale). I don't necessarily watch them a whole lot. And the same thing goes for favorite books with one exception: I always have a copy of Richard Bach's "Illusions" in the house. I haven't re-read it in years, but my dozens of stuffed shelves are simply naked without it.

I don't feel unstable, but neither does it bother me to change my mind. I've gone from being pro-nuclear power to anti and sort of back again over the years. It depends on what information I've received. Likewise my attitude about gun control (for and against) has changed over the years. Same thing regarding the death sentence. I also vacillate between believing Jesus really existed and believing he was a fictional character, and about UFOs, who built the pyramids and Atlantis.

Since I may hear or read something 5 minutes after I've posted this that will forever change the way I say "bologna", it's just as well not to nail things like that down.

Feb 9, 2006

10 years ago, 10 years from now

A meme elsewhere poses the question about what one was doing 10 years ago. Oddly, I can no more imagine that than where I want to be 10 years from now. 1996/age 35 does not stand out in my head. If I'm able to dig up some photos or something, it'll probably jog my memory. I know where I was working, at a different department than where I am now, but again, nothing stands out. No moves, no illness, no boyfriend. The drama, what drama there was, was in 1994 and 1997.

But if who I was 10 years ago could see me now, see me still at the same company, in the same home, sans Grandma and cat, and a few other people, and also without some old anger issues, what would she think? I think she'd think it was all a bit scary but also cool. Who I am now is far happier, stronger and aware than the 35-year-old me. I see progress even if I'm still at the same company and in the same apartment.

So 10 years from now? More of the same. More happiness, more strength, more awareness. I think this may be the first time in my life I've actually had something this concrete to say about future goals.

Should I add "...and have completed my first novel."? ;-)

Feb 6, 2006

Lotsa rain

A while I go, I shared this view of a local stream with you. Today I walked past it on my detour home, and was amazed at how swollen the stream had gotten after last night's deluge. The water was rushing, pushing against the little wooden bridge I was standing on, battling noisily with itself to make it under and through to the other side. I took out my PDA and shot this unfocused picture, but it's good enough to show the change in water level.

For the record, I am a feminist

My friend Sravana has a good summary about what Betty Friedan has meant to many women (and men), directly and indirectly.

Feb 5, 2006

No pictures, just coffee

It's raining. It's so wet out, that every attempt I made to take a picture first involved collecting raindrops on the camera's lens, viewer, etc. But not so wet that a female black thrush didn't enjoy a good bath in a puddle. I didn't walk through that puddle, but I did let my red rubber boots wade through some other puddles, and I had a nice walk over to Grandma and Grandpa's grave. It was my first visit since they had added Grandma's name to the headstone.

I had to have a talk with her about that. It looked weird, seeing her first and middle Christian names on the stone, knowing that she had used her maiden name as a middle name for most of her adult life. But the right part was seeing both their names on the stone. Grandma and Grandpa are truly together now, also in writing. I got a clear sense of happiness from beneath my feet there.

I have a delicious cup of café au lait at my side as I write this, purchased on my way home.

And now for the backlash

Yes, even blogdom is getting tired of four things. And I'm feeling quite vindicated for not playing along in the first place. Now for a walk in crappy weather for a café au lait. And maybe a picture or two.

Feb 2, 2006

Et tu, Dooce?

I read Dooce's blog daily and she's (an) original, but today even Dooce is meming the four of everything. Am I destined to be the only one who won't tell you four places I've lived?

Feb 1, 2006

Chain letters revisited

So there's this thing among bloggers called tagging. And that's how memes get around. Kind of like germs. If I come across a meme I like, I'll do it, for my own sake, because it interests me. But the act of tagging that some bloggers do, is way too much like chain letters. And as I just told a blogging friend who tagged me, I hate chain letters. Yeah, she accidentally pushed a button, poor sweety.

Now, I did write a little bit about memes and chain letters in 2004. Here's more about why I have an aversion to the things:

When I was a kid, chain letters were a source of desperation for the kid who was sort of left out. We girls would have chain letters like passing on postcards to each other or something. Or some "good luck" letter pleading you to please, please, do not break the chain as it's been unbroken since a little girl wrote it during World War I in India. So guilted into not breaking the chain, and also happy that some girl had actually included me in the chain, I'd then have to wrack my own brain for four or five other names to forward the chain letter to. And I didn't know any. I simply didn't have enough friends, and we were only five girls in our class, and you can bet one of them had already used all of our names. (It was a small town and even smaller school.)

One day, I got a chain letter that claimed to have been circulating unbroken since 1952, when it first started in the US. Amazingly, I now had this precious original in my hand, in fluent Norwegian. I had just recently struggled to fulfill the instructions in a previous chain letter, botching it, and getting funny looks from the girls at school (but I didn't break the chain), and I looked at the new chain letter with a heavy heart.

So I broke the chain.

I never forwarded the letter to anyone. I threw it in the garbage and that's what I've done ever since with chain letters.

Chain letters have migrated into the world of e-mail and blogs. In the former, they are pretty much as they always were, with forwarding instructions, and a promise, then a warning about what will happen to you if you don't forward this, nowadays also with 17 levels of quote symbols. (I've even received an electronic version of the 1952 letter.) In blogs, they are often in the form of memes, and spread through tagging.

I won't play. I still don't know enough people so that I can tag someone who didn't tag me first.