Jun 29, 2006

It's a good thing I'm a Fire sign

After a period of unexpected, uncharacteristic and unwanted booze-induced anxiety, it's wonderful to be back in the game of drinking and socializing without embarrassment. Basically, I used a lot of affirmations to get myself over that downer of a hump and also to regulate what I'll be drinking. "God guides me blah blah blah."

So I end up with the bunch I do the website for (no, I'm not telling; my stuff isn't their stuff), and at Bergen's swankiest private restaurant. You know you'll be met by a butler, 'scuse me, Butler, I mean, I got out of the taxi, lost track of which door was which, figured out to aim for the one on the right and 3/4 seconds later a man in a tailored black suit with a badge on it opened said door, bowed me in, and informed me that my party was upstairs. As I arrived at the top of the stairs, same Butler offered "sparkling wine or..." (hey, how'd he get there before me?) and I replied as cultivated as I could, "yes, sparkling would be very nice right now". I was in the mood. Then I followed the voices to the lounge where my "party" was.

One delicious three-course meal with equally delicious wines later, with all of Bergen spread out below us, we were back in the lounge for "café avec" (nothing like a menu that reads "coffee avec and beverage"). This place serves Cognac, not brandy. I remember one time I ordered cognac and was asked which of their five-star choices I would require... Like I'd know the difference. Not this time, fortunately, so I had two, and they suited my palate quite well.

I was complimented first by my taxi driver ("Had I known such a lovely lady was waiting, I'd have been here sooner."), then by my host during his dinner speech for doing the web site, and later by some of the others. I did have enough humility to feel a bit embarrassed, then decided to just accept it, drink it up, enjoy it, and thank everyone for being so nice. Fire signs can do that, since they are the most prone to accept compliments and the least prone to think said compliments are undeserved. ;-)

Seriously, it was lovely to just set any embarrassment aside, let myself accept that someone else truly thought I was doing an excellent job (the customer's pleased and that's all that matters, not my own perfectionism), and also realize that they don't see me in person that often, so here was their chance to make a fuss.

Three hours of heaven. And just enough ego to enjoy it. :-)

Jun 27, 2006

Planning what to wear

Circumstances being what they are this year, I booked a trip for myself to Vienna and Budapest in July. 13 days of bussing and Norwegians and the occassional boat. Instantly, my mind turn to What To Wear For Two Weeks That Will Fit In One Suitcase. A woman's magazine announcing holiday packing advice caught my eye at the magazine stand. But I didn't buy. I've travelled before without stopping to do laundry, and most of what's in my wardrobe is already mix-n-match (I'm weak for dark blue). After pondering number of T-shirts and slacks for a bit, thoughts then turned to shoes. Walking shoes and other shoes. So into the shoe store I went... You know that feeling when you put on a pair and They Fit Without Protest? Well, these sandals did just that. And I know what they'll go with, too.

Jun 21, 2006

School memories

A comment to a friend in e-mail made me think back to school. I have not attended any one school for more than two years, due to moving or aging. And what do I remember from school (besides algebra)? The totally unimportant stuff. Of course.

School life started out with kindergarten in a parochial school. I have no clue what school this was. I remember it as a series of creamy yellow buildings. I remember a Native American schoolmate named Naomi (my grandma's middle name, so it stuck); and speaking of sticking, the kid who left a popsicle too long on his tongue and had to have help from the school nurse. Some kid threw up in class and the teacher dumped a bucket of sawdust to cover and absorb the mess (do they still do that? and why do little kids puke so much?). And the neat blonde-curls-in-pink-ribbons girls who chided me for coloring outside the lines in my coloring book. At age 5 or 6, I already had a pretty good sense of self-preservation (aka "fuck you") because I remember cheering myself up with the thought that their coloring books had colored lines, whereas mine had black so I could pick my own colors. Ha! Also associated with this school is a vivid dream of getting a box of Crayola crayons - the big box of 64 - at school and I woke up from that dream with my hand firmly gripping air. Boy, was I disappointed.

I had barely started second grade at the above-mentioned school when my family went kaphlooey and I went to live with my maternal grandparents in the town of Twentynine Palms in the high desert. There I started in a new school and I remember my teacher's was Mrs. Cole, one of the few things I remember because I associated it with coleslaw. She was a nice woman, and she too got after me for the way I colored. She told me the sky would look prettier if I colored it with the strokes all in one direction. I saw how a classmate did his (I had a crush on him and he had one brown and one green eye), with all the strokes in one direction, and saw the sense of that. Other Morongo School District memories: Taking a detour on the school bus to avoid the high school students demonstrating for the girls' right to wear slacks to school, and being told I'd get in trouble for wearing bloomers under my dress. I tell ya, the fashions of the late 60's... I liked this school, even if I wasn't a happy kid. I felt I fit in a bit better than in the first place.

I left third grade and the desert in April of 1969, and ended up in Europe. During the summer, I stayed with a nephew of my grandpa's directly south of Bergen (Nesttun) and in August, my second cousin started school. I remember following my second cousin to school one day. We did not enrol me, because we assumed I'd be going back to school in September in the US. But when we heard nothing from my mother, I was enrolled in grade school in Norway. Relatives helped us rent a house in the town of Salhus, about 20 km north of Bergen.

North end of Salhus where I first experienced skis on my feet. Salhus town center and wharf down on the right. Grade schools over to the right, off picture.

In order to learn Norwegian, I was enrolled in what was second grade (at the time, Norwegians started first grade the year they turned 7; now it's like in the US - the year the child turns 6). I remember the principal showing me a first-grade reader and explaining that "vase" in Norwegian is pronounced "vah-seh". I caught on quick and I remember feeling impatient. Just gimme the damned book. I can read it already! My second grade teacher, Mrs. Tennfjord, knew only a little English and so was often frustrated when having to explain things to me. I knew one whole phrase in Norwegian at that point: "Jeg kan snakke litegrann norsk." ("I can speak a little Norwegian.") Proudly, I said that in class and she blurted out, "Then why don't you do that???" I then had to explain that was all I knew. But by Christmas, I felt I knew enough to move up a grade and be with the kids my age. After all, in all other subjects than Norwegian, I was on a third grade level. Norwegian handwriting at the time had a way of writing t that I had never seen before. I knew there were three additional vowels in the Norwegian alphabet - æ, ø, and å - but this letter wasn't one of those. I copied what my third grade teacher wrote on the chalkboard exactly, not understanding what I was reading. I kept trying to ask what the letter was and annoyed her. At the end of the class, I finally got to explain that I didn't know what that letter was. It hadn't occurred to either of us that there would be some letters that were written differently. American handwriting is very distinctive and non-European. And yes, I cross my 7's.

Fourth grade meant moving from the little, old (original) schoolhouse to the larger, more modern four-story building down the road. There, our principal taught some classes, and once, totally engrossed in what I was doing, I automatically started a question with, "Grandpa?". That got some laughs. Fortunately, kids do that a lot so I didn't feel too weird. This was also the first meeting with the school dentist. (Dental care is free to kids under the age of 16 in Norway. Orthodontics are subsidized (though not enough) and in sixth grade this same school dentist told my grandpa that he found no cavities (I cried from relief and joy) but did think I needed my bite adjusted. Quite correctly so. I had quite the overbite.)

Hordvik as seen from the north-east, with it's main employer, the Rolls-Royce factory, by the water. I got my first driving lesson in their parking lot; I was 13 and Grandpa sure was brave. :-)

By fifth grade, we had moved from Salhus to Hordvik, 3 km away. There, a small, two-story, wooden schoolhouse (also a creamy yellow color) was the main school for our community of 300. My class boasted twelve kids: Seven boys and five girls, with me being the first new girl ever in that class; in first grade, they started out four boys and four girls. In fifth grade, we had to share a classroom with the fourth-graders. It was really a big deal to be in sixth grade, because then we got a classroom and teacher All To Ourselves. Wow. The principal there was from the same area as my grandpa and same age. He was also carefully avoided by the girls. I discovered why the day he offered to steady me as I climbed a ladder to pick some apples for him. He steadied me by putting his hands over my pubescent breasts. Both he and his wife read out loud to us. It was lovely to be read to, and to be introduced to books I might otherwise discover. For the last 10 minutes of math class, Mr. Midtgard would read and stop to explain stuff we may not understand, sometimes explaining gory things to us too happily. Mrs. Midtgard, who taught home economics to a girls-only class, would read Nancy Drew mysteries (tripping over the pronounciation of some names and corrected by me). Which reminds me of my very first day in that school: In the rear of the homeroom, were shelves labelled with each student's name, for storing pencil boxes (made out of wood) and such. The label on mine read "Ceera". I said that my name is spelled with a K. The answer: But all words that start with a K-sound in English are spelled with a C!

It's safe to say I both got and gave an education. :-)

Two years in the little schoolhouse in Hordvik, then came junior (middle) high school, and being bussed a half hour to a brand-new school. Our class expanded from 12 to twice that, and from 5 rooms to 15 plus gymnasium and library. This new school, Haukedalen, was where I was introduced to jazz ballet and found the only form of physical exercise I actually enjoyed. We were there for two years, then what would be the entire ninth grade student body was moved to another, older junior high a mile or so away, so we did ninth grade at Åstveit ungdomsskole. That final year was the year I was no longer bullied, and the year I got three huge cavities. Åstveit was right next to a gas station and we had plenty of time some days to buy candy before the bus came.

When I moved back to California, I had only two years of high school left and then I attended a junior college, also just two years.

Jun 17, 2006

Starlings

I heard them before I saw them, but that's typical of starlings. The dark, shiny ones are the parents, hunting for food, and feeding it to the lighter, duller ones, which are their constantly hungry youngsters. The adults get a bit stressed out, as you'll notice in the video that the photo links to. If you have PMS, turn off the sound first. ;-)

Jun 15, 2006

13 rather ordinary things UV's never done (and some of mine)

Over on Paula's UltraViolet blog, she muses over 13 rather ordinary things she's never done. I read her list and suddenly, my life doesn't feel quite so ordinary. To my own surprise.

1. Skiied (snow or H2O). I've done both. Snowwise, I've done both cross-country and downhill, the latter in both Norway and California. My one try at water-skiing also left me with one helluva sunburn. I don't do either type any more.

2. Drunk a martini. Sure. I was curious. So a friend and I had martinis on the ferry to Denmark. And Paula, dear, you haven't missed much. G&T's are way better!

3. Cheated on my taxes. Yes, in a minor way: I didn't report all the cash in my home as of December 31st (partly due to never knowing exactly how much cash I have at any given time). But I don't cheat on my taxes any more, nor am I no longer required to report cash on hand.

4. Shot a gun. Well, not shot, but definitely fired. ;-) On two different occassions, even. It was fun! Nope, wouldn't want to own one, but I do get the fascination with trying to control an item to the point that you can actually hit the target.

5. Gone fishing. Er, holding the rod yourself or what? At any rate, I have gone fishing on more than one occassion, though I was not necessarily the one holding the rod. (I have been the one holding the bait.) Twice I brought home something for the cat.

6. Cooked a roast. Does watching your mother cook one count? I guess not.

7. Ridden a motorcycle. Moped. As a passenger. Whee! Would like to try actually driving a motorcycle some time, though.

8. Had a pedicure. LOL!

9. Done cocaine. Me, neither. And that answer won't change.

10. Watched Oprah. Gee, I've watched loads of Oprah. But not any more. I don't like the vibes she's been sending off this last season.

11. Been to a funeral. Be grateful. I've been to five now. They aren't depressing; what they represent is, though.

12. Changed a tire (or a tyre). Well, I once got started changing a tire when a friend got a flat, and did remember how to jack up a car but we forgot one important thing and broke our jack. Luckily, a nice man stopped to help us (and have me worried he was going to have a heart attack). Oh, the important thing? Setting the handbrake!

13. Visited Europe. Me neither. Each time I came to visit, I ended up residing here. ;-)

Now to add a couple of mine to the mix:

14. Wallpapered a wall.
15. In-line skating.
16. Been to a wedding. (The one I was at age 10, which I slept through, can't possibly count.)
17. Broken a bone.
18. Sprained an ankle.
19. Lost luggage.
20. Fixed a leaky faucet.

Some of these I want to do; some (17, 18 and 19) I'm counting on will never happen.

UPDATE: And now for some from Max's list:

Been legally married (me neither),
been in college (I had two years of junior college),
had a kid (me neither),
been a member of a church (that I've done),
been in the hospital or the bin (in hospital as a baby for one night due to a high fever),
been deeply concerned with my career (what's a career?),
owned a house (no, but I do own my apartment),
played decent music (heh, well, back when I could pick a guitar I wasn't too bad, and I could sing too at one time),
felt like I belonged (oh, that. Just pick a constellation and never mind the other humans).
Oh, and no piercings (I have the usual in earlobes),
tattoos (me neither),
ballroom dancing (I love doing that!),
or bridge (sure, but I prefer Canasta)
and I haven't been to a SPA (me neither; I need to be convinced it isn't as boring as it sounds)!
I've had a mohawk tho. (My hair has never been extreme or weird.)

Jun 13, 2006

A good reason for being back at work:

The cute guys at the office. And giggling myself silly with a couple of female co-workers when one had to slalom past us.

Jun 11, 2006

Strike's over

That is to say, we've been ordered back to work by the minister of labor, who has demanded a forced wage negotiation (the "mandatory wage committee"). Any decisions made by this committe are binding. Our union is very disappointed that the minister of labor would do such a thing, especially since our current government includes both the Labor and the Socialist Left parties, parties that should understand and support more than most the right to strike.

It'll be weird going back to work, to a workplace where things have been piling up for over a week, and where all previous deadlines and due dates are moot. And where we are still at odds with management since the strike issues are not yet resolved.

More blue tits

Experimenting with my camera (i.e. RTFM), I found settings that helped me capture the extremely small and quick blue tits better. But my best shots came with the aid of the neighbor's cat. He saw me up on my balcony and sat down underneath the birch tree with the nest box to watch me. I heard a new type of chirping from the tree, and realized it was the blue tits sounding an alert. Both parents were upset at the cat's proximity, and stayed in the tree above him, in hopes he'd leave (he hardly noticed the birds). I finally got something else to take a picture of besides "westbound butt"/"eastbound head" as they entered and exited the nest box.

Jun 10, 2006

Blue tits!

My friend Alice was lucky enough to get pictures of a blue tit fledgling on her trip to Austria. I was a bit jealous because I've never seen them in person, myself.

Until today.

On the birch tree a few yards away in front of my balcony, hangs a nesting box my friend Torleif hung up for spring in 2004. Great tits, the most common tit bird in Norway, happily moved in two seasons in a row. Torleif had hoped that blue tits might find their way to the box. Today I sat out in lovely sunshine, trying to read, when I realized that the tit parents were feeding their young. I went and got my new camera and tried to get pictures of the little critters, but I and my camera were not quick enough.

I tried the video feature. I discovered the birds had a certain timing: Both parents were flying off, bringing back live insects (I assume), one in each direction from the nest, so I didn't need to leave the camera running all the time (the birds were nearly like clockwork). I thought it was a great tit pair I was watching, until I saw what my camera saw. Here is a still photo from a video (clicking on photo leads to video), with my gasp at the end, because I finally realized what I was looking at: The blue tit!

Jun 7, 2006

Still on strike still

The government arbitrator called a new negotiation meeting today at 10 am. No go. A new meeting was called at 4 pm today. Equally fruitless. We remain on strike.

In the meantime, I'm finally revamping my website. I have the time for it now. (I got some ideas listening to Mozart at a concert Sunday.)

Jun 6, 2006

Still on strike

Whitsund weekend in Norway means Monday off, so today it's back to business as normal. Except for me, for those of us on strike. I woke up this morning, to a regular Tuesday, and thought, "I'm not going to work. I'm still on strike." I think the best way to describe the feeling I have about this is limbo. We are waiting for a resolution, but can do nothing in the meantime (we regular members, at least) and so: limbo.

I read the online news and everyone's concerned about the banks and banking system stopping as of Monday June 12 because of the lock-out. No paycheck, no vacation pay (by law in Norway we get vacation pay, usually in June), no using ATMs or paying by debit or credit card in stores. This means the government will step in very quickly, which is what management wants. By Friday, I'll transfer some funds, take out some extra cash, and wait some more. Our union has a lot of money saved up so I will get full compensation for this strike. I have no financial worries in all of this.

I hope we win, though. I hope none of this will be for nought.

Jun 5, 2006

Day of the unexpected

Reported at 12:35 pm today, was a traffic accident caused by a drunk who suddenly staggered out onto a local highway, forcing two cars to avoid him but hitting each other. About a half hour later, an SAS jet had to make a swan dive shortly after taking off from Bergen's airport in order to avoid a small private plane. At 3:40 pm in Oslo, the accelerator on a passenger bus got hung up and police had to clear traffic to give the runaway a chance to stop, which it finally did.

These not common occurrences in Norway got my attention mainly because they all happened so closely together. The chart for today shows an exact square between Sun and Uranus. Astrologers say that with Uranus you must always expect the unexpected.

Trampeklapp

There is one European habit I wouldn't mind Americans adopting: The rhythmic applause used to show huge appreciation and/or demand an encore.

The audience starts out with the usual applause: hundreds if not thousands of hands all clapping, according to each pair of hands' owner. And then, as if someone throws a switch, in one beat the applause is in unison, hands now clapping a regular beat together, firmly, loudly. This performance by the audience is just as fascinating as what was performed on the stage.

In Norwegian, this type of concerted clapping is called "trampeklapp" - "stamping clapping". And yes, the concert was great and we got our encore.

Jun 2, 2006

Picketing

This morning from 8 to 10 am I stood in a picket "line" with a few co-workers in front of my place of work. Today was a cloudy, rainy day and after two hours of standing still, we were all feeling a bit chilly. There just wasn't much to do for two hours. We didn't demand to see ID or anything from the few unorganized or exempted who did pass to go to work. We chitchatted about this and that and the strike, and one unorganized cafeteria employee brought us coffee, the sweet girl.

So we stood outside the locked, main entrance (locked because the entire reception staff was also on strike) and were essentially ignored. I talked the whole time, so I enjoyed myself (ha!).

The pictures show (above) my boss (at right) and some others getting vests and leaflets, and (below) four of us all suited up, ready to bombard the public with leaflets (yeah, right. What public?). I'm the creature on the left wearing what looks like a misguided Goth outfit (actually my black lacquer raincoat) thanks to the vest. See my nice red rainboots?

Bang!

— Dere tror vel at boken min heter "Bang!" ... Det gjør den ikke. Den heter BANG!!!

Slik innledet Norges riksastronom, Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard sitt foredrag i går kveld her i Bergen. Norli i Galleriet hadde invitert ham i forbindelse med lanseringen av hans nye bok. Ødegaard er kjent for sin entusiasme og snakkesalighet. Men engasjerende og lett å følge er han, og resultatet ble en meget underholdende og samtidig tankevekkende aften (som inkluderte noen biter asteroider og meteoritter og sånt som ble sendt rundt).

Jeg kjøpte boken hans, hilste på ham og fikk boken signert. Jeg hadde spurt ham om Plutos status som planet og ba derfor om en kommentar om Pluto. Ødegaard mener forøvrig at Pluto kommer til å bli degradert; astronomene tar beslutningen i august.

Jun 1, 2006

Abandoned...

The oystercatchers have abandoned their nest and remaining two eggs, just like last year. Fun while it lasted, though. Maybe we'll see them again next year.

First strike meeting

I attended the strike meeting for our area. Nothing new; the union's webpages have been good about keeping us updated. But I did find out that we are historical. Never before in the history of the insurance industry in Norway, have insurance employees gone on strike. That shows just how serious this is. We have the right to union wages so why not the right to union pension plans? But management says "no".

It'll be weird being on watch tomorrow, and having to keep the attitude that bosses are now "the enemy", but we've been told that since nobody in our industry has done this before (not our employers, either) to take it all in stride and with a big smile. Maybe even tell some strike jokes. (Do you know any?)

On strike!

We're on strike. No work today. Members' meeting in town at 11 am, but no work. Although I am personally excited simply because it's new and different for me, this is actually very bad news. And they did keep trying until 3 am this morning.

Excuse me while I hunt around for all the correct terms in English. I hardly bother with the Norwegian ones (plassoppsigelse, meglingsmann, tvungen lønnsnemnd) and am even more lost with English ones. I managed to find this glossary and can now tell you that the government appointed mediator (or arbitrator) is the Norwegian equivalent to the National Mediation Board (NMB) in the US except that ours functions on behalf of all unions. This May they have been busy; we had to wait until May 30 to get our arbritator.

[Edited paragraph] So the Norwegian NMB arbitrator didn't find any compromises for the two negotiating parties and 6020 of us are on strike. On June 12, we will expand the strike to include 75 76 member banks. The employers' organization ("management" sounds like it's my employer only, which it isn't) has announced a lock-out (nobody gets to go to work, organized or not banning all union members from their workplace) that same day. This means 15 000 members out in strike, and that will include all the banks. The banks always get attention so we except the whole thing to be over by June 16. I'm in insurance, and our union chose insurance workers precisely to make a point but without bugging innocent third parties (too much).

Why June 16? Norway will not tolerate more than a few days without banking, so the government will step in with a "mandatory wage committee". Unlike the arbitrator, the wage committee doesn't negotiate and more often than not, leaves both sides disappointed (though sometimes it has meant that one side "won"). It's a method the government has for getting needed functions back. So police, nurses, bank employees, and several others basically have no real right to strike and if they do, the mandatory wage committee shows up quickly. Certainly they can't be hanging around outside their employer's building with a picket sign for weeks on end. Like we can.

UPDATE: The arbitrator can call for negotiations again at any time, but is required to do so if the conflict lasts more than a month. I find that rather cheering.

Astrology

I could have mentioned this earlier, but basically, today verified the chart. On May 9 I did a horary chart, asking if we'd win the negotiations. The answer was a yes, but involves Mars. The Moon would perfect to a "yes" by a translation of light, meaning using Mars as a go-between. The interesting thing is that Mars, planet of conflict, rules the house of labor and employees (6th) and the house of contracts and legal disputes (7th). The natural ruler of the 7th (Venus) is in the 6th house. She also rules the Ascendant, and the co-quesitor (as it's called in horary), the Moon, also rules the 10th: Employers. My interpretation: We'll win, but we have to first fight. That Moon can also mean public sympathy or attention. One other union has already declared a sympathy strike in our support during the lockout.