Aug 31, 2006

Clever girl!

That is to say, I am very clever at taking IQ tests.

Testriffic IQ test

(Swiped from Paula.)

Bergen's museum garden

I'd still get no better than a "C" ("G", as it used to be in Norway) in history, with my memory for names, dates and places. I wander around with my local history "class", listening to someone tell me who did what when, and I just know I'll forget and not be able to tell anyone else. But here's the gist of it:

The university of Bergen was established in 1946 on a hill called Nygårdshøyden (literally: New farm height). However, people had been doing advanced studies in that area for about 80 years already. One man's hobby had become a valuable collection. That man was Wilhelm Frimann Koren Christie, Norway's first parliamentary president, right after Norway got its own constitution (in 1814) but was still under Swedish rule. When Christie became disabled about 10 years later and could no longer work, he devoted his time to collecting historical items of all kinds. This collection became Bergen's first museum and popular with the locals, and outgrew itself. A new museum building was built in 1867 up on the hill in a marsh, and the collection moved there, becoming an important research aid. Some 60 years later, the museum had outgrown itself again, and was split in two, so the original is now called the museum of natural history and the newer one is the museum of arts and crafts. Botanical research was also done at the museum (of natural history), transforming the marsh around the museum into a gorgeous and varied garden with thousands of different kinds of growths, many planted as a test to see how they'd do at our latitude and in our climate (quite well, apparantly). One of the loveliest features in this garden is its lily pond. More photos from the museum garden at Flickr (see link in sidebar).

I need to return to this place, because there are more flowers, and I got no pictures of the front of the museum or the statue of Christie there.

Aug 26, 2006

Eating in Norway

I ran across another American-in-Norway's blog and he told of making the mistake of making a full-fledged American sandwich, complete with "lid" for breakfast, whereas the Norwegian style is one slice of cheese or coldcut on a slice of bread, no sandwich. And today my brain interpreted "ice" as meaning frozen water, forgetting for a moment that Norwegians shorten icecream to "ice" (which does mean frozen water in Norwegian, too), so I was surprised by the coffee with icecream in it, but it was actually pretty good.

Norwegian food has traditionally been colored by limited area and climate for farming, spoilage (which lead to lutefisk) and poverty. The result is that a traditional Norwegian dinner used to be sinewy meat, heaps of potatoes with bad spots, and cabbage or carrots or cauliflower as a second vegetable (if any). Meat was expensive; fish was cheaper. Such was the situation when we arrived in Norway in 1969. No salads, no garlic, and the vegetables were usually cooked to death. If someone served a sandwich (open-faced, naturally) with a bit of parsely on it, most Norwegians would pick it off because all raw vegetables were for rabbits. The bread was good, but all too often fruit and potatoes had bruises and bad spots, and in general looked rather small and pathetic. Norwegians were still getting used to foreign food. They had discovered vacationing in Spain and some had finally tasted good chicken, not old hen. Back then, you could still find "hen" in the freezer; now it's "broiler", "chicken" and often in parts and pre-marinated.

What you find in the freezer today, next to the pre-marinated chicken, are all sorts of ready-to-eat meals, fish, squid, shrimp, vegetables, cake, berries, pizza, quiche, and more. Likewise, rows of canned peas are now replaced by spaghetti and taco sauces, French mustards, black olives and pickled garlic. Kits with spices and other necessities ease the making of fajitos, moussaka and lasagne, as well as a number of stews with recognizable ingredients, but exotic flavorings.

Salads are a regular addition to many dinners now, and the vegetable selection has expanded to include bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini and eggplant. There is more than one type of onion available, and Norwegians no longer turn up their noses at the idea of using garlic. Norwegians don't stick to just the home-grown fruits of cherries, apples, pears, plums and strawberries, but enjoy bananas, passion fruit, grapefruit, grapes and pineapple, etc. There are more varieties of cheese and spices, and a lot of imported and exotic foods, like Thai sauces, Indian curries, soy milk and even maple syrup. Cooking fat has been replaced by any number of vegetable oils, and the lowly potato by all kinds of pasta and rice. The bread is still good and more different types have been added, and nowadays, a Norwegian is more likely to not settle for one measly slice of sheep's sausage, but will indulge in pastrami and several kinds of raw vegetables as garnish. The employee cafeteria where I work has a salad bar twice a week.

I eat like the Norwegians, mostly, right down to the open-faced sandwich with one slice of cheese for lunch. I am revealed as a foreigner since I twirl my spaghetti on my fork (usually using a spoon); most Norwegians cut their spaghetti. Do I miss anything specifically American while living here? Yes: Tuna melt sandwiches, cole slaw, pumpkin pie and blue cheese dressing. I am delighted by the huge variety of everything available in an American grocery store, but I make do here in Norway and eat well. Today's Norway has produced some world class chefs, and today's average Norwegian eats a far more varied (if untradtional) diet, and is more willing than ever to try new things. Gone are the days when Norwegian housewives cooked and froze two week's worth of dinner before heading to Spain, so that she and her husband could eat something they recognized. Today's Norwegian will make paella in her own kitchen. And I make burritos.

Aug 25, 2006

What do I know about growing old?

I was raised by old people. A man of 67 and a woman of 58 took me in and got the joy of raising a kid through puberty all over again. And they did it quite well. For this reason, I don't see old folks as some uniform, brain-dead mass thanks to their uniform hair-coloring and face-wrinkling, but with the expectation of them as being as wonderful as my grandparents, and with personalities and habits just as unique. I have yet to be disappointed.

But they grew old and died (a fact that still pisses me off). The growing old part wasn't bad. The growing too weak to have fun wasn't good. So what have I learned from this?

Old age is not an illness, nor are illnesses a feature of old age; if an elderly person gets sick, it's because something is wrong, not because they are elderly. Some people are tough as nails, healthy as apples, and as with it as a young genius, and they're pushing 100. Some people are picking out caskets at age 30 and in them by 60. My grandparents were lively and healthy well into their 80's. Grandpa's mind went but his body stayed agile and slim, and Grandma's body went, but her mind and curiosity remained intact. Grandpa died a few months before his 93rd birthday, Grandma a few months before her 95th. Neither ever suffered from bad moods.

That's one key: Stay happy. Or if you like, don't worry. Or better still: Forget a lot of crap. Other keys to keeping your wits and health based on what I saw:

  1. Keep walking. Don't let yourself forget how to move around outside your own home.
  2. Stay curious; don't starve your personality or your brain.
  3. Don't get fat. In women, overweight is one of the causes of incontinence; in general, it makes moving around harder as you age, and if you then lose all that weight (which many elderly do), you'll have sheets of skin being a nuisance to you.
  4. Take care of your sight and hearing. Not being able to see or hear what everybody else sees and hears will keep you from being curious. It will also make people think you're an idiot (I'm sorry to say).
  5. Have a hobby, preferably one you can share or share the results of. Or have a pet. Point is, you have to want to get out of bed because something enjoyable is waiting for you, regardless of whether your grown kids remembered to visit you.
  6. If you do discover that things aren't working quite right, get help! Don't sabotage yourself! Early nuisance problems that aren't taken care of can eventually grow insurmountable. If you leak, put on the damned diaper and go out anyway. If you've gone gimpy, get the stupid cane, and go out anyway. Get the hearing aid, the kitchen aids, the new glasses, the raised seat on the toilet, the large-button phone, the inlay soles, the wheelchair. For many people, growing old and frail is a shock. Age feels like a thief that steals energy, agility and ability, and many find their new weakness embarrassing and don't want to "advertise" that fact. They end up making life harder for themselves than it has to be, which eventually demovitates them. Stay active and independent with whatever it takes even if people stare. To those of you with aging parents, point out the perks of independence, and don't play the age card. What ails them is not necessarily due to age, anyway.

One Norwegian was asked about what it was like to be old, and he said he could still do everything he did when he was younger, it just took longer. He got it right.

Aug 23, 2006

Politics-free zone, thank you

I love political jokes (not if they're elected, though). The recent discussion on my blog in the comments about some political(ly flavored) jokes that have been deleted, has prompted me to explain further why I don't want them on my blog, my personal space.

A couple of weekends ago, extra police were monitoring Bergen's main town square (Torgalmenning) because there was an anti-Israel demonstration taking place, and the police were expecting trouble. My stomach instantly tied itself into a knot. I told the people I was with that such demonstrations, with heated arguments, black-and-white thinking and accusatory rhetoric, took me back to my childhood, and not in a good way. For that reason, I do not like extreme views or the aggression that accompanies them: Somebody gets hurt and the "victim" may not be who you think it is.

When I was 8 years old, I came to Norway with my grandma and grandpa. Both were pacifists, having seen first-hand what war did to people. My grandma often told the story of how one of her co-workers, who became a close friend, had avoided going to Vietnam by refusing to carry a weapon. He spent his tour of duty cleaning toilets - proudly. My grandpa had spent 6 years in convoys crossing the Atlantic during World War II and had been torpedoed a number of times. My grandparents were peace-loving and tolerant people and I was raised in a home where I never heard any political or racial slurs.

So we arrived in Norway and due to circumstances, found ourselves settling here, and sending me off to school - regular Norwegian school. The bullying started almost immediately. It's amazing how much it can hurt to be called an American, if the word is spat out. I didn't understand why it was wrong to be an American. My grandparents told me that some people in Norway didn't like that the US was fighting in Vietnam. I knew there was a place called Vietnam and that American soldiers were fighting there, but that was it. Vietnam was never discussed in front of me at home; the 6 o'clock evening TV news was always turned off if dinner was served at that time. My folks didn't believe in exposing a child to such horrors, and they also believed in peace at the table.

But in Norway, nobody thought to tell their kids not to pick on another child because of something that was an adult-only matter. My schoolmates probably heard a lot of crap said about Americans at home and I became fair game. The grown-ups never actually asked what my family thought so they never knew that these particular Americans were absolutely against the Vietnam war.

Norway in the late 1960's and well into the 1970's listed heavily to the left. The general trend in the nation was to support communists and bash Americans. This filtered down to me as a child via the bullying. Any discussion about America usually put me on the defensive, because I rarely met someone who said anything positive or supportive. When I left Norway in 1976, I practically hated it. It hadn't given me anything I wanted to keep. When I came back in 1981, the political wind had changed directions, I was no longer a kid, and I met people who had been to the US and liked my country. I liked this Norway. Years later, the "reds" of Norway themselves acknowledged that they had gone too far and had been unfair to the US and quite naïve about the communists. I still encounter the sweeping generalizations - "Americans are idiots to elect that guy!" - but since I also enjoy more support, it doesn't sting like it used to.

Some of my Democrat friends showed no mercy in their comments when George W. Bush was (re-)elected, and it was too much for me. The extremist point of views and name-calling do not sit well with me. I know first-hand that the effect such attitudes have is not to wake the other side up, but to make them respond in kind, and to create divisiveness, always catching someone in the middle - and that someone may be a child. So when I say I don't do politics here, that's why. The child I once was doesn't want to relive this.

Censorship?

I've been accused of censorship here on my blog. Lately, I've deleted a couple of comments because they referenced - unkindly - a public figure. I don't do politics here, and I certainly don't do political jokes. Here are my reasons:

  • This is not a political blog.
  • I want to leave something useful and constructive behind; plenty of other sites offer all the political jokes and putdowns anyone could ever want (and I read them myself, but passing them on is not my mission in life; neither, sadly, is microwaving popcorn successfully).
  • I change my mind a lot. I may think it's fun to laugh at A today, but in a year from now, I may be A's staunchest supporter. Hell, I even like Jimmy Carter now (you have no idea how crazy he drove me when he was president; the man couldn't move his lips when he talked). And I vacillate on gun control and God and sweet-n-sour sauce, all the time.
  • It does me good to keep it nice; crap is ubiquitous. I prefer not to have my comments section resemble Usenet.

When I leave comments on other people's blogs, I try to respect the tone of the blog. Like Usenet, you may have to lurk a while, to get a feel for the writer and the tone of the blog. Read others comments to see what they got away with.

I know that many other bloggers do not delete any comments. I have, because the comments completely went against the tone of my blog, and also because I don't want any search engines to find my blog via something I didn't say.

Aug 21, 2006

What's my power color?

Distracted by Sravana, I went to discover my power color and got the same as Sravana: Indigo. Thing is, that really isn't me at all. I don't require praise and attention when I'm down; when I'm down, I either want you to fuck off and leave me alone, or make me laugh. I have no dramatic flair, and may be mysterious but never romantic. As for the eternal question being "Does This Work Into My Future Plans?", well, I have no future plans. At all. Well, maybe I'll do the dishes some time in the future, but that's it.

So I went back and tweaked my answers (truth is, for some questions, all the answers fit, and for some questions, none did). And I got this, and it really reflects me:

Your Power Color Is Red-Orange
At Your Highest: You are warm, sensitive, and focused on your personal growth. At Your Lowest: You become defensive and critical if you feel attacked. In Love: You are loyal - but you demand the respect you deserve. How You're Attractive: You are very affectionate and inspire trust. Your Eternal Question: "Am I Respected?"

3866 and the new definition of "planet"

3866 hits to my website in one week. It's a record!

The majority of hits come via my blog. Usually, my post Losing my virginity is what draws the crowd in. This week, though, it's my untitled post about Quaoar, which tells me that some astrological people out there are looking for information. So here's my take on the news about new planets or demoted ones, as it relates to astrology:

First of all, my stance is that one should first understand traditional astrology, with the original seven rulers (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) since they aid in understanding the signs and houses, and vice-versa. You can get a depth in understanding Mars when you know it rules both a cardinal (pioneering) Fire (spirit) sign and a fixed (steadfast) Water (emotion) sign (Aries and Scorpio, respectively). Likewise, knowing that stodgy Saturn rules Aquarius can clue you in on that sign's true nature rather than going by revolutionary Uranus alone. (When Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were discovered, they were assigned (co-)rulerships of Aquarius, Pisces and Scorpio, respectively, making many modern astrologers ignore the connections of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars to those signs.)

Now, I can honestly say that I have felt the influence of a Pluto transit (I enjoyed it; yes, it was Pluto). Do I think something will be amiss if Pluto gets demoted as a planet and therefore no longer should feature in the basic birth chart? Astrologers have discussed this. I have astrology books published in the 1930's and 1940's that do not mention Pluto at all, and traditionalists would rather focus on the traditional rulerships first and foremost, anyway. But some astrologers say that all new discoveries are significant and relevant to the times in which the discovery happens (Pluto rules nuclear power and bombs because it showed up while research into such things was starting) and to people born during those times. So, anyone born after 1930 belongs to a Pluto generation of people. Likewise, Chiron would feature in all the charts of people born after 1977.

But now our skies, thanks to modern technology, are littered with all kinds of heavenly bodies, some of which are found within our own solar system, and some of these bodies are on the verge of a status change (like Ceres, going from asteroid to planet), depending on the voting of the IAU on August 25. This reminds me of today's world, actually: There are so many sources of information and ways of connecting with people, that sometimes it feels overwhelming. It must be overwhelming. What's important? What matters, whether it be messages at the office or celestial points in a birth chart?

I like simplicity, and it works. Instead of the RSS feed and constant reminders of e-mail via your cell phone, you can go back to basics. Answer e-mail only certain times of the day. Turn off instant messaging. In astrology, remove all the outer stuff and see first what the seven original rulers say in your chart.

The thing about astrology is that it has a lot of failsafes. There's an overall theme to a chart. Start focusing on house cusps and the theme is echoed. Dig a little deeper, and the aspect between two particular planets also echo that theme. The number of dynamic vs. calm aspects echo. The house placement of planets echo. It's a repeating pattern that helps you understand the chart, and it's there whether or not you throw in the asteroids or newer discoveries.

Would I add Ceres to my chart? Or Xena? It might tell me something about my role in the times in which we live. However, so does my 12th house Sun. I'd just be having fun with fractals - seeing the same pattern over and over, fascinating as that is. I am curious about Ceres, since it hits a part of my chart that is also otherwise energized, so perhaps poking around with transits from Ceres would be enlightening. (My experience is that attention-getting planets in a chart are also attention-getting by transit.) I also find some astrologers argument for Ceres as a Virgo ruler to have merit. But I doubt it will replace Virgo's original ruler, Mercury.

So don't sweat the small stuff; have fun with it or not.

UPDATE August 24: The IAU have voted, and Pluto is no longer officially a planet due to its orbit crossing Neptune's.

Aug 16, 2006

I should rule Saturn

Funny thing is, Saturn rules a lot about me, astrologically.

You Should Rule Saturn
Saturn is a mysterious planet that can rarely be seen with the naked eye. You are perfect to rule Saturn because like its rings, you don't always follow the rules of nature. And like Saturn, to really be able to understand you, someone delve beyond your appearance. You are not an easy person to befriend. However, once you enter a friendship, you'll be a friend for life. You think slowly but deeply. You only gain great understanding after a situation has past.

Aug 15, 2006

Nice weather for ducks

A test of both Flickr and taking pictures in the rain. My Canon Powershot S2 IS (Flickr reveals all) is not waterproof. Nevertheless, I took a chance, trying to keep the camera covered until I was actually ready to point and shoot. (One reason I took a walk is my current weight: 66 kg, and only 1 pound away from "overweight".)

So on Flickr now is Ortuvann in a light rain, a first for me, as well as the European (or black) coots (sothøne, på norsk), shown above. (Much experimenting; this post made via Flickr.)

Aug 13, 2006

Now on Flickr

Finally did it. Got an account with Flickr and have posted the whole series of photos (well, all the good ones) from my warm August evening walk there. See new link in sidebar.

So you have a wall...

...and that means graffiti. I won't go into the particular wall in question. I'm more fascinated by the art it has become the canvas for. (Via Mighty Optical Illusions blog.)

Aug 12, 2006

There's a warm wind blowing

I'm not talking 'bout moving in,
And I don't want to change your life.
But there's a warm wind blowing,
The stars are out, and I'd really love to see you tonight.*

Once again, I caught a glow coming through my living room drapes and looked out an incredible salmon sky. Nothing for it but to throw on the shoes, grab the camera and get myself down to the pond, stopping on the little rise between my apartment building and the shortcut I take to the lake to shoot this:

Thing is, as I discovered upon stepping outdoors, it was a balmy evening. A warm wind really was blowing and so instead of settling for a dash down to my favorite spot for a last view of sky vs. water, I decided to walk all around the pond. On my way, I heard geese honking overhead, and I saw a bat flying. And as I got to the end of my walk, I saw a black cat sitting in the light of a street lamp, a picture waiting to be taken. So I did.

*) A warm evening walk like this always makes me hum England Dan and John Ford Coley's "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight".

13 favorite inventions

Idea (and an invention) stolen from Boiled Dinner. (Why do I do this to myself? I can't think of 13 anything - or can I?)

13. Stretch jeans. Mmmmm... Comfy!
12. Penicillin/antibiotics. I dare say that that one discovery (of penicillin as an antibiotic) was the key to our increased longevity in the 20th century. And it saved my life once.
11. Eye-glasses and eye-glass fashions. (Those of you who like to poke the most sensitive part of your body may say "contact lenses".)
10. The new plastics (or composite resins) they use to fill your cavities and that let you eat immediately afterwards.
9. Today's sanitary pads: Thin, can be worn in any kind of panty and protective "wings" that keep said panties unstained. What a change from the bulky pads (with or without a belt) with a life of their own that I started out with 33 years ago. My next adventure is the age where this is all a moot point. ;-)
8. Clumping kitty litter. Flushable, perfumed, clumping kitty litter. Neat technology. No, I didn't flush it; darned stuff would sit in my toilet and absorb even more moisture. Took many flushes and I didn't repeat that experiment again. But in theory, yeah, flushable.
7. Self-assembly furniture. IKEA, unbrakos, wordless diagrams.
6. Chewing gum. Sugar-free. My favorites are cinnamon and spearmint.
5. CDs. For someone who loves to play only her favorite tracks, preferably on repeat, CDs (and programmable CD-players) are a godsend.
4. Mousse. For the hair, that is.
3. Digital cameras. With huge memory cards. For someone who loves to take pictures, digital cameras are a fantastic invention.
2. Scotch tape. Or duct/duck tape. They unite the world and they let people who can hardly hammer a screw build and fix things.
1. The computer. Were it not for the computer, my life would have taken a very different direction. And I wouldn't be blogging.

Aug 11, 2006

Being organized means marshmallowing resources

The title of this post comes from misreading the title of this article in the Boston Globe about being organized.

I'm a time management junkie. I love reading about time management, about organizing, filing, making lists, crossing off tasks, fiddling with the item-specific icons in the datebook on my PDA, downloading umpteen time/task/file management programs out of curiosity more than dire need. Do I manage time? Hell, no. Am I organized? Well, at work I am, but not at home. Do I procrastinate?

So I read blogs like www.43folders.com and such. No, I don't practice GTD, I just like reading about it. I also peruse organizing sites like FlyLady for the same reason. (Though FlyLady is currently getting me off my butt. Again.) Weird? Naw. Other people like to read recipe books but never cook. Still others read about foreign countries and never leave home. Et cetera.

Speaking about travelling, here's an online utility for generating a universal packing list.

And yeah, I procrastinate (you were so waiting for that answer, weren't you). Big time. So I'm thinking that if all it took was some marshmallows, I'd get stuff done.

Aug 9, 2006

Oh, I'm in trouble now!

eBay sent me an e-mail about eBay Express - "an exciting way to shop". So I wandered on over/in and decided to look at handbags, narrowed down by color and material, and still I've got 10 pages with 90 items each to look through. Ah, bliss.

If you don't hear from me in a week, please come and get me. Look for the deliriously happy woman under a pile of black Hobos.

Aug 7, 2006

The Tale of Sterke Dame

In a beautiful village in Norway there was a really nice lake where the townspeople, young and old alike, loved to go to on warm summer days.

Now it happened (as it usually does) that there where hooligans about town who liked to cause mayhem and do damage for no apparent reason. At this lake there were docks and floating rafts for all to enjoy. Well, these hooligans saw fit to disconnect the most used and beloved dock and set it adrift in the lake. The townspeople, young and old alike, were dismayed (to say the least) and greatly missed their dock. They swam in a lackluster manner; they sunned themselves less than wholeheartedly.

As it happened, during this time there came to town Sterke Dame. Now, you couldn't see Sterke Dame was an unusually strong woman just by looking at her. In fact, she was the mother of two and what is called middle-aged. But when she arrived at the lake and saw the sad state of affairs, the down-turned mouths and the dock floating at the far end of the lake, she knew she must take action!

She dove in and swam a long way to the dock. It had settled in some mud and weeds. With a tremendous tug, Sterke Dame freed the dock, and with one arm holding fast to the dock, she swam with the other arm and pulled the dock back to its rightful place.

Oh, how the townspeople, young and old alike, rejoiced! Once again they could dive off their beloved dock and sun themselves while eating potato chips in a proper manner.

Sterke Dame was glad she could make so many people happy. She went back to her modest way of being until in the future the need should once again arise for her "Sterkness"!

THE END

Original story by my strong friend Ann. Photo taken by her brother Tor, instead of diving in to help his sister. ;-)

Aug 6, 2006

Tidying, organizing, sorting, sunset

I have umpteen photos from a couple of vacations to sort through and share on the web. I have many other photos that I'd like to share with all of you so I joined Flickr. The sorting and deciding still needs to be done. In the meantime, another sunset (hi, Max!). This one was taken about 75 minutes earlier in the evening than the one on July 7. The days are getting shorter. I'm looking forward to the darker evenings. They make it easier to justify staying indoors sorting photos.

Aug 4, 2006

Wanna come in and see my treadmill?

If a guy hands me that line, I'll answer yes, after having seen OK Go's truly creative use of exercise equipment. (That the song appeals to me doesn't hurt, neither.)

Hair

Sravana's comment about hair (BTW, thanks for the compliment, Sravana!) on my What was easier when I was younger post made me think about the adventure that has been my Hair.

First off, I was blond as a kid. My hair was straight, baby fine, tangled easily and never really stayed put in any scrunchies, rubber bands or barrettes. And then it got darker. From plain ol' blond to dishwater blond to non-descript all-over medium brown. My hair had turned into the epitomy of Plain.

My hair is straight, very straight - and will not hold a curl. You curl it, you look at it for 10 minutes, and the curl's gone. It's magic! When I was younger it was also amazingly frustrating. Also, the hair, being straight, fine and plentiful, tended to lay itself down against my head under its own weight and fineness. And it was greasy. Oh, the remedies I subjected my follicles to! From green soap to so-called dry shampoo, rubbing perfume on it (alcohol was supposed to be drying), giving myself dandruff and itchiness and split ends in the process - and still my hair stayed greasy.

And my hair never grew past my shoulder blades. Never. It'd grow really fast up to a an inch past my shoulders and then - nothing. So I've had longish hair on and off during my life (I arrived in Norway with longish hair both times), for the most part it's been short. To the collar short or to the earlobes short, straight or permed, even standing straight up, but not long. Never able-to-gather-all-hairs-on-top-of-head long; something shorter would always fall out immediately, and that something short was always there.

So over the years, I saw my hair as impossible and plain. Oh, it was healthy and shiny, and for that I was grateful and got compliments, but it wasn't toss-your-head-and-get-the-guys gorgeous (I thought).

The first break-through in peace talks came when my mother told me of a friend of hers who simply washed her hair every day to handle the oilyness. So simple, and when you think about it, so obvious! But I had believed all the advertisements. Once I started washing my hair daily, I never again needed "Shampoo for oily hair; leaves hair bouncy and oil-free longer" (no, it doesn't).

I arrived in Norway with a fading perm, landed in a salon and was asked the one question I hate getting from a hairdresser: "What do you want done with it?" I want miracles done with it, but at that point I hadn't met a miracle-worker. The only response possible from me was, "What can you do with it?", accompanied by a pained, begging look. (I actually said, "I don't know.") She suggested refreshing the perm. I agreed, but was disappointed.

Over the years, perms have been tried, to gain curls, lift, dryness, bounce, a change from Straight As A Ruler. On again, off again, with the drudgery of waiting for enough new hair to have grown to leave something left after all the old, worn and now-hated chemical loops had been cut off. My hair's been striped, bleached, highlighted, toned, colorized, rinsed. It's been longish, shorter than long, shortish, short, so short it defied gravity (a first!). Bangs, no bangs, some bangs, wispy bangs, thick bangs, straight bangs, asymmetrical bangs. And then there were all the attempts at learning to style my hair: Spray, gel, wax, paste, mousse, gum, setting lotion (got to give the hair product folks credit for creativity).

I very quickly discovered I can't style hair. It took me years just to figure out how to coordinate the blow-drier in one hand with the styling brush in the other. I loved the finger-drying period. That meant just one hand had to be co-ordinated and I could avoid searing my face, scalp or ears during styling.

So back to that bit about being disappointed with the perm. I wasn't happy with a hairdresser that could offer no suggestions to me about What To Do With Plain Besides Chemical Warfare. A friend told me of a new salon and I tried it. I got the owner himself, a man only a year-and-a-half older than myself but already his salon had been in business and thriving for a year (I myself was a mere 21 1/2). He ran his fingers through mousy brown fineness. He studied my face. He asked me about my lifestyle. I told him I could walk in stiletto heels without wobbling, but needed a nurse on hand for the curling iron. He nodded, brought up the scissors - and I walked out of a salon for the first time in my life with a cut I actually liked immediately and that I knew I could manage.

In the course of the 23 years I have been going to this salon, no, to this one hairdresser (Trond), I have had all the above-mentioned haircuts and chemical treatments, each one more satisfying than the previous. Somewhere in my 20's, I discovered the "Color me a season" thing, that my coloring is Winter: Cool, clear, rich colors; it made my mousy brown look better. Somewhere in my late 30's, I wanted to get rid of all chemicals in my hair and let the last bits of color and curls courtesy of bottles be cut away. The hair that emerged was soft, shiny and according to Trond, of a glorious and even ash brown color. He also told me that healthy, glossy and soft hair like mine didn't need conditioners.

Gorgeous color? Healthy? Glossy?

I peered more closely into the mirror. Shine everywhere, evenness everywhere. Being straight and unstylable hadn't mattered in a good while, now that I got good haircuts all the time. Being greasy also hadn't mattered in years, especially not with nice, expensive salon-formula shampoos (can you say Redken?). And yes, it was true, my hair and scalp had never given me problems with itchy, flaking, scaling, dryness, allergies, once I stopped beating it with harsh treatments, nor even too much static electricity. I had wonderful hair - hair that posed no problems! Lucky me!

So yes, Sravana, I do have lovely, trouble-free hair, and finally the sense to appreciate it. Thank you for reminding me.

What was easier when I was younger?

Over on Lifehacker.com, a question has been asked about what was easier when you were young. Go to the link and see other people's replies. I don't have any, myself, because all I can think of is: Nothing.

Nothing was easier when I was younger. Except being arrogant and a real know-it-all. Now I'm sometimes humble and a real know-some-of-it-all. Oh, sure, it was easier to wear size 4 jeans and bend into an almost-pretzel, but does that matter? I mean, I can still reach my toes without bending my knees and fit into an airplane seat without touching the passenger next to me.

So what's easier now that I'm older?

Accepting myself.
Loving and styling my hair (once chemically fought with tooth and nail).
Knowing what is likely a really dumb thing to say and not say it.
Being right and not saying a word about it. (Heh.)
Saying yes.
Buying music I love, especially the stuff I couldn't afford when I was a teenager (here's to re-releases of everything 70's on CDs).
Avoiding those really dark moments.
Really not caring what others think.
Paying myself compliments. And appreciating the compliments others pay.
Ooh, almost forgot this one: Knowing when it's not your job and you can safely say so to the @$$h0L3 who expected you to do it anyway.

Aug 1, 2006

I'm dreaming about cats again

Many years ago (almost 20), I got into a phase where my dreams featured cats. One or two doing something, behaving a certain way. The first dream featured two red-and-white cats, and I mean real red, an unnatural color for cats. I had this dream during the weekend and it was so odd, I remembered it. The following Monday, at work, I found out that two co-workers had lost loved ones over the weekend.

I had other dreams featuring a cat, usually a black-and-white cat, and would then find out that someone had died. Often the death or the person dying echoed the cat's behavior (quiet, boisterous, etc.). I got nervous about dreaming someone close to me would die. When I got a cat of my own, though, I stopped having these dreams.

Well, they're back. I had two dreams featuring black-and-white cats. In one dream, I let two cats in from the outdoors. One acknowledged me, the other more reserved. In another dream, I was cleaning out my suitcase and closed the lid a bit, and a cat inside got spooked and dashed out.

Today at work, I found out that one of our retired employees, who was active in our senior's club and often came to our department for help with photocopying and the like, had died suddenly about three weeks ago. A co-worker, whom I knew only by sight also died just weeks ago after a brief but hard illness. I'm wondering who number three is.