Sep 27, 2006

New links in sidebar

OK, I finally got around to adding some blogs I've been reading regularly for a while. An introduction to the newbies:

Sep 26, 2006

Finally, a feel for fall

Southern Norway, and especially the western coast, i.e. my neck of the woods, has been experiencing a record-breaking warm September. It is September 26th and we are still experiencing summer temperatures. Today's high for Bergen was 19C/66F; tomorrow's forecast is for 17C/63F. The norm is a maximum of 15C/59F, with 12C/54F being typical. Heck, 12C is actually the typical temperature for around here, winter or summer. But not this year.

Usually, there is one day in mid-August, where you go to bed to that smoky wood smell of autumn, and wake up to crisp air and go hunt for your gloves. Then it's back to normal, but that one moment of sharp drop in temperature heralds the change in season and reminds plants and trees to start pulling back and going to sleep. This year, we haven't had a single moment like that yet.

Today, with my jacket wide open and dressed in thin, cool linen pants, I nevertheless managed to get a whiff of autumn, thanks to something else typical of Bergen: Rain. For the first time since summer, rain closed in, in heavy, low clouds and made the afternoon dark early. The twilight and water outside made me think of the dark half of the year and therefore reminded me of autumn. It also made me realize I wasn't dressed for a walk home in such downpour so I took the bus and a picture.

Hunting for something to read

The stomach wants something so you search cupboards or hang on the open refridgerator door willing something good to appear. When my mind gets "hungry", I rifle through my bookcases and piles of magazines - or click on all the "just updated" links on Blogger or on all the homepage links in somebody's comment section.

And just as there isn't that One Delicious Thing in the cupboard when you need it, sometimes the vast world of blogging is also just as void of the necessary fodder. It is rather fascinating to sit there, figurative blog door open, peering into the contents of someone else's life and mind, wondering if it's tasty. Tasty enough to keep reading, tasty enough to come back for more.

Unfortunately, it mimics real life too well: Naw, nope, requires cooking, past its best-before date, good but not what I want. Oh, wait, what's that? Well, I read that whole post and liked it so I went ahead and read another and liked that, too. Mmm... The whole wedge of cheese - all gone. At least I'm no longer hungry.

Sep 25, 2006

Monsterbein

Mark asked me a question, and here is the answer:

The really fun/freaky part is that these actually look good on me (sorry, no pic of that).

Sep 23, 2006

Music meme

I'll blame my recently installed PandoraBoy for bothering to steal this one from Archer - whose writing style is totally unlike mine. I'm just sayin'.

NAME UP TO THREE:

Song(s) That I Loathe to the Core of My Being
"Calendar Girl" by Neil Sedaka. Both tune and voice are nails on a chalkboard.
"Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks. It got overplayed on Radio Luxembourg because the DJ who loved it didn't have the sense to understand why nobody else liked it.
"Die Another Day" (James Bond theme song) by Madonna. Ugly and totally un-Bond.

Musical artist(s) That I Loathe to the Core of My Being
Barry Manilow. Songs aren't too bad, but the voice is dead. Neil Sedaka would be preferred.
Andrea Boccelli. Another dead voice.
Frank Sinatra, but not (just) because of his voice.

Rolling Stones Song(s) I Love
"Jumpin' Jack Flash"
"Sympathy For the Devil"
"Brown Sugar" (Yes, I know it's politically incorrect. It still rocks.)

Beatles Song(s) I Love
In as much that I am a Beatles fan, the choice is:
"We Can Work It Out"
"Something"
"Help!"

Who Song(s) I Love
The ones currently doing double-duty as CSI theme songs (that'd be "Who Are You", "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Riley") + "Pinball Wizard"

Dylan Song(s) I Love

Reggae Songs I Love
The problem with reggae is that it gets really old really fast so I have no favorites, though 10cc's "Dreadlock Holiday" works because it's more 10cc than reggae.

Country Song(s) I Love
This is gonna be a tough choice so I think I'll give a cross-sample:
"Chattahoochie" by Alan Jackson
"He Thinks He'll Keep Her" by Mary Chapin Carpenter
"Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell

Movie Soundtrack(s) I Love
More like Movie Soundtrack(s) I own, which comes up to three. Which ought to tell you that movie soundtracks are not my thing. The three I own are:
"Saturday Night Fever". Utterly shit movie, but great music. Yes, I like disco.
"Titanic". No, not for the Celine Dion song, but the instrumental stuff.
Uhm. Number 3. Well, I own "The Bodyguard" but the one number in the movie that I bought it for isn't included (I hate when that happens). I know what I would like to have: The theme from "Jurassic Park". There's a cheerful phrasing there when they happily see dinosaurs that I really love.

Cover Song(s) I Love
Not that many non-originals came across better than the originals, but these three stand out in my muddled mind:
"Roll Over Beethoven" by either The Beatles or Electric Light Orchestra (original by Chuck Berry)
"Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)" by The Doobie Brothers (original by Kim Weston)
"Got To Get You Into My Life" by Earth Wind and Fire (original by The Beatles)

Contemporary Top-40 Artist(s) I Secretly Love
Going by the top 40 lists where I am, there is nothing to love.

Song(s) That Bring Me To Tears
"The Rose" by Bette Midler
"Love Is The Answer" by England Dan and John Ford Coley
And, uh, that's it.

Rap/Hip Hop Songs I Love
Same as for Dylan.

70s Disco Song(s) I Love
Oh, where to start? Where to end? OK, I'll just pick something and hope I don't second-guess myself too much:
"Jive Talkin'" by the Bee Gees
"The Hustle" by Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony
"More More More" by Andrea True Connection

Novelty Song(s) I Love
Heh. The only one that has caught my attention enough for me to buy it is "Ring Ding Ding" by Pondlife Featuring Froggy Frogspawn (a bunch of Swedes making a novel and annoying ringtone Just For You).

Soul/R&B Songs I Love
Ooh, another category that's hard to nail down. I love the old stuff, not the Mariah Carey derivatives that pass for soul in today's world, like so:
"The Rubberband Man" by The Spinners (or Captain and Tennille; good cover)
"Nathan Jones" by the Supremes
"Then Came You" by Dionne Warwick and The Spinners

Power Ballad(s) I Love
Anything Chicago from the 1980's
Anything Meatloaf (especially "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" - which just may be the third song that makes me cry)
"Eternal Flame" by The Bangles
Pre 1950s Song(s) I Love
None. I'm not familiar with the music beyond Christmas and Broadway songs.

Singer/Songwriter Songs I Love
Neil Diamond
John Denver
Billy Joel

Song(s) to Have Sex To
Defintely NOT Ravel's "Bolero".

None of the Above Song(s) I Love
"Give A Little Bit" by Supertramp
"The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby & The Range
"I'm Mandy Fly Me" by 10cc

Sep 21, 2006

This 'n' that and autumn


Nokia N73 photos 2006-09-14 - 8   —  Originally uploaded by thinkbigshrinktofit

I haven't felt much like writing this past week. I'm basically PMS-ing. Life as a woman at my age is puberty in reverse, with hormones all over the place and affecting moods, sleep, food cravings, and, temporarily, the size of my rack (I could be a page 3 girl). This time I was also feeling quite introverted (as in I Really Do Not Want To Interact With Another Human).

So a little bit about what I've been up to this past week:

A local flea markeet got a lot of books, some knick-knacks, an iron frying pan and Grandma's sewing machine, which I had borrowed years ago to sew curtains with. Never did. In clearing out my bookcase, I came across "The Messiah Stones" and decided to read it. I'm glad I read it, but it's not a keeper and will go to the next flea market. But one thing the author claimed in this religious novel was that God would not save the soul of anyone who had taken a life, raped, or bought or sold a slave. That didn't sit right with me. The book refers to reincarnation but makes no allowances for karma or atonement. I also thought the choice of crimes was a bit odd. I'm guessing that the choices are founded in taking away another person's dignity or freedom but a number of other scenarios, like psychological abuse in a marriage, would also fit that bill.

At any rate, I am delighted by the new empty spot on my living room floor.

I'm still struggling with keeping a peaceful and friendly attitude at work. My old habits/attitudes have resurfaced, making September this year too much like September last year. So I'm back to using a peace affirmation while hunting for the right "hook" for handling my co-worker. I find that pride is definitely getting in the way. I so want to be Right, but that's neither possible nor useful. I came across a nice post on humility today at Lifehack.org which said in part:

If some of our common behaviors in workplaces are an indication, we don't understand humility very much at all.

Those who are humble, feel the rest of us are pretty interesting. Those with humility have a genuine desire to discover what other people can offer. They are intrigued by how others think, and how others feel differently from them.

Thing is, I'm not intrigued by how others think or how they feel differently from me. I can't relate even if I do find out what makes the other person tick. A lack of empathy? I know that there is a danger of always believing that I make sense, I'm smart, I'm practical, and if there's a problem, it's at your end. There's that pride thing - and it makes me impatient, too. But the article on humility certainly gives me food for thought. I have never been humble and I never connected it to being interested in other people, though that connection makes sense to me (and it was a hallmark of Grandma's).

As for mind being over matter, a researcher thinks he's figured out why and how. A taste:

By studying patients with chronic inflammatory diseases who use biofeedback techniques to relax, he has recently found that these individuals have higher vagus nerve activity and lower levels of an important “proinflammatory cytokine” - an immune system chemical that promotes inflammation - that is typically elevated during inflammation. The implication is that people with chronic inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s, rheumatoid arthritis and peripheral vascular disease may be able to “think” their way to feeling better.

(Via Whitely Strieber's Unknown Country which gives a nice summary.)

Autumnal activities for me include catching the birch tree changing color (see picture; Autumnal Equinox on the 23rd, GMT) and attending a tapas cooking class. Delicious food (yummy gazpacho soup leftovers in fridge) with garlic in every dish. Boy, am I going to be fun to talk to for the next 6 weeks. ;-)

In other news, Grandma's birthday is tomorrow, and I find it a bit unreal that this is the second birthday without her and it still pisses me off and makes me cry.

But tomorrow is also FRIDAY and the weekend! YAY!

PS: My reading glasses were making my eyes tired so I had my vision re-tested, and it turns out that my last prescription did not take my astigmatism into consideration but focused (!) on other needs. Lesson learned: Must Honor Astigmatism. Tomorrow I pick up new glasses. Not a moment too soon. Typing this post has been done with letters swimming in and out of focus and a headache hanging around, waiting for an invitation (which it won't get).

Sep 15, 2006

Coffee meme

(Via Blog of Rand)

1) When did you first start drinking coffee?

When I started working full time. Anybody who spends a third of their lives in a place of work and never drinks coffee is - weird. Abnormal. (I do work with such a creature.) I used to use milk all the time in my coffee. Some time in the early 90's I acquired a taste for drinking without milk, but it still depends on the coffee. My current office-related intake is three cups a day.

2) Do you have any coffee-related incidents that you regret?

Besides the occassional too-late-in-the day cup? Nope.

3) Have you ever tried to give up coffee altogether?

Yes, but I quickly realized that it would be terribly inconvenient to do so in Norway. In Norway, if there is anything readily available besides water, it's coffee. For example, I have observed on several occassions that the only beverage available at a meeting is coffee. Even now, there's often a huge coffee urn filled to the brim, and one little thermal pitcher of hot water and 4 tea bags for the one weirdo, uh, tea drinker.

At any rate, it may be wise of me to keep drinking the stuff since one study showed that elderly ladies who drink coffee had sharper wits than elderly ladies who don't drink coffee.

4) Do you have complicated taste in coffee? That is, do you make an intentional attempt to purchase and drink certain kinds of coffee for political or olfactory/gustatory reasons?

No. I'm thrilled if the coffee tastes good without milk and that's the extent of my taste buds' capability/interest in the matter. There is a coffee bar I like to go to, and sometimes I'll try one of their specials of the day. One coffee was labelled "sour" and yes, I could taste a slight sourness to it. Not my cup of tea (heh), but I was pretty pleased that I could actually taste something like that. Else it's the usual mucking around with double mocca lattes.

I had a friend, Elsa, who drank coffee like water. She explained that ever since she was served the perfect cup of tea, English-style, she could never again drink tea without it being done just that way. Coffee, however, didn't matter to her taste buds; it all tasted fine to her (it's probably relevant that she liked bitter-tasting food).

If I owned a coffee maker and the taste appealed to me, I would for sure buy a "fair trade" brand of coffee they have here in Norway. As it is, my standard fare at home is Nescafé Gold. Which reminds me: There is a difference in freeze-drieds. I tried a cheap brand and noticed its "grains" were larger than Nescafé's, didn't dissolve as well, and had less flavor.

(And one that I had to add:)

5) Do you have any coffee-related incidents that are exceptionally nice?

Yes. In some hotels in Europe (especially the British Isles), there is an electric tea kettle, cups and some instant coffee and tea in the rooms. I remember starting the day on vacation with my friend Elsa with a cup of coffee, usually in her room since she smoked, and we'd chitchat and look over maps and the day's agenda. For those times the room had no electric tea kettle, Elsa's trusty little heating coil and our own supply of instant did the trick. Sometimes it would be café avec, as well. Talking together, relaxed with a cup of coffee, was a wonderful way to start the day! The best part was when Elsa had it all ready by the time I got to her room; I felt so pampered.

Sep 14, 2006

...Beast


Nokia N73 photos 2006-09-14 - 5   —  Originally uploaded by thinkbigshrinktofit.

Not sure what happened here. My first guess is that a hawk got to this pigeon. A trail of feathers laid strewn from a birch tree to where this headless carcass lay, just a few feet from the footpath. I noticed the crows munching away, then I noticed what they were munching on. They are such cagey birds that they took off (with much commenting) when I slowed down to get a better look (and take pictures). I guess an alternative title for this post could be "rubbernecking".

Beauty...


Nokia N73 photos 2006-09-14 - 3   —  Originally uploaded by thinkbigshrinktofit.

This gorgeous example of a butterfly perched itself calmly on some flowers, long enough for me to whip out my cameraphone. A couple of boys came by, curious at the woman squating down with a cell phone in one hand and McDonald's what-not in the other. I gestured to said items when the boys wanted to know why I didn't catch the butterfly to get a better look at it. I told them my hands were full already, and I was happy just to get a picture of it. One of the boys took out his cameraphone, but the butterfly wasn't having that and fluttered by.

Sep 12, 2006

Types of God

In reading The Salt Lake Tribune's Study shows America flocks to church, I came across the following descriptions of God:

The highest percentage of Americans, 31.4 percent, believe in a Type A God, who is highly involved in their daily lives and world affairs, but also angry and capable of meting out punishment. Another 23 percent believe in a Type B God, who is likewise engaged, but less willing to condemn or punish individuals.

Sixteen percent believe in a Type C God, who does not interact with the world and is unhappy about the current state of affairs. Another 24.4 percent believe in a Type D God, who is not active in the world and is more the disinterested cosmic force that set the laws of nature in motion.

Uh, if I am forced to choose, I choose Type B. That's the closest I come to the type of God I have. Actually, mine is a combination of Type D and Type B. I.e. all things are set in motion by a creative force in the Universe, and this force can be used consciously in our day to day affairs - if we want. No punishment, though. My God is not irrational; there's no first giving Man the power to do as he wants (free will) and then punishing him for it; any corrective we need is accomplished through cause and effect. My observation is that each individual's concept of God reflects their own life experiences and/or view of authority. Which makes the following comment on the choice of type interesting:

"This is terribly important because it can predict all kinds of things about an individual," Froese said. "A person's opinion of God relates to their world view, their morality, their political views."

Indeed. If you live in an uncertain, cruel world, recheck which God you've made for yourself. As Walt Whitman said:

I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete. The earth remains jagged or broken only to him or her who remains jagged or broken.

Sep 11, 2006

Nailed to my memory

I have no clue where I was when Kennedy was shot. I was just days from turning 3 years old, but I have no idea where I was. I also don't remember it (I don't remember Robert or Martin Luther King jr. getting shot, either). But the moment I turned my web browser to CNN's web site to see the news about "that awful event happening in America" 5 years ago, is nailed to my memory. I see my desk, I see the sunshine streaming through the windows, I feel my body go hot with grief and rage.

A co-worker who was a bit of a joker came up to my grandma at work around lunch time PST on November 22 1963, and started with, "Did you hear about the president being shot?" and my grandma expected a joke, and smiled and said, "No, what about him?" and got a disgusted look in return, then was informed that the president had really been shot. A co-worker who was a bit of a joker came by my desk around 4 pm CED on September 11 2001, and asked me if I'd heard about that awful event in the US. I answered, "You mean the earthquake in Los Angeles?" which had happened just the day before, and was rewarded with a incredulous stare, then a firm comment that he meant the big plane crash. That's when I turned to my web browser and saw the breaking news.

My immediate reaction was to cry, followed a second later by utter anger and a comment that those who did that, who hijacked the planes and flew them into those buildings, should all be executed. Considering I am currently against the death penalty, that was a pretty strong reaction. But it was honest, unmodified, from the heart, and I'll own it.

I spent hours at home that afternoon and evening watching the video clips of the planes going into the twin towers on Manhattan, over and over again. I was especially sad, because I had been on vacation to New York just a couple of months earlier and had my own picture of the Manhattan skyline, complete with towers. One of the people I was with, loved going up to the top of the towers for the view. Today, watching the reruns of the towers collapsing in on themselves, I cried again.

After the attacks in 2001, I was overjoyed at the complete support of and genuine sympathy for Americans pouring out everywhere, something I had never experienced before - and then George W. Bush totally squandered all the good-will coming from all over the world. That got me almost as angry as watching the planes crash.

My life has not changed since 9/11. I did visit the US for the first time since 2001 last year and made the "mistake" of cracking a joke with some security officer (not a bomb joke, though). Luckily, he didn't see me as any kind of threat. Other than that, and taking shoes off during security checks, America doesn't seem much different. I am, however, very happy I live in Norway, without a government that does its best to scare its citizens or itself.

Sep 7, 2006

New Nokia N73


Nokia N73 - 1
Originally uploaded by thinkbigshrinktofit.

Not only does my new cell phone purchase make a nice alliteration in the title of this post, but I made friends with it easily, meaning no reading the manual first. I immediately started playing around with it and in general like it. After reading a number of reviews, I chose this model because Nokia doesn't require proprietory earplugs, has both 3G and EDGE, a decent camera, and is known to synchronize with Macs. The key pad buttons are very small and seem more suited for use with long nails or a stylus rather than thumbs, but so far I've avoided huge errors. I like the joystick thingy.

My new toy is still charging. Hopefully I'll get a chance to test it this weekend, including its camera. Maybe I'll even surf the web with it. Flickr also has a picture of the back, which is a pretty wine color.

Sep 6, 2006

Comparison shopping

I live 60 yards away from a grocery store. Small, convenient, cheap, but not my favorite since it doesn't have stuff like corn tortillas (only flour), assorted types of beans (like black) and a variety of other foods (like organic milk and Hellman's mayonnaise) that I prefer. The other store, a 10 minute walk away and on my way home from work, is therefore my preferred store. So when the online survey from my neighborhood store came in my e-mailbox today, asking, among other things, what percentage of my budget do I spend at said store, I was about to tick off the 0-25% box. Then I started wondering just how close to 25% I was.

I shop using a debet card and so that and bill paying come out of what would be the equivalent of a checking account. I rarely pay with cash. I enter all movement in said "checking" account in separate software that I have. It lets me create filters, so I made one showing me all shopping done at my neighborhood store for 2006: 29 visits so far, and a total of NOK 10,423.94 spent. I then searched for all shopping done at my preferred store so far in 2006 and surprised myself: 23 visits, and a total of NOK 13,041.77 spent. I had no idea the figures were that close.

The above figures include some cash withdrawals, making the actual shopping totals in each store much closer to each other. That I visit my local one a tad more often, makes sense, since that's the one I go to for stuff I've forgotten. The average amount spent per visit to the stores, was higher at my preferred one, but that's also the store with the specialty (and often costlier) items. I was nevertheless a bit surprised by the statistics: I prefer shopping in the other store, and view my next-door one as a "back-up", so I assumed I was spending way more money and time in my preferred store.

I ticked off the 25-50% box.

Sep 5, 2006

Not my tragedy

The world is in mourning this week, if I go by bloggers, newscasts and chat groups. A known TV personality and animal conservationist has died while making a new TV-series and many are talking/writing about it, mostly with much sadness and sense of loss. I do not share this sense of loss and, from what others say to me, that's wrong of me.

Look: A lot of people liked this particular person; I didn't and so never watched his shows. I try not be a hypocrite, so I'm not going to say I'm sad when I'm not. It's not my tragedy - it's his loved ones' tragedy. Some other time, a celebrity I care about will die and I will be momentarily saddened by that person's passing, but nothing like what I feel when someone I actually know passes. And I think that's right of me.

Sep 2, 2006

Melancholy baby

You Have a Melancholic Temperament
Introspective and reflective, you think about everything and anything. You are a soft-hearted daydreamer. You long for your ideal life. You love silence and solitude. Everyday life is usually too chaotic for you. Given enough time alone, it's easy for you to find inner peace. You tend to be spiritual, having found your own meaning of life. Wise and patient, you can help people through difficult times. At your worst, you brood and sulk. Your negative thoughts can trap you. You are reserved and withdrawn. This makes it hard to connect to others. You tend to over think small things, making decisions difficult.

Yeah, I already knew this. The above description does fit. Of the four humours, I'm Melancholy. No surprise there, since there are a number of features in my astrological chart that would point to such a personality: Capricorn (and Saturn) are melancholic (is that a word?) and are a major influence, as well as a Sag Sun placed in an introspective, reflective part of my chart (12th house). When transitting Saturn triggered aforementioned Sun, I learned all about being trapped by negative thoughts, and have worked hard at not letting them trap me again (hint: affirmations). Your attitude about a situation really does color how the whole situation plays out. So I am aware of that melancholic short-coming and do what I can to avoid it. I also don't have trouble making decisions. BTW, not my misspelling of "temperament" in the link above. I am, after all, a genius. (Must be all that thinking about everything and anything I do.)

Lifted from melancholy Paula and choleric Jeff.

Sep 1, 2006

The Rolling Stones

The Stones are coming to the boonies! Yes, tonight in Bergen, a hick town somewhere in Europe, a 1960's rock band will be performing for 20,000 Norwegians, hopefully not in the rain. The venue is an old fort, right behind Håkonshallen.

This week our local radio station has interviewed a few local public figures about their relationship with the music of the Rolling Stones. Which had me thinking about what I think about them.

I'm a little too young to truly appreciate the change in music the Stones represented at the time. They were rawer than the Beatles and weren't the sort of thing nice people listened to. My childhood awareness of them was mainly due to jokes involving them and the road sign "Falling Rocks" (the latter were apparantly performing all over California).

I was reminded today of the first Stones song I heard, which was "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" on Radio Luxembourg. I thought the song was kind of cool, but it never became a favorite back then. No, the first time I heard a Stones song that I actually wanted to have in my collection, came courtesy of the Whoopi Goldberg movie "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and the Stones number it was named after. As I've gotten older, I appreciate the Stones more, because they no longer sound raw and bad to my ears. Certainly not compared to a lot of what came after them.

But I'm not going to the concert, though I sort of want to, since it is such an Event for us. I mean, it's the Stones, man!