Dec 29, 2006

A somewhat political post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BEGIN
FREEWAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should he...?

Why should he not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have high self-esteem

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

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

Dec 26, 2006

The simple life is not lazy

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


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

Nothing in particular meme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 22, 2006

From Mercury to the Garnet Star

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

Warm and wet

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 20, 2006

Dragon Lady

Via Sravana:

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

Roy's meme

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

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

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

Dec 19, 2006

A good reason to be brought into the world?

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

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

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

Dec 18, 2006

Koselig dugnad

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 17, 2006

Revamped

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

Dec 16, 2006

Te-Shan says

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


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

Dec 14, 2006

My body is boss

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 13, 2006

10 songs I'm embarrassed I like

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

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

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

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

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

Yet.

Dec 12, 2006

Marsha's moving out

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 11, 2006

All this time to write and no brain

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

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

Dec 9, 2006

Stupid is as stupid does?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proustian meme

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

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

- Believing it will remain perfect.

What is your greatest fear?

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

What historical figure do you most identify with?

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

Which living person do you most admire?

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

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

- Laziness.

What trait do you most deplore in others?

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

What is your greatest extravagance?

- iTunes Store.

On what occasion do you lie?

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

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

- As Paula said, the whole aging deal.

What is your favorite journey?

- Inward.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

- Uhm, what are the virtues?

Which living person do you most despise?

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

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

- None that I know of.

What is your greatest regret?

- Getting sick this week.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

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

When and where were you happiest?

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

Which talent would you most like to have?

- OCD.

What is your current state of mind?

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

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

- Nothing.

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

- Fewer dead members.

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

- River.

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

- Myself.

What do your consider your greatest achievement?

- Get back to me in 20 years.

What is your most treasured possession?

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

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

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

What is your most marked characteristic?

- My name.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

- The same I like in a woman.

What is the quality you most admire in a woman?

- Awareness, self-respect, kindness and humor.

What do you most value in your friends?

- Humor, sympathy, good conversation.

Who are your favourite writers?

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

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?

- Jean Valjean.

Who are your heroes in real life?

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

What are your favourite names?

- John.

What is it that you most dislike?

- Stringbeans.

How would you like to die?

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

What is your motto?

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

Dec 7, 2006

Types of misery

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

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

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

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

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

Dec 3, 2006

This was easy

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

The idea of One

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

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

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

[My transcript]

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

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


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

Creating Christmas

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

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

Dec 1, 2006

The joys of spoiled food

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

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

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

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

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