Dec 31, 2007

Loud 'n' clear

It's New Year's Eve, December 31st, and all afternoon, some kids have been lighting firecrackers and simpler fireworks. It's not legal; they need to be over 18, but not a single adult, not even me, has said a word to the 10 or so boys who have been happily lighting stuff, and diving for cover as sparks and smoke fly out of control and whistles while banging, whistling and crackling.

I could lean out my window and yell at them. However, in today's world, the boys would very likely yell back, and carry on with the fireworks. I have instead chosen to be amused by them, to wish them safe and noisy fun, and to actually enjoy some of the action through my window. I do have one of the best seats in the house, for what may be one of the last new year's eves with regular folks allowed to send off their own fireworks. Because it tends to injure people, that sort of thing. (Ya think?) But as the Norwegians say, luck works better than brains (lykken er bedre enn forstanden).

I'm home alone, typing a new year's letter to myself, planning what I want to focus on in 2008, all while drinking a huge pot of tea and with a pumpkin pie waiting for me.It has occurred to me that the racket from the rockets hasn't bothered me at all, but has actually kept me on track. It's New Year's! Focus on that! Yes'm.

I have greeted 2006 and 2007 with friends, away from home. This year I can indulge in a personal ritual I have for New Year's Eve, one that has made being alone on this evening not at all lonely, but one filled with meditation, personal peace and a connection to the world as it happily and noisily marks time:

I have a book of spiritual poems for every month of the year and their holidays. From that book I take a poem for the end of the year and one for the beginning. I also write a letter of gratitude for things in the year past, and wishes for the year to come (written as affirmations). A little before midnight, I light a candle and read the end-of-year poem, then my letter. At midnight, I watch my neighbors try (and fail) to set everything on fire, then, when the fireworks have died down a bit, I read my new-year poem and re-read my letter.

There is one thing I wish were different on New Year's Day: That Grandma was still here to watch the New Year's concert from Vienna with me. The music and ballet are just not the same without her and her delighted commentary. But I will watch without her. I (too) love Viennese waltzes!

Culture collision from the past

I went a little nuts this December and bought me a bunch of DVDs. Among my purchases were a few in glorious black and white, including "12 Angry Men", which I watched last night.

I knew the plot, I knew the outcome, but what got my attention this time around, was the reaction of the men to the one juror's racist tirade. One by one, the men get up and quietly move to a position where the racist speaker can see only their backs. There is no pre-arranged agreement to do that that I could see. Each man got up and found a spot where he wouldn't face the racist, and eventually the racist shut up.

And for the first time, watching an old movie, I felt a complete disconnect from the past. I did not recognize this behavior in the men, that is, I don't see people nowadays acting this way. Where did this calm but effective way of showing dissent go to? I know it was used at the time, in the form of sit-ins and boycotts, by the civil rights movement, and initially used by Mahatma Gandhi's followers during their struggle to liberate India. But as a method for making a point, it seems to have completely disappeared in my lifetime and seems not to even be an option.

People nowadays don't react calmly, quietly, and clearly to ideas or truths they don't like. They get into yelling matches, verbal or written, and they use slurs and insults, and accuse others of doing the same. Everyone wants their say, and no one wants to listen. The most extreme expression of this are acts of terrorism. (I'm guilty of not wanting to listen, too, I'm sorry to say. After all, it's always the other guy who's wrong, right?) In the movie, when there was one-on-one disagreement between the individual men, things got heated and rude, but quickly defused. But as a group, they moved as one, in one direction, and without a word of insult, without a note of aggression, they made their point clear: "We aren't listening to this. It's not the truth. We won't support it."

And it made me sad to note that one of the coolest ways to protest injustices, has become purely historical.

PS: "12 Angry Men" is still good to watch. It still feels contemporary, except for that one scene this blog post is about.

Dec 30, 2007

I feel like a kick in the head

The Recipe For Keera
3 parts Sass 2 parts Slyness 1 part Passion Splash of Instinct Limit yourself to one serving. This cocktail is strong!

Funny thing is, this actually fits. Cheers!

(Found at Paula's, where else.)

PS: Upon rereading my blog post title, I was reminded of the conversation in Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", chapter 6:
"[Y]ou'd better be prepared for the jump into hyperspace. It's unpleasantly like being drunk."
"What's so unpleasant about being drunk?"
"You ask a glass of water."

Dec 29, 2007

Me and the monarchs

I'm watching a show about Mexico on Discovery Channel and they describe how the migratory monarch butterfly seems to sit in lifeless clumps for three months, until the February sun penetrates the trees and strikes the butterflies.

Because of buildings in front of my 2nd story apartment, I don't get any sunshine in my apartment from about mid-November to the very end of January. And the day I see (should I be so lucky weather-wise) a ray of sun briefly lighting up my wallpaper is a true solar return for me. And I stop being a lifeless clump just like the butterflies do.

I blame the media

I tripped over a Norwegian trivia and puzzle site (finally, I may win money with my sudoku addiction), and discovered that I know more about pop stars than I do Sweden. Twice I got the question "Who is Sweden's prime minister?" and twice I gave the wrong answer. So why don't I know his (or is it her?) name? I know which Mel is a member of Spice Girls, I'm pretty clear on Harry Potter games, and I know which private detective Tom Selleck played. So why don't I know who the current Swedish prime minister is?

I blame the media. No, really. A steady diet of online Norwegian newspapers over the years has left me, against my will, with more knowledge about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears than whoever runs Sweden. When Norwegian newspapers write about Sweden, it's usually about Norwegians shopping there, Swedish prices being a tad lower than Norwegian and Norwegians always loving the illusion of getting something cheap (even if the price of gas getting there eats any profits). Sweden's right next door to Norway and yet I know more about who's in charge (in a manner of speaking) in Pakistan.

So I know Norwegians drink more than ever, the newest charter island destination is Corsica, and Brad Pitt would rather help rebuild New Orleans than make a movie, while Sweden has been thrown into complete anarchy, with no one running the country.

I sure hope somebody's kept Wikipedia up to date, because the only way I'm going to find out who it is.

Huh. I've never heard of or seen the guy, and he's been in office a whole year! He needs a girlfriend who is a model. I'm sure that's why French president Sarkozy's recent holiday trip made so many headlines.

Dec 28, 2007

Painted black

It's been stormy for the last couple of days. Tear-trees-up-and-close-roads-with-them stormy. I haven't stuck my nose outside (as the Norwegians say) since I was with friends on Christmas Day, which was the one day we had some lovely weather. The temperature dipped to freezing, the skies cleared and a wane sun actually managed to make a few weak shadows. We walked off some of all the good food we'd been filling ourselves with for two days, and delighted in seeing a few not-so-common birds and beautiful blue skies.

So I spent two days being "housebound" (every time I thought I should go out, the wind would kick up and howl around the house corners, or a hail storm would pummel my windows). I finally got out of the house to go shopping today because today the storm abated and that's when I realized another reason why getting out at all had been so difficult: It was black out.

The cloud cover has been so thick, hardly any light penetrates it. No sunshine in the day, no moonlight at night, just consistent gloom. And it's dark after 4 pm, so walking to the store at 5 pm was an exercise in black: Black asphalt, black clothes, black skies, black ground. There are streetlights but they simply cannot penetrate such darkness; they are absorbed by all the black.

The traditional Christmas lights are still up, draped on people's balconies, lighting up their windows, and it struck me that the normally cheering sight of them in the dead of winter, in our darkest season, wasn't able to penetrate the darkness enough. It was like the world stopped 5 stories up and above that a black nothing. The only thing to see were the buildings and their lights.

When I got home, I did the only thing that made sense in all this darkness: I lit a shitload of candles.

(With a nod to the Rolling Stones and "Paint It Black".)

Dec 27, 2007

A New Year's resolution of sorts

I have joined something called Blog 365, thanks to Paula. The idea is, for 2008, to blog every day. If the computer is not available, write something and post it later. (Leap Day is a day of rest.) Also, if you have more than one blog, then posting to one if not the other counts. And that should motivate me to write more both here and over on my other blog. I hope.

Now to go find me a purty badge to stick on this here blog.

Dec 26, 2007

Atheist vs. theist: Let the baffle begin

I have a friend who is an atheist. She's an atheist because she sees no evidence to the contrary, though she has tried. I have another friend who's an atheist, but he has figured out the "where do we go when we die" thing: We live on forever, not as who we are but as the stuff we are made of, coming from the stars, going back into them, and so on. Recycling, as it were, rather than reincarnation. So I may not be me, but I won't be no longer existing, either, and I like that idea. When the more mystical ones seem a little too theoretical, I like the recycling idea.

I have a third friend who is not an atheist, but she's having trouble with being a theist because none of the definitions of God[1] feel quite right. She wants to believe, but she doesn't know what to believe. I have suggested to her earlier that perhaps her deity is nature itself - as it is for many people. Just drinking in the world in all its mundane glory, rather than focusing on the unseen hand that made it.

You don't have to have a god to be spiritual. The experience of the spiritual side of things does not require religion.

But why do some of us believe in the big invisible hand, and some of us can't even imagine it? I read an article in some psychology magazine a number of years ago that suggested that faith may be genetic. Some of us seem hardwired for believing, and some of us aren't. A few biologists in recent years have explored religion from an evolutionary point of view: Why did humans evolve with what looks like a superstition? What good does it serve? I'll admit I haven't read their conclusions because I was put off by their supposition that faith is one of those wasteful things that has survived because it doesn't harm - like the appendix or homosexuality. Faith hasn't been a waste for me. Without it, I might be seeing a psychiatrist.

Yes, I am one of those theists. My atheist friends cannot understand why anyone believes in an unseen force that is labeled the boss of everything. I cannot understand how anyone can go through life without something bigger than themselves to be awed and inspired by. Prayer works for me. Feeling a connection to the divine works for me. I've tried to go without and I felt so lost it hurt. Atheism baffles me as much as theism baffles atheists.

These discussions are as helpful - and as fair - as arguing about vanilla vs. chocolate, football vs. baseball, Coke vs. Pepsi. We are drawn to certain things because of genetics, upbringing and personality. Because of our own personal likes and dislikes - and needs. It doesn't go deeper than that. No one has the whole truth about anything; we all see pieces of it, and we are all pieces of it. Each one an equally valuable piece. You can add a god to it or not; it's still about being human and connecting with other humans, doing your best, and being happy while you're at it.

Sometimes the discussion of atheist vs. theist is about where we go after we die. Or about morals and how you can't have any unless God smote you with His. I was raised by a theist and an atheist. They were married. They had the same values, were equally fond of and tolerant towards people, they were pacifists, and they both had a lot of humor about life, neither taking themselves seriously. Both loved me completely and wonderfully. The theist joked about haunting me after she died. Both she and her atheist husband did visit me after they died. Apparently, having a spirit doesn't depend on having a religion. Life is far bigger than that.

So I don't understand why someone doesn't believe in God[2], but that's because I personally cannot go without. It has never occurred to me that atheists must be lacking and/or are destined to go to hell. And contrary to what some atheists claim, all theists are not superstitious morons. The truth is, most people are good and most people try to do good, with or without a god. Love matters to all of us.

I think that is where atheists and theists can find common ground: Love and goodness are what matters. That is what makes humanity shine.

[1]I understand her search; I didn't find a religious home until I found Science of Mind. I couldn't and can't relate to the Christian God.

[2]Sometimes people become atheists as a reaction to the one not-so-nice God they were force-fed growing up. Unless they go exploring, they may never discover that each religion is a blind man trying to describe an elephant so pick your definition. The more fanatical theists need to realize this, too.

Dec 25, 2007

A Christmas post

Every other blogger has something to say about the holiday, so I decided to, too, instead of feeling left out.

First off let me say this: I wasn't traumatized by Christmas growing up and I knew extremely early that Santa doesn't exist. I love Christmas movies, because I love the combination of magic and inevitably happy ending with a touch of moral-to-the-story. And yes, "It's a Wonderful Life" is a favorite.

So what does Christmas mean to me? Nothing. That's right, I said nothing. I'm not Christian, I'm not hung up on tradition and haven't made any of my own, and I don't have to have certain things or things a certain way at Christmas so as not to feel left out or lonely or un-Christmassy. (Except maybe my own blogpost about it.)

I enjoy the lights, the atmosphere, the constant greeting other people with "god jul"/"Merry Christmas", the reminders to be generous, the spirit of the season, but I don't decorate or go overboard with the food, though I'll dress up. Sometimes I'll play Christmas carols. I like buying presents for people, but I don't like crowds. That last is a year-round thing, though.

The most important thing about Christmas for me is what I just did: Spend lots of time with people I love.

Dec 20, 2007

How to predict the season's weather

I just bought a book, Astronomy, Weather, and Calendars in the Ancient World, partly because of the introductory chapter. There, a method for "borrowing days" to predict the weather was mentioned:

The weather on the day before the winter solstice forecasts the weather for the first month of winter, the weather on the day of the winter solstice itself forecasts the weather for the second month of winter, and the day after the winter solstice forecasts the weather for the third month of winter. This method applies to the summer solstice and equinoxes, too.

Today we have gorgeous sunshine here in Bergen, and I'm hoping that'll keep be the case all weekend, too. Winter solstice (0 degrees of Capricorn for you astrologers) is on Dec. 22 where I live.

Dec 16, 2007

Getting lost and finding a signpost

I think that those of us who search for meaning in our lives, do so because we need some sense in our chaos, some hope in our darkness. We have pasts that have left us with scars and we want to know how to move forward. The fact that we even think like this, is a huge strength, because it keeps us searching for improvement, for betterment.

Sometimes, there are set-backs. Sometimes the past comes back for a visit and dredges up old hurts.

That happened to me this summer and it's taken me the rest of the year to finally get that particular thorn out of my side. That was not necessarily a waste of time. It made me rethink a number of things, including where I want to go for the rest of my life, and giving oneself time to think is never a bad thing.

However, one of the effects during this latter part of 2007 was a feeling of being separate from God. I have never read more literature that states God is not some mean man with a beard, but a life-supporting joy that permeates everything and has no concept of good or bad, just life and light, while at the same time feeling that this God and I were moving apart.

I found myself feeling my connection to the divine as something outside of me. God wasn't inside, expressing as me, but out there somewhere, withdrawn from me. I knew this was wrong, but I was struggling to make it right. The sense of separation, the lack of feeling one with everything, of seeing the good in all, kept increasing.

On impulse I grabbed the book "Living the Science of Mind" by Ernest Holmes and just let it fall open. If fell open to page 201, which says, in part:

But the Bible states, as other sacred writings do, that man reproduces this Creative Order on a miniature scale. [...] What could this mean other than that we as individuals are not separate from the Original Creative Cause?

[...]The whole Divine nature is reproduced in us, but we are ignorant of the fact. Our thought is creative, but in our ignorance we use it destructively.

Theology has called this the problem of evil. We call it a misuse of that which is Good. We as individuals are centers of consciousness in a Power infinitely greater than we are, but which is placed at our command by the very nature of things. From the consequence of our use of this Power we cannot hope to escape, because It is the very Law of Life Itself.


I liked reading that. That I cannot escape the oneness, I cannot escape my source, my belonging to God, my birthright to be alive and enjoy it. I like the last paragraph on page 201, too, which clarifies this inability to ever be truly lost, which affirms that this is where I find freedom:

Let us restate our proposition: We are thinking centers in a Cosmic Mind. Our lives reproduce the Original Life. Everything that happens to us must start with the movement of Intelligence within us, which is a movement of our word or contemplation or meditation within ourselves. So let us say of ourselves or to any individual: "You are a center of Intelligence; you did not make it this way, you cannot change it. This is the way it is. You must accept it. You are using a creative Law from which you cannot and do not wish to escape, because It contains the possibility of all freedom when you learn how to use It. To learn to think in the right manner is to learn to create that which is Good, and which gives complete expression to the self without ever containing anything destructive or negative."


This fall I attended a lecture given by a Danish Buddhist lama, Ole Nydahl. An amazingly fit and energetic 60-something, he spoke on the differences between Western religions and Eastern philosophies. Western religion tends to define behavior within the concept of good versus evil. Buddhists define it as stupid versus intelligent. As Ernest Holmes suggested above, it is when we understand how our minds work, its creative power, and take control of that power that we are set free.

Neither Holmes nor Nydahl were talking about CAT scans and frontal lobe activity, but rather how our own thoughts - based on memories, experiences, beliefs and habits - can trick us and have us believing a reality set in stone. When we become aware that our thoughts determine our experience, not the other way around (think self-fulfilling prophecy), then we start to wake up; we start to take back our God-given power and delusions and illusions leave us. We all grow up thinking a certain way because our parents and culture taught us certain things, a certain way of seeing the world. This leads us to believing that what we see and know is fact. But listen to a political discussion and you will immediately notice that the same reality can be described in very different and opposite ways. So there is no one reality; there are, instead, as many realities as there are people. The "sin" or stupidity is not letting ourselves explore other realities and maybe even change our minds.

There really is no conflict between Western and Eastern definition about the order of things: Both acknowledge that we humans are more than our immediate experiences and our bodies, and that our beliefs play a large part, if not the pivotal part, in determining how we feel about ourselves and what life we each have.

And there is no escaping this inevitable path to freedom, to our guaranteed release from suffering. I find that very comforting; it has helped me find my way back to my belief that life is inherently good. Sharing it with you cements it further for me.

Thank you for reading.

Dec 10, 2007

Balance

My friend Max took the test and got such a wicked cool picture to illustrate his results ((sorry, no linky) so I took the test, too. If you score highly on all four elements, you get Harmony. If you score equally low on all four elements, you get Balance. As I did:

Your Score: Balance
~ 44% Water ~ 55% Wind ~ 55% Earth ~ 48% Fire ~

And I know and I believe
There's a way out to the sea of happiness

It seems your personality is in perfect harmony; your impulses are tempered with thoughtfulness, and your emotions are balanced with a healthy amount of reason.

In order to maintain that harmony, try wearing a Jade, a Chrysoprase or an Agate; all three enhance balance and stability, as does the Snowflake Obsidian that will help remain balanced during times of change.

In detail: You are more balanced than most people. Your Ground Chakra, (associated with the element of fire and representing our basic desires and driving force), your Creative Chakra, (associated with the element of earth and representing our need to preserve and grow), your Heart Chakra, (associated with the element of water and representing our sense of love and compassion), and your Throat Chakra, (associated with the element of wind and represents our desire to learn and communicate), appear to be on an equal footing with each others.

These are the results you will get if you score highly on...

None of the four elements: Balance Wind: Gust Fire: Blaze Water: River Earth: Valley Wind & Fire: Thunder Wind & Water: Clouds Wind & Earth: Canyon Fire & Earth: Lava Fire & Water: Tornado Water & Earth: Trees Wind, Fire & Earth: Storm Wind, Fire & Water: Stars Wind, Water & Earth: Forest Fire, Water & Earth: Avalanche All four elements: Harmony

Not bad for a low score.

Dec 9, 2007

Random seven

Inspired by the normalcy of Badaunt's list of seven random things (in other words, I tagged myself), here is my attempt:

  1. I have such good peripheral vision, I can see 180 degrees.
  2. I treat Norwegian "brunost" (goat's cheese) like candy. (It's kind of sweet, anyway.)
  3. I can type the ten-key pad by touch. I once provided a boss with many minutes of entertainment by doing a long list of addition without ever looking at my right hand.
  4. I use clothes pins to close bags of things, like potato chips: Quicker than rubber bands, easier than twisty-ties, cheaper than the specialized "bag closers" they sell.
  5. I tend to get hooked on one song and play it over and over and over again. After about a week, I get hooked on another song. This is why I listen to my stereo with headphones on, even though I live alone. I don't want my neighbor to think I'm crazy. Uhm, crazier.
  6. I'm proud of my breasts. Always have been. Even though one started budding 6 months before the other and I think my nipples are - nipply.
  7. My favorite color is a sort of lavender blue. Like this. Periwinkle is a paler version that I also like.

Darn, done already? I was just getting started!

Dec 8, 2007

Amazing and phobia-inducing

The first time I saw the finale to this, I actually started to panic, wondering about how the cat would get back out. It became a little too much for my latent claustrophobia. But it was a pretty darn good kitty trick!

(Via Cute Overload, who were more taken with the cheesy laughtrack.)

2868

I am so looking forward to the solstice this year! I can't wait for these gloomy days to get more daylight. We've have more overcast weather than not this year, and as of yesterday, 2868 millimeters of precipitation so far in 2007. Sure, it's in itsy-bitsy metric, but it's still a large number even when you convert it.

2868 mm is 112.91 inches. It's 9.4 feet. It's almost 3 meters and over 3 yards. You can touch it with a ten-foot pole - barely. And still it makes 2007 only the 5th wettest year on record so far.

They are promising us drier weather this coming week. I am also hoping for clear, blue skies.

Dec 5, 2007

Downtown Train

I wasn't tagged. I just went and stole this from Paula, partly because it looked like fun, and partly because some of the resulting answers actually held meaning (so do mine). So let's fire up iTunes and see what happens. The rules are:

  1. Put your music player on Shuffle
  2. For each question, press the Next button to get your answer
  3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER WHAT (this is in capital letters, so it is very serious).

BEGIN

  1. IF SOMEONE SAYS "IS THIS OKAY" YOU SAY?
    "She's Out of My Life" (Michael Jackson)

  2. WHAT WOULD BEST DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY?
    "Movement 1 From Mythodea" (Vangelis)

  3. WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?
    "Hey Hey Guy" (Ken Lazslo)

  4. HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?
    "Don't Worry Be Happy" (Bobby McFerrin)

  5. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE?
    "I Hear Talk / You And Your Heart So Blue" (Bucks Fizz)

  6. WHAT IS YOUR MOTTO?
    "Better Than This" (Hazen)

  7. WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?
    "All Because Of You" (Puff Johnson)

  8. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR PARENTS?
    "You're The One That I Want" (Debbie Gibson & Craig McLachlan)

  9. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?
    "Experiment IV" (Kate Bush)

  10. WHAT IS 2+2?
    "Every Now And Then" (Macy Gray)

  11. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?
    "Kayleigh (7" Version)" (Marillion)

  12. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
    "Non Stop Dance" (Gibson Brothers)

  13. WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?
    "Kiss Lonely Good-Bye" (Stevie Wonder)

  14. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?
    "Rock The Boat" (Aayilah)

  15. WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE THE PERSON YOU LIKE?
    "Don't Come Around Here" (Rod Stewart (with Helicopter Girl)) (ouch)

  16. WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?
    "Baroque-A-Nova" (Mason Williams)

  17. WHAT WILL YOU DANCE TO AT YOUR WEDDING?
    "We Belong To The Sea" (Aqua)

  18. WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?
    "Come To Me" (Ester Brohus)

  19. WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?
    "You're The Best There Is" (Chuck Mangione)

  20. WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?
    "Here Am I" (Mason Williams)

  21. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?
    "Girl You Know It's True" (Milli Vanilli)

  22. WHAT SHOULD YOU POST THIS AS?
    "Downtown Train" (Rod Stewart)

Dec 2, 2007

Not your run-of-the-mill Sunday

The last thought I had before letting myself out of my apartment, was to bring my cell phone because maybe somebody would need me to call the police or something. Yeah, right. Like that ever happens.

As promised by the weather bureau, today was an absolutely beautiful day. The sun actually came out. From my kitchen window late this morning, I could see long shadows from trees and buildings weakly striping the lawn out back. Seeing those shadows and an increasing amount of blue in the sky cheered me.

I finished baking the pumpkin pie I am bringing to the gang at work tomorrow (cuz that's the tradition in Bergen: the birthday person treats the others to cake), and checked the weather through my living room windows (which give a more reliable report than the kitchen window does, seeing as how weather comes out of the west) as well as the outdoor thermometer on my balcony door. I put on warmer clothes, and grabbed keys and cell phone.

As I passed by the building that once housed our local grocery store, I noticed smoke coming from a parked car. Two young men ahead of me were at the car, bending down to see if they could see the source of the smoke. It smelled acrid. The men half-jokingly suggested that that car was going to blow spectacularly once that fire got going. I had never seen or smelled anything like it so I asked if we shouldn't call someone. Trying to find the owner meant trying to find out which of the 402 apartments in our co-op the car owner lived in.

One passerby thought we should call, and his wife added that she would but didn't bring her cell. But I had. And I even remembered the emergency number to the fire department. (In Norway, there are three different emergency numbers, depending on which service you need: 110 is fire, 112 is police, 113 is ambulance.)

I have never called the fire department before in my life. I explained the situation, a bit embarrassed because the smoke was now subsiding. But the very authoritative-sounding man who took my call wanted to know what address the car was parked at, its make, color, license plate number, what the smoke smelled like and then my name and phone number. I told him all this (though I couldn't tell if the car was a dull black or a very dark gray; the dew on it was tricking my eyes), and volunteered my home address. He said they'd try to find the owner and send someone to check.

Well, what do you know: I did need my cell phone!

I then continued on to the local pond to walk around it in what turned out to be a virtual crowd of people. I never saw so many out walking all at once, which tells you what a lovely day it really was. The locals have the sense to take advantage of a rare reprieve from the otherwise gloomy weather we've been having. I, as usual, walked counter-clockwise around the path, while the majority always walk clockwise. This means that I meet the same people two or even three times as I walk around the pond. One older gentlemen, on encountering me a third time, made me laugh as he quipped, "What, again?"

We all walked in shade. The low sun was behind most of the nearby buildings and colored only the tops of the trees around the pond. The pond itself had lots of water and lots of birds and was absolutely smooth.

This isn't an ordinary Sunday also because it is the first Sunday in Advent, the start of the church year for western Christian churches. Norwegians put electrical lights in their windows for Advent. The lights are not colored like in the US, but are usually a modest star or the favorite seven "candle" triangle. But more and more do hang American-style Christmas lights as well. Seeing all the little lights in everyone's window adds cheer and warmth to the winter darkness. My own lights, hung up last night, are twinkling crazily in my living room window as I type this (last year I got some new-fangled thing that you can program, natch).

As I headed for home, I passed by where the smoking car was parked. It wasn't there any more.

Not bad for my last day as a 46-year-old.

Nov 29, 2007

Million book collection

I once got to visit the library at Trinity College in Dublin. It houses manuscripts dating back to the 16th century, including some exquisite hand-written Celtic books. The library proper has bookshelves two stories high. I stood between the long rows of books, gazing at the hundreds and hundreds of leather spines, and found myself grinning like an idiot. I was happy with the thought that so much human knowledge is put forth in such a way that other humans can gain the same knowledge. I was grinning over the limitless possibilities.

For the digital age, The Universal Digital Library and its Million Book Collection is a good go. It is a work in progress, but you just may find the one gem you were looking for.

Nov 28, 2007

Germy

1,168,440How Many Germs Live On Your Keyboard?

That's my keyboard at work.

1,617,840How Many Germs Live On Your Keyboard?

And that's my keyboard at home. I guess I need to stop eating at the computer.

But before you get all grossed out, this is how germy I am:

See? That bar thingy doesn't go up all that high. See? (But they should compare it to kitchen sinks. Toilet seats are clean because butts never touch anything but toilet seats.

(Via Paula.)

Nov 26, 2007

Facebook: Crash and burn

"Please tell us why you are deactivating your account." I selected, "I don't find it useful". Facebook then informed me that if I connected with more friends I probably would.

No, Facebook. The few friends I had connected with were sending virtual drinks and teddy bears and graffiti and hugs and group messages all over and I was getting notified of almost everything because Facebook wants me to know what my friends are up to. And yes, you can opt out of the e-mail notifications. But what difference does that make? Next time you log in, a bunch of unread messages, another bunch of invites to be green or international or peace-loving or whatever, and virtual bouquets of flowers, martinis or gifts waiting to be collected - and it all means adding another app and with that, another icon. The picture shows my list of apps at quitting time.

Some of it was fun, yes, but it got too - messy. Too many messages, too many updates, too many tabs to click and places to check, and the invitations inevitably meant accepting yet another app (like the I Am Green and Happy Hour! and Friends Density apps) and then it didn't always work, which meant there was an invitation not yet accepted, waiting. The message discussions were between friends I already do e-mail discussions with and with a better interface.

I have indeed reconnected with a couple of friends from Usenet, back when. But Facebook does not replace Usenet or e-mail. I could not make practical use of it, nor did I see anyone else making practical use of it, so I bowed out. I already have a bunch of RSS feeds and daily web sites, a few Usenet groups, and e-mails to read, and can't always keep up with. Whew! I sound busy! Well, yes. Why Facebook doesn't fit for me is because it got bogged down in "cute" (I don't do cute, people). And I couldn't figure out how to find local events. I think Facebook is a cancer: Takes over the body's resources and feeds on sugar.

OK, maybe not a cancer. More like a loud cocktail party. I was just trying to explain to friends the difference between extroverts and introverts. This is what I wrote:

I'm pretty talkative and bubbly myself and because I share some of my pains with other people I'm not personal friends with, I thought for years that I was an extrovert even though after three days of constant interaction with other people, I have to be all by myself.

Turns out there are plenty of talkative and bubbly introverts. It's _what_ they talk about that sets them apart from the extroverts.

Extroverts need to work out their feelings and personal stuff together with other people, and so tend to share details that make most introverts question the extrovert's sense of decency. For the extrovert that's business as usual; being without other people for too long drains them.

The introvert prefers to share personal or intimate details with the few close and trusted in his/her life and often/usually works out emotional stuff by withdrawing, pondering, meditating. Being with other people for too long drains them.

Extrovert: I can't stand being all by myself. I love seeing other people! Let's party!
Introvert: I'd rather be home reading a good book than engaging in smalltalk.

(Which is true. I'd either better be having a good conversation with one or two people or on the floor dancing, or I'll just go home. I don't care how wonderful the party or that I paid to get in. I'll pay to leave, too. I've taken a cab home early more than once.)

Facebook suddenly appeared as noisy as a cocktail party to me, but far more chaotic. After all, at a cocktail party, you can slink off to a corner and nurse your drink in peace.

My name is so unusual, and this blog so old, that if anyone cares to find me, they will, without Facebook. And when you do find me, I would love to hear from you.

PS: I did just get a new book in the mail. I'm reading tonight!

Nov 23, 2007

The perfect gadget!

I am never the first one to jump on the gadget bandwagon. I was not the first to buy an iPod, the iPod I do have must be four years old by now and doesn't do color, photos or video, and I am not likely to buy an iPhone. But the Amazon Kindle e-Book Reader is definitely a gadget I want! I rarely fall for something the moment I see it but I did this time.

It's small. It holds 200 books or something. I can read all I want, where I want, and not clutter my nightstand, my purse or my bookshelves! It requires no computer and interfaces to download like a cell phone. I am so sold!

But should I buy it? Will it work in Norway? It's a bit pricy, but the dollar is at an all-time low compared to the Norwegian krone, so now's a good time to buy.

I think that first I need to finish reading all the information on the explanatory page. I've seen only the little introductory video so far. Oh, and I have to wipe the drool off my keyboard.

UPDATE: Time to let you guys know how I heard of the Kindle. It also addresses some of the criticism showing up in my comments.

Lady in red*

Paula, who prefers purple and who inspired me to do this blogtest, needs orange. Very well. What do I need?

You Need Some Red in Your Life

Red will make you feel energetic, passionate, and determined. And with a little red, you will project an aura of warmth. If you want to feel intensely, you've got to get some red in your life!

For extra punch: Combine red with orange or pink

The downside of red: Red can provoke anger or rage. Watch out!

The consequences of more red in your life:

  • You will feel more enthusiasm for life
  • You will have the confidence to go after what you want
  • You will have a lot more physical energy

How about that. Three days running I've been wearing something bright red, and I deliberately chose to. I hunted for red things to wear. And I have been feeling better these last couple of days in spite of not getting a full night's sleep for a couple of nights (darned perimenopause). Now, let's find some pink and orange and red candles. I still have stuff to do!

*) Never saw the movie and I'm not terribly fond of the title song. I do, however, look great in red.

Nov 22, 2007

I wrote a to-do list instead of a novel

That's it for NaNoWriMo for this year. I got stuck - partly because I didn't do an outline or anything, and partly because I, well, got bored with it. I don't write the way the writers I like write. Anyway, I've rather suspected that my strength is not in fiction, but in non-fiction. And while I was trying to write almost 2000 words a day, I found myself wanting to update both of my blogs.

I found inspiration for Budding Yogini but not the time or calm to hash it out. And that is partly because I am distracted by my stomach and my day job.

The advantage to an all-rice diet is that you do lose weight. When I gain weight, I lose my hourglass figure. My waistline is the first to go. Then my chin. Then the rest of me. Also, IBS means bloating. The brown rice was the first food I'd eaten in a very long time that did not give me gas once, which was wonderful. So I've lost a couple of pounds and my waistline is back, even when I relax my stomach. And my chin line's back. Can't stand losing my chin line. My digestion is currently not good, and of course it is the season for festivities and heavy meals. I am now enjoying a cup of ginger tea to help my stomach.

Tightness in my hips and back led to outright stiffness and pain. I thought to myself that this is no way to approach 47! So I've started doing more yoga and between that and standing while I work, my hips and back are back to normal. But for someone who doesn't usually have such problems, aches and pains are darned distracting.

And that made work harder than it needed to be. Between giving up coffee and the distraction from aches, I wasn't terribly focused at all last week. This week has gone far better, but there is a lot to do. Both the usual year-end crazies and a graphical profile project plus converting a number of complicated printed forms to equally complicated interactive PDF-forms. And I'm the one to do that last one without help. Whew... But this week, hectic as it has been so far, has been offering up several tunnels with lights at the ends of them (though new tunnels keep showing up). And it is nice to get positive feedback on my creativity.

At home there are a number of things to do, including the blog, exploring investments for my savings (inspired by a change in pension plans at work), and catching up on a bunch of paper work. I feel like the to-do list at home is as long as the one I have at work.

Man, am I glad it's almost the weekend!

Nov 19, 2007

Sweet hippo story

Granted, there are many cute animal stories around. Me, I don't often get as good a look at a hippo as in this video, and it was fascinating to watch her behavior around people and dogs. A very sweet story.

Replacing Usenet

Ooh, there's another group! What an interesting title! What are they talking about! Oh, I want to reply to that!

My meandering around on Facebook tonight has been reminiscent of when I first got a computer at home with a modem and the world wide web waiting for me to dial, 10 years ago. I tripped over a weirdness called Usenet and fell in love. I do my best thinking through my fingers. Poking around Facebook and looking at all the groups to join and noting the discussions reminded me very much of my first foray into Usenet.

There a few things I don't like about Facebook, but it may be because I don't know enough. I don't like the look of the main page. It's called "Profile" and is full of widgets, pictures and comments from friends. It very quickly gets cluttered-looking and I can't think straight with so much visual "noise". The other thing is Facebook's networks by region. All of Norway is lumped as one, and I'm trying to figure out how I can search just for Bergen without getting everyone who has Bergen in their name.

UPDATE: "Profile" is not the main page, I accidentally discovered just now. I'm such a n00b.

UPDATE 2: Hah! There's an RSS feed! Woohoo!

As I type this, I am eating one of the tastiest meals I have had in a long time: Steamed broccoli and cauliflower with a side of beans. The veggies are seasoned with herb salt and Provence spice blend and olive oil. After a week of eating only brown rice, this tastes divine!

In case you are wondering why I'm eating funny, well, some of it is inspired by re-reading a book and constipation that started during my summer vacation and has refused to let up. I have always had that trouble, but this summer it was just like when I was a kid. I was getting miserable. The brown rice has completely agreed with me and my IBS, so now I have to find what else I can eat without trouble. Raisins are out, unfortunately (I tried some this past weekend). I've given up coffee as a daily habit.

Nov 18, 2007

A different horoscope

The above is sun sign astrology, but it uses keywords and phrases I haven't come across before, and is breaks with the stereotype. The above fits me, with a few exceptions: "Nice to everyone" is a goal not a fact (I'm still too irritable), and I am definitely not soft-spoken. Also, I'm not sure about being romantic (though I am a sucker for a happy ending, in both movies and real life). As for being rare and wonderful if found, let me know about that one if you find me, 'K?

(Via Paula.)

Nov 16, 2007

Facebook, part 2

Facebook is rather obscure. It could have answered my questions "why" and "why register" itself, if it had bothered to put this bit of text from its privacy policy on its main page somewhere:

Facebook is about sharing information with others — friends and people in your networks — while providing you with privacy settings that restrict other users from accessing your information. We allow you to choose the information you provide to friends and networks through Facebook. Our network architecture and your privacy settings allow you to make informed choices about who has access to your information.

Yes, I finally signed up. No, it's not obvious to me that registering equals being able to set privacy settings, or what "privacy settings" are. Registering on Facebook itself means giving private info (like full name and birthdate) to something public. OK, so my neurons travel in crazy wormholes. Point is, Alice's mention that she finds out about local events via Facebook was the clincher: over 140,000 400,000 Norwegians (out of a population of 4.5 million) have signed up, so that means that someone must know what's going on in Bergen.

And who knows... Maybe there's another old friend waiting for me out there?

Nov 15, 2007

Facebook. I just don't get it.

I already turned down one friend who invited me to befriend her on Facebook, and now here comes another.

So why don't I sign up so I can see what they're up to?

Because, honestly, after years of web use, there are so many places I'm registered with and ditto number of passwords to remember. I have Yahoo, Google/Blogger, NaNoWriMo, Flickr and LiveJournal (that last only to avoid commenting anonymously). I had Frappr and Orkut.

I gave up Frappr because some men were trolling for women, and when I went to log in to turn the latest offer of friendship down, I couldn't remember what I'd signed up with. Took me two days to work that one out, so I closed the account. I obviously had no use for it. One attempt at joining something (Orkut?) stranded because I had to fill out all this stuff, like name and age and gender and sun sign and favorite quote (I don't have one) just to sign up, so I gave up.

I don't even bother with Web 2.0 stuff like Backpack. Everything requires a user name and a password and I'm tired of making those up and then remembering (what the heck did I sign up to iMDB with? I wanna read the discussions!). No, I'm not so stupid that I use the same username and password with every account.

Maybe it's time to give up Blogger and go Facebook all the way.

No, it's not. Facebook requires registration which makes it exclusive. I love the web (and Usenet) because it is open to everyone.

So why do other people sign up for stuff like Facebook? Do they really use it? Do they like that it requires registration? Do they want the community? My photos are published via my own home pages. Am I hopelessly old-fashioned? And yes, I would like to hear your opinion.

Nov 11, 2007

Snowdays

I ran into a former neighbor yesterday, picking up my new LaCie D2 Quadra, and we stood in the snow talking for a good while about the weather.

It is just about zero Celsius and snow is coming down. The first snow of the season is usually wet and fleeting, but it looks like this one is taking hold. The somewhat melted stuff of yesterday has been covered by a fresh blanket, and has turned the naked trees into models for Christmas cards. It won't stay, though. There's no freezing temperature reported for the coming days, so it'll all turn to mush and be a nuisance.

But I am happy to see it. Last year's winter wasn't. We had no freezing temperatures and no snow and no days of clear, crisp weather. For three months straight, we had rain. It is so normal to have a first snow in November that doesn't stay. So it's nice to have.

The new LaCie 500 GB external hard drive is so I can move some stuff off my tiny (umpteen songs and photos will do that) 80 GB internal hard drive. My older LaCie 160 GB d2 will find other use, I'm sure.

And I was stuck again on my novel. But instead of writing out what happens in the years in between, I decided to just fast forward and have my heroine already beaten up. Saves having to actually beat her up. Do you know how much typing that takes? Me, neither, and I don't feel like finding out. So let's see if I can get anywhere near to catching up.

Nov 8, 2007

The Roman Empire still exists

Disclaimer thingy: I am writing about this because of something I learned during our last class, something relevant to today's political and cultural maps. If you want an actual history lesson with dates and stuff, try Wikipedia.

The rise and fall of the Roman empire did not happen with any single event. The fall was actually a combination of reorganization, erosion and invasion that took about a millenium to complete and yet the Roman empire lives on, its spirit divided into three.

Sometime in the 5th century CE, emperor Constantine, who simply didn't like the city of Rome, set up shop in Byzantion, and renamed it Constantinople. The empire then basically split into a western and an eastern part. Rome was already being abandoned by its population for various reasons, so when someone asked, "Shouldn't we elect an emperor of Rome?" the answer was basically a shrug. The Roman Empire, as a military power, continued in the east, while the Goths finally seized Rome in the west.

In the west (west of Greece), the population had been going through a shift in organization and attitudes. For one, the increase in Christianity led to the freeing of the slaves, and a movement away from a purely urban lifestyle. Christianity was actually an urban religion, so this development was new for the Christians, too. In lieu of political leadership, the church stepped in as the unifying factor. In fact, as the empire crumbled in the west and local peoples took back self-rule, there was still a continuity and stability thanks to the church and its use of Latin. For centuries, anyone in Europe had access to all the knowledge ever written in the empire, simply by learning Latin. This plus its status with the common people, made the church an umbrella organization even trumping all the kings of Europe. The Roman Catholic church even today has rituals that come directly from Roman Empire military ceremonies.

In the east, the Roman Empire with its succession of emperors and local senate, abandoned Latin and opted for Greek. In this area, basically today's eastern Europe, the church had a different status with the pope being second in command to the emperor. Eventually, this evolved into today's Orthodox church and the east-west divide also came to influence the choice of alphabet.

To this day, the divide between the eastern and western administrative divide of the Roman Empire can still be clearly seen: Just make a note of which countries are or were Roman Catholic (like Poland). These countries seek west and after the fall of the Sovjet Union (which thought it could be a new Roman Empire) and the Warsaw pact, they have made a point of joining the European Union. Our laws, our system of justice, and even many main highway routes, are also from Roman times.

So we know where the intellectual and political aspects of the empire went (west and east, respectively). What about the third aspect, the empire idea, where did that end up? With the Moslems, that's where. They also kept the urban focus of the Romans, but not their language or administration.

I shall now return to my novel. Speaking of which, The Happiness Project has some writing advice.

Nov 7, 2007

Instead of writing

on my novel, I've let myself be distracted by Google sets (via Paula. The trick is to do as Paula did, and ignore Google's example of a set.

I entered "cat" and "angels" and got a list of things that fly, including "cars" (must be the DeLorean) and "Buddha". (I'm sure cat + angel = Buddha, anyway.

Entering "Norway" and "striptease" gives a surprisingly mundane list. "Dragons" and "striptease" was far more amusing, offering underwear and Disney (heh).

Your turn!

Nov 6, 2007

Now, what did I come in here for?

I know there was something I wanted to say, but darned if I can remember...

What follows is blogpost padding. Read at your own peril.

I re-read the book "You Are All Sanpaku" which has made me somewhat paranoid, and very curious about other people's eyes. I'm also eating a lot of brown rice. The nice thing about that is that figuring out what to have for dinner has become very easy. It's also very confusing. I mean, the macrobiotic diet is antithetic to low-carb diets. Or vice-versa. So who to listen to?

There's an attempt at leaving some white stuff on the ground today. Those crazy weather gods. They do like to tease.

I discovered where the magpie sleeps during the night: In the tree next to its nest. Exposed to whatever those crazy weather gods think of. I'm rather glad I'm not a magpie (though I think it would be fun to be a crazy weather god).

I wrote nothing yesterday. Well, I did, but it wasn't my novel. I finished up my course in the rise and petering out (because it didn't exactly fall) of the Roman Empire. A very interesting last evening in the lecture series. The end of the empire wasn't, really, because everything we westerners do today is rooted in the way of the Romans. But that's another blogpost (OK, I'd write about it now, but I don't have my notes with me).

Java mocca coffee is tasty. Totally incompatible with macrobiotics, but tasty.

OK, you can leave now.

Nov 4, 2007

Ack, trivial pursuit!

I'm supposed to be writing a novel. So what happens? My curiosity, as usual, gets the better of me and I end up delightedly poking around in this map and blogpost. So Rivendell was in Norway... That puts an interesting slant on things.

And in other news: The Indians almost had a state. I didn't know that about Oklahoma's history.

I tripped over the above thanks to a friend's (hi, Max!) linkage to this illustrative painting of Norway, Europe, and Norway's relationship with water.

Do read the comments to the above blogposts. Very informative.

Now, could somebody please come and tear me loose from strange maps? I really must write my novel. Thanks.

Nov 3, 2007

Word counter

Shamelessly stolen from Paula (who, I admit, is my mentor in all this. Bet you didn't know that, Paula!). Now to get that percentage into the double digits (like Paula).

The Whale and the Hockey Stick

The title of this blogpost happens to be the title of my work-in-progress (WIP) at NaNoWriMo (see widget to the left). It's actually the whimsical title of a couple of galaxies, which was the Astronomy Picture of the Day on October 12. For lack of a better title for a WIP, I stole this.

I have no clue how to write a novel, in spite of having taken a few writing classes and having read a few books on writing (including Stephen King's "On Writing"). My cluelessness may be due to the fact that I have never written any fiction longer than a short-story. But the idea behind the National Novel Writing Month is to just put the words down - 50,000 in all - by midnight November 30.

Still, that leaves the challenge of having words to put down. I submitted over 1300 words (daily target should be closer to 1700) on Nov. 1. I got bogged down in some goings on between two characters that I didn't know the end of, and one of them I had given such a trendy name to, that I got irritated every time I typed it. (My apologies to those of you who really are named Shawna.) It's rather amusing that ideas that spring out of one's own brain can be as annoying as a real-life situation. So, yesterday I had to start over.

I butchered my 2005 Pema Chödrön calendar, ditching all the gorgeous photographs except one, but saving every monthly quote about the journey of the bodhisattva - the spiritual warrior. Because they say to write what you know, and all I really know is about spiritual quest, trying to work out the hows and whys of not only my life, but the whole planet's, and what exactly is this god thingy. Because I like there to be a reason, a purpose to all of this and dessert afterwards. So I hung up a cork board (with apologies to Grandma's painting that was hanging there), decorated it with some beads, tacked the monthly quotes to it, and started over last night. I typed in the first quote, and inspired by it, made it to over 1900 words, which is good for one day, but I'm still behind. No matter. That's what weekends are for.

Here's where the fun begins, and which many writers have mentioned before: The characters in your head start to take on their own lives, and go in directions you hadn't thought of. I thought my protagonist was going to be the teacher, but the teacher turned out to be my intended rape victim who wasn't raped after all (and here I was thinking that the writers of soap operas must be loopy...). I went to bed last night, actually looking forward to what these two would do next. Which is exactly how it should be. I also hope that by writing a (short) book based on these buddhistic quotes, I may actually understand what they mean.

In case you're wondering, here is the quote:

The dharma - the Buddha's teaching - is about letting go of the story line and opening to what is to people in our life, to the situations we're in, to our thoughts, to our emotions. We have a certain life, and whatever life we're in is a vehicle for waking up.

Oct 27, 2007

It's all in Japanese

I was surfing the worldwide web and my own bookshelves, looking something up for a friend. I therefore became reacquainted with the Japanese term "sanpaku", which means "three whites", i.e. the whites in your eyes show up on three sides, not just two. The third is either above or below the iris.

Sanpaku shows imbalance, whether physical or spiritual, and so warns of failing health or an otherwise unhappy life which can lead to an untimely death. Apparantly, cats can have sanpaku eyes, too (though I suspect these critters were merely photographed with their heads tilting down). Which was really what I wanted to blog about, but then Blogger consistently offered up all of its links in its Dashboard in Japanese.

Now, I'm familiar enough with posting to Blogger to know what the mysterious links actually do (and the color-coding helps, too), but I hadn't experienced the Japanese "glitch" with my browsers at home. I could manage a post, but I couldn't manage my blogs, templates and profile in Japanese. After spending the better part of the evening tweaking language choices, tossing my cookies (heh) and restarting browsers and computers, I finally found a pull-down menu around about where I'd choose to edit my profile (i.e. under my photo) that let me choose a different language.

No more Japanese! Well, except for sanpaku.

Oct 26, 2007

The pocket book must hold a pocket book

I came across this post in which a man boldly comments on the woman's purse. He daringly stated that we women do not need such things. At most (because of his observation of his wife), we need just a tiny hand-held clutch (hence its name). Not one comment agreed with him (or was written by a man). But one thing lept out:

The biggest reason for toting a tote is to have something to read. Just about every woman who could not make due with just pockets (I try, but I hate the tell-tale bulge even a tiny lipstick makes) or the clutch, stated that she needed something to carry a book in. One commenter even noted that there were an awful lot of readers reading and commenting.

Count me in. I have always had a purse that is big enough to hold a Reader's Digest, at least, or even a whole book. I keep trying to downsize my purse, but have always been thwarted by the desire to have room for something to read. Waiting for the bus, eating alone in a restaurant, waiting in a line: These are the times when I read.

I bought a fancy "fanny pack" on my vacation. It doesn't look like a typical fanny pack, but rather like the Gucci version of one, and wouldn't look right worn to the rear. It can hold a lot of stuff, and goes easily around my waist, but unfortunately there are two things it can't fit: My reading glasses and my reading material.

I have often looked at my souvenier since I brought it home, wishing I could start using it as my regular purse, but the desire to bring along a small magazine or book has constantly stopped me.

At least now I know I'm normal.

PS: "Pocket book" was Grandma's word for "purse" and it always amused me.

Oct 23, 2007

It's home!!!

The goal was to bring the gold home. AND WE DID! Quietly, thanks to another team losing its chance at the gold in a soccer match last night. Because, you see, my claim of us winning the gold was a bit early.

Even though our team, Brann, did not have a game last night, its supporters came out in the thousands, and our newspapers are filled with pictures of red-clad and extremely happy people. And our local newspaper's online version is treating us to this pop-up:

It's one time I don't mind a pop-up window. What a lovely medal!

HEIA BRANN!!!

Oct 22, 2007

Stagnating nations

I've been corresponding with a Norwegian-American friend on, among other things, the cheap electricity and clean water of Norway. During our correspondance, the news in Norway was able to tell me that a) the power companies don't earn enough to fix leaks that could power a city of 500,000, and b) the pipelines in Norway are several decades old, and fresh water lines are laid right next to sewer lines. There's been an outbreak of giardia and some other icky things in Oslo's water this past week. My own town of Bergen had the same about two years ago. The family of the woman who died from drinking water infested with giardia is currently suing Bergen.

A friend in California lives in a city with a river that could easily overflow its borders and the shoddily-built levee that was meant to contain it. Due to other regulations, people were allowed to settle in what is now designated the flood zone. It could be New Orleans after Katrina all over again, and the reasons are poor workmanship and a federal government that won't fork over the money.

Money. Both the US and Norway are rolling in it. Norway even has the advantage of running a surplus and owing nobody. And yet schools in both countries are too small and too old, there aren't enough books or school buses for the kids, roads are in disrepair, and the water that comes out of your own tap is not necessarily good for you.

I am in awe at these so-called developed nations. It is almost bizarre that society had better schools and education, better job security and more willing governments before we got so well-run and rich.

We were developed. Now we are stagnating, choking on our own plethora of codes and regulations and government programs, and yet managing to avoid spending a sum of money that would really help (like refurbishing all the decripit public schools now, because it will not get any cheaper or easier in the future). It is sad, and somewhat uncomfortable, to watch this backslide happening. Decades of taking things for granted are catching up to us, and the unwillingness of any modern government in the developed countries to spend the necessary money and just get the job done is fascinating. Where did the notion not to act come from?

As one co-worker pointed out, over 100 years ago, someone said we needed a railroad over the mountain from Oslo to Bergen, and they started building it. At the time, it cost four - 4 - annual national budgets! But it got done!

I was discussing the matter also with my friend Alice. I was pointing out that plain greed and not supply and demand seem to be the main reasons now for doing anything, whether it be private company or government. Her response was that it is now about "creating a demand for something that people ordinarily wouldn't want. Like homes in flood-prone areas, or teeth whiteners, for that matter[...]."

The amusing thing about this musing, which has meant that this post has been sitting as a draft for a few days, is that the answer came tonight, during my Roman Empire lecture series. Tonight the lecture had gotten to the time in Roman history where the Christians were being thrown to the lions. Our lecturer explained "the circus" as it related to Roman times, and also the discovery that the caesars had made: As long as people had food and entertainment (bread and circuses), you could pretty much do what you wanted. However, if people were going hungry, no amount of material wealth or entertainment would compensate for that. I quote from Wikipedia's entry on bread and circuses:

"[The phrase] refers to low-cost, low-quality, high-availability food and entertainment that have become the sole concern of the People, to the exclusion of matters that some consider more important: e.g. the Arts, public works projects, human rights, or democracy itself. The phrase is commonly used to refer to short-term government palliatives offered in place of a solution for significant, long-term problems."

The Romans nailed it. Amazing what history can teach us. And we all know what happens if we don't learn history's lesson.

Oct 20, 2007

Entertainment value

The magpies were scolding incessantly for several minutes. It finally got my attention, so I got up and looked out my living room window. I saw the problem almost immediately: Settled in the crook of the tree, looking rather comfy, was a white cat I've seen around the neighborhood before, and I'm sure, the same cat that once made its way into the unfinished magpie nest now above it.

The magpies who built the nest still see this birch tree as theirs. They scolded and chattered at the cat, and, amusingly, attracted a number of other birds, like a couple of great tits and blackbirds. It took a while but the birds finally got the cat's attention; this blackbird (thrush) came very close. (I apologize for the blurriness.)

It occurred to me that my first assumption about the birds being attracted to the cat in the birch tree was for the entertainment value, was wrong. I now concluded that the birds were gathering across species to rid the tree of a common enemy. The magpies absolutely did not want the cat in their tree, and other birds were helping in pestering the cat to leave (though I still suspect entertainment mattered, too). They managed, instead, at one point to arouse the cat's hunting instinct (see magpie out on a limb to the left of the cat), but still the cat, although it could no longer stay in peace in the tree, was very reluctant to leave it. Behind on the right, next to a boulder, I spotted the reason why: Another cat.

It finally became obvious to me why the white cat went up the tree in the first place: To avoid the tuxedo cat. I have seen this white cat intimidate other cats, actually behaving either brashly or retardedly in that it more or less ignored the other cat's body language, which was screaming "Stay the f**k away from me!!!", and would try to approach the other cat, anyway. Now here was a cat that the white one wanted to avoid.

Whitey ultimately had no choice and reluctantly got down from the tree, attracting the other cat's attention. Of course, they denied me an end to this story by disappearing behind a building.

High entertainment value!

Oct 16, 2007

Subtle shift

I saw the company doctor today. Just a regular annual check-up. Blood pressure's up but still a healthy 120/80. Cholesterol's up but within the healthy range. Iron levels are good. Heart and lungs also sounding normal. Lung capacity still rocks. I don't feel like I'm going to be 47 in less than two months.

One thing though: My doc asked me about an answer on a form about how I felt about upper management. Turns out that the subtle shift I've felt since this summer has been felt by other employees. The question is, what next? I'm still working on that question.

In the meantime, trees are turning gold, evenings are turning cold, and I'm rhyming.

I think I could do with a bit of Wow! in my life about now. Just to shake things up a bit. Perhaps I got a bit of Wow! Saturday night. I attended a lecture titled "Buddhism in the West" given by a Danish lama, Ole Nydahl. He had to give his talk in English, because spoken Danish sounds too consonantless for Norwegian ears to grasp easily.

He spoke about the difference between western religions and eastern (faith-based vs. experience-based), and about training the mind. It is all about the mind becoming aware of itself, a bit like finally being able to see your own face with your own eyes without the aid of mirrors or pictures. In other words, very challenging. So no wonder it can take several lifetimes! Because eastern thought is so foreign to western minds, Nydahl has found introducing Buddhism to the west very difficult. Christianity is actually increasing in Asia more than Buddhism is increasing in Europe, for example.

But he tries to spread the word, and has established over 500 western Buddhist groups, via his organization The Diamond Way. What he talked about Saturday has made me curious (and a bit inspired), so I have some exploring to do.

Oct 12, 2007

Decisions and teeth

"You Can Heal Your Life" by Louise Hay has a list of metaphysical and/or emotional reasons for physical ailments and attendant, healing affirmations. Some time this summer my right front incisor started to feel slightly looser. It seemed to be able to lean a bit against its neighboring teeth. By last week, I was feeling a sensation in my upper lip right where the root to that tooth is that I can best describe as "vibrating". Last Saturday, the wiggle seemed to be even more noticeable than ever. I took a deep breath and told myself not to panic.

There are a few ways to seriously scare me. Bodywise, it just takes the suggestion of chest/breast surgery of any kind - or my teeth breaking or falling out.

I called the dentist Monday morning and was told my favorite dentist was out on indefinite sick-leave. Well, dentists in Norway are generally good, I've never been mistreated yet, so I got an appointment for Thursday, yesterday.

Wednesday I was home from work (my regular one-day-a-month off). I chose to go take a soak in the tub, but before doing that, opened my Louise Hay book to see what teeth problems are about. It said, "Longstanding indecision."

Oh. Wow. But of course.

I have, lately, been once again grappling with the idea and the yearning of changing jobs/careers/whatever. Once again, I find myself questioning whether or not I'm supposed to stay with my employer of almost 25 years for the 20 I have left before regular retirement age. I have been reading books like Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich", on setting my mind to believe in unlimited options, on musing on God and the concept that God is, whereas we humans (and everything in our world) is when God acts. The message from Hill and others is that I must first know what I want, then desire it with a passion. I can't move if I have no where to move to.

As I lay in the tub soaking, I was making a list. Asking myself if I were to go to college, what would I major in? I didn't get that far, but I did come to a clearer understanding of what my talents are. I also found how I'd been accidentally sabotaging myself: I keep saying I don't know what I want to be when I grow up, and so, of course I don't know. I haven't put it into my mind that I would know! So I made up my mind to find out what to be now that I really am grown up.

My teeth are not the straightest so they don't wear evenly. The result is that my right front tooth still had the cuspettes that are typical of new permanent teeth and which are usually worn away by the time one enters college.

The new dentist turned out to have the lightest touch I have ever experienced. It was the most amazing pain-free 45 minutes I have ever spent in a dentist's office. I didn't even feel his scraping away the tartar! I darned near started to relax! He did the teeth cleaning after he'd checked my bite, came to the conclusion that things were a bit off - and filed my right front tooth down just a little. Just enough to remove the cuspettes.

I left with an adult smile.

Oct 8, 2007

Goal... goal... goal... GOLD!

My upstairs neighbor yelled and stomped his feet so loudly, I heard it from my kitchen and realized instantly that something had happened on tonight's soccer match, so I left my dishes and turned on the TV. I discovered my neighbor had yelled as our team ended the 1-1 score with a 2nd goal, and then, just seconds later, a third.

Our local soccer team, Brann, has not won the series since 1963. But tonight that changed. After a brilliant season of only four not a single lossed lost matches (just the rest wins and ties), Brann won a defining home match tonight 3-1. We're gonna be partying all week and for the rest of the month! The town I live in will never be the same. And neither will the team's official song. They're going to have to rewrite the verse about winning last in 1963.

Heia Brann!!!

PS: I keep having to edit this post. Which doesn't surprise me. a) I don't use spellcheck, b) I know nothing about soccer or our team, c) except that our team tends to screw up royally, and d) Not this year, they won't!!!

Oct 6, 2007

Rank ranking

Nothing like starting a Saturday with a tasty cup of coffee (Java Mocca, in this case) and an article that tickles the funny bone. This even involves some of my favorite critters: Rats, cows and Norwegians.

Forskning.no - a Norwegian web newspaper that specializes in reporting on research - has given its own slant on this year's Ig Nobel Awards, including posing the very same question that occurred to me after mentioning the award-winning research in linguistics showing that rats are unable to tell Dutch apart from Japanese when hearing the languages spoken backwards. The question is: Is it animal cruelty to subject lab rats to such things?

Then the Norwegian article states that Norwegian researchers have had more nominations (and wins) to the Ig Nobel Prize than to the real Nobel Prize, topping out in 1996, with, among other things, trying to figure out if blow-up dolls can spread gonorrhea (they can't), and what stimulates appetites in leeches (sour cream's fine, beer is toxic, and garlic is deadly). My trivia-junky brain is giddy with delight at learning a new fact about leeches.

Having been up close and personal with the end product of cows, as it were, it's almost amazing that one can find vanillin in cow muck (Ig Nobel in chemistry). It would be nice if cow patties actually smelled that way.

Oct 4, 2007

Way too close to the truth

Your Deadly Sins
Sloth: 60%
Gluttony: 20%
Greed: 20%
Envy: 0%
Lust: 0%
Pride: 0%
Wrath: 0%
Chance You'll Go to Hell: 14%
You will die with your hand down your underwear, watching Star Trek.

(Paula, whom I swiped this from, got the exact same score, but a different death.)

Oct 3, 2007

Comics nerd follow-up and some, uh, whining

I went to hear one of my favorite Norwegian cartoonists, Mads Eriksen, speak, and took a picture of him working, but that didn't come out, unfortunately. He was sketching what was to become this:

Eriksen was pleasant and humble, and he did say something about Norwegians and their attitudes to the newspaper daily comics: Those comics seem to have a special status for people, to the point that people have actually apologized to Eriksen for not reading his strip.

There is something about this festival that made me realize that I need to visit it every year, and just park myself in the auditorium where the interviewing of the guest artists/writers takes place more or less continuously. Because the thing is, those guys are so enthusiastic, so happy, so generous about their work and with their art, that you leave happy, even if you have no clue who the artist/writer is or what cartoon or illustrated story he does. And this they do in between handling a long line of fans waiting for an autograph - which is always accompanied with a doodle. I love watching them, their patience, the mutual respect between them and their fans, and also between each other. Such a wonderful collection of joy and abundance!

Which brings me to my whine: I have been distracted, lately, by a feeling of lost direction. I have been in this feeling before, but this time, my attitude to it is different. I am watching "The Secret", reading books like Napoleon Hill's "How to Think and Grow Rich", and realizing I think like a pauper. I do not have unlimited amounts of money, because I don't know what to do with it, so why should it come? It's not about being rich per se; it's about having the can-do attitude and the ambition. I have no ambition, no burning desire for something. I never did. And my frustration now is from the realization that I don't and that that is stopping me.

I need to go find myself, find what I really want, find my passion, and then manifest it. And, I need to update this blog more frequently. I'm actually annoying myself with these five-day intervals.

Sep 28, 2007

Comics nerd

I scored rather highly on the sci-fi/comic part of the Nerd test I took. That has made me think about the cultural difference between the US and Norway (as I understand it) in comics: Norway has a number of monthly comic books - aimed at adults. They are not adult comics in the sense that they are R-rated, but rather, they are the comics of the US Sunday newspapers, translated and offered to Norwegians of all ages. The magazines sit in the adult section of the magazine rack, not the kid section.

UPDATE:
Jefe's comment has prompted me to add this, since it made me realize that I was a bit sparse on the details:

Just to be clear: I'm not talking about illustrated novels (like Sandman), serials (like Modesty Blaise) or manga, though those exist and are popular in their own right. Nor am I talking about the sort of magazine or booklet that offers printed stories of familiar animated cartoon characters (though we have that, too). I'm talking about the humorous strip or one-pager; the sort of comic that typically gets printed daily in the newspaper. Both Bizarro and Non Sequitur are translated and published in these magazines.

The format of the magazine is that most pages are devoted to the main comic, the one the magazine gets its name and cover art from. In every issue are regular guest series, some home-grown, many imported and translated. Some imports are so popular - like "The Far Side" and "Zits" - that they get their own magazine. The choice of guest series take the tone of the main comic. The "Zits" magazine, for example, runs a lot of family-type strips, like "Betty" and "The Buckets" in addition to the main series "Zits". All translated (though sometimes they run a feature "Untranslatable").

All these magazines print the daily strips that a newspaper would print. As far as I know, there is no exact counterpart in the US, nor does the US have this consumer pattern of adults - both male and female - buying comic magazines.
END UPDATE

This weekend, Norway's largest comics/illustrated story convention is underway right here in Bergen. I intend to drop by tomorrow. There are some of my favorites I want to see in person, because past experience has shown me that an artist often draws characters with features similar to his own.

My favorite humorous comic strips are drawn by Norwegians; the country has fostered some amazing talents which in turn have made some hugely popular comic characters and strips of high quality. My favorites are Nemi, Pondus, and M, and I am delighted by the artwork of cartoonist/writer Lars Lauvik. There are some others, who are regulars in these Norwegian magazines. It may be the only regular diet of Norwegian culture I get since I don't bother much with Norwegian music, film or TV. At least it keeps me somewhat abreast of what Norwegians think about (which includes British soccer, dragons and Star Wars, apparantly).

Karma queen

I like to think I'm not quite like other people. Usually, I'm right. Sometimes it amuses me greatly to suddenly feel myself a part of some great joined consciousness or group experience. It's not often, so for me it's like visiting a relative I rarely see. The rest of the time, I march to the beat of my own drum, and hear no echo. Then I read this about new classes of consumers:

A karma queen, for example, is identified as a woman aged in her 40s or 50s who tends to buy organic food, wear Birkenstock footwear, practice yoga and buy high-end bath products.

Except for the Birkenstocks, that's me to a T. Well, at least I'm something royal.

(Found via The Consumerist.)

Sep 25, 2007

Nerdousity

At work, I am the departmental nerd. I deserve that title:

NerdTests.com says I'm a Cool High Nerd.  What are you?  Click here!

Of course I was nerdy enough to upload a photo that had been digitally retouched. ;-)

(Thanks to fellow female nerd Paula!)

Sep 24, 2007

Jellyfish can fly!

Well, no, it's not a flying jellyfish but I was impressed, anyway (see my comment to that post).

Miscellaneous tests for fun

On my day off, I fully (I almost wrote "fooly", which may not be incorrect) intend to eventually get off my butt, shower, dress and, uh, do something. You know, productive-like. Even have some podcasts and audiobooks to listen to. But until said offgetting, etc., I'm drinking coffee, and doing these (blame Paula):

You Are Teal Green
You are a one of a kind, original person. There's no one even close to being like you. Expressive and creative, you have a knack for making the impossible possible. While you are a bit offbeat, you don't scare people away with your quirks. Your warm personality nicely counteracts and strange habits you may have.

Fits. Paula got the same thing. Now, to explore that knack. After I shower, dress, etc.


You Are 81% Tortured Genius
You totally fit the profile of a tortured genius. You're uniquely brilliant - and completely misunderstood. Not like you really want anyone to understand you anyway. You're pretty happy being an island.

True, but that last 19% does like to hang out with others. Because of my Gemini Moon:

You are 87% Gemini

Seriously, to get less than 87% would have been a surprise, with my Mercurial chart.


This test was actually fun to take because it required actually imagining something, creating an idea in my mind, not your typical multiple-choice. And the answer fits pretty well:

What Your Soul Really Looks Like
You are very passionate and quite temperamental. While you can be moody, you always crave comfort. You are a grounded person, but you also leave room for imagination and dreams. You feet may be on the ground, but you're head is in the clouds. You see yourself with pretty objective eyes. How you view yourself is almost exactly how other people view you. Your near future is a lot like the present, and as far as you're concerned, that's a very good thing. For you, love is all about caring and comfort. You couldn't fall in love with someone you didn't trust.

OK, I'm done.