Feb 28, 2007

Dealing with stress

Over on a friend's blog, I left the following in a comment, as a response to someone else's frustration with getting worked up over deadlines, travel, etc.:

My way of dealing of with stress may not work for everyone. (It doesn’t always work for me, either, but usually because I sabotage myself.) I pray. I also use affirmations, usually calling on divine mind and such, but affirmations don’t necessarily have to be religious.

You could do something like, “My higher self knows what’s best. I am safe as long as I am breathing, and I acknowledge and trust my inner guidance. My priorities fall easily into place for me and I accomplish what is necessary with peace, joy and success.”

If “higher self” doesn’t sit right, either, try “inner wisdom”.

Affirmations work for me because they both focus my mind towards something positive and distract me momentarily from my worries. Sometimes, that break is all that’s needed. You know, shoving the hamster off its wheel.

Feb 24, 2007

The stuff of bodies

In catching up on my Usenet reading, I came across a comment about how Gila Monster Spit [sic] in synthetic form was helping a woman with her diabetes. I thought it was some kind of inside joke, but no. It's real. One article I came across about it, tells how the endocrinologist who discovered the helpful ingredient (exenatide), made his discovery, and then finally got to see the animal itself.

One quote from the article: "[W]e talk about how infrequently Gila monsters eat, and how this chemical helps them digest meals slowly over time." The article's a fascinating read.

I'm not quoting the WebMD article, because it starts off with "You wouldn't want to meet a Gila monster in a dark alley […]". Not only is it a cliché but it is cliché that misleads the reader. Gila monsters are out in the middle of nowhere, otherwise known as the southwestern desert. You meet them in dark crevaces in rocks (well, that's where I saw the one I saw). Not that that's desirable, either. They are poisonous.

This week I've been re-reading about doshas. Fun word to say, dosha, but what does it mean? I usually use the word "constitution" but I see "humor" used. In ayurvedic medicine, there are three doshas governing body type, bodily functions and attendant thinking and emotions (personality): Vata, Pitta and Kapha. We are all a mix of these three, with one or two usually dominant. Vata is the most common in purest form, Kapha the least common. Vata is the dosha that reacts first to stress, which explains feeling scattered, tummy upsets, and poor sleep.

I've been re-reading about this because recently, after a friend of mine used ayurveda and yoga in the same sentence. That is, her yoga instructor did. I hadn't thought about those in combination before and got curious. And had a lightbulb moment.

I loved the power yoga class I took last fall though it seemed not to matter to my health. I just liked the moving, the working of muscles, and feeling muscles I didn't know I had. A week after the course ended, trouble started. I was under a bit of pressure (because I can worry myself into a knot) trying to plan a trip during Christmas. I noticed a bit of something in my chest the day after the Christmas dinner with my co-workers, but it didn't seem significant. Then it was my birthday, and I noticed the tickle in my chest more, but it wasn't until halfway through the following day, at work, that I realized I was sick. And I was out sick for almost two weeks, with a pulmonary virus infection that was (and still is) going around.

When I started to feel better, I then pulled a muscle in my ribs and so didn't feel up to doing any yoga yet. Being home sick didn't do my weight any good (that time of life, and it's not without advantages[1]), and so I thought about getting back into the yoga. A new course was supposed to start in February, but by then, I had read about the yoga-ayurveda connection, and had learned that power yoga was good for Kapha types.

I am not a Kapha type. I vacillate between being Vata and Vata-Pitta - and today, Pitta-Vata according to YAT (yet another test) - but I have never had a predominance of Kapha in my make-up. So that type of yoga was all wrong for me. Funny thing is, lung infections are connected to a Kapha imbalance.

OK, I'll turn the lightbulb off now. No, not yet; there's more. The best exercise for a Vata? Walking. What have I been doing all February? Walking. Haven't lost weight, haven't gotten a nice bubble-butt from climbing five flights of stairs several times a day at work yet, but I am less out of breath when I get to the top landing. The best part, which is also Vata: Enjoying the walk around the pond every day. Even though it feels like a chore when I set out, the experience itself is so lovely and so interesting, that it cheers me up.

So, I'm going to go through my collection of New Age books, and see if I still don't have that one on ayurveda for women, which brings me to my footnote [1]: I am experiencing what is known as perimenopause, that time in life when the body sort of acts like my hairdresser's salon did yesterday: There was a flurry of different activities as everyone prepared to close shop at 4:30 pm and be ready for a photo shoot the next day. Floors were wetmopped and shelves tidied while customers were getting haircuts, and I found myself having to actually wait in line for a sink. It was quite noisy and even crowded.

My hormones are doing something similar: My ovaries are dialling back on the estrogen in preparation for menopause (ETA unknown), which causes some other hormones to have to change their behavior, which influences the estrogen in turn, but this apparant chaos is normalcy. It's supposed to do this. The weight gain? Shores up estrogen so the body doesn't shock itself (is my theory; it is a known fact that fat cells store estrogen). I've found that I have to order clothes in size "large" at my favorite mail order company (I was an XS past my mid-30's). Haven't had a regular period since 2001, but the irregularity has been regular (anywhere from 22 to 27 days is typical now). Less flow, too, so I'm saving money.

And this has to do with ayurveda, you are wondering? I'm looking for balance. Hormones, life, food. Some of the more annoying symptoms of perimenopause (skin sensitivies, excess sweating, for example) seem to suggest dosha imbalance. I figure if I can somehow figure out how to work with my body, this change-of-life thingy will be a breeze.

Feb 22, 2007

Snow day

A good 4 inches of snow fell during Tuesday night, so we woke up to a beautiful, white world, and relatively clear skies. It was simply gorgeous, so I took a number of pictures on my walk.

But farther south, "snow day" had an ominous meaning last night and today: In both Denmark and on the southern coast of Norway, snow came down in such amounts that people were snowed in. It was the worst blizzard in 20 years on Norway's southern coast, and left motorists stranded overnight, and police forced to close highways so they wouldn't have more than the already 100 stuck vehicles to rescue. And the passenger train between Bergen and Oslo derailed after hitting a snowbank, but fortunately, no one was hurt. It sure is a challenge to get help to the area, though, and with only one track across the mountain, we desperately need to get the train moved.

In other "news", things have been oddly stressful, fraught with miscommunication and more errors than usual. Transportation and communication are going haywire - and wouldn't you know: Mercury - the planet that rules transportation and communication - is retrograde (apparantly moving backwards). I muttered under my breath - as the sweat poured down my back while trying to figure out how the hell to get the stupid printer to print right - that I no longer do astrology so why is it doing me???

But now the worst is over, and tomorrow is Friday. Yay! I'll be getting my hair cut, which will be a lovely end to the week.

Feb 20, 2007

Cute lesbians in nylon

The subject of spam I got today. Rather rolls off the tongue, doesn't it.

Feb 18, 2007

How to disgust Norwegians

(Title changed to what I originally intended.)

Peanut butter is definitely an American thing. Many years ago, I travelled with the coastal steamer up to the North Cape with a girlfriend. We were roughing it ("interrail" on the boats, actually), and so brought our own sandwich fixings. Peanut butter's advantage is that it is filling, tasty, and requires no refrigeration. So I buttered crackers with peanut butter and jam. Much to my friend's disgust, I found out when her boyfriend joined us after a week and made a face. "Yeah, I know," my friend said to her boyfriend. "I've had to look at that for a week."

One thing I haven't found here before, is Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. I remember when they first came out in the States. I thought the commercials were stupid, but the product tasted great. And there they were, in the candy section at the movie theater (finally saw the new Bond yesterday; I approve). I haven't seen any Hershey's products in Norway before, except for the chocolate in the American "section" at my local supermarket recently. (Hershey's is to USA what Freia is to Norway.)

I ran into a neighbor at the movies and enthusiastically told her that Norway was now stuck with me; my last reason for going back to the States had gone now that peanut butter cups are available here. Not surprisingly, she turned her nose up at the idea of something with peanut butter in it. Yes, Norwegians do eat peanut butter (it's a regular staple at most stores), but they don't have the American fondness for it.

A basic sandwich in the US is PB&J; a basic in Norway is a slice with fårepølse (mutton sausage, made out of several animal meats, not just mutton, and a unique flavor I will forever associate with Norway). Then there's Charlie Brown's favorite comfort food, mentioned in a "Peanuts" comic I once read: PB and butter in equal amounts, fold the bread over. I had that today. And my Reese's. Delicious!

Feb 17, 2007


For those who celebrate such things, Lent - the period of fasting in the Christian faith - has started. I know this because the fast switch (as in Lent and spanking), called "fastelavnsris" in Norwegian, is sold for a couple of days just before Lent starts. This, along with the sweet, cream-filled buns made at this time, are the last vestiges of marking Lent in Norway. The switch is based on a heathen custom in Sweden.

Feb 15, 2007

Oh, is that why!

I subscribed to an online Page-A-Day calendar last year, and for Valentine's, they gave me a code to subscribe to one for free this year. So I opted for the Fact or Crap calendar. Browsing January, I got the answer to a puzzlement:

Why do you see the whole moon even when it's new? Y'know, you look up, see that bare line of a crescent, but can also make out the rest of the circle, the rest of the moon. Why isn't the dark part completely invisible?

Earthshine, that's why. Just like the moon, the Earth reflects sunlight, too - enough to let you make out the whole moon even when it's dark. The strength of the earthshine depends on Earth's cloud cover.

I knew the Earth reflected light, like the moon, if not as well; I just never realized that was why a new moon is visible.

UPDATE: There was a derailment in the comments; two trains of thought couldn't stay on the same track. My American pop culture references do not extend to TV-series of the 1950's so Mark had to explain, which he has done here.

Feb 13, 2007

Walkies [your favorite Roman numeral here]

I now have over 10,000 steps on my pedometer since 9 am and I still have over 1000 coming tomorrow before 9 thanks to my walk to work! Yes! That makes up for the pathetic six thousand something of yesterday.

I realized that I need a reason, a real reason to leave the house. You know, an errand or starvation or something. To just stop what I'm doing to go take a walk for the walk's sake isn't motivation enough (though sometimes a gorgeous sunset or achy body due to too much sitting will do it). So I got home, had dinner and relaxed, then grabbed my plastic recycling and walked to the recycling bin which is right near where I work. And then took the long way home.

The air was a little bitter, but the temperature was rising. As I rounded the pond the first time, the whiteness was almost gone, suggesting that the temperature was rising in the water, too. And then the firecracker went off. Somebody shot off a bit of fireworks on and across the frozen pond. I passed by an Asian woman, carrying what looked like an unwrapped Roman candle, and wanted to ask her if it was Chinese New Year's or something or just somebody's birthday. (Fireworks are sold only the last two workdays before New Year's in Norway, and are illegal to use at any other time than New Year's eve.)

I have no pictures of today's walk. I just kept walking around and around the pond, lost in my own thoughts, feeling my gloved hands get warm, and so I stayed out longer than intended. And still there's a bit of evening left.

Feb 12, 2007

Walk Feb 12 2007

Temperature's rising; it's now at 0 C (32 F). Whew.

I saw a father with his toddler on the ice, but I wasn't sure it's safe. I wanted to warn them, but just wasn't sure if they were really in danger, so I walked past as fast as I could so I didn't have to think about it. You can make out a line in the snow-covered ice in this photo and that's where there's current underneath or something. The ice is thinner there. The father and his kid weren't far from a couple of seams like this, but they were only a few feet from shore.

Swan update: It's a mute swan ("knoppsvane"). It managed to hold its head in such a way that I finally could see the bulge on its bill which gives it its Norwegian name. Very likely a juvenile because of the grayish coloring of head and neck.

Not fleas, but bacteria

Supposedly, a good Arabian curse is, "May the fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits." Those fleas may have to fight for space, though.

New York University researchers believe that every person has their own personalized zoo. They discovered that not only does each of us walk around with at least 182 different types of bacteria in our armpits, but that as many as 8% of those bacteria are unknown to scientists. Not only that, but the mix of bacteria is highly personalized and subject to change over time, though there are some regulars that stay put.

I wonder what the point is of having such personalized bacteria. Is this one way we create a unique odor, or attract certain mates? Do the bacteria make us unique, or does our uniqueness attract certain bacteria? And what else are they all doing on our skin (besides being harmless)?

This is like discovering squatters in your basement - and the remnants of their keg party.

Feb 11, 2007

Ortuvann Feb 11 2007

I got a late start and took a shorter walk. I find that having to walk (because of the departmental competition) is annoying. Oh, well, I did get off my butt and move some. Result:

  • Heaps of mallards
  • Smaller heap of wigeons
  • A half dozen black coots
  • One swan
  • Half dozen blackbirds
  • Townfull of crows
  • Handfull of magpies
  • Two European robins
  • One brown rat (it looked at me like I was the most disgusting creature it had ever seen; where would it get such an idea?)

The seagulls were probably out to sea. More open water there.

Feb 10, 2007

What makes Norwegians Norwegians

There are various types of so-called brunost (brown cheese) in Norway. The most common is made of a mix of cow's and goat's milk. The one in the picture is pure goat's cheese ("ekte geitost"). All the variations of brown cheese are in this rectangular shape. They taste nothing like Greek goat's cheese (feta). What they do taste like? You'll just have to drop by and sample.

Below is a lid specially made for these rectangular cheese, available for free in supermarkets. Under the TINE logo (Norway's largest dairy brand) it reads (in English), "One of the things that makes Norwegians Norwegians." I agree. (The cheese slicer is another one of those things.)

This is a very typical Norwegian sandwich: Modest, unadorned, open-faced (there's a whole industry in thin plastic sheets to put between open-faced sandwiches for your lunchbox). These two cheese-on-rye and another cup of coffee was my treat after my walk today.

Feb 9, 2007

Walkies V

A bit of variation from day to day, even in this scene. I wouldn't have noticed it, if it hadn't been for a rather low count on my pedometer. Even after the walk around Lynghaug pond (see my Flickr photos), I still hadn't racked up much more than 4000 steps. After one round around Ortuvann, I was in the 6000's. (I was off work so didn't have all the walking there to help my count.)

I debated whether or not to walk some more. I had been out for over an hour and although I was no longer cold (nor sweaty), I was tired and rather annoyed that my pedometer didn't show more. I made myself go one more round around Ortuvann, and I'm glad I did. A woman was feeding the ducks in the water, and they would chase each other around, splashing, trying to take the food out of each others mouths. The swan had moved to this side of the lake and was watching the going-ons. It occurred to me that the swan was actually trying to learn. I still haven't been able to determine what kind it is.

Today's pedometer count will stop below 9000. I'll try to get over 12000 tomorrow. Two walks with extra rounds around each ponds should do it.

Two more linkages

I've been reading Archer's blog LawyerWorldLand and Dawn's blog Tiny Voices In My Head for quite a while, but haven't linked to them until now.

No, don't thank me. Several blogs in my blogroll have not been updated since I added them.

No, I'm not the spawn of the Devil.

Yes, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Steve Jobs reads my blog

No, he probably doesn't read my blog, but after I posted about the US government's suggestion to do more business in Norway, I read this report that Apple has purchased Norway from King Harald V. Now, where do you think they'd get such an idea from, hmmm???

This is good news that couldn't have come at a better time. Not only will this lay to rest the squabble Norway's consumer agency is creating over iTunes Store's DRM, but it'll probably help pay for Harald's 70th four-day birthday bash starting February 21.

Ooh! That leaves me with only 11 days to find a suitable formal gown! Gotta go!

Feb 8, 2007

Walkies IV

I took my walk in the cold a bit later than my other walks so far this week and was therefore out and about when the street lamps on the foot path came on.

In other news: Yesterday was the first day this winter that all of Norway had freezing temperatures. I remind you that yesterday was in February. Not January or December or even November. But now the meteorologists claim winter is here to stay. And although the cold bites at my cheek and chins, and toes and fingers, I don't mind the clear skies and white on the ground. Beats gray skies and rain.

Swan update: Still can't tell what kind of swan it is, but it's somewhat grayish on head and upper neck, so I'm thinking it's still adolescent. It looked at all the mallards going nuts over 4 pieces of bread, but did not come over to investigate. That makes me assume the bird is wild and not an escapee from a city park.


I keep telling people that this one molar has a whopping cavity in it because when I got in the 9th grade it hurt so bad that I screamed and cried and made my dentist cry. Well, today I learned something completely different.

The weirdness of the human body is such that its sides don't match, sometimes extremely so. In me, my teeth are more crooked on the right side of my mouth than on my left. And on my right side is the molar mentioned above, which likes to act up according to my menstrual cycle. Its filling was changed almost two years ago, and the dentist said I might feel that the filling was too shallow. I finally decided it was and was back in the dentist's chair today. After making sure my tooth had no cracks (it didn't), my dentist set to work.

She managed to remove the old filling without anesthesia, and put in a new one without me hardly batting an eye. I was surprised at how easy and nearly painless the whole thing was. "Man, you're good!" I said to my dentist. She said she was equally impressed with me. I said that that was my biggest filling so I usually wanted anesthesia. That's when she told me it wasn't my biggest, not even my second-biggest. In fact, it was quite the shallow filling.

She showed me the X-rays. She pointed to the other biggies and I suddenly realized why my dentist when I was in 9th grade was so surprised at my reaction. Of course he wasn't expecting so much pain out of such a shallow cavity! My current dentist explained how fine nerves thread out in the teeth, and with age they tend to retract. They like a certain distance between themselves and the surface. But in this particular molar, my nerves apparantly not only stretch up a bit high, but also don't have the sense to stop doing that.

I am happy, though, to discover this tooth doesn't have the whopping cavity I thought it had. And it took me only 30 years to find out.

Feb 7, 2007

Walkies III

I live behind this building, up to the right. The long steep slope is a favorite for the local kids to sled on, and a light is set up so they can continue to play after dark (which comes early in winter). This was taken just before 6 pm. Currently, sunset is around 5 pm.

I am taking walks around the pond every day on my way home so I can get some pedometer action, and it is rather nice to walk the same stretch and see something different each day. Today I saw a black dog in a bright yellow reflective vest, rolling himself in white snow. I found out why shopping carts likely end up in the pond, far away from the grocery stores: One teen boy in the cart being pushed by his buddy. Not going too fast on the icy path, but fun enough.

I saw the swan again, too, closer to shore, but now it was too dark for me to see it clearly, anyway. That bird is staying a mystery.

Feb 6, 2007

Walkies II

Contrast this with yesterday's photo. A bit more snow, a lot more sun. Gorgeous! (Though I'll admit I like yesterday's photo, too. The light's so different.)

Feb 5, 2007


My department decided to have a walking competition. My boss happened to mention the idea to his boss, and next thing we know, all the departments in our division are having a walking competition. Pedometers have been purchased and handed out and we started officially this morning at 9 am.

I therefore took the long way home, that is, detoured around Ortuvann. The weather was crisp and clear and no rain was forecast, so I expected a nice walk.

I was rather fascinated by the light and the white. I saw a swan sleeping in the water, too. And then it started to hail - fine, little grains.

I have never been bare-headed or without an umbrella when it hails before, so I made a new discovery: It tickles my scalp.

I stopped by the local grocery store and bought milk and made another discovery: Hail in hair melts and drips everywhere.

Feb 4, 2007

Do business in Norway

Via my local newspaper, I have come across a pitch from the US government to American businesses seeking to expand abroad. Doing Business in Norway states that Norway and its neighbors are a good market for an American company, with a high number of enabled consumers and capitals that are only an hour apart from each other by air. And most folks speak English.

I can hardly wait to see the look on the Americans' faces when they discover all the rules regulating our market, the sales tax, the workers' rights, and the fact that the above varies from country to country here in the north. The Finns and the Danes want to go through channels, the Swedes want full documentation and time to think about it, the Norwegians won't bother much with formalities, but there is the problem of getting the product out to Godforsakentown on some fjord or north of the Arctic circle.

But we all offer akevitt, open-faced sandwiches, weird fish dishes that aren't sushi, and bad weather.

In the shadow of WWII

Where I grew up in Norway, there were some concrete bunkers built by the Germans during World War II. A friend of mine in Hordvik could not stand to go near the things. Some were very small, possibly just a guard's hut or something and nothing to see inside, but my friend would not approach. At the time, I didn't understand her. She did explain that she'd heard so many stories from her parents, who were children during the war, that it felt as if she had been a child during the war, too.

My generation was taught all about World War II in school. We were taught about the occupation, the rations, the Gestapo. We commemorated the start of the occupation (April 9 1940) and the end of the occupation (May 10 1945). Even for me, April 9 is a "loaded" date. It's hard to look at it neutrally on a calendar.

I understand my friend's reaction better now. It creeps under your skin. Just knowing, just listening to the old folks talk, the unobtrusive bronze plaque at work in our lobby naming employees who gave their lives for their country. I don't know these people, and yet their stories, their fates, touches me, haunts me, impresses me.

I grew up with a veteran of the war, my grandpa, who sailed for the Norwegian merchant marines in convoys across the Atlantic. For the commemoration in 1975, my class got various assignments and I volunteered to interview a war veteran. Easy, right? Just ask Grandpa some questions at dinner. He never actually talked about the war, but what he did tell me, surprised me.

His worst war experience: The convoy was lying dead in the water, waiting for escort. The crew on his oil tanker was on deck, watching the horizon. They spotted a German submarine coming up to the surface. They held their breath. Would the sub notice the ship? The sub didn't, but instead gave my grandpa the worst memory of the war: Out of the sub to get a bit of fresh air, came its crew - boys as young as 16 years old.

I was 14 when Grandpa told me this story and to me, a 16-year-old was an adult. It wasn't until I was 16 that I realized why Grandpa was horrified: A 16-year-old is a child.

I have just finished updating my online photo albums, and have added a series of photos from Telavåg, a small coastal town that was the main port for the illicit North Sea travel during the war. A museum was built just a few years ago, and one of the few male adult survivors of the hell on Earth that struck Telavåg and Telavåg only, sits on a chair in the lobby every Sunday, and gives his first-hand account of what happened.

It creeps under your skin and it stays there.

Feb 3, 2007

Faith — Tro

But what is fear? Nothing more nor less than the negative use of faith…faith misplaced; a belief in two powers instead of One… —"The Science of Mind", page 156

Faith is a difficult notion. So many try to compensate for a lack of faith by using will-power or rituals. And so many feel they have no faith; they feel they constantly fall short of believing in whatever deity they want to believe in or they feel that their efforts to believe are going nowhere.

In my metaphysical readings, I came across the statement that faith requires - faith. That's not as unhelpful as it sounds. Here is what is meant: Faith isn't something you start out with, faith is something you give yourself by just believing it is worth it. Faith isn't something you have; it is something you build.

You need just that one belief: That there is a power in the Universe that wishes you well and that you are a part of and therefore can use and rely on.

"To take the first step in faith, you don't have to see the whole staircase: just take the first step." —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Men hva er frykt? Hverken mer eller mindre enn misbruk av tro…feilplassert tro; en tro på at det finnes to krefter i stedet for bare Én… —"The Science of Mind", side 156 (min oversettelse)

Tro er et vanskelig begrep. Mange prøver å få nok tro ved å bruke viljen eller ritualer. Og mange føler at de rett og slett ikke har tro; de føler ikke at troen deres er sterk nok i deres valgte gud, eller at troen rett og slett ikke gjør noen nytte.

I en metafysisk tekst kom jeg over påstanden at tro krever - tro. Påstanden er ikke så unyttig som det kan høres ut. Det som påstås er: Tro er ikke noe du har til å begynne med, men noe du gir deg selv fordi du rett og slett synes det er verdt det. Tro er altså ikke noe du har, men noe du skaper.

Du trenger kun den vissheten: At det finnes en kraft i Universet som ønsker deg alt godt og som du er en del av og kan dermed bruke og stole på.

"For å ta troens første skritt, trenger du ikke å se hele trappen: Bare ta det første skrittet." —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (min oversettelse)

Friday, no, Saturday Five

Stolen from gekko. (A steal I'm sure she won't mind; see 4 below.)

1. What was your first job?
My first full-time job was right after high school, for a commercial insurance company in Los Angeles. And it was there that I first encountered computers. During the job interview, my supervisor-to-be showed me the form I'd be doing data entry from, and I panicked at all those squares and absolutely did not want the job. I was told to take it because they wanted me, and not many employers wanted a 17-year-old. So I took it, they showed me the computer room, taught me how to use it, and showed me also what to do if I made an error. Oh, you can fix mistakes? Why didn't you say so! After my first afternoon, I was sold. I've loved working with computers since.

2. Do you remember your first crush?
My very first? Sheesh, that must've been the boy in 2nd grade who had one brown eye and one green and whom I annoyed terribly because I couldn't shut up about his eyes.

3. What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Stay in bed as long as I can. No, really. The next thing is go to the bathroom, or maybe get up and close the window, then crawl back into bed. Maybe go to the bathroom first, then back to bed. Or just wait with that whole bathroom/window thing a bit because I really want to stay in bed.

4. What was the first really bad thing you ever did?
Steal. For a brief while, I was friends with a girl about 4 years older than me and we snuck into someone's home. The woman whose house we'd robbed showed up at my house and asked my grandma about an expensive wristwatch. I had taken only Play-Doh (I was 7). Grandma said that I wouldn't have taken the watch because I wouldn't have understood its value. She also understood that my older girlfriend was already a "bad seed", as did the robbed woman. You know the kind of family - lots of fighting, kids make their own rules, older sister running around with even older boys, no dad, grumpy and unkempt mom who kept no curfews and always yelled. My grandma knew I'd been influenced. I was so embarrassed about the whole thing that, after a short talk with me alone, Grandma knew there was no need for punishment, nor in warning me about further contact with the older girl. I was also a Brownie at the time, and I felt so ashamed right then to even have that uniform; I'd robbed our Girl Scout troop leader's house.

5. Where is the first place you visited on the net today?
Google. Had to check my facts about Winston Churchill being born in a water closet.

Feb 2, 2007

V and W

Via Tim, I have been introduced to Emily's blog, and her adventures as a brand-new immigrant to Norway (which I am reading with almost as much wonder as a native Norwegian since I have never been that kind of immigrant). She is going through the experiences most immigrants to Norway go through, including the Norwegian for foreigners classes. I never did that, so there are some aspects of Norwegian that I have never questioned, having learned it as a child in a Norwegian school, but Emily did. She was wondering about W.

This is part of the comment I left on her blog:

W is [...] not used in actual Norwegian. It, along with c, q, x and z, exists mainly to accommodate old-fashioned spellings of names, like Aschehoug (Askehaug) or Wiik (Vik). (The Norwegian alphabet has been through some evolutions, as has the English.) To a Norwegian, W looks like V, anyway, a concept that is baffling to an English-speaker. But V and W are interchangeable to a Norwegian as they sound exactly the same.

I didn't actually realize how ingrained the interchangability of V and W was until I returned to this country in 1981. Then, Levi's with the characteristic little red tag was all the rage. And very expensive at the time, costing about NOK 500-700 (they still do so inflation's down and purchasing power is up). So a friend of mine was delighted when she saw a sign in a shop window that read: LEWIS JEANS KR 199,- (kr 199,- is how you write 199 kroner).

She was absolutely certain she'd just come across one helluva bargain. I tried to point out that she hadn't. My friend aced English in school, and yet she could not see the difference between LEVI'S and LEWIS. The apostrophe isn't used much in Norwegian and since W is seen as V (and pronounced the same), she read the two names as sounding alike ("leh-viss"). I did finally get her to understand that there was a difference in English.

Norwegian does use W and C a lot in one way: Restrooms are often marked WC, rumored to stand for Winston Churchill as he apparantly was born in a water closet...

Feb 1, 2007

Odel, bunad and Tubfrim

Man, I blog like tons and tons all at once and then stop, and still some of you still expect me to blog daily! (Hi, Mark!)

I got busy. I'm webmaster for one site (sorry, work-related and that's off limits for this blog), catching up on some reading, and trying to post more often on my other blog. And I worked late Tuesday.

I've been happily busy. I really like doing all this blogging. (But it means some of you are also waiting for me to answer e-mail. Hi, Robbi!)


First off, I spent Saturday researching some Norwegian women who emigrated from Norway to the US in the 1800's and made a big splash in their new home country. My mother is putting together a newsletter and wondered what I could tell her about them.

Well, I could tell her that the history of Norwegian emigrants is not taught in Norway. We know nothing about what happened after the sons who couldn't inherit the farm left on a leaky, creaky ship for "Junaiten" ("yoo-nighten" - Norwegian slang for the US). Those who know are relatives with a keen interest in geneology and a collection of old letters.

Which brings me to the concept of "odel": Instead of splitting farms up into smaller and smaller and useless parcels, Norway has had a law since the time of the Vikings that states that the farm in its entirety goes to the eldest son - so-called "odel" (the son is a "odelsgutt"). Nowadays, it's the eldest child that inherits (so an inheriting daughter is a "odelsjente"). But it left nothing to the other sons, so they'd have to either go find some unused land and homestead/farm it, or go to the cities for jobs, or go to sea. The 1800's brought a new alternative: Get a farm in the United States.

The odel law is becoming a nuisance because a new requirement was added in 1975 that to keep the farm, an inheritor must also live on it. But the odel law is constitutional so it will require a lot to remove it.


Then my mother asked for help with getting a bunad. The 1800's in Norway (and I believe elsewhere) saw something called national romanticism - basically falling in love with your own country and glorifying it through rose-colored glasses. This came on the heels of writing the Norwegian constitution (in 1814) and getting the Swedish king to grant Norway a certain autonomy and therefore use of its new constitution. Norway's national anthem was written during this blast of nationalism and its flag, blue and white cross on a red background, was designed in this period, too. When Norway in 1905 voted for sovereignity and secession from Sweden and got it, nationalism got renewed strength. People went into archives and grandparents' attics and found the old national costumes - bunad - and started rescuing and recreating lost patterns.

Bunads were originally formal attire, often inspired by the fashions of their time, and built to last. Good wool cloth was used and the costumes were sewn with extra material so they could be let out if necessary. There is special jewelry that goes with the costume, unique to each region, and various other patterns, such as embroideries and weaves are also unique to each region. The most popular - and considered by many the most beautiful - is the Hardanger bunad. Hardanger and its gorgeous fjord (Norway's second-longest), is a region south of where I live. The bunads around this part of western Norway are all very similar to the Hardanger. This page shows bunads typical of the county I live in. My mother wants one from a region directly north of Bergen, where my grandpa is from. The bunad jewelry is one of the things that makes me happy I've gotten to know Norway. It is exquisite!

Norway does not celebrate its independence day like the US celebrates its independence day. Instead, Norway celebrate its consititution day like the US celebrates its independence day. So on May 17, Norwegians don their red, white and blue and those that have bunads, wear them. Parades are a free-for-all; anybody can march in them. Here is one from May of 2004, taken at the nursing home my grandma was living in at the time. Thanks to the rain and therefore all the umbrellas, you can hardly make out any flags, bunads or red-white-and-blue ribbons worn on lapels. But it's definitely the 17th of May. Off-camera is the local school marching band, with each member wearing a clear plastic poncho.


I've also been decluttering, and found a bunch of used stamps. Every kid in Norway - well, every kid of my generation and older, at least - has grown up with tearing stamps off envelopes at school or bringing them to school, where teacher put them in an envelope to Tubfrim, while informing us of this terrible disease, tuberculosis, which was and is Tubfrim's main purpose: To help those stricken. Its other purpose is to aid handicapped children. (Tub = short for TB, frim = short for "frimerke" - postage stamp.) They are in dire need of stamps (people don't bother to send what they do have, apparantly), so if you have any stamps, send them to Tubfrim, NO-3540 Nesbyen (Nesbyen is also known for being Norway's hottest place in the summer). I got one big envelope sent off, and have started saving up for another.

But tuberculosis reminds me of a uniquely Norwegian experience for an American: All through grade school, we'd get a BCG test, a light cut on the inside of our lower arm dripped with some reactant, to see if we had TB. In 8th grade, we got vaccinated (amid horror stories about just how much that shot in the arm would hurt; it does leave a characteristic scar). The subsequent BCG tests later in 8th and in 9th grade were then supposed to give a positive, and that meant a slight redness around the cut. (I'm told they stopped these BCG vaccinations in the 1990's.)

When I came back to Norway in 1981, I was required as an immigrant to get a chest X-ray; they were checking for TB.