Mar 31, 2007

Tourists and trolls and trills

It's been a delightfully busy end to March. Last Saturday I met a blogger, her husband and two of their friends and guided them around Bergen. I had excellent company in all four of them. We ended up on the top of Fløien, where the funicular goes, and there we met some characters. Good use of old trees, I'd say. Say "hi" to the nice troll. Maybe it'll go home with you!

Also say "hi" to the blogger I guided: Emily, an American who is trying to figure out this living in Norway bit. I could go on a bit about that myself, because I remember my own struggles (and I still struggle, sometimes) but by and large, it's a good place to live, and by and large, people are nice anywhere you go. Emily writes well about her experiences (and about her trip to Bergen) and also takes some good pictures.

It is Palm Saturday, going on Palm Sunday, and the beginning of what the Norwegians call "the quiet week", the start of the annoyingly long and boring Easter holiday. Well, it was annoyingly long and boring when I was a kid, because then nothing was open, not even the movie theater. You see, Mondy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are all holidays with everything closed. Now, gas stations, movie theaters and some cafés are open all through "the quiet week". Myself, I have that week off, giving me 10 days straight of no work. I plan on doing some housework to get some stuff to a flea market, getting my balcony ready for flowers and summer, and playing tourist in my own town.

This past week has also had nothing but sunshine, like heaven on earth. Today, I deliberately made an extra walk to buy a latte and ended up in a bit of north wind by the local pond; the wind and sky made the rippling pond a brilliant blue. I was serenaded by a starling in a tree (quite the varied song), and while I sat by the pond, I suddenly realized that the stick poking up from the reeds was an egret (sorry, no pictures, but maybe later). I met a neighbor and he told me the egret lived here and when it got too noisy for it by the pond, would fly up to the mountain behind us. He didn't know where its nest was. So I'm looking forward to seeing this bird some more.

With any luck, the next time I walk, I'll have my camera and I'll be able to capture both starling and egret.

Mar 30, 2007

Having Lunch with God

There once was a little boy who wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with Twinkies and a six-pack of root beer, and he started his journey.

When he had gone about three blocks, he met an old woman. She was sitting in the park, staring at some pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed that the old lady looked hungry, so he offered her a Twinkie. She gratefully accepted it and smiled at him. Her smile was so pretty that the boy wanted to see it again, so he offered her a root beer. Once again, she smiled at him. The boy was delighted. They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling, yet they never said a word.

As it grew dark, the boy realized how tired he was and he got up to leave. Before he had gone more than a few steps, he turned around, ran back to the old woman and gave her a hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

When the boy opened the door to his own home a short time later, his mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked him, "What did you do today that made you so happy?"

He replied, "I had lunch with God." But before his mother could respond, he added, "You know what? She's got the most beautiful smile I've ever seen!"

Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face, and he asked, "Mother, what did you do today that made you so happy?"

She replied, "I ate Twinkies in the park with God." But before her son responded, she added, "You know, he's much younger than I expected."

(Source unknown.)

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12) – is found in many philosophies and religions. It is not exclusively Christian. It is universal. Here are several other ways it has appeared:

Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him. —Pittacus, 650 BCE

Do unto another what you would have him do unto you, and do not do unto another what you would not have him do unto you. Thou needest this law alone. It is the foundation of all the rest. —Confucius, 500 BCE

Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing. —Thales, 464 BCE

What you wish your neighbors to be to you, such be also to them. —Sextus, a Pythagorean, 406 BCE

We should conduct ourselves toward others as we would have them act toward us. —Aristotle, 385 BCE

Cherish reciprocal benevolence, which will make you as anxious for another's welfare as your own. —Aristippus of Cyrene, 365 BCE

Act toward others as you desire them to act toward you. —Isocrates, 338 BCE

Do not do to others what you would not like others to do to you. —Hillel, 50 BCE

(Extracted from Humanist Bulletin, Spring Issue 1997)

Mar 29, 2007

Peaceful blogging

It's in the air right now: People are blogging about the bad behavior they observe on the internet, whether it be creating webpages to bash someone with or bashing each other in blog comments.

So what if you've drawn fire and now you want a cease-fire? A blogging friend of mine experienced just that, and I offered this affirmation (edited for this blog):

I remind myself of my true self which is love, peace, and beauty. I remind myself of the true selves of others which is also love, peace, and beauty. No matter what happens, I am grounded in this truth and I am safe from harm. I participate joyfully in any discussion, as my true self, knowing the truth of my being will guide me towards harmony and respect. And so it is."

Mar 25, 2007

New neighbors!

For a while there, I thought they had abandoned their building project. They had started with a nice foundation, then a storm came and I didn't see them for a couple of weeks. But they came back, and they have been busy building one of the most indestructable structures known in nature: A magpie nest. Floor, walls and roof, tightly woven together from twigs, characterizes the home of breeding magpies.

I caught my new neighbors busy working some longish twigs into their ever-growing nest this morning (compression sucks):

I'm told that if they drop a twig, they won't pick it up and use it again.

I am delighted to have the magpies this close! (I may not be after the neighborhood cats discover the nest, though.)

Mar 22, 2007

But will I be a good-looking corpse?

OK, some paste-this-result-in-your-blog tests are stupid, some are fun and stupid, some are extremely satisfying, some are weird, and all I take way too seriously. I do this one, too, but first I got a good laugh at the result:

You'll die Mysteriously...

You are a different sort of person and your death will be unexplainable.

'How will you die?' at

(Via Paula.)

Mar 19, 2007

How not to pay for free speech

Mark is blogging about nastiness in the blogs - specifically, blog comments - and has pointed his readers to an article about the downside of free speech, meaning, the downside of using the First Amendment in the US consitution to justify saying what you want about another person. You know: Gossip. Lie. Which is wrong.

But what got me writing, was this in the editorial:

[...]a Web site of postings for law schools prestigious and otherwise, where students blab about whatever. An awful lot of it is about other students, most of it mean-spirited. This is all extremely weird for those of us born before the Carter administration[...]

I was born before the Carter administration. I don't think people's morals are worse today than ever before; even Socrates complained about the young people of his day, so older generations have always eyed younger ones with a bit of skepticism. I am now (unfortunately? unnecessarily?) in that boat, because I can't help but wonder at the lack of boundaries exhibited by the current crop of adolescents.

There are rules about how to get along with people. Not laws, but codes of conduct - morals and manners. Some have made it into religions, like the classic one about treating others as you would like them to treat you. It's one thing to get caught up in a discussion and maybe say/write something in the heat of the moment. It's something else not to realize that someone could be hurt by it, and not just emotionally right then and there, but later, because others also heard/read the comments - and believed them.

Intelligent law studens displaying an utter lack of empathy - or even the gift of foresight (looking ahead at possible effects)... I don't believe for one second that young people today have no heart, so where did they get the idea that this is somehow not mean or harmful?

Since I have seen people of far more advanced years practically have a mental meltdown in Usenet discussions and spew the most incredible accusations, I have a theory that this is a direct effect of the computer era: Typed words on a screen do not let you see the "victim's" reaction, nor the reaction of silent readers (lurkers). There's little or no feedback, unless someone actually writes a response. You can spew umpteen times a day and get ten responses, but they are not representative of the other 10 or 10,000 who have also read you. If you stood in the college quad and yelled, you'd see your audience and have an idea of how many heard your yell. Silence in the face-to-face world doesn't always mean agreement; it can mean stunned disagreement, but we can tell which thanks to facial expression. In writing, facial expressions and tone of voice are missing, and only partially compensated for by using emoticons. So we find ourselves reading or writing vicious words and personal attacks that we would never have heard or said in real life - and we find ourselves too often reacting wrongly because of lack of other cues that can clarify intent.

First amendment rights, sure. But that amendment was never about deliberately hurting people or lying about them. We need to remember the difference. The right to free speech is about the right to share information and opinions about public matters. That's not the same as sharing confidences about a person's private life. We need to remind everyone that behind every keyboard is a real, live human being - however faceless - and stuff that gets put in writing lives for a very, very long time.

The world of blog comments, web forums and chat groups, is an odd mix of instant intimacy and friendship, and anonymity and physical distance. This blurs boundaries and makes us sometimes forget that we are, after all and nevertheless, communicating with other people, and that our actual audience - witnesses to our exchanges - is largely unknown to us.

I am actually more even-tempered and diplomatic in writing than in real life, since writing affords me both opportunity to wait (and calm down) before responding, and the delete key. That's a huge advantage to writing. I wish more would see and use that advantage.

UPDATE: PJ wrote an excellent survival guide to cybercommunication here. It's a must!

Mar 17, 2007

Movie meme

First seen at Alice's.

1. Name a movie you have seen more than 10 times.
"Star Wars" (the first one, i.e. episode III). First it was waiting in line about 3 times to see it in the movie theaters, then it was showing on the ferry from Bergen to Amsterdam, and since then it's been aired umpteen times on TV. I stopped counting after 14.

2. Name a movie you've seen multiple times in the theater.
See above. I used to see movies I really liked at least twice in the theater; if I really liked them, three times. One other movie that got that "3-rating" is "The Gods Must Be Crazy". Haven't felt like doing that in recent years. It all ends up on TV, eventually.

3. Name an actor who would make you more inclined to see a movie.
Sean Connery.

4. Name an actor who would make you less likely to see a movie.
Arnold Schwarzenegger.

5. Name a movie you can and do quote from.
None. I never remember stuff like that correctly.

6. Name a movie musical in which you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.
No can do. But it would have been nice to know all the lyrics to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" back when I saw the movie (in its cult incarnation, i.e. with full audience participation).

7. Name a movie you have been known to sing along with.
"The Muppet Movie"!

8. Name a movie you would recommend everyone see.
Any of the above and "Purgatory".

9. Name a movie you own.
"The Muppet Movie". Christmas present to myself last year.

10. Name an actor who launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.
I'm with Alice: Cher.

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?
Yes, and can't remember.

12. Ever made out in a movie?

13. Name a movie you keep meaning to see but you just haven't gotten around to yet.
"The Cider House Rules". I own the DVD, and it's still in its plastic wrapping.

14. Ever walked out of a movie?
No, but I wanted to, when I saw "Saturday Night Fever". (I own and love the soundtrack, however.)

15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
Most do. The last one was "The Lake House".

16. Popcorn?
Yes, thank you!

17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?
Rarely, nowadays. I used to go all the time, and even see the same movie more than once. Now, I find that the experience isn't rewarding enough to justify the annoyances (or price), and I can't rewind if I miss something.

18. What's the last movie you saw in the theater?
"Casino Royale" last month.

19. What's your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
Sci-fi/action/thriller/mystery stuff, followed by comedy. "The Lake House" hooked me because of its sci-fi element.

20. What's the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
I think it was "Bambi". I remember being upset at the forest fire.

21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?
Oh, there was one, but I can't remember now.

22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
"The Rocky Horror Picture Show".

23. What is the scariest movie you've seen?
I don't scare easy. I jump when everybody else jumps but I don't have nightmares about it. Last year some time, I saw a ghost story on Showtime involving a submarine during WWII that gets haunted because it accidentally torpedoed a hospital ship, and that was truly a good ghost story (can't be scared again, because now I know what happens) and had me cowering in my own living room. Delicious! (Can't remember the title, though. If you recognize it, could you please tell me?) And the movie is: "Below". (Thanks, Mark!)

24. What is the funniest movie you've seen?
The first one to make me laugh out loud in a movie theater was "Young Frankenstein". But funnier still is "Blazing Saddles" and "Men in Black".

Mar 15, 2007

More I-goodness from the man in charge

As The Unofficial Apple Weblog, whom I lifted this from, says: This quality skit isn't so much about the man in charge at Apple as it is about another man in charge. So hear about the latest product: The iRack.

Mar 11, 2007

March 8 is what day?

I have heard and read of women who were treated to romantic dinners, bouquets, candy on March 8, and that made me angry.

Perhaps I have no business being angry, or perhaps I am becoming an active feminist in my "old" age, but it bothers me that people seem to be turning the International Women's Day into another Valentine's Day, i.e. husbands volunteering in the kitchen and bringing gifts. In Norway, this day has always had political overtones.

I said "active feminist". I have always been a feminist in that I, as a woman and a single, working woman at that, don't want to experience being held back, abused, denied or patronized because of my gender. I know it happens and has happened. There are feminists in my family; in California, my grandma was a member of a working women's organization that fought to allow women the right to work overtime, because managerial positions often require overtime. Until they got the law changed, women couldn't hold managerial positions.

Though I wasn't there, though I wasn't actively involved, and have never been politically active, I know that there are many things I can take for granted now - like being taught math in school with the assumption I would understand it and not needing a husband to co-sign the mortgage on my apartment - thanks to the efforts of women before and the continued efforts of today's feminists.

In today's Norway I see a kind of backsliding or erosion. It is subtle, it may be of no concern, and I may be imagining it, but here is my summary:

"Feminist" has become a dirty word, and many 20-somethings don't see the need for it, and get offended if you use it about them. At the same time, they seem to see their future as guaranteed if only their breasts are big enough and their waists tiny enough. Today's young women seem to be fighting for the right to look like bimbos. This may suggest that that means that other rights have been achieved so this is what's left to fight for - or is it?

It's fair to demand that you shouldn't be judged by your looks. Unfortunately, we still are. Being over-the-top beautiful (and over-the-top boobwise) is all the rage. But what about what's underneath the Dolly Parton appearance? Do we have Dolly's brains and talent - and the respect she gets? Long nails, big boobs and high heels shouldn't decide whether or not a woman has intelligence, talents or personality - just like skin color shouldn't matter - but it still does. But are we allowed to show our smarts? Not as much as we'd like. Recently I read a newspaper article about how men are allowed to use humor to attract the opposite sex, and women are only supposed to respond with amusement. If the woman shows humor and wit herself, she doesn't win a guy. Humor is related to intelligence. The gals are not yet allowed to be nor expected to be (!) as smart and as funny as the guys. Are we resorting to emphasizing uniquely female and feminine attributes out of strength or resignation?

The above brings me to the sexualization of women that has been increasing and affecting younger age groups. Girls age 9 wearing tops emblazened "Porn star" does not sit right with many including me, nor does offering bra-like underwear or thongs to pre-pubescent children. Both childhood and womanhood seem to be under pressure to conform to some idealized teen. Not good for any of the age groups mentioned in that last sentence. I also doubt men want this in their women (or daughters), but who's protesting? The media doesn't protest; it seems to thrive on sexualization and allows ads in that vein. Ordinary women and girls are competing with airbrushed and Photoshopped ideals.

Speaking of the media: The female leader of Norway's "Landsorganisasjon" (LO), the biggest trade union umbrella organization in the country, was found to have bullied a female co-worker. I don't agree with strong-arm tactics from any boss, but I do agree with the sentiment expressed by a female journalist at the language the newspapers chose in writing about the case: All the stereotyped female negatives were used. An woman isn't angry; she's PMS-ing. A woman justifiably upset with an injustice isn't indignant; she's hysterical. A woman isn't being focused on the job; she's being cold and unfeeling. A woman who stands her ground and doesn't vacillate on decisions isn't firm; she's a bitch. Do women not have the right to be tough or angry or to focus on the job without being given sexist labels or without having our thoughts and feelings defined as hormonal? Are the only emotions a woman may have at work the warm fuzzy ones?

I've been reading some Norwegian blogs written by women in their late 20's/early 30's. One of Norway's largest dailies, Aftenposten, has run a series of articles about women, none of which have met with the bloggers' approval. The one that really got the blogosphere seeing red (stockings and all) was an article that clumsily stated that it is up to women to avoid rape. (I say clumsily, because changing one little word would have changed the premise of the whole article, but it went to press as is, so...) The article seized on last summer's rape spree in Oslo, where women on their way home or to and from parties were attacked by strangers (most of non-Norwegian descent). The advice given in the article to women is to travel in groups, take a taxi, or just stay home.

I understand my fellow blogging feminists' anger at this "advice". It's laying the burden of responsibility for the man's actions on the woman. It's also limiting her freedom to move around in her own neighborhood, her own city, like all the other adults can. Why don't they tell men to stay home? That would also solve the problem.

But the truth is that the advice is both utterly useless and misses the boat. Some of us live such that we have no one to walk home with. Some of us live in buildings where the taxi cannot bring you right to your door, either due to blocked street access or because you live on the 7th floor, and some of us cannot afford a taxi or see no point in one when our home is only 6 blocks away. In a recent rape incident, a woman was attacked while unlocking her own front door.

Rape and violence against women in general in Norway is increasing. One thing the rash of rapes in Oslo last summer did not address is the fact that most rapes are still committed by someone the woman already knows or in a situation she has little reason to be weary of (like sharing a cab). Even Amnesty International has gotten wind of this. Our Minister of Justice hasn't.

There is another thing happening here: The silence of the police. I lived in Glendale, CA, during the Hillside Strangler killings. (At the time I had no idea I lived only half a mile away from one of the murderers and two of their victims.) I was taking an evening class at Glendale High School, a 10-minute walk away for me, and for a while, we were all driven home afterwards. None of us girls were allowed to walk home alone, but carpooled with classmates or the teacher. But these were temporary measures - just until the police caught the guy (guys, as it turned out). We were all assured that at some point, the world would go back to normal, and no extra precautions would be needed for us females. I have heard nothing like that from Oslo. The "advice" given to avoid rape is not worded as a specific warning because of current circumstances; it's worded as if this is just the way the world is so just get used to it and maybe go out less. People in Oslo are getting pretty mad at their chief of police.

Female jury members in Norwegian rape cases tend to blame the woman. Yes, you read that right: the female jury members. But all jury members tend to find a man's drunkenness as a mitigating circumstance, while a woman's is a compounding one, and her clothes and behavior are also viewed critically. There is no sexual equality in the courtroom and the women themselves support the sexism. I wonder if they even see what they're doing. It is things like this that make me wonder about today's feminism and the attitudes women have about themselves now.

March 8 commemorates the battle of one group of adults to be given equal rights that another group of adults already has, so that both groups have equal power and equal worth in our society. It happens to be women fighting, because our society was and is a patriarchal one.

I do not feel equal if I have to bear the burden when some man wants to act out violence against a member of my gender.

I do not feel equal if I have to watch how I do my hair or show my cleavage in order to get respect (whether I look like Barbie or Ugly Betty).

I do not feel equal if my wages are not as high as a man's with the exact same qualifications as mine and the exact same job as mine.

I do not feel equal whenever somebody assumes I have secretarial duties in our department even though they know I have the exact same job as my two male co-workers (we're all graphic designers and our boss does his own paperwork).

I do not feel equal even when the assumption above is made by other women.

I do not feel equal if a man congratulates me on this day and ignores me the other 364.

The question arises every year: Do we still need feminism, focus on women's rights, March 8? The answer is yes. We haven't arrived yet. We're not done yet.

Mar 8, 2007

Swans and walkies

The walks continue, now for the sheer joy of it - though also because my pants aren't quite so snug anymore - but really, for the joy of it. For seeing the fuzzy gray flowers of the female pussy willow (hence the willow's name) grow bigger and bigger; for hearing starlings, blackbirds, great tits and sparrows all chirping and singing in a tree each; for finally getting a picture of the pair of swans - yes, a pair - before they left for the north; for feeling milder temperatures and being blinded by sunshine; for waiting for that moment when I first spot a cautious bud ready to unfold into a tender leaf.

Who knows what next I will experience as I detour around my local pond, but I am looking forward to it.

Mar 7, 2007

Visual DNA

This has been making the rounds and at first I didn't want to follow the crowd. In a fit of curiosity, though, I went to the site. It's a personality test! And the choices don't necessarily lead to the conclusion you may think. When you're done, a book pops up with a description of your moods, idea of fun, etc. and I found it to be quite accurate in its description of me. The comments as the pictures flash by are mine. (Via Gekko.)

Mar 6, 2007

Horsey, too!

Sravana did this so I did this, too, and got tickled by the result because horses are associated with my Sun sign, Sagittarius.

What Is Your Animal Personality?

Take this quiz!

UPDATE: I knew I'd used this title for a blogpost before and finally tripped over it. Hence change in title of this blog.

Mar 5, 2007

Takk for yell-pen toosh dahg

Bizarre but true: This is a website that will help you learn Norwegian. Yell-pen is the Norwegian pronounciation for (the) help, assistance.

One word about Tush Day, I mean toosh-dahg, as noted in lesson 4: That's Oslo dialect. They prounounce "rs" more like "rsh" or just "sh" so "tors" (as in the Norwegian for Thor's) ends up described as sounding like "toosh". And I gets me a good laugh.

Could you say the line in my subject in Norway and get away with it? Sure. It means, "Thanks for the help (I got) Thursday."

Norwegians have only one word for please, and they don't use it much for fear of wearing it out, but do have a bajillion ways of thanking you afterwards. So a request is made by either a question or an order and ending it with "takk" (tahck). For example, to order beer, just say, "Ehn hall-leeter, takk!" (A half liter, thanks!) And, with the right tone of voice, a polite request can be turned into exquisite sarcasm.

PS: For the advanced student, don't miss "Sailing with Japanese TV and Thor Heyerdahl" in Lesson 37!

Mar 3, 2007

Four things

This is an old meme, but I just realized it's been a few days since my last post, so I'm using an e-mail from a friend of mine as inspiration.

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Secretary/clerical (many times)
2. Service Manager (i.e. service management seminar coach)
3. Data entry operator (many times)
4. Graphics designer

Those are actually the only four jobs I've had, i.e. same job, different department or company. I used to be a temp and so have worked many different places, but doing the same thing.

Four movies I would watch over and over (and have):
1. Men in Black
3. Blazing Saddles
4. Titanic
5. Quigly Down Under

I have to tell you those five because I actually bothered to tape or buy them and keep them.

Four places I have lived:
1. Los Angeles harbor area (San Pedro, Wilmington)
2. Twentynine Palms, CA
3. Glendale, CA
4. Åsane (Salhus, Hordvik) - now part of Bergen

Four TV shows I like to watch:
1. Law & Order
2. CSI
3. Medium
4. My Name Is Earl

I own a collection of episodes from M*A*S*H and The Muppet Show, so I watch those, too.

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Malta
2. Rhode Island
3. Italy
4. The Channel Islands

And many more, since it is pretty common in Europe to take vacations.

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Spaghetti
2. Pumpkin pie
3. Pancakes/waffles
4. Thin-crust pizza

Four of my favorite animals:
1. Cat
2. Bat
3. Cow
4. Crow

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Blooming garden
2. Desert
3. Some place with a glorious view
4. Venice - before it disappears