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.

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.

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


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

Sep 21, 2007

Rain and days off

The wind just picked up and the rain is pouring down. I am going to have a long weekend. I'm taking Monday and Tuesday off from work. No particular reason except that I've been wanting to just Get Away From It All for a while. So sitting here, with the weekend's shopping all done, I feel at peace with the rain lashing at my windows, making it hard to see out them. I want to spend time alone, catching up on some things (like housework), and try to get myself back on track.

The oven is heating for a pizza and the weather and darkening sky on this vernal equinox is encouraging me to light some candles. I think I'll choose pink and green. Bliss and harmony.

My crappy mood is finally letting go. I suspect hormones as the main culprit, but it could be the month. Tomorrow, the 22nd, is Grandma's birthday, and she would have been 97. September has sucked since she died. She died in July 2005, but it isn't July that's hard. It's funny; I had this same thing when my close friend Maria died. I'd get sick during her birthday month (March) even though she died in May. I think it's the loss of the special day. Birthdays are only for the living.

Great. Now I've made myself cry.

OK, that passed quickly. Whew! I really do not like being constantly revisited by this hole in my heart, but it is getting easier. It doesn't visit as often and it doesn't stab as deeply.

Oh, wow, is that rain just hammering down outside! Perfect weather for staying indoors, curled up in the sofa, with no plans for the evening, and a long weekend stretching out ahead. Lovely!

And in case you are a bit worried about me (how sweet of you!), I do have something that has been brightening my days: A new Norwegian TV channel that offers "Star Trek: The Next Generation" every weekday. YAY!

Sep 18, 2007

Everyday magic

After a rather sucky two weeks, with my mood absolutely out of control (probably hormones, but I won't go into details), it helps to be reminded of where to put one's focus. Noticing the magic in everyday things helps. A great tit perched on my open window sill, eyeing my room with curiosity. Venus brilliantly greeting me in the morning (while weather permits). A reminder that great people have failed, and failed spectacularly, and that the point is not to avoid failure, but to never let failure stop you. And the following reminder that regular things are actually pretty awesome - you just have to have the right perspective:

Sep 17, 2007

Comprehensive Final Exam

This joke, Comprehensive Final Exam, had me laughing out loud the whole way through. So I just had to share.

Sep 12, 2007

Definitely blue

Bergen has decided. The Right party (blue) has chosen a coalition with the Progressive party (dark blue). Now they're trying to get the Christian Folk party (light blue) to go in with them.

The Progressive party has been not so much progressive (quite the contrary) as it has been, well, contrary. It's been the protest party, the populist party, the outsider party. It gained a lot of popularity, but only in recent years has it also gained some respect. Our neighboring municipality has been run by the Progressives for eight years, and still is. It seems to have been a success. Now other cities want to try, including Bergen.

I don't always understand Norwegian politics. That is to say, I understand what the parties represent and the traditions behind them and why Norway is set up the way it is politically, but I don't understand what motivates Norwegians in any given election year, i.e. why the people vote the way they do. As usual, this is when I am at my most foreign: Once again I have opted for a party that hardly anybody voted for. I am, as usual, completely out of step with the Norwegian zeitgeist. In an attempt to learn, I have asked some Norwegians why all the right-leaning, and they practically snort, "Materialism. We have it too good and now we've gotten greedy."

At any rate, it'll be interesting to see what it'll be like to be even bluer than the previous four years.

Sep 11, 2007

Waking up blue

No, I'm not blue. The city is. It's the day after local elections, and Oslo and Bergen are blue (still), and Trondheim is red (still).

In the US, somebody fiddled with the colors on the chart showing where Republicans and Democrats are strongest and so went against an old tradition: That of assigning blue to the conservatives/right-wing and red to the liberals/left-wing. But in Norway, blue still means to the right (and our two right-winged parties have blue in their logos), and red to the left (so much so that the communist party renamed itself just Red).

That Oslo and Bergen continue to be blue is not the surprise. It's how it happened: The Progressive party (Frp) has finally made a dent in the nation's two largest cities, and the local news today is about what coalition Bergen's Right party (Høyre) will enter into to form a local parliament. And if you think it's only about counting votes, it isn't. Høyres concern is the national election in 2009. Alliances formed now will influence that election. The middle-of-the-road parties, Christian Folk party (Krf) and Left (Venstre, but it's not left-wing, it's Norway's oldest political party and in the middle) are insisting on Høyre turning to them, which has annoyed Frp, which got just as many votes as Høyre here in Bergen. (In Oslo, Labor could be in charge if it got all the centrum parties to go along.)

So in one sense, it's a thriller. Will my city opt for the right or the middle? Who is really going to be in charge, coloring my local world for the next four years? How blue will we be?

Trondheim has no such worries. Labor (Ap) won a clear majority there, with 43.9% of the votes. That means they can be in power all by themselves.

Sep 10, 2007

Under the meatloaf

Cartoonist B. Kliban said, "CAT: One Hell of a nice animal, frequently mistaken for a meatloaf." I have always wondered what said meatloaf - formed when a cat is in repose with its front paws curled under its chest - looks like from below. Now I know.

Sep 8, 2007

Widgets and writing

Finally put one on my blog, didn't I. No, not writing - I've been doing that for quite a while. Well, it's what I tell people. I mean, the widget. I got me a widget. Look left. No, your other left. There, see it? Widget begotten here and not as fancy as the one Paula got (hers has hours and minutes and an oven light), but I couldn't tweak the colors on hers so I got this one so I could spend all morning trying to remember what colors I used in my own template. Well, OK, part of the morning.

So what's the countdown for/to? NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth, which starts November 1 and which I have decided I will join and participate in and be a part of, because it's not really national, it's international and you don't even have to use English and probably not even proper grammar but neither nor may you utilize anything already previously written. The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The idea is also to suffer with as many people at once (think Facebook with chaos and ruined home life added), and I am told that some are currently furiously dieting in order to be able to sustain themselves on irregular eating habits and junk food (no, the two aren't the same thing) for the 30 days hath November, er, of November. I'm behind, as usual, since I operate best with a looming deadline, like, in front of your face looming, so on October 31st I'll panic and starve for about 3 hours. My usual.

URL, you say? As in, is there one to this hectic once-annually writefest? Certainly. Oh, you just past it.

Sep 6, 2007

I voted

It's local election time in Norway. And I voted today.

Norway is a constitutional monarchy that holds elections in odd-numbered years. Every four years there's a national election, when they elect their parliament (Storting). The other every four years are local, when we elect our municipal and county parliaments. Apparantly, the deal with parliaments is that you don't vote for individuals, but for parties. So no running on the "independent" ticket here. You have to belong to a party.

As a foreign citizen who's been a resident of Norway for more than three years, I am eligible to vote in the local elections (municipal and county). As a foreign citizen who's been a resident of Norway for more than three years, I may not vote in national elections. Just as well.

So you know it's election year because you get a pre-printed voter's card in the mail (They Know Where You Live), which you bring with you when you go vote. (Don't ask me what it says. I saw my name and address, that was good enough for me.)

This year, 2007, is a local election year (which is why I got my voter's card), and they've been allowing early voting since mid-August. Election day itself is actually Monday. You can tell, because the wine monopoly (the government owned and operated sole liquor retailer in Norway) is closed that day, an otherwise perfectly normal business day. So anyway, I went to our local library, set up as the early-voting poll for my part of town, and voted.

Voting in Norway is a casual and quiet affair, and still quite manual. No chads, no #2 pencils. You hand in your voter's card, get an envelope, and enter one of the booths with a hip-length blue curtain around it. (Close the curtain, moron.) Inside on the back wall, are rows of pre-printed lists for all the parties running in this election - printed on white for the municipal election and on blue for the county, some twelve or 15 lists each. Choose one (oh, God) for municipal and county each (oh, God, _two_ choices out of 30!) and put said chosen lists (only one of each, mind) in the envelope provided. Sealing is optional.

The lists are a list of names in sans serif type. Nobody knows who these people are. Well, I don't. Now, there is some system or other about crossing out names (oh, not any more) and ticking off names to give them extra weight and even adding in names from other parties (that's new). It's bad enough I have to figure out which of the umpteen parties to vote for; I don't have the energy to go beyond that. I have no clue and don't care and am just so incredibly grateful I was able to choose between the baker's dozen of sheets/parties for municipal and the ditto number of sheets/parties for county. And I did seal my envelope.

I handed my sealed envelope back to the lady who had initially given it when I gave her my voter card. I also handed her my ID, which is a new procedure this year. Also new (to me, at least) is the bar code reader. I almost whipped out my debit card because it sounded like I was shopping. She then stuffed my envelope through the slot into a sealed box. And at that point I realized I should already have left and not hung around.

You may think I'm not taking my democratic rights seriously enough or something, but truly, you should be impressed. I managed a feat that baffles even many Norwegians, to the point that more and more of them have simply given up. They stay home.

PS: It took me less time to vote than to type this blog post.

Sep 5, 2007

What I've learned this summer

Alice has inspired me to do this post, thanks to her own on the same subject.

  • I've learned what it's like to travel by air in the US. The stories about delayed flights were all true. The security checks and necessity of Ziploc baggies also true. However, I must say that, in all the repeated taking off of shoes and showing said Ziploc baggie, airport security people are a very pleasant bunch. Nothing makes the hassle nicer than approaching the bins to put carry-on and shoes in, and just a few feet away are uniformed colleagues sharing a laugh and big smiles. Returning home, I was thoroughly prepared and upon showing both empty bottle and full Ziploc baggie to an elderly uniformed gentleman, received a warm smile and a thank you for making his job a little easier. I wished then that I had the forethought to say something pleasant, rather than quickly smiling.
  • I've learned what the extra security screening is like. I was flagged as SSSS on my boarding card and sent to a different line, with two other white women. They told me that I was flagged for checking in late with luggage, had purchased my ticket online and had a one-way ticket. I wasn't late, so it was checking in with luggage with a one-way e-ticket that did it. (I hadn't thought to check my luggage through to Reno from Bergen, but they usually want you to go through customs at first airport in new country, anyway.) So I had to wait in line for the extra check. I stood in a booth and air blew up my clothes in one short, loud blast (glad I was in pants and not wearing a loose top!). The security guard who checked everything in my purse and carry-on, and swabbed them for substances, explained that the air shooting up would bring molecules from my body showing whether or not I had strapped explosives to myself at any time. I hadn't.
  • All US airports are carpeted. And anybody in a US airport will help you. For some odd reason, even when they don't smile, Americans seem friendlier. Perhaps it's because they'll talk to you first, and not stare you down waiting for you to speak up (something I noticed Norwegians do a lot and the Dutch airport personnel somewhat less).
  • I like the sort of Mexican food that you get in American Mexican restaurants. Sorry, Mexico, but I like the tomatoey stuff that passes for your food north of the border. With the rice and the refried beans.
  • The new US dollar coin is very pretty!
  • This. (I don't feel like repeating it.)
  • Bergen was its own county until 1972. I thought it had lost county status before then, but no. When it incorporated as a city on January 1 1972, it lost county status. Now it's part of Hordaland county.
  • My own attitudes about wealth need adjusting. After a summer of hanging out with metaphysical people and watching "The Secret", I realized that I had been stuck in way of thinking that wasn't moving me forward. I've got the spiritual worked out; I realize that it's now time to manifest it physically, in the real world. So, before this summer, I agreed with a co-worker every time he said that the rich are wasteful and silly with their wealth. But now, when he mentioned it again yesterday, using buying a fancy, fast car as an example, I said, "But if a fast car is what they want, why not buy it?" When the morality of the rich was brought up, I said, "The working class is probably no more moral. We just don't get the media's attention." Now I realize I could probably support the rich - or rather, those who are expressing their abundance and should be an inspiration, not a frustration to the rest of us - in a different way. Reading my own words tells me I need to find another way to encourage a prosperous way of thinking in those around me.
  • Which brings me to another thing I've discovered this summer, or rather, after it, back at work (which was still in the summer): My company has been researching what worries the Norwegians. Before my vacation I found it amusing; after my vacation, I find it to be fear-mongering. It puts a focus on what's wrong and I find myself wondering if that is the right focus. I've read the latest poll we've done and I find that the slant we put on it ("Parents fear for children walking to school") makes me depressed. And my company just put a cap on commissions, because the salespeople were getting too envious of the one guy who'd consistently bring in a million in commissions alone. Why don't they ask him how he does it and try to emulate that? There seems to be an atmosphere of limitation at work, and I can't remember us ever having that before. It makes me wonder whether or not I will continue to be happy there.
  • My tone is too harsh, even when I speak from love. Even in writing, where I've always thought I expressed myself gentler than in speech. But in going over some old e-mails, I see that hasn't always been the case. And a couple of incidents on Usenet and a blog left me less than satisfied with my choice of words. I don't want to miss any more opportunities to say the truth compassionately, rather than aggressively, whether written or oral.
  • Mono Lake is ancient and extremely alkaline, and "Mono" is Payute for "fly". There are millions of them covering the lake shore. Flies, not Payutes.
  • I tried sushi for the first time and really liked it. Very tasty. I also liked the wasabi (Japanese horse radish) but soy sauce is (still) too salty for my taste.
  • Pains in the legs can mean low iron. I started taking iron pills again, and the funny, intermittent pains below knees have gone away.
  • Today's cruise ships, huge as they are, don't need tug boats to manouver them to and fro. The cruise ships have side propellers and can berth themselves quite accurately, and shove off from the dock without help.
  • There are hummingbirds in Alaska. Migratory hummingbirds.
  • A pluot is a cross between a plum and an apricot. No, I didn't try one.
  • I've outgrown my lovely iMac. :-(

Sep 1, 2007

Some stuff to think about

Recent surfing that caught my attention:

"Married women do more of the housework" Men who are merely living together with their girlfriends, help out more. Studies about what happens after a long-term live-in arrangement becomes marriage have not been done. (Do them!)

"Orchids may have been trampled on by T. Rex" (Bad, Rex, bad!) A paleolithic honey bee with pollen on its back, found in amber, may hold clues to the origin of orchids. Since orchids have never been found in fossils, scientists haven't been sure of their age. Now they know that orchids existed about 76 million years ago, at the time of the dinosaur. Pictures of the captured honey bee can be seen in this article (and if you read Norwegian, you get the whole story).

"Working closely disrupts productivity" One of the big frustrations about living in Scandinavia is that all the brilliant (and all the non-brilliant) ideas about management and worker productivity that the US thinks up, arrives here five years later. By then, the US has often made an about-face in something. For example, open work spaces. No cubicles, no separations. It doesn't work. It takes away uninterrupted work time. And still my employer is forging full speed ahead with the concept company-wide, in spite of it not being a success for the one department that's gone without walls for two years. I love my door and my walls. Why, oh, why does management do that? Why must we try everything from across the pond, even when it wasn't a success?

Finally: The ACE study. This study was done two years ago, but it came to my attention only recently. Basically, Kaiser Permanente wanted to know why their middle-aged patients indulged in self-destructive behavior (smoking, overeating, alcoholism, etc.) even when the patients knew it was bad for them. The conclusion in a nutshell: People don't become addicted to a self-destructive behavior because they can't help it; they adopt said behavior as a way to self-medicate because underlying childhood abuses have not been addressed. IOW, the behavior is a misguided coping mechanism. I read this study, wondering what ills were going to hit me at age 50 (my ACE score is 5). Then I realized that I wasn't at risk - not any more. My abuse was noticed; I was noticed. I didn't have to spend my childhood keeping a secret or hiding my pain. Later on, I learned other ways to handle the bad feelings. And I've never had any of the health-threatening (and eventually life-threatening) behaviors the ACE study brought up. Whew! (A score chart and articles like "Origins of Addiction" and "Gold into Lead" can be found here.)