Oct 27, 2007

It's all in Japanese

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

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

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

No more Japanese! Well, except for sanpaku.

Oct 26, 2007

The pocket book must hold a pocket book

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

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

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

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

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

At least now I know I'm normal.

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

Oct 23, 2007

It's home!!!

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

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

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


Oct 22, 2007

Stagnating nations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 20, 2007

Entertainment value

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

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

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

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

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

High entertainment value!

Oct 16, 2007

Subtle shift

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 12, 2007

Decisions and teeth

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

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

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

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

Oh. Wow. But of course.

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

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

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

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

I left with an adult smile.

Oct 8, 2007

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

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

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

Heia Brann!!!

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

Oct 6, 2007

Rank ranking

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

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

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

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

Oct 4, 2007

Way too close to the truth

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

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

Oct 3, 2007

Comics nerd follow-up and some, uh, whining

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

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

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

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

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