Jan 31, 2008

Tuva

Tuva. What a pretty name for a so-called "extreme weather phenomenon" (Norway's meteorologists have a list of nice Norse names to pick from when naming storms). "Extreme weather" can mean a storm bad enough to warn people and keep you from taking that boating trip, but no hurricane. Where I live, it'll just be another case of bad weather. Same old, same old. The full force of the storm is headed for the southern tip of Norway.

The wind's been pretty high here all morning, but now it's eased up. The sort of weather that makes it extra nice to be safe and warm and indoors. They say that the extra precipitation from the storm may come as snow. That would be nice because the snow that came yesterday is already gone.

Ah, wind's picking up again. Now, let's see that thunderstorm that's predicted. After all, Tuva is a female name based on Tor, the Norse god of thunder and lightning.

Jan 30, 2008

Slushy haiku

Prints in snow
Feet, buggy, wheels, heels
Life went by

Jan 29, 2008

Wishing it were February 29

...Because I really want a day off from everything, including Blogging (Blog365 let's us have Leap Day off). I thought I'd feel better (again) by now, but no.

Just to cheer myself up and give you more than one sentence to read, there's this:

In a Past Life...
You Were: A Blind Priest.

Where You Lived: Cyprus.

How You Died: Killed in Battle.

Sort of begs the question of how a blind priest gets killed in battle. "What's all that racket out there? Ow! That hurt! Ooh, I don't feel so good. Huh. NOW I can see, and all I see is a bright, white light."

Which reminds me: One of our TV-stations has started showing "Dead Like Me" from the start. I have found something else to watch besides the various incarnations of C.S.I.

Jan 28, 2008

Home alone, again

Don't quite know what hit me. It's just a little bit of fever, ever so slight, but enough to get my attention. It's just a little bit of queasiness, ever so slight, but enough to get my attention. It's just a little bit of not feeling quite myself, ever so slight, but enough to get my attention. And then lose that attention. I ended up leaving work early. Did last until 1 pm-ish, but that was it.

So I'm feeling well enough to surf, and be a bit bored, but not well enough to start in on any major computer projects (which I would like to do). I think I need to make a big pot of tea and just rest. Here's what I look like according to my iMac's Photo Booth:

Yes, I wear glasses - for computer work. These have a very pretty magenta frame and I got them for my birthday in December, to use at home. My work pair have a plain silver frame - totally uninteresting-looking.

One of these days, I'll introduce you to the art on my walls.

Jan 27, 2008

Glowing planets

I watch "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and during the opening credits, this bizarre if-Saturn-were-hot-lava planet shows up, both confounding me and fascinating me:

I was wondering if a planet can really look like that (I still am), when I came across this APOD image of Saturn, photographed in infrared:

Jan 26, 2008

The definition of "local"

Paula has noted that widgets suck at local geography.

I told her that at least she's within driving distance of her supposed geographical location. There are widgets that insist I am posting from Oslo's old airport, Fornebu. Now, I know my ISP (Norway's largest because that's the way we did things back in the 90's when I first got a modem) moved in and set up shop and probably umpteen thousand servers in Fornebu, so getting a ping from that address is understandable, but I'm not in Oslo! I'm not anywhere near it! Although Oslo is technically within driving distance of Bergen (if you have 8-9 hours to spare and the road's open), it is not close. There's an entire mountain range, a fjord, and a buttload of farms between us, as well as contrasting and non-comparable weather conditions. Heck, even our accents don't match! Those folks over there in Oslo don't even talk right: They roll their R's and use a sing-song accent and mash r into s to make rsh.

Obviously, all my data arrives in your computer with good, throaty guttaral R's and no singing, and, darn it, those widgets had better show that!

Jan 25, 2008

Bloggie Awards

(This is the sort of activity that goes good with a cup of coffee.)

It's the annual Bloggie Awards. I'm not nominated. I happen to know a nominee and so, while voting for her, I have decided to vote in all the categories. I am now checking all the nominees in all the categories, making new acquaintances and evaluations using the "I'll read the uppermost post and if I like it and the layout, and said first post isn't just about being nominated and fishing for votes, I'll vote for it." (And in case you want to vote, too, voting ends January 31).

Since I'm sure I don't have the power to sway millions (just the handful I know of), I shall now happily tell you which blogs I voted for and why:

  • best web application for weblogs - I have no clue about such things, so I voted for what I use: Blogger.
  • best australian or new zealand weblog - Tokyo Girl Down Under. I liked the layout and what's not to be fascinated by when the first thing that the blogger tells you is that she can't use her arms.
  • best asian weblog - I love typography. Not because I'm in the biz myself (graphics designer/typographer), but because I didn't like any of the others, and this one didn't suck at all. When it comes to blogs, I rarely fall for the "just art" types, which several of the nominees were.
  • best african weblog - west africa wins always written by a woman living in Liberia. Here I had two blogs that both looked interesting to me, but went with the Liberian one, because that's something I want to read more about.
  • best european weblog - Iceland Weather Report OK, this one got my vote because, well, sometimes the choice of decor, number of ads, sidebars, and lack of contrast between text and background colors assaults the eyes. Some blogs I never even try to read because the design makes it so darned hard to find and focus on the text. So, anyways, Iceland Weather Report in unadorned and unaltered Blogger basic didn't bother my eyes. And was not a bad read, either. I know next to nothing about our neighbor to the west, so here's a chance to learn.
  • best latin american weblog - Venezuela News And Views Another blog about life in another foreign country, in this case a country that apparently is deteriorating. It's also the only one in English of the nominees (though I did use Babelfish to find out what another interesting-looking blog was about).
  • best canadian weblog - The Redneck Mommy The Redneck Mommy makes a fun blog both in design and content. I enjoyed her humor and even clicked on a few links. I think I've found me a new regular read.
  • best americanUS weblog - Lifehacker I already read this blog regularly and am happy to see it nominated.
  • best photography of a weblog - I Can Has Cheezburger This ended up being a no-brainer because I don't like pictures of fashion or food and Dooce I got tired of ages ago. But I like funny cats.
  • best art or craft weblog - Post Secret What?!? You want me to decided on something in the category "artsincrafts"? Thank goodness that Post Secret showed up in this category (too).
  • best food weblog - Gluten Free Girl Oh, no, please, I wanna go back to artsincrafts! Food?!? OK, that was easier than I thought, because Gluten Free Girl is a good writer and wasn't trying to get me to cook. A good writer can write about anything and get a reader.
  • best fashion weblog - Go Fug Yourself We are not done with the icky categories, yet. Go Fug Yourself is the only "fashion"-related blog I have ever read. Too bad it's not nominated in the gossip category, too. I told you we aren't done with the icky categories yet.
  • best weblog about music - 3hive I will never get the concept of writing about music. I did try, way back when I was a teen, trying to find what was cool in the music world, but I simply do not understand the lingo, and also never shared the taste of any music critic. 3hive gets my vote because I actually ended up reading more than one post. Good writing will do that.
  • best gossip weblog - Dlisted The problem with blogs in this category is that they tend to be snarky. Dlisted "wins" simply because it was the only nominee I scrolled all the way down for. Judging by the headlines and choice of photos, there's little snark there.
  • best entertainment weblog - Buzzsugar I need another cup of coffee - and lunch. Too much fluff in a row. Ah, perfectly ripe avocado, split in two, sprinkled with herb salt. Now where were we? Oh, yes, entertainment blog. Buzzsugar gets my vote because for someone not interested in glitz nor entertainment, it went down the easiest. Much like a perfectly ripe avocado. Now, where's my coffee?
  • best sports weblog - Up In Alaska LOL! Sports blog? I have to vote for that??? And I thought the entertainment stuff was bad. Well, well, well. This turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I'm not into cycling but here the cyclist also offers photographs of dramatically beautiful Alaska.
  • best weblog about politics - The Daily Kos Luckily, I have some politically interested friends so I've heard of several of the nominees in this category. The Daily Kos, it is. It made me scroll.
  • best computers or technology weblog - Gizmodo I could've nominated Lifehacker again, but Gizmodo got me scrolling and I found myself charmed by the report of abike made entirely out of wood.
  • best topical weblog - The Consumerist In the category topical blog not about the topics already mentioned, I vote for The Consumerist. I have read that blog regularly, not because US consumer issues affect a person in Norway, but because it gives me insight into what's going on in regular people's lives "over there" and has actually given me some tips about the US before traveling there. In some ways, it's just another gossip blog, but this time the gossip's about customer service.
  • best glbt weblog - Puntabulous Back to the hard categories to evaluate. This was tough. I thought I had a winner then discovered that I didn't, and went back and looked over all the nominees again. This time, reading the first post/page wasn't enough. Puntabulous brought up the Cookie Monster, so he gets my vote. COOOOKIE!!!! (Yes, I'm that easy.)
  • best teen weblog - Sarcastica Wondering what I'd be in for, I discovered another good writer with quite the sense of humor. Some things aren't generational.
  • most humorous weblog - Cute Overload Granted, Overheard in New York is funny, but I had to go with my personal addiction.
  • best writing of a weblog - Confessions of a Pioneer Woman A happy new acquaintance, complete with photo stories (it's got cowboys and horsies!). Next year, I'm nominating Badaunt in this category. Somebody remind me, please?
  • best group weblog - The Consumerist Finally, an absolute no-brainer because the nonimees, nominees, whatever, were already familiar. (Waiting for second cup of coffee to kick in.)
  • best community weblog - Overheard in New York Even though "community" and "New York" together sound like a conflict of interest. The blog isn't, though.
  • best-designed weblog - Web Designer Wall The fun part about doing this Bloggie Award thing, is tripping over some unique blogs - some in content, some in look, some in both. This blog wows my senses. You can bet I'm going to dig into the code on this one (and the other one I was considering voting for) in order to learn.
  • best-kept secret weblog - That Night Because she does what I do: Think deep thoughts and trivial thoughts all in the same thought.
  • best new weblog - Sarcastic Mom The whole reason why I'm doing this! Met her over on Blog365, and I did check out her competition and she does deserve my vote.
  • lifetime achievement - Dooce What the dooce. It's not like this category asks for anything other than staying power. (And my blog qualifies, people! It's been going on since before January 1 2003. HINT! HINT!)
  • weblog of the year - Lifehacker Ah, the end. And not an easy decision to make. Lifehacker got the vote, simply by virtue of having updated while I was checking. Look, you make decisions your way, and I, since I can't be bothered to find my dice, make decisions my way.

Truly the end. That took all afternoon! All my votes are now in my RSS-feed, to be read/followed regularly. That was a lot of work and surfing and still I miss categories for science and health, for example.

Jan 24, 2008

Sick day

(UPDATED)

Not sure what hit me, but I do know that some kind of 24-hour stomach bug is making the rounds. I didn't sleep well last night, and at one point, my stomach was acting up, so I got up and drank a glass of water with some apple cider vinegar in it. That helped.

I went to work this morning, but after about an hour, I could feel that whatever was bugging (heh) my stomach wasn't digestive. So home I went.

Norway has put some lovely labor benefits into law, including paid vacation and paid sick-leave. Up until last year, the sick leave was organized as 4 periods of up to 3 days each per year allowed without a doctor's notice - which has always annoyed me, because there you are, on day 3, not feeling a hair better and that means having to drag your sick ass out of bed to go see a doctor, not for a cure, just for a slip of paper. The real reason that annoys me is that my doctor's office stopped receiving "drop-in" patients in the afternoon. Now they want a sick person to show up before 8 am, because that's when the line forms, in order to book one of the 12 available appointments for "drop-ins" that day. Just because a good cold never lets go after only 3 days.

So, anyway, I am no longer annoyable. [UPDATE]Norway has introduced something called "inclusive work life" in order to bring down the high number of disability insured. Employers signing up for this enjoy a different sickleave regulation than the beforementioned one, which means[/UPDATE] I 12get 24 self-reporting paid sick-leave days a year (i.e. no doctor's notice) and if I need to, can take all 12up to 8 in a row (including weekends). Then I have to stay well and be at work for 16 days before I'm allowed another sick-leave. Thing is, with the old system, if you called in sick on a Friday, and weren't well on Monday, you had to start over because that 3-day period stopped at weekends. And you couldn't take two in a row, so Monday would be spent at a doctor's office. Now, I can stay home for a week if the bad bug so determines and not involve a doctor.

In case you're thinking, "But it's good to have a doctor make sure that's all that ails you", here's my experience: If I develop a really bad cough, I'll see a doctor, because when I was younger I often got bronchitis. However, most things that give you a sore throat, runny nose, fever, cough, and maybe the runs, are caused by viruses and not even the flu virus (which is different from rhinoviruses the way tigers are different from house cats). I know they are caused by viruses, because that's what the doctor always tells me. "It's a virus." I can't tell you how many times I've spent money to hear a doctor say that. I'm pretty sure that the doctor doesn't know for sure, and I'm damned sure that if he/she did, he/she still couldn't tell me which virus, beyond "some rhinovirus". The doctor may as well be reading pig entrails. I only need that slip of paper, that written doctor's notice that lets me stay home from work beyond the self-reported sick days.

So, I am now doing what I've always done: I am staying home, getting plenty of rest and plenty of fluids, and letting my excellent immune system do the healing work. For free. My body is the one that deserves the doctor's degree.

Jan 23, 2008

1-2-3-4-5 meme

I've been tagged by Sassy Spark for this meme. So here goes:

  1. Name one thing you do every day.
    Beyond the necessities of eating, brushing teeth, peeing, nothing. I'm not that regular. Oh, wait: There is a new one for 2008: Daily blogging! See the Blog365 in the sidebar?
  2. Name two things you wish you could learn.
    1. Javascript. I look at it and it reminds me of computer programming, which, when tried to learn it way back when, I found too difficult because I lack the ability to structure things logically. Now I find myself wanting to learn javascript and that's sort of programming and structuring things logically.
    2. Physics. Reading a book like "The God Theory" and watching a movie like "What the Bleep Do We Know?" makes me wish I knew more hard science, that I understood such things better.
  3. Name three things that remind you of your childhood.
    1. TOY chewing gum. TOY is a Norwegian brand of chewing gum and the first one I encountered when I first came to this country the spring of 1969.
    2. Sheep. When I was 10, we moved to an old farmhouse and there was a flock of sheep that grazed in the fields around it. In fact, most of the farms around there had sheep. Every spring we'd also get to enjoy the sight of the young lambs bouncing around their mothers. Every time I see sheep, and especially lambs, I instantly think of the years I lived in that house.
    3. Tijuana Brass. They released their album "Going Places" in 1965. Several songs from that album got airplay on the radio and there was one I remembered would play in the afternoon when I got home from school, and I would dance to it. I didn't know the title then, and called it the spaghetti song, because I liked the song and I liked spaghetti. I later learned that the song is "Spanish Flea". I still like it. And spaghetti.
  4. Name four things you love to eat but rarely do.
    1. Refried beans: They don't exist in Norway. I have sometimes found a can of the stuff at the local grocery store, but I haven't seen it lately.
    2. Pumpkin pie: I've found the canned stuff at my local grocery store, so this fall I've been able to indulge.
    3. Waffles. I have no waffle iron, and I associate waffles with Grandma and Grandpa. We used to have a ritual: Every Sunday at noon, Grandma would make waffles and all three of us would have a better waffle breakfast. After Grandpa died, Grandma and I kept up that ritual for a while, but then Grandma no longer felt up to making the batter. For whatever reason, I never learned her recipe.
    4. Grilled scallop. I'm not a seafood lover. If it were up to me, crabs and lobsters would be completely left in peace. But every once in a while I get a chance to have grilled scallop and it is delicious!
  5. Name five things or people that make you feel good.
    1. My co-workers E and S and T and - oh, all of them.
    2. Sunsets.
    3. E-mail from my mom.
    4. The internet and everything that goes with it, including blogging.
    5. My faith.

Jan 22, 2008

OK, so it's not global warming

My post yesterday may make it look like I'm saying, "Oh, no! Everything's wrong because the world's all heating up and stuff!!!" I'm not. I have noticed that our winters have been getting progressively milder - since the 1970's, with a bit more escalation after we entered the 21st century - but flies in January outdoors, well, that's a new one. But I don't actually know why that fly is alive and well and on my window in January.

Maybe houseflies have always done that, and I just never noticed because they chose the office on the other side of the quad, or the office two windows down or maybe they preferred the south windows of the third floor. Or, maybe the flies have a union that managed to lobby for some really cool, er, warm changes. Yes, that's it. I look around me, and everything is set up to support a frigid fly. Modern affluence and heating has gotten to the point that a regular housefly, should it find itself out of doors in the middle of winter, nevertheless will not suffer or die, because there's several hoppers filled with garbage just yards away (there's a couple of supermarkets here), and a few mad dashes in and out of the next door shopping mall helps keep one warm, too. I mean, that last works for humans and sparrows, so I'm sure it works for houseflies.

Jan 21, 2008

Global warming?

There was a time when, when fall came, everything died off or went into hibernation, and for about a half year, nothing grew or bloomed or buzzed or flitted. However, as those older and wiser like to remind us, nothing ever stays the same. I'm sure they aren't referring to global warming, but how else do you explain a live housefly sitting on the outside of my office window, cozy underneath the outside blind - at 60 degrees north latitude on January F-ing twenty-first?!?

Jan 20, 2008

Photo meme

About a month ago, Paula did this meme, and now it's my turn.

The rules are:
1) For each question, type the answer into Google search. (I use Google image search, safe mode "off".)
2) Post a picture from the first results page.

  1. Age at next birthday
    48
  2. A place I'd like to travel (according to some Americans, this is Korea or maybe Iraq)
    Aussie map
  3. My favorite place (high desert)
    high desert
  4. My favorite object (duh!)
    iMac
  5. My favorite food (spaghetti!!!)
    spaghetti
  6. My favorite animal (cat, not human!)
    huge photoshopped cat
  7. My favorite color (periwinkle blue)
    periwinkle blue swatch
  8. Town where I was born (Long Beach, CA)
    Long Beach, CA
  9. Town where I live (Bergen, Norway)
    Bergen, Norway
  10. Name of a past pet (Sammy, which gives me Sammy Winward, soap star)
    Sammy Winward
  11. First name of a past love (huh, he has an entire Swedish town named after him; he is also my boss's namesake)
    Arild, Sweden
  12. Best friend's nickname (none of my friends have nicknames)
  13. My screen name (back in the days of irc, it was FoxWoman; kafox just gives me Stephen's (!) photo from sewinggossip.com, answering someone else calling herself/himself kafox; I mean, really. Like I want to sew a faux chenille baby blanket. So not me!)
    Geisha and fox
  14. My first name (whoops, I'd better turn safe search on; great, now I am at somebody's wedding or funeral or something; let's try moderate search. Ah, much better. Keera on the right)
    Cybele and Keera
  15. My middle name (safe search gives me Lee Ann Womack)
    Lee Ann Womack
  16. My last name
    Fox
  17. Bad habit of mine (biting hangnails)
    biting hangnails
  18. My first job (I don't know what title I had, but I worked a summer job at Alfred & Fabris, photographers. This picture was taken by them.)
    photo by Alfred & Fabris
  19. My grandmother's name (this is Marion Gremillot, and since her namesake was an artist, this is acceptable)
    Marion Gremillot
  20. My college major (psychology)
    pscyhology illustration

Jan 19, 2008

Creative computing

The newest OS for Mac, called Leopard, uses the album cover flipping display in iTunes (known as "Cover Flow") to show regular files on the 'puter. It's basically a peakpeek inside the file rather than at its icon. As I was browsing files the other day, Leopard accidentally produced a work of art.

Jan 18, 2008

Are banjos edible?

I've spent the afternoon futzing around with astrology programs because the one I had doesn't work on my new Mac. That, however, didn't give me anything to write about. Luckily a friend of mine (he's an animal! I mean, he's Animal) inspired me to do this:


What Muppet are you?


You are Kermit the Frog.

You are reliable, responsible and caring. And you have a habit of waving your arms about maniacally.
FAVORITE EXPRESSIONS: "Hi ho!" "Yaaay!" and "Sheesh!"
FAVORITE MOVIE: "How Green Was My Mother"
LAST BOOK READ: "Surfin' the Webfoot: A Frog's Guide to the Internet"
HOBBIES: Sitting in the swamp playing banjo.
QUOTE: "Hmm, my banjo is wet."

Take this quiz!

The above is what I get when I answer absolutely truthfully and honestly and without a single lie. When I decided to be true to myself, I get this:


What Muppet are you?


You are Rizzo the Rat.

You have few friends, but are loyal to those you do have. Maybe if you didn't smell like sewage you would have more.
SPECIES: Rodentia Digesta Lotta Grub
HOMETOWN: Brooklyn, USA
FAVORITE MOVIE: "Rat On A Hot Tin Roof"
FAVORITE SONG: "The Pest Is Yet To Come"
FAVORITE FOOD: You got it, I'll eat it.
HOBBIES: See "Favorite Food".
QUOTE:"When do we eat?"

Take this quiz!

...And it is scarily accurate.

Jan 17, 2008

Five things laying around my computer

Couldn't leave you, dear reader, with just a "one-liner" today, so Imagination Prompt to the rescue, asking me to name five things lying around my computer:

  1. Big box of Kleenex. My nose tends to run. Don't know why. I have no allergies and I'm not sick.
  2. Mirror. I turned my desk 90 degrees when I got my new iMac, so I no longer can see the TV when I'm facing my computer. The mirror lets me see the TV, anyway. Totally useless when watching "Heroes" and Hiro speaks Japanese and there's Swedish sub-titles (I watch the series on a Swedish channel). Can't read mirrored.
  3. Magnifying glass. It belongs in the desk drawer, but hasn't made it back in there yet. I was using it to look for a tiny reset button in my old iMac.
  4. Vaseline. Darned best lip moisturizer there is. Also helpful when trying to screw a lightbulb into a somewhat unwilling socket. Note: 5 molecules' worth will do.
  5. A CD that is a 58 minute introduction into Taoism, now loaded into iTunes. I got the CD for free here and I'm enjoying it (including the Barefoot Doctor's British English). It's part explanation, part relaxation technique.

PS: I copied and pasted the post title from Imagination Prompt, changed "your" to "my", then started typing the post itself and automatically used the correct verb. The discrepancy didn't register until after I published. Since Blogger uses the post title in the permanent link, this little error will stand.

Client comment

I had a client today who came to me in a near-panic, exclaiming, "I need professional help!"

At times like that, I am grateful I do know how to shut up. ;-)

Jan 16, 2008

Stargazing by touch

On this planet we have deaf drummers and composers. Our planet may now be fostering blind astronomers. Via Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy Blog, I have learned of a woman who had a marvelous idea: Making astronomy books you can touch so the seeing impaired, too, can discover what's up in the sky. Head over to the BABlog to watch a clip of Noreen Grice explaining her brilliant idea, or watch it and read the press release at the Hubble site.

It impressed me to hear how Grice solved a problem, and it touched me to hear what it inspired in her readers. With technology, not even the sky is the limit. For anyone.

Wars no longer economically useful

I claim that wars are no longer economically useful. It has been said numerous times that entering World War II was what brought the US out of its depression. Sending surplus workers overseas as soldiers coupled with an increase in the production of war materials (everything from uniforms to battle ships) made unemployment virtually disappear. My grandma always said that as long as nations depended upon the military with its arms production and sales, we would never be free of war as an economic factor.

There's something else, too: The innovation that comes out of necessity.

The Wall Street Journal's "The Informed Reader" has read historian Victor Davis Hanson who states that the war in Iraq is not contributing to peacetime technology like earlier wars have. The war in Iraq isn't fought like earlier wars, either, with so many civilian contractors doing what the military used to do for itself (the current ratio is nearly 1:1, according to the Washington Post), and with an enemy that chooses small but important targets, rather going after entire tanks or ships. Unlike earlier wars, the war in Iraq isn't contributing at all to the economy at home. Quite the contrary: The economy is plunging after almost five years of fighting.

I was so sad to see the US and its allies starting the 21st century with such a 20th century (and already outdated) approach. Shouldn't we be done with using soldiers as solutions by now? It looks like maybe that is indeed the case, and not just from a human and humane point of view, but also from an economical and technological point of view.

War has changed. The way wars are fought has changed. Nothing good, not even inventions or discovery, comes out of war. It's time to ignore war as an option for solving or preventing problems, including economic ones.

Jan 15, 2008

90 years old and still going strong

It is fitting that a funicular that climbs a very steep hill up to a mountain with a spectacular view is a Capricorn. It is also fitting for a Capricorn that the company that runs it, is the only transportation company in Bergen (if not Norway) that has no debt and wants to expand its business with caution. I'm talking about Bergen's most popular tourist attraction, the funicular up to Mt. Floien, Fløibanen. In spite of embargoes during World War I, two teak carriages and the cable for them did finally make it to Bergen and the work started first proposed in 1895 was completed, letting the funicular make its first regular trip up the mountain on January 15, 1918. In its first year of operation, Fløibanen carried 500,000 passengers to and from skiing and hiking trails - and that gorgeous view. Last year it carried 1.2 million people, including local commuters, and the funicular's owners are looking to increase that number.

The current carriages are painted metal with large surfaces in plexiglass so you can catch a glimpse of the gorgeous view, or at least the sky, even in a crowded carriage. I usually take visitors on a funicular ride. It's not exactly a cheap ride, but it's one of the few things tourists do where they quickly forget how expensive Norway is simply because both the destination and the ride itself are so different and so awesome.

Jan 14, 2008

The fun part of having a new computer

I surfed a page at Apple's web site today. I was checking out the latest "Get a Mac" ad. When the ad finished, it displayed a picture of an iMac.

And I got all giddy and happy, because it is just so cool to see your own brand new glory of a computer pictured elsewhere!

Jan 13, 2008

Forgiving

Many other bloggers have written about forgiveness. There are whole web sites, books and even religious doctrines devoted to the concept, so I won't go into great detail here.

In Christianity, we are asked to forgive those who trespass against us, as we are forgiven our own trespasses (as the Lord's prayer more or less puts it). That is basically asking us to live and let live.

Forgiveness as a way to move on from a bad situation seems to me to be something that has occurred fairly recently. The parents of a murder victim forgiving a murderer, for example, I believe is a fairly new development in our western societies, new as in just a couple of decades old.

Those who have written about forgiveness, who have discussed it and taught it and promoted it and done it, say it is not about forgetting or ignoring the harm another has done you, but about not letting it create (any more) bad feelings in you. Forgiveness is really about no longer picking the scab off a wound, but just leaving it alone.

Let me use that metaphor a bit more: Past hurts, whether they be from parents who abused us, or a spouse who had an affair, or a best friend who turned out not to be a friend, etc., stay painful because we keep reminding ourselves of them. One reason we keep getting reminded is if the person who hurt us hasn't owned up to their part in the situation. But another reason we keep getting reminded, is because we indulge in the pain.

There can be many reasons for why we hang onto a pain for so long. After a while, especially with childhood hurts, it seems that it's just who we are. It's always been this way. We've always felt this way. It's always been this hard, this raw, this upsetting. It's hard to let go because we've let it define us.

Forgiving is about looking at the wound you have, and realizing that the person who initially gave you that wound is not the same person picking the scab off it, making it bleed again. That person is yourself. You are picking at yourself. You are keeping the wound from healing.

An example of forgiving someone can be what I wrote to my own mother recently: "I love you. I forgive you. I no longer blame you for any negativities in my life. Those are my responsibilities." Basically, I forgave her because I finally grew up. I became an adult. I no longer hold another adult accountable for my own feelings and for how deeply and for how long I feel hurt should they hurt me.

Did my relationship with my mother change? Not with that act, no. But now I can think about my mother without anger, without pain, without wanting to hurt her back. And it is very liberating.

So what changed are my feelings. Nothing else. And that is the point of forgiveness: Not to let the other person off the hook, but yourself. Get yourself off that hook of pain and stop struggling.

Five things in my refrigerator

The Creativity Portal suggested I tell you of five things in my refrigerator. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  1. Rice milk. I was drinking soy milk for a while until it decided to conflict with the hormonal changes of perimenopause. I then switched to cow's milk and now to rice milk. I can't actually remember why that last switch. Maybe it'll come to me and I'll blog about it.
  2. Nail polish. I was told that nail polish stays runny longer if you keep it refrigerated. So there's a nice collection in there, mainly because I no longer bother with colored polish. Will I ever wear that dark red again?
  3. Etheric oils. I have a whole bunch of little bottles of various scents in a small blue bowl sitting in the fridge. I figured they would keep longer there. My favorite is geranium.
  4. A bottle of gin with exactly enough left for one-and-a-half drink. Which is why it never gets used up and has sat there since the 1990's. I'm not sure why it's in the fridge. I think it's so I won't need ice for the drink, should I ever make it.
  5. Food. (You were wondering, I know.)

Jan 12, 2008

Clumping

In my previous post, I mentioned the antithesis to British queueing: The Norwegian clumping.

Norwegians never form a line unless forced to, like at the ATM because they finally got the message about security, or at the grocery store because of the shopping carts. In every other aspect of life, a pedestrian Norwegian will clump. Amazingly, one nevertheless gets served in order. Here's how it works:

Let's say we are in a shop that has a 6 foot counter with a cash register at one end; we'll say the right end. The shop is busy. There is a customer at the cash register (let's call her A), three customers to that person's left, one person behind the customer at the register, and another customer to the left of that person. Sort of like this:

--------CR-
x  x  x  A
      x  x

Who's next in line to be served? And where should we, the newly arrived, stand to be the last in line?

Let's tackle the first question first:

Very likely, the order of customers is this:

--------CR-
3  2  1  A
      5  4

The rule is this: Get as close to the shop clerk as possible. It's not, as you may think, to get as close to the next person in line as possible. However, do not change the order! What happens after the first customer has been served, and leaves (sometimes having to force her way through the clump), is this:

--------CR-
5  3  2  1
         4

Did you notice who moved up next to the counter? The idea is not to move up ahead in line, but to move the whole clump closer to the cash register. Now, in this scenario, we are number 6 in this, er, line. Where do we stand? Well, let's assume we make our move as A leaves, leaving room for one more. We position ourselves thusly as number 6:

--------CR-
6 3  2  1
      5  4

We do not line up. We clump. One reason for that is that we don't know who arrived first of 4 and 5. It could be the other way around than what I've outlined here, you see. It's hard to tell with Norwegians. So, how do people get waited on in turn (remember that second question)?

Easy: Pay attention to who was there first. You are not responsible for any later arrivals; you are only responsible for keeping track of who was in the clump already when you joined it. Basically, this is a casual committing to memory the various backs you see ahead of you. Should the shop clerk lose track of who is next to be served (it has been known to happen), she'll pan her audience with her eyes and ask someone's left shoulder "Who's next?" And here's where all that paying attention comes in: Everyone knows who's ahead of them and respects that. It can get a little tricky if you and someone else clump at about the same split second, but usually someone will just nod the other ahead or a third member of the clump who has been keeping track of arrivals will sort things out.

Norwegians have this clumping queueing down to a fine art, and it works wonderfully in Norway. Anywhere else, and you get scenarios like this one I experienced on vacation:

I was travelling with over 40 other Norwegians on a bus tour of Italy. At one point, we stopped at a "rest stop", with a gas station and convenience store, last chance to use our lira (that's how long ago I've been in Italy) before crossing the border into Switzerland. So the busload invaded this little store with one girl on duty, and queued up four abreast because that's how wide the counter with the one cash register was. The girl was thoroughly confused and had no clue who to serve first. The Norwegians complained about her bad service afterwards, "but what can you expect from Italians"?

Those of us who were well-traveled, and therefore no longer had the habit of using "civilized country" in the same sentence as "Norway", thought the girl handled the Viking hoard quite nicely, once those first four people told her who to wait on first. By the time she was serving her third line of four, that Italian girl was handling the clump like a - Norwegian.

Jan 11, 2008

Hello, Dolly

It was a slow evening at my local McDonald's when I dropped by on my way home. I walked in on four customers loitering in the middle of the floor and when one of the girls said "Next!", I discovered I was the next. People back away from the counter while waiting for their food, you see, which is why everyone looked like they were possibly waiting for an available cash register.

I guess I need to explain the phenomenon that is Norwegian queueing: There isn't any. Norwegians clump around a cash register the way flies clump on a lump of feces. I can remember hating that habit when I visited the bank back in the day. Yes, they'd clump around you at the teller window. At the doctor's window and the ATM, they at least stand back about a meter. The only time I see an actual line is at the grocery store, simply because it's hard to clump with shopping carts.

So, at McDonald's, people will order at the counter, then move aside or away from it to make room for others in line (that is, fellow clumpers who joined the clump after you) while waiting for their order. There was no one behind me in line, so I didn't back away. I waited by the counter and noticed three new employees. They were discussing lunch breaks (which in this case meant eating at 6 pm). The girl who waited on me noticed me noticing them, and laughed in my direction. I was watching her because she had the name Dolly in longhand tattooed on the left side of her neck. I finally had to ask her about it.

She happily told me that she had had it done in Thailand. She had written it herself. Her name, her handwriting (and it was nice handwriting). I asked if it hurt, but she said what hurt were the tattoos filled in with color, because those involve a lot of scratching. She had such a tattoo on her ankle, a little butterfly. It took half an hour and she got sick from the pain. The signature on her neck took only 15 minutes, traced twice. Just as she thought she was going to get ill again, the tattooist was done. Whew!

Certainly not a tattoo she'll ever see on someone else. Neither will I.

Jan 10, 2008

The seismic brain

This little report rather fascinated me. Apparently, an epileptic seizure in the brain has "tremors" and "seismic" activity similar to the earth's earthquake activity.

Jan 9, 2008

What shook loose in a brain-wracking

I don't think I have a boring life, but I have little to report because I'm not the sort of person who has some sort of activity to do every single day. Well, I do, like writing a daily blog post, but I guess nothing I consider interesting enough to write about. I doubt you want a daily list of "Got up, went to work, had salad with beans, went home, had dinner without beans, wrote this, went to bed."

One lunch buddy I hadn't seen since before Christmas asked me if there was anything new to report in the new year, and I said no. I said that wasn't as bad as it sounds, because I am healthy and happy and I wouldn't want that to change.

I did lie a little. Right now, the biggest challenge in my life is a - hemorrhoid. And to tackle that, I am trying EFT. I am struggling to find the right "trigger phrase" and after trying about a half dozen, I think I'll settle for the short and sweet "Letting go, letting God". Has the EFT helped any so far? It has eased the problem, but what I'm aiming for is a complete cure. But it's fun to learn something new.

Also fun to learn about is my new iMac. There have been a few minor glitches: A bug in the menu bar that freezes the clock after a while and my old iMac died. Totally. I have to find a cabinet for the hard drive so I can wipe it. Or maybe just destroy the thing. It looks like the power supply's shot on the old war horse, an unexpected development. It's easier to get at the hard drive.

A lot of fun things happen at work (and some frustrating ones, too), but since my policy is to not write about work on my blog, I cannot tell you about the wonderful goofiness I get to enjoy every day nor about the interesting people I work with or the little oddities, pleasantries and annoyances that come from working in an office building that contains hundreds of people. Or cutenesses: A Norwegian tradition in the first whole week of January is to have a "Christmas tree party". It's strictly for the kids and is the final act of yule, before the tree is tossed. Santa shows up one last time and gives each child a little gift. My company throws such a party for the employees' kids. On my way home from work today, I was therefore treated to the sight of co-workers' children dressed up for the evening's party. A little peek into the personal lives of fellow employees.

Jan 8, 2008

Political choices

I started to get carried away replying to my own blog comments, so I had to make a decision and a link loop. I must be under the influence of:

Translation:

  • SV = Socialist Left
  • Høyre = Right (anything but left)
  • Ap = Labor (left-winged, but not always progressive, as you can see)
  • KrF = Christian People's Party (and of course "go forth and multiply"-friendly)
  • RV is the party now called Red (see the beforementioned comments) and that sign makes them self-explanatory
  • FrP (Progressive Party) wants "Do Not Enter" at all of Norway's borders. Of course, the other interpretation of the sign - "Wrong Way In" rather describes all the other politics of the party
  • Venstre = Left and maybe the other way, no back, er, up… Wait, where were we? Are we still running for office?
  • And finally, Senterpartiet = Center Party, the favorite of farmers and people who don't like commies, capitalists or consumers - unless they're buying the farmers' products.

Around and about dipthongs

"Does English have dipthongs?"

"As in two vowels together making a single sound? Sure. Take the 'ou' in 'around' or 'about', for example. Another dipthong would be 'ea', which is pronounced… is pronounced… uhm, like 'ea' as in 'bear' or like 'ea' as in 'feat' or like 'ea' as in 'great'."

The concept is far easier in Norwegian. Trust me on this.

Jan 7, 2008

Circly, not cactusy

Your Personality Profile
You are happy, driven, and status conscious.
You want everyone to know how successful you are.
Very logical, you see life as a game of strategy.

A bit of a loner, you prefer to depend on yourself.
You always keep your cool and your composure.
You are a born leader and business person.

I was drawn to the other picture that had the same color scheme. In fact, equally drawn. The one above was the first I saw and liked, but I did stop at this, and had to try to make a decision:

Your Personality Profile
You are funky, outdoorsy, and down to earth.
While you may not be a total hippie...
You're definitely one of the most free spirited people around.

You are very impulsive - every day is a new adventure.
However, you do put some thought behind all your actions.
Still, you do tend to shock and offend people from time to time!

OK, this is kind of freaky. The introduction to the test says, "This is the world's shortest personality test - but quite revealing. Simply click on the picture that appeals to you most at this moment." And you know what? My first choice does describe me better than my second.

Jan 6, 2008

The Perfumery

My skin was a huge issue for me, growing up. I got my first blackheads at the age of 8. I was the only kid in school in Norway to have blackheads way before everybody else. In fact, I left Norway at age 15, and so never saw any of my classmates with acne. It bothered me to have large-pored, oily skin in a country of smooth, normal skin, so I began my road to hell with Clearasil, and like any drug-addict looking for a bigger and better fix, finished up at a dermatologist's and was introduced to the facial Threesome From Hell so many women are told is the only way to have good skin: Cleanser, Tonic, Moisturizer. The sort of products that are available at the cosmetic counters of your better department stores for an entire week's wage.

In Norway, when I was a kid, we didn't have cosmetic counters. Norway, instead, offered (and offers) the "Perfumery" ("perfymeri").

These "perfumeries" sell the expensive stuff: $20 nylons, $50 lipsticks, $100 creams. Inevitably, the ladies who work there, are not young, not old, always made-up and looking flawless. They also have the same air as a maitre'd at a fancy restaurant - the kind where the color of your credit card had better be gold, not silver. "Yes? Skin care for one? I think we have a test jar opening. This way, please." All very hushed and nice and serious.

When you're pubescent and the only one in your class with bad skin - and have been dragged off to a few dermatologists (kind of medicalizing the whole thing, but at the time I felt awful about my skin), and end up needing to buy those special products at the Perfumery - being greeted by a woman doing a Western version of a geisha is not delightful. They never smile. They instead daintily open the tiniest jar with long fingers tipped with long and perfectly manicured nails (did I mention I also used to bite my nails?), dip in with a tiny spatula, dab a bit on you, wait to see your reaction, wait to see your skin's reaction, then, with a molecular hint of a frown, say, "no, not this one," and turn to some other exquisite, tiny jar.

What little pleasure in myself and my appearance would inevitably shrink to a size that could fit in half of one of those tiny jars. I ended up hating shopping in perfumeries.

The hate's gone now, but not the memory, but I still won't buy face care products or make-up in those stores. The same women with the same quiet, patronizing attitude still work there. (I kid you not. There's one who's been at a local shop for 25 years, and she doesn't age; she just reapplies her make-up.) Just stepping inside one still makes me feel unkempt and in rags. What they do, have, though, is some really good costume jewelry. Since I have no traumas associated with that, I can happily hunt for jewelry looking like (relative) shit.

As for my skin: It's still large-pored and has blackheads. Interestingly, one of those Threesomes From Hell is currently in my bathroom, but I bought that series from The Body Shop, so it doesn't count. (All three parts also feel very good on my skin.) And after all of that torture in puberty, I end up with: Very few wrinkles. And, a lot of compliments.

Jan 5, 2008

The girl in the bubble

I live in a very safe place, I've come to realize this weekend. I know that the weather bureau warned us of very strong winds, and a full storm at sea, but I haven't actually noticed any storm. I have spent my weekend so far, immersed in my new toy, enjoying the high speed as I surf the net and check out online newspapers...

...And learn that three oil rigs in the North Sea have sent everyone home this weekend because of the storm and wave height. Three. It is so rare that those oil rigs stop production at all, that to hear that three are stopping due to weather makes me take notice (as you've noticed). Now, I have heard on the radio that a number of mountain passes have been closed several days this week (and I was amused at how the newspapers in Bergen phrased it: "Eastern Norway isolated due to blizzards!"). I have noted that four of seven mountain passes have been closed at any given time. That's a lot, too.

(Quick geography lesson: Norway is wider at the top and bottom and very skinny in the middle. The wide bottom part is southern Norway, and it rises in the middle to offer several dramatic mountain ranges, Europe's largest mesa, and the watershed between east and west. So west of this watershed is western Norway or the west coast, and east is eastern Norway, and where the whole thing starts to narrow is mid-Norway and everything north of that is northern Norway and nobody cares to call its coastline anything except "difficult". So there is no west coast up north, in spite of the impression you got from that lovely cruise to North Cape.)

The weather is taking its toll: A rock slide has closed the railway between Bergen and Oslo (further isolating eastern Norway), a local bridge had to close because it was twisting in the wind, trees are falling down and blocking other roads here and there and sometimes knocking out power, and ski resorts have to close. 10,000 people on what we call the south coast are without power, and they and eastern Norway are expecting a further 15 cm (6 inches) of snow.

I did stick my nose out the door today. Went grocery shopping. And although it was windy, it was rather pleasant since 4C (39.2F) is a bit warmer than -4C (24.8F), and it wasn't raining. So here I sit, in my apartment, sometimes noting a bit of wind outside, but nothing is swaying, nothing is falling over, down or across, and I have full power, enabling me to read about the problems and near-disasters happening all around. As if I'm in my own little bubble in an otherwise stormy part of the country.

Whoops! Learned something!

I read the Bad Astronomy blog, mainly because it's fun to know the correct thing about something. Like the fact that our planet (Earth, in case you were wondering) is not the only planet to experience solar eclipses. Saturn does, too, by virtue of being so far away, that its moons appear bigger than the sun.

So I trip over this clock today at BAB, and it fascinates me. I vaguely remember having some fun with math back in my school days, and the number 9 has some interesting properties. The clock shown on BAB displays (!) quite a few.

Now, this had the advantage of making me try out some software on my new iMac. I bought iWork and fired up its spreadsheet so I could play with the formulas and see how they resulted in the whole numbers a clock face usually has. And, in so doing, I finally learned what ! means in mathematical notation.

Jan 4, 2008

Christmas Eve all over again!

"Hi, do you know what day this is? It's Christmas Eve!" the voice on the phone said to me this afternoon. It took me a heartbeat, then I realized what he meant[1]: My new Intel iMac had arrived!

So instead of getting the grocery shopping done, I met with my Mac salesman at my office, to sign papers and photocopy ID, and then he also drove my new toy/joy home for me. What service!

Part of the fun of a new Mac is opening the very clean and non-cluttered box and just pulling out the machine and parking it on the desk. Part of the fun is that absolutely giddy joy from having a brand-new iMac to unpack and put on the desk. The downside is the sad farewell I have to say to my gorgeous and faithful old iMac. I wonder if I can part with it? It is so cute, y'know?

I ordered the 24" screen. I was rather surprised at how huge 24" is. I mean, I felt like I'd bought one of those big flat-screen TVs. Well, actually, I have, if I get a TV tuner. :-) It makes my beloved "desk lamp" iMac look tiny (and at the time, that was the largest one - 17" screen).

The old Mac is hooked up to the new one with a FireWire cable and everything that is me is moving from one to the other. It's proof that reincarnation is not just a theory or belief.

Isn't that screen awesome? So glossy! So the first thing I did after I finished the transfer of my soul from one material container to a new one, I popped in a DVD and watched it on a nice hi-def flat screen (I moved the desk around so I can watch movies on my Mac from the sofa in comfort). Complete with the immensely dinky - and I'm sure absolutely easy to misplace and not find for three and a half months - remote control:

In taking the photos for this blog post, I discovered a couple of things: A good place to put the little remote (right-hand drawer, which is also where I keep the USB-cable for the camera) and that the new iMac is so fast that 26 photos were off my camera and into iPhoto in literally a heartbeat (my resting rate is 60 per minute). Versus the I-have-time-to-refill-my-coffee-cup speed I was used to.

[1] Presents are opened on Christmas Eve in Norway. Or on January 4, depending on your Santa. ;-)

Jan 3, 2008

How Norway creates a worry

OK, that title sounds worse than it is, and also sounds more serious than it is. I guess the real worry is that the arctic region so far this winter is warmer than southern Norway, and also so dry that a grass fire broke out (that's a first!), but that's not the subject of this post. The subject of this post is a phenomenon many other Europeans are familiar with: The TV license. And the worry of not getting it paid on time.

Since 1949, Norway's government owned-and-operated broadcaster, NRK, has charged its listeners and viewers a so-called broadcasting fee. The current TV license costs over NOK 2000 a year. Every year, Norwegians gripe about the TV license. It funds NRK, which now offers three TV channels (but until the early 80's, was a sole channel on Norwegian TV), while the other current 50 whatnot channels are commercial and/or cable. "I never watch NRK," the usual complaint goes, "so why do I have to pay for it? I already pay for cable." But the clever politicians, who set the license fee every year (and raise it every year, too), have determined that the fee is for "owning, renting or borrowing a device for receiving television signals". Luckily, it's one fee per household, not per device or person viewing.

But it gets better: They split the fee in two and send out a semi-annual bill about a month before its due date. But if you should forget to pay by the due date, they don't dun you. Not once. If and when you finally pay the bill, the license office then sends out a late-fee bill, starting from the due date, no grace period.

They changed things around a bit for 2008, which I wasn't aware of. When I got the notice of payment in August (due Sept. 1), it was for only a little over NOK 700, which was unexpected, so I assumed that my newly opted-for automatic deduction gave me a quarterly bill, rather than a semi-annual one. I was very happy about that and even told a bunch of people. But when I went through my monthly bank statement yesterday, I coudn't find a license deduction for Dec 1. I thougt maybe I did something wrong or the bank did or maybe even NRK did (could happen, could happen).

I blame meno-fog (as we ladies of a certain age call it) for what happened next but at least it had a happy outcome: After a rather disorganized foray into my online bank with multiple logins and logouts (because after each logout, I'd remember I'd forgotten something), I finally managed a clear thought and the search function. I could find no payment to NRK in December. I surfed NRK's website looking for information on them missing a billing, and discovered that the semi-annual due dates no longer are March 1 and September 1, but starting with 2008, are January 1 and July 1. Therefore, the payment for Sept 1 2007 applied only through December 2007, and the next semi-annual bill will be due January 31. How nice for those paying semi-annually, I thought, but what about us who pay quarterly? I couldn't find any information, so I started composing a nice e-mail to the nice license office to ask them what I should do about them not deducting from my account when they were supposed to, and how they'd better not charge me any late fees.

I thought it would be helpful to include my license number and I was at least organized enough to know where the September notice was. And while I was verifying my typing of the license number in my e-mail, I happened to glance at a line a little higher up on the notice. It read, "For 1 Sep through 31 Dec 2007".

Er...

A penny dropped and clattered hollowly in the vast void that currently holds the position "Keera's brain". (Dan Quayle was right: A mind is a terrible thing to lose.)

I breathed a sigh of relief. No stupid "you were late and we knew it but didn't remind you, you ditz, so nyah" bill on its way, and no suitable-for-hanging-by-coffee-machine-for-endless-entertainment-by-license-office-employees e-mail from me asking about non-existent quarterly payments.

Of course, this means I've got a big bill coming up this month, but now I'm prepared.

More or less.

Jan 2, 2008

Conversations you don't want to have

I was standing at our row of mailboxes, when the adult son of my upstairs neighbor came flying down the stairs in our apartment building and breathlessly asked me if I'd seen his mom, grandmother of four. The family had been looking for her and calling her cell phone since yesterday.

I had seen her yesterday, yes, I believe it was yesterday. I only noticed that it happened, not really when.

And how was she?

She was walking up the hill, I said, and I noticed her because she stopped to look up at our building and she looked rather puzzled.

Yes, that makes sense, her son said, but wouldn't tell me why.

They had called the police. I wished him success in finding her (and according to the horary chart for the moment, they will).

He then asked when I had seen her yesterday. What time?

In the afternoon. There was still daylight. Not yet dusk, I told him.

And he dashed out.

I feel awful for him.

…Funny what you notice about people without noticing. Like a Sunday walk I took last month or maybe November, where I encountered my upstairs neighbor with her sister, and how my neighbor hadn't acknowledged me at all, and her sister half-laughingly poked her and said, "Say hi when people greet you!" And every time I saw my neighbor after that, like coming home from the grocery store, she was always with her sister.

Except for yesterday.

A letter to myself December 31 2007

I wrote myself a letter on New Year's Eve, as part of a ritual I have. Here is the letter, with the most personal details removed:

 

This year I am spending New Year's away from home with friends. Though I would have liked to, I have looked forward to being alone, at home, and to revisit my earlier ritual of looking back on the year that has passed and making affirmations for the year to come.

I feel hopeful and content right now. Some boys are outside shooting some fireworks (under-aged and without adult supervision, but I find myself worried for their safety rather than annoyed at the irresponsibility of the situation; and no, I don't feel called upon to tell on them or ask them to stop).

Some subtle, yet momentous things happened in 2007: The summer vacation I spent with my mother, the following autumn of restlessness and generally blah feeling, and some incredible constipation, which started on the cruise ship, let up for a bit, then came back full force. And I had some dental work.

I'm trying to wrap my brain around being 47. I am trying to be happy about the years ahead. This year, I was battling the notion of no longer being "young and promising". Though I feel 27 inside, I have to acknowledge I am not 27 to the world. It makes me feel frustrated and like a loser that I don't have all sorts of choices ahead of me.

But maybe I do.

During this Christmas break, I went for a walk, trying to sort out the one insight that made my constipation stop: It related to my mother's not hearing me when I visited with her. She wasn't deaf; it was just an odd not noticing I had said something. My constipation eased up a little after an exchange on my birthday, due to a comment in a letter from my mother included with my birthday card. What I saw as a lack of communication, she saw as giving me space because she could tell I was annoyed. So I told her it was because of the weird "hearing problem".

I realized a number of things during my walk: Constipation is about holding on, a fear of letting go. I was holding on because I felt there was so little to go around for me. I was severely constipated as a child, too, which is why I had to revisit my childhood.

A couple of years ago, I tripped over a way of sorting out my childhood memories that turned out to be very effective (and very moving): I talked to each of my childhood selves. During this walk, I approached my 5-year-old self. I told her I was very conscious of the 6-year-old and even of the 4-year-old, but not of the 5-year-old, and why was that? My 4-year-old self was very talkative, and could tell me: They keep fighting, and they don't see me; they don't have time for me. My grandma told me that this was the year I had some peculiar health issues. The pressures in my family of dealing with my heavily handicapped baby sister were getting to us.

But even now, talking to my 4-year-old self, I cannot sense any resentment toward or dissatisfaction with or hatred of my sister. She never bothered me. Sometimes I'd be annoyed, of course, but I never wished she wasn't my sister. I loved her too much. I always wanted us to be treated equally. I enjoyed when we were dressed up alike.

I then tried to talk to my 5-year-old self who at the age of discovering the difference between real and make-believe, discovered something else: Mommy couldn't hear her. The 5-year-old wanted to tell Mommy she loves her, but Mommy never responded, never answered back, so the 5-year-old thought Mommy hadn't heard. Ah. Here is the clue: Not being heard. Feeling not heard. OK.

This is no longer my mother's issue. This is between me and myself (my selves). My mother can't fix anything. I now have to be the nurturing adult who makes everything all right in my life. My mother is not responsible for how I feel, nor for how I react to her.

I talked further to all my selves. I acknowledged that I had been playing it safe all these years. Now the question is: Could I let go of safety and let in love? Could I open up, share more of myself, approach others and stop worrying about any possible wounds? My 18 selves thought so, but they are huge admirers of me. :-)

So I face another new year, filled with the energy of fresh starts, unused calendars, and the dream of brighter days to come (literally and figuratively). What do I want for myself in 2008?

I currently have this combination of affirmations (both relate to the bowels) from Louise Hay's book "You Can Heal Your Life" as my desktop:

"I release all that is unlike love. There is time and space for everything I want to do. As I release the past, the new and fresh and vital enter. I allow life to flow through me."

I really like what those affirmations say.

I watched "What the Bleep Do We Know?" with half an eye (as the Norwegians say) since I'd seen it before, and at one point, one of the interviewees gave his definition of addiction: Something that you can't stop.

He explained further: "We bring to ourselves situations that will fulfill the biochemical craving of the cells of our bodies, by creating situations that meet our chemical needs. An addict will always need a little bit more in order to get a rush or a high, what they're looking for chemically. So my definition really means that if you can't control your emotional state, you must be addicted to it."

Oh. Ouch.

My temper is back. I do let it get the better of me.

I must be addicted to it.

And it reminds me of another "epiphany" I had. As I was falling asleep one night earlier this month, I was suddenly jarred awake with the question of what I would do if my mother died. And to my surprise, my response was that I would feel awful because it would mean she'd never know I forgave her.

I've been sitting on that one for a bit, and now that I write it, I realize there's nothing to think about. I had forgiven her already, in that jolt that night. I just need to act on it.

Another affirmation I want to work on this year, and to remind myself of and start saying every day, every morning, is the one about peace. The one I used to help myself with the situation at work. I am backsliding and it's not what I want to do. I think it will help me with my addiction.

I'm also getting more curious about taoism, and I want to read more about yoga. Also, I want to try meditating again, because I've been really ditzy lately, even at work, even doing things I don't normally err in doing, and the notion I keep getting is to meditate, not to check hormone levels. So I'll meditate.

So for 2008, I want to be addicted to peace, love and joy. And to do more "reaching out" things like I did today: I found myself getting in the way of another woman shopper, zigging when she zigged. So I finally moved to one side and apologized for making hurdles. She gave me a big smile and said that we finally worked it out. (I do blame hormones for that.) At McDonald's, after a long wait for my food at the cash register, I said as I was leaving to the young girl whose station it was, "Have a Happy New Year." And for the first time she actually looked directly at me and my eyes, and with a slight look of surprise and wide smile, she wished me the same. I found myself hoping my smile was as warm as hers. As it was, I was rather surprised, too. Her response was so genuine and unexpected. I didn't know my words would have that effect. But I'll bet in her busy day, nobody had thought to wish her or her co-workers a happy anything.

I think I learned something today.

There is something else I must include: I have made the experience, during this Christmas vacation, that it is important to me to nurture myself. I'm not much of a housekeeper and I had been putting off changing the bed sheets. I finally did and that night slept like a baby. Because I was in clean sheets, not smelly. And this is something I need to remember: That I do feel better and function better emotionally when my surroundings are kept clean and tidy. I am rather pleased with and proud of myself, because I have done all my laundry and have put it away. I tidied off the coffee table to make a clean area for my New Year's meditation. I instantly feel better. I can do this. I can say "I love you" to myself, and respond to it by showing love through action. I can be and I can do love.

So, for 2008, I want to be friendlier and warmer with people. I want to inspire love and joy, including to myself in my own home and heart. I am grateful that I do have the time and space to do just this.

Jan 1, 2008

A new day, a new year

I woke up to the alarm clock set for 9 something. 9:30, that's it. I closed the window, turned on all the heaters (yep, real Norwegian habit, that), and wandered out from my bedroom. From the kitchen window, while I made coffee, I looked out on an absolutely quiet world - no sound of traffic or neighbors or wind. Still. Silent. It was such a peaceful start to both day and year, and it reminded me of summer vacation. In my living room, I was drawn to the soft light outside. There was frost on the ground, some left-overs from the fireworks last night (my neighbors gave me quite the free show last night with some gorgeous displays I hadn't seen before), and a rosy glow in the west, peaking through the trees lining the ridge.

The apartment building to the left and that ridge are the reason why I don't get sunshine in my apartment for about 3 months. By the time the winter sun has cleared the building, it is so low it can't clear the ridge. I have my own little version of life north of the arctic circle going on here. But if the weather cooperates, I see sunshine, and today's didn't seem so weak to me. Shining from absolutely clear skies, the low sun hits all the tops of trees and buildings, and casts long shadows.

Seeing this lifts my spirits after all the dreariness we've had this fall and this year; Bergen matched a third-wettest record from the 1930's with 3040 millimeters of precipitation in 2007. That's like the deep end of most pools. (The joke is that the people of Bergen are born with webbed feet.)

I'm watching the New Year's concert from Vienna while I write this, and commenting out loud on my own, but it does make watching by myself feel like "old times". Grandma's right: The flowers are stunning. And I love the French conductor, who is conducting the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra for the first time: His face is so expressive and he looks both very fit and very happy. His voice, when he wished us all a happy new year, was very strong. He may be 83, but he's not old.

Oh! I may have to revise how long the sun avoids my apartment! The fact is that I, after over 20 years in this place, have just discovered that the sun just barely touches my window sill on New Year's day (either I haven't been home, or there hasn't been sunshine). But I can see how I missed it: The sun touched my sill for only a couple of minutes, then it was gone. The sun's behind the neighboring building now. I wonder if I'll see it again before it sets.

UPDATE: Sun is setting now (15:30-ish), before it cleared the ridge, so that's it for the light of day today.