Jun 30, 2008

Raise

Got one today. My boss came in from his vacation just to make sure I got the letter showing I have moved another notch up the pay scale.

He's a good man, my boss. He tries to make sure we all feel rewarded, both emotionally and financially, for our work. He wanted to give me a raise earlier, but I had a bad autumn so he didn't feel it was right. Then things (meaning I) took a turn for the better in early winter and he saw that I deserved my raise but that ship had sailed. That's when he gave me a one-time bonus and a promise to revisit the matter in April.

I heard nothing in April, but I knew he couldn't press the point until the matter of our department's existence was settled. Now that it is, and my boss is still pleased with my performance, I got the raise.

I asked him if he was desperately trying to keep me from quitting, which made him laugh. Made me laugh, too. If that other department still wants me (haven't heard yet), they're going to have to fight hard.

I am grateful for this show of faith, kindness and abundance. Life is good.

Jun 29, 2008

The sound of rain

Today was a do-nothing day, and nothing much inspired me to write. But I got nostalgic.

I slept in and could hear the gentle rain falling on the ground outside. Rain against window is a storm; rain falling straight down to the ground is a farmer's rain. That last reminded me of the wet summers of childhood, and although a rainy summer is the pits, it was nice to hear a familiar sound from way back.

The gentle sound of steady rain transported me back to childhood: To a friend's barn, sitting in the hay as the drops hit the ground and the roof at the same time; to another friend's treehouse, carefully assembled used planks and plywood keeping us dry; to the carport and our car, dashing from one shelter to another to keep dry; to our outhouse and woodshed, where our pet cat had six kittens, her purrs blending in with the rain on the roof; to my bedroom in the attic, sitting under a slanted ceiling, either drawing or reading, the gray light through my window cheered up by my orange curtains.

Jun 28, 2008

The joy of small electronics

There is much to be tickled and awed by on the web and if you read sites like Neatorama or Boing Boing or even Cute Overload, you've already seen a lot of the stuff. Thanks to link curiosity via something else Neatorama posted, I came across this little video on machine mimicking nature.


Robots Inspired by Animals - video powered by Metacafe

Seeing robots instantly made me think of electronics (robotics being a combination of electronics, mechanics and programming) and got me thinking. In my first full-time job out of high school, I was introduced to computers, or more accurately: Data entry operating. It was a keyboard and a screen with green letters on black. I was terrified at using the thing but after learning how to correct mistakes during my first afternoon with it, I was in love. My second full-time job was as a secretary in the branch office of a mini-computer corporation (a mini-computer back then being the size of a washing machine). I was a whiz at programming the page height on tractor-feed dot matrix printers (it was purely mechanical, using a perforated tape). Later on, the trick was to know the DIP-switch settings to get a desktop dot matrix printer to print from a pre-Windows PC.

Both printers and computers have come a long way since 7" 8" floppy disks and dedicated word processing machines. Miniaturization started with the transistor. A transistor radio featured strongly in my childhood and even as a kid, I understood that its 3x4 inch size was special. Especially since it picked up any AM radio station under the sun.

When my parents separated, my mother's parents took me in. We rented a house in the desert where my father's parents lived, and Grandma and Grandpa rented out their home in San Pedro. We lived in the desert for about 18 months. Then Grandma and Grandpa got serious about their plans to retire in Europe, and shipped everything they wanted to keep (dishes, cutlery, record albums, the heavy pale blue drapes from the living room in San Pedro, the bunny-on-a-cabbage cookie jar, and the car). As they and I walked through their emptied San Pedro home, I discovered a little black object on the kitchen counter. Grandpa figured that their tenants had forgotten their transistor radio and let me have it.

It ran on two AA batteries and went to Norway with us, becoming a fixed feature in my room. It introduced me to Radio Luxembourg and the world of rock and pop music. I opened it on more than one occasion, trying to make sense of the tiny little circuit board and the wires and some other unidentified metal bits. Grandpa was an engineer, but his specialty was diesel engines, not electronics. It was a new world to him. It was to be my world.

Though I have a bit of Luddite in me (I prefer having a grease monkey rather than a nerd fixing a car, but I may be biased since I grew up around tool boxes and oil changes), I see that today's electronics can do marvelous things, like helping a prosthetic limb function more naturally, or by identifying a stray cat or dog, or by being the"e" in "e-mail". So I watch the video showing robots seemingly behaving like living creatures, and it makes me delighted and very curious about what will happen next with our technology.

Jun 27, 2008

Command Central

This may look like a somewhat nerdy wet dream, but it is in fact the reality of my office, with my graphics quality LaCie screen and the Mac's white keyboard on the left and the ThinkPad with an external, black keyboard on the right. (It's true; Apple does design right.) You're looking at my bread-and-butter, and at what is Command Central for the next couple of weeks.

For the next two weeks, I will be the only one in Customer Reception, as we call it. Our department is currently eight people: Four work downstairs in what is basically the basement (but with windows facing a parking lot), with printing presses, binding, finishing and photocopying, and four work upstairs on the top floor doing graphic design, photocopying, ordering and billing - and receiving the customers.

I was a bit shocked to discover that I was going to be completely alone upstairs for the next two weeks, while my co-workers take their vacations. The shock wore off. I am not worried. I figure I will manage just fine and even have some fun. I just hope I have time to finish all the projects still in progress! Everybody else has to hand off stuff before they leave on their vacations so I have a big pile of stuff waiting for me, off-camera.

I see that I have accidentally done a good job of interior decorating since my keyboards now match up with the oversized silk roses that break up the huge space that is my window (covered by blinds, and no, I have no view to speak of). Oh, and the orchid in my window sill is still alive and thriving, partly because I moved it to the window sill. I finally figured out how to keep an orchid alive!

Jun 26, 2008

Blond night, brunette not sleep

"White nights" are what the Russians call the pale summer nights of midsummer according to the movie by the same name. In Norwegian, the term is "blond nights" but most people just say "long, light summer night". Because that's what is.

I am talking about this because Jon asked me a question in a comment: Do the wonderfully long days help [my good mood]?

And I answered truthfully that I was actually getting a bit sleep-deprived because the lack of true darkness messes with the circadian rhythm. But in general, yes, more daylight does brighten the mood as well as the world.

The long pastel evenings of summer are gorgeous. Being able to sit out in the sun until well past 10 pm is wonderful. But the lack of proper darkness throws off one's inner clock, so lately my usual in-bed-by-10 routine has become in-bed-by-11:30 (which leaves me tired in the morning because 8 hours of sleep is needed all year round).

Case in point: Last night I was getting ready to go to bed because I finally yawned. I looked out my window and had to get my camera. This is last night's sky at 11:24 pm, looking northwest:

Jun 25, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Bergen* fire truck

Wordless Wednesday

*) Custom built low and flat because of Bergen's (recently vacated) low-clearance fire house.

Jun 24, 2008

Who am I and what have I done with the old me?

Today at work was a repeat of yesterday (sans masseur). My head is woozy, too filled with so many details, and deadlines and things to do and fix and follow up on. And yet…

And yet, I am having a blast. A couple of weeks ago (or maybe a month ago - time keeps breaking the sound barrier), I was thinking about the perennial advice of being what I want, of giving to others what I appreciate getting from them. Not easy. But I told myself that I wanted to be more social, more hospitable towards my in-house clients, my co-workers. Not quite sure what I did, but it's happening. And I'm enjoying it.

I am willing to be a good hostess in my little cubicle. What I usually treated as my own version of Sleeping Beauty's castle complete with an aura of surrounding thorn bush, is now the exact same office but with people constantly going in and out of it, and me not minding. I find myself smiling more, gesturing visitors to my guest chair more. I'm the same way on the phone. I don't mind the phone ringing. It has helped that my boss has shielded me a bit. And perhaps he has been willing to because I'm a nice person. And I'm nicer knowing someone cares about my work day. At any rate, it is a blessing and goes on my gratitude list. (Note to self: Remember to thank boss.)

I'm happily awestruck. I think maybe I'm the victim of body snatchers and the real Keera has been replaced by an up-beat alien. Except that the replacement is not the alien.

The moody, easily irritated Keera is not the real me, but she has been me for so long that I thought she was. I thought she was a permanent part of me and that she would never go away. I thought I would have to monitor her to keep her from spoiling my fun, but no. She's quietly gone AWOL.

I am too busy having fun, downright fun solving problems for people, making jokes with them, and interrupting myself to answer questions to wonder where's she's gone and for how long. In fact, I'm not even worried about her returning. That's new.

To answer my own question: I am myself. My real self. The self I am when I am not letting negativity call the shots, when I am not letting myself fall victim to any negative feelings. What I have done to do that, though, I am not sure, but I think it is as simple as just voicing the desire. I wanted to be more social and fun and pleasant to be with and I actually said that to myself, and it is happening.

Jun 23, 2008

Problems solving

It's been one of those days. One of those days where everything insisted on arriving at once and being done at once. Partly because one co-worker has gone on vacation and I seem to be his second-in-command (gee, nobody told me). My boss did realize that I had a lot on my plate and told me to delegate to my other co-worker. So I did. And it was a good thing.

I spent the better part of the afternoon chasing down someone who could help me with an unexpected problem. But I did say during my job interview last week (nothing heard back yet, by the way) that I love solving problems. So here was mine: Somehow, the ordering system for business cards for our Danish co-workers was no longer working. Or rather, it still was, but now a number of people were simply e-mailing my department's group e-mail with messages like "I want to order business cards" or the order itself. Not an acceptable situation, especially when I go on vacation and have to leave business cards to someone else.

I was clueless about what the Danes had to do to order their cards, but e-mailed for help from one Dane I'd corresponded a bit with in connection with such orders, and also got a name from colleagues in our Corporate Communications department. And in the middle of this, an extremely uncomfortable talk with my former masseur, a physical therapist who offers massages during office hours two days a week in our building.

I'd gone to him last spring, but stopped because I never got comfortable with him. He happened to run into me today in the elevator and asked me where I'd gone to, so I told him I didn't feel our chemistry was good for therapy, and when I tried to tell him last year, I felt he didn't listen to me. Well, he showed up at my office a little later, asked to speak to me and shut the door (without asking me). Then we proceeded to not communicate well again, with him making me feel he wasn't listening because he was insisting he had never said anything to make me feel bad. That in itself showed me he was missing the point: He made the mistake of thinking that if he hadn't used the actual words, he hadn't actually conveyed the message. I've done that myself; I know that you can convey a lot without using the actual words. And the anger I was feeling was telling me that this guy would never hear me. I was getting so upset that I got up and opened my office door and demanded that he leave. He didn't. Which made me even angrier. For some reason, he didn't want to leave until he heard me say I was angry. My boss showed up shortly after, and I told him that I'd just had a blow-out with my former masseur. "When a girl isn't comfortable being undressed with a man, she should find another," I said. My boss laughed and said he totally agreed.

Normally, I'd feel like shit about getting angry. What bothered me was that I couldn't find the words to make this man understand what I meant. But then I wondered if that was necessary. I told him our chemistry didn't mesh, and he couldn't leave it alone. I asked him to leave, and he didn't. My anger was telling me that this man was crossing lines.

And when that was over, an IT guy came to install my new laptop. Everyone in the office is getting new PCs, most of which are laptops. I'm curious about using a Windows machine and I expect it will make some tasks easier. Because we are three Mac users in a company of only Windows users, we've been finding ourselves more and more dependent on emulation software but that didn't keep us from losing access to network printers last summer. The latest frustration is that our new intranet doesn't work right in emulation.

So an even weirder conversation ensued between me and the IT guy but not in a negative way, more in a humorous and mutual understanding that corporate IT policies and IT bureaucracies are hard for anyone to figure out. Eventually, everything was installed and the IT guy could finally leave.

I logged into my e-mail on my new Thinkpad and found two very helpful replies: A link to the order form for Danish business cards that I could forward to everyone who'd sent their messages to the wrong mailbox, and a promise that the misinformation on our intranet would be quickly fixed.

I still have stuff that needs to be done at once and at the same time, but I'm looking forward to it. And if I am to sum up today's events, I think it was a clearing energy, fixing both old and new problems.

Jun 22, 2008

Books you both read and write in

It's been a long time since I last had a book I wrote in. Oprah and my hairdresser talking about notes and Post-its littering their Eckhart Tolle books made me think about the last time I had a book that so delighted me or inspired me that I underlined whole passages.

I do have several books that have umpteen bookmarks in them (most are by Joseph Murphy), a bread crumb trail I can follow back to the passages that meant most to me. But I no longer write in my own books. That's because I leant one of my inspiring books to a classmate who complained about how distracting my scribbles in the margin were. I shouldn't do that, she said. So I stopped.

But now that I think back, and when I think about the unexpected doorway that discovering other people's notes in books is, why should someone else dictate what I do to my own books? I guess I could lend them with the warning that they're getting more than just the author's thoughts or emphasis.

What I really want, is a book that inspires me to underline passages, mark things with a yellow highlighter, and litter with Post-its to help relocate the best pages. And I want the freedom to do so. I have finally purchased Eckhart Tolle's book "A New Earth" and will re-listen to/re-watch the podcasts and maybe have my own notes to contribute.

It's not about destroying property. It's about enthusiasm. It's about involvement. About being so enthusiastic about something in a book, so involved in it, that you don't want to lose it or forget it, so you leave behind your own impression on the book.

Jun 21, 2008

Gratitude, abundance and elephants

Another haircut, another Saturday in town. I am short-haired and loaded with money because of the generosity of the Norwegian government and so I buy that jewelry box they first displayed last year. It's back and it's available.

Wait, let me back up. First, let me thank the people who are made my cash flow possible: Workers who demonstrated for various rights back in the 1930's (primarily). Thanks to them and workers before and after them, the Norwegian government ended up adapting several measures, inspired by the labor unions. Part of the labor law is the vacation law.

Several countries in Europe have this law. In Norway, we basically get four weeks plus one day (an extra week for those of us affected by labor unions and on top of all of this, regardless, another week for those over 60). We aren't technically paid for the time off, so the employer is required to set aside a minimum of 10,2% of our gross pay. This is paid out in May or June and is roughly two net paychecks. Vacation is not a privilege, but a right and an obligation. Your boss can't prevent you from ever taking a vacation, nor can you refuse to take one. Studies show that workers who get a minimum of three weeks off, especially consecutively, are more productive and happier at work. (Someone should tell the US to get the F--- out of the 19th century, already.)

This year's June pay slip, which is my vacation pay, also includes the 2007 bonus we qualified for (almost NOK 10,000 before taxes).

So, what do Norwegians do with all this extra cash? Some spend it on their vacation. A high number pay off bills (especially that balloon mortgage payment, something I did back when I first got my apartment) or shop with it. I will be paying off credit cards and what's left will go into savings. I can still afford a trip.

My thoughts are not on this particular annual windfall, but on bigger things. I really want to try visioning some new realities into my life. The price hike on apartments in Norway have left people like me, a single-income household, unable to manage any loan large enough to buy something decent. So, on the bus on my way to town today, I mused about an environment-friendly, energy-efficient apartment in a local building project but an apartment there the same size as the one I'm in now costs more than twice what I can afford to borrow. But I'd like to live in something like that, so I was wondering where a good 2-3 million kroner would come from. How can I attract that, attract the apartment? I need to get my mind focused on the abundance.

I have a plan: It is exactly one month until my vacation starts (July 21), so I have decided to do as the book(s) say(s): In order to get abundance, you have to completely appreciate what you already have and then be just as grateful for the new to come. So 30 days is what it takes to get a new habit, so here I go on a new habit of appreciating what I have, including my vacation pay, current apartment, my now pain-free stomach, my job and more.

When I bought the jewelry box, the clerk told me that it was hand-made in India. "Oh, I should've realized," I said, "it's decorated with elephants." The clerk told me those were symbols of good luck, especially since they were holding their trunks up high. "Who knows," she said. "Maybe you'll win the lottery."

Maybe, indeed!

Jun 20, 2008

Rainbow portent

It may be silly, but I like believing in "signs". Especially if they fit an already existing pattern. Last night I attended a sort of summer party with my department in spite of a bad weather forecast. We had some delicious seafood and wine and then went outdoors for a game of darts (for the first time in my life, every dart I threw hit the dart board but that's not the sign) when I noticed the rain had stopped. We were done and went back indoors just as the weather turned bad again for the rest of the games (ring toss). Later, we went back out to walk down to the shore and see our host's boat house (the summer party was in his cabin a mere 20 minutes from Bergen).

Clouds and wind and sunshine and rain came and went in quick succession, but every time we ventured out on one of the rainiest days of the week, we had a break in the weather. As we returned from the boathouse, we saw a double rainbow. "Rain will start soon," said one of my co-workers since that's what double rainbows herald. The drops started hitting the ground just as we all were only a few feet from the cabin.

It was a gorgeous double rainbow, and the strongest rainbow touched down in the fjord where we had just had a direct view from the boathouse. We were a bit awestruck at that. After we were back inside the cabin, I said that we had always had the best luck on our gatherings, and the fact that we'd had it now, was proof to me that we were still blessed, and still meant to carry on. When asked if I would accept the other job if offered, I said I wouldn't.

Somewhat more sober this morning, I found myself regretting that claim. After some musing about it, I realized that it isn't the job per se I want; it's the change, the newness. I love the sort of change that gives me positive challenges and I love any opportunity to learn new things. But there may be that opportunity, anyway. Even if we all stay with the department and the department survives beyond the three years, the current attitude is that we will eventually be made redundant and HR is interested in helping us get training that will help us in other jobs. I said to my co-workers that we should use that to our advantage, since we are not expected to take courses directly related to our current jobs. We have the freedom to explore all kinds of things.

It's going to be a very interesting three years, and I think they will be good.

Jun 19, 2008

Where to, honey bee?

The US is facing a possible agricultural disaster. Honey bees are vital to fruit crops because they pollinate the flowers of fruits and vegetables. But in 2006, hives were suddenly being abandoned. The bees themselves disappeared without a trace, leaving no clues behind, and no other bees came to take over the hives. The phenomenon is called colony collapse disorder. The mystery repeated itself in 2007, and now almond growers in California are very worried about their 2008 crop, since almond trees rely solely on honey bees for pollination. Other countries are reporting similar colony collapses.

The theories about why honey bees are suddenly disappearing are several: New pesticides, a more virulent virus and even disorientation from wireless networks and cell phones. This last is illustrated by the comic "Mythtickle":

The cell phone explanation seems to be based on a misunderstanding. I am relieved about that because I just got a wireless connection for my computer and I don't want to be harming bees! The good news in all this is that if it is a pesticide that is the culprit, it will be easy to reverse the problem. But first investigators have to find the culprit. There is one way: See if bees that operate in organically farmed areas are equally afflicted.

Jun 18, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Black coot family

An adult black coot with one of its children - a smaller, grayer version of its parent.

Wordless Wednesday

Jun 17, 2008

Bonfire preparations

Midsummer's Eve is on a Monday this year, so it'll be a short evening. But it'll be a big bonfire. I walked by the spot where five neighboring co-ops build their bonfire and they've collected a heap of wire spools.

Basically, it's light a fire and eat a hot dog. As a kid, finding the right length stick to use to roast a hot dog was paramount since those fires are hot. (We don't do marshmallows in Norway.) As a teenager, I and some friends got used tires from my grandma and rolled them down to the shore. After much struggle, we got them lit. A thick, ugly black smoke rose up on what must have been the rainiest day that summer, and we spent a while huddled under umbrellas, hoping no police boat would come by. As an adult I once dressed up as a witch to light the neighborhood bonfire. In the old days one sometimes would hang the figure of a witch over the fire. I was spared that fate and instead offered a free hot dog.

Another charming tradition is the one where you pick seven seasonal wildflowers, and put them under your pillow on Midsummer's Eve. Whoever you dream of that night will be your true love. I didn't dream the one time I tried it, so I can't tell you if it works or not. Maybe I should try again.

Jun 16, 2008

Forwards and back again

My job interview went very well. The job was actually far more demanding and interesting than I thought. In other words, it is a very hard job to turn down - if I get an offer. I'll know by the end of the week.

In the mean time, I went and talked to my boss about the job and he asked me if I really wanted it. I said that honestly, I'm just not ready to leave where I am.

He said that he'd been given the impression that anything could happen in three years, including rebuilding the department rather than disbanding it. His strategy was to use external companies for anything we couldn't manage ourselves, but fight to keep an in-house printers/prepress. The point is to prove the board of directors wrong.

We had a long talk, and when it was over, I realized that I'm one of the key people for our department. We really need to maintain the graphics design/prepress part. And not only that, when I heard my boss's thoughts and his strategy, I felt like staying and fighting.

After all, I really like my current job and the people I work with. But the job I applied for is so interesting it's going to hurt to say "no". This is one of those situations where I'd like fate to decide for me. This is one of those situations where I'd like to have a crystal ball.

Astrology notes:
Oddly, there is some forwards and back of interest I didn't note earlier: Pluto will be passing over my ascendent twice this year and currently is in orb. Pluto goes back across my ascendent in mid-July, and moves forward across it in early November. How will I be transformed or reinvented this year? Pluto still has the ability to reinvent itself, too. Astronomers now have a new category of bodies named after our former ninth planet: Plutoids.

Jun 15, 2008

Preparing for the interview

One of my co-workers told me about some of the questions that come up during an interview. Like where you see yourself in 5 years. (I've never known how to answer that.)

So I took a walk around the pond to do some thinking.

Why do I want this job? [I'm not sure I do. Can I think about this some more?] Because it combines a familiar task with the opportunity to learn something new and valuable for the company. What can I offer this job? Good secretarial skills, cheerful disposition and team spirit.

Name three strengths: [I'm cute, I'm funny and I make good scrambled eggs. Too bad I can't use that in an interview.] I am good with computers, love solving problems, and am responsible.

Name three weaknesses: I have trouble getting to work on time (a problem lessened if I take the bus), I tend to get irritable when stressed, and my EQ could be higher.

Where do I see myself in five years? [After some thinking, I actually have an answer.] I want to learn more about the business my company's actually in, work on my people skills and eventually try management. [And now I'm not so adverse to maybe getting this job, after all.]

Finally, I will be asking a question: What sort of boss is my potential future boss. I've had good and bad, and I now know that I want open lines of communication, openness around decision-making, and a boss who goes to bat for her employees when it comes time to get raises or necessary equipment, etc. Also, a boss who lets her employees know what they can do to earn a raise or more responsibilities.

I'm a bit nervous about my interview tomorrow even though it's not a do-or-die situation. But that is a good thing. It means I actually care.

Jun 14, 2008

Another reason to go vegetarian

I keep telling people that one of the nice things about living in Norway is the country's ban on genetically modified (GM) food. I don't want to eat the stuff, and I don't want to encourage others to grow it or eat it, either. I have seen reports that suggest that the corn crops modified are destroying natural cousins and making corn risk extinction like the banana.

Norway is the world's third largest importer of soy and imports 90% of its non-modified soy from Brazil. The soy is used primarily as animal feed. Unfortunately, Brazil is using more and more cleared land to meet the ever-increasing demand on soy. According to my local newspaper, Bergens Tidende, Brazil has increased its soy production by 157% from 1990 to 2005. Since last year, rising demand on soy has increased the price 84%. The related increased demand on already cleared land means Brazilian cattle farmers have to clear more land for grazing. And what they are clearing is rain forest.

Part of the increase in demand is due to a 40% increase in meat consumption in Norway (and, in a complete about-face, about 15 years ago fish became more expensive than meat for the first time in history). There is, of course, the issue of giving feed concentrates to cows, which function far better on their natural diet of grass. I always assumed all cows in Norway grazed, but apparently it's only the ones that give milk to our most popular milk chocolate, according to the wrapper. If I want beef that doesn't depend on Brazilian soy, I have to get some from the free-range cows of Namibia or Botswana. Save the rain forest and ship food in from Africa or continue to buy "locally", which isn't really local beyond the slaughter house?

This situation is encouraging me to go vegetarian. Oddly, sea-farmed fish are already ahead of me there. The decreasing fish population in the sea (another reason for the increase in the price of fish) and a subsequent decrease in fish meal (precious food also for poultry), have led to an increased use of soy in sea-farms. The farmed salmon is becoming less carnivorous than the people who eat it.

Jun 13, 2008

A month of opposites

June's been rather whacky so far. It's my boss's boss's last month at work before he goes off to his new job, and there are a number of informal gatherings, farewell parties and summer-vacation get-togethers. We've been informed of the end of an era, while being treated to some darn good tapas made by our own employee cafeteria's staff. One of our get-togethers will be a departmental picnic next week, at the cabin of our oldest co-worker who will be retiring in November. So many endings.

And yet, life and the routines of work go on as if nothing has happened, but a part of me keeps wanting to cry.

I can't believe how many endings this month has brought. Yes, we have been expecting some of them, but they seem to be bunching up. Much like the last month of school, there are so many "lasts".

I know that the only constant is change, but it still bugs me.

Yet, this time around I'm not as depressed as I was the first time. In fact, I'm not depressed at all. The tears are a natural grief, the genuine sorrow of having to say goodbye to a nice department and great co-workers.

Deep inside, some excitement about new things is stirring. It's fun not to get stuck in a rut. It's refreshing to find that one can be just as flexible and eager as any youngster. Oddly, this whole situation has me feeling young. I was feeling old for a while (and was cheered up by being informed that women have their mid-life crisis in their 40's), but now I feel able to rise to any challenge and learn any new skill I need quickly and easily.

I love that feeling.

Jun 12, 2008

Circa three years left

We finally got the news: Our in-house printing department will be disbanded in "circa three years". I assume that that means we have until the end of 2010, unless something else happens in the meantime

My own reaction is sadness. Several times as our boss's boss and a woman from our Human Resources department talked during the meeting we had yesterday after lunch, I teared up. I'm not worried about losing my job. It's the loss that bothers me - the loss of a really fun department with great co-workers and constantly interesting work, and the loss of being part of a division of three dozen wonderful people. I've worked here for over 10 years and the last couple of years have been wonderful.

We were told that since the company was cynical enough to cut a department that does its job well and efficiently and with a quality and cost that is as good as or better than comparable services, we must be cynical, too, and think of our own personal needs and wants and to hell with departmental loyalty. (Since we all have a lot of loyalty, that's a big pill to swallow.)

We're told that the good news is that we aren't being made redundant at this time and we have the luxury of about three years to sort out what we want to do next. HR will help with in-house training and maybe even sabbaticals and financial aid if anyone wants to go back to school to retrain. Nothing's guaranteed, but as the HR representative said, they have a very good track record for placing redundant employees and have yet to have to discharge anyone who's been downsized.

But there's still the bugaboo that if enough of us "rats" abandon ship before the three years are up, we may end up killing off the department ahead of schedule, affecting co-workers we do care about. We've also been told of some future plans a couple of other departments have, and they'd need some of the skills we currently have (we graphics designers would be of interest to the Corporate Branding department). It's nice to know, but without any definite dates or offers, we don't feel we can bank on those ideas.

All I know for sure is that there is no rush, but I will be conferring with HR this summer. I have no desire to actually leave the company, but a curiosity about what I can make happen has been awakened.

It is ironic: I have the job I have because I was once laid off and offered another position with my company, which I accepted. That job was doing the layout on user's manuals, and the training I got there is what led me into full-time graphics design. I just finished putting a 48-page full-color magazine to bed, and enjoyed every second of it.

One door closes, and another opens. The question really is: Will the next room I walk into bear any resemblance to the one I'm in now?

Astrology notes:
Mercury is currently retrograde, so I'm curious what will emerge when it goes direct on June 20. It is also currently conjuncting my natal Moon which is in my 6th house/work environment and ruled by Mercury (no wonder I teared up). Jupiter is also retrograde and just touched my Venus (natural ruler of 2nd house/income), and is currently backing towards my Saturn (natural ruler of 10th house/career, and my chart's ruler of 2nd house); Jupiter goes direct Sept. 8, and in October conjuncts my Saturn, and by my birthday will pass over my Venus. In the meantime, Saturn's creeping up on my natal Pluto and North Node, in my 9th house. The idea of more education does intrigue me.

Jun 11, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Rainy day pansy

For Alice: A bit of rain captured on a pansy.

Wordless Wednesday

Jun 10, 2008

I knew I left something out

One of my daily reads is Ralph Marsden's Daily Motivator. Today's said this:

Changing conditions

When conditions change for the worse, there is no need to despair. For you have the ability to respond.

With every new problem there are plenty of new opportunities. Every setback represents a new starting point from which you can raise yourself to higher levels of purposeful achievement.

Just because things have changed is no reason to give up. In fact, that makes your worthwhile goal even more valuable.

There is always a way to get where you have chosen to go. Each challenge gives you new ways to add value to your dream.

Always, life is overwhelmingly abundant. When conditions change, you have the chance to see aspects of that abundance that you did not previously know were there.

Pause for a moment, take a deep breath, assess the situation, and re-focus yourself on the path you have chosen. Then step boldly and enthusiastically forward with more positive determination than ever.

-- Ralph Marston

Marston's words are so appropriate (and encouraging) for what's going on right now (did I mention I have a job interview on Monday? Oy.), but I do see I've skipped a step: What path?

That is so typical me. All my life I've just let things happen. Only when my back's been against the wall do I look for another direction to move in. Well, I'll sometimes move a little sooner, but I've never sat down with pen and paper and worked out a plan with strategies and due dates and stuff and then gone ahead and carried out said plan.

I still think that would be too detailed for me, but I'm sure there's a happy medium to be found. Like maybe just settling on a general direction - away from both walls and detailed lists. Honestly, I'm just happy to be in motion. When I heard that a couple of other co-workers had applied for jobs, I let myself be inspired by them, and applied for one, too. I am very happy I have chosen not to let myself get stuck, not to let inertia make decisions, but actually try to influence my future, or at least give myself some options.

I am extremely curious about what will pan out on Monday. This is a wonderful position to be in: New opportunities arising while still in a safe place. No final decisions have been made except one: Do my best, wherever I am.

Jun 9, 2008

Me and Macs

I rarely talk about the computer and operating system that make my life on the world wide web possible, but unless you're brand spanking new to this blog, you know I use a Mac. I just don't talk about it much.

There are a couple of reasons for that: One is that there are plenty of blogs and web sites that will tell you about the Mac and any user experience with it. Another is that I get my dose of "Mac writing" when I post to the Norwegian Mac Usenet group.

It's weird that a brand of computer leads one into what almost seems like an exclusive country club, but it's been an entirely enjoyable experience: I have found a bunch of Norwegians who are non-conformists in a country that swears by Microsoft and Windows, and who are also extremely helpful to anyone who happens to have a Mac.

I use a Mac because after several years of printers not talking to DOS 2.x - and my job consisting of running around setting DIP-switches for other users, I was amazed that someone had already made a PC that instantly communicated with its printer. That was in late 1990, and I've used a Mac at work since. In 1997, I also got a Mac at home, and access to the internet. I've gotten pretty good at solving problems by myself - aided by the Usenet newsgroup and Google - and the Mac has also helped me navigate Windows (I left other PCs behind when DOS was still in use).

So why this blog post tonight? One reason is the live feed from Apple's keynote in San Francisco, monitored in a browser window, and commented on with fellow Norwegian Mac-users in iChat. The other reason is that I have an in-house job interview on Monday (yay!) and if I should get/take the job, I will no longer be using a Mac at work. I'll have to get used to Windows, but that'll just be fun. I'm a bit of a nerd, and I love learning new stuff. But after about 18 years of Mac using, it's going to be weird not having one on my desk any more.

PS: Finally! The iPhone is coming to Norway!

Jun 8, 2008

I can haz ICHC brayk

Today the rain came - with somewhat cooler temps but increased humidity (sheesh) - and I got the get-up-and-go to swap a couple of shelf units so I could get my microwave oven off my kitchen table. That project took me about 3 hours, including a couple of coffee breaks, during which I registered with I Can Has Cheezburger, and committed, among other things…

…starring my former calico cat and current IKEA sofa.

My goal in life is to be as funny as the other ICHC contributors. And finish reorganizing the shelf units.

Jun 7, 2008

Shower products

What with the weather being what it has been for the past couple of weeks, the bedroom window is constantly open. Sometimes I'll catch a whiff of cigarette smoke in my bedroom. It drifts in if a smoker pauses by my window. Well, I thought it was smoke. I kept catching a whiff of something a bit smokey. No, a bit after-shavey.

And every time I shifted in bed, I'd smell it again.

Oh.

It's me. Or rather, my new liquid shower soap scented with patchouli and sandalwood. That last is just musky enough to confuse my nose. And it is also one reason I got a really good laugh from this tongue-in-cheek exploration in gender differences in personal hygiene:

Jun 6, 2008

Not even UFOs can stand the test of time

Norway's channel NRK2 ran a couple of documentaries on UFOs followed by "Close Encounter of the Third Kind". I taped it and finally sat down to watch it. I was delighted with the movie when it first came out. Now, the ending seems too cute and too easy. More importantly, though, I've discovered that my own fascination with UFOs has faded. It was a somewhat cynical Keera who watched (a very young) Richard Dreyfuss try to sculpt with mashed potatoes.

What really got me, though, as a former New Age buff and heavily into the mystique of UFOs at one time, was that I no longer could remember what the heck the first two close encounters were. It's almost like losing one's religion. An entire area of interest and belief had faded away and stuff I used to know and discuss regularly is not even a clear memory any more.

I still have the fascination. I'd still like to see something like the plot in Carl Sagan's "Contact" come true. I'd love for the people involved in SETI to pick up a signal pattern that is regular but not explainable. Oh, what a stir that would create! Just writing that is making me feel tingly all over.

As for claims of abduction and whether or not Area 51 is really hiding a space ship, I guess I grew up, and have chosen not to put much stock in those things.

But as I watched "CE3K" again, I found myself missing the absolute delight and satisfaction I had when I first saw it. Aliens finally show up and return the missing crew from the equally missing Flight 19, and all I can think seeing it 30 years later is, "So, aliens do jazz. And breathe our air. Meh."

Well, maybe that last isn't cynicism. Maybe the movie just wasn't that great and I forgot all the critical reviews at the time.

I would love to get lost in a story again, however, about some possibility that may change humanity. A real daydream that pulls me out of the ordinary, day-to-day stuff, and even penetrates my skepticism and cynicism, leaving only a child-like wonder. That would give me absolute delight and satisfaction.

Jun 5, 2008

And then it's all OK again

This week has been a very good week at work for me. I've been doing something I love to do (the layout of a 48-page magazine all by myself), and the sun's been shining.

My department is still waiting to hear the final outcome, but in the mean time, two co-workers went ahead and applied for other jobs in-house. That's when I realized that loyalty be damned - look out for number 1! So I applied for a job, too.

I'm going to spend the weekend re-learning how to write a resumé, because it's been ages since I last had to, and I've forgotten how.

But the very act of applying for a job did something: It proved to me that I could take action, it removed some inertia, and it created a desire to do even a job application well.

Today, my company threw a summer party. Over 500 employees in the employee cafeteria, treated to a buffet dinner and free bar (wine and beer), and a big band to dance to. And in the midst of wondering if anyone cares and do I really want to stay with this company comes the joy of being with co-workers, familiar and not so familiar, circulating, meeting new people, reconnecting with others, and generally reaffirming that this really is a nice place to spend the 20 years until retirement. Just find a way to be happy doing so. The fact that I could drink wine and my stomach didn't protest once also helped.

So on a warm summer's night, with clear blue skies above me and the sun not yet set, I find myself completely cheered and encouraged.

Jun 3, 2008

Too hot to handle

It's nice to have lovely weather. We've now had such a long stretch of dry, sunny weather that the fire departments in all of western Norway are on special alert. It won't take much to start a fire with everything as dry as it is.

Unlike my native California, everything's green and lush and we're not yet required to conserve water. And there's humidity.

I can't remember Bergen being humid before, but with these odd weather patterns (or glitches - can't really say there's a pattern), Bergen has acquired that new quality when it's hot. Used to be it was hot and the sky was clear and that was that. Now it's hot and cloudy at the same time. And the clouds shut the heat in and humidity rises.

Of course we are all enjoying the sunshine. After bundling up all winter, it is wonderfully liberating to be barefoot in sandals and never need a jacket. That is the advantage. The disadvantage is that it's too hot to move around in. At least for me. Haven't got the hang of humidity yet.

So what's a heat wave like at 60 North? 25C/77F in the shade here, 34C/93F in the direct sunshine, but some places have 27C/81F in the shade. But no one calls it a heat wave here. Here, it's just perfect summer weather. Heat waves are what they have on the continent - you know, those things the newspapers write about because someone died.

I wonder how hot it has to get before even the Norwegians complain?

Jun 2, 2008

Support?

This ad I happened to come across gives a peculiar but oddly appropriate description of presidential candidate Barack Obama (except, perhaps, for the size).

(It's an ad for a magnet.)

Jun 1, 2008

How to uncover your wholeness

Lately, all my reading and listening to the webcasts from Oprah's shows on "A New Earth" with Eckhart Tolle, keeps pointing out that we are essentially whole. The body is essentially healthy; disease is layered on top of the health. Our souls are also well, seeming not to be only because of a clutter of pain and fear layered on top. And all my reading and listening says that if you stop dwelling on the thoughts of pain and fear, you will automatically become whole - or more correctly, rediscover your wholeness. The habitual backdrop of pain and fear in your thinking can be stopped using several methods, but they all have one similarity: Replace an undesirable thought with a better one.

When I attended a local course on the Law of Attraction, the habitual bad thoughts were identified as those that often contain the word "not". When you start speaking in negatives - "I can't lose weight" or "I don't like my job" - the way to take control is to stop and ask yourself what you do want. It's positive, proactive, empowering and calming to reframe your thoughts like that, as well as helping you become aware of what you'd rather have in life.

Eckhart Tolle says that the way to deal with habitual bad thinking and resultant emotional reactions - not by repressing them, but by acknowledging them and becoming aware of their triggers. That last means trying to notice when you have an emotional reaction that is too big or strong for the situation that provoked it. Then you've identified a pain that is interfering with your wholeness. Observe it and try to feel what it has to say to you, then let it move on. Let yourself move on. Tolle encourages us to focus on staying in the present moment, in the now. When you do, it's impossible to worry.

Another technique, which I've used the most, is to use affirmations. In one sense, an affirmation is the way to answer the question "What do I want?" By wording yourself using a positive, affirmative, present-tense sentence whenever the undesirable thought or reaction occurs, you can reprogram your reaction. Better still is to use the affirmation pro-actively, before the situation that can trigger a pain reaction is likely to happen.

With all of the above, you can stop and take a deep breath to give yourself a moment to help you center yourself. You can use this breath both to help you become more aware and to avert the negativity.

All of the above methods get easier with practice. The speed with which you will recognize when you are slipping into an automatic and negative reaction will be quicker and quicker as you practice on becoming more aware. It takes 3-4 weeks to get a new habit, and the nice thing about a habit like this is the feeling you get from dedicating several minutes a day (and more than once a day, if you want) to thinking good thoughts about yourself and your wants. It imparts both peace and joy.