Jul 29, 2008

Now, this I'd drive!

I tripped over the car for me! It's a hybrid, in more than one way: It can run on either gas or electricity and can be recharged on the existing grid and it is both motorcycle and car! I can totally see myself in one of these things (room for a passenger, too). Speed and ease while being environmentally friendly.

Now that you've watched that, go here and check out the video from the boys at Top Gear. I totally get their enthusiasm! It gave me a good laugh.

(Tripped over at the Norwegian arkitekturnytt.no.)

Jul 26, 2008

Hot!

I have never seen my barometer this high since I got it for Christmas - a whopping 1055 mb. Can't say I've seen the humidity this high, either, (it's pointing at 60; sorry about the flash) and this is indoors!

It's around 11 am and my balcony, which is in the shade on the west side of my apartment, is showing 24C/75F. We are expecting 28C/82F in the shade today. That is very unusual!

The morning sun has been warming up my east-facing kitchen all morning and the temperature there is 28C/82F - which explains the liquifying coconut oil in my cupboard.

It was hotter yesterday, though, at 30C/86F in the shade. When I open my balcony door, the sun hits the thermometer on it and I get to watch the needle soar over 42C/108F. Unlike the natives, I seek shade and stay still. I know we need to stock up on sunshine and that this weather is a blessing, but I'm still a California girl in the sun.

Jul 24, 2008

Ack…

Inspiration is just not hitting me. I have truly gone on vacation and that includes the blog. I mean, it's 3 pm and I've hardly just finished breakfast. (Which looked like this today. I couldn't finish it; I had to have oatmeal. I am simply not someone who can have only fruit for one meal; yes, it's an experiment - short-lived, at that. But I solved the whole crossword puzzle! Yay!)

I am now wondering if I should just make it official. Just say to heck with blogging 365 days and say nothing happening here, folks, move along. I mean, the most exciting thing I'm up to these days is watching all 16 episodes of "Surface" on DVD (9 down, 7 to go).

My absence would be only temporary. I'm sure that the moment I leave the house and actually do something (besides show up at the grocery store as the Official Offerer of a Ten Kroner Piece so shoppers without the correct coin can get a cart when I'm done with my cart), I'll have something interesting to say.

So let's just give this blogging a rest for about a week, say, shall we?

You know, I'm really trying to talk myself into taking a break…

Why do I feel guilty?

Watch this space. Who knows what'll happen?

Jul 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Honesty or irony?

Wordless Wednesday - The rather large "Modest V"

Jul 22, 2008

Learning from the radio

Since I'm home, I'm indulging in listening to daytime radio. Radio's always educational, and so far today I have learned that the reason for low doorways on older farms was to be able to knock an intruder on the head as he entered. Having lived in such an old farmhouse myself, I instantly thought a lot of Norwegians must have been pretty tall in the old days, too. My grandpa was 5'9" and cleared the door by a good inch.

Something else I have learned is that Norway has not kept up with other nations in regards to copyright expiration for music. In Norway, the expiration is after 50 years, at which point a song becomes public domain. Arne Bendiksen, a cheerful native of Bergen who has spent his life sharing both thoughtful and funny songs, is now working hard to change Norway's copyright law. Bendiksen is now 81 and songs he wrote at age 30 are already in the public domain. He no longer has the right to royalties from his own earliest work. He said in an interview today that Norway has simply ignored that newer technology has made it possible to keep music longer and for people to make their own recordings. He mentioned a youthful hobby of mine (and many others): Taping favorites off the radio with our cassette recorders.

Listening to Bendiksen's older songs on the show today made me think of something else. As Bendiksen described playing for people his own age in nursing homes, it occurred to me that I'm a bit lost musically. One of the things that bonds people, is sharing common music, especially the music of our youth. Lullabies are our first taste of musical tradition that bonds us as a people. Later on, evergreens and popular music give us a common memory. My musical memories are quite choppy. Although I share teen memories and habits with Norwegians my age, I share few children's songs. The ones I learned in school are forgotten. I also didn't have parents who listened to Norwegian evergreens so there are songs in that category I am not familiar with. Me, I'd feel more at home with Lawrence Welk and Burl Ives.

I can only hope that if I end up in a nursing home here, they'll play Chicago.

Jul 21, 2008

Since I'm not at work

I'm still vegging. Hopefully, inspiration will strike soon. In the meantime, there's this:

What Your Workspace Says About You
You are an organized and detail oriented person. You have your life in order.

You are hardworking and driven. You have an excellent work ethic.

You enjoy your job and don't feel guilty about how much time you spend working. You have a good balance between work and your personal life.

You don't switch careers often, and you intend to stay at your current job for a long time.

At work, you tend to be an extrovert. You enjoy working with other people and drawing people into your work space.

More or less accurate. That last statement is because I answered "yes" to keeping food out. I have a bowl of trail mix sitting on the table next to my desk, but people don't actually come in to my office to eat from it. I'll bet that if I had candy in that dish, they would!

Jul 20, 2008

In a fit of irony

…there's this, since I have absolutely no inspiration whatsoever for a blog post.

You Are 67% Creative
You are beyond creative. You are a true artist - even if it's not in the conventional sense of the word.
You love creating for its own sake, and you find yourself quite inspired at times.

"[Y]ou find yourself quite inspired at times." This isn't one of them. I need more coffee.

Jul 19, 2008

A moment in shopping

I am one of those people who thinks 8 am is an ungodly hour and that being up and dressed and finished with breakfast by noon is early enough. At least on weekends. But since I had a coffee date with a friend at noon, I was up and dressed somewhat earlier and at the supermarket a little after 10 am. That was to make sure I didn't have to worry about making it to the store before they close at 6 pm. Mustn't rush coffee dates.

10 am on a Saturday is quiet and I had a peaceful walk to the store, which was almost devoid of people. Nice.

On an earlier but recent visit to the grocery store, I met an English employee who showed me the stand where the reusable and foldable shopping bags were. (In spite of a stand as tall as me, the bags were amazingly easy to overlook.) One advantage, she said, was that the handles were so large, you could carry the bags over your shoulder. Good point. I bought two.

Today I got that rare Norwegian check-out clerk who was both cheerful, smiling and chatty. I expect it with American checkers and there the chit-chat tends to relax me. Here, I am still thrown by the behavior and am never too sure how much chatting back to do. But I did respond, and when the girl asked me if I wanted a bag (large, plastic, a bargain at NOK 0.70), I grinningly held up my recent purchase of the environmentally friendly reusable shopping bag (large, nylon, and hopefully a bargain at NOK 16.90). "Oh, you bought one! Wonderful idea, yes?" I agreed, but pointed out that they were amazingly easy to overlook in spite of being in plain view, and I gestured towards the stand only a few feet from our check-out lane.

Eavesdropping can be a very good habit. I have learned a lot by listening to the conversations of other customers. Today, it was my turn to say something that helped another customer. The moment I pointed out the stand of reusable bags, the man behind me in line bolted over to it and got himself one. Upon returning, he commented that it would be better to display the bags at the check-outs themselves. True.

Customers bag their own groceries in Norway, and he and I exchanged smiles as we stuffed our respective groceries into our respective environmentally friendly bags. (He was easy on the eyes, too. ;-) )

The logo on the front is the store I shop in, and the bag has a text on the back which is a cute play on words in Norwegian: "En pose som varer. Til varer." It loosely translates to, "A bag that wears. For wares." And yes, that is ecological frozen pizza sticking up out of my bag. It tasted very good.

Jul 18, 2008

On protective bacteria, mysterious violins and meaningful musicians

I'm vegging. That means a lot of surfing (and catching up on reading). A few things I have tripped over that make me go hmm:

  • The bacteria helicobakter pylori, which a few years ago was found to be the real reason for stomach ulcers, may actually be protecting children from asthma. With cleaner water and modern antibiotics, the prevalence of the ancient bacteria in newborns is shrinking, while at the same time, asthma is on the rise. Now, I've been having some stomach trouble, and thought that if I really have an ulcer, I need to have that doctor of mine give me a round of antibiotics. Now I'm not so sure. (Actually, I think I just need to watch what I eat.)
  • The Dutch have figured out Stradivarius's secret: Wood density. Generations have been baffled about how violin makers Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù made their instruments produce such rich sounds. Thanks to the latest technology, it is now possible to look at the wood itself in the precious violins, without destroying the instruments. The findings: The wood in musical instruments made in the 18th century was denser than today's wood. I have been within 8 feet of a Strad (and its owner, Norwegian violinist Arve Tellefsen), who made his violin seem alive.
  • Who plays the music does make a difference to the listener. Most studies involving music, used "canned" music. One study decided to not only test the effect of "canned" music on the listener, but also the same music played by a human (with emotion, you know). The study found that the test subjects could tell the difference. Or, rather, their brains could. I am currently reading the book "The 7 Secrets of Sound Healing" by Jonathan Goldman. One of the secrets is intention. Goldman has found that sound alone has no effect; the intention of the person playing it (or even while composing it) factors in.

Jul 17, 2008

Now I'll do all those

…things I meant to do before my vacation started. Like dishes, and laundry, and decluttering, and rearranging of furniture, and more decluttering, and my nails, and my yoga, and…

You know how it is when you are about to shift gears? Like noticing it's only a half hour until lunch so that big project you want to start on gets put off until after lunch so you can have a bigger slice of continuous time for it. Or starting that diet you needed in September after New Year's because you know you'll be eating a lot in December, anyway. Or you're about to go on vacation which will be partially spent at home, so all tasks get postponed until vacation time.

So I have all these things to catch up on, to do, to finish, to start, to make a habit of, to rekindle a former habit with, to… Oh, you get the picture. Wait, that reminds me: Finish sorting photo album and rehang paintings.

But I'm vegging till Monday. For sure.

Jul 16, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - China pink

Wordless Wednesday

In Norway, it's called a Chinese carnation - Dianthus chinensis.

Jul 15, 2008

Legal listening

(No, this is not about letting telecoms get away with illegal wiretaps.)

You Are a Mac
You are creative, stylish, and super trendy.
You demand the best - even if it costs an arm and a leg.

OK, obviously, if you don't even have Internet Explorer, you're most likely not on a PC, but what really cracked me up was the question, "How much of the music on your computer is paid for?"

That reminded me of the discussion at work after we all got our iPod Shuffles. Whether on a Mac or a PC, you have to have iTunes to set up the iPod. And iTunes also offers a web store for buying music. I shop there a lot. (Buying music is my one addiction. Listening to it and ignoring the clock/housework/whatever is my other addiction.) So I told my co-workers that you can either rip your own CDs or buy music for NOK 8 a song (or albums for the price of 10 songs, usually). The youngest ones and those with teenagers at home, instantly wrinkled their noses and started talking about free downloads. I suggested diplomatically that unless the website states specifically that it's free, one should assume that all music should be paid for.

The following day I got a cautious question from another co-worker who'd been listening in: Do the songs really cost only NOK 8 each? And can you listen before you buy? Yes and yes.

I prefer to be honest and be fair. I have no trouble paying for what I want and if I don't have the money, I simply do not buy. But there are quite a few people who get instantly greedy if offered the choice between "free" and "cheap". NOK 8 a song is cheap (as is 99 cents, the US price). I see no reason to wrinkle my nose at that price. I wonder if iTunes, with its quality and pricing, makes it easier to be a law-abiding music lover?

Jul 14, 2008

The nice, little things

"It is the little things in life that comfort us, because it is the little things in life that bother us." —Pascal [1]

After a couple of summers of not bothering with flowers on my balcony, I felt inspired this year and bought pansies, which are not only a favorite flower, but also a flower I manage to maintain. So after enjoying my one window box for a while, and since I won't be leaving home for weeks at a time this year, I indulged in planting a second window box, this time with Chinese carnations, a flower I'd had success with earlier.

It is one of those oddities in life that the people who enjoy doing dishes bare-handed often wear gloves while digging in the dirt, and vice-versa. I use rubber gloves when washing up, but I love feeling the soil between my fingers as I break up lumps and set the little plants in holes I've dug in the dirt. So, on a hot summer's day 10 days ago, I pored fresh soil into my empty window box, set the carnations in it, then stood to hang the box up.

That's when I realized I had nothing to hang the box on. In a decluttering frenzy earlier this spring, I had tossed out the old rusty ones I had.

I spent Saturday hunting for the metal hangers but had no luck, whatsoever. They all said, try a nursery. Those are, by nature, located where they have enough room to show their larger plants and so are not downtown and hardly near a bus. I spent Saturday evening trying to work out which one was near a bus line, and then, whether or not that bus ran on Sundays (in Norway, nurseries are the only stores, besides kiosks, that are allowed to be open on Sundays). It felt like more work than it was worth. The hangers cost less than the round-trip bus fare.

I actually said to myself at one point, "You're always lucky, Keera. Where'd your luck go now?"

That's when I decided not to fuss any more and certainly not on Sunday, so I left it all to Monday when I could call a nursery closer to home (though a good walk up a hill). I told a friend at work about my unexpected challenge, and then I never got around to making that phone call.

Which was a good thing, because the next day my friend texted me and said he'd found some and just went ahead and bought them. The sweetie!

So now my new flowers are where they should be (if not angled perfectly), and I am still a lucky girl.

[1] I have tried to find an online source/verification for the above quote because it is such a wonderful quote, but I can't, so I'll trust that my memory is accurate. UPDATE: Max found the original; see comments. My version is translated from the Norwegian translation I had first read.

Jul 13, 2008

Mobile Me

It's been a somewhat nerdy Sunday. After successfully solving all the sudoku puzzles in a couple of newspapers, I then tackled the computer. Apple has upgraded and changed its online service "dot Mac" to "Mobile Me". So I spent a little while this afternoon upgrading to a cloud.

When that was done, Apple offered me yet another store to shop in. *swoon* So now I'm looking for the next great to-do list app. On my aging Zire 72 (now used only for more sudoku games) I had HandyShopper, the neatest little app and best reason ever for sticking with the Palm OS. It isn't just a to-do list; it's multiple databases. And it is free. One can only hope that it will reincarnate on the iPhone/iPod Touch. But until then, I'll be surfing the new store for alternatives. Whee!

Jul 12, 2008

Hotel California

I've been vegging, watching Italian murder mysteries set in Sicily (beautiful), reading British murder mysteries set in Cambridge (beautiful), and catching up on the latest episodes of favorite series, including "Dead Like Me". I am fascinated by series and movies that deal with the afterlife, but what prompted me to write, is my desire to leave a number of internet groups, also known as networks (like Facebook).

You see, in one episode of "Dead Like Me", the main character states that she was never a joiner. She was never a member of any club, and couldn't really see the point in joining. I was never the member of any club, either, unless I had some specific need to be, like joining the German club because it meant hanging out with the kids in my high school German class, or the Glendale lodge of Sons of Norway because it gave me a connection to Norway (I have no incentive to join the Bergen lodge; I don't have Norwegian relatives in the US). My high school had an international club and all the foreign exchange students were required to join; I never even checked it out. I joined nothing that would be helpful on a resumé.

So I've been looking over all these internet sites that ask you to register, which I did. My life is littered with logins and passwords for networks/sites/forums I no longer use or want. But I am finding that joining is easy; leaving is another matter altogether.

Facebook only lets you suspend your account, not remove it. NaNoWriMo (I'm not a novelist, so I doubt I'll bother again) offers no way of deleting accounts but will cull unused accounts after a year of disuse (darn, why did I log in today looking for information on unregistering?). I've recently joined another group, InterNations, and am at a complete loss as to why I bothered. Not only do they use terms that baffle me (I don't know what they mean by "scout"), but something about the "crowd" has revisited an old feeling on me: I feel out of place. I am just a regular blue-collar girl with a paycheck to match, thrown into a crowd of master degreed professionals relocated by their employers. And the "local" group they offer me to join? Oslo. Meh. I want to unregister but it looks like I have to send an actual snail mail letter to Germany to do so.

Like the song says: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

UPDATE: I had e-mailed InterNations asking how to cancel, and now I got an e-mail stating that they had deleted my account for me.

Jul 11, 2008

Needing to chill

Today was the first day of my two weeks alone in "customer reception" where I felt was on top of things and even had some time to goof off (meaning, surf the 'net). It's been busy, but busy's good. Busy is far better than bored. (I can't believe how fast these two weeks have flown!)

In other news, I'm not really in a writing mood these days. I want input more than I want to output. I want to immerse myself in my books, in learning something, in musing over it, and letting stuff digest, without the distraction of racking my brain for something to say - especially before I'm ready to say it.

Still, I do want to keep up a daily blog, but you may find yourself subjected to more stuff like this for a while:

You Are Electronic Music
You are energetic and expressive. You love feeling alive.
You never get sick of your favorite things - they're what makes life special.
You don't take tradition or conventions too seriously. You live for the future.
You enjoy remixes and re-interpretations of things. Life is about making improvements.

Another week to go before summer vacation. Not a moment too soon!

Jul 10, 2008

Keera Ann Fox goes to the moon

I'm sending my name to the moon. My name - Keera Ann Fox - gets a ride with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, on a microchip. I love the idea of getting to send my name. Makes me go back to the giddy days of the 1960's and the space race and those who first orbited the moon.

Go here and send your name to the moon, too! You have until July 25.

(Thanks to Neatorama.)

Jul 9, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Giving gigabytes

Wordless Wednesday
My employer has given each employee a 2GB Special Edition iPod shuffle; Apple donates part of the price to the fight against AIDS in Africa.

Jul 8, 2008

The end of my roll in the universe?

My blog title is a bit more dramatic than the reality behind it, but it does echo the thought that ran through my mind as I read about the EU suggestion to register and quality-control bloggers. The member of the European parliament (MEP) who made the proposal, Estonian Marianne Mikko, sounds like she wants to ensure the right free speech without inviting slander or outright lies published by unaccountable bloggers due to anonymity. But the reactions in Sweden and Norway suggest that Mikko's desire to monitor the blog world may end up throttling it. From the EU Observer May 2:

Ms Mikko also worries that who the authors of weblogs are is not always made clear to readers, and that there are regular concerns regarding the impartiality and reliability of blogs. What is the legal situation of bloggers regarding source protection? Should they adhere to journalist ethical codes? Where is liability assiged [sic] in the event of lawsuits?

As a result, the MEP also calls for a clarification of the legal status of weblog authors and wants to see a disclosure of interests and the voluntary labelling of weblogs. Interestingly, the UK's National Union of Journalists new media section – who recently signed up the world's first unionised professional blogger - is currently drafting a voluntary code of conduct for bloggers that can be applied as a widget on any blog, similar to a 'fair trade' sticker on a bunch of bananas or packet of coffee.

And from an EU Observer article June 4:

The committee found that the increased use of the users own videos and photos on the internet does not always respect the privacy of citizens and public figures, and they believe that legal means need to be provided in order protect those concerns.

MEPs were also worried that the legal situation of bloggers regarding source protection is unclear, as where liability should be assigned in the event of lawsuits, and recommended that blogs and their authors be taken out of this legal limbo.

In addition, the deputies want to see a disclosure of interests and the voluntary labelling of weblogs and the establishment of a right to reply to those felt unjustly portrayed in a blog.

If any of the above gets passed into law in the EU, it may end up pertaining to EFTA nations and that means that Norwegian and Icelandic bloggers would be affected, too, if there is no protection of the right to free speech no matter the media or method. I don't like the idea of being forced to watch myself or even give up my blog just because someone else happily invades other people's privacy.

There is something else bugging the Scandinavians in all this, too: Sweden recently passed a rather un-Swedish law allowing its armed forces to monitor any electronic communication (the US' latest export: paranoia). And I mean any. Since a lot of Norwegian electronic communication to the rest of the world gets routed via Swedish servers, Swedish defense could intercept Norwegian e-mails, like the ones between Norway and the US regarding fighter jets, for example (the Norwegian Department of Defense is currently negotiating plane purchases with both Sweden and the US). Swedish-Finnish telecom giant TeliaSonera has already started to reroute its Finnish internet traffic around Sweden.

So I watch and wait - and hope that both Norwegian and Swedish (and EU) legislators stop and say, "This isn't us, this isn't how we do things. Let's go back to being the annoyingly idealistic democracies the US has always hated us for." Heh. I never thought I'd want the left to come out swinging again, but the world doesn't need McCarthyism Part 2. Or "1984".

Jul 7, 2008

Swiss cheese nation

The easiest way to make a straight road in Norway, is by tunneling through its ancient mountains. Easy, but not cheap. You see, with all the bedrock that makes up Norway, you have to blast through tons of it, anyway, and the advantage to tunnels is that they can shorten a trip and also give a reprieve from the weather.

Tunnels in Norway are fascinating. They are generally dark and you see the raw rock of the innards of the mountain you're driving through. Other places I've been where I've driven through tunnels (like Hamburg or Los Angeles), the tunnels have had their entire walls and ceiling covered in white tile. Only recently did someone come up with the idea of painting the insides of Norwegian tunnels white. What a difference it makes! The photograph, stolen from my local newspaper, shows the effect.

That photograph is from "my" tunnel, by the way, a relatively dinky two kilometers long, that gently slopes downhill from Fyllingsdalen to the Bergen side. The tunnel goes under a saddle between the mountains Damsgård and Løvstakken that used to be a summer dairy farm. When the tunnel is closed due to repairs or something, we drive up and over the former dairy area and down a switchback road in an older and charming part of town. It's a regular bus route and the narrowness reminds me mostly of my childhood bus trips on similar roads. (The fun multiplies if the road is icy.)

On his first trip to Fyllingsdalen, my uncle actually got a bit anxious in "our" tunnel. The two kilometers were quite long to an American who wasn't used to this type of spelunking-by-motor-vehicle. I remember the first time I drove through the 7.5 kilometer long tunnel between Granvin and Bruravik in Hardanger (the dramatic part) on my way to Ulvik. At the time, that was the longest tunnel I'd ever traveled through; those seven plus kilometers felt interminable, and I could feel the claustrophobia start. The second, third and fourth times through went without a hitch, I'm happy to say. You get used to them. With more and more and longer and longer tunnels, most Norwegians handle the phenomenon just fine. I do pity the few who have panic attacks and are constantly forced to drive around on the old narrow roads (if they are still open and maintained). They have a real challenge because all of Norway seems determined to lay every piece of new highway in a hole in the hillside, especially here in the western part where there is nothing but hillside. Hence the swiss cheese reference.

Why all this talk of tunnels? Because I'll be seeing a very special on on my vacation this year - the Lærdalstunnel. I'm actually excited about it. At 24.5 kilometers, it's the world's longest road tunnel, and the first one in Norway to have roundabouts inside so you can turn around. It also has special lighting effects at these roundabouts to break up the monotony and keep drivers awake. And it's a nice white otherwise, not a blackness that swallows the annoyingly dull yellow light Norwegian tunnels usually have. (I honestly feel better in pitch darkness with my brights catching cat's eyes if the tunnel doesn't have white sides.) In three weeks, I'll be travelling through this tunnel from the Sognefjord on my way up to the top of the watershed and on to Trondheim. I hope we stop so I can take pictures!

Jul 6, 2008

Religionsdebatt: Trenger språk

Vel, jeg rotet meg inn på en religionsdebatt på news. Jeg hadde mye på hjertet, men valgte i stedet å poste noe av det her, i stedet for der.

Utgangspunktet er altså Richard Dawkins. Tilhengerne hans sier bl.a. at Dawkins forholder seg til rasjonelle vitenskapelige metoder. Jeg påstår at Dawkins ikke forholder seg til vitenskapelige metoder, ellers hadde han tatt høyde for all data ang. religion. Han har i stedet valgt å fokusere kun på ekstremistene innenfor religion. Og det er det jeg har problemer med å godta hva gjelder Dawkins' forskning.

Så til det jeg skrev som jeg fant ut passet like greit her:

USA har ingen statskirke, ergo ingen majoritetsreligion (om man ser bort fra kristendom som et hele). USA har langt flere små, uavhengige trossamfunn enn hva f.eks. Skandinavia har, og med det mener jeg trossamfunn som har medlemsliste, møtelokale, osv. Det gir langt større valgmulighet og det kan også være grunnen til at folk som er lei vanlig kristendom ikke må søke ateismen, slik jeg har inntrykk av at man gjør i Norge, for frikirkene i Norge har en tendens til å være til høyre for statskirken. USAs minoritetsreligionene er heller ikke nødvendigvis erkekonservative eller isolasjonistiske; de som oppfører seg normalt havner ikke i media.

Det bør nevnes at republikanernes slagside mot erkekonservativ kristendom er et relativt nytt fenomen som opptrådte begrenset og isolert før 70-tallet. Før det var det typisk republikansk å passe på skillet mellom stat og kirke og, enda viktigere, stat og individ. Dagens republikanske parti har kun navnet felles med partiets historie (men går vi langt nok tilbake, får vi slavefrigjøreren Abraham Lincoln som republikaner (og ateist), så partiet har skiftet ham flere ganger).

Likevel er det langt mer religionsaksept i USA enn i Norge. I USA har det vært vanligere å fortelle folk at man har en gudstro enn å tie om det; der borte spør de gjerne hvilken. I Norge blir man ikke spurt; det antas at man er kristen. Det vises ingen nysgjerrighet, og det vises liten vilje til dialog og ønske om å forstå hvis det skulle vise seg at man er en sånn "overtroisk" en. Dette i seg selv går imot den vitenskapelige metode, så her kan det ikke være rasjonalitet som styrer (noe ateistene liker å påstå). Jeg tror snarere at nordmenn ikke har for vane å diskutere slike ting (jeg vil tro at kirkens historiske makt over individet og manglende aksept for dem som ville stå utenfor har mye av skylden). Resultatet, har jeg observert, er at nordmenn er noe fattige hva gjelder religiøse begreper, dvs. de mangler et språk som tillater en trosfilosofisk diskusjon mellom lekfolk. De som lefler med new age o.l. har fått et språk, men den er ikke blitt en del av andre nordmenns hverdag og passer ikke alltid inn med tradisjonelle begreper. Som et eksempel viser jeg til oversettelsen av romanen "Illusions: The Story of a Reluctant Messiah". Norsk tittel: "Illusjoner - Kristus flyr igjen". Jesus Kristus var aldri nevnt i boken, men jeg lurer på om nordmenn er så kjent med begrepet "kristus" at de kan løsrive det fra Jesus; jeg vet at jeg selv ikke gjorde det da jeg først hørte tittelen (jeg skylder på norsk skolegang med kristendomsundervisning og den lille katekisme). "Kristus" og "messias" betyr begge "den utvalgte" så tittelen er ikke så på jordet (for å si det sånn) som jeg først trodde.

Noe annet som kan ta livet av en god diskusjon er å hele tiden møte kommentarer som "irrasjonell, idiotisk, overtroisk" i stedet for respekt, toleranse og nysgjerrighet (og fra de erkeomvendte, begreper som synd, hedensk, og blasfemisk). Man blir øyeblikket tiet (eller enda verre: hånet) ihjel. Da er det ikke rart det er lett å anta at de fleste nordmenn som ikke går med kors rundt halsen er ateister (slik jeg har trodd). Dog skinner det igjennom også i norsk statistikk at gud er en del av livet for minst halvparten av nordmennene; de snakker bare ikke om det. Det finnes ingenting "vitenskaplig" (eller nestekjærlig) over å møte andre menneskers tro med hovmod - tvert imot. En ekte forsker må holde sinnet åpent og kan ikke tillate seg fordommer.

Det er ikke all religion som er sunn, men det samme kan man si om mat, ekteskap og politikk. Vi kan ikke avskaffe alt sammen bare fordi enkelte velger det ekstreme eller skadelige.

Jeg skulle ønske at religionsdebatten i Norge kunne stige noen hakk og samtidig få noen flere ben å stå på. Det er mer enn én måte å nærme seg temaene gud, tro, moral, livssyn og menneskesyn på, enn kun gjennom luthersk-evangelisme eller human-etikk. Det er ikke et enten-eller, men et både-og-samt. Det er store begreper og store ting, og jeg tror vi ville ha godt av å løfte blikket og utvide horisonten vi ser på.

Jul 5, 2008

Intelligence as virtue

I always knew I was smart, and I appreciate it. I don't want to lose my brain. But I'd like to expand other qualities, like courage and compassion.

Your result for The Best Thing About You Test ...

Intelligence

Intelligence is your strongest virtue

Intelligence (also called intellect) is an umbrella term used to describe a property of the mind that encompasses many related abilities, such as the capacities to reason, plan, and solve problems. And you? Your brain shines. All 7 virtues are a part of you, but your intelligence runs deepest.

It is likely you're a smarty-pants. And it's likely (but not necessary) that your discipline score is high also. It takes a certain resolve to maintain all those neural thingies.

Intelligent famous people: Einstein, Shakespeare, Da Vinci.

Your raw relative scores follow. 0% is low, and 100% is perfect, nearly impossible. Note that I pitted the virtues against each other, so in some way these are relative scores. It's impossible to score high on all of them, and a low score on one is just relatively low compared to the other virtues.

YOUR VIRTUES
50% Compassion
67% Intelligence
50% Humility
56% Honesty
38% Discipline
29% Courage
42% Passion

Your turn to find out The Best Thing About You!

(Thanks to Max.)

Jul 4, 2008

Weight, the final frontier*

Comics are educational. Today's User Friendly comic got me curious, and I ended up learning something new about the kilogram - or rather, how one keeps a standard of weight so we know whether or not we have a kilo (as we "locals" say).

I got curious about the reference to the roundest objects in the world, so I went a-googling and found that there is a reason besides "because we can" for creating the spheres:

"The kilogram is the only remaining standard of measurement tied to a single physical object: a 120-year-old lump of platinum and iridium that sits in a vault outside of Paris, France. But the mass of this chunk of metal is slowly changing relative to the 40-odd copies kept by other countries, and no one knows why or by how much."
So researchers charged with policing units and measures, called metrologists, have come up with several suggestions to redefine the kilogram. […] One proposal, pushed by an international team called the Avogadro Project, aims to define the kilogram in terms of a specific number of silicon atoms. Just how many? That's where the newly created silicon spheres come in.

We don't have a reliable alternative to the physical prototype sitting in Paris, which itself is no longer reliable. With the new ultra-round silicon sphere, we may have an object that can serve as a new prototype, and we may be closer to our goal of redefining what defines the kilogram. We'll find out just how close when the International Committee for Weights and Measures meets again in 2011.

*) "Space… the final frontier."

Jul 3, 2008

Grass farming

I grew up in an era where there was a call of "back to nature" (the influence of the flower children of the 60's), where more and more humans stopped defining all the members of nature (from bacteria to whales) as having the quality of good or bad. We had embraced ecology and the awareness that our own value system has nothing to do with the natural order, and that the natural order is perfectly set up and not to be meddled with. So I ended up not hating the lion for killing the cute antelope, nor thinking the antelope was all that cute. Rather, they just are, and one can admire the grace and ability of each species to make the best of rather tricky and life-threatening situations without labeling. Ah, evolution...

Also, when I was growing up, organic farming was getting (back) into fashion, and I never lost faith in it. Happily, I keep coming across all kinds of reasons for why working with nature as it is - rather than inventing and using chemicals and genetic modifications - is the healthiest and most financially sound method of growing food. And the resulting food is also better for you.

My intention today was simply to shut up and let someone else do the talking, but I had to give you an introduction so you can understand why I want to share this 17 minute long talk by author Michael Pollan. It makes me want a lawn and some cows and chickens.

Jul 1, 2008

Filmed on location on a computer

I found myself wondering if the actors in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" ever left the sound stage. But who cares. It's Indiana Jones!

It's been almost a year since I went to the movies, but as an Indiana Jones-fan, I just had to see the fourth movie on a big screen, like I had the other three. The opening sequences were frustrating, with a tired-looking and -acting Harrison Ford, but once they whisked him away from the Nevada desert, Indy was back!

In spite of predictability ("How many punches can Indy take without falling down? Oh, thirteen dozen, give or take."), some totally non-Indy and badly animated rodents in the beginning (also happily left behind in the Nevada desert; the ants were better), obvious breakage of laws of physics (and geography), and the crystal skull looking like plastic because the actors handled it like plastic, I enjoyed the movie. The plot was good, the chase scenes likewise (again with the military and lots of trucks, but fresh), and I actually put my hands to my face during some perilous moments. I loved the scenery (some real, some shot on location inside the Matrix, er, computer) and got a kick out of references to the first three movies (and a nice picture of Sean Connery). Number Four fits in nicely next to Numbers One, Two and Three, also in look and feel. And Harrison Ford still has a nice butt (thanks, Harry, for staying in shape).

The best part? The promise of more movies. If you haven't seen the movie, telling you why would be a spoiler, so I won't say. Let me just say that I believe the producers have found a way to keep Indiana Jones going.