Dec 24, 2009

The known universe

This brilliant film is making the rounds. I found mine over at A Pacific View. Here's the comment I left there after seeing this video:

Absolutely stunning video! Finally one that clearly gave me an idea of scale. Especially going back home. If any aliens are visiting us, it must be purely by accident, because finding us is like finding a needle in a haystack. Or more like finding a partial needle in a 1000 haystacks. Thanks for posting this, Tom!

So if you aren't impressed with the story of three wise men following a star, this journey through the stars ought to give you a nice sense of awe (play the HD version at full screen for best effect!):

The Starving Economist: People--A Liability?!

A friend of mine has an excellent summary of what's really wrong with society, the economy, etc.: People. No, there's nothing wrong with people. The problem is that we aren't taking care of people.

The Starving Economist: People--A Liability?!

Dec 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Poinsettia

Wordless Wednesday - Known as julestjerne ("Christmas star") in Norwegian

Dec 19, 2009

For the birds

It snowed during the night. And not the usual pathetic paper-thin layer that melts within hours we usually get. No, this snow landed in rich amounts on frozen ground. It'll stay as long as we have below-freezing temperatures.

Wednesday I hung up a bird feeder with seeds, and a tallow ball with seeds on my balcony. One lone blue tit was on the feeder Thursday when I got home early enough to still have daylight. Yesterday, a couple of sparrows had found the feeders.

This morning, a half dozen magpies sat in the little beech tree next to my building, and only a few feet away from my balcony. A little later, I looked out and saw a dozen sparrows in the beech tree and three on the tallow ball. I immediately thought of Alfred Hitchcock and grinned.

All the birds keep fighting and jockeying for positions on the feeders, making me laugh out loud. The cagiest are the great tits, who are not yet comfortable when I come to the door. The sparrows are quicker not to mind a human shape. I've also discovered that the sparrows all wait in the bush below while other birds feed. I hope to see the blue tit again, and maybe some other species.

A glimpse from way inside my living room through my balcony door:

I need to move the other feeder so I can see the activity there, too, from my desk. I also hope to get some far better pictures in future.

Dec 10, 2009

Obama's amazing adventure

Norway's newspapers are, of course, full of articles about president Barack Obama's visit to Oslo in order to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Paging through one of our online newspapers, I found a juxtaposition that amused me. The top photo shows Obama and the First Lady disembarking upon arrival in Oslo this morning and the ad underneath is self-explanatory - and quite appropriate:

Dec 3, 2009

Solar return

Astro.com tells me this about my solar return:
Happy birthday! Today the Sun returns to the position it was in when you were born. As would seem appropriate with this transit, today is a day of new beginnings, and the influences you feel today will affect the entire year to come. However, this does not mean that the whole year will be disappointing if today doesn't work out exactly as planned. You are receiving a new impulse from the energy center within you, as symbolized by the Sun. Therefore any new venture that you start at this time will ride the crest of this new energy and will very likely come to an acceptable conclusion. Whatever you do or begin today will bear the stamp of your individuality more than anything else. This is the day to assert yourself anew.

Beats the current Neptune square Mercury which represents fuzzy thinking. And I thought that was just hormones. ;-)

Nov 28, 2009

The "food packet"

Norway has a unique feature in its culture, and with it, a unique word: Matpakke. The word literally means "food package" and is the traditional Norwegian work lunch.

Norwegians have traditionally had four meals a day - breakfast, lunch, dinner and supper - of which three are made up of very plain, open-faced sandwiches. Only dinner is a hot meal. The open-faced sandwiches may have a slice of cheese, lunch meat or fish on them and are not to be confused with the sort of sandwich an American would make and put a lid on. Since there is no "lid" (top slice of bread) on a Norwegian sandwich, the solution is to slip a slice-sized square of waxed paper between the open-faced sandwiches. Then the stack is wrapped in a larger sheet of "matpapir" (literally, food paper, which feels and acts like a thicker version of baking paper), creating the easily recognized white package.

Part of the entertainment at work is watching how people handle the used food paper. The frugal stroke it smooth and fold it carefully for reuse. One co-worker twists his into a T-shape that then rests on the lip of his emptied glass of water until it gets tossed at the garbage can. Another makes a version of an origami box with hers before she throws it out. And of course, the crinkling the paper into a ball is a classic.

The Norwegian food package has produced a unique phrase for the typical commuter: Matpakkekjører (food package driver). The only thing sitting the passenger seat next to the driver alone in his car during rush hour, is, of course, the little white pack of slices of bread, meant to be devoured during a 30 minute break, most often between 11 am and 12 pm.

I am about to join this group of people, but being American I will use little plastic bags to put my food in, and my sandwiches will have lids on them, and entire meals in their own right. I also intend to add some lettuce and tomatoes and mustard and such to my lunch meat. I figure that 1.5 sandwiches (3 slices of bread) a day will be perfect.

Why, after over 25 years of buying my food in our excellent employee cafeteria am I now going to "brown-bag it", as an American would say? Well, we renovated our cafeteria and redid the whole menu. But now some things I could eat when my stomach wanted an "easy" day are gone. On those days, I'd eat three slices of bread, one with cheese, and two with jam. But now jam isn't offered any more, and because of an increased intolerance to lactose (something that happens to most people as they age, even those used to eating dairy products), I can't eat more than one slice of cheese a day at work. Odd, but if I have two slices of bread with cheese two days in a row, my stomach protests. So my alternatives are lunch meats or fish. Meat does not always appeal to me when I want to give my stomach a rest, and the fish offered at work is often smoked, which has never agreed with me. The salad bar is varied and tasty, but there, too, items I prefer not to eat get slipped in without me noticing until I taste it (I have requested a number of times that ingredients be listed). If I want to avoid those surprises, I end up with the world's most boring salads. And they no longer offer olive oil and vinegar as dressing; again, I don't know what the other dressings contain. And still, on those days where everything appeals, there is also the risk of eating a bit too much.

So, partly as an experiment, and partly out of frustration, I start eating my own sandwiches this coming week. Sourdough bread, ecological meat (no preservatives!), tasty mustard, and some veggies for decoration and variation, and I and my stomach should be quite happy. The biggest challenge will be in remembering to pack a lunch in the first place!

Nov 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Hamburger Alley

Wordless Wednesday In Norwegian: Nedre Hamburgersmauet

Nov 15, 2009

Faith in Jesus, interrupted

I have always been interested in Christianity. More specifically, I have always been interested in the answer to this question: Does Jesus save?

I have always struggled with having a faith in Jesus. My own family is made up of theists, but nobody ever bothered with the traditional religions. Grandma couldn't understand why anybody wanted a faith where you looked up at a bloody, half-naked man every Sunday (good ol' Catholics), and I couldn't understand how anybody could put their faith in a man who looked like a hippie (good ol' Protestants). So while Grandma and I both ended up deists (that's not a typo), we found our spiritual sustenance outside the mainstream.

Still, I've always had the question. Norway has a state religion. It allows for freedom of religion for everyone - except the nation itself and its monarch. The reigning monarch of Norway must be - according to the country's constitution - an Evangelical Lutheran, since the Evangelical Lutheran church is the offical church of Norway. (Denmark has a similar law, while Sweden voted a few years ago to separate state and church.) What this meant when I was a kid was that Christianity and church history were school subjects (nowadays, they teach about all religions). It's not as indoctrinating as it sounds; we were simply taught when our viking kings converted and killed any one who disagreed, how the church was organized and what it believed and why. (Good ol' Marin Luther.) We never prayed in school and nobody ever asked us if we believed in Jesus.

That question would come up when we turned 14, the age of confirmation. After many summers of Bible summer camp[1], many Sundays of Sunday school because what else was there to do in the country, plus the aforementioned classes in school, I knew a lot about Christianity, but not much about faith. I was still baffled about how Jesus could save my soul and life, and knew of only one person in my tiny village who was so Christian she wore a cross but I never dared ask her anything. My whole approach to the matter was not aided by the language of the Bible (I still don't care for that whole the Lord this, the Lord that wording) nor by the rather unfortunate view I had of God Himself (strict, unforgiving). An episode when I was 10 (and I may have told this story before) shut the door on the church itself: School kids attend a Christmas mass before the school holiday starts, and at ours, a junior high choir sang some absolutely beautiful songs. You could hear the congregation sigh with pleasure. What we could not do, was applaud in the Lord's church, said our minister. Right then, I wanted nothing of a god who wouldn't let people show appreciation for each other, no matter where it was.

The church back then was pretty strict, still steeped in piety and stoicism. Nowadays, people do applaud at church concerts, whether the music is religious or secular. But it doesn't matter, because I still haven't figured out the whole Jesus thing. All my classmates and my best friend and my second cousin, were all confirmed. I remember asking my best friend about her motives for her confirmation. She said it was because she believed in God, but I saw the reaction she had to all the money and presents she got, and thought she had lied to me.

There are those who have said to me not to take it all so seriously. I do take it seriously, though, because faith matters to me. And, apparently, so does having the right faith. I'm not terribly worried about my soul; what I'm trying to work out is who's right. Do we die once and live forever as souls? Do we die once and that's it? Do we die many times and are reborn many times? Do we even have a soul?

The whole religious stuff aside, understanding Christianity as a major player in the development of Europe and western civilization helps understand other parts of western history. The reason there was still some order and cohesiveness in the former Roman empire after it fell, was the church. The church unified people, educated people, and helped form our modern justice system. However silly you think believing in a man in the sky is, you should nevertheless be aware of the role and history of the church as institution and governing body.

There is another question: How did an illiterate Jewish carpenter end up being the inspiration for today's western democracies? I have just finished reading Jesus, Interrupted by Bart D. Ehrman, and although Ehrman doesn't address my question, he does explore rather thoroughly what original Christians and Christianity was like, and how we've got the Bible all wrong. Ehrman focuses on the New Testament in this book, and all its discrepancies - some so irreconcilable that to acknowledge them would upset the church. Ehrman says this isn't necessarily the case; no matter who the historical Jesus was, it has no bearing on the faith itself. You can understand that there are huge contradictions between each of the gospels, and you can even know that several of the letters attributed to the apostles and to Paul were forgeries, and it won't matter to your actual faith in God or to the inspiration you can get from the Bible. Ehrman himself said studying the Bible from a historical point of view only made him no longer believe the Bible was inspired by God; it didn't make him lose faith. As a book inspired by people, the Bible has had incredible influence and staying power. And it has that right. It contains every human condition under the sun.

And I now know that I can choose whether or not to believe Jesus is the Son of God, or just another prophet, like the Muslims claim. The New Testament supports both views. There is no historical reason to believe that I must believe in this Jesus fellow to save my soul. I now know where (and when) the Catholic church got some of its theology from, so I won't sweat that particular question any more.

But I needed to get it answered. I have grown up surrounded by Christianity my whole life; it is the only mainstream religion I am in any way familiar with. So of course I have to ask myself, are the Christians right? Must I follow Jesus to be well not only now, but forever? I think the answer is "no", but the Bible does offer universal truths that people should follow (like the golden rule). However, being good to others doesn't depend on a faith in Jesus or in any theism.

Still, there is one question Ehrman raises, not as a main part of his book, but in his closing chapter, by way of explaining how he also ended up agnostic and no longer a practicing Christian (assuming I've understood him correctly): He couldn't work out the suffering part. No matter what he read, or what he was told, nothing could answer the question: Why does a benevolent god allow suffering? Upon hearing that (I have the audiobook version), it occurred to me that that was the question Buddha asked, too, and set about trying to answer.

So I find that although one question has been put to rest, I still have more exploring to do: Is there a god? What exactly is faith, anyway? Is it all really a delusion? Because I'm not entirely sure anymore. And it excites me.

––

[1]Funny story: We were unpacking upon arrival at a one-week Bible camp. A couple of loudmouths had already unpacked when I and a quiet, shy girl took our beds in the four-bed room. Nobody paid any attention to me, but the loudmouths noticed a lack with the fourth girl's packing. I thought it was the fact that there wasn't a single change of underwear in the girl's suitcase, but no. She was reamed into for forgetting her New Testament. As I recall, I never needed to use mine.

Nov 14, 2009

Remnants

Comments here and there in the blog world, prompted the question about whether or not I had kept anything from childhood. The answer is no. Both times I left California (age 8 and age 20) for Norway, it never occurred to anyone in the family that it would be for an extended stay and so little was sorted or packed or stored.

The first time, we gave a lot of stuff away, and also had a yard sale. My memory from that time of my life is quite bad, so I don't know what happened to some things I had, like a stuffed snake I named Oscar, or a toy typewriter (yes, I had one of those). It didn't matter. It's not just in death you can't take it with you; you can't haul your whole life with you when traveling, either. But one thing did make the trip with me in 1969, clear across America in the back seat of my grandparents' blue 1964 Mercedes Benz 190D: My Raggedy Ann doll.

I have a vague recollection of my family buying her for me. I believe it was the toy department at Sear's, and she was one of the last toys I got before leaving California. She has been washed but the stains on her face acquired when she and I were both about 40 years younger will not come out. Her white apron went missing years ago. Her bangs, meant to fall on her forehead, have never cooperated, and therefore have always stuck up on her head.

I have never been a doll person, and I don't remember reading any Raggedy Ann stories. As a little girl, the only doll I truly enjoyed was Gumby, and second to that odd green figure, came Barbie. But Raggedy Ann (who shares a name with me) has the unique position of being the only doll to make the trip with me from our native USA all the way to Norway, where there is no Raggedy Ann. Grandma and Grandpa held onto her when I moved back to California at age 15, and so she now sits in my living room as part of the decor. Perhaps she isn't appropriate for an adult woman to display, but Raggedy Ann isn't a toy; she's a representative of a very special time in my life.

Next to Raggedy Ann on the photo is another item my grandparents hung onto: One of my earliest craft projects in Norwegian school. Fourth grade, if I remember correctly, and the color scheme is not one I would have chosen on my own. I had picked a few of the colors but didn't have enough yarn to do a whole pillow. My teacher then brought me some more colors, and I didn't think they'd look good together, but she arranged them for me. It is one of the few projects I completed in school, and it is also one of the few crafts projects I have always been pleased with. I still like the colors, and I'm still impressed with my teacher's choices. To this day, I can remember sitting in the classroom in the old schoolhouse on a gloomy, rainy day, yarn spread out before me and the teacher instructing me how to sew the simple pattern. Watching the stripes come to life as I worked delighted me.

Nov 10, 2009

This should have been written at 5 am

…because at 5 am I had all kinds of great ideas for a blog post today, and had several paragraphs ready in my head.

Can't remember a thing - not even what the topic was.

What's the point of waking up way too early if you can't use it for something good? I need to take my MacBook to bed with me from now on. If I'm going to keep waking up way before the alarm clock goes off, I may as well make good use of the time.

Watch this space. It'll either be brilliant (ha!) - or jus ajkfjiebu aehf zzzzzzzzzzz…

Nov 9, 2009

Royal angels and tweets

Lately, Princess Märtha Louise has been in the news because of her new book about angels, co-written with Elisabeth Samnøy, with whom the princess also runs an angel school with. I kid you not. The funny part is that the usually staid Norwegians are flocking to hear her speak and to buy her book. Nothing like a royal title to get you some free advertising. And sadly, that is exactly what is happening.

I like the princess. She has always struck me as a sweet, intelligent and stylish woman who nevertheless remained her own woman, in spite of the strictures that come with being a member of the Norwegian royal family. (She won't be queen because at the time she was born, the Norwegian constitution still held that only male heirs could inherit the throne, so it's her kid brother who is Crown Prince, and his daughter who is next in line now that the law has been changed.) And so she throws herself into a line of work that is far from mainstream or royal. The reaction to princess Märtha Louise's angel school is from some derisive, from some enthusiastic, and from most a shoulder shrug and a small roll of the eyes.

It might be amusing to attend one of her weekend workshops and see if I can meet both the Princess and my guardian angel. Or maybe just save my money and amusement for someone else. That said, I still like the princess. I hope she is offering more than cheap thrills.

The heir to the throne is kid brother Crown Prince Haakon, and although some think he should shave (and at the time shouldn't have married a party girl with a son from a previous relationship), he is personable, intelligent and idealistic, and very much in love with Crown Princess Mette-Marit (former party girl). I like him, though I sometimes have trouble seeing him as our next king - and I wish he would shave. Mette-Marit and her son from a previous relationship seem to have adjusted to the weird fish bowl existence that royal life is. She made most of the nation quite skeptical and even a bit frustrated with the new generation of royals at the time she started dating Crown Prince Haakon, but she has proven herself worthy and capable of being the nation's Crown Princess. And like most Norwegians, I like that our royals sound like regular people (with the exception of them speaking of themselves in third person singulars) and behave like regular people.

Like many nowadays, our Crown Prince and Princess tweet, prefacing their tweets with KPM or KPH or KPP, depending on whether the tweet is from her or him or both (respectively). They also meet my standard for what I find interesting so I started to follow them.

What has me tickled is that they're following me back.

Nov 8, 2009

Slow food for the brain

I have noticed that with things like Twitter and Facebook, getting something off one's chest can be done in a few short sentences, and the immediacy and convenience (and lack of expectation of more than a paragraph) mean that more people "tweet" or post to Facebook rather than blog now.

I was hunting for some old information on my blog, when I found myself rereading some of my old posts. And I found that I missed writing. I missed blogging. I missed my voice. So I am trying to get back to posting more frequently (preferably daily), only to find a Paul Simon lyric running through my brain: "[…]why am I short of attention / Got a short little span of attention…"

Instead of a thought morphing into an exploration of an idea or experience over several paragraphs, it gets "tweeted" and left there, lost in a million other tweets or just on my page alone, dozens, quickly pushed out at the bottom and forgotten even by its author.

As delightful and as useful as Tweeter can be - and I do enjoy the challenge of microblogging and telling an entire story in 140 characters - there is something to be said for doing some actual thinking, researching and discovering, and then communicating it all without other limits than what the idea itself needs. The quick messaging encouraged by many social medias, including the cell phone, ends up being like fast food for the brain. Quick, easy, nothing that leaves a lasting impression.

Slow food for the brain is pondering, asking questions, chasing an idea, exploring what others think about the matter, analyzing and synthesizing, and digesting it all slowly through the keyboard and saved drafts, lingering over turns of phrases, surprising yourself with how you react to some piece of information. Those are the best mental meals. And you just can't have those in 140 characters or less.

Nov 7, 2009

Partying in purple paisley

It wasn't my night last night. The night belonged to two very nice co-workers who were both hired November 1 1984. 50 people enjoyed a lovely meal, speeches, entertainment, conversation, a bit of dancing and a lot of wine. But as their guest until about 2 am, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. And my outfit.

I tried on clothes on Wednesday, only to discover that I'd "outgrown" my favorite party clothes, and wasn't terribly thrilled with the alternative left me. I spent Thursday looking for alternatives. With the exception of the V-necks and lovely purples, there is little about the current fashion that attracts or suits me - or fits me (skinny jeans really are for the skinny-legged). And a bum shoulder also meant I couldn't even get some garments one. I did buy silver-colored leggings (or tights, as they are literally called in Norway - often misspelled as thights which also makes sense); I figured if I didn't like them, I could still use them for yoga.

To my surprise, the silver leggings looked good on me with an old purple blouse I had. Together with dressy sandals and heaps of jewelry, I had an outfit on Thursday that worked.

Until I woke up at 2 am Friday morning with my thoughts racing. That's when I realized that I may have to go back to my original alternative, because I wasn't entirely comfortable with the outfit I had put together. I plugged in an audio book and managed to silence my own brain by paying attention to someone else's. Eventually I got some sleep, but it was the wrong night to lose sleep since I was going to be up late later.

A quick dash back into the stores during office hours, and I found a tunic in a riot of purple colors and paisley patterns. It wasn't the sort of thing I wear at all, but it looked OK in the dressing room mirror. I bought black velvet leggings to wear with it, and it looked better than OK.

The classic black dress in all its variations shows up at every party. Last night I got a lot of nice compliments from both men and women for my colorful choice. And I have to say I was quite pleased with having found something both fashionable and attractive - at my age and weight.

Still want to wear those silver leggings in public, though. I have a plan…

Nov 6, 2009

Giving up sex

Hah! I'll bet my blog post title made you take a second look! But I woudn't give up sex. No, it's the title of the song embedded below. In connection with the release this week of a rock-and-roll encyclopedia covering the last 50 years of music in Bergen (Bergen actually headed the rock-and-roll revolution in Norway back before my time), this blast from the past got some airtime. So not only was this band ("Blind Date") Norwegian, it was from Bergen! Yay! And I love the song - still.

Nov 5, 2009

Neither here nor there

Earlier this week, in a comment on my Halloween post, Protege asked me a question: Do I ever feel the urge to return to California for good, or do I feel Norwegian at this point? My answer was neither.

Although many people believe I am Norwegian, I'm not. Not even by blood. I am a mere transplant, who has had only one citizenship her entire life: American. My parents were both US citizens and so was my Norwegian grandpa - my mother's step-father. He became a naturalized citizen in 1950. I remember teasing him about having been a citizen only 10 years longer than I had. So I have never had dual citizenship nor an option for it.

Culturally, I'm a mix, having split my childhood between California and Norway. I share some common cultural memories with people my age in Norway, and I share some common cultural memories with people my age in California. In my mind, Star Trek sits next to Radio Luxembourg. Both stir up emotions in me and bring back years of growing up. The original Star Trek series has never been aired in Norway, and Radio Luxembourg was never broadcast in the US. In me, they occupy the same time and space.

I am not just bi-lingual. I am also bi-cultural. When I was younger, I wished there was an international passport for those of us who feel they belong in (and to) more than one nation. There are times now when I still wish for that.

Due to an American birth and family, I have never felt Norwegian. Due to my long years in Norway and assimilation here, I am no longer in sync with Americans in the US. I used to be homesick for the US. There are still places I would love to visit again, there, but if I were there, I'd miss Norway. The thing I missed the most about the US, was the food. So many favorites there just weren't available here. But you get used to going without, and then when they slowly appear in Norway as exotic imports (like canned pumpkin pie mix or maple syrup), they take the edge off the homesickness. In recent years, Arm & Hammer baking soda, cherry cola and root beer have appeared in my local grocery store. I bought Oreos one day. You know what? I can't take them any more. They still taste great, but they give me indigestion. And that is part of why I am no longer homesick.

Right up until 2005, which was when I took my first trip back to California since I left in 1981, I had this dream of America, much like an emigrant may have. When I went home to Norway, I felt neutral; the feeling I was leaving home wasn't so strong. I revisited in 2007. This time, though, I felt like a visitor the whole time, and when I got on the plane for Europe, I knew I was going home and that nothing tied me to the US any more.

The thing is, the country has changed in the over 25 years I've been on this side of the pond. It has become foreign to me - and I to it (which produced some awkward situations, with me asking in a perfect American accent the sort of questions foreigners ask). There are also developments in the US that I don't like - and developments in Norway that I do. Right now, as a regular worker drone for a big company, I am far better off in Norway than I would have been in California with a similar education and job skills. Over here, knowing English has been an advantage; I can't remember any time I needed my Norwegian in California. And over here I don't have to worry about health insurance or vacation or sick leave. Heck, I don't even have to worry about being fired!

Because I cannot vote in national elections in Norway, my interests tend to go back across the pond to the US. I have the right to vote in presidential elections there. Again, I'm not really 100 % one or the other. After all, I don't live under the effects of Congress' decisions.

Life is good for me here in Norway. And unless the Republicans get back on track, and the Democrats do too, and restore my beloved nation of birth to one that actually cares about regular people and upholding the Constitution, I'll take my chances in this godforsaken corner of the world. Norway has its own share of crooks and idiots, but at least its gap between those that have and those that have not is not the yawning divide America now has.

Nov 3, 2009

November

A warm "fohn" wind blew yesterday morning. A cold and wet wind blew yesterday afternoon, and I - who didn't have an umbrella - took the bus home.

Typical November weather. The wind comes in hard and sideways and dumps huge amounts of rain on you, also sideways. And it makes the darkening evening even darker.

I didn't discover until I was an adult why I hated November as a child. I usually notice stuff, including stuff other people don't notice, but the autumns of my childhood are a mystery to me. I can't remember what they were like. Except for November.

As an adult, however, I have solved the mystery. I simply hadn't had the sense to appreciate the brilliant colors of fall: The stunning golds and reds and yellows, that arrive slowly and leave so quickly. All I remembered was that one month where there was no color at all: November.

November was just gray. Gray skies. Gray ground. Gray leaves. Gray trees. Gray weather. Gray, gray, gray. No wonder it drove me nuts!

November is still gray but I can be more patient with it now. I have the sense now to pay attention to the changing of the leaves and enjoy every hue. I also know that by December we'll be putting advent lights in our windows, creating little beacons of solace in all the gray. And then comes the solstice and Christmas!

Although January, too, can be gray like November, it nevertheless is the start of a new year, and of lengthening days, and it is filled with thoughts of the future. Even for some animals: I've seen magpies in January checking out potential twigs for their spring nest-building.

November is here. I'll deal. Happily.

Nov 2, 2009

Halloween: It lost something in translation

I can barely remember childhood Christmases or Easters. One Christmas stands out because it was the last before I moved to Norway at age 8; one Easter stands out because we ended up spending the day in the ER getting stitches put into my sister's forehead.

The holiday I remember best is Halloween. I always went as a witch, all in black with a pointy hat. I had no interest for skeletons or ghosts or vampires, and to this day I disdain any girl who shows up dressed as a princess. You know, looking pretty in pink. What's scary about that???

I was lucky: I had family members who could sew. One Halloween I had a gorgeous outfit because it was decorated with red tulle and sequins, and I wore a domino mask. I may not have been a scary witch but I was certainly no princess!

Carving pumpkins is a lot of fun, too. Sort of the grown-up version of playing with mud pies (oh, and don't throw the pumpkins innards down the kitchen sink; it'll clog) - and then you get to be creative.

One of my more adult Halloweens in California had me wearing a troll costume we'd made for a play our youth group had put on for our local Sons of Norway lodge. My then-boyfriend wore his, too. He was 6'4" (193 cm), and at one point we opened the door to a pair of sisters. My boyfriend started out with his head under my arm, but then he slowly stood up to his full height. The two girls screamed and fled in terror. I hollered after them if they didn't want any candy, and we heard from way down the block one little girl yell to the other, "Don't you want the candy?" The braver one came back. We didn't mean to scare them so, and did say so, but my goodness, did that whole episode symbolize what can be fun about Halloween!

So when the custom slowly started here in Norway a good decade ago, I happily opened my door to the first trick-or-treaters - only to be absolutely dismayed at the cheap, store-bought costumes. No effort made to make oneself look the scariest or the most convincing. I was so disappointed in how only the commercial side of the holiday had made it across the Atlantic that I stopped opening my door. Then the Norwegian kids egged my windows. I never experienced that, either, in the US, so it was another disappointment. They'd not only imported the plastic parts, but also the nasty parts.

Where's the effort to out-scare each other and run around being something you're not for one night? It's supposed to be a kids' holiday, one where we grown-ups take a backseat and let the children have safe fun playing spooky dress-up. I remember delighting in being dressed up with the other kids, and hopefully being scared by some grown-up (in a good way), but mainly intent on being the one who scares. The kids here put on whatever costume is popular this season, and ring a doorbell to get candy and that's it.

It's just not the same. And that's why I choose not to celebrate it here.

Nov 1, 2009

The war that never ends

In an attempt to escape Halloween (I'll talk about that later) yesterday, I went to a theater play. "Operasjon Almenrausch" (sorry, little info in English) was more like a live docudrama, and what a great way to tell a story! Extremely clever staging, with the action taking place all over and the audience seated in the middle of the floor and in the middle of the action. The director defines the play as an audiovisual hearing. The actors didn't act anything out; they (and the audience) were told they could never recreate the terror, so just tell the story; just answer the questions. And they did, backed up by vintage film footage and actual recorded interviews from the people involved.

The play was about a couple of unsung war heroes. Norwegian resistance folk who were never invited to ride in any ticker-tape parade nor given a memorial plaque or any medals. Why? Because they were communists. No matter what they had sacrificed on behalf of their country during five years of occupation, most were labelled as traitors afterwards. A huge, nasty conspiracy by all the "good" people.

World War II in Norway wasn't about soldiers and pilots and sailors moving in masses on foreign fronts, like it was for the US. The war here was a quiet occupation by polite but brutal Germans, and was fought by regular people, often with no military experience, whose main weapon was the Norwegian landscape itself and their own knowledge of it. Though Norway did have a military, run by the Norwegian government from its exile in London, most of the Norwegians affected by and involved in the war and the occupation were civilians. My own maternal grandfather was torpedoed a number of times - while serving on civilian ships.

The whole staging lasted less than two hours. During the brief break after the show itself and a panel discussion to start afterwards, I happen to talk to a couple. The wife told me her father had served in the Norwegian marines. I didn't think to ask if perhaps his ship had protected the convoys my grandfather sailed in.

The play had a special interest for the folks in Bergen: The story revolves around two men: the Bergen communist leader Peder Furubotn and the resistance man Samuel Titlestad, also from Bergen. Furubotn ignored instructions from Moscow and insisted that the communists demonstrate against faciscism. In Bergen, he managed to accomplish that. After the occupation, the fight to keep Norway non-fascist went underground and now Titlestad joined Furubotn. Both Titlestad and his wife were in the resistance.

Bergen's favorite author, Gunnar Staalesen, is best known for his mystery novels about the Bergen private detective Varg Veum. Staalesen also wrote a fictionalized trilogy about Bergen's history through the 20th century, and I remember how he dwelled on the labor movement and the communists during his chapters about the 1930's. (Staalesen is a darned good read, by the way.) What I didn't know was that he had befriended the son of the Titlestads in his teen years. Their story colored Staalesen's outlook, and also their son's, who became a historian. Now 62, the younger Titlestad sat in the panel next to Staalesen and talked about how history gets fudged too much. Yes, history is written by the victor, but in some cases, we're not just talking point of view; we're talking outright lies.

Norway has always been a nation of good, honest people and a government to match. One could forgive a few foibles and injustices; it was war, people were hurting, confused, etc. Take your pick. But in recent years, other stories have surfaced. Sometimes a Norwegian girl would fall for a German soldier; that could cost her her life. It certainly cost her her friends and her family. But who really paid the price? The children. To this day, the Norwegian government has not apologized for labeling them all retards and putting them in institutions. They seem comfortable with letting the children take the blame for their parents' actions. The now-adult children spent the start of this century fighting for redress. And while it may not have been appropriate to sympathize with them when I was young, now we do. And rightly so.

Speaking of which: Earlier this year, an unknown hero from the day of occupation itself, April 9 1940, was vindicated and awarded years after his death, when correspondence was found telling the truth about the man's heroic act to help get the prime minister and his cabinet out of Oslo. Who lied about the man's heroism? A respected member of the cabinet, Trygve Lie. A man whose name I grew up reading in history books and respecting because he was the first secretary-general of the United Nations.

But the dirty deeds that are being made known all these decades later, are not the main reason I feel like writing about my experience last night. No, it's the spirit of community shared with the others I meet in Norway, by virtue of having had a grandfather in the thick of things in the war, of having grown up in a landscape dotted with solid, German bunkers, and the little hints in the family: "Don't talk to so-and-so about the war; he was on the wrong side." Meaning, so-and-so had sympathized with the Nazis. When I think back, I'm amazed Grandpa didn't turn out bitter or angry. But I think he knew only too well what starts wars, and there'd been enough pain.

I sat next to a woman during the panel discussions, one who just had to whisper comments in my ear. It turned out that her father had also been in the resistance with Titlestad and Furubotn. The young family had to move to Sweden, and her father came and went - much to her mother's dismay - while the children remained oblivious to what Dad was actually up to. She was now 76 and eagerly telling her story to her grandchildren and anybody else who would listen. The occupation has been one of the most intense experiences the Norwegian people have ever had, and it still affects and defines them.

To me, it is important to keep talking about the war, to share these stories. The scariest thing about World War II is that I don't know what I would have done if my current government demanded I think a certain way and betray my neighbors. I do believe the US approached a similar behavior with its Patriot Act. And to my horror, nobody stopped it. And nobody stopped George W. Bush's preemptive strike on Poland Iraq.

If your own government doesn't say no, what can a regular citizen do? And that sticky question is exactly what faced many people in Europe 70 years ago.

Oct 28, 2009

Meat market and other memories

Wednesday's photo was taken from a bus stop at one of Bergen's main intersections, between our historic, Hanseatic wharf "Bryggen" and our open-air fish market. In the comments, Alice asked me what the building in the middle was, and this was my reply:

The building in the middle with the stepped gable used to be our meat market. We shopped there when I was a kid, ropes of sausages and whole sides of beef or mutton hanging all over, and a contrasting black and white tiled floor (which is still there).

The tiles are large, and on a diagonal. Today, the meat market houses a café and a few delicatessens. What used to be the city's main delicatessen (with jerkied reindeer meat and innumerable types of cheese) in the basement, is now part of the restaurant chain "Egon" (oddly, the traffic isn't that disturbing when you sit in the outdoor part). But when I was a kid, and going to the city was a project, with lists of which stores to hit where, and therefore also planning where to park the car, the meat market contained meat. And butchers.

Back then, there were stalls on one side of the building where they'd chop and carve meat and on the other long side were the sausage machines, and down the full length of the building between was that graphic floor, creating quite the contrast. We didn't wander much in the bulding; it was a work place. Customers waiting inside the entrance by a counter. From there, I could see into a few of the nearest stalls. All over, ropes of sausages and whole sides of beef, pork or mutton hung from hooks or wires. Sometimes, one of the butchers would see the little girl waiting with her folks, and offer a piece of sausage. I usually turned the offer down. It wasn't the sight of a man in a bloodied, white butcher's gown that made me not want to eat anything; it was the smell. Raw meat just doesn't smell as good as cooked, you see.

BTW, Wednesday's photos shows several preserved buildings, as declared by the directorate for cultural heritage. What looks like a quaint tourist attraction is actually where I live and do all the modern things of life, including visiting a therapist. The one I saw had an office in the red and yellow building on the right of the photo. I discussed what was bothering me under slanted ceilings and on crooked floors. The owners of the building want to redo the insides, but it turns out that they can't without destroying the outside: It is a fake stucco facade. The building is actually all wood. Many buildings in Bergen are; the stucco fronts are meant to be firewalls. Sometimes preservation renders a building useless, and there are only so many museum pieces a city can handle, in my opinion.

Speaking of museums: On the other side of the meat market stands a crooked red building. It isn't just my camera lens distorting it; it really does lean. It is the Hanseatic museum, and inside it still smells of dried cod. Some of these buildings are suffering from the traffic that passes them; neither the dust kicked up nor the vibrations through the ground do aging buildings any good. Our medieval St. Mary's church is now closed for repairs after being hammered by modern life a little too long. I last walked by her Saturday, on my way to get my hair cut (that's why I was at the bus stop; I was on my home). The church was covered in blue tarp.

Behind St. Mary's (Mariakirken, in Norwegian) runs what used to be the main road into town from the north, and Bergen's oldest street: Øvregaten, a two-laned cobblestoned street. Its original name was Stretet (from Latin's "strata" - you know, street), later changed to Upper Street (Øvregaten) when the wharf was expanded out into the bay, making room for a road along the waterfront. Øvregaten is where my hairdresser currently has his salon, in the row of typical Bergen wooden houses on the street's upper side, facing the lower side with its park-like area (actually, a fire-break) along the rear of the famous row of wooden wharf buildings that have made UNESCO's world heritage list. I walk on antique cobblestones and pay with plastic. You know, that sums up life in Bergen pretty darned good.

Øvregaten has an older memory for me: Because it used to be one of the main roads into downtown Bergen from the north, we often drove it on our carefully planned Saturday forays into town. When I was a kid, we lived 21 km (13 miles) north of Bergen. We had a two-lane "highway" into town except for the last stretch past our house, which was a one-lane country road where drivers would on many occasions find themselves tailgating the neighbor's flock of sheep. Since Norwegians don't dock the tails on their sheep, I have images of dancing tails in front of a Mercedes-Benz hood ornament as one of my childhood memories. Anyway, those 13 miles (sheep notwithstanding) took us almost an hour to drive. The two-lane road had too many twists and turns to make it a smooth, speedy drive. This was one reason why we planned our city trips: Getting there took time and concentration. We knew when we had arrived, though. The car would get noisy and shake a bit: We were driving on cobblestones.

Thanks for wandering around with me, in both space and time.

Wordless Wednesday - Reds

Wordless Wednesday

Oct 22, 2009

Miscellaneous catching up

So somebody missed me (hi, Protege!). If it weren't for Wordless Wednesdays, they wouldn't know I was still alive. Well, I am, and here's a run-down of what's been grabbing my attention this month:

Autumn got busy, as it usually does. I've been trying to focus on my astrology in order to forecast the weather and am rather behind on that. But maybe I'll catch up today because I'm home from work. Which brings me to the other distraction of the month:

Inner health

I bought a book about adult children of abusive parents, trying to sort some things out from childhood because my shoulder problem (it is doing better, thanks) is related to my stomach problems (I've had IBS since I was a kid), and stomach problems have their root in emotional upsets.

Whenever I do a number on my stomach, it usually takes a week for it right itself again. After a party last Friday, I've been queasy ever since Saturday (which I spent throwing up - not good), and finally gave up and stayed home from work yesterday and today, nursing myself mainly with liquids, like a big pot of peppermint tea or ginger and lemon tea. Delicious!

I feel well enough to sit at the computer, and also to roast and soak some barley. I'll be eating that along with the rice this weekend, to give my stomach enough of a break. The really dumb thing about all this is that after a 5-month renovation, our employee cafeteria is now a restaurant with some of the best food ever! But it isn't necessarily IBS friendly - not all of it. I hope they still have bread and jam. Haven't checked since I was busy diving into exotic salads, rillettes of cod, and what have you.

Nobel Not-Dubya Prize

In other news this month, Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Since the Nobel Peace Prize committee sits in Oslo and is made up of five Norwegians, our newspapers have had some stories about this award. For the first time in history, committee members have gone to the media and discussed how the nomination took place. Only 2 of the 5 wanted Obama, but the other three have later admitted to letting themselves be persuaded. Of the 2 who wanted him, one is a former prime minister, known for his verbal gaffs, and now the source of the new verb "thorbjorning".

I still deeply disagree with awarding Obama with the peace prize at this time. Nothing I have read as arguments for his selection have made me change my mind. It is too soon. I'm also a bit angry with the committee. Are they not aware of the challenges Obama faces at home? Do they not know that the US is dealing with increasing unemployment, that although Norway managed to ride the wave of financial crisis without falling off, the US hasn't? The committee has been amazingly inconsiderate and short-sighted, in my opinion: If Obama doesn't fix the problems at home, it won't matter what he does abroad because he'll be another Jimmy Carter: A president only the foreigners liked. And Carter didn't get reelected.

There is one nice thing about the Nobel Peace Prize: It made me aware of some other fascinating candidates, like Greg Mortenson and his efforts to build schools for girls in Afghanistan. Studies show that countries where one ensures that women and girls get an education and are allowed to work outside the home, both peace and prosperity come to the country. And the birthrate goes down.

Baffling Bush

Speaking of Republicans, I'm enjoying "Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor". I got the audiobook version and at first was sorry I didn't get the abridged version. But now that I'm into the part about speechwriter Matt Latimer's White House years, a question I have had for years has finally been answered:

I have always been baffled at how George W. Bush could stay in office and not get any of the crap he and his mates were responsible for attached to him. (Talk about being a teflon president!) But as Latimer describes Bush's mood swings, Karl Rove's mania, and the way the White House speech writers organize (and I use that term very loosely) their work, I see why there were such conflicting pictures of Bush. To put it simply: He gave lousy speeches because that's what people around him wanted him to do. I have no idea if Bush was frustrated with that, but his speech writers certainly were. At any rate, it is clear to me now that what the man said didn't reflect the man. I still have several chapters to go, so maybe I'll learn more secrets.

Swine flu

Onwards to swine flu - H1N1: Norway is struggling to get enough people vaccinated in order to protect the population at large. If enough people are immune, the flu won't spread. After thinking about it, and hearing that some healthy people are now getting seriously ill from this flu strain, I have decided to get vaccinated. Just waiting for the city to tell me when. I already know where; I can walk to it: It's the abandoned nursing home my grandma stayed in.

A Norwegian Facebook group has been started for people who don't want the vaccine because it is just Big Pharma trying to sell us crap. My aforementioned grandma survived the swine flu outbreak in 1918. She, her sister and her father were all out sick for two weeks, while my great-grandmother stayed well through the whole epidemic. Grandma told me about all the empty seats in the classroom when she returned to school.

There were two outbreaks in 1918 and the second one, which started in August, was the deadliest because the virus had mutated. That, coupled with people's behavior because there was a world war going on, spread the deadly strain far faster than it would have gone in peace time. And now that reports are coming in here in Norway about people not of the usual risk group getting seriously ill and we're having instances now where the flu in a human can infect pigs, I've decided I'm not waiting for any mutation. I want to help stop this now.

Your moment of zen

OK, I stole that title is from Jon Stewart's daily show. :-) But via another source of some of my news from America, comes this wonderful gem from the Muppet Show. Choose High Quality for good listening Enjoy!

Oct 15, 2009

Deliveries (a complaint)

Well-meaning people in the US ship me stuff via UPS, FedEx, TNT and the like (hereinafter referred to as Other Delivery Company, or ODC). The latest to do this was Amazon.com.

You know what? They all suck. You know why? Because in Norway, you get the best service from our post office. Seriously. Some mail order firms in Norway will use some alternative delivery system and deliver to a store near you. For an extra NOK 95, I can get my local post office to deliver the same package to my own front door, in the evening when I'm home, if I want. Or, I can walk in the opposite direction of the aforementioned store to my local post office and pick it up myself if I want to save some money. Since I pass by the post office every day to and from work, it's actually convenient for me to use them.

The alternative package delivery firms that companies seem to be so fond of are not for regular working people. They are best suited for company-to-company deliveries that take place during working hours. I got my books today from Amazon. Speedy delivery, yes, but only during office hours and the address Amazon has for me is my home address (and I didn't see any notice that I should offer a daytime address; I've learned to do that with Apple). I missed the ODC guy yesterday because of course I'm at work during the day. He did call on my landline phone at home, so I called back and gave him my cell phone number. Today, I walked past my post office again. Because the ODC guy said he'd meet me outside the shopping mall it is in some time after 12:30 pm to give me my package. He couldn't be bothered actually driving to my street, apparently, and I couldn't be bothered asking him why the h*** not. I just didn't want to miss him again, and I did have an errand at our local shopping mall.

But now that I think about it, I find I'm a bit annoyed at the service. I paid extra for speedy delivery. It was speedy all right (4 days from Las Vegas to Fyllingsdalen) but I wonder how much I was supposed to pay for actual delivery?

Oct 4, 2009

Am I… old???

I first saw a computer in the 1970's and my first job out of high school was for a manufacturer of so-called mini-machines: The size of a washing machine, with storage and memory measured in kilobytes, not megabytes, and running BASIC.

Barely 10 years later, I was an expert with WordPerfect on an IBM PC, after several years of using a Wang (look it up), and what I learned about Lotus 1-2-3 back then has helped me use Excel ever since.

Then came e-mail. What fun!

Then came the internet, and I got hooked up at home in 1997. More fun! I even learned HTML and designed my own webpages. I became an eager user of Usenet. I even figured out IRC and took an entire course via ICQ. Web 1.0 was good to me.

Web 2.0 came along with interactive applications embedded in the web browser. Some were cooler (and more useful) than others. I like del.icio.us and still use it, and Twitter and Facebook are also in use. And blogs and Blogger, of course! I found a good use for Google Docs the day I was attending a course that offered no handouts but did have internet on our course PCs. So I opened up a doc in Google and typed notes there (and later e-mailed to fellow classmates). Very nice! Very convenient! On the downside, Web 2.0 introduced web forums and is steadily killing Usenet. I have not yet been able to befriend web forums; I am alienated by their look, their interface. Not enough text and order, too many icons, no decent quoting, and gray on gray or blue on blue decor (who finds that user friendly?).

So, what's next? What's Web 3.0? Google Wave, that's what. Based on this short (well-made) video, it seems rather cool. So I read more about the Wave, and came across this blog entry about it. I read the whole thing, did enlarge the pictures - and my heart sank.

I find chat annoying, simply because it is intrusive and in real-time, like answering a phone, not knowing how long the conversation will take. Unlike a phone, if you happen to be online on Facebook, someone can open a chat window and your "phone" answers itself, i.e. you look "in" and available. And it's rude and can even hurt feelings not to answer, I've found. I and many others. People expect, with chat and IM (instant messaging) and the like, to get instant replies, and that requires your undivided attention and time. Which is why chatting isn't always convenient. From now on, I am listed as offline on Facebook for that reason (sorry, friends) unless I really do have the time for a chat.

Google Wave is one huge chat-e-mail mash-up - with icons, threading, attachments, copy to's, forwards - and if you arrive late, you can replay everything that has happened so far.

I took one look at the screenshots, the clutter they show, the sheer amount of volume - of one-liners. My eyes usually balk at most graphical interfaces. I prefer clean text, maybe with colors for each quote-level, but that's it. I look at Google Wave's offering and feel not a wave, but a tsunami. It's too much.

So I ask myself: Will I not be able to join Web 3.0? I'm a destined to stick with Twitter as the pinnacle of my internet expertise, the last app where I could keep up with the young folks? Am I - old?

Or am I just right? Is Google Wave a good idea with poor implementation? Will it lead to "information" overload and loss of productivity? I predict there will be a lot of filtering offered in time.

I also see that the wave takes what is essentially a bad habit in e-mail (illustrated well in the short video above) and implements it as a feature: Just forwarding the whole kit and caboodle to someone new without telling them what it's about or why, just assuming they'll slog through the whole thing to find that one document stuck to the very bottom. No, we who receive such nonsense don't. We don't scroll down past a screen or two - not if you don't tell us why we should! Google Wave takes this bit of e-mail rudeness and turns it into a movie, where you can watch in real time how each reply and attachment and forward came about. Yeah, we have the time for that. Yes, we'll know which parts are pertinent without any help from the sender.

Dammit, Google, where are your manners? Don't you have anyone over 40 working for you?

Sep 19, 2009

Prayer found in Chester Cathedral (1770)

Give me a good digestion, Lord,
and also something to digest.
Give me a healthy body, Lord,
with sense to keep it at its best.

Give me a healthy mind, good Lord,
to keep the good and pure in sight,
which seeing sin, is not appalled,
but finds a way to set it right.

Give me a mind that is not bored;
that does not whimper, whine or sigh.
Don't let me worry overmuch
about the fussy thing called I.

Give me a sense of humor, Lord;
give me the grace to see a joke,
to get some happiness from life
and pass it on to the other folk.

Sep 9, 2009

This is good

So there I was, waiting for the bus home, feeling sluggish because of an exhaustive round at my acupuncturist's. I leaned against the side of the bus shed, reading the latest issue of "Science of Mind Magazine", idly paging through the daily affirmations. I started reading the accompanying text for today's:



Sometimes it's easy to forget that there is only one volitional factor in the Universe, and that is Spirit.



Easy to believe when things go well. Instead of feeling abandoned by God when things don't go well, the article suggests we focus on the above-mentioned core truth - one power, one source:



Then we could say, "This must be good. It's all God, so let me look for the good."



As I read that, a wailing ambulance drove by. I continued to hear it for a while, remembering that a friend had said that because of having to drive in and out of streets to get to the urgent care entrance, which was within view from my bus stop, you could hear the ambulance all over the place. Another ambulance drove past and stopped at the end of our long bus turnout. Out jumped the two-person ambulance team: A man and a woman. They stood and discussed something for a bit, then the woman started walking towards us.



She looked first in one bus shed, then the next. Realizing whomever she was looking for was to be found in a bus shed, I turned and looked inside ours. I was a bit startled to see a man with a somewhat bloody nose sitting on the bench. I hadn't noticed him at all before. He didn't look all there but he didn't look too hurt, either, so I turned back and looked at the approaching woman. I wasn't sure if my guy was her guy so did nothing. She soon enough was at our shed, and yes, our man was the one she was looking for.



As she asked him if he'd fallen and hurt himself, it was very clear that he was in no condition to answer. An empty fifth of vodka lay on the ground next to him. The male of the ambulance team had now caught up and together he and his partner managed to drag the injured man to his feet and down the sidewalk. His feet were of barely any use to him. They headed slowly for the parked ambulance at the end of the block, lights still flashing, doors left wide open.



As I watched them, I tested what I had just read. I said to myself, "this is good," and immediately felt overwhelmed with gratitude. I was grateful that I live in a society where someone saw the man fall and called for an ambulance. Grateful that the ambulance people came and made the effort to look for the man. Grateful that they found him and took him with them. Grateful that in the meantime, the ambulance was left perfectly alone and unharmed (someone had stolen a police car from an accident scene a week or so earlier). Grateful that any of us could happen to get a little too falling-down drunk for our own good and still be cared about.



This is good. It is all good.

Wordless Wednesday - Lake path

Wordless Wednesday

Sep 7, 2009

Train spot

A little change in routine, and I suddenly find myself with a new delight.

My acupuncturist's office is right next to the rail yard. The most convenient way to get to my bus home is mostly under a roof: Through the train station, the adjoining shopping center and bus depot, down into the underground pedestrian tunnel. I am exposed to the elements only during the one block from my acupuncturist's building to the train station, and the same stretch from the pedestrian tunnel to the bus stop.

Today I took a different bus to town and ended up experiencing rush hour traffic on different streets, and arrived much earlier than I expected. I found myself people-watching as I walked the pedestrian tunnel, caught the only rush-hour traffic of my day - in a long line of pedestrians - and continued to enjoy being part of the crowd through the shopping center and into the train station.

That's where I decided to stop and wait. According the signs in front of two trains, passengers should be bording, but weren't. A large man in a bright red shirt sporting a huge lower-case "i" (the same used for the tourist information office) paced a bit by the chain blocking passage. The passengers waited patiently in the characteristic clumps Norwegians choose (whereas the British, for example, would form a neat line). I decided to wait and see when everyone could board simply because I was very early for my own appointment.
A small electric truck with a flat bed and labeled "porter service" drove into the train station (which has a big, glass roof, but is otherwise open to the outdoors) towards the crowd, stopped by a young man wearing headphones who was facing away from the truck. Silently the truck waited. A woman about my age moved herself and her suitcase out of the truck's way, giving its driver a big smile, as if to say, "See, I saw you and I'm helpful." The young man was still oblivious to the machinery behind him. The headphones were blocking the subtle sound of the electric engine. I thought to myself that if the woman really wanted to be helpful, she should have tugged the young man's sleeve and alerted him. Something finally made him turn, and the porter could move on.

Ten minutes late, the man in the red shirt got to move the chain aside and the passengers quickly moved towards the two trains waiting for them.

As I was leaving, the red-shirted "i" man had taken a seat off to the side and had hailed one of the conductors who had been on on of the delaying trains. I heard him ask what the hold up had been, but was not close enough to hear the softer-voiced conductor's answer. And I was moving by now, on my way to another treatment.
The acupuncture is getting interesting, by the way. Now, if my stomach gets upset, my shoulder hurts. Heh.

Sep 6, 2009

Returning a favor

After Protege turned me on to Anggun via the hauntingly beautiful "Snow on the Sahara", I decided it was time for payback. Oddly, both Protege and I felt lost during the 90's musically, but there were gems then, too. "All I Need" (from Air's album "Moon Safari") is from the same year as Anggun's song - 1997. I hope you like this, Protege!

Sep 5, 2009

Shooting (for) the moon

The latest activity to capture the interest of the fringe and lunatics (never was that description more apt) is the fact that NASA/the US is going to set off a nuclear bomb and blast our dear Luna out of its orbit.

Following the sage advice of others to consider Google my friend (though there are some that would disagree even with that), I have found what the current paranoid hoopla is about: It is the LCROSS mission, which is about finding water on the moon, to see if the moon can support a human space station there.

NASA intends to shoot (or crash) a missile into the moon. Some people believe "missile" only means something loaded with explosives, and nuclear ones are the most likely. That has led some people to interpret this as not only damaging the moon, but as damaging it so much it would shift in its orbit or its shape would be changed forever. The truth is, it's all just simple mechanics and physics, and no nukes: Slam something hard enough into the ground and it'll kick up dirt. (Interestingly, the missile is named Centaur. Perhaps that's why it grabbed this Sagittarian's attention.)

What's really happening is akin to getting a shot in the arm, except we want to draw a bit of blood. The idea is to have a strong enough impact that any water in the ground would show up in the impact dust as water vapor. That is what the scientists want to see and measure. That is why we're shooting the moon. We want to, once again, shoot for the moon. Actually leave some folks up there. But we'll need a local source of water. As before, whenever humans went anywhere, we stayed only if we found a local source of water.

My initial reaction, too, was what the heck are they trying to do now? But after reading the mission description, I'm all for it. I'm all for space exploration. As NASA says in its own presskit:

By going to the moon, a new generation of explorers will learn how to work safely in a harsh environment. The moon is a stepping stone to future exploration of other bodies in our solar system and offers many clues about when the Earth and the other planets were formed.

The magic date: October 9, 11:30 GMT. NASA will televise for those of us without telescopes (10" or better) or a view of the moon.

Sep 2, 2009

Another layer off the onion

Another day, another needle.

My acupuncturist did say I'd feel something after the third time, and she was right. I definitely felt like she'd peeled away a few layers and new ones were now coming to the surface to be taken care of.

After hunting around on the 'net, I have come to realize that I do have "frozen shoulder". It may even be hormonally related since so many women my age get it. Very well. That sort of thing acupuncture can deal with. In the meantime, I found a series of short videos with exercises to do to stretch and strengthen the joint. The problem won't go away on its own. I have to help. As I said to my acupuncturist, I'll take care of the outside, if she'll take care of the inside. She said it was a deal.

But, boy, do I miss my yoga! So I whipped out my mat and a DVD and did a relaxing routine. In fact, so relaxing, I wished I'd thought to do everything else I want to do this evening first. Oh, well. I'm a bit short on sleep this week, so I may as well go to bed early. And since my arm is still feeling the exercise I did yesterday (maybe I should stick to these, approved by my physical therapist, for the time being), and that means I'll probably take a pain reliever before bed. So I won't know whether or not the new points my acupuncturist used today (one was in the top of my head) did what I asked: Strengthen the shoulder, manage the pain and give me a good night's sleep.

Wordless Wednesday - Installed!



Aug 25, 2009

Pin cushion

The tips of the acupuncture needles have colored caps. As I looked down my body, I saw cheerful light blue and pink sticking out of my leg and foot. One needle went into my hand and when the acupuncturist pulled it out, I was surprised to see it had been more than a centimeter (half an inch) deep in my flesh. No blood. As I look at that hand now, I can hardly tell it was poked.

As I said to my acupuncturist, who turned out to be a girl I had sat next to for nearly three hours at the astrology meeting last Thursday (I'm such a ditz sometimes), I have managed to spend a lifetime immersed in New Age stuff but only now have I tried acupuncture. I'll have to ask her on Friday (my next appointment) what my pulses and tongue told her today, but based on what I told her, she focused primarily on my digestion. She told me that the meridians for the intestines cross the shoulder and since I do have digestive trouble, she decided to work on that. So she started with a needle in my foot, on my leg, and then one in each hand.

The process of the needles going in was unfamiliar to me; I hadn't even read about it. She poked for a tender spot (and I may or may not have felt the spot as tender), asked me inhale deepøy and the needle went in. Then she did something (I didn't actually look, since I was a tad squeamish, but on Friday I'll look) to adjust the needle and asked me to let her know when I felt something like an electrical shock (like the sensation of hitting your funny bone, but milder). I didn't always feel the jolt but it didn't really matter. When she removed the needles after 20 minutes and then stuck six in my neck and shoulders, I felt no jolts. (I told her the patient died. She laughed.)

As the needles worked, I could feel a little tingling in the body part or even a stinging sensation where the needle was. One needle on my shoulder felt like it was heating the point up. My acupuncturist told me that where I felt something were points that were working harder than the points I felt nothing from.

I have no idea what to expect and it may very well be that I won't notice anything until after I've had several treatments. So I've got appointments for Friday and next Tuesday. Generally, I thought the whole experience was fun!

Aug 24, 2009

Some synchronicities

I was telling some friends that I can't give up my blog. It provides an outlet for those times when I want to put my thoughts to writing and maybe even have someone else read them. Why would I consider giving up my blog? Well, this year has not been a year of much writing. It's been an introverted year, a year of repeats, of same old same old, of just going through the motions. Like a good rest.

And then I woke up. This is what I wrote to some friends on July 31:

Well, I was musing on what the heck to do with my time when a thought quietly shrugged through my brain: Astrology.

Then the local meteorologists managed to bungle yet another weather prediction and I thought, "Astrology can do better!", and tried - in vain - to get Astrolog running on my Mac.

Then Time Cycles offered a half-price upgrade on all my expensive (but now useless because Intels don't run the Classic environment) astrology software. So I upgraded.

Then I looked up the old astro-weather gang, my former teacher remembered me and welcomed me warmly back into the fold, so now I'm on a mailing list and discussing weather in the Northe Sea. I also bought her 2 CDs on astro-meteorology because I am rusty.

(My credit card debt is going to be a main focus in the months ahead. :-) )

My stoopid neck has been bothering me (massage and stretching helps, though). My stoopid shoulders bother me (for two different reasons). My impinged shoulder seems to be doing better with less mouse use so the laptop was a good buy in that respect. But as I sat yesterday (had the day off work), using Numbers to work on some weather charts (a task Numbers - part of Apple iWork - was perfect for), I discovered after hours of sitting in the easy chair with the laptop in my lap that - my shoulders and neck weren't protesting.

Well, huh. Not to mention: Duh.

So, I feel so happy "being back" I just have to tell people!

Truly. It was odd how going back to the one hobby that had always felt so rewarding, and that even pulled people into my life. Speaking of which: While I was musing on this stuff, friends on Facebook told me about an astrology club forming in Bergen. We had our first meeting last Thursday during the new moon. We were in a stuffy, warm room because the weather outside was clammy and cloudy and threatening rain and thunder - and it made no difference to the 20-ish people present. I enjoyed myself and it all felt right. The vibes were good, man!

Speaking of which: A co-worker was talking about how acupuncture took care of a stiff shoulder and muscle knots and what have you. I have some knots that could turn into inflammation if I'm not careful so I listened to every word my co-worker uttered. Acupuncture sounded like the solution, because physical therapy was helping but taking too long. Another co-worker had also tried acupuncture and he gave me his acupuncturist's name. And on Facebook, one of the astrologers I had connected with posted the address to a new acupuncturist in town. I called my co-worker's recommendation first - on vacation until October 5! I smiled at the synchronicity: I had another acupuncturist to try. My appointment with her is tomorrow. Yes, I'll let you know what happens.

Well, with that and a couple of other things, I want to take Wednesday off from work - and cancel my physical therapy appointment Wednesday morning. I was wondering how much to tell my PT, a nice, young Norwegian woman, and affirmed a few times that God speaks through me as me now. Since my arm had gotten worse again - it had gotten irritated, really - she agreed to leave it alone and just give me a neck massage. She had me lie on my back, put my head in a sling (nice!) and went to work on my neck. One of the best massages, ever! I told her about the acupuncture and why I wanted it. She was totally on board with that idea and even gave me lots of good advice. Including not coming for physical therapy on Wednesday.

I was happy I chose to be completely forthcoming with my PT. Now I respect and appreciate her even more. And I'm happy for all the synchronicities floating my way. I must be living right. :-)

Aug 17, 2009

Movie tag

I was tagged on Facebook. Since I prefer blogs to notes in Facebook (where a complete stranger who isn't my friend (hmm) can't read me), the movie tag is posted here. Rules are: Don't think, just write down 15 movies that left a lasting impression on you. If you want, tag 15 people.

In no particular order:

  1. Saturday Night Fever. It bored me to high heaven. I still think it's crap.
  2. JAWS. Especially because of the T-shirt. Pulling that thing off over your head was SCARY.
  3. Young Frankenstein. First time I laughed out loud in a movie theater.
  4. Tron. I just liked it and the effects. Still do.
  5. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Marvelous special effects, wonderful dead-panning from Ford, and a plot and pace that still takes my breath away. The snakes sent my friend under the movie theater seats. Kewl! (I was more bugged by the spiders at the very beginning.)
  6. Quigley Down Under. I have no idea why this movie seems to have missed everyone's radar. A western featuring aborigines instead of Indians with three actors brilliant in their roles: Tom Selleck, Laura San Giacomo, and Alan Rickman. With a great theme song.
  7. Blazing Saddles. Best western/racist/Irish/Burbank comedy ever.
  8. Purgatory. Something weird, something divine, about that place. Dang good shoot-out, too.
  9. Men In Black. Best documentary about New Yorkers, ever. ;-)
  10. The Fox and the Hound. I saw this Disney movie in Susanville, California, sitting in the balcony of a tiny movie house with "step-cousins" (long story), bawling my eyes out. The cousins thought it was cool that a grown-up would get so worked up over such a movie. Haven't dared see it again.
  11. The Fly. Jeff Goldblum version. I still think Jeff Goldblum is sexy and I would marry him for his sense of humor alone.
  12. True Stories. I was the only one laughing out loud at this absurd comedy about life in American suburbia. Great sound track, too.
  13. The God's Must Be Crazy. All about modern white man versus primitive (hah!) Kalahari people. And a Coke bottle.
  14. Help! I woke up from a nightmare and wandered out into the living room. The grown-ups were watching the Beatles on TV. The theme song from Help! followed me on my move to Norway.
  15. The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Who wouldn't that leave a lasting impression on?