Jan 22, 2009

Photo tag leads to pyramid

I feel tagged by Protege. The rules of this photo tag are: Post the 4th picture in your 4th folder and explain it, plus tag 4 people to do the same.

My definition of "4th folder" had me opening up CD art, specifically the cover to Alan Parsons Project's "Pyramid".

The funny thing about boys is that they know all about cool and/or obscure music. They like to listen to Pink Floyd messing around with the stereo sound through headphones (I think it was Pink Floyd), or crank up 10cc to the point that you could virtually blow-dry your hair from the air being forced out of the speaker (which I did to "I'm Mandy, Fly Me"; it's still a favorite song). Another pointed me in the direction of Lemon Jelly and gave me a new favorite to create daydreams to. And they introduce you to Alan Parsons Project.

I first heard Alan Parsons Project when they already had a couple of albums out: "Tales of Mystery & Imagination" (inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's stories and with a voice-over by Vincent Price (of course) and "I, Robot" (inspired by Isaac Asimov's book). What hooked me were the instrumentals, although there were some favorite songs, too, with darned good (meaning, thoughtful and well-crafted) lyrics.

APP's third album was "Pyramid" and it too had some great instrumentals on it. Three in fact, which may explain why it is one of my favorites in my APP collection (I have eight albums, including one by Alan Parsons (no Project)). Because it was not tied up a particular author's work, the album's mood seemed freer to me and a bit more mainstream musically.

So when I saw the album cover for this meme, I was taken back to 1979 and me in my little Datsun B210 driving up and down steep hills north of Glendale, California, to visit my friend with the Alan Parsons Project collection while listening to the same music on my car's cassette tape player (installed by that same friend, the sweetie).

That same friend had "Lord of the Rings" sitting on his shelf which is one reason I ended up reading the book myself many years later. I remembered where I saw it first.

If you are reading this, Grant, I hope you are well, and thanks for the memories!

Jan 16, 2009

Why, of course!

With a nod to Protege, who did this first:

Your Word is "Why"
You see life as complicated and intriguing. The only thing you know for sure is that you haven't figured it all out yet.
You question everything and believe very little. And whatever you believe is likely to change.

You are interested in theories, philosophies, and religions... even if you don't buy into any of them.
You are also fascinated by how things work. You'd like to understand as much in the world as possible.

It all fits (me) perfectly. After all, "why?" is the question associated with Sagittarians. ;-)

Jan 12, 2009

For any Norwegians wanting to travel to the US

I got this information from the US embassy in Oslo. As of today (Jan. 12) there are new visa rules for Norwegians wanting to travel to the US. Basically, instead of having to shove what's left of your last meal aside on your tiny little airplane table to fill out the green immigration form, you fill it out in advance via the web. If you already have a visa, you can use the ESTA-page to check its status.

United States Visa Waiver Program - ESTA Internet-Based Authorization Required for Norwegians Beginning January 12

Beginning January 12th, 2009, all Norwegian citizens must obtain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

ESTA is a Web-based system, available at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/ in 16 languages, including Norwegian. Under ESTA applicants answer the same few questions that have long been answered on the small green paper form I-94W (typically on the airplane prior to arrival). Eventually, ESTA will replace the paper form.

In most cases, ESTA will provide an almost immediate determination of eligibility for VWP travel. In a few case, however, determination may take up to 72 hours, so travelers are encouraged to apply well ahead of time. Applicants whose ESTA applications are denied will have to seek a visa in order to travel to the United States.

Travelers who have not received an approved travel authorization via ESTA may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing, or be denied admission at a U.S. port of entry.

Each approved ESTA application will be valid for a period of two years, or until the traveler's passport expiration date, whichever comes first. An approved ESTA allows for multiple visits to the United States within that period without having to apply for another ESTA. Specific U.S. travel plans are not required for ESTA application, so VWP travelers should apply on the ESTA web site as soon as they begin to plan a trip.

The ESTA requirement will apply to citizens of all 34 VWP countries.[1] It is key to transforming the VWP from a program that evaluates security threats on a country-by-country basis to one that is capable of making traveler-by-traveler judgments. In addition to enhancing security, ESTA will provide for greater efficiencies in the screening of international travelers by reducing traveler delays at the ports of entry.

ESTA does not pertain to those who travel to the US with a visa. Individuals traveling on valid visas will not be required to apply for an ESTA.

The ESTA application is available here: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta

Read more about ESTA here:
http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/id_visa/esta/
http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1990.html

More information about visas and travel to the US can be found here:
http://norway.usembassy.gov/non-immigrant_visas.html

[1] ESTA(tm) is available now, and will be required beginning January 12, 2009, for VWP countries Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. ESTA(tm) has been required since November 17, 2008 for new VWP countries: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia.

Kjapp forklaring på norsk

Fra ESTA-siden:

Internasjonale reisende som søker om å reise til USA under visumfritaks programmer, blir nå utsatt for strengere sikkerhetskrav. Alle kvalifiserte reisende som ønsker å reise under visumfritaksprogrammet må søke om reisetillatelse gjennom følgende prosess:

…dvs. ved å fylle ut skjemaet på ovenstående side. Da slipper du å fylle ut det grønne innreiseskjemaet man typisk får utlevert på flyet rett før landing. Det elektroniske skjemaet er på norsk, men må besvares på engelsk. Det er to deler: En for elektronisk søknad om innreise uten visum (tar deg til ny side), og en for å sjekke status på elektronisk søknad om innreise. Har du allerede gyldig visum, trenger du ikke å bry deg med ESTA-siden.

Jan 11, 2009

Planning to be green

Normally, I have a plan, a desire for what I want in the new year. Not this time. This past new year's eve, I watched TV, surfed the 'net, enjoyed the fireworks my neighbors set off. I did not light candles to meditate to, write myself a letter, sum up the last year and think about where to head in the new.

I didn't miss my usual new year's ritual.

The world is currently wrapped up in worries about jobs, oil, food, global warming, wars. None of it matters in my daily life. Not yet. Never has, really. The US embassy has warned American citizens not to participate in any demonstrations, but I have never marched for peace or against war, anyway

None of it matters, what the newspapers say. Ultimately, it's not about what others do. There will be no peace between nations if we all feel entitled to react in anger in our own personal relationships. There will be no clean air or water if we all feel our needs justify a number of gadgets that use electricity or that we deserve a house with a yard somewhere where no busses run. There will be no environment to value if we as individuals do not demand of ourselves to make one significant change, like refusing to buy bottled water for a year. As a single woman, I often buy what I call factory food. My goal in 2009 will be to focus on using food that is the same in the store as it was when it left the ground.

I'd much rather spend more money on locally and organically grown food, and go without something else. Just how new does a cell phone have to be to be useful? Do we really need to phones that play music? Must we have our ears filled with music most of the day? Do we have to be accessible to everyone constantly? Do we have to be online and electronically available every hour of the day? Do we have to eat meat every day of the week? Do we have to indulge in bashing each other on blogs or talk shows?

There's a lot of habits we in the west have acquired and that poorer countries, now coming into money, are adopting, like at least one car per household, meat daily, all sorts of rechargeable gizmos that must be disposed of as hazardous waste, and everything wrapped in plastic.

I do recycle, and my usual garbage consists of one bag of true garbage, and one each of plastics, glass and metal, and paper. It doesn't matter that the recycling is not defined as garbage. It's still waste. It's just going to have a different future than non-recyclable waste. But somewhere it is piling up, costing energy and water to become usable again.

I know why my grocery store wraps bell peppers individually in plastic. It protects them better during transport. I can't do anything about that, and there's the trade-off: No individual wrapping means more spoilage, which doesn't help, either.

As I write this, I discover my new year's resolution, a goal for 2009: I want to return to my more vegetarian ways, attempt to bring less that will be waste into my home, and do my bit to slow the demand on meat and electricity. It's all going to be a challenge, partly because I am fond of such things as eggs and cheese. And electronic gizmos.