Feb 23, 2009

It has to be red!

Some days a bit of window shopping gives results. I have wanted a new purse for a while. Not because my current one is bad, but simply because I wanted something a tad smaller, a bit classier - and not black.

Like red.

As I browsed the handbag and luggage store, I eavesdropped on the conversation the clerk had with other shoppers. Black is the most popular color, regardless of fashion, I learned. Meh, I knew that. Norwegians would make Johnny Cash proud.

Which is why I wanted color. I posed with gray, with gray-blue, with purple against my black (!) coat and black (!!) boots. Nothing felt right. Kelly green and road-sign yellow were out of the question.

I put all the handbags back. I was disappointed in not finding anything I really liked, but reluctant to leave the store, empty-handed. There were many nice, appealing handbags, but they were black. I fought temptation and old habit, determined to have any color but black!

I circled the racks again. I crossed over to one other rack I hadn't yet explored.

Nope. Naw.

I circled back.

I lifted it off its hook, modeled it over my shoulder in front of the store's full-length mirror, and said to myself, "Yes!"

Red against black is always stunning.

Feb 21, 2009

Most of my writing lately

…has been in the comments sections on other people's blogs.

Today, as I sit here thinking about how haikuish Twitter is (it encourages you to think a complete thought in 140 characters or less), I wonder about the drought of longer writings. As I reach for my cup of coffee, the penny drops: I was in a zone before my "DDR trip" in September and it interrupted a project I was working on (my "Harmonic Wealth" book) and I just never got back into it.

By early September, I could feel something jarring loose, some old habits falling away, knew awareness creeping in - and then I left the book and my notepad and everything behind and was immersed in a completely different world for 8 days. If I don't keep something up, I forget it far it too easily. I'm having trouble remembering where I even put the book!

It's felt like the longest wait, and I can't tell you what I've been doing all this time (if it was worth writing about, it ended up on the blog, anyway). The weird thing about one day after another is that even when you're doing nothing, life goes on. Change happens. One day is not a clone of the preceding one, even when you wear the same pajamas.

It's the start of Lent (at least here in Norway). It's time to purge winter and get ready for spring. Yesterday, magpies argued as they worked on rebuilding their nest which had a roof of snow. I purged my recycling. Time to purge lethargy and hesitation, too.

Feb 20, 2009

I now twit

Yeah, I joined the great unwashed, er, wordy and have a Twitter account. See sidebar at right. No, your other right. Thanks.

Feb 19, 2009

Heavens and hells

It was a dark and stormy night. OK, it was just a fading late afternoon, with dirty slush on the ground, sleet in the air and little wind. But it had been a hellacious day for traffic and was still hellacious for pedestrians. About a foot of wet, sloppy snow piled itself on top of other snow and roads, and caught the city by surprise - for the half that listened to one station’s forecast (the other station got it right[1]).

Out into this bitter, miserable day I trudged with a friend, H., I made during my Trondheim trip. We drove to town to have dinner and later see a movie. As we tried to keep our footing across slippery cobblestones, slippery asphalt and slippery flagstones, I asked her if this was going to be a regular thing with us. Each time we’ve met in Bergen, the weather’s been miserable. My friend laughed.

We walked down from our parking spot by the university. At the foot of the hill, we crossed the city block that had been affected by a busted water pipe. The water spouting from the break flooded a transformer kiosk, cutting the power to several businesses, including the pasta restaurant we wanted dinner at. Emergency generators kept a bakery and a grocery store open for business. By the time we’d managed to work our way down to the city’s main square, we were a little too late for the lunch meny (good only before 5 pm), but got our pasta (with mussels and shrimp! yum!).

We had a window table as we ate and as I looked out at the non-stop drizzle and the fine layer of slippery mush that refused to budge from the sidewalks, I mused about why anybody would think hell is a hot, dry place.

H. knew of an excellent little café that specializes in Austrian chocolate and confectionary, and had the most delicious hot chocolate. I was sold and since it was on the way to the movie theater, it was a perfect place for an after-dinner hot drink. My friend was right: I was served dark heaven in a large cup with just the right dollop of cream.

The movie was an nail-biting two hour story about the famous Norwegian war hero Max Manus[2] and what made him a famous Norwegian war hero (and how he met his wife, who is still alive). Some fight scenes were so intense I had to shut my eyes. The cinematography was very good and used to tell the story: When emotions started to run high, the camera went from boom to hand-held, giving a shaky documentary effect to the scene. Excellent make-up, excellent editing and some darned good effects (like the sunken “Donau”). I rarely see Norwegian movies because as a rule one can’t understand a word the actors say and directors tend to dwell too much on some conversation or other (made worse when coupled with the first problem). It’s not me; even Norwegians have trouble understanding the dialog in Norwegian films. “Max Manus” was actually shown with sub-titles! And I was very happy to have seen it (even if it did take some liberties with the truth).

The movie took place during the World War II years, and was filmed mostly in Oslo. Using green screen where necessary, the film makers managed to go back 60 years in time. Some things they did without computer graphics: For the first time since the war, the Nazi swastika flag flew over our parliament building (Stortinget), a sight that is rather creepy. I imagine, though, that the extras lining the main boulevard for the scene showing the home-coming parade for King Haakon VII and his family in June 1945 were genuinely happy; they certainly looked it.

The drama, the intensity, the pain of losing friends was still with me as we left the theater, and since a lot of Bergen’s buildings pre-date World War II, too, walking through the narrow streets back up to the university was like walking in the movie set. A very strange experience not to be transported back to current time immediately after leaving a movie.

Fortunately, getting into a car with a CD display that cheerfully displays the message “Excellence” puts one right back in 2009.

[1] I can't speak for the rest of the country, but for Bergen, your best forecast is found at yr.no. I've checked.

[2] Max Manus went into the office machine business after the war. When I was a secretary c. 25 years ago, I used a Max Manus dictaphone.

Feb 10, 2009

Trying new recipes

The symptoms of (peri)menopause are many. It's almost bizarre what happens to the body in the name of reverse puberty. Like indigestion.

I have had a cast iron stomach my whole life - until now. Now I find myself experiencing GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and heartburn. The really bad part is that it takes away the joy of eating, a joy I don't want to lose.

Enter recipes for people with gastric reflux. I tried a few I found via heartburn.about.com. Pictured here are my versions of "Cashew Vegetable Fried Rice" (above) and "Bean and Cheese Burritos with Avocado" (below).

Making the bean burrito dish required refried beans. Refried beans are not the sort of dish we ever made at home; we got it at Mexican restaurants. I've always liked them and, for a happy while here in Bergen, I found canned refried beans in the foreign food section at my local grocery store. But no more. So the question wasn't just how to make refried beans, but also what are refried beans? I found a recipe at this stranger's blog which answered both questions, and successfully made my first batch of refried beans. I used black beans, however, because I couldn't find pintos, and I don't own a potato masher (well, maybe I do, but I can't remember where I saw it last) but a food processor works just fine. I ended up with fat-free refried beans and a very tasty burrito dish. I did add a bit of taco sauce to the burritos. Just had to.

By the way, did you know that the most stable atom in the universe is iron? The principle behind both fusion and fission energy is to either fuse or split (respectively) atoms until they become iron. See, while I cook, I listen to podcasts and I highly recommend the British The Naked Scientists - "science with a sense of humor".

Feb 6, 2009

The fun of new software

You know how it is: You get a new toy, so you just have to try it out. I installed iLife and iWorks and set iLife to updating my iPhoto library (that thing has gotten pretty big!), and then tried the face recognition software which supposedly can label portraits for you more or less automatically. First experience: Doesn't do too well with tilted heads.

I then opened up iWeb for the first time in ages, and set about making an introductory page to all my photo albums on me.com. I also need to finish my 2007 trip. Fiddling with iWeb felt rather inspiring.

Feb 5, 2009

Blogging and Apple

No sooner had I rattled on about not blogging, when I discovered a very good use for it:

The LaCie disk I use for backups stopped working. I was trying to remember when and where I had purchased it, and searched through my electronic bank account files. Nothing there. I hunted on my hard drive and Spotlight pointed to a number of blog pages. Hmmm... So I searched my blog. Aha, November 2007! And it was a mail order, so it was paid by credit card. I dove into my dead tree files and found the receipt.

LaCie is a good company, offering a five-year warrantee for its hard drives, so it's just a matter of sending it back to where I bought it. In the meantime, I decided to go see what the local Apple store has.

After years of barely realizing there was a personal consumer market for Apple products, Bergen has sprouted two Apple stores: One belonging to a Norwegian chain (Eplehuset - literally "apple house"), and one morphing from Bergen's oldest Mac seller, EDBergen, into a bona fide Apple Store. EDBergen has supplied me with Macs since I was introduced to them. In fact, the same salesman, Jan, who sold me (that is, my employer) a Mac IIci in October 1989, was in the store today.

I wandered around, picking out a surge protector, scanning the racks for other fun stuff, and then Jan (pronounced Yahn) showed me around the store, including the back where their technician sat (they do their own repairs), their little employee break room, the server room, etc. I ended up in Jan's office, he offered a cup of coffee, and I rediscovered one of the joys of a real store: Picking up the pretty boxes, actually holding them, and reading the blurbs on them. So I walked out of the store with the iLife/iWork '09 bundle and a Western Digital hard drive (which is very pretty and quiet). Yes, I'll get my LaCie back, and it will get to be an off-site back-up.

I also know, after a bit of hands-on in the store, that I want the 17" MacBook Pro.

The Apple store is in Bergen's so-called pedestrian mall, and across from it is a art nouveau/jugendstil brick building that originally housed Bergen's first department store about 100 years ago. Nice neighborhood!

Feb 4, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Avatar (updated)

Wordless Wednesday

UPDATE: Because of the reactions in my comments, I thought it may help to see the original:

Feb 2, 2009

MIA

I'm probably as baffled as you are, my dear reader, at the lack of activity on my blog. It's not that nothing's happening in my life. I got a lovely raise at work (broke through a personal glass ceiling doing so), am back to full time (no more one-Wednesday-a-month off), health is good (after a round of something flu-like before Christmas), the weather's great (depending on where you live and what day it is), I attended a co-worker's 40th anniversary party (and realized I'm only 15 years shy of such an event myself - eep!), I'm absolutely flabbergasted that 2009 has already eaten up an entire month (and it's Candlemas and Groundhog Day and daylight lasts all the way to 5 pm), I have finished three months' of physical therapy (and the shoulder is now feeling like its old self again - no pun intended), I hauled myself off to the movies to see "Quantum of Solace" and didn't realize until the next day that Bond hadn't had a Q or gadgets (and he should have or he's not James Bond!), and a casual comment from a co-worker (the one whose party I attended, as it turns out) has helped me lose weight (I simply started taking a multi-vitamin and the late-evening hunger pangs went away).

So there you have it. My life is bobbing along like a cork in a kiddy pool on a calm summer's day, and I guess I'm suffering from that phenomenon that seems to strike artists: If I'm not in pain, I can't create.

Oh, for Pete's sake (as my Grandma would say, and made me wondered about that mysterious man in her life): Some of the most well-adjusted and happiest artists I have known were quite creative. (I'm just dreaming up excuses so I can put more things in parentheses.) I do have some ideas for blog posts, things I consider worth writing about and sharing, but I am currently in no need to write.

Weird really. And yet, I felt compelled to say something now, so there is a desire to type away at something.

Come to think of it, I miss updates on my blog, too. So watch this space!

(MIA = Missing In Action.)