Oct 21, 2011

Håkonshallen - and Grandpa

This is a response to the comments on my Wordless Wednesday post showing a part of Håkonshallen, especially Alice's thoughts that it looks like a prison. Nothing could be further from the truth so I thought I'd give you a whole post about that.

First, the pronounciation of Håkonshallen (the hall of Håkon): That funny "a" in the first syllable is a Scandinavian vowel, and pronounced like a very open "o" (approaching an ah). HOH-kohns-hahllenn.

The 750-year-old Håkonshallen is beloved by the people of Bergen, and those massive stone walls make an excellent backdrop for outdoor operas. I've seen "Aida" there. The walls would have been painted white in medieval times, as was the custom then. It has occurred to me that many tourists miss this building, because they are distracted by the rather fascinating row that precedes it:

In really old days, when the main mode of long-distance transportation was the boat or ship, Norway consisted of today's western mainland, the islands north of the British isles (like Shetland and Faeroy, etc.) and Iceland. Bergen was then the capital, meaning it happened to be where the king lived (as it turns out, Norway's had three capitals, all depending on where the king decided to have his throne). The first laws of the land were written in Bergen in 1276 by king Magnus Lagabøter (Magnus Law-Improver), son of the King Håkon for whom the hall was built. The first activity in the new hall was prince Magnus' wedding. (In case you're keeping track, that would be King Håkon IV and King Magnus VI.)

Håkonshallen has survived fires, neglect and a massive explosion on the harbor in 1944, which took out everything except the stone walls. The hall was lovingly restored and I finally got to see inside in 1988. That's when my grandpa was invited to a medal ceremony for his participation in the war effort as a member of the Norwegian merchant marine.

The above picture from a concert this June shows what the inside looks like with rows and rows of seats filled. (The acoustics aren't too bad.) It was a bit like that with my grandpa. He was 87, dressed in his blue-gray light wool suit and polished brown shoes that he seemed to have had my entire life, and he looked so proud. I was a bit surprised by that, since he never talked about the war. But on that sunny day, surrounded by hundreds of other old sailors (a few were women), he was immersed in the honor and the formality of the occasion. Grandpa has received three medals for his efforts. I took them home with me when Grandma went to the nursing home and they hang on my wall.

The above medal was the one Grandpa got in 1988, signed by King Olav V. The text reads (my translation):
For especially long and effort-filled service on Norwegian and/or Allied merchant ships during the world war 1939–45 and thereby rendered great service to Norway's cause.

A portrait Grandma made of the man himself hangs above my desk.

Oct 16, 2011

Getting my beliefs challenged II

I am going down yet another rabbit hole. It diverges from the one I was falling down about a year and a half ago. At least somewhat. All roads lead to Rome, but not all are main highways and will get you to your final destination; they do move you forward, though.

My new rabbit hole is all about how, if I forgive everyone and everything, we will all cease to exist and happily so.

Some background:

I accidentally learned of ho'oponopono. In looking for more information, I ended up reading Joe Vitale's book "Zero Limits" (and I really liked it). All my decades of swearing to affirmations to accomplish something got set aside while I instead practiced on chanting "I love you" inside my head. I have since gone back to using my usual morning affirmation since that seems to be such a good set-up for me and my day.1 However, the ho'oponopono method makes perfect sense to me and it is far simpler (and more foolproof) than affirmations. Affirmations require wording yourself carefully, being aware of what you are asking for, and even being aware of what you need to ask for. Ho'oponopono lets you say, "I have no f-ing clue what's wrong with me, so I'll just forgive what's happening right now." So any situation that triggers you can be forgiven and therefore healed and removed from your experience. You don't even have to know why you were triggered.

Searching for more information on ho'oponopono led me to the Disappearance of the Universe. This is my new rabbit hole and is even more mind-blowing than "What the Bleep…".

Back to the present:

Reading the "Disappearance of the Universe" (DU) kept reminding me of my favorite novel, "Illusions" by Richard Bach. Both books are about how nothing we see is real. In "Illusions" it is suggested that once we realize nothing is real, we can do with reality as we wish because it's all in our minds, anyway. In DU, the message is that once you realize nothing is real, it all disappears. Both are saying reality isn't what we think it is – no, wait, that's exactly what reality is.

DU is channeled material (for lack of better words) that helps the author clarify his own study of "A Course in Miracles" (ACIM) and spiritual development. He is told that once we all heal ourselves by removing our illusions, all the ego's magic tricks go away – body, mind, universe and all – and we all go back to being one with God again.

As I understand "DU", "we" don't exist. We imagine ourselves to exist, as individuals separate from both God and each other. As part of this illusion, we also have made up trees and kittens, black holes and galaxies, politicians and wars. It is all one humongous props department, so that we can stage whatever we want to keep the ego happy and God at bay. But on a God level, there is no Keera, there is no you, my dear reader. In as much that you exist for me, you are only one of my many illusions. And yet, I am also one of yours. How mind-boggling is that? Whose reality is this???

This is where my brain fails me and I cannot imagine how we are all one, still a part of God but oblivious to God (because He can't acknowledge something He's not) and also seeing each other as independent individuals. I'm also not sure about the explanation for why we all/I decided to make up galaxies and dolphins and then get embarrassed about it and hide from God (to put "original act of ego" in a nutshell). I keep hoping the penny will drop, but for now it sits lodged in my metaphorical coin slot.

I am far more comfortable with the claim that God didn't even create any of this, not even the good parts (as disappointing as that is), because that would truly explain why God allows cancer and the evening news. According to DU, God doesn't even know these things exist because – again – God can't acknowledge something He's not. God is only love.

And now you have some idea of what DU is about.

I look at the huge brick that is my copy of ACIM, and I also have a Kindle version. Many years ago I tried to understand the whole forgiveness and atonement (at-one-ment) thing in ACIM but gave up. ACIM is itself a very demanding read.

But there is something about all this that is very appealing. In DU, you can apparently heal any lifetime you may have had by forgiving everything and everyone in this lifetime. Even just getting rid of the troubles of this lifetime would be rewarding enough. What gets me is what might happen next. That bye-bye universe thing.

For now, I will read another Gary Renard book (he has three), and practice ho'oponopono more actively. If the penny drops, I'll let you know.

1) Breathe in while focusing on something natural (a tree, the sky) or with eyes closed, and say, "I breathe in the cosmic forces of the universe asking for strength protection and guidance." Exhale and repeat.

Oct 15, 2011

Test post

This is a test for my friend Alice, for whom Blogger is not working.

You may ignore this post completely, but if you've read this far, you haven't so ignore what I said.

Sep 18, 2011

Food. Again.

OK, yesterday's post came out of the blue. For you. For me, it was the result of a Friday at work full of carbs: Bread, fruit juice and two kinds of cake. And that was breakfast at work.

Still under the influence of all the carbs, I let myself take some leftovers home with me. I had tasted the carrot cake and it was yummy, and chocolate cake has always gone down well, too. But this, my dear reader, is what has changed and why I wrote yesterday: I have absolutely no desire for the leftover cake.

I find myself having to talk myself into eating it so that I don't have to throw it out. I woke up this morning laying out strategies for how to get to a point where I would want cake. My current plan is to have my two pieces in lieu of dinner; dinner itself will be eaten mid-afternoonish.

I was never a carbaholic, but I used to buy donuts, Danish, carrot cake, chocolate cake, brownies, etc., on a regular basis (i.e. 1–2 times a week). I would happily buy some cake to have at home for myself for the weekend or during a holiday. I used to love anything made out of flour! Waffles, pancakes, cold cereal, oh, man, best food ever!

The fact that I now have to talk myself into eating something made out of flour fascinates me. What a change in my body chemisty and therefore in my thinking! (I still keep chocolate in the house, though. I am a woman, after all.)

And this change is what had me typing yesterday. My current choice in diet seems to be quite beneficial for me on so many levels. And I find it funny that those slices of cake could probably live to a ripe old age in my refrigerator and not get missed, ever.

PS: Breakfast today, described yesterday. If you look closely, you'll see two shades of white in the food: The bluer one is the coconut cream.

Sep 17, 2011

A food post (with kale and rambling)

So I've heard of the wonders of kale (called "green cabbage" in Norway) and this time of year our supermarkets carry it. The plant is perfect for temperate climates because a bit of frost makes it taste better. It can be used in anything you would use (cooked) spinach in and has about the same nutrients.

I'd heard of kale chips and made a batch. They came out all brown because the recipe said 10 minutes (very crispy they were!). I tried again today. I tore the leaves into bite-sized pieces, dribbled olive oil over followed by a sprinkle of tasty BBQ-type spice mix ("grillkrydder"). I let them bake for 7 minutes at 150 degrees Celsius. For my oven, that was perfect. The kale chips were still green but now crunchy.

I ate the whole tray in one sitting, and I've realized that if you make kale chips just right, they're like all those other chips: You can't stop after just a few. These melt in your mouth! For that reason, I'm not sure I'll repeat this particular experiment again. But, boy, did they taste good!

I keep trying to make good food for myself. I have been low-carbing for almost 14 months, and have never felt better. I swear by Jimmy Moore's podcasts as a way to keep myself updated on research in the field and have learned that as we age, we all probably need to cut carbohydrates, because carbs seem to wear us out faster than proteins and fats do. As someone who swore by whole grains for years, I found myself no longer able to digest them. I had heard that we get lactose intolerant with age because our ability to produce the lactase enzyme diminishes with age. It looks like something similar happens with carbs; we seem to get more gluten sensitive as we grow older.

After a year of eggs (mostly) for breakfast, and no more bread at lunch or rice with dinner, I have shrunk 4 pants sizes (without additional exercise), nails have gotten stronger, and digestive problems have gone away. I sleep better and think better, in spite of perimenopause. I was having a bit of brain-fog (or meno-fog) and even some surprising joint pains earlier this week, which may be either due to too much protein or a potassium shortage. My body guided me to the right solution even before I googled it; I bought a large container of Greek yoghurt, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds. I also got fresh blueberries and coconut cream. Talk about a bit of luxury! It tastes and looks good and I really enjoy the variation from soft-boiled eggs.

I do find myself missing my old eating habits sometimes (thank goodness for this low-carb pancake recipe!). There are times when I wish I could be vegetarian again, or have a nice bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. But as I keep reading about food and the chemistry of metabolic syndrome, and also about gluten, I realize that I'd be asking for trouble if I started eating grains again on a regular basis, or giving up the best source of amino acids (meat). I think I'd be more satisfied with my current diet choice if I get more adventurous with vegetables in my diet.

You wouldn't know it from this post, but I don't really care much about food. I care about health. Food is a part of health; food is medicine. I do enjoy gourmet foods, the seven-course meals with seven wines, because my taste buds work fine. I'm just not interested in how that food is made. I admire those who do know how to put magic on a plate because I find it baffling. I never watch cooking shows for that reason; I just don't understand what's happening. (As a girl, I had to ask five times for help before I finally understood how to make scrambled eggs, the simplest dish in the world.) I also get bored and so will step away from the stove. I use a timer to keep track of seconds and minutes so I don't forget what I was doing. (You're not the only one suspecting I have ADD.) For these reasons, I love recipes where all the ingredients go into one pan or pot and cook together. One-dish meals. I can chop stuff (and that's when I listen to the podcasts). So when I pick through my recipe books, I'm usually looking for something that resembles a one-dish meal. Fry up the chicken while all the veggies roast together sort of thing.

Surprisingly, my food ends up tasting good. May not ever look photogenic, but it tastes fine. So that's a blessing. I do feel a need to be more adventurous, to get more variety in my kitchen. Something like gourmet cooking for kitchen klutzes who can hardly hold a paring knife.

I know what that means: Salads.

Hmmm… Time to use my new library card and get some recipe books on salads. I love salads!

Sep 4, 2011

Aiming for the smallest annoyance

My high school teacher told us students that we may not have anything to vote for, but we always have something to vote against. That statement has often been the only reason I have bothered to vote.

In the US it is easy to find who or what to vote against. Most questions there are yes/no: The Democrat candidate? Yes/no. A yes means the Republican candidate gets a “no”. I definitely voted against Jimmy Carter in 1980, and against Sarah Palin in 2008. I have no vested interest in the candidates who got my “yes” since all presidents annoy me (they just do), and since I know that politics – and the presidency – tend to be like farming: Hard to do without producing a pile of manure.

Now, the US does have more than two political parties and they often offer presidential candidates, but due to changes in how the presidential debates are held, you never hear from them.

In Norway, as with most European countries, there are several political parties. Norway has seven that offer the usual gang of idiots in our parliament, and a couple of minor ones that sometimes appear on a national level. There are also strictly local parties, like Bergen’s “The City Air Party”, formed this year specifically to deal with the ever-increasing air pollution that settles on us during winter months when we have high pressure systems and no wind.

My challenge, as a foreign citizen with the right to vote locally, but not nationally, is that I do not have the option of voting against anyone. There is no “against” in a system where the seven parties can form coalitions if no single one of them wins enough votes to rule alone. (Norway’s current national government is a three-party red-green coalition.)

Norwegians hold the idea of “secret ballot” very dear, to the point that no one will tell me exactly how they vote so it’s a bit hard to discuss politics with people outside of family and close friends. I therefore have to figure out who to vote for on my own.

The headache for a girl who likes to keep things simple is to find the party that annoys me the least. And who won’t enter into a coalition with a party that annoys me a lot. I am told by Norwegian friends that this is the correct way to approach Norwegian politics.

My lack of admiration for Bergen’s current right-winged government had me sniffing around the middle where I usually fall politically, but the parties that tend to occupy that space haven’t been impressing me, either. So I read the programs for parties that lean to the left. The one that offered concrete plans for Bergen and Hordaland (our province) in plain Norwegian got my vote. No, not the Labor Party. I am not swayed by this summer’s events here, so no sympathy voting for them.

Norway has managed to avoid the financial crises that have affected the US and the EU. Norwegians themselves have a lot of money to burn, and it’s a materialism I’m not happy to see develope. We’re turning into America, with an attitude that as long as the indiviual can enjoy a cushy lifestyle, who needs a competent government, let alone pay for it.

Inspired by Thatcherism, Norway has fiddled with privatizing certain public services, like home nursing and park services and snow clearing. Some parties want to privatize more. My attitude is that some things should never be run for profit (like schools and hospitals) and some services need to be available to everyone, regardless of income level (like schools and hospitals).

One issue that matters to me as a voter is that, as someone without a car, I want a viable city center and good bus connections to it. Norway loves to emulate the US, and Norwegians have a similar love affair with the car that Americans do. The result is that in a city center that holds half our city’s 250,000 population, there is no place to buy a sofa – with the exception of a few expensive designer boutiques and the Salvation Army. Everything’s been moved to suburban shopping malls. What stores are left in the city center are struggling. I hope for better and greener city planning. Dedicated bike lanes would be nice. I hate being surprised by cyclists on the sidewalk.

Election day this year is September 12, and on that day we raise the flag and our government-run liquor monopoly stores are closed. (Norway in a nutshell, that.) However, we have early voting, so I took my voter’s card to the local library last week and stuffed my envelope with the candidate lists for the almost-communist party. They are one of the coalition parties in our national government and I don’t really like them, but this election year they are the party that annoys me the least.

Aug 9, 2011

Boobies: To squeeze or not to squeeze

Yes, this post will be about boobies. Also known as tits. Mugs. Jugs. Bazongas. Melons. Breasts. Breasts and the big squeeze. Also known as getting a mammogram.

In Norway, all woman are automatically offered bi-annual mammography examinations between the ages 50 and 69. Just before Easter this year, I got the letter informing me of my first appointment, accompanied by a questionnaire and a brochure, all delicately done in pleasant shades of pale green (now long recycled).

Every time I see the picture of a well-endowed woman (they always seem to have pendulous, D-cup boobies), topless, standing next to a large piece of machinery, with one breast flattened between two plates of glass, I cringe. I cringe mightily.

Breasts are sensitive and don’t like rough handling, and it hurts like hell to get them squeezed. So I’ve read about breast cancer and mammography and I’ve also read about alternative technologies of spotting growths in mammaries, like shining a light through like when you hold a flashlight up to your fingers, and I tell myself that I can wait until technology improves to the point that I can get screened for tumors with a flashlight rather than the big squeeze. Because the squeeze ranges from very uncomfortable to tear-producing painful and I don’t know which will be my experience.

So after reading the whole brochure, and googling risk factors for breast cancer (I have a few as do we all) and thinking about what would be the prudent move for my overall long-term health, I cancelled my mammography appointment using the e-mail address provided for that use. They accepted my cancellation without question. I figure they can always ask me back again in two years. I’m more concerned about cardiovascular disease, anyway, since that’s what kills most women.

The thing is, nobody knows for sure what causes breast cancer. Many risk factors given are actually based on good guesses, some of which come from experience with other types of cancer. The only sure-fired correlation is that as westerners have gotten fatter and more prone to diabetes, the rate of breast cancer has gone up. And that may not be just a correlation (see below).

What prompted me to write about this now is a report that came out recently, showing that screening does not reduce mortality from breast cancer. This page (in Norwegian) has a graph comparing Norway to Sweden. By comparing two similar countries that started screening a decade apart, it is easier to see if screening has any influence on breast cancer mortality. It doesn’t. The slightly lowered rates seen in the graph are due to improved treatment.

Norwegian researchers are now going to reevaluate the mammography program. The belief was, when it was started, that screening would reduce breast cancer mortality by 30%; the result so far is only 10%. There are those who say mammograms are still helpful, but others point out that if the number of false positives are added to the figures, that 10% improvement may be even lower.

One thing to keep in mind is that self-examination is still the best way to detect changes in the breasts between screenings, and many women discover tumors on their own, not in a radiologist’s office.

Another thing to keep in mind is that new discoveries are constantly being made—and in some cases, old discoveries are brought to light again. I just read an article that said sugar causes cancer. It’s not sugar itself, actually; it’s insulin. Insulin is a type of growth hormone and that can promote cancer cell growth. (See "Sugar and Cancer: Is There a Connection?") Which is why the correlation may actually be causation.

So I choose to wait. I wait for the research. I wait for the technology. I wait for something better than two glass plates for my two tits.

Aug 6, 2011

The grace of a hawk

A commenter to this movie on YouTube wished hawks were like dogs so you could pet them when they do stuff like this. That's what I was thinking! Birds of prey are both so beautiful and so graceful. Just how graceful is shown in this BBC video. I'm also fascinated by how feathers move in slow-motion.

Jul 30, 2011

A week later

Yesterday all flags were flown at half-mast in Norway, in honor of all those who lost their lives Friday July 22 2011. I offer my own condolences to all those who have lost loved ones, and to Norway itself.

It's been an intense week. I have learned that those of us who actually turned off the TV and distracted ourselves with something totally different did the right thing.

It has been non-stop in the media and now I find myself praying that my daily newspaper will have a normal cover tomorrow. For the seventh day running I have been treated to a single photograph with one large title covering the whole front below the masthead, all related to the horrible, unbelievable events of July 22. I’m looking forward to some photo and blurb above the fold, the usual sidebar and something below the fold including the ads, which I never read.

Norway's holding up pretty good. People are always better than their reputation: Humanity tends toward good, not bad, though it sometimes takes a crisis to bring out the best in us. Norway rose to the occasion, in unison, focused on joining hands and hearts. I am proud of this nation for doing that.

It still hurts. Thinking back while I write this still produces tears.

I’ve read that it's OK for those of us who have no personal stake in the terror event to take it personally because it is a national event that effects everyone. It is a nationwide shock and we all have our individual response to it and our way of handling our reaction.

For myself, alone at home in the midst of vacation time, Facebook with my friends and groups there to share, comfort and inspire, has been a good place to go in lieu of getting a real hug. There have also been memorial services, memorial marches, and thousands and thousands of flowers and candles left all over Norway. I am looking forward to going back to work on Monday, not to commiserate—there will be that—but for the distraction work gives.

Some people have gotten furious. Some have felt despair. Some, especially teens, are afraid it will happen again. My own reaction is sadness—and then I try to remember that the only way forward is through forgiveness.

I was listening to Sting's "Fragile" on the radio Thursday. For the first time in my 50 years, I have finally understand exactly what he means when he sings about how fragile we are. (It’s become the anthem for Norway’s day of terror.)

We are fragile. The human body is so vulnerable to violence. Death comes so easily. The human mind that conceived of killing innocent youths is also fragile. And for weeks and months and even years to come, our own hearts will be fragile, every time we think of the loved ones that are gone forever, every time we think of the Friday in July when our entire nation lost its innocence, every time we think of the murderer and are reminded that there are no monsters; there is just people.

We have no way to stop this. We have no guarantees that tomorrow will be just as harmless as today. But we have hope and courage, and I am so happy to hear that the Labor Party Youth organization will continue, that its remaining members are inspired to preserve democracy, and are not disheartened.

As for what will happen next in Norway, some citizens are already demanding that the police be given the right to detain anyone who may be seen as a threat. I pray that we don't go down that road. It hasn't served the US post 9/11. Norway is so proud that it has an open, democratic society and I think we should keep it that way. The killer was paranoid; we shouldn’t be.

I mentioned forgiveness above. Lately I've been reading a lot about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about absolution. It is not even about closure. Forgiveness is about starting the process that will eventually heal all of our minds so that thoughts of hatred, fear, rage, or bitterness no longer cloud our thinking or color our attitudes. Forgiveness helps us put the past in the past, and not let it keep hurting us in the present.

Most importantly—and uncomfortably—forgiveness is about seeing how the other person's wrong could have been your wrong. We all carry seeds of hatred, of anger, of resentment. Claiming we would never kill someone, anyway, ignores the fact that we nevertheless allow ourselves to have such feelings. We like to find fault with others—whether it is a family member, a co-worker or a politician. We like to bad-mouth them and we are pleased when they fail or make a mistake, because it "verifies" our own "good judgment".

Forgiveness is a way of not letting negative feelings fester. It is also not about forgetting. I said it starts the process of healing. Forgiveness does so by allowing yourself to consider the innocence of the other person, by remembering the other is as human as you, and by exploring what good can exist in the situation. Most importantly, forgiveness is to keep yourself from letting the bad take root in your own heart. You may have to forgive over and over and over, but that's OK. That's normal and that’s why it’s a process, not an end-point.

Many years ago I read the following targeted at bosses: Try to catch your employees in the act of doing something right.

I suggest that we do that outside the workplace: Catch our fellow humans doing something right. Focus on finding the good in people. This past week in Norway has proven that it is very easy to do.

Footnote: Wikipedia's entry on our worst day since WWII

Jul 22, 2011

10 years ago - and now

Ten years ago I got to see the Manhattan skyline for myself. This photo was taken with not so good camera 10 years ago this month. Two months later, the two characteristic towers of the World Trade Center were gone.

I bring this up now because, right now, as I type, rescue workers are still searching through the office buildings belonging to the Norwegian parliament, looking for more explosives, as well as injured or killed. The main theory is that a car bomb went off around 3:30 pm today in downtown Oslo and blasted out windows in a 1 kilometer radius. The pictures of twisted metal window frames many floors up on a run-of-the-mill office building coupled with the knowledge that this is taking place in quiet, out-of-the-way Oslo is both unbelievable and upsetting.

I hate that this is happening here. I hate that this is happening again.

Bizarrely, someone dressed as police are shooting at a summer camp for Labor party youth while the bomb search goes on. A talking head on the news has just informed me that this is typical of Al- oh, fuck them. They don't get their name mentioned.

The truth is, we don't yet know yet who will claim responsibility for this, or why. A common denominator is the Labor Party, and although I don't much care for our prime minister, who is Labor, I do not envy him this nightmare one bit. It may not even be directly political; another theory harkens back to the debacle around Danish and Norwegian papers publishing cartoons bashing Moha--, naw, won't mention him, either. Let the search engines find somebody else's site.

The only bright spot in this is that it is vacation time in Norway, and most offices were empty.

My heart isn't pounding as hard now, as I get ready to publish. I know that the most important thing to do is to not hate, not feed into whatever in our minds and societies has let something like this happen in the first place.

My sympathies to everyone in Oslo.

Footnote: Wikipedia's entry on our worst day since WWII

Jul 1, 2011

Paper or pixel? Book readers want to know

I have a bookmark that reads, "You are never lonely with a book." Books have been my allies for as long as I can remember. Getting immersed in a story that takes double-digit chapters to resolve or following someone's theory or life over hundreds of pages adds a break from life like nothing else. And unlike other pauses in life, what you read in a book can stay with you for years, and maybe even change your life.

Alice has written about the paper-based book and has linked to an article whose author feels that a Kindle would be as distracting as his computer apparently is.

First of all, anybody who wants to have a good read will shut their computer off. You are not a Real Reader if you can’t figure out how to hide away (i.e. have an arsenal of sneaky tricks and good excuses) from things and tasks and people and clocks so you can Read!

Secondly, when I’m reading something that really interests me, I lose all sense of time and place, anyway. (Which is absolutely wonderful!)

So, what about printed versus digital? Paper versus pixel?

Both, I say. It depends on the technology and your own preferences.

I was off on a quest a couple of months ago and didn’t want to wait for shipping for a relevant book, so I downloaded the Kindle software from Amazon (it’s free) and bought the Kindle version of my desired book and have read a couple of books now on my iPod Touch. Not a bad experience. I liked the software but eventually missed having a bigger screen, something more page-sized, something that was closer to how the author/publisher wanted the book presented.

I have just held my new Kindle in my hands. It is just as advertised: Thin, light, gray, and very, very easy to read. In fact, it reminds me of the monochrome LED screens of the handheld devices of the 90’s. It’s plain, the display has no color or shades of gray, and the interface is so old-school that menu items are highlighted with underscores. I have fiddled a bit with it, read the getting-started articles, and was basically done with the “novelty” after 10 minutes. As others have noted, there is no sense of reading from a screen; it really does feel like reading from paper.

Surprisingly, the Kindle is not giving me a sense of moving forward, of entering a more advanced or complicated technological era. Rather, it is giving me a sense of simplicity and nostalgia. It’s taking me back to when most things were printed, photocopies were only in black and white, computer screens were monochrome, and computers themselves were limited in what they could do because they ran only one program.

The Kindle focuses on letting the reader read. The wireless connection is for synchronizing between devices and buying more books. Other than that, you can turn off the wi-fi and just do what you usually do: Page back and forth, bookmark a page, highlight a passage, jot down a note in the margin, look up a word you don’t know (without having to keep a separate dictionary with you).

My new toy is charging (update: It charged in 90 minutes, not the 3 hours suggested) and will be used tonight for reading in bed. I’ll find out if the hype about the electronic ink is really All That.

I agree that technology shouldn't intrude on reading, but technology per se is not a deterrent to reading. People have different needs and technology has made it possible to meet more needs. Some folks don't read; they listen to audiobooks. Some need large-print books. I have had my reading enjoyment spoiled by lousy typography in a printed book. A digital reader can let me adjust type-size, and it can read out loud to me. It saves space in my shelves so I can actually own more books. I'd say there's room for both paper and digital; the most important thing is to Read.

PS: Something else has just happily occurred to me: I have a friend overseas who also has a Kindle. We can actually borrow books from each other! Wirelessly! How cool is that?

Jun 23, 2011

We are not a muse

So over at Chez Alice's, Alice herself posted about the dearth of postings on her blog. Specifically, postings that feature writing, rather than photography. I recognize and sympathize with Alice's sense of lack since my own blog has the same dearth.

The amount of time has not changed. The interest in the world around me has not tapered off. Yet all my time at the computer no longer produces creative output. Repeatedly, my creativity is spent on a comment or three on someone's Facebook status or on someone's blog. Short bursts of opinion weigh in after writing, editing, and more editing - at someone else's place.

And it baffles me.

Where is my initiative to polish and publish something on my own dear blog (which has been with me for 8 years and 11 months today)? Why does my creativity remind me more of junk food grabbed on the run than a proper home-cooked meal eaten where it was made? And how do I reverse this?

Alice and I have challenged each other to a game of tag. When one posts a written post, then the other must get off her butt, sit down, and update her blog with writing, too. There is no time limit except that we expect to update each blog weekly.

So that has inspired this.

Yet, my question of where genuine inspiration and motivation and enthusiasm for treating my readers (and myself) to a thought, an experience, an adventure using a series of paragraphs is still unanswered.

Do Facebook status updates stifle creativity? Does the convenience of shooting off a sentence on Twitter hinder further thought?

I don't want what I tell you to be I'm going off to bed or that I've just made dinner or that I heard a good song and you can buy it too via iTunes. Like a piece of candy, that sort of thing seems perfect at the moment - for a moment. It's impulse and impulsive.

I think all social media have their place, and should complement each other rather than crowd each other out. That is a matter of priority, however, not type of media. Blogs aren't dead yet, and neither is the joy of writing. But blogs take more time, if they are to be done right. And time tends to get sacrificed when distracted by updates and tweets and anything else going on.

I think my brain (and perhaps yours) needs something far more nutritious than an update. Something that makes more than a couple of neurons fire. Something that forces me to think, edit, and think again. Something less impulsive and more compulsive.

It'll come to me.