Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone reading this a happy new year 2009. Thank you for reading my blog (such as it is :-) in 2008 ... hope to see you around in the coming year as well. Have a good night, everyone, and take care.

Here's a vaguely appropriate wintry picture, to celebrate. Yay. Have fun. :-)

Oh, and congratulations to Sir Terry Pratchett!!! :-D

Books I've read in 2008 - December

These are the books I've read this month. Not all of them journalled on BookCrossing yet, as is my habit ... shame on me, I know, I need to do better next year. :-)

More on books read tomorrow. :-)

Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black (audio)
Olja by Gunnar Lindstedt
Giving by Bill Clinton (audio)
Dronning Margot, volume one by Alexandre Dumas
Illusions by Richard Bach
Freakonomics by Levitt/Dubner (audio)
The Echo by Minette Walters
The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
Something Muffins by Stewart Clark
Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
Legally Blonde by Amanda Brown
War and Anti-War by Alvin Toffler & Heidi Toffler
Broken English Spoken Perfectly by Stewart Clark
Mannen i sjön by Arnaldur Indridason (audio)
Turtles by Mervin F Roberts
Kallocain by Karin Boye
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Real Murders by Charlaine Harris
Dronning Margot, volume two by Alexandre Dumas

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I am sad ...

... about something I can do next to nothing about, and which everyone in the whole world could be whining about, if they felt like wasting their time on it.

Namely the fact that there are those among my countrymen - those whom I am forced to acknowledge as my countrymen, like it or not - who are SO FUCKING STUPID & IGNORANT that I really almost despair at the system of education in this country, and if that wasn't bad enough, I almost lose hope that there's any point in educating these snowed-in lackwits anyway. >:-(

What's brought all this on then? Well, indirectly, Joralf Gjerstad, the supposed healer/clairvoyant/all-around charlatan. I really ought to have written something about him long before now. But, well, I haven't. I am slow. :-) If you read Norwegian, you can read a couple of fantastic posts on the subject written by my blogger friend Gunnar Tjomlid - first post here, followup here. Those aren't what's got me so pissed off, though. (Those are in fact pretty fantastic.)

There's an article in Dagbladet today about how Gjerstad refuses to have his so-called abilities tested as part of a special on NRK's popular science show (pun intended ;-) Schrödingers katt. Gee, what a surprise. They've opened the article for comments, so ... let the good times roll, as usual. There are lots of wrongheaded, ignorant and just plain dumb comments ... but this one takes the cake. This one really takes the whole fucking bakery. (Yeah, I watched Shallow Hal this weekend. How did you guess. ;-)

(My translation.)

The placebo effect as it's called is the power of thought. That thought can be your own or for instance [Gjerstad's] that he shares with you through a tool (healing hands etc)

What the FUCK is wrong with people??? How is it possible to be so enormously ignorant and still be able to operate a computer?? It shouldn't be possible!! I don't want this person to be Norwegian. I seriously don't want to come from the same stock as this guy.

Read a book, people. (Not in any way saying that any of my readers are necessarily idiots. ;-) But sheesh, you never know what's out there.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Shoutout: I fremtiden

Today's post will be of interest mostly to Norwegian-speaking readers, alas. Or at least those who understand the language well enough to read it. Although this comic is funny enough to make it worthwhile learning Norwegian just to read it. ;-)

I just want to give a shoutout to this blog, 'the online home of the daily comic In the Future'. The artist & blog owner asked me to ... well, not me specifically, but just all his readers. I fremtiden is a comic which tells us what the future will be like. It's going to be very interesting, I can tell you that. Some people resent this comic on principle because it isn't drawn by hand, but on computer ... which some purists 'feel' is cheating. Well, I stomp on their 'feelings'! This is an extremely funny comic and the artwork is just right, so there.

Karstein Volle, the artist, posts a new strip every day. He's a very funny man. If you can understand simple sentences in Norwegian and you're curious about what the future will be like, then hesitate no longer! You will find what you seek ... In the Future!!

Some samples (click to enlarge, all translations mine):

In the future, we will all die from mercury poisoning because of all the fish oil we force down our throats to be healthy.
In the future, everyone will have super quick wireless networks everywhere.
We will also have tumors the size of oranges.In the future, robots will FINALLY take over.
In the future, they're coming for you.
And here's my favorite. I love this strip. This is the future that I have always dreamed of!!

In the future, there will never be white Knotts in the Knott bags.

What are Knotts?? The most special candy there is ... !!?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cats and board games ...

... is what I normally spend my Saturday nights with; the last Saturday of the month, at least. It's the regular monthly board game night at my friends K and Dag-Erling's house. They have four adorable cats. Always nice to visit with them. Although in the second picture here they may not look very friendly ... :-D

Whisky the Ghost Cat ...

Pestus (right): DIS IS MAH HAPPY FACE!!
Whisky (left): I SUSPECZ HIM ...

We played Runebound. I started out pretty well, but then I got killed a couple of times and lost all my stuff, so, well, I kinda fell behind a bit. Ahem.

Here's my character, One-Fist. Not sure what's up with his spear, it was just bendy like that. Probably supposed to be straight, but ... that One-Fist, he's just a non-conformist in a lot of ways. Nice background, huh? That's Dag-Erling, he ... took an interest in my efforts to take a picture of One-Fist and wanted to ... contribute. Yeah, that's right ... contribute. Out of the kindness of his heart. Aww.

Quote of the Week

Blasphemy is a victimless crime.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mountain flora

I have such a long list of things that I want to blog about ... I hardly know where to start. Just pick one and start writing, I guess. :-) Today I picked the one I felt the most like writing about - summertime!! :-) December 21st is the longest night of the year here - the darkest day, so to speak. That's the day when we say that 'the sun turns' ... after the 21st, the winter solstice, the days start getting longer. But it's imperceptible so far. We're in the very depths of winter, with only a few hours of daylight every day. (But I shouldn't complain - at least we do have those few hours, up north they're living in full dark 24/7 now.) I don't like winter much. :-) So for today's post I decided to choose a cheerful topic and write about something that perhaps we all need reminding of right about now. Summer in the mountains, and all the beautiful flowers that grow there.

Well, not all of them, just the ones I've got good pictures of on photobucket. ;-)

I've already posted about 'Wild Man Valley', the strange area a couple of hours from our cabin where the flora is so different from the surroundings for many many kilometers. There are so many species of plant growing there, and in such abundance. It's quite amazing, a sight not to be missed if one ever gets the chance. :-)

Ferns and other large plants. Many species grow to unusual size in this place, sizes they could never achieve only some tens of meters from this site.

The purplish plants you see here are called tyrihjelm (Aconitum lycoctonum). I'm not sure what the name means, except that hjelm means helmet. The popular name for the plant in the East Valley is lushatt, which means louse hat - the plant can be used to make an effective remedy against head lice. I think this is most often called wolfsbane in English.

Buttercups (Ranunculus acris) growing on a miniature island in the river that runs along the valley floor. These are usually called smørblomst in Norwegian - butter flowers. :-)

These were my grandmother's favorite flowers - linnea (Linnaea borealis). They are tiny and delicate; the flower grows in pairs of beautiful pale pink bells, and they smell of sweet almonds. This is the flower that the greatest of the great botanists, Carl von Linné, picked as the one he wanted to forever bear his own name. This plant tends to grow in certain specific spots - they send out long extended roots that new stems sprout from, so if you find one, you'll always find more. I know the right places to find them in the area around our cabin - of course I know ;-) - and I used to always pick a bouquet of them for my grandmother. She appreciated this especially in the last few years of her life when she wasn't in shape to walk anywhere much herself. But she always got her linnea. :-) I think the English name is twinflower.

In this valley they spread out to cover much larger areas than I've ever seen them do anywhere else.

A closer look at some individual plants. They are so beautiful ... a pity the color doesn't show up very well in these shots. Next summer I'll try to get some better ones, with my new camera, which I haven't had the chance to use up there yet. But also, the flowers do tend to get less pink and more white as the summer wanes.

The plant grows in various types of forested environment. They love the shade and are often found growing more or less underneath larger species.

Reinlav or reinmose (Cladonia rangiferina) is extremely common in this area. It grows almost everywhere, and the growths can be very dense, as you see here. The name means reindeer moss - the name is due to the fact that this species is a favorite winter food of the wild reindeer that live in this and other mountainous areas. I think this name is in relatively common use in English too (ie reindeer moss).

Blueberries!! Well, at least what we call blueberries in Norway - blåbær (Vaccinium myrtillus). Very tasty and very healthy. :-) This year was a pretty good year for blueberries in Rondane ... in the sense that there were quite a few of them to be found ... but they weren't all that good. We picked some to eat on all the hikes we went on this summer, but some of them were just ... meh. Kind of watery and tasteless ... bland. But others were really good. And of course they all looked v. pretty. :-)

Tettegras (Pinguicula alpina). Umm ... butterwort, right? This and the two other Pinguicula species listed here are the only carnivorous plants in this country. No flower, alas ... I was there too late in the year this summer, there were only leaves left on all the specimens I saw.

Geitrams (Epilobium angustifolium) - fireweed in English - which is always colorful, is extra bright at the high altitudes our cabin is at. And this year they were especially vibrant ... I'd never seen them so brightly colored before. Beautiful. The house in the background is the one Hilde and Storm built after retiring as managers at Bjørnhollia.

2008 was a lousy year for cloudberries (Rubus chamaemorus), but of course there are always some. They are called multe in Norwegian, and are generally considered an acquired taste. ;-)

Another very common species of plant in this area is røsslyng (Calluna vulgaris). Yeah, basically heather. :-) It's closely related to the erica species, but it's a separate species. It grows in very varied terrain, but it does prefer open spaces with lots of sunlight. The brightness of the flowers varies from year to year ... this year there were a lot of plants with very strongly colored flowers. Don't ask me why, but it was certainly very pretty. :-)

More heather ... this was in more marshy terrain, the picture above is of a dry spot.

My mother picked a huge bouquet of them, which of course was absolutely beautiful. I mean, wow. :-)

Bluebells (Campanula rotundifolia)!! They are so pretty, I love their color ... pale but still so striking against the mountain grasses. :-) They're called bluebells in Norwegian - blåklokker - but the English name is harebell. These were growing randomly by the side of the road in Røros.

And these were on the stairs in the churchyard there. :-)

This next plant is one of several closely related species (they differ in color) which grow on sunny open hillsides in mountainous areas. They're pretty rare. The family name in Norwegian is søte, ie sweet ... this purple one is called bittersøte, bittersweet. Not sure about the latin name. I'll find out. The flowers need strong sun to open - when they're closed, which is most of the time, they're very humble and unassuming and very easy to miss ...

... but when they open up, they're just absolutely beautiful. :-)

This is another quite rare plant - Olavsstake (Moneses uniflora), ie, St Olav's candlestick. :-) St Olav (king Olav II the Saint, 1015-30) is our patron saint, and one of the very few Norwegian saints who ever became popular outside of Norway. :-) The old superstition had it that this flower grew in the holy king's footsteps ... and as a result it's distributed widely across the country. The king travelled all over in his efforts to 'convert' us to Christianity (this basically consisted in him telling people that either you accept Christ as your lord or I will burn your houses down and kill you, and people saying hey man, don't do that, we totally accept this Christ guy, just don't burn anything ... and the king having them baptized and then riding away happily and never seeing any of these people again. :-D)

This next one is quite common and easy to find - kattefot and harelabb are the common names for it. (Cat's paw and hare's foot. :-) I don't know either the latin name or the correct English name ... I'll do some research. And next summer I'll take some better pictures. :-)

And finally, another very rare plant, which I think I've only seen the time a couple of years ago when I took this picture. Maybe a few more times, I'm not sure. Mogop (Anemone vernalis) prefers very rocky ground - as you see - it grows in places where few other plants manage to survive. A very hardy species ... and quite beautiful, although as you see quite tiny.

Whew, this took forever ... ! And now I can hardly wait for summer ... ;-)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Turtle closeup: Herman

I was going to write another Egypt post today (seriously, I am ridiculously behind) but I just don't have the energy. My parents' computer is SO SLOW and freezes up constantly - I seriously cannot use this thing without having a book handy - it's just too annoying to work with and I feel like I'm in danger of breaking the damn thing if I sit here too long. So I'll postpone the enforced shopping in Cairo till I get home and just post some adorable turtle pictures today. I took these five days ago - it was a feeding day and I wanted to get some pictures of Herman biting my fingertips. But of course he doesn't do anything when it's convenient. ;-) I got a couple of really good pictures though, even if only one was a bitey one. :-)

Nom nom nom nom ... !!

Check out this bottom one. Is he the cutest or what. :-) I love that shot. (I was leaning down towards him with the camera and he was stretching up to get a closer look at the strange shiny thing I was holding. When I let him at it he sniffed it and then bit it. :-) KAS says that he looks like E.T. in that picture. Yeah, I can see that. :-D

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Food and presents ... !

That's what Christmas is all about in my world, anyway. Birth of Jesus, bah humbug! There's no evidence he ever even existed, and if against all odds he actually did, the bible says black on white that he was not born in December. So darn it all to heck, just give me food and presents. And I did get so many wonderful presents ... !! Too many to list here (I think I'd be embarrassed if I did, especially since I know that there are some that I will get that I haven't gotten yet) but I've just got to share a special few. :-)

I have such a creative bunch among my friends and family. Anéa gave me (among other things) these gorgeous ... umm ... I actually don't know the word for these in English. Someone help!! They're to wear on your wrists to keep warm. I'm certain she made them herself (am I right?? :-).

Only showing one of them since my other hand was needed to hold the camera ... ;-)

My secret cousin's knitted me these colorful mittens! They are so warm and comfortable and I love the colors. :-)

My mother's cousin Mille (she's the one who got that award presented to her by the queen last month) has made these socks for me. Practically on order!! She gave me a pair of these a few years ago, and I just love them, they're so wonderfully warm when my feet are cold. But this fall I accidentally machine washed one of them, and it completely fell apart. :-( I was so sad ... but I, ahem, hinted that I was in the market for another pair and indeed there was one under the tree last night. Unsurprisingly, these have been knitted with washable yarn ... ;-)

My mother's Bosnian friend gave her, slash us (I hope, since we've all been eating them ;-) a tin of home made Bosnian cookies. So many different ones ... ! All the ones I've tasted have been delicious. :-) And it's so nice to get something from another country like that - no way we'd have already had the house full of these. :-)

Of course I got a bunch of turtle stuff too. Can't escape that. ;-) The photo album was from CH, I wonder what I'll use it for. I'll have to print some of my best turtle pictures and put them in it. :-D

My best friend got me the little bookmark in the bottom right corner, but the 'real' present from her was a donation made on my behalf to the Society for the Protection of Animals in Oslo & Akershus (DOOA). I didn't even know they do that, so that was a wonderful present. Even though they probably don't do much for turtles ... ;-)

The best present I got this year - sorry to those of you who may feel slighted by my saying this, but, well ... sorry! - this present was just so amazing. I saved it for last because I had certain hopes as to its contents. From the size and weight of the box ... well, mainly. ;-) And I was right. The present was from Anne Ida and it was a quilt that she's made herself. Partly I appreciate it because she's made it herself - and it's so fantastic, so skilfully made and in such beautiful colors (she's so talented!!!) - and partly because there's a certain story behind this quilt, it's kind of special. You can read about it here. Anne Ida, thank you so much ... !! You are so gifted (my mother is deeply impressed with you! ;-) and you are so kind. When I posted that comment on your blog I certainly didn't expect to actually be given this actual quilt ... ! but I am SO happy that you did give it to me. :-)

Here it is, lookee so pretty ... !! It's about 130 by 130 centimeters. Fantastic colors.

The best present I gave to anyone this year was probably my main gift to my parents, which was a basket full of wine and cheese and biscuits and fruit and so on. I didn't wrap it, I just put it in the walk-in closet downstairs ... and then I wrapped a nice box with a piece of paper inside it, on which I'd written TØRRFISK. This means 'dried fish' in Norwegian, something we used to keep on hand all the time for our dog when we had her (she died in 2001). It was her Saturday night treat, she loved it. I put this pretty package under the tree. My parents were really confused at first when they opened it and read the note, but then they remembered where we used to keep the fish for the dog ... so they went down to the walk-in fridge (also in the basement) and hoped to find something there. But I'd just put another wrapped box on the floor there, with another piece of paper which said 'old clothes and shoes'. My dad said, 'But that's everywhere in this house!' :-D (Not entirely true, actually.) So they were more confused than ever at first, but then they decided to check the closet, and there it was. They were really happy with it ... once they'd figured it out. :-D

Here's the basket being divested of its secrets ... :-)

Oh, and look at this. Here's the sitting room before we started opening the presents ...

... and this is what it looked like afterwards. Three adults, no kids. Sheesh.

Christmas isn't Christmas without too much food. Here's my favorite, grouse in cream sauce, which I eat on Christmas Eve (my parents eat lutefisk, which, yuck, I'm sorry - I know I'm a grownup now and all, but that's where I draw the line) and which we all eat on Christmas Day.

The cutlery is being wielded by my father, the grouse hunter.

Our breakfast table this morning. And there's plenty more where that came from.

If only everyone had it half as good as me. :-)

Sorry to everyone whose presents I didn't mention. I feel guilty now, may have to show off more presents tomorrow ... :-) I do appreciate everything you've given me, so much!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to one and all. :-) I hope whoever reads this, all of you, whatever :-) will have a nice & peaceful holiday season. Lots of good food and presents or whatever it is that you want. :-)

I'm at my parents' house, got here yesterday, now more than ready for my Christmas dinner. Not that I'm so violently hungry, but I'm getting my very favorite food, so it can't arrive soon enough for me. ;-) My best friend C. stopped by earlier - she's at her parents' house about ten minutes from here - and another friend too, she lives across the street. Good to see them. :-) Unfortunately there's no snow here, so it doesn't look very Christmassy. Here's our house - it would look soo much better right now if it was covered in white.

The view across the street. Imagine what a Christmas card this could have looked like. :-(

Our Christmas tree, which - although I am, strictly speaking, against this custom - I decorated last night. Hey, it's traditional. But really, it is pretty damn stupid to drag a tree into your house. I mean, seriously.

The round rug under the tree is completely covered with presents, layered three deep, at least. And we're just three adults here. Financial crisis? Never heard of it. >:-)

Have a merry one!!