Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Dongola by Idris Ali
Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown
Nobels testamente by Liza Marklund - AUDIO
Millioner by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Lakse-enka by Ingrid Bjørnov - AUDIO
Tortoises, Terrapins and Turtles by Ivor & Audrey Noel-Hume
The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey
Livstid by Liza Marklund - AUDIO
Unge Tørless by Robert Musil
Harens år by Arto Paasilinna
Overtalelse by Jane Austen - AUDIO
8 printed books, 1,752 pages.
5 audiobooks, 49h 20m.
Best fiction: Ella Minnow Pea, no question. So creative, so clever, so entertaining and yet so thought-provoking. It dealt with an unreal and unrealistic situation, yet it held a mirror up to reality for me, in some ways. I can't recommend it enough.
Best nonfiction: I've only read two, so there isn't much to choose from. :-) I have to say Tricks of the Mind. An interesting read, entertaining, certainly well written. Not all the material held my interest equally but there was more than enough there to make it worthwhile. And Brown is a funny guy. :-)
Best audio: Kind of hard to choose. But I think I'll have to go with Overtalelse (original title: Persuasion). I'd read it before, of course, and I know the story well, which makes it all the more impressive that I enjoyed it so much this time too. The ending moved me almost to tears even though I knew exactly what would happen. The book was beautifully read by the actress Petronella Barker. She did a wonderful job, really made the story and characters come alive. I don't think I've 'read' this book for the last time. ;-)
Tveten Farm is one of the oldest farms still extant in the city. It hasn't functioned as a farm, of course, for a very long time ... but many buildings are still intact and of course have protected status. The oldest structures on the property date back to the 15th century. Most of the older buildings are from the 18th and 19th centuries, however. There is also a rather beautiful garden. The farm is currently owned by the city district of Alna and is in use as a culture center. There are many concerts and plays there throughout the year, there are activities for seniors and for local children, an annual flea market ;-) and a Constitution Day party every May 17th. There is also a riding school on the property, with paddocks and fields and what have you. A lovely place. You can read a little more about it here (in Norwegian, alas).
These pictures were all taken by me on a Sunday in January 2009.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The snow was quite close still, but receding, receding ...
Both colors, too. :-D
I was so happy to think of spring being here. Crocus is a wonderful sign of spring ... it's not the same as wildflowers, but they are spring flowers all the same. I was so happy to have seen them. Then I woke up on Friday morning, and ... not so happy. >:-( It had snowed for hours already by the time I left and it went on snowing for most of the day. We had to shovel it away from the entrance at work twice during the day. >:-( This is what it looked like when I got home that afternoon:
Bwaaah ... !!! My pretty flowers. :-( They seem alright now though, the snow has already melted off them and they're none the worse for wear. But it was a depressing Friday. :-( Today the weather's been nice ... partly sunny and ... not exactly warm, but definitely a spring temperature. So things are looking up again. And how! Get this. Anne Ida and I went to a couple of flea markets today, and on the way home we spotted this on the stairs up to the platform in Blindern subway station:
I know, WTF?? Dandelions now?? In the weather we've been having? I haven't even seen so much as a potential hint of a coltsfoot. But dandelions, sure, why not. :-D It's freaky, I know, and I guess I should be worried, but I'm just so happy to have seen a real flower. A spring flower or a summer flower or whatever. A wild one blossoming entirely on its own reconnaissance.
Update, Sunday: It turned out that I lied. The gravel field is covered with snow too now. It was clear on Thursday, but alas, the snowfall on Friday covered it up again. There were kids playing football* there on Saturday afternoon, though, even so. Kudos. :-)
*'Soccer', obviously. >:-)
Friday, March 27, 2009
It was actually a total coincidence. I had no plans to get a pet - I theoretically wanted a pet, since I love animals, but I had no actual plans to get one. Partly since I didn't know what kind of pet that would be ... I'm a dog person, and I had a dog for over twelve years, but since I'm also rather allergic to dogs, getting another one isn't something I see myself doing ... for that reason as well as others. Beyond the thought that puppies are adorable and it's a shame that I can't have one, I hadn't really formed a lot of coherent thoughts on the subject.
Then one day - this was in the summer of 2005, in early June, I think - I came home from work and saw a note taped to the front door of the building: Turtles given away or something like that. There was a cell phone number too. I was immediately interested and thought about it all the way upstairs to my 4th floor apartment ... and then I decided to go downstairs again and call that number. :-) It turned out to be my next door neighbor's, and he was on the lawn in front of the building with his girlfriend, a friend from work and the two turtles. I had had visions of tiny little cuties no bigger than my hand ... so seeing what was actually there was kind of a shock ... these weren't tiny little anythings. :-) But I was fascinated. I talked to my neighbor and got the back story ... what he was doing with the turtles and where they'd come from. He couldn't keep them as he had a very needy dog who wouldn't accept other pets ... but he hadn't been able to leave them where they were, either.
What had happened was that these two guys, my neighbor and his friend, who were both carpenters, had been working on a house, or a building, where a number of people lived, among them a couple of drug addicts who had several neglected animals. Two of these were the red eared sliders that he now had with him. They had been living, if that's the word I want, in a tub of water that was opaque with filth, in a space so small that only one of them could turn around at a time. The job my neighbor was there to do took a week and a half ... and on the last day, when he realized that these animals had not been fed once in all that time, he decided to do the right thing and just took them with him. Just loaded the tub in the car with all his other stuff and drove off. He knew he couldn't keep the turtles, but even if he had to have them put to sleep, that would be better than the situation they were in. I agreed, completely.
So ... there were these two turtles. Supposedly one male and one female. None of us knew much about turtles and we assumed that the bigger one would be the male. Duh. :-) Egg layers, anyone ... ? :-D They had found one guy online who wanted a female of this species (the RES is very easily identifiable) so he was going to take the little one. o_O But who could take the big guy? It was a big specimen in my eyes, almost 9 inches shell length. And how do you even take care of an animal like that?? I didn't know anything about turtles. It would be crazy of me to try. But I just couldn't walk away.
And that's how Dino, as I named him, ended up with me that summer. Of course, he was really a she, but it took some time to figure that out. Even the vet told me he was a male. But that's what you get when you make reptiles illegal - vets who don't know shit about them. :-( I've always thought about him as a he, though, since that's how I and my friends got to know him. He was just amazing. I never knew turtles were like that - so active and agile, so curious and interested in their surroundings. And he was so trusting ... ! Even after the way he'd been treated, he had no fear or distrust of humans. He'd only been with me three days before he climbed into my lap of his own free will. (That took Raphael six weeks. :-) It was sad to see the condition he was in ... even I could tell from his carapace that he hadn't been well cared for throughout his life (he was an adult, I was told that he was probably about 15 years old) and of course he was weak from starvation. When I first got him he couldn't walk - his legs were too weak to carry his weight. But he still got around ... he lay on his plastron and pushed himself along with his feet. :-)
OK, I could go on till the cows come home, so I'll stop myself there ... but he really was a wonderful turtle. So much personality and so confident and trusting. But the situation became a problem. I couldn't get a proper aquarium setup for him in the apartment I had then ... problems developed that I didn't know how to solve, and I eventually started to feel that I couldn't keep him. To make a long story short, I found a place for him to live until I could get a new apartment (which I was hoping to do soon anyway, not actually because of him :-) and then I'd be able to bring him back home. This place was a small zoo, and I assumed that since they had authorization, that must mean that they knew how to care for their animals. Silly me. :-( They certainly didn't know how to care for turtles. :-(
I took Dino there in August, and I brought him back home again - to my new home, with a huge new aquarium ready and waiting - in February. I had been looking forward to that so much. But it was nothing like I had expected. He had been cared for so badly in his temporary home that he was very sick when he came back to me. Wrong food, wrong temperature, wrong enclosure ... you name it. The vet - a good reptile vet this time - did what she could. I tried. But he only got to be home with me for a month.
These pictures are all from the summer of 2005.
Here he is in the feeding tub ... it used to be for washing clothes, but because of Dino it became for eating. :-) He's eating ReptoMin (pelleted turtle food) and cucumber. He loved cucumber, it was his favorite, he was crazy about it. So much so that when I got Raphael, I was quite surprised to discover that he thinks it's totally gross. :-D But they're individuals too, just like us. :-)
Looking up at me from the white plastic IKEA tub that he lived in that summer. Hello! :-)
Out and about ... during a walk on a friend's lawn. But pausing to have his picture taken. :-)
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Denmark is a nation that generally sends such bland entries to the ESC that it's easy to forget that they have actually won twice. Most recently in 2000, when the Olsen Brothers (no relation to the Olsen Twins ;-) swept Europe with their charming exhortation to Fly on the Wings of Love. Now that song is just sweet ... and being performed by two middle-aged men playing guitars only made it more adorable. :-) Their first win was in 1963 (they have been participating since 1957) with the lovely Dansevise. Now that is one fine song. The melody is so sweet and the lyrics so poetic and beautiful. (You can read them here, in original and translation.) But apart from that they've mostly sent songs that are just ... meh. There's nothing wrong with the Danish entries, they're perfectly acceptable, they just aren't very memorable. They're quite alright but they don't have what it takes. That IMO - and I think it's an opinion many others share - is the general standard of Danish ESC entries.
And this year? The same procedure as last year. :-) This song is OK, but nothing special. An uptempo pop song with very standard lyrics and a pretty original melody. What can I say? There just isn't much to this song either way. I don't think it'll do either very badly or very well. It may get through from the semi (they're in the same semi as us) but its results, I predict, will be middling. The singer is OK ... I don't know what to think about his voice, it's kind of unusual. I don't know if I like or dislike it. But he's just a thirteen-to-the-dozen singer that we always see a bunch of in the ESC. I don't understand what the Danish audience perceived as so special about this song that the international audience will remember it. This song is a lot like the UK entry last year ... and look how that went. >:-) There are 42 countries participating this year (since Georgia's been disqualified, alas) ... a song that's just fine but nothing special doesn't stand a chance.
Take a look - this is Niels Brinck performing Believe Again, which is written & composed by Lars Halvor Jensen, Martin Michael Larsson and, get this, Ronan Keating. :-o They will be competing for Denmark on May 14th.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
I maded a video. lolz!!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Thanks for the cake! I'm looking forward to our Polish movie night. What did happen back in 1946 ... ??
Sorry I couldn't find a helicopter-related lolhamster for you, but this is better than nothing, I hope. :-)
Stare Miasto, the Old Town, was my favorite part of the city. A maze of narrow cobbled streets, little galleries, pretty restaurants, lovely houses ... so many gorgeous buildings with wonderful details, and a relaxed street life. I really liked it there. It's also very impressive, because it isn't actually old ... it's only about 60 years old. Warsaw was terribly damaged in WWII, and Stare Miasto perhaps worst of all. It was completely in ruins in 1945. We saw a number of pictures and really, the damage was enormous. In the early 1950s, however, it was rebuilt ... in only three years, and with no help whatsoever from the authorities. :-o The Communist government refused to contribute to the reconstruction, and it was carried out entirely on resources collected from Poles at home and abroad. An amazing feat by the Polish people. Seeing the city now it's amazing to think that it was in ruins only a few decades ago.
The square in front of the Royal Castle, on the outskirts of the Old Town. The Sigismund Pillar in the center.
The statue of King Sigismund III Vasa (yes, he was one of those Vasas) on top of his pillar. V. famous monument.
The pillar again with the Royal Castle to the right.
A street leading down to the square ... with the Royal Castle at the end of the street.
A street ... the side of the Palace to the left.
Another street and pretty square. There were lots of priests around just there ... and I got three of them in this picture. :-) The woman in the black coat and red scarf is my mother.
Yet another pretty street, and my mother walking down it.
The facade of the Church of the Decapitation of St John the Baptist. Charming.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Be still, my heart ... !!!!! o_O Amanda takes the best pictures of him.
I have GOT to get hold of that magazine. eBay, help me ... !!
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Romania has been participating in the ESC since 1993, with a couple of missed years here and there. Most of the time they haven't done very well. It took them three years to even qualify for the final. But in 2005 and 2006 they sent great songs and did very well indeed ... 3rd and 4th place respectively. I totally dig their 2005 entry. I was almost expecting to be tuning in to Bucharest in 2006 ... and IMO that would have been much more well deserved than the actual winner. But that's another story.
Their entry this year is a song about how Balkan girls like to party in awkward English. >:-) It will be performed by Elena Gheorghe, who, although quite young and unknown to the larger world, has been a professional singer for years, and has released several albums. As for the song, well ...
The intro's kind of intriguing, but as soon as the verse starts I'm just left scratching my head wondering where I've heard this before. The chorus is pretty catchy. At first, anyway. But the lyrics are embarrassing. For crowd delight, we'll shine all night ... ? Um, OK. The chorus gets kind of annoying towards the end and the performance is sort of ... slutty, or whatever ... but what do I expect. >:-) This is overall a pretty standard pop song that IMO doesn't meet international standards. I hope the performance will be better in Moscow. I don't understand at all that anyone can think of this as having serious chances. Turkey will totally crush this entry. ;-) By the standards Romania has set in recent years, this is a letdown.
But don't listen to me, judge for yourself. This is Elena Gheorghe performing The Balkan Girls by Laurenţiu Duţă, who's had help from Ovidiu Bistriceanu and Daris Mangal with the music and from Alexandru Pelin with the lyrics. They will be competing for Romania in the first semifinal, on May 12th.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
On our first full day in Egypt we had scheduled a day trip to Alexandria. This ancient city lies on the coast of the Mediterranean, about a four hour drive from Cairo. The highway there is in great condition (although with no streetlights! o_O) so it's a pretty easy drive. Can be hot, though. You are in fact driving through the desert. :-) Bring water.
Our wakeup call was at 6am and we met Hatem in the lobby at 7. All six of us were going. We all piled into our minibus and set off. The driver was the same old guy as the day before. A good driver as far as I can tell about these things. He spent a hell of a lot of time on his cell phone (while driving, yeah) - CH and I discussed the matter and decided that he was talking to various of his driver friends in order to get info about police control points along the route, so that he'd easily be able to avoid any kind of penalty for his speeding. And hey, it worked like a charm. When he wasn't talking on the phone, he ate pistachio nuts from a huge bag of them that he shared with Hatem. It took us a while to figure out what that popping sound was that was coming from the front seat all the time ...
I of course had to take pictures along the route, although there wasn't that much to take pictures of. There was one thing, but alas, I wasted my opportunities there. We kept seeing weird structures in the distance that we couldn't figure out, so after some debate amongs the group we asked Hatem, and he explained that they were dovecotes. (Doves are a popular dish in Egypt and many people breed them for sale.) Huge ones, obviously. I became obsessed with taking a good picture of these things, but unfortunately I got the laughing bug and every time I saw one, I couldn't stop laughing ... so my pictures of them came out looking like shit, in the few cases where I even got off a shot. CH was not helpful in curbing my mirth. Alas. And of course, when we drove back along the same route hours later, it was pitch dark. Sob!!
Anyway. Here are various pictures of scenery, with explanations, from the road to Alexandria. :-)
Still in Cairo. Various apartment buildings etc seen from the highway. Check out the blue and white building. :-D
Oh, the view ... !! :-o
A very cool soft drink ad that we spotted on the side of a building, and that I was quick enough to get a picture of. I generally don't like billboards, but this one was cool. :-)
There was quite a lot of vegetation just alongside the road. But the sand began pretty close to the highway. This picture was taken on the outskirts of Cairo.
We passed an area with lots of construction going on; Hatem told us that a town was under construction there, and had been for years - 6th of October City. Apparently. o_O Many sections were already finished, but there still clearly remained a lot to be done. The town is a project the government started to help ease the constant problem of overcrowding in Cairo. It didn't seem to be for everyone, though ... I suspect that the ones who suffer the most from the overcrowding will never set foot in the place. :-( It seemed rather artificial and reminded me of the descriptions of the Stockholm suburb Blackeberg in John Aijvide Lindqvist's novel Let the right one in.
God vs Mammon ... :-D
See my precious dovecotes ... !! They're those weird pointy things in the center of the shot.
We stopped at a place along the way called El Sonny Star. :-D It's about halfway between the two cities, so it's a good place to stop. Plus our driver probably knew the people running it, nudge nudge, know what I mean. They had cold water and chocolate, though, so we were good. :-)
Friday, March 20, 2009
I got the paper yesterday and there was one particular story in it that left me pretty much speechless. It was about a woman whose car has been burgled. There's no info given about her age, but in the picture she looks to be in her mid to late twenties. So ... Generation Y, with their fucked up priorities. And how. Brace yourselves ...
So, her car, a fancy Mercedes, has been broken into, and various things have been stolen. The GPS, the CD player, an integrated phone, whatever that is (and who needs it) and shit like that. Including, and get this, a pair of sunglasses that cost 12,000 crowns. o_O That's about $1,900. WTF?? OK, first of all, if you're actually willing to spend that much money on a piece of, pardon my French, fucking plastic, you've got some synapses wired wrong in your brain. Seriously. Think about what you're doing. But it gets worse.
It says in the article that this woman and her husband bought the sunglasses after saving up for them. So in other words they aren't rich people with money coming out of their ears to the point where they wouldn't even notice a pair of 12,000 crown sunglasses more or less. I don't know if that makes it better or worse. RIDICULOUS GENERALIZATION ALERT Rich people suck. In theory I do approve, enormously much more, of people who actually save up to buy the things they want. That's the way to do it, definitely. But people who save up to buy something like this ... not so much. And here's the clincher. Get this.
Now, this is a direct quote from the article. Let's see. I tore it out of the paper so that I'd be able to quote what this woman said exactly. It's so annoying that they [the burglars] take things that are personal like this. We chose to buy these sunglasses rather than go on vacation last summer. WTF?? I repeat: We chose to buy these sunglasses rather than go on vacation last summer. o_O
What kind of fucked up psycho priorities do these people have to actually prefer to rather buy a pair of sunglasses than to go on a trip together and do something real to experience things and create memories??? Oh, how I hope they don't have kids ... !!!
OK, rant over. We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Look how cute the Google logo is today. They're celebrating the vernal equinox. Aww.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Today's post is my (so far) latest YouTube video ... a few minutes of my three little guys doing various turtle-y things like climbing, falling down, swimming, begging, biting, looking adorable. :-) Actually a really cute video if I do say so myself. Also with a commentary track by yours truly which makes it sound like I talk to these almost deaf animals constantly ... I don't, just when I'm interacting a lot with them, like in this video. It's all in Norwegian but I've translated it for those non-Norwegian speakers who may be interested ... see below. :-)
And no, Henrik can't really hurt himself falling over like that ... and Herman didn't get hurt when Raphael bit him, he was just startled. :-)
Herman, don’t eat things you find on the floor! Yuck! [...] Come on, guys, do something fun! I’m filming. [...] Hello. [...] OK, I think you need to stop doing that. What are you trying to eat now? [...] OK, I’m sorry. [...] Oh no, did Henrik startle you, I mean did Herman startle you? A sad business, sad business. [...] Plop. [...] Henrik, you can’t get into the pond that way. There’s a wall there. Just here. Come on. Oh, what a stupid ... [...] Snap. [...] Was there no food after all? Alas, no ... That’s one of the blows that life will deal you, Herman. Sometimes you’re disappointed. [...] Oh no you don’t. [...] I said no! [...] You’re trying again? Oh, come on. Good boy! What a good Henrik. You did it. First time today. Up that way. [...] Oops. Well, that’ll happen when you don’t pay attention to where you’re putting your feet. [...] Hmm? Are you disappointed? Never any food. [...] Don’t give up, Henrik. You did it.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
One of which you can see below. Norwegians, look at it ... !! I seriously saw flowers down there on that continent place. There wasn't so much as a speck of snow anywhere and I saw both crocus and snowdrops. And then this afternoon I came back to our 3-4 feet of snow. F***.
More later ... ;-)