Thursday, April 30, 2009

the zone

in my this girl post a couple of weeks ago, i mentioned the zone. it's the feeling that i get when everything is clicking, my energy is high, i'm wearing the right clothes, having a good hair day and i can actually SEE people around me being caught up in the sheer force of it. but as i said in that post, i have no control of it. i can tell when it's there, but i can't make it come. i wish i could, because i'm extremely convincing and i always get my way when i'm in the zone. that and actually seeing people be swept up in it are the best parts about it.

certain places are more sure to make it come than others. one of them was associated with my old place of work and one is actually where i work now. so it might have to do with good scandinavian architecture. but i also had moments of being in the zone long before i ever even imagined visiting scandinavia, so it's not only that. i was once totally in the zone on a train speeding through the macedonian countryside on a warm summer night. i have no idea what brought it on, but the train conductor (who was thankfully harmless) found it very compelling and kept lurking outside the coupé.

husband says at those moments that i'm "beaming life," and it was what attracted him to me, lo so many years ago when he was someone else's husband and frankly, i was someone else's wife (but i digress). but i think that what it comes down to is a sense of energy that can almost be seen.

i'm not actually sure how much it has to do with the people around me, but it would make sense that it has something to do with them. i don't know if it's so much that they make me enter the zone or that they prolong it once i'm there. i probably shouldn't actually overanalyze it too much, but you know me, i have to try to pick things apart and understand them.

mostly because i'd like to be able to control it. i'd like to be able to wake up and say, "i'm so gonna be in the zone today!"  but that's simply not how it works.

so i try to enjoy it when it happens. i watch the reactions of people who are hit by it full force. they sometimes have a slightly awed look, or they look like they've just had the wind knocked out of them. some of them try to play it cool and act as if they're in the zone themselves. but it's disarming. it might be why sometimes people tell me all kinds of things, things they wouldn't normally say. or they try to prolong the conversation, hoping that the energy will stay there so they can soak some of it in. or they just hover nearby, not entirely daring to say anything.

but when i'm in the zone, there's plenty of energy for all, so it's not like they're stealing it from me. it's kind of like those old doritos commercials where they said, "eat all you want, we'll make more," the energy is like that. the more people take it to themselves, the more there is. like an endless bright glow of energy. i found myself wanting to assign a color to it, but my mild sinaesthesia tells me that it's different colors all the time, depending on the situation, it's not just one color.

i suppose you can tell that i had one of those days today. i had so many ideas and i felt so excited about what i was doing and discovering (perhaps it's that that puts me in the zone in the first place). the very somber, but sweet man who sits across from me, calculating energy curves and the wave effects on paint coating and how much CO2 it saves if you sail at a certain speed, was knocked quite visibly off-balance, but you could see that it was in a good way. and that he didn't want it to stop. and neither did i.

do any of you know what i mean? and how would you describe that feeling? the zone is just the words i've assigned to it. i've also heard it described as being in flow. what do you call it when you feel it, because i think we all feel it on occasion.

oh well, i'll stop obsessing now and just be grateful for it when it comes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

she's at it again

remember the last time i came to oslo (i'm talking to all of my pre-BoN lovelies) how some moron apparently packed my suitcase, leaving out essential items like clean underwear and deodorant and footwear one could be seen in in public, but including things like knitting needles (when i don't even know how to knit) and three different kinds of perfume (that at least we understand)? well, apparently, she's been at work again...

  1. she failed to pack my toothbrush, which i didn't discover until after the big-ass mall next door had closed and i was forced to brush my teeth with my finger and some toothpaste (which thankfully WAS in the makeup bag as usual--and i'd really like to know where my travel toothbrush is).
  2. she ordered my tickets home for late friday afternoon, not realizing that friday is a HOLIDAY and therefore a day off in norway. and then, when i tried to change my ticket today, i discovered that on a holiday, norwegians apparently choose to flee norway via copenhagen, as there was NO WAY to move the flight up. not a flight to be had outta here tomorrow evening or friday morning, so i'll be the ONLY ONE IN NORWAY until 16:20 on friday.
  3. that moron keeps insisting on speaking danish to clerks in shops (double lattes are allowed during austerity april) and waiters (so is dinner). this leads the norwegians to think that i have a prayer of understanding their response. which i don't.
  4. she ordered a double latte after 4 p.m. this will not be good after restless swine-flu ridden sleep last night (coughing, couldn't breathe--ok, it might be the birch pollen, not the swine flu), but i need some beauty sleep!
  5. she broke austerity april and impulse-purchased an album called little things (thinking perhaps it wouldn't count against the austerity april thing if it was just a little thing) by hanne hukkelberg . it's a bit weird (in a good, tori amos/regina spektor/marie frank kinda way) and although i think she's norwegian, she largely sings in english and swears in danish. which, on the whole, i like. and it was a nice price album at only 89.90NOK, which is close to free, so it didn't break austerity april THAT badly, or wouldn't have had she not also authorized the purchase of the new whitest boy alive. she apparently knows we like norwegian music.
lastly, she made me get a brownie with my coffee after 4 p.m., tho' arguably that might have been molly's fault.

one small step for julie, one giant step for austerity april

i would like to share that because it is austerity april, yesterday, i tested myself and allowed myself to meander through the duty free in kastrup (one of the best in the world, lacking only hendrick's gin (loved by a small handful of people, all over the world)).  sounds dangerous, doesn't it?

and i would like to report that i remained strong in the face of this, despite being a known and diagnosed perfumaholic:

it's the summer line from kenzo
tea - silk - magnolia
light and gorgeous (magnolia is best)
(i didn't say i resisted TRYING them on)
(that's what they're THERE for)

but aren't you all proud of me?

i think i'll extend austerity april into may, just for fun.

but i will do a new perfume review soon, after all, i've still got all this to go (and more):

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


we have a new member of the balderdash team and it seems to have inspired all of us. come and see what we've been doing.

see, not always ranting

far too often, i'm complaining about some aspect of denmark and the danes that i simply cannot understand or appreciate, but not today. today, i'm madly in love. with all of it. that pretty little red and white flag. the copper roofs, the efficient public transportation. even that ridiculously tiny statue of a mermaid (granted, not a misrepresentation, as the word "little" is in her title). i am just loving it.

it's probably spring. it's probably because i'm flying today and flying always makes me happy. it's probably because the trains were totally on time and i was 20 minutes early for my morning meeting. maybe it's because i'm sitting in the gold lounge and they have some really yummy bread and sandwich fixings and english newspapers and a l'avenir chenin blanc from the western cape. maybe it's because i'm gonna get a venti latte at starbucks before i board my plane.

perhaps it's because since i got on the metro to the airport about an hour ago i've heard the following languages: russian, danish, english, portuguese, dutch, swedish, german, japanese and norwegian and i love hearing lots of languages. maybe it's check-in via SMS and then direct bag drop at the gold counter, followed by fast track security which means i'm in the lounge within 2 minutes of arriving at the airport (odin bless you, SAS). maybe it's that the computers for public use in the lounge are, you guessed it, iMacs (odin bless you again, SAS).

maybe it's light, bright, tastefully decorated government offices filled with top end designer furniture (so that's what they're doing with all that tax money). maybe it's unexpectedly realizing that the guy you've got an appointment with is the top guy and he made time for you. cool!

but really, it's because of the extremely pleasant hour and a half i spent discussing the environment with that top guy. i was completely reminded of all of the personality traits i really love about danes. they're so pragmatic and straight-forward. they're honest (as in candid) and logical and have lots of common sense (something i see lacking in my own country of birth whenever i visit--just think of airport security before your hackles raise, my american dahlings). danes are so funny in an ironic, dry way that i adore. and lastly, they don't hesitate to swear for emphasis. they're really, really good at swearing at the right moments to make a point or put you at ease.  and did i mention smart and well-thought out? well-argued?

so today, no ranting about the danes and denmark. just love. mad, spring love.

in which she uses lots of parentheses and confusingly long sentences

my new blog friend and first official blog crush, extranjera (we have to talk about that screenname (tho' frankly, since she's finnish, it could be her real name, they spell stuff kinda weird sometimes), by the way, as i have to pop over to your blog and look at it every single time to get it right and even still, i probably have it wrong) of the hilarious what will i ever do with my life? bestowed upon me the honest scrap blog award, i guess because of all the brutal honesty encountered here on MPC.

as with all of these blog award thingies, there are rules:

1. List 10 honest things about yourself, and
2. Pass it on to seven five cool people who embody the spirit of the Honest Scrap (tho' there is strangely no information about what that spirit might be...)

although i'm not big on rules, i am big on lists, and as husband says, i'm very often brutally honest, so this should be easy...
  1. i'm not a fan of photoshop. there, i said it. so many times people's pictures were surely beautiful before they played with them. and while i understand the allure of pretty technology, i think people should trust themselves and their cameras more.
  2. i can talk pretty mean, but when it comes down to it, i'm actually a pretty nice person (blatant attempt to lessen the blow of the photoshop comment).
  3. i really, really hate making phone calls. loathe it. 
  4. i am worried that there is an elderly greek woman inside me, trying to get out and she has sent out feelers to check the conditions. feelers in the form of three dark hairs that sprout out occasionally on my chin. i try to be vigilant, but what if that old greek woman really wants out and one day i accidentally indicate that conditions are ripe by forgetting to check. bam, i'll suddenly be wearing all black and those thick, sturdy woolen stockings...
  5. we have a really old toyota carina that we don't treat very well, but which remains loyal to us anyway. we never wash it (husband was just wishing for rain yesterday so it would be rinsed off--there's a lot of pollen on it at the moment). we never change the oil (it uses it so fast anyway, it's surely not in there long enough to need changing). we can't remember if it's a '96 or a '94. it's grey. the carpet on the driver's side is a real mess--lots of holes from years of wear. but there's no rust and it starts every time, despite having 400,000 km on it, with taxes at 150% on cars in DK, we're just loathe to replace it, so we'll keep it going 'til it won't go anymore. however, i never, ever leave my cameras or computers in the car, because they're worth more than the car is. sometimes i do leave the key in, hoping someone might steal it, but they never do.
  6. i would like to blog for a living. (as if y'all hadn't sussed out that one.)
  7. sometimes i wonder if i exist if i'm not online. this makes me wonder if all of you exist when i can't see that you're online. and this in turn makes me wonder if we aren't already in the matrix. 
  8. i sometimes wonder if carbon trading schemes really work. isn't it just robbing peter to pay paul and still no good for the environment in the end? (oh wait, this is one of the questions for my interview later...)
  9. i'm uncomfortable with the whole susan boyle thing and wasn't really going to say so (what, a lack of honesty? (gasp!)) 'til i read what gwen said about it. i feel that while she is clearly an excellent singer, there's something in it that's somehow taking the piss with her anyway and that makes me feel squirmy. and i don't really believe that simon cowell didn't know what was coming. it was all so staged and although i enjoyed seeing his face, it might be that he's just a good actor.
  10. i really love and admire what tangobaby is doing in reaching out to help a woman and her three children who have fled from an abusive home and are awaiting a spot in a shelter. she met them one day on the street and because she's such a caring, wonderful person, she's issued a plea from the platform of her most excellent blog and set up a paypal account and is spending a lot of her own time helping this family. what i have to be honest about tho', is that i have been unable to write one of the letters of support to kelaya, the mother, that was part of tangobaby's plea. i have stared at an open, new, fresh email several times and it just won't come and i don't really know why. i did, however, make a small donation via the paypal button (please go check out tangobaby's blog if you are intrigued by the little bit i've written here. and i hope that you're more able than i am to write a letter of support to this woman who has bravely left an abusive marriage and forged out on her own with three small kids.) the best we can do is well, the best we can do, isn't it?
and as for those honest bloggers, these come to mind:
  1. amanda of sucker for marketing (who i hope triumphed in her half marathon on sunday!)
  2. starlene of return to myself (i just love when she goes all deep thoughts...)
  3. mal* of turning*turning (she makes me see things in a new way every time i visit her)
  4. kristina of vigdis et al. (she speaks in honest pictures)
  5. clare of this and that (you gotta love anyone who thinks grover is the best muppet)
and i think that, like extranjera before me, i will name only five to pass it along to (in fact, i even took the liberty of changing the rule above--mostly because i like using that strikeout thingie). 
i know you're all busy bloggers and might not have time or the inclination to come up with ten honest things (this took me much longer than i thought it would and i was much less funny that i meant to be).  but some days are like that.

Monday, April 27, 2009

overheard at the airport

waiting at the baggage carrousel. mid-twenties, very casually-dressed american girl speaking loudly to her asian-looking, yet equally american colleague, as if everyone around them couldn't understand english, just because it was norway.

loudly talking about how they would conduct an investigation the next day, playing a tape and trying to get the witnesses to identify an unnamed perpetrator.

"we've got to get the ID, but if they can't make the ID, it's not the right guy," she declared loudly in her flat, nasal r's. "the pic on the news is way more influencing than our 6-pack."

i pondered briefly what a 6-pack might be. and mused on why she seemed to be speaking of such a potentially confidential thing in such a loud voice. did she really think no one standing there understood english? or was it just more innocent than it seemed.

then, her bag came. a really giant duffel which she could barely lift off the carrousel. her colleague asked what i was thinking, "you got a body in there?"

"government buys me one size bag, i'm gonna use it." she responds, struggling to lift it onto a cart.

and then they left. i'm still wondering what a 6-pack is in this context. and if this has anything to do with those planes transporting terror suspects that have been spotted all over poland, macedonia and other places. i thought that business was over under the new and improved administration. never know what you're going to hear while waiting for your bags.

* * *
originally published april 27, 2009 on the julie project

yay for monday!

yay for monday and yay for heidikins!  and yay for super cool ruthie pearl reusable shopping bags! and yay for me, because i won this in heidikins' happy birthday roxy (roxy is her super cute shiny red bug) giveaway!

"aunt jean" print
eco-friendly shopping bag!

i had to choose the one with red, in honor of miss roxy and of course, my red smeg. :-)
i already always, always use canvas bags for my groceries, but it will be so much fun to have a pretty new one that i can reverse as my mood dictates.  thank you heidikins and thank you ruthie pearl !!

i can't wait to have it in the basket when i ride my red bike down to the red mailbox:
taken with diana+ & cross-processed

i hope you wake up to a happy surprise this monday too!

...and now, to work for me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

the best things about this weekend

the one being confirmed looked a bit like a mermaid
even her dress was mermaid-y
which is entirely appropriate in the land of the little mermaid
beautiful table settings
a view like this from the party location
proud father giving a funny, yet touching speech
these two sisters of the konfirmand
children playing well together across all ages
this cake
getting lots of good prezzies
kick-ass eyelashes
doodling on the piano in the waning hour of the party
hearing hilarious tales of life at sea
and did i mention the view?
fresh homemade strawberry lemonade in the sun
enjoyed together with grilled apple & thyme sausages
getting these flower beds totally tidied up
hope your weekend was glorious too! 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

just call me snow white

once upon a time a very, very long time ago, this little girl was dropped off to attend a week of bible school at a church in the little town where she grew up. now her family did not attend this church, but bible school was thought to be for anyone (thankfully very little of it stuck, except for a strange ability to, when pressed, remember the order of the books of the new testament). plus her parents thought, hey, free babysitting and a week of peace without the kid!

so her mother dropped her off outside the side door of the unfamiliar church, and despite her being quite small and never having been there before, just sent the child in without accompanying her. the child has a very clear memory of the crunch of the wheels of the stationwagon driving away on that little gravel road beside the church and how daunting that unknown door seemed. said child eventually plucked up the courage to go in and some people talked to her, inevitably asking her her name. feeling a bit shy and out of place and perhaps even having a vague feeling of having been abandoned out in the woods as well as having a healthy imagination, she informed them that she was called snow white.

she was pretty steadfast about the snow white thing and it took those people 'til mid-week to figure out who she really was. i guess someone finally spotted her mother, who didn't appear to be accompanied by seven dwarves, picking her up.

and they all lived happily ever after, but she still really hates going in alone to a new place full of new people who already know each other. and the man who owned the local pharmacy teased her about it for years afterwards, as he apparently found it such a sweet and amusing story. she got so she really hated to run into him. if he were still alive, she's sure he'd still remind her of it if she ran into him when she was back visiting that little town. some things you just don't live down.

Friday, April 24, 2009

blog crush: ohfortheloveofblog

it was so much fun indulging yesterday in the whole concept of outwardly declaring my blog crushes (instead of just stalking them in silence), that i have to give you another one for the weekend!  and yes, it's another south africa-based blog.  i have a bit of a thing for cape town and have been a faithful reader of molly's ohfortheloveofblog since she found me last summer (after i bought heather moore's fabulous patchwork and went all giddy about it).

so molly, since it's the weekend and who the hell cares whether it's 5 p.m. yet (it must be 5 somewhere), this glass of crisp cold chardonnay is for you. i hope you like it, i bought it in norway, so it was $45.

i recently gave molly a blog award, but i really can't stress enough how cool and funny and smart i think she is.
  1. she's the one who has me counting all my creativity during 2009 (we're both trying to reach 100 things created and we may have gotten a little creative in our counting--hey, does that count?). 
  2. she has the cleverest titles to her posts. like this. and this.
  3. she loves murakami
  4. she rants and swears
  5. she makes lists. (sigh) oh, how i adore lists.
  6. she devises clever plots against her avocodo-hoarding neighbors. 
and except for the camping, she's pretty much me living in cape town. or so i feel sometimes (and i realize she may find that deeply disturbing). there are a few people i've found here in the blogosphere who i feel are my long-lost sisters and molly is definitely one of them.

so please go check her out, if we all do it, she'll have to change her tagline which today reads: "blog like nobody's reading." 

happy weekend!

friday lists

very busy day's my list (because we know i love lists):

  1. lots of work to do (yes, i do work, believe it or not, i just don't sleep enough)--it's this work that's currently giving me nightmares about global warming and the environment in general. 
  2. hair appointment (desperately needed, nearly unable to appear in public). 
  3. thing at child's school where parents must buy middle ages inspired things made by twenty-first century danish children over the past week (i saw piles of cool leather in a classroom this week, so i'm looking forward to that). 
  4. having visitors from north carolina for dinner (they are not the dinner, we intend to serve dinner to them). 
  5. figuring out how to connect macbook pro to big-ass flatscreen t.v. for gala confirmation party on saturday. 
  6. transporting said t.v. + Wii, wiimotes and basket o'Wii games to party location without breaking or losing any of it or having to strap self to roof of elderly toyota to serve as cushion for big-ass t.v.
  7. creating playlist for party and putting it on one of our many iPods.
  8. clean out horribly dirty ancient yet reliable toyota so husband can transport the north carolinians without being completely humiliated.
  9. thank heavens for GEC* and the EU because they have brought me my beautiful, wonderful, fabulous sent-from-heaven cleaning girl from poland.
  10. figure out what the hell this is:
edited: second picture added for full effect:
seriously, these are the only two extra large phallic protrubences (is that a word, it's the second time i've used it this week) on this tree. i know i said that the entire plant world is behaving in an overtly sexual manner, but this is simply carrying it a bit far.
* * *
and because it's a friday a mini grateful friday list, i always forget to do these, but i love that del remembers and she's the one who originally gave me the idea. it's good for the soul to stop and think about what you're grateful for right now at this very moment (in totally random order, if it was order of importance, 3 would be 1, followed by 5 and then 6 or perhaps 4 (if husband brings home asparagus, we get them both at once)).
  1. someone from the middle of siberia visited my blog (or so site meter told me). for some reason, that just tickles me. maybe because i studied in kazan and although that's not siberia, i felt the pull of siberia from there, so it's always held some fascination. i'd like to go there and dig up a frozen wooly mammoth.
  2. this whole zany week of the bestowing of BoN by the blogger illuminati (thanks suecae sounds for that apt word) and the influx of new friends--thank you all so much for stopping by! double thank you for following. and quadruple thank you for the comments. looking forward to getting to know you better.
  3. all of my "old" blog friends, who've been here with me through all the rants and the laughter and that whole thing with sarah palin.  you guys totally rock.
  4. that husband's coming home today after being away at a course all week. 
  5. there's a lovely south african chenin blanc in the fridge (6 bottles of it, to be exact).
  6. asparagus is in season.
  7. the sun has shined all week.
  8. the birch pollen counts are already on their way down (my eyes are grateful for this).
  9. jon stewart and episodes of the daily show that are only a day old.
  10. that i don't have to do anything special on sunday.
 i wish you all a most glorious weekend and i hope you have lots to be grateful for this friday. and if anyone knows why that tree produced two mutant pine-cone-agtig thingies when all the rest of its pinecones are totally normal and petite, please do let me know about that....botanists...anyone...bueller?
* GEC = global economic crisis (i get tired of typing it out)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

blog crush: what will i ever do with my life?

i will not go on and on today about how happy i am to have been named BoN on tuesday because i realize that i'm fast becoming insufferable, but there is something really, really cool about it that i must share. and that's new people finding me as a result of it, which results in the even better bit in which i find them.

this red velvet cupcake is for you, extranjera 

so i hereby give you my very first official blog crush: what will i ever do with my life? 

if you need a laugh (or perhaps just a cocktail), you must go here. hilarious finnish girl in africa. i've had tears running down my cheeks (and it wasn't just the pollen) and i completely scared the cat out of a sound sleep because i was laughing so hard. just now. right here. in front of the internet.

and all of my previous unofficial blog crushes, like you and you and you and you, oh, and you. i promise this will be a regular feature and you will be officially acknowledged. but you will all love extranjera, so run along and read her now. but don't do it for my sake, do it for your own. :-)

randomness to clear my head*

fitful sleep, filled with nightmares about the environment and global warming, tossing and turning and hearing the alarm even tho' it wasn't ringing. strangely, when i woke up, the bracelet i always wear on my right wrist was on my left one. i don't really remember the dreams exactly, they were disjointed and noisy and colorful yet dark at the same time. there was some kind of planned landing in water (my dreams always involve planes), where we smoothly went under and lodged in the soft bottom of the sea and proceeded calmly to gather our things and get ready to leave the plane as if things were totally normal. at least no wings were sheared off from landing between tall buildings that were simply too close for that--that's what usually happens. and there was something about sabin being missing and me frantically searching for her. i woke up, heart pounding, having to check that she was indeed here, because although disjointed, it was very real. but it was strange to wake up to the life that's going on over here in the (ostensibly) awake world. perhaps i should go to bed before 2 a.m. tonight.

* * *

please check out the wonderful, giving post on how you can help kelaya over on tangobaby. kelaya is a woman who fled an abusive husband together with her three children and because all of the shelters are full, she needs your help. the lovely and talented tangobaby has set up a way for you to do that. because she's just that cool. please go read kelaya's story and do what you can, even if it's only leaving a note of support.

* * *

the poor swedish police, they always seem to have the worst luck. just reading in my newspaper that a 40-year-old swedish count and his 38-year-old girlfriend were brutally shot on tuesday outside his daughter's school in the middle of gamla stan in stockholm. and, as is often the case (remember olof palme and the early days of the anna lindh case, tho' thankfully they eventually solved that one), they have no clue who did it, despite it happening in broad daylight. they brought in some jetset ad exec for questioning (he's friends with the count's ex-wife), but released him again after a few hours.  meanwhile, the count and his girlfriend are in critical condition in a stockholm hospital. 

* * *

annual danish military budget: 20 billion danish kroner
amount made by maersk on US military shipping contracts in 2007:
18 billion danish kroner
source: information 

* * *

a few people among my influx of new readers here and those checking out my photostream on flickr have asked me for advice for amateur photographers. ha! imagine that, asking me for photographic advice! i am the most amateur of amateur photographers myself, i'm just fortunate to have access to some good cameras and lenses (nikon, nikon, nikon). and also fortunate to be part of the digital age. when you take a dozen pictures of every subject, one of them is bound to turn out, right?
but to be serious for a second, i will say that developing your eye is the best advice i can offer. and carry your camera with you everywhere. everywhere. i take my camera in when i go to the grocery store (that's only partly to do with the fact that it's worth more than my car). i am never, ever without a camera.  and when you do that, you start noticing shadows and light and eyeballs on the trees. 

you also find that you get increasingly fearless in stopping and snapping pictures (i don't do much of that with people, mostly with things, if you take pictures of people, you should ask them if it's ok). you lose your self-consciousness and you get down on your knees to get the right angle, and you stop caring what people might think of that. you may also start carrying a little pouch containing subjects that you photograph in various places.

so my best advice to amateur photographers--take your camera everywhere and be totally fearless. 

* * *

please tell me i did not just hear a CNN weather man say expecially....

* * *

please forgive crappy quality of phone picture

do you ever stand next to such a door on a plane at cruising altitude and feel a nearly irresistible urge to open it? don't worry, i resisted. they were about to come around with cocktails and those great little bowls of posh mixed nuts (no peanuts), so the urge passed.

* * *
and finally, a question: what would your dream job be? it sounds like a weird question to ask in these troubled economic times, but perhaps a bit of creative thinking is warranted these days. what would you most like to do?

*this may become a regular feature. my head seems to need a lot of clearing.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

earth mosaic 2009

it's earth day and there's a marvelous flickr group--earth mosaic 2009--that's collecting pictures taken on this day from all around the world. i just geotagged and submitted mine. shots taken right here in my little town in denmark on this glorious earth day.

just a little fish

in the giddy first hours after learning that little old MPC had become tuesday's Blog of Note, i was bouncing off the walls. i had to go sit and behave like a grown parent at a parents' meeting at sabin's school, but i kept sneaking checks of my mail on my iPhone. i couldn't help it. call me shallow, but i just think it's so cool!  and my mind was definitely not on all those things i had vowed to take up at the meeting, so i actually let them slide. which was probably for the best anyway, so it's yet another thing for which to thank the good folks at blogger.

i don't know what it really means or if it means anything at all in the Grand Scheme, but i am totally, utterly delighted. just to have a few minutes of standing out in that giant bloggy blogosphere, where i normally swim as a little bitty fish in a gigantic ocean simply feels fantastic. i've seen several bloggers that i regularly read become BoN--willow, tangobaby--and i'll admit i totally had BoN envy.

i wondered what one had to do to achieve it. i had actually written "become BoN" in my list of things to do before i turn thirty-thirteen, even tho' i had no idea how to go about it. the mysteries of BoN remain...well...mysteries, as i have no idea how my blog was chosen. i found it out when my google alerts sent me the news that there was a new link to MPC and that it was the BoN page! i can only say (again and again ad nauseam) that it's wonderful.

a very big thank you to the gods of google. and thanks as well for the great weather you've sent to us of late here in denmark, since i know you're also controlling the weather. :-)

a big hello to all of the new people stopping by, please do look around, i don't always rant. ok, well, i do pretty often, but there's sometimes something funny as well.

maybe NOW martha will call.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

made my day!!!

thank you blogger!!! please accept these strawberries dipped in chocolate! you totally made my day and prior to this it was a pretty shitty day, but now it's awesome!!!

i wonder if this is because i mentioned sex yesterday?

i feel a rant coming on...

sabin's school has a parents' portal. it's one of those typically badly-designed, no usability studies conducted, homemade kind of unhandy, old-fashioned things, which isn't really what this post is about, but as i said in the title, i feel a rant coming on, so i shall indeed rant about everything.

yesterday on the parent portal, the school posted what i can only term a decree outlining their "principles for parental financial responsibility for damages." it reads as follows (in the original):

Hvis en elev bliver taget i, forsætlig at have forvoldt skade på skolens materiel, vil elevens forældre modtage en regning til betaling – efter endt reparation eller ombytning.
Når det er billigere for eleven og skolen, at servicepersonalet reparere materiellet, vil elevens forældre modtage en regning på 250 kr. pr påbegyndt time samt omkostninger til materialer.
Elevens forældre vil ikke modtage en regning, med mindre skolen er sikker på, at det er vedkommende, der er skyld i skaden.
Elevens forældre vil altid blive informeret i godt tid, inden der kommer en regning.
Forældrene orienteres inden arbejdet påbegyndes.

basically, it says that if your child causes damages to school property, you as a parent will receive a bill for the damages or replacement of said property. it further declares that if it is cheaper for the student and the school, the school's own service personnel will make the repairs and the parent will be billed for 250 kroner per hour + the cost of materials. it does allow one caveat that the parent will only receive a bill if the school is sure that the student in question caused the damages. and it also says that parents will be notified before work begins and before they are sent a bill. 

at the bottom of the word document, it says that the decision about this matter was taken at a school board meeting at the end of march. the document was simply put in the intranet with no accompanying explanation. and this is part of what i object to. i'm sure that there are extenuating circumstances which made the school think this was necessary, but none of those are given (perhaps if i were truly a resourcestærke forældre i would simply KNOW what the background story was). i cannot believe that i'm the only parent who would be interested in knowing the context of this decision and i would think that could be done diplomatically without naming names.

i think this is another example of how language manifests culture..i find it to be written in the same cold, righteous, distant manner that i sometimes find the entire culture to behave. it just hits me as very harshly put, even tho' if you dissect, there's not anything that's really wrong with it. maybe i feel this way because i'm missing the context for the decision.

or maybe the main reason that this is rubbing me the wrong way is that last week, sabin hurt herself when she fell on a wooden structure in the schoolyard that is in dangerous disrepair. i don't know if the hole she fell into was already there or if she actually made the hole in this wooden decking/bench structure that surrounds a tree in the schoolyard.  i had a look at the bench and counted no less than four places where there were jagged pieces of broken-off wood or holes where children could get hurt. it wasn't blocked off from kids playing on it until i brought sabin's injury to her teacher's attention (by which time it was already too late). i have to give her a big hand because she immediately acted and there is now tape up and the kids have been instructed not to play there. and look, the maintenance guy fixed it today--where the new boards are is where there were jagged edges, holes and dangerous protrubances (is that a word?):

this is the one where sabin fell in (before the repair).

but what i wonder now is if i will be presented with the bill? where does responsibility begin? if sabin had maliciously damaged the wooden structure, i would happily take responsibility. but, if she got hurt playing on something that should have been kept in good repair and it happened to break further when she was playing on it, should we have to pay? you might imagine that i do not think so. and i should hasten to add that no one has asked us to, these are just the thoughts that go through my mind as i read the proclamation.

i think it provokes me no end that parents are basically being threatened with having to pay for damages on school property when the school isn't even taking care to maintain it properly themselves. 

i was so incensed by this last evening that i couldn't sleep and i stayed up late composing an email to the school which i sent late last evening. it's now late afternoon here and do you think anyone has acknowledged my mail and my concerns? they have not. and do you think that's making me happy? it is not. 

there is a parents' meeting this evening and i am attending. the right people are probably not at this meeting, but you can bet i'm going to bring it up, even if i am painted ugly american for doing so. i just don't think it's acceptable to send out such a strongly worded statement with no accompanying background information, nor do i think it's appropriate to ignore my email. and most importantly, i don't think it's ok to let play areas become dangerous so that children are hurt on them during playtime. if it were the US, we could definitely sue over the injury sabin got on that broken decking. denmark isn't like that, but my litigious inner american has been awakened and she's not happy.

ten years ago...

i heard on the radio yesterday that it was ten years ago that the columbine tragedy (i was gonna link to it on wiki, but i can't really bring myself to do so) happened. i have a clear memory of standing in a little studio apt. on the north side of chicago, watching oprah talk about it with tears in her eyes. just as it did then, it feels remote from me now. i can't even relate. it's incomprehensible to me and so far from anything i can imagine. i feel for those people, but i cannot even wrap my head around it.

but what it does make me remember is that ten years ago, i was teaching a course in 20th century russian culture at the U of C. i made the mistake of proposing the course together with a fellow graduate student who was taking his exams that quarter. it was a mistake in the sense that taking your Ph.D. exams at the U of C brings you to the brink of a nervous breakdown. and by to the brink, i mean over the brink into a full blown nervous breakdown that you yourself don't notice, but everyone else does. so i ended up teaching alone, which was ok, it just wasn't what i expected.

since i lived in denmark, i also foolishly accepted my fellow graduate student's offer that i could live with him at his place, since it was only 3 months. but living together with someone who has had a nervous breakdown that he doesn't really notice himself is, to describe it lightly, not healthy, so i got my own temporary apartment on campus.

that turned out to be a good thing, because it was in that little bitty apartment, within a block of The Reg, that i learned to make risotto, which is a skill i still enjoy. tho' it took several tries. i had no t.v., which was also wonderful. i also ate a lot of paté on crackers. because that's what i imagined that a graduate student at the U of C should eat. i still haven't decided if that was true or not, but it was decidedly part of my own engagement in bourdieu's cultural capital (attempting to raise mine, undoubtedly).

as for The Reg, i spent so much time there in my study carrel, that i began to glow in the dark. (that's the standard U of C joke, since The Reg was built over the bit where they did the Manhattan Project.) but seriously, being left alone teaching a course (albeit undergraduate) at the U of C, is no small project. luckily, we had modeled it around matei calinescu's five faces of modernity, which meant that we covered modernism, avant-garde, decadence, kitsch (my fave) and postmodernism (my REAL fave, at least at the time), which was an ingenious idea (even if i do say so myself). but my very, very favorite was sneaking in alcoholism, because of its importance in russian culture. vodka is a diminutive of the word for water, which illustrates its importance as a life force in russia and russian culture, because what is language if not the manifestation of culture?

it was both a great time and a stressful time, and i'm sorry that it took columbine to remind me of it, but sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. i'm grateful for the opportunity to say i taught at the U of C, it's not everybody who has done that. but i did. and so did obama. he's, of course, done a little better than i have, but i'm cool with that.

Monday, April 20, 2009

it's fantastic

it's been sunny. it's been still. trees of all sorts are in full bloom. as the sun sets, the still air is heavy with the scent of blossoms. it's like the whole plant world is overtly having sex. and it's positively glorious. i hope spring is springing where you are...

and to my south african friends, i love fall just as much, so i hope it's glorious too! it's just not overtly having sex like spring is...sorry about that. :-)

more fun from the weekend

sabin went home with a friend to play last friday after school. when it came time to pick her up, i realized i'd not been to that friend's dad's house before and i didn't know where it was, so i had to call him and ask the address. when i called, he said that the girls were about to grill sausages and so i could wait 'til later to pick her up. ahh, the sudden freedom of a few extra hours to myself and from the responsibility of having to have that friday evening meal ready. bliss.

husband came home rather late and we started some coals for our own dinner and then went to pick up sabin. her friend's dad lives a little ways out of town on a small farm. they have two ponies and a couple of extremely wooly sheep. he was in the midst of cutting up a couple of old trees that he had knocked down with his big giant digger machine thingie (i think that's the technical term). i wish we'd been there to see that.  he had a big bonfire going and it was there the girls had roasted sausages for dinner. yum. there's just something so good about food cooked outdoors.

while we were waiting for the girls to finish up playing, we got to chatting with the dad. he asked if we'd like some of the wood. husband couldn't believe his ears--free wood for our two woodburning stoves! how cool is that? so he eagerly accepted and spent the entire weekend going back and forth with a trailer and pretty much cleaning up those two trees.

and he had plans for them, that didn't just involve them ending up as firewood.  husband often has grand schemes in the garden. like a little fireplace area for roasting marshmallows and bread on a stick (snobrød, in danish):

and using some of the thicker bits of tree stump to line a new vegetable bed in the upper garden:

we have serious slug problems here in denmark, so we always have to think about raised beds and areas of sand/gravel that slugs don't like around the outside of the beds.

another cool thing that sabin's friend's dad showed us was an old fiat abarth that he had recently finished restoring. i'm not really into cars and know very little about them, but this was just too cute:

the light wasn't great in the garage, so these shots aren't as good as i'd have liked them to be. but you can see from the person standing at the back exactly how TINY this little automobile is. i know mr. bean's car was a morse mini, but this reminded me very much of mr. bean. he started it up and it was LOUD! it would be SO much fun to go down the road in it. super cute.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

the new new world order

i've had a monster headache for several hours today that's only just fading now. whether it's that or rereading the no. 1 ladies detective agency series (i'm almost to the end of morality for beautiful girls, which is #3), i'm finding myself subject to deep musings (mma ramotswe will do that to you).... what does it mean when a major UK newspaper (the evening standard) is owned by a russian oligarch?

...and what are the implications that china owns all of the US debt?

...and spain is producing upwards of 40% of their electricity (depending on the day) using wind power?

maybe all this just means i've had the BBC on in the background while i made pizza dough for dinner later this evening. but i also think that these are signs of a new new world order. with the US floundering, new empires are emerging. ones wherein russian oil gazillionaires can control a piece of western media (wasn't there a james bond movie about that?) and where china is quietly assuming a position of world domination. and where spain, a place one doesn't always liken to the most forward-thinking, developed place on the planet, is actively working on getting themselves less dependent on foreign oil.

these are definitely things to ponder, whether you're in the aura of a headache or not...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

spring, glorious spring

this is why i'm not writing a real blog post today...

that's my dinner potatoes grilling on that grill in the middle of that table. and i've just put steaks i've gotta run. they're filet mignons...