Friday, February 29, 2008

The blessing of having had a cat

Our cat under the woolen blanket

Our cat loved fleece more than any other material!

Taking a siesta in the shadows during the hot midday sun.

Last night I got a phone call from my other country.

Our dear cat had died.

Of old age.

We estimate she was now around 21 or 22 years old,

because she was already a grownup cat when we

got to know her, nearly 19 years ago.

So much love in such a little body.

So much intelligence (yes!) in such a small brain.

So much pleasure from such a small creature.

I am sad she is dead.

I am glad she shared our lives for the long time she was here.

We have been truely blessed by knowing this cat.
An ordinary cat that adopted us.
An ordinary cat that became very special to us.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oslo fjord on a windy day

Around here, and probably elsewhere in Norway too,
there is a system of coastal paths, open to the public.
Today I took my mother to try out one going from Framnes to Alby.
We didn't walk very far.

It was quite windy.

Cold wind blew in from the Oslo fjord.
The ferry from Moss to Horten passed by.

It was beautiful, looking out over the fjord.

I will walk here in the future when it gets a little warmer.

PS. Many Norwegian families were out for their Søndagstur - tradional walk on Sunday.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Oslo - Chicago - Oslo

My mother showed me this dark photo.
It was immediately clear who those on the photo were.

A slighly lighter version showed the family even clearer:
My paternal grandfather and grandmother and their five children.
The youngest child is my father born in 1917, so I assume this photo was taken in 1920 or 1921.
The girl to the right in the front row is the only person still alive. My aunt is now 95 years old.

So who took the photo here in Norway?
The backside of the photo seemed mysterious:

Printed in Chicago?
A photo from Norway, now in Norway?

I then remembered a story my father told me:
As the youngest child , the family let him grow his blond hair, without cutting it.

Then when my father was three or four years old, my grandmother's friend Signora, who had emigrated to the States, came for a visit to Norway. She was disgusted with the little boy having long hair like a little girl and quickly cut my father's hair!
Guess she must have been a very close friend of my grandmother to allow herself to do this.

When I put this story together with the photo above, I see Signora bringing a camera to Norway, and photographing my grandparents, aunts, uncle and father. Then developing the film in Chicago - where she probably lived - and sending the photos to Oslo.

If we could have taken off my father's little hat, we would probably have seen that he had recently had a haircut!

A little girl on the curb

Once upon the time a little girl in Albygate, Moss, not yet three years old, walked from her home while her mother was busy taking care of the baby brother. She walked up to the Helgeroed Street and then down towards Glassverket.
That glass factory is not there any more (except the house to the far right) , but the photo above is of a model at the local museum, showing the front towards the Helgeroed Street.
There, somewhere around the steps of the offices, the little girl sat down on the curb.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Casulo - life in a little box

Moving from one apartment to the other, can be stressful enough.
Moving from one country to the other....
So I haven't really moved. Just brought with me a minimum of personal stuff.

When I bought furniture for my present apartment here in Moss, I was conscious that whatever I carried up those stairs and into the apartment would one day be carried down the same stairs.
So I bought most of my furniture at FRETEX and MASVO, two secondhand charity shops.
It was a cheap and convenient solution.

Photo: Casulo

Today Aftenposten, the Norwegian newspaper, wrote about CASULO, the furniture for a whole room in a box, size 80 cm * 120 cm

Check out Casulo's website where you read
"Casulo, a new concept for mobile living originated in June 2007 as a part of the dissertation of Marcel Krings and Sebastian Mühlhäuser at the Köln International School of Design in Cologne."
Now they are looking for producers and distributors of the CASULO.

This solution would have been an attractive alternative for me, if I knew I would have to move a lot in the coming years, and that I would be living mostly in oneroom apartments.
Then there is the price...

But I like the idea, and I will think about it a little more.

Friday, February 15, 2008

TV series : Class 9 A

This week I watched a very interesting programm on Swedish TV.
It is actually the first one in a series of 13 programms following Class 9 A in a school in Malmoe, Sweden.
That particular school is considered one of the worst schools in Sweden, but the new principals are working to change the situation, and these programms will show one of the ways. For the autumn term they exchanged all the regular teachers for Class 9 A at the school with a team of Sweden's top teachers.
Could these teachers motivate the students and teach them enough so that by the end of the term the class would be one of the best classes in all of Sweden?
In the first programm, it was interesting to watch the teachers considered so good they would be able to take on the challenge.
I know these teachers will become my teachers too.

Tony Kinberg in music
Stavros Louca in physics and mathematics
Harriette Persson in languages
Carolina Ohlsson in handcrafts
Magnus Helldén in biology and chemistry
Gunilla Hammar Säfström in Swedish, art and life philosophy (is that correctly translated for bildkunskap och livskunskap?)
Christin Lund in Knowledge about the Society (right for SO?)
Igor Ardoris in sports

We also get to know the students, their fears, their dreams.
This is going to be a learning experience.

I can even watch the programm through the internet for 30 days after it has been broadcast, and read more about the students and teachers and the challenges of the school system on the website

The titles of the ministers

The Norwegian government with Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
It is interesting to note that around half of the ministers are women.

Today I was thinking how the titles of the ministers in any government reflect what that specific government and country try to prioritize.

From the Norwegian government's own website I copied the titles in English and in Norwegian.

First the titles that sound more familiar from back when I lived in Norway:

Prime Minister = Statsminister

Minister of Finance = Finansminister

Minister of Justice = Justisminister

Minister of Transport and Communications = Samferdselsminister

Minister of Foreign Affairs = Utenriksminister

Minister of Defence = Forsvarsminister

Then comes one minister that came along with the Norwegian oil, after I moved abroad:

Minister of Petroleum and Energy = Olje- og energiminister

The next titles "sound" new to me, some of them because the more complicated names, and some because they seem to have cut bigger departments into smaller departments.

Minister of Local Government and Regional Development = Kommunal- og regionalminister

Minister of Government Administration and Reform = Fornyings- og administrasjonsminister

Minister of Agriculture and Food = Landbruks- og matminister

Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs = Fiskeri- og kystminister

Minister of the Environment and International Development = Miljøvern- og utviklingsminister

Minister of Education = Kunnskapsminister (Actually Minister of Knowledge!)

Minister of Research and Higher Education = Forsknings- og høyere utdanningsminister

Minister of Culture and Church Affairs = Kultur- og kirkeminister

Minister of Children and Equality = Barne- og likestillingsminister

Minister of Health and Care Services = Helse- og omsorgsminister

Minister of Trade and Industry = Nærings- og handelsminister

Minister of Labour and Social Inclusion = Arbeids- og inkluderingsminister

The website of the government has versions in four languages - the two official Norwegian languages Bokmål and Nynorsk, the Sami Language and English.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A lecture about life

Randy Pausch, born 1960.

Randy Pausch with his wife and three young children.

What can Randy teach us about life?

My efriend Jerry sent me this link with Randy Pausch' very special lecture
as it was broadcast on the Oprah show

You can also watch the original lecture

To learn more about Randy Pausch, you can click on the Wikipedia entry

or you can visit his homepage

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Kautokeino Rebellion 1852

Tonight my mother and I will watch the film The Kautokeino Rebellion 1852, a film by Nils Gaup.

A short summary from the film's website :

For centuries the northern Scandinavia has been inhabited by the native sami population and their reindeers. Set in 1852, modernisation is about to enter the desolate village of Kautokeino where authority is held by the ruthless and prosperous liquor dealer Ruth. One of the native tribes, led by young woman Elen, refuses to pay their unjust debt to Ruth, leading to one of the most dramatic episodes in northern Scandinavian history.

Try watching the trailer for the film, just to get an impression of the visual parts, if you do not know Norwegian

Some thoughts after watching the film.
If you have the opportunity to watch this film, do so.
Because the historical events are so sad and so violent, it felt like a victory when I read the names of the Sami actors. Nils Gaup the filmmaker is a decendant of several of the main characters, so I must assume that the many others with the family name Gaup on the role list are his relatives.
So these people were reenacting what happened to their forefathers a little more than 150 years ago, telling that story for those who knew and for all of us who did not know.

The photography is as spectacular as the nature and the reindeers up in Northern Norway.

The different languages in the film - Norwegian with the distinct sound of those living in Northern Norway, the Sami language, Swedish and even a little Danish - will of course be lost for foreign viewers.

Two Sami , Aslak Hætta and Mons Somby, were decapitated a few days after the rebellion in 1852 and their heads were sent to Oslo "for scientic studies". Only in 1997, after 145 years, could the families bury them in a proper way up where they live in Northern Norway.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

TV: Luksusfellen = The luxus trap

Tonight I watched the second TV programm in a series called Luksusfellen, this time with a couple living near Moss.

Many people in Norway now have more money than they did in the past, but often the way they use that money, leaves much to be desired...

"Money does not solve money problems" as Dr. Phil among others says.
But changing your thinking certainly can.

In this program two experts take on a case - helping a family face up to their real , often very unpleasant economical situation, and then help them change their future by redefining how they want to live.

Often the bills have been hidden, the envelopes not even opened, and the banks about to repossess the house etc.

Making a budget that includes saving money and then sticking to it, is the part I identified with.

Imagine getting to this advanced age and not - really- having made a budget before.

In my case, I am not caught in a Luxus Trap, far from it :-), but the principles are the same.
Live according to your income and put money aside for more difficult days.

Integration of children

A Norwegian politician from a very rightwing party wrote eleven rules for integrating children in immigrant families into Norwegian society.

Personally I felt rather sick reading most of his rules, but I decided to make a little experiment:
If that man and his family or any other Norwegian family for whatever reason (political, economical, job appointment for several years, wanting to live in a warmer climate) moved to another country (f.ex. Spain, France, UK or the States as fairly neutral choices, countries in the Western world), and then tried to apply these rules on his Norwegian family in that new situation, then:

1. They would speak only Spanish/French/English at home. The parents would not speak Norwegian to each other or to their children.
2. They would let their children watch children's TV only in the local language and listen to the radio only in the local language. (No cable TV, no DVDs)
3. They would read local folk tales in the local language for their children. (Forget about the Norwegian folk stories, read in Norwegian)
4. They would let their children visit local friends from school, stay over at their homes at night and attend their birthday celebrations.
5. The parents would engage themselves in the school life of their children through parents' meetings and being elected to parents' council. (Guess their own knowledge of the local language Spanish/ French/ English is so excellent they feel really comfortable in such settings)
6. If they belong to a Protestant church, they should not send their children to a Protestant Sunday school or to any Protestant religious activities for children. (Guess Protestant Christmas celebrations in the Norwegian Seamen's Church is not good for their intergration in the local society)
7. They would be active in their neighborhood - in sports activities, the local school orchestra and voluntary work.
8. They would not go back to Norway for the long summer holidays. (Just short visits to prevent the children from feeling too connected to Norway. Hopefully the children wouldn't know much Norwegian at all, so they wouldn't be able to talk to the grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. What a blessing!)
9. Not let their children marry somebody from Norway, just the local guys.
10. Liberate their daughters and let them marry whoever they want to.
11. Let their daughters find their way on their own in the local society and not push any cultural and religious limitations and restrictions on them.

In my eyes, intergration is a long and often painful process for both parts.
I do think it helps to sometimes put yourself in the immigrants' shoes.

Language is important. Knowledge is important.

But sometimes I wonder if perhaps the country itself, in this case Norway, should try to define their basic values as a country so that potential immigrants would know what to expect.
What are Norwegian values?
What do the "old" Norwegian citizens expect from the "new" Norwegian inhabitants?
What do the new Norwegian inhabitants (and hopefully later Norwegian citizens) feel are important values to keep from their old life and what do they see as challenges in their new Norwegian life?
How do they think they can help themselves and their children to be intergrated in Norway, according to their own expectations?
Should you be able to become a Norwegian citizen if you do not know the Norwegian language above a certain level to be tested?
Is there basic knowledge about Norway you should be tested in , before receiving Norwegian citizenship?

These thoughts are more like ramblings just now.
But I do feel this subject is important.

And I did not like most of that politician's eleven rules.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Julekurver = Christmas baskets

This book that my mother found at the public library is so well made, I could easily see it translated into English, inspiring people all of the world to create their own little baskets in colorful paper.
The author is Beate G. Lindseth and the book was published by N.W. Damm & Soen AS in 2007.
The author's homepage is

My mother would make such baskets when I was a little girl and hang them on the Christmas tree, often with nuts inside.

Here you see one example of how the simple act of weaving strips of colored paper strips can create a chequered pattern. The number of scissors indicate how difficult it is to cut the patterns with the scissor. The number of hearts indicate how difficult the weaving is.
These patterns are the traditional ones here in Scandinavia, but the author has a lot of interesting suggestions.
Here f.ex. is a Heart inside a Heart.

The book gives detailed patterns you can copy.

This version is called the Love Letter

Some of the other ideas:
A White Dove
An Angel with a Trumpet
The Zodiac Signs
Versions with the maps of the Scandinavian countries
Edward Grieg
H.C. Andersen (whose Christmas Basket from 1864 is the oldest preserved Christmas Basket today)

The author tells that she sees more and more American websites showing such baskets in connection with Valentine's Day.

It doesn't really have to be limited to Christmas, but can certainly be used as a token of love.

If you visit the author's website (recommended!) click on at least two of the subjects on her menu, if you don't read Norwegian:
Julekurvsamling (Collection of Christmas Baskets, showing four versions, but she has a collection of one thousand!)
Julekurvmaler (Two, soon three, free patterns for Christmas Baskets)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Low income

Another article in VI OVER 60 explains that EU's definition of "low income" is considered to be 60 percent of the average income in a specific country, according to the number of persons in the household.

For Norway the definitions were like this in 2005:
Single person: 139 00 Norwegian crowns after paying taxes.
Single person providing for children: 18o 000 Norwegian crowns.
Couple without children : 208 000 Norwegian crowns.
Couple with one child: 249 000 Norwegian crowns.
Couple with two children: 291 000 crowns.

Most of those receiving the minimal pension come under the sums the EU used:
A single person receives a little less than 120 000 Norwegian crowns.
In the beginning of this year there were close to 180 000 persons receiving the minimal pension.
Out of these, close to 158 000 were women.

Those with low income had greater difficulties with having a PC, a car or taking one week of vacation away from home.
Some of those with low income cannot afford meat or fish for dinner, or to keep their home warm enough.
Many find it difficult to pay their monthly expenses, and in particular the expenses for having a place to live, feels difficult.
Out of the general population 20 % use one fourth or more of their income for a place to live.
In the population living on low income , more than half use a fourth or more of their income for a place to live.

Immigrant population

VI OVER 60 - yeah, you got that - WE OVER 60, is a monthly magazine I like to read.
Good articles. Useful information presented in a clear way. Interesting facts.
From this month's issue:
Norway has an immigrant population of around 415 000 persons. They come from 200 countries around the world and make up 8.9 % of all Norwegians.
Some came as refugees, some through working in jobs needed in Norway and others through family relations to other immigrants or to Norwegians.
So where do they come from?
Around 54 000 come from the other Nordic countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland).
51 000 come from other countries in Western Europe and from North America.
81 000 come from countries in Eastern Europe.
230 000 come from Turkey and countries in Asia, Africa and South America.
Of first generation immigrants, most came from Sweden, Poland and Denmark.
47 % of the immigrant population are Norwegian citizens.
After the possibility to immigrate to Norway as needed workers stopped in 1975, the number of refugees from non-Western countries increased.
Also, after Poland joined the EU, there has been a strong increase in immigration from Poland.
Some things I am curious about:
Out of the 450 000, how many were born in Norway?
Out of the 230 000 immigrants from Turkey and countries in Asia, Africa and South America - how is the division between those four areas?
The 53 % of immigrants who are NOT Norwegian citizens, what citizenship do they hold, according to the geographical areas mentioned earlier?
How many hold more than one citizenship?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The canal in Moss in February

Moss harbor has a website

In the winter

In the summer

Moss Harbor has its own website.
Most of the website is in Norwegian, but you may enjoy watching this little Flash presentation

It turns out the harbor also has its own weather station

Enjoying bad weather - through the window

Those who know me, know I am not too big a fan of heavy rain, snow, strong winds.
That is, if I am outside in that kind of weather.

But these last days I rediscovered that being inside, in a warm cosy house and looking out at snow falling, rain hitting the windows with great strength, snow turning into water on the street, can be rather enjoyable.

I think it is some kind of primitive feeling of being protected from the elements.
Like sitting in front of a fire inside a cave.
Like sitting in front of a fireplace in a tiny wooden house on the countryside.
Like sitting in my apartment in Moss with two small radiators heating the whole place to twenty degrees Celsius.