Monday, February 06, 2017

15 Minute Random Word Challenge: "Premium Ice"

It was Robert’s first day at work, and he was a little nervous that they wouldn’t be satisfied with his performance. He had no experience working with ice, and the conditions were far from perfect - outdoors temperatures would get up to 95 degrees during the day, and it was far from unlikely that a batch of ice could go completely to waste if he wasn’t paying attention. And, to be fair, attention wasn’t his strongest side. He had once lost an entire bag full of cigarettes that he was looking after for his friend Billy. It seemed obvious in retrospect that the bag had been of great importance to Billy, because Billy’s parents didn’t know that he was a smoker, and if they found out they would likely have cut him off entirely. Billy’s aunt had died of lung cancer after thirty years of smoking, and his mother had made a point of telling that story to Billy during his childhood, often enough that he should certainly never pick up the habit himself. 

What Billy’s mother didn’t know though, was that Billy wasn’t particularly afraid to die. He didn’t know why - ever since he was a child he had felt that there was nothing bad about death, at least not his own death. So when a friend offered him a cigarette at a party when he was fifteen, he thought “why not” and from that day he had been a smoker. He knew better than to let his mother know though. He may not have been afraid of death, but he was very afraid of his mother’s wrath. So when he struck a deal with a cigarette smuggler and got a bag full of cigarettes for the bargain price of $500, he knew he would have to find someone to help him keep it safe. Robert and Billy had been best friends since fifth grade, when a sixth grade bully had decided to target all redheaded children younger than himself and in that represented a common enemy for the two. The bully, Jack, would be scouting the hallways for redheads with a nasty look on his face, and Robert and Billy would be hiding behind curtains, under tables and around corners, always looking out for each other. 

So it was only natural that Billy should turn to Robert with his cigarette catch. There were no less than 3400 cigarettes in the bag, which to Billy meant that he would not have to worry about cigarettes, cash for cigarettes or any other problem related to cigarettes in the foreseeable future, possibly more than a year. Robert’s parents were both smoking, and though they might have been interested in getting their share from the bag, Robert did not run any risk of getting into trouble if caught with it. His task was simple: take the bag home, hide it from his parents and get a handful of cigarettes out now and then to provide Billy with supply. It was perhaps precisely because it seemed so simple that he wasn’t paying attention. What could possibly go wrong? As he was walking home, not a care in this world, he heard a swoosh as a bike came up next to him, and the bag was swiftly grabbed off his shoulder and whisked into the hands of the rider, who disappeared as quickly as he had arrived. Robert didn’t even get a look of his face! It was a total disaster. He tried to run after him, but he didn’t stand a chance. 

Slowly turning around he had to accept the fact that the bag was gone, and he had absolutely no idea of how it could be recuperated. He started to prepare sentences in his head, how he would tell Billy of what happened, but he couldn’t bear it. What would Billy think? Would this be the end of their friendship? He went over the incident again and again, trying to at least remember the clothes of the thief, or the color of his bike, but it was all one big blur. In fact, the more he thought about it, the less he remembered, and he got confused about how it had actually been and what he thought might have been.

He could try to get hold of a new bag of cigarettes. That was one option. He had no idea how to go about that, he didn’t know any smugglers and he certainly did not have any money. Certainly not $500. It was then that he noticed the ad that was tucked to a pole: “Premium Ice - Help Wanted”. He read the description, and it seemed like something he would be capable of doing. No previous experience required, training provided. Employees would get discount on bulk ice purchases. He could start already the next Saturday. And so an idea manifested itself in Robert’s mind. His friendship with Billy was too precious at this point, he did not want to risk losing it. He might not have $500, but if he had a job, he would gradually make enough money to buy a cigarette pack now and then, certainly enough to provide the handful that Billy would require now and then, and Billy might never have to know that the bag was gone! It was a beautiful idea. He didn’t bother to do the math to find out for how long he would have to work there. The most important thing was to keep the friendship with Billy until the summer holiday. After the holiday Jack would be gone, and he might be able to get by on his own. He would miss Billy for sure, but he wouldn’t necessarily have to keep working at Premium Ice until he had made the money’s worth of 3400 cigarettes.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Glimpse of Magic

It was a beautiful summer day in May, the apple trees were blooming and the sky was blue. We had rented an AirBnB in the midst of postcard Hardanger, a fabulous old wooden house with grass on the roof and several smaller outhouses. The view to the fjords was amazing. 

We were sitting outside the little outhouse, taking in the beautiful landscapes and enjoying the warmth of the sun, when we suddenly noticed how the colors were somehow more intense, suddenly vibrating a little. I felt a waviness in my body, a wave that was somehow present around me as well, as if I was picking up on and tuning in to some energy field. There was a beauty to it that was hard to describe with words. What was this..?

Still trying to grasp and describe in thought or words this intensified beauty, I turned around and looked at the outhouse behind me. It had an old door made of solid wood, and as I was looking at it, the door slowly came to life, the hundred years of life that it had in it came out through the patterns and texture of the door, as it was connecting with us.

I looked up at the sky, which had a couple of bright white clouds on it. I noticed that the clouds were swaying a bit on the sky, back and forth, as if saluting me into their world. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I laid back on the grass and sank into the spectacle that unfolded in front of me. It was strikingly clear to me that the clouds were immensely enjoying the opportunity to finally connect with some of us humans, to show us the fullest beauty that they were capable of putting at display. They were reaching out for me, playfully dancing in the sky, inviting me into their world. It filled me with intense bliss, a beauty beyond any imagination, and it humbled me to tears because I knew that this was God playing with us.

There was a waterfall at the end of the property, with trees and bushes and another little outhouse next to it. The trees and bushes were swaying together in a dance, and the cliff joined into it, and the flowers on the grass in front of it, even the grass and small bushes on the rooftop of the little outhouse, all of them dancing to the rhythm of the wind and the water. It was the same wave that was flowing through my body, a wave of life and of magic. They were somehow capable of showing us all their magic, connecting with us, inviting us in. All I could do was to watch in awe.

I turned to look at him while we were talking, his face bathed in sunlight. As he was talking, I could see all the faces of mankind since the stone age unfold across his face in the flash of a few seconds. Fierce warriors, painted faces, fiery eyes and armor. His eyebrows would turn to colorful feathers, and his face transition into human and animal hybrids. I knew that I was being shown something fundamental about the human soul, about our history on the planet and our connectedness to the earth.

I walked onto the flowery field towards the main house, and the earth felt incredibly soft, warm and welcoming under my bare feet. The apple trees were reaching out for me, inviting me to dance.
Everything was so spectacularly beautiful and alive that it was hard to move. Wherever I looked I was filled with bliss, amazement and a feeling that God was in everything, everywhere. The grass, the rocks, the houses, the trees and flowers - God was showing us the maximum potential of beauty in its creation, showing how everything is alive and breathing, a magical world where there is only beauty and where God is the most powerful force of good.

We eventually made our way into the old house and, what a house!!! It was mocking us for having been out there for so long when it was so amazing in there. It made me laugh out loud as I realized the house was right in being so confident about its own awesomeness. The soul of the house was pouring out of every room and into the hallway where we were standing. We walked up into the living room and into the depth of the house. The wooden ceiling danced for us, and the beautiful furniture was inviting us to stay. My feet were getting cold, and I was putting on some heavy wool socks I had, but somehow I only found one sock, and somehow it didn’t matter at all. I was just sitting on the floor there, one sock on and one off, enjoying the experience. We got into the sofa with the beautiful purple pillows and just melted into it.

We were talking about things that made perfect sense, we had a complete understanding of each other, as we melted in and out of a surreal world where new dimensions were added, and time was twisted in mysterious ways - there was simply no way of estimating or thinking about time anymore. In this other dimension, ideas and concepts were conveyed in images that were displayed to me when I closed my eyes.

It was impossible to get anything done. Simple tasks like going to fetch cheese from the fridge would be initiated a number of times before we finally carried through with it. We’d get distracted each time by some interesting view or idea or feeling, and completely forget about the cheese until much later - or who knew how much later? Time was bent!

Somehow in this world there was no room for vanity, no room for ego. It was obvious that the only thing that mattered was to be present in the moment, and enjoy the intense beauty of the planet that we live on.

As the waves of magic drifted off and got more distant, the intensity waded off, we were looking out at the night sky and the land on the other side of the fjord. We felt a slight sadness that it was leaving us, and we were talking about the wonders of the day, when suddenly the heavens melted into the land and the sea in front of us, playfully saying goodbye, reminding us that the magic is always there. We just have to look.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Easter Treasure

It was a couple of weeks before Easter that I went to a contact improvisation class one evening on a business trip to New York. "Contact Improvi-what?" you ask, and like my colleagues you realize you're happy not to be this weird. Well, off I went, and it started slow - very slow, in a "we're going to connect to the center of the earth" kind of slowness. But then it developed into interesting and ended in pure magic as I connected really well with one of the other dancers and we had a short but oh so sweet contact dance together. I just knew that I had to find more of this magic. I wouldn't have guessed that Germany would be the place for it (no offense), but as it happened there was a big contact improvisation festival taking place in the town of Göttingen during Easter. I knew that I just had to throw myself into it.

The festival turned out to be more than just dance. It was a life style, a philosophy, a culture, built around a dance form. Highlights from the festival include me having:
  • been around 200 people 24/7, surrounded by flowing robes, healing theories and pan flutes
  • started every day in a singing circle after yoga and breakfast (in that order), singing lovely, loving songs that I've never heard before
  • rolled my body over countless other bodies, and had countless other bodies rolled over mine, a.k.a. body surfing
  • danced blindfolded in a hall full of other blindfolded people while musicians moved between us playing intense, tribal music using instruments from the deep jungles
  • seen people spontaneously wave their fingertips as praise instead of applause
  • witnessed people break into spontaneous ohmming as even higher praise
  • felt stupid after applauding
  • lifted other people, several of them far heavier than myself
  • bruised myself head-to-toe and broke one rib learning the hard way how (not) to move on the floor
  • met a shocked Swedish girl exiting the swimming hall where apparently she had found everybody to be naked. "This is just... We don't... We just don't do this in Sweden!!"
  • slept on a very hard floor for four nights
  • tried really hard to be liquid in my skeleton
  • been hugged, touched and smiled warmly at by random people
  • felt loved and accepted by strangers
  • last but not least: learned some basics of the wonderful dance form of contact improvisation and danced more or less 24/7
It is too early to say if there is going to be a lasting effect, but at least at the time of writing, I find myself seeking eye contact and smiling at strangers, almost like an American. And I feel a certain responsibility to spread the word - I mean, have you heard about contact improvisation before? You simply must try it! There would be no wars in this world if people were exposed to and able to practice contact improvisation. Maybe no depression either. Go, try it!

Oh, and here is an example of what it might look like:

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Eurobonus vs Flying Blue - which one is better?

When work sent me out traveling a lot, it didn’t take long before I noticed a growing interest in airlines’ loyalty programs. My company’s policy is enforcing economy tickets, and thus, particularly on long haul flights, it becomes almost an obsession to secure a business class ticket through loyalty program upgrades. Last year I earned Gold status with both Flying Blue and Eurobonus, and the following evaluation is based on that experience.

Accumulating points/miles

  • Flying Blue miles are ridiculously hard to earn. A long haul flight may leave you with only 2-3000 miles if you’re unfortunate enough to have a particularly cheap ticket. KLM/Flying Blue has a ticketing system with multiple classes of economy ticket. The ticket class is not displayed during the booking process, yet if you end up with the wrong letter code on your ticket, you’ll earn close to nothing of award miles. Probably for this reason, you can choose a more expensive economy ticket during the booking process, with identical conditions. The only difference is that you’ll earn more award miles. Which is not very different from *buying* award miles, which kind of defeats the purpose of miles. 
  • With SAS/Star Alliance this is much simpler: a certain distance in a certain class gives a certain amount of points, regardless of how much you paid for your ticket. They are also far more generous with their points, and you’ll easily earn over 10.000 points on a long haul flight.

Value of points/miles

  • Flying Blue award miles value algorithms work in mysterious ways. Consider this example: Bringing an extra suitcase on a long haul flight: 20.000(!) hard earned miles. The cash value of this is probably around $100. Upgrade to business class on a long haul flight: 40.000 miles. The cash value of this is at least $2000.
  • I was once offered an upgrade at checkin, at the cost of 25000 miles *plus* a cash fee of €350. I’ve never heard of such a thing with SAS/Eurobonus.
  • With Eurobonus the cost of upgrading from economy to business is also around 40.000 points. Since their points are way easier earned than Flying Blue’s miles, the value of Eurobonus points are very much better.

Ease of upgrade

  • With KLM/Flying Blue, you have to call their customer service in order to upgrade a ticket. I made the mistake of calling *after* I booked a ticket once, and was told that my ticket was too cheap to upgrade, whether for miles or money. What? The only fool-proof method is apparently to call them to book the entire ticket, as you’ve no way of knowing whether your ticket is eligible for upgrade when using their website.
  • With SAS, you can upgrade in one of two ways: 
    • You can request an upgrade on their website, which may or may not come through, depending on availability. A fixed number of miles will be deducted from your balance if you succeed. 
    • But they also have another, truly brilliant feature: you can pay part of your ticket using Eurobonus points! Using a slider, you can watch how the price changes little by little as you add or remove miles. This way you can compose your business class price/upgrade cost yourself! This is the most user friendly feature I’ve seen by an airline in a very long time.

Perks not related to award system

  • With KLM, you can buy “comfort seats” in economy, and it’s quite cheap. This will give you more legroom and more seat recline.
  • With SAS, you can buy SAS Plus, which is more expensive than KLM comfort, but it’s also so much more! It’s an entire class between economy and business, and it gives you perks like priority checkin, boarding etc., a seat which offers more legroom, recline *and* a foot rest bar, which helps enormously in finding a comfortable sleeping position. You also get a proper blanket, better meals and steel cutlery. And, it gives you more bonus points than the regular economy ticket, whereas KLM’s comfort seats offer no award miles. SAS Plus is often acceptable even in companies with a strict economy class policy, and it’s a great compromise perkwise.
  • If you do have to sit in the bottom of the hierarchy, the dreaded economy class, KLM offers better comfort than SAS. Their entertainment system and movie selection is much better, and the seats are slightly more comfortable. Note that this only applies to KLM, and not to Air France or Delta, which are other Flying Blue partners I’ve had the misfortune to travel with. For Star Alliance, I haven’t flown other airlines than SAS.


Based on my experience, SAS/Eurobonus is a much better loyalty program than KLM/Flying Blue, with far greater value for money, and much better usability.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Det skal ikke påstås at det faller meg naturlig å lage mat, men jeg liker jo å glede min mann med noe godt hvis jeg kan. Han har lagt sin elsk på riskrem, og selv om jeg i utgangspunktet mener at juleting mister sin magi om man nyter dem når det ikke er jul, så gikk jeg med på at han skulle få riskrem i dag. Riktig så generøs, følte jeg meg.

Min mann skulle lage grøten mens jeg laget middag. Grådig satte han i gang med å lage en svær kasserolle, nok til en uke med riskrem. Jeg burde ha ant uråd og avlyst hele riskremen da det viste seg at han trodde jeg hadde ment at han skulle lage kokt ris. I stedet lot jeg ham helle melk og sukker i risen, i håp om å transformere den til grøt.

Neste utfordring var selve fløtekremen. Siden vi ikke har stavmikser med visp gikk jeg i gang med å vispe for hånd, og vispet for harde livet i flere minutter. Fløten tyknet en anelse, men det var langt fra snakk om noe krem. Jeg spurte min mann om han visste noe om krempisking. Han er oppvokst på den rumenske landsbygden, og vet mye om matvareprodukters opprinnelse. Han foreslo å bruke stavmikseren. Jeg ymtet frempå om at knivblader kanskje kunne ødelegge fløten, men han mente det ville gå bra, så dermed satte jeg i gang. Det så lenge ut til å gjøre susen. Fløten tyknet og ble kremaktig, og vi kunne begge konstatere at det smakte deilig krem. Overraskelsen var derfor stor når jeg rørte litt i kremen med vispen, og bevitnet hvordan den umiddelbart antok flytende form igjen. Jeg gløttet bort på min mann som satt i stuen, men sa ingenting, bare stavmikset den til krem igjen. Med bange anelser målte jeg opp fire desiliter grøt og helte oppi kremen. Jeg rørte den inn og ganske riktig ble det hele sakte men sikkert til en tykk suppe. Litt i villrede tok jeg stavmikseren fatt igjen og tenkte kanskje jeg kunne puffe kremen opp igjen. Et par minutter senere hadde jeg en tyntflytende suppe, og måtte bare innse at alt håp var ute.

Nå må det sies at grøten var under middels god, så det hadde neppe blitt en førsteklasses riskrem uansett. Likevel er nederlaget et faktum, og jeg har ytterligere en fadese å føye til kjøkkenlisten min.

Som et PS til historien kan det nevnes at vi har en utmerket mikser med visp stående og at min mann visste om dette hele tiden. Og som et PPS kan det nevnes at jeg - da jeg skulle begynne å rydde opp etter fadesen - kom borti et krydderglass som falt ned på en flaske rødvin som knustes utover kjøkkengulvet, og da vi drev og tørket opp vinen kom vi borti bollen med riskremsuppe så den veltet ned på gulvet den også. Så stort verre kunne det vel egentlig ikke gå.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

En pizzadeig til besvær

I mangel på tålmodighet og naturlige kokkeferdigheter har jeg mang en gang tydd til Toro gjennom mitt liv. Lengre utenlandsopphold har dog lært meg å verdsette friske råvarer og mat laget fra bunnen av, og de siste årene har jeg knapt brukt Toro til noe som helst. Med ett unntak. Når jeg skal lage pizza kjøper jeg fremdeles Toros posebunn, litt skamfull, for det er tross alt bare mel, salt og tørrgjær i posen, og det kunne jeg sikkert ha klart å blande selv. Likevel viser all erfaring merkelig nok at Toroposen gir en langt bedre bunn enn min egen melblanding.

Det var derfor med friskt mot at jeg kjøpte pizzabunn i pose her om dagen. Det pleier sjelden å være problemer med Torobunnen, så jeg ble ikke veldig urolig selv om jeg merket at deigen var usedvanlig hard å kna. Etter å ha knadd så lenge jeg mente var maksimalt rimelig tid å bruke på knaing begynte jeg å kjevle, selv om deigen fremdeles var hard. Den sprakk i alle kanter og det var aldeles umulig å få den større enn en middels stor frokosttallerk. Jeg blandet i mer vann og mel i håp om å få en fresh start, og det så bra ut en stund, men den lot seg overhodet ikke kjevle ut. Ydmykelsen i det å ikke klare å lage en pizzadeig - til alt overmål med Toropose - begynte å synke inn, og i takt med det steg sinnet. Jeg hamret og kjevlet så svetten sprutet, men deigspetakkelet nektet å flate seg ut.

Omtrent en time senere, med deigete fingre og sinnet i kok, trampet jeg ned til butikken, og forbannet Toro mens jeg saumfarte butikken etter frossen pizzabunn, eller et hvilket som helst alternativ. Det viste seg at de ikke hadde noe som helst annet enn Toro, og dermed endte jeg opp med en ny pose Torobunn.

Det tok meg ca fem minutter å blande, kna og kjevle ut bunn nr. 2. Deigen var myk og luftig, rett og slett et lite pizzadeigvidunder, mens den andre lå slengt i en krok og vitnet om en lang og hard kamp på kjøkkenet.

For en med meget begrensede kokkeferdigheter er dette intet mindre enn ufattelig. Hvordan kan de to deigene ende opp på så forskjellig vis? Det eneste jeg som bruker skal gjøre, er å blande i 1.5dl lunkent vann. Jeg kan komme på fem ting som kan gå galt:

1. For lite vann
2. For mye vann
3. For kaldt vann
4. For varmt vann
5. Produksjonsfeil fra Toro sin side

Jeg skulle jammen likt å vite hvilken av disse som fører til deignederlaget jeg var ute for nå, samt om det er mulig å hente inn en deig som har blitt hard, eller om man allerede på tidlig knastadie kan se at alt håp er ute.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Gode grunner til å feire (før)jul i Bergen

Snøen daler ikke akkurat ned i skjul her vi sitter i åtte varmegrader med yr i luften, likevel tror jeg det er få steder som har en like fin førjulstid som vi har her i Bergen. Vakre og koselige tradisjoner har fått vokse frem slik at vi hvert eneste år kan glede oss til:

  • BTs lysfest siste lørdag før advent. En vakrere innledning til adventstiden kan vi vel knapt få, og i år trakk den hele 35 000 mennesker til Festplassen. Her tennes juletreet i Lille Lungegårdsvann, og fakler deles ut til alle som vil ha mens vi får julesanger servert fra scenen, i år ved Nordic Tenors, med passelig mengde ispedd juleallsang. Kunstmuseet er pyntet med all sin lysprakt i bakgrunnen, og det hele avsluttes med et storslagent fyrverkeri. I år gjorde de en artig vri på fyrverkeriet, det skulle skytes opp til Händels(?) fyrverkerisymfoni. Idéen var nok helt sikkert god, men det endte likevel opp som en litt pussig seanse. Hver gang symfonien jobbet seg opp til kraftfulle høydepunkter trodde vi at nå - kom det, men ikke en rakett var å se. Innimellom derimot, mens musikken gikk litt på tomgang, da putret det opp noen småraketter her og der. Så da folk syntes de hadde stått der passelig lenge - fyrverkerisymfonien er ikke unnagjort på få minutter- uten at det kom noe, begynte man å se etter utgangen. Man har jo gjerne noen kunstpauser i slike symfonier, og først tredje gangen musikken var ferdig begynte fyrverkeriet for alvor, men da fikk vi til gjengjeld et solid fyrverkeri som var verd hele symfonien og litt til.

  • Pepperkakebyen, the one and only. Takket være en ulykksalig stakkar som gikk berserk i fylla, en ekte god norsk ungdom, er det vel få her i verden som ikke kjenner til Pepperkakebyen vår. Det var riktignok mye koseligere da den holdt til i Galleriet, men på den andre siden får vi antageligvis en større kakeby når den har et eget telt. Pepperkakebyen er så koselig at jeg regner med det før eller senere lages en animasjon, gjerne en TV-julekalender, med utgangspunkt i den.

  • BKKs julekonsert i Johanneskirken. Dette er en gratiskonsert i byens fineste kirke, med fire forestillinger over to dager. Det blir fort lange køer av sånne arrangementer, men sist gang jeg var der ble køen blidgjort med varm julegløgg, en idé flere købestyrere kunne tatt lærdom av. Det skal ikke alltid så mye til for å gjøre køståing mer interessant.

Og selvsagt kan ikke disse tradisjonene replikeres i noen annen by. Visst kan dere ha fakkelfest og pepperkakehus og gratiskonserter, men dere har jo ikke Lille Lungegårdsvann, Johanneskirken eller ehm, vår Pepperkakeby. Og da blir det ikke helt det samme.

En blogg kan være et godt verktøy for en som i litt for stor grad glemmer de små og store tingene som utgjør livet. Dette er min reserve- hukommelse.