Prometheus

03.07.2012 15:41

Last Sunday, I decided at the last minute to go to the local cinema and see Prometheus, the latest Alien franchise movie from the original director, Ridley Scott. I rarely make time to go to the cinema these days, but I figured I might as well try to catch this one.

Elisabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway are two explorers who find a clue to the origin of humankind on Earth, and they manage to get financed a journey to a far corner of the universe where humans is said to have their origin. While exploring the caverns of a distant planet, to their horror, they discover that things are not quite what they seem.

Like I said, this is the latest in the somewhat successful Alien franchise, and although it’s not exactly a prequel (even if it originally was planned as one), it fits the story pretty well. We get to see what could very well be the beginning of the story, several human and xenomorph generations before the classic Alien movie from 1979 (“xenomorph” being an alternate name for the alien creature in this franchise).

The story makes sense in a way, but as someone who’s seen the first 4 movies in the franchise, I did sense some inconsistencies in the story during one of the larger presentations (which would give the audience major parts of the backstory and the reason for the mission this crew was on). I also sensed this about three-quarters into the movie, at one of the major turning points, where we see the blunt end of a raging fit (to avoid spoiling the movie, I won’t go further into that).

As far as the visual effects go, I’d say they did a very good job, although the biggest action sequence (which can also be seen in most of the trailers for this movie) gave me a sense of a stupid and unnecessary chase, as was pointed out on some comedy website (at the moment, I can’t remember which). I mean, if a wheel comes rolling aimlessly towards you, you may start running away from it. Wouldn’t it also be a good idea to avoid running in the same path as the wheel? But aside from that little annoyance, it simply looked amazing. I honestly couldn’t tell what was a visual effect, and what was done in-camera (even the things that looked too incredible to be real), and that tells me they’ve done their job well.

I can recommend Prometheus to all action and sci-fi buffs, even if you haven’t seen the original Alien movies from before.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 

Have a safe vacation, everybody!

20.06.2012 15:31

It’s nearing the time when people go on vacation. I originally planned to finish an extensive article with my own travel advice, but considering how close it is to when most people go on vacation (July and August are some of the most popular vacation months), some of my safety tips and preparations will come too late for most of you. Especially when I do have a list of things that should probably be done at least two months before departure. Safe to say, I’ll just finish writing the article (both in English and Norwegian, mind you), let it sit in my drafts folder until next year, and then do some last-minute updates on it before publishing it in, say, March or April 2013.

In the meantime, I did find an article with most of my safety tips for travelers in a list called Before you Go. The article is mainly targeted at backpackers, but most of the suggestions apply to travelers in general.

In addition to the tips listed in that article, I can give some key points from my own article:

  • Get a document folder in plastic or cardboard where you keep all travel documents and confirmations while on the go.
  • Make copies of your passport, travel insurance and credit card numbers (along with phone numbers to cancel these credit cards); carry one copy with you in your document folder, and leave another copy at home, in case something should happen.
  • Check coverage maps and roaming charges for your mobile phone before you go; consider getting a pre-paid SIM card or phone while abroad if you plan on a longer stay or plan to make a lot of calls.
  • Keep the software on your tablet (iPad, Galaxy Tab, etc) or laptop – whichever you choose to travel with – up to date, and make backups before you go.
  • Don’t leave your electronic equipment where it might get stolen; make use of the room/hotel safe or other lockable storage when your equipment is not in use.
  • Make a small “route planner” to maximize time spent on attractions and museums, but don’t over-plan things (you’re supposed to enjoy your vacation, after all), and include plenty of breaks and cafe/restaurant visits in your plan.
  • Before you go, pre-check average taxi fares and safe taxi companies to use, and what public transportation is available.

I do have more advice on my list, but these are among the more important ones. I plan to follow my own advice when I go on vacation later this year, and I hope you will, too.

Have a safe trip!

The war on piracy continues

14.06.2012 13:35

Early last month, we were told that the DVD piracy warning was being updated. And not for the better, mind you. Now, consumers are still being called criminals, even before they’ve done anything wrong.

The new FBI anti-piracy warning

With such a warning, I still feel just as violated, and I still have to sit through DVD content I can’t skip past, making the wait even longer before I can actually start watching the film itself. Not only that, from what I understand, you will now have to sit through two warnings; one from the FBI, and one from the National Intellectual Property Center.

The new National Intellectual Property Center warning

Wonderful. Just wonderful.

I understand that piracy is a crime, but I don’t need to be reminded of it every time I want to watch a DVD that I bought through legal channels. I feel like these organizations are basically punishing consumers for doing the legal thing.

Here’s a thought, though:

The illegal version of watching a movie: Download from an pirated source, watch the film immediately.

The legal version of watching a movie: Go buy a DVD and put it in the DVD player, watch the FBI notice, watch the anti-piracy movie (they’ll probably have that, too), watch the previews (trailers for other movies and/or special features, such as a commercial for Blu-ray), get to the DVD menu (wait for it to settle on or show the menu items), hit “play movie”. If you’re lucky, the film starts at this point. If you’re unlucky, you have to sit through yet another warning about piracy and public screenings of the DVD.

I mean, what’s the point? Just let us watch the film, already! When movie pirates copy a DVD, they don’t copy these warnings, they only copy the film itself, without all the extra junk (although, they usually don’t include the special features and extra material that some of us want to see).

I’ve also seen warnings that include street vendors who sell pirated DVDs. I mean, the majority of the movie, music and software piracy “industry” happen online these days. The people who rip a DVD for downloading are usually people who are sick and tired of having their cash flow through an outdated corporate scheme.

Those in the industry claim that piracy is the direct cause of monetary losses, but in my opinion, that’s only half true. If you’re going to account for losses, do they also account for how much money they’re wasting on lawyers, lawsuits against individuals (grandmothers, single mothers, and such) and torrent sites, and various DRM schemes?

I’m not saying they shouldn’t fight piracy, but I’m criticizing their current methods of fightin it. I feel that they should rather fight piracy with awareness campaigns, where they focus on why the legal path is good, and showing why you should support the industry. Plain and simple, make people make good about themselves when they spend their money on a DVD, Blu-ray, CD, legal download, books, merchandise, etc. And on the side, they can keep on with lawsuits against those who make large profits from piracy.

Last time I saw one of the few well-made “anti-piracy” warnings out there, was when I bought and fired up my DVD for The Adjustment Bureau. I had originally downloaded this movie illegally, which I usually do when I’m uncertain about the movie’s quality (in terms of story, directing and acting, that is). After seeing it as a pirated download version, I thought it was so good, I got the real version (I had it on my wishlist, and if I hadn’t gotten it for Christmas, I would’ve bought it myself). I’ve ripped the warning from my DVD here and put it up here (unlisted on YouTube, in case you wanted to go searching for it), just so you can see what I mean:

Short, simple, and it made me feel good about myself for buying the DVD and supporting the people who are in this business. This is the type of anti-piracy warning I want to see. With this, I feel like I’m contributing to the good part of the business, and not feeling like I should expect a lawsuit whenever possible.

 

Side note: The anti-piracy warning video is probably copyrighted, and I’m assuming Universal Studios has something to do with it, given that they’re the publisher of the DVD I got this from. I copied it from there for illustration purposes; please don’t sue me. If you’re reading this, and own the copyright to this, please either grant me a non-exclusive license to use this, or point me to some existing version of it online, so I can link to or embed it from my blog. I’ll put up a proper copyright notice if you want me to.

Recent stuff and vacation

05.06.2012 16:34

May is now a gone stage for this year, and summer is approaching. At least, that’s the general idea. We had some good weather a couple of weeks ago, but the return of the slightly cold weather does give way for some depressing thoughts. Not “suicide” depressing (or even on-the-brink-of-suicide-depressing), but more like “I-don’t-really-want-to-get-out-of-bed-where-it’s-warm” depressing. Some of you know what I mean.

In the past month, both my two-year-old niece and my mother had their birthdays (May 8 and 9, respectively), Constitution Day was on May 17 (in terms of what it means for Norway, and its celebration, you United-States-of-Americans can compare it to your July 4), and we had Pentacost (which is a public holiday in Norway, even though most of us don’t really celebrate it). And given that we had visitors from far away during Pentacost, such events are quite challenging for someone who’s trying to lose weight.

Then again, even with a minor setback last week (when I had gained 1 kg), my total weight loss since I started in January has now reached 22.2 kg (or almost 50 pounds to you non-metric people). My goal is still within reach. My even further challenge will come this summer, when the type of course I’m taking will be unavailable, which means I have to go through the summer on my own. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can manage it without any setbacks when the next course is available at the end of August.

In other news, I now have my vacation time nailed down. First, I’m taking one week of vacation time in mid-July, in hopes of warm weather that week. I’m not really going anywhere, but I plan to spend that week as a tourist in my hometown. I plan to see sights and visit tourist attractions I usually pass by on a daily basis, and really see what my little city has to offer. We often ignore all those special sights when we live in the area, and most of us don’t take the time to truly experience this. My vacation week is smack dab in the middle of the tourist season, and also the same week as the local annual boating festival (“Ålesund Båtfestival“). Not because I’m particulary interested in boats and boating, but more because of all the culture that surrounds such festivals, including the stream of tourists from all over (and the fact that there’s a big chance of sunny weather that week).

My next, and primary, vacation this year will be in October. The destination: Berlin, Germany. Given that weather is likely to be cold, windy, rainy and pretty much grim, I just had to put a vacation week in July to give it some balance.

The reason for travelling to Berlin in October? A Blue Man Group fan meet. The annual European fan meet, to be exact. Since I don’t have a budget for another USA trip this year, I decided to go for the next best thing; meeting up with fellow fans in Berlin to enjoy our common interest, Blue Man Group (since they already have a regular show in Berlin). I expect to meet some of the friends I made last summer once again, and I also hope for a tour backstage and meet with some of the people behind the show on the ay of the fan meet. If that falls into place, my day (and year) would be made.

The October trip will last me two weeks, flying out there Monday, October 15, and returning home on another Monday two weeks later. Flights have been booked, and so has a decent hotel (Fjord Hotel Berlin), so all I need now, is tickets to the show, and plan for additional activities. I’ve already invested in a couple of guide books for Berlin, to make sure I don’t miss out some of the more important sights. I just need to sit down with those books and plan an outline of which sights I want to see (categorized by how much I want to see those sights, and which ones I can visit if I have time left). I’ve already taken care of travel insurance, making sure my passport is up-to-date, and making sure my home is safe while I’m away.

For my Berlin trip (and most other vacation trips), I only plan what I’m going to see. I usually don’t plan out entire days, except for the attractions/sights that have limited opening hours, and for specific show I want to see. When I do plan, I also plan out which attractions/sights are geographically close (or bundled) together, and of those, in which order to visit them (based on their opening hours). I might get back to this one in a later post, though. We’ll see.

May-be an update…

05.05.2012 17:29

Now this is a new way of doing things….

One, I realized I had been silent on my blog for over a month, so I thought I’d catch up a little. Two, I’m typing the entirety of this blog entry on my iPad at a local diner, and using a Logitech keyboard specifically designed for use with the iPad. I’ve been using my ‘pad quite often recently, as I also mentioned here earlier this year, and I have to admit, a tablet PC was definitely something I needed. It’s just perfect for those tasks that a regular smartphone can do in a pinch, but is not powerful enough to do that task very efficiently while I’m on the move, and where booting up my regular Windows laptop just takes too long. With the tablet, I just pull it out of the bag, unlock the screen, and it’s ready to do what I want.

Granted, the iPad wasn’t my first choice, but since I got one as a thank-you gift from work, I felt I might as well go for it. If I hadn’t gotten it at work, and had to use my own money to buy one, I would’ve most likely gone for an Android tablet. Not because Android is so much better (quality-wise, both Android-powered and iOS-powered devices measure up quite equally), but because Apple’s usage policies and tight lock-down of their devices and software are so rigid and twisted, Apple products in general are never part of my first choice for anything. Sure, Apple stuff have their strengths when it comes to graphics design and video editing, but aside from that, the price for what you get is simply too much to rank higher on my list of product choices.

Anyway, I’ll repeat what I said back in February: Next vacation, I’m leaving my laptop at home, and will be using my iPad paired with the external keyboard instead.

To change the subject, we have recently crossed the line into the month of May, and with that, summer is leaping closer. Even so, I woke up today to see that it was snowing outside, despite having warmer weather for the last month or so. I was not happy, to say the least. My optimism hasn’t been shattered, though, since the temperature is also at around 3-4 degrees Celsius (about 38 Fahrenheit, for you slackers who still use that 😉 ), so the snow had a chance to melt again the moment it hit the ground. With the temperature this “high” above the freezing point, it simply won’t last long. I just hope there won’t be any snow or rain on Constitution Day, which is May 17 (for you Americans, this is our July 4 – imagine this day raining away, and you get my slight pessimism).

Of course, there are also more important things in life. Back in late March, I became an uncle for the second time. My nephew Oliver is now a little over 1 month old, and my niece Ebba celebrates her second birthday this Sunday (her actual birthday is this coming Tuesday, but the we usually move the celebration party to the closest weekend). It’s amazing how productive my sister can be once she puts her mind to it! 🙂

Sure, the fact that my three years younger sister has gotten this far ahead in her life (boyfriend, children and a home for themselves, of course), keeps reminding my that I still haven’t gotten my own life properly started the way I want it to be. I’m annoyed that at the age of 32, I haven’t gotten my ass in gear to get things going (if “get (your) ass in gear” seems like an odd expression to you, I assure you it translates to an actual saying in Norway – “få ræva i gir”, or more delicately put, “get a move on!”).

I do have things moving properly in my life, though. The more perceptive of you might’ve realized I’m quite the heavy guy. Several hundred pounds worth, and I’m not talking about British money here. I said earlier that I had lost 8.5 kg in the first 8 weeks, and I just started a third course at Grete Roede earlier this week. At this point, I’ve lost a total of 17.1 kg (about 37.7 lbs) since I started my first course back in January. My first milestone of losing 25 kg (55 lbs) before the summer properly starts is well within reach, and based on my calculations (ie. worst-case scenario of losing “only” an average of 1 kg per week), I’ll reach a satisfying weight around September next year. It’s going to be a long and tough road ahead, but I’m confident I can make it, no matter how long it takes. It’s going to be expensive to reach that goal (using the Grete Roede method as a guide and motivator), but it’s well worth it in the long run.

On a more depressing note, some of you might’ve caught the news of the trial of the Norwegian terrorist started this past month. This was the asshole (to use a mild word for him) who performed the acts of terrorism back in July last year, and we’re now about to find out what his penalty will be. Thankfully, we don’t have a death sentence here in Norway, since that would be taking the easy way out. Besides, killing him off would only make him a martyr for those who strangely enough agree with him, and we just don’t need that. Also, the Norwegian maximum sentence of 21 years in jail is too mild on a crime such as this. To be honest, the proper sentence for this guy is an isolation cell for the rest of his life, and be forced to watch the Norwegian community’s solidarity towards eachother (as most of us have responded to these acts of terrorism and extremist views) and the way we continue to include people regardless of ethnic origin or religious background. This is something that this guy wanted to remove from our society, and we need to show him that we will not give in to his “demands” of adjusting our society to his views. I genuinely believe that our compassion towards our fellow human beings, including Muslims and those who follow other religions, is something that pains him, and this is the type of torture I feel I can condone with a good conscience.

I’m usually very accepting and patient with people who don’t share my opinions, even those who have the exact opposite opinion as myself, as it gives me more of a challenge to try to discuss my way into making them change their opinion. What I don’t accept, however, is when someone expresses their opinion by way of murder, violence, or severe damage of property, either by performing these types of acts themselves, or by condoning or suggesting such acts. I also have no respect for opinions that express hatred or discrimination towards fellow human beings purely based on ethnicity (“race”), gender, religion, disabilities (mental or physical) and/or sexual preference. Sure, people of today can attempt to avoid such hatred by converting to another religion, have gender reassignment treatment (I’m not talking about those who choose this path because they feel they are of a different gender in their hearts), or pretend to be someone they’re not (usually gay and bisexual people who try to act exclusively heterosexual and “normal”), but that does nothing change society around you to accept you as you are. People who express such hateful or discriminating opinions (even expressing them at a more unconscious level) are the ones who need to change, not the ones who are experiencing the hateful end of such opinions. There are an alarming increase of people in small groups who speak out about the so-called “Islamification” of our society, where even more Muslims are being accepted into our communities. Such people believe that Islam will “take over” society, and that we’ll lose our Christianity, and in all of these cases, I believe these opinions are both misguided and factually wrong. Look, if you consider yourself to be Christian, no level of presence from the Islamic community can convince you to convert to Islam, can it?

On a happier note, I plan to attend the Blue Man Group fan meet in Berlin this coming October. Sure, it will delay my summer vacation until after the summer has officially ended, but it is something to look forward to nonetheless. I haven’t made any specific plans yet, such as booking flights and hotel, but I plan to do so once my paycheck arrives in a little more than a week (the 15th). So far, I’ve only decided to actually attend, so once again, this year’s vacation will be centered around attending Blue Man Group shows. I never thought I’d be this much of a fan of, well, anything at all, but such is life. And what a great life it is.

Sitting here at the Egon diner, I just realized that I’ve spent way more than an hour writing this blog post. It’s amazing how time flies when you’re on a roll.

Anyway, until next time, this is NeonNero, signing off. I’m going for a walk.

New version of Experts Exchange

13.03.2012 14:22

Most of you might’ve caught that I’m a techie by now. In my day job, I work with computers and computer networks; my daily tasks consist of both system administration and project management (on a few software development projects in our company). Any way to find solutions to tasks I’m involved with does me a bit of good. I’m mostly partial to Google, but quite often, a site called Experts Exchange comes up in the search results.

Experts Exchange is a site where experts can get help from other experts with tech problems (and earn points for helping others), and I’m actually one of those who have asked for help and found it useful.

Recently, I discovered that they had given their site a major overhaul, and I have to admit that it looks even better now (it did look good before the upgrade, too).

If you’re in the computer tech industry, you might find it helpful as well. If you haven’t already give ’em a try. If you have, check out their new upgraded look.

The New Experts Exchange is Here! Experience EE v.10!

A leap ahead

29.02.2012 18:39

As most of you know, today’s a leap day, and I figured it was about time I updated the few readers I have with what’s been going on since my last update. Since before the cross-over into the new year, I’ve had a few things happen in my life.

iPad and external harddriveMy last update was back in late December, and that same week, I got the iPad 2 I was promised from my office (“day job”, so to speak), as a thanks for the big effort (and late working days) earlier in the year. I’ve previously mentioned my disgust for Apple, and that I wouldn’t go out and buy their products based on their policies and how the appear to treat customers and software developers on their platforms. That said, I wouldn’t pass up the chance of getting one of their products as a gift, which I did just before the new year arrived. It was especially appreciated that the iPad 2 I got was the 3G+WiFi edition with 64 GB storage. And during our annual dinner (with all of the colleagues), we all received an external 2 TB USB drive each, as a belated Christmas gift from our workplace (since this dinner was in mid-January).

Since that time, I’ve noticed that I’ve used my laptop and smartphone less, and transferred some of that time over to my new iPad. With it, I’ve played games, managed servers at work, read e-mail, looked up information I was looking for, viewed videos and updated myself on social media. This, to a much greater extent than what I found possible with my small smartphone screen. I noticed that I would do much of the same whether I got an iPad or an Android tablet device, as this fills a small need for having information on the go. With the iPad, I’ve also been promised a SIM card for mobile broadband (which I’m still waiting for), so I won’t be locked down to having a WiFi network nearby.

I also notice that this will be the perfect device to bring with me on vacation, instead of lugging around on a laptop.

Also new this year, I’ve started on a weight loss program back in January. This first round of 8 weekly meetings wrapped this past Monday, and I’m already enrolled in the next round, starting Monday next week. This particular program, called Roedemetoden (named after the founder, Grete Roede), focuses on losing weight slowly (to avoid health problems underway), and eating right (and healthy). It’s not only about how much you eat, but also about how you spread your meals across the day, and regular exercise (even a long walk counts as proper exercising). After doing some quick research, I suppose it’s similar to Weight Watchers (although not quite the same).

Over the last 8 weeks, I’ve lost a total of 8.5 kg (roughly 18.7 pounds), which is something I can live with. Since my BMI is still over 60 at this time, I’ve already come to grips with the fact that this will take time. Based on my current progress, calculations suggest that I would reach the goal of a normal weight at the end of next year.

And, almost two weeks ago, I turned 32. I had family over for dinner and dessert, and that was about it. It may not seem much, but it’s all I need, honestly. I’m just not that much of a party person, really.

All in all, I now have a much brighter outlook on life.

Super 8

21.02.2012 15:19

Riley Griffiths and Joel Courtney in the scene of Paramount Pictures' Super 8.

Back in late December (which was when I watched this, and started writing this review article), I received J.J. Abrams’ latest project Super 8 on DVD, which revolves around a group of early teenage filmmaking friends who witness, and almost get killed by, a derailing train in the middle of making a zombie film in the year 1979. Unknown to them in the moment, they also catch the event and aftermath on Super 8 film with the still-rolling camera. After the derailment, air force troops immediately appear to clean up the mess, while mysterious events happen in this small town. When the film roll is developed a few days later, the filmmaking friends discover what was really on that train, and they also find out the reason the military so desperately wants to keep it a secret.

I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d get myself into, given J.J. Abrams’ recent history with what I consider as both good (Alias, Mission: Impossible III) and not-so-good projects (Lost, Star Trek), and his endless love with gratuitous lens flares (a feature of Abrams’ films that may or may not have been turned into some sort of drinking game). Then again, he has also paired up with legend Steven Spielberg as the producer on this project, which would hopefully bring the quality up a few notches. I don’t believe Spielberg would go for just any project out there – I’d think he would know “good” when he sees it (or fully trust those he enters into partnership with).

Thankfully, the story itself comes across as good, and we follow the group of filmmaking friends more than external shots, meaning that we see the action more or less from their point of view, rather than being told from a distance. You can really immerse yourself into this story.

Both the special and visual effects are in the place they’re supposed to, and are only where necessary. There are also a few things hidden in the background, and you won’t notice these until you’ve seen this film a few times (I was actually made aware of this in the behind-the-scenes featurettes on the DVD, and I went back into the film afterwards just to confirm those sightings).

I did feel that there were a few missing plot points, and slightly silly antics that didn’t quite fit in (although they were very few), plus the unnecessary lens flares (yes, you can’t escape them in this one, either), which prevent me from giving this film a full score.

But, as a whole, a great film. Absolutely recommended for the sci-fi buff.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 

Another year over

29.12.2011 15:34

Christmas is more or less gone (at least the climax of it), and another year is almost over. I can’t help but wonder what 2012 will bring. New Year’s Eve usually has that effect on me, and I assume I’m not the only one who does.

As usual, this year’s Christmas catch was modest, and I don’t mind at all. This year, I got a large tea cup, two mugs, two small plates (which goes with several tea cups I already have with a similar design), some licorice/cinnamon tea (Pukka brand, not pictured) that was actually quite good, a small bath towel, a concrete @-sign decoration (which unfortunately broke the second after I had opened it due to bad packaging, also not pictured), a luxury soap with bath towel, a fleece hat, a scarf, and some DVDs. Out of DVDs, I got Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2, Hodejegerne (a Norwegian thriller released earlier this year), Cars 2 (Blu-ray+DVD edition), and the two first seasons of NCIS. All of these DVDs were on my wishlist, but I’m going to exchange Cars 2 and one of the last Harry Potter films, since already got Cars 2 about a week or so before Christmas, and I got two out of Deathly Hallows part 2. No biggie, though, as they’re in “exchangeable” condition (sealed). And, as usual, I got another thing I wanted, which is on my list every year: Time spent with family.

I can’t help but notice a disgusting trend recently making rounds of well-deserved ridicule around the Internet, though. Namely, the high number of spoiled brats who complain about getting or not getting an iPhone/iPad/iPod, laptop/MacBook or even car, or getting the wrong one of these. I’m simply baffled that people can be that selfish and spoiled to feel depressed about something so materialistic when there are people in the world who don’t have a great life. People who don’t have a home, who don’t have a family, who don’t have enough food or clothes, who don’t have safety and security, who don’t get presents, or even a combination of these. And I’m not just talking about people in poor and/or war-torn countries in the so-called second or third world, but also domestically in the so-called Western civilization. There are people who spend Christmas alone, not because they choose to, or because that happened to be the case this year, but because they don’t have anyone to spend it with, even if they desperately want to. There are people who consider “a great Christmas” to be shelter and food for the day, or maybe even the whole week, and when I see people complain about such high-priced gifts, I feel like whacking them with a clue stick. I mean, at least you got something! If you don’t like it, you still have to option to exchange it for that other thing you might’ve wanted!

When it comes to helping those in need, I feel that organizations like the Salvation Army does help a lot. I may not agree with them in religious or political terms, but I do believe they do a lot of great work for the less fortunate people in the local community (in terms of food, heat, and to some degree, shelter). I did contribute my small share to their Christmas kettle in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It wasn’t much on the larger scale of things, but I did at least contribute something, and I hope they will keep doing the good work they do. And they do it without pushing religion onto those they help, which is a big reason I like their work.

To sum up, be thankful for what you have, be even more thankful for other things you get, and hope the new year only have good things in store for us. And to make my wish a little early: Happy New Year! 🙂

The time is here again!

21.12.2011 19:01

It’s that time of year again, when we celebrate Christmas. I may have said it before, but I’m not religious, but I respect those who are (and those who respect others with different religions and lifestyles). I’m not a believer in Jesus Christ as the great saviour of all, but I do believe he existed in history. There are other sources than the Bible that confirms that he existed, and that he was professing his religious beliefs.

To me, Christmas is a winter tradition. Jesus don’t really have that much to do with it, other than what people make of it. About one and a half millennia ago, the church decided that the birth of Jesus was to be celebrated in December, corresponding with the already-existing winter solstice festival (Yuletide). In fact, the Norwegian word for the Christmas time is “Jul” (pronounced roughly the same as the word “Yule”), and I stand by it. Like I said, it’s a winter tradition for me and my family, and I celebrate it with joy. Not the parts that have to do with Jesus (although I understand that some people might want to keep connecting this time of year to his birth), but with the togetherness, generosity, light and warmth that comes with this tradition.

On Christmas Eve, we go through the same ritual as ever; mellow out, eat candy, watch some traditional TV shows we always (and only) do on Christmas Eve, pay my respects to my gone grandparents (on my father’s side) at their grave, Christmas dinner with “svineribbe” (pork ribs) and “fåreribbe” (mutton ribs) together with my family, coffee/tea and Christmas cookies afterwards, relaxing together and finally, opening presents.

It’s only a few days away now, and my Christmas shopping is also at its end. I only have a few small gifts left to buy, and I’m still waiting for another item to arrive. All in all, I think I have a good handle on things. If not, I’ll be stressing out on Friday for that gift that’s supposed to be in the mail by now.

In any case, I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas! God Jul! Buorit Juovllat! ¡Feliz Navidad! Buon Natale! Joyeux Noël! Hyvää Joulua! Frohe Weihnachten! С Рождеством! Vrolijk Kerstfeest!