Sunday, December 10, 2017

There are people who truly understand the meaning of the Christmas season

Whenever I am tempted to think that nothing nice ever happens in the world (a thought reinforced by the media that choose to cover only the lousy, depressing, horrific, grotesque and otherwise miserable stories in the world), something comes along to challenge that inclination. This story is true, I grew up in the same Tarrytown neighborhood (Tappan Landing Road) as Bill, the main person involved, and he deserves all the good things that come his way. Bill is going to the Super Bowl! Here is the link to the story:

Sunday, December 3, 2017

You say, God says

A friend of mine posted this yesterday on Facebook. It made an impression, especially in these days of so many world problems and depressing news. I don't know why I am so affected by it all, but I am. So it's good to be reminded that God has our backs even though we forget that sometimes........

Day 7 of the Facebook photo challenge

One of my personal favorites........I used this motif several years ago to make Christmas cards. There is something about the lighting and the snow falling, and the snow on the tree branches, that gives me peace of soul.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Day 4 of the Facebook photo challenge

Continuing with the black & white photo challenge on Facebook, a challenge that I have been enjoying. It's fun to try to come up with motifs that cannot include people. And difficult to not give an explanation for why I chose the motif I did, or where the photo was taken......

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Show your support for Net Neutrality

Show your support for Net Neutrality. Took me 2 minutes to do this.

1. On your computer, not your phone! - go to:
2. Enter under Proceeding 17-108.
3.Under Filer, enter your name and press enter
4. In comments, say you support Title 2 oversight of internet service providers. Also say that you support net neutrality.
*Fill in the form carefully; they've made it less friendly and impossible to fill in by phone, on purpose.
*Don't be silenced. Do it now. Pass it on.


Read about why you need to support Net Neutrality in this excellent article in The New York Times today:

Day 3 of the Facebook photo challenge

I posted this street art photo of The Gray Wolf that I took at the beginning of November, but am using the photo again for Day 3 of the black & white photo challenge on Facebook. I love this art by Jussi Twoseven. Here is the post:

Monday, November 27, 2017

The black and white photo challenge on Facebook

I've been challenged by a good friend to post seven B&W photos of my life over the next seven days. No people. No explanation. So here is photo #1 that I posted on Facebook today......

Zero tolerance for sexual harassment

Globally, the sheer number of women who have told their stories of sexual harassment in the #metoo campaign astounds me. Here in Norway, 487 actresses joined the campaign, and many of them told their stories anonymously to the newspaper Aftenposten ( When you read their stories, it is both heartbreaking and infuriating. Over 1000 artists in the music branch in Sweden did the same, and my reaction was the same. Who do these men think they are? And how did we get to this point in 2017? Where women are groped, probed, and violated against their will? Many of the stories describe attempted rapes—criminal behavior in other words. Do these men think they can get away with treating women like this? Apparently they do, because in truth, they get away with it, and have gotten away with it. None of the sexual harassers here in Norway have been named and shamed. Personally, I think they should have been, but it hasn’t happened and isn’t likely to happen. That makes it all the more important that men like Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Rose are held accountable for their disgusting behavior. I am glad that they are toppling, one after the other. I have zero sympathy for them, because they had zero sympathy for the women they abused. My reaction to most of them is that they can rot in hell.

But the entire campaign begs a larger question. Why are men behaving this way, and where were their parents in all of this when they were young boys? Why didn’t their parents teach them respect for women and for others generally? Did their schools fail them also? I went to Catholic school and we were clearly taught right from wrong from day one. Is it so difficult to behave correctly, to behave decently, and to behave respectfully? No it isn’t. It’s just that these harassers did not want to behave. They wanted what they wanted, when they wanted it, and it didn’t matter that the women didn’t share their desires. These men had immense power, and they abused it, as many men in power are wont to do. Otherwise, the old saying would never have been uttered by Lord Acton—‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. These men are corrupt degenerates, loathsome individuals, and terrible people. Perhaps they can change, but most likely they will not unless they are forced to do so, or forced to spend some time in jail for rape/attempted rape.

It infuriates me that some men (and a few women) are already calling for an end to the #metoo campaign, giving as the reason that not all men are sexual harassers. We already know this; #metoo is about some men's behavior, not all men's. But this is not the point. It is not up to men to decide when this campaign is to end. It is not their call. We have to be able to discuss this horrible behavior ad nauseam if need be. It has to be made clear over and over that men do not own women. They do not have any say over women’s bodies. Women are not their property; that idea went the way of the dinosaurs at the beginning of the 20th century. The only way things will change is when the discomfort is so great, so painful, and so crystal clear, that male leaders and male employers wake up and do something about this behavior. If the campaign makes some men uncomfortable, good. That tells me that they are being hit close to home. Are they closet harassers? Do they have their own episodes of harassing behavior of which they are ashamed? That’s just too bad. Deal with the shame and the discomfort, the insecurity, and the nagging feeling that you are not good enough. Deal with feeling uncomfortable around women, of not knowing what to say. Drop the arrogance and the power plays. Drop the brutality. Drop the attempts to be cool in the eyes of other men. Drop the bullshit and learn to behave as a decent human being. Step up to the plate and call a spade a spade when you see sexual harassment of women. Call it out for what it is. Don’t stay silent, don’t be complicit. We’ve had enough of that in society. Stand up for women, treat them as your equals, be kind, be fair, be good men. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

The tables have turned and thank God for that

I've been writing about harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace for many years now. I've experienced both personally as have any number of other women I know. This is not just an American phenomenon, I can attest to that. Norwegian academia has its share of bullies and sexual predators who have run roughshod over the younger women and men who work for them. Some of us just got sick and tired of sweeping the bad behavior under the rug, as so often happens here. In the name of what--preserving the Scandinavian belief that those types of behaviors don't happen here--in purportedly gender-equal countries? They do, and I am here to attest to that fact.

Academia has traditionally been a conservative, male-dominated white collar profession. And there are many good men in academia who have behaved respectfully toward the women and men they lead. I know a lot of them and I am glad to know them. They better the lives of the people who work for them, because those people get the chance to grow professionally without having to succumb to the brutality and/or lust of their employers. But now is the time in society to shed light on the darker sides of life, and harassment and sexual harassment are the darker sides. If you have experienced them, you know this to be true. It taints so much of what should have been a good experience--having a career and growing professionally. The bullies and pigs can make you sick, physically and psychologically. It's easy (and wrong) to tell victims not to take it personally. How else can they take it? The bullying and/or disgusting behavior are aimed at them personally. I am so glad that the tables are turning now in society and that the sexual predators and bullies are being called out, named and shamed. It's their turn to suffer. They deserve it.

Society has dealt too much in victim-shaming. The days when I would let that happen are long-gone for me. They were gone a long time ago, the first time one of the pigs opened his mouth to say something disgusting or off-color to me. Or the first time a domineering and bullying man at work opened his mouth to tell me to shut mine. I told him to shut his. I also told him that he was the rudest man I knew, and he is. He's an old man now, and you could wonder why he's never learned how to behave properly. But he hasn't and he never will. Dealing with him is like dealing with a tantrum-prone child--boring, dissatisfying, and ultimately pointless. You deal with them simply by putting them in their place. And if you are labeled a bitch for doing so, well, then you are a bitch in some people's eyes, but they are not the eyes I care about.

I am re-posting today a piece I wrote back in October 2016 about sexual harassment in the workplace. The only thing that's changed is that more of this disgusting behavior is coming to light. And that makes me happy.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Check out the book What Employees Want

I am promoting this new book--What Employees Want and Why Employers Should Make Sure They Get It--because I believe strongly in its message. My hope for modern workplaces is that they begin to foster a culture of respect for all employees, and that workplaces will no longer be tainted by harassment, bullying, disrespect and lack of concern for employees. There is an expression that I like a lot--'Happy wife, happy life'. Well, the same can apply to the workplace--'Happy employee, happy workplace', or 'Respected employee, productive workplace'. Any way you slice it, it comes down to this--if you have people working for you and you want them to be productive and successful, you've got to treat them well and with the respect they deserve. It's a no-brainer in my book, but you wouldn't believe the stubbornness and stupidity that abounds in modern workplaces concerning this issue. Many employers still think that the domineering hard-handed approach works well when trying to motivate employees. In 2017, if you think that, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution, and time will pass you by.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Obfuscation as a bureaucratic tactic

My current goal is to simplify my life; it’s really a continuation of a process that started five or six years ago when my workplace decided to make the lives of its employees difficult by making the workplace a more complicated place to be. Simplification, simplification, simplification. Employees are best served by understanding the infrastructure and systems around them, because in so doing, they can do their work efficiently without much fuss and bother. In other words, those systems and infrastructure should be understandable to most. Bureaucracies are best served when employees do not understand the infrastructure and systems around them. Bureaucracies ensure their own existence in this way. They also ensure that employees hit a wall at every turn; the bureaucrats must thus step in to help the employees cope with their new and complicated workplaces. Why are they complicated? Because as sure as tomorrow comes, most modern workplaces have been through one or several reorganizations or mergers that have wreaked havoc on the lives of the employees involved. Bureaucrats to the rescue! They can guide us through the difficult processes by coming up with new and innovative routines and measuring systems, new business philosophies and trends, and increased expectations of employee productivity. Because such expectations always accompany major reorganizations and mergers.  

Obfuscation has become a large part of what drives bureaucracies forward and of what makes them larger. To obfuscate is to confuse; to make obscure or unclear. It is my contention that obfuscation is a strategic tactic to increase the number of administrators such that the ratio of administrators to other types of employees grows ever greater. I don’t have a problem with the existence of bureaucracies; I realize they are there to help us and they do in fact help us. However, I have a problem with them when they become too big. When they lumber forward without any concern for the employees they serve. My goal at work now is to seek out those administrators whom I know will help me (translated—explain things to me in an understandable way), and I have found at least two that take the time to do that, and they are worth their weight in gold to me. Otherwise, we find ourselves at the mercy of a system that does not and will not bother to explain to us why external funds that we have brought in via our grant applications are suddenly no longer ours to use—they go into a ‘big departmental pot’ that exists for general use. We are not told why accounting systems will not permit the transfer of usable funds to the next year if we have not managed to use up the funds we have at our disposal this year (in other words, we are not allowed to determine for ourselves when we want to spend the little money we are granted). We are not told why deficits suddenly appear as surpluses in some monthly accounting reports. There is no sensible (in my book) explanation for why income that is generated this year cannot be included as income in the month of December. The language that is used in some information letters to employees is deliberately vague or confusing. Even some middle-level leaders I know have a hard time understanding the mandates that are handed down to them from high-level bureaucrats/managers. Worse still, the number of forms we have to fill out to get help to fix small problems that could be solved via a telephone call, to order lab consumables, to update on the progress of PhD students, and to update on the progress of a particular project to a funding agency has become overwhelming. Work life is dictated by an endless stream of forms and reports that someone writes, others fill out, and others file away unread. These forms are necessary in the sense that a bureaucrat decided that they were necessary, and as long as they are filled out, the bureaucrat's job is done. It doesn’t matter that we use an inordinate amount of time on such things that are forced upon us. And no matter what type of event occurs at work (with the exception of a Christmas lunch or dinner), we are asked to fill out evaluation reports that are worded in such a way that you are often forced to agree to a way of thinking with which you do not agree.

But that is not the main issue. The main issue is that everything in modern workplaces, at least in the public sector, has become complicated and difficult. Just the idea of applying for research funding from the European Union would stop you dead in your tracks. You need one or two people on your staff who can work full-time on this, something most small research groups do not have. The paper trail is enormous, ditto the amount of time spent on submitting a proposal and writing an application that is likely to be denied funding on the basis of some minute mistake somewhere in the application. It can take several years to apply and to receive a response. In short, it is not worth sending an application because if you are a small research group, you will spend your valuable time on minutiae and not on much else. Real work goes out the window. If you are smart, you avoid these things. But they are examples of systems that are obscure, difficult, confusing and ultimately unclear. The goal becomes unclear. Why am I doing this? Why am I wasting my time? Why don’t I understand? And finally, why does my workplace not want me to understand how it’s run and what is going on? The answer? Knowledge is power. The less employees know about how their workplaces run, the better. Those in power can keep their power and can pretty much do as they like. They can order others about with impunity because no one understands the system enough to know how to fight back. A strange new world, one I do not like and one I do not feel comfortable in. If that makes me a negative employee, then so be it. I want a return to ‘small is beautiful’. I think small is best now because small is understandable, small is transparent, small is clear. I would prefer to work in a small workplace now. It won’t happen, but it is definitely my preference.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

November garden and the first frost

What a difference a week makes.......I made a trip to my garden on Saturday, November 4th and took a few photos of the garden with its green lawn and some flowers that were still blooming. I was there again this past Sunday, and the green lawn was covered in frost. A lovely sight, but such a difference from the last time I visited. The birds were still chirping happily in the trees, most of which have lost their leaves. I guess the birds are still managing to find food because the ground is not yet completely frozen. But in another week or so, it will be.

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Gray Wolf by Jussi Twoseven

I think this recent street art by Jussi Twoseven is pretty incredible. I took this photo a couple of weeks ago, but when I walked past the same building yesterday, it had been painted over. Personally, I would have kept it there, since it is beautiful painting of a gray wolf.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Falling in love with the old films

I remember my mother talking about the film Laura (from 1944) with Gene Tierney when I was a child. It was one of her favorite films as I recall. I believe I saw the film when I was a teenager, but I don’t remember the impression it made on me. My mother also talked about the films From Here to Eternity (1953) and The Children’s Hour (1961), both of which were off limits to us as children due to their adult themes. I have not seen either of them, but recently ordered them both films from Amazon UK. They will join the ever-growing DVD collection I have of old films; by old, I mean from the 1940s, 50s and 60s, when I was a child. Once the 1970s came, I was often at the movies because by then I was a teenager. Going to the movies was something we did a lot of then.

Many of the old films starred actors and actresses such as Rex Harrison, Gene Tierney, James Stewart, Kim Novak, John Wayne, Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, William Holden, Gregory Peck, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, and Humphrey Bogart. There are of course many others that I have not listed here.

I recently purchased the film Bell, Book & Candle (from 1958) with Kim Novak and James Stewart, and enjoyed it a lot. Kim Novak is Gil, a witch who places a spell on her neighbor Shep (James Stewart) to make him fall in love with her as a way of getting revenge on a disagreeable woman she went to college with who is now engaged to Shep. I recommend it as a very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. And last night I watched The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (from 1947) with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. It was a wonderful film that could only have one ending, but even though I knew what was coming, I was unprepared for the effect it had on me. It is a sad but lovely ending to a love story between the deceased sea captain Daniel Gregg who haunts the house he lived in and the woman Lucy Muir who ends up living there with her young daughter Anna and their housemaid Martha. The last scene made me cry, and it is rare these days that a film has that effect on me. It is a testament to the wonderful acting but also to the emotional impact of the story of the love between the captain and Lucy throughout most of her adult life—a love that could never be realized in life. So that is what makes the ending that much more poignant.

I look forward to seeing The Children’s Hour and From Here to Eternity. Many of the old films used to show up on TCM, but for some reason this channel changed its format and stopped showing the old films, focusing rather on showing films from the 1980s and later, most of them rather obscure Asian gangster films. It then went off the air here in Scandinavia, most likely because it lost its appeal to viewers like me who preferred the old films. I wish it had kept the original format, because it is the old films that I want to see now, the films that are a part of the golden age of Hollywood, an age that is long over and not likely to return.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Send Christmas cards to Jacob Thompson

This little boy's story affected me deeply and I am hoping as many people as possible will send him a Christmas card. It's his last wish, as he will not make it to Christmas due to his terminal cancer. You can read about his story here: 

If you're interested in sending a card, it can be addressed to:

Jacob Thompson
C/O Maine Medical Center
22 Bramhall St
Portland, ME 04102

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The legacy of bullying and rudeness

I am often reminded of childhood’s mixed bag of blessings and curses when I stumble upon a faded photo from that time or someone posts a photo of when we were twelve years old on Facebook. It brings back some sad and strange memories. Some of my memories of grammar school are of students who bullied other students, or of several teachers who bullied students. The students who bullied other students were often the popular girls who picked on the weakest girl (or boy) in the class. I cannot remember that the boys behaved similarly, except for one boy who could never say anything nice. I never understood their bullying behavior then, and less so now, because on Facebook, all appears to be forgiven. The bullies and the bullied are friends, and talk about grammar school in their posts as though it was one of life’s all-time greatest experiences (it wasn’t, and neither was high school). I am friends with them all too on Facebook, but sometimes I question the wisdom of it. Perhaps some things should be left in the past, because as far as I’m concerned, seeing photos from that time merely rips open the wounds from that time. I escaped being the target of the bullies because I was the smartest in the class and they did not know how to deal with me, so they left me alone. Others were not so lucky, and were bullied for being dumb (the word at that time for kids who were not book-smart), often because the teachers also bullied the same children and set a poor example (e.g. making them go sit in a corner on a stool because they were not good students). Sometimes children were bullied for not being good-looking, because their families didn't have money, or because they had strict parents and were not allowed to attend the parties that the bullies could attend. It was a time in life when you could not count on support from teachers to stand up to the bullies, because some of the teachers were too busying bullying a few students of their own—for being 'dumb' as already mentioned, or too thin, for being sickly, for having to use the bathroom a lot, for being high-strung or overly-sensitive. The list goes on. I know of parents who tried to talk to the principal of the school about the bullying and who were rebuffed for the most part. I did not take part in the bullying of others; in fact in several instances I fought against it but there was little an eleven year old girl could do against mean teachers or a gang of mean girls. Ignore them, don’t get involved with them, and don’t hang out with them. All those things worked and got me through grammar school. I guess I told my parents about one unfortunate girl who got bullied, and I know they found it appalling, even more so if it went on while the teachers looked the other way. But it was a different era and there was less focus on such things; the weak and the bullied were kicked aside and had to fend for themselves. Most of them did and have had adult lives that are successful and probably happy, likewise for the bullies--many of them have grown up to be decent people. But if I become sad just remembering the bullying of others that went on, what must the bullied persons feel when they remember back to that time? And how do the bullies remember their childhood?

Bullies are like sharks; they smell blood and come running. They smell weakness and exploit that for their own gains, which looking back, were short-lived. They were popular for a while at the expense of others, and then they weren’t anymore. I know one woman who has apologized for her bullying behavior when she was a child. She has expressed remorse knowing she hurt others with her behavior. She comes from a wealthy background with everything she could desire growing up. So it’s hard to understand why bullies bully. Is it because they can, and get away with it? Adults tend to excuse the behavior of children with statements like ‘They’re only children’ or ‘He didn’t mean it’ or ‘She’s overly-sensitive to everything’ or ‘He’ll grow out of it’ or ‘Let them solve it themselves’. It doesn’t matter sometimes if children have nearly killed another child; they have to find excuses for their children and for why their children aren’t bad children. Maybe bullies had bullies for parents. It could be one logical explanation. I don’t subscribe to the view that people (including children) are inherently good; children are only as good as their parents, meaning that the role of parents is so important that perhaps not all people should have children if they know they cannot take on that role. You must be a good role model for your children; if you want them to be good people, you must be a good person yourself. Our Catholic faith teaches about the concept of original sin, i.e., that we are born with original sin (a propensity to sin given our free will?) but that our baptism introduces us to the saving grace of Christ who came to save sinners and frees us from original sin. In other words, we are given spiritual help from Christ via our church, our parents and our godparents who renounce the devil for us because we cannot as babies. We don’t know what is good or bad when we are babies and toddlers—that is the job of our parents and teachers to teach us. I feel sure that children who exhibit bullying behavior who are rarely reprimanded by their parents grow up to be bullies. Or that those who were bullied, if not given the help they needed from the adults in their lives, can also grow up to be bullies. Regardless, the fault lies with the adults who close their eyes to the bullying and bad behavior they see in their children and other children—the adults who never want to get involved.

When I got to high school, it could be the opposite, that a few students bullied one or two teachers. If I hadn’t seen the fallout from those occurrences I would never have believed it could happen. As it was, two teachers, a man and a woman--both in their early thirties, were helpless against a gang of five or six teenage women who targeted them for destruction. Both lost their jobs because they had no control over their classrooms; their students lost respect for them even though many sympathized with their plight. Perhaps it is no wonder that the teachers who survived were the ones who took no shit from anyone and stated that right up front. Being a teacher is not a popularity test; it is not an exercise in finding out how popular you are among your students. You’re there for a purpose, and that is to teach them, not be their friend. If friendships with students develop, that’s great, but you can never forget your position and your role, and the reason you are there.

Which brings me to rudeness; rudeness often accompanies bullying. They go hand in hand. Bullies are rude to those they bully but also to society generally. The word ‘rude’ has so many definitions; some are as follows--offensively impolite or bad-mannered, discourteous, impertinent, insolent, impudent, cheeky, audacious, presumptuous, uncivil, disrespectful, unmannerly, ill-bred, churlish, crass, curt, brusque, blunt, ungracious, graceless, brash, unpleasant, disagreeable, offhand, short, sharp. Notice the three words I have highlighted; they merely emphasize my point—that parents must step up to the plate and do their job as parents—they must raise respectful, mannerly and well-bred children for the good of society. That is their job. If they do not want that job, then they should not have children.

I bring this up in today’s post because of the memories that were triggered by a photo from childhood, but also because the USA has a president who is both rude and a bully. His father didn’t sound like an empathetic parental figure. But his mother sounded like a decent person. So how did Trump get to be the way he is? Because along the way people permitted his behavior or even admired it, because people dismissed his behavior in a joking way (‘He doesn’t mean it’ (sound familiar?), because he was wealthy and many people exempt the wealthy from the rules, or because he made others wealthy. If you do not stand up against this kind of behavior, you are complicit in creating a society that worships these types of people at the expense of respectful, mannerly and well-bred individuals. You cannot bemoan that situation ten years down the line when you yourself were complicit in creating it by not standing up for what is decent and ethically right at present.