Sunday, February 18, 2018

One day soon, it’s bye bye Apple....

......Well, in the foreseeable future—when the batteries in my iPad and iPhone die. Both devices are slowing down; the iPad is older than the iPhone, so this is understandable. I haven’t had cause to complain until today, when suddenly my iPad was ‘forced’ to download and install the newest IOS software. Up until today I have managed to prevent the iPad from doing this, because I know that the newest software versions will only end up slowing down the device and rendering it obsolescent faster than if I don't install the upgrades. And it’s already slow, but I’m used to it. I’m fine with it because I mostly use my iPad to read Kindle books and to read emails/listen to music when I travel. When I turned it on today, I was unable to activate my device at all. I received the following error message instead:

Your iPad could not be activated because the activation server is temporarily unavailable. Try connecting your iPad to iTunes to activated it or try again in couple of minutes. If this problem persists, contact Apple support at

So I did what I normally do in such situations—got irritated, then googled ‘why can’t I activate my iPad?’ And wouldn’t you know, this is a problem for others too, and is connected to the installation of the newest IOS software, which I didn’t want and which I have prevented from being installed up to this point by always pressing the ‘Remind me later’ option when prompted to download the newest software. But for some unknown reason, it installed itself between Friday evening and this morning (the iPad was off during that whole time) and created a problem on which I used most of my afternoon—how to reactivate my iPad. Not nice, Apple. Could someone explain to me how this happened?

You ask, why don’t I want the new software? Well, it’s a well-known fact that Apple (and probably other companies) deal in ‘planned obsolescence’ as discussed in a recent article in Forbes:  Here’s the opening paragraph of this article:

Apple just got smacked with a class action lawsuit after the tech giant admitted it slowed down older iPhones. This act is also known as planned obsolescence. Wikipedia defines planned obsolescence (or built-in obsolescence) as: "in industrial design and economics is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete (that is, unfashionable or no longer functional) after a certain period of time."

Here’s another article dealing with the same:; planned obsolescence forces us to buy new gadgets sooner than we want to. I don’t like this one bit. For the first, I don’t want to be buying new devices every other year. I’m not interested and I’m not that wealthy. Nor do I need to be cool by having the latest gadgets; I don’t care about this at all. I care more about the environment and about using things until they simply cannot be used anymore; we don’t need to pollute the world with lithium batteries year after year, when we don’t know how to deal with them at all.

So what did I learn from googling this problem about not being able to activate my device? I found the following website that discussed the problem and gave some solutions: I tried what was suggested there--connected my iPad to iTunes on my laptop and tried to ‘recover’ my iPad (updating that keeps the current setup). It didn’t work. So I had to opt for ‘restoring the factory defaults’, which essentially resets the entire iPad. This took a long time, with promptings along the way to type in different passwords and pass codes to this and that. Finally, I was able to activate my iPad, and what I ended up with was an iPad that had installed all the apps that are currently on my iPhone—in other words, way too many. But at least that was something—I didn’t have to download all the apps again from the app store. I deleted the apps I didn’t need on my iPad and opened my Kindle app. I had to download all the unread books again, and adjust the settings back to where I had them. Then I went to Music, and realized that I have to download all the songs in my library so that I can listen to them offline, like when I travel and there’s no wi-fi. I’m saving this job for another time. Something else I don’t understand; we buy these songs from Apple and yet they’re not ‘ours’. If I buy them and download them once to my music library, why aren’t they mine? This is amazingly and unnecessarily complicated.

I have no idea how these things are done on devices made by the other cell phone/tablet companies. They cannot be that much different. But it’s getting to the point where I prefer simplicity in all things. Why can’t Apple make it simple to use their devices, and leave it up to the individual user to decide whether he or she wants to install software that will in many cases deactivate their devices? We paid for them. Why can’t we decide when we want to upgrade them? At least on computers running Windows software, an upgrade doesn't result in the deactivation of the computer. Now I have new IOS software on an old iPad. Let’s see how long my ‘new’ old iPad survives. I’m betting not past summer, at which point I’m going to buy a cheap computer tablet (not an iPad), or simply a Kindle from Amazon.   

Our latest article published in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Our article about a DNA repair protein (NUCKS1) and its expression in ulcerative colitis and colorectal cancer was finally published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases. If you'd like to read the article and see what it is I do when I'm not writing this blog, check out the link here:

As always, the work that goes into a scientific article is a true group effort. So I thank all of my co-authors for helping to get it to this point. We'll be celebrating with some champagne one of these days. Congratulations are in order.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The wisdom of Ray Bradbury

I saw this on Twitter today and wanted to share it with you. It is so often true. Our minds, with all the worries, anxieties and compulsions, gets in the way of writing. We get in our own way; we block ourselves from being effective and productive. I am no exception. The happiest times I know as a writer are when I am writing unreservedly, letting the words flow out of me. I can go back and edit them later. The point is to get what I want to express, written down, so that the thoughts are not lost forever.

More Lincolns and less Trumps

There has always been contention and conflict in American politics. You need only watch Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's terrific movie from 2012, to see how the politicians of that time behaved toward each other, how they argued and fought with each other, and ultimately how making deals and utilizing their networks was what moved them toward consensus and solution. This was business as usual. Yes, the arguments were heated at times, feelings were hurt, and people didn't speak to each other. But they got over it and moved on. That doesn't seem to be happening now. If 2017 has taught us anything, it's that the behavior of the president and some congressmen is not business as usual. They seem to be in it for themselves, and to have forgotten about what's good for America. They want unquestioning loyalty to the president no matter how badly he behaves, and obedience to their whims and demands. We need better politicians, people who are truly interested in working to make society better for the people they represent, not for themselves. We need politicians who are not afraid to challenge the status quo, but who do so in a civilized manner, without crudely attacking others. Our job as non-politicians is to listen to what they have to say and to consider what it is they stand for and how they want to change America. Our job is to be actively engaged in protecting and caring for our society and our traditions, protecting what we stand for, protecting the values our country was founded on. Our job is not to be blindly loyal to any politician or dogma. Yes, America is my country and I am loyal to her, but I will object to all forms of abuse of power, whether nationally or internationally. Constructive criticism is also a part of being an actively-engaged citizen. Additionally, a civilized society respects quiet time, reflection and reasoning, and we need more politicians who appreciate these things. President Lincoln was a man who knew their value and who utilized them in his decision-making. We need more Lincolns and less Trumps.

The media cover every little thing that is said and done by politicians (among others), ad nauseum. I believe in the necessity of a free press. But I also believe in a citizen's right to privacy. It's not necessary to dissect every little thing about an individual. To dissect means to 'cut to pieces' and is usually done to a dead animal for scientific/medical purposes. Dissections of political figures are not necessary, at least not on a daily basis. The media dissect politicians and politics to a point where we cannot escape, no matter how hard we try. The constant unrelenting coverage is like a hungry animal that consumes us; the problem is is that it's never satisfied. Sometimes my reaction is to take a break from all the coverage, to seek silence and peace. Because silence and peace are what are needed to allow for reflection on the events of the world and how one might want to tackle them. It is ok to say that 'yes, I've had enough of the world's problems for one day', and to go for a long walk in nature. It's ok to want to start the day by feeding the birds, watching how they start their day. It's ok to start the day with a prayer of thanks for another day of life. It's ok to want to start the day with a peaceful soul. Because God knows that your half hour of reprieve won't last long. You will face spouses, friends, and colleagues who want nothing more than to discuss with you the latest political or world news: Trump, all the atrocities committed in the name of patriotism, why this, why that, the world is coming to an end, civilized society is coming to an end. My retort is that we need to seek refuge from the coming zombie apocalypse. That usually silences the fatalists. But who knows, that could be a relevant scenario in a few years--a genetically-engineered virus that spreads rapidly, infecting its victims and causing them to become 'anger zombies', similar to the zombies in the horror film '28 Days Later'.

This is what I don't want each day, at least when I first wake up. I don't want to start my day being bombarded with all of the bad news in the world. I want to say hello to the birds outside my kitchen window, to give them some food to start their day, to watch them for a few minutes. I want to make some coffee, putter around my kitchen in complete peace and quiet, ignoring the presence of the newspaper that will invade my day. I do read it, but I start with the comics, as they give me some fortitude to face the coming day. I need fortitude because our days are nothing short of frustrating and complicated. Bureaucracy, rules and regulations are the order of business. Our bosses and co-workers require our attention or interrupt us during the day with their concerns. Plans that have been discussed and agreed upon at multiple meetings are tossed aside in order to remake them in a new image. Our society is in constant upheaval, everywhere you turn. The seasons in nature do not change like this; the change is more orderly. Spring leads to summer leads to autumn. Autumn doesn't arrive and then suddenly decide that nature must return to July again. It would be a bizarre chain of events if such things happened in nature. But such bizarreness is almost the order of business now in the workplace and in politics.

I am looking for consistency and will never find it. I have accepted that now. I am looking for peace and quiet in a global society that has forgotten what peace and quiet are and why they are valuable for society. I am looking for manners, less aggression, more real feelings, more caring, more respect. I am looking for less egoism and more interest in the welfare of others. I wonder if we could all take a collective step backward and collectively breathe. Count to ten. Dig into our souls to find some patience, with ourselves and others. Be quiet. Be grateful. Stop forcing our ways of thinking down others' throats. Stop being aggressive. Stop being crude. Stop being Trump. For God's sake, start there.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Clear bike lanes and icy sidewalks in Oslo

Here's a suggestion to those co-op apartment complex owners and municipality leaders who don't clear snow and ice from the sidewalks in Oslo. Buy one of these--the Cub Cadet 3X 26 in. 357cc 3-Stage Electric Start Gas Snow Blower with Steel Chute, Power Steering and Heated Grips--see the link:

Why is it 3-stage? It clears snow, ice and slush--perfect for sidewalks. Cost? About 1000 USD. It would probably cost 50% more in Norway, but it would be worth checking out. A small investment that would help others and prevent people from not being able to work due to broken bones. In other words, a worthwhile investment.

We've often heard here that there is no bad weather, only bad attire. When you first hear this, it makes some sense. If it's bitter cold, you wear a heavy jacket with a hood to protect yourself. You wear gloves or maybe a hat. You wear boots when it snows. And so on. This is logical. You'd be foolish to be outdoors in freezing temperatures with a light jacket and no gloves or hat. But this statement is also extended to the icy/snowy sidewalk situation--you can wear plastic Scandinavian crampons ( over your boots to help you walk on the icy sidewalks. I have a pair that I stretch on over my boots. They do work, but they take some getting used to. I wouldn't want to walk long distances with them. I don't think they're the solution to the problem. Any way you look at it, clearing the sidewalks makes the most logical sense.

I'm including some photos of icy/snowy sidewalks and platforms that I took today on my way to and from one of the city hospitals. I walked about four miles today without falling and breaking any bones. But sometimes I feel like I'm eighty years old, inching my way along the sheet of ice that was once a sidewalk, gauging carefully where I can and cannot go. It's no fun.

Tube station platform covered in ice

Ramp covered in ice leading up to tube station

Sidewalk leading up to the main buildings of a city hospital 

sidewalk in Trondheimsveien that has been cleared

sidewalk further south in Trondheimsveien that is just a sheet of ice

even further south in Trondheimsveien showing the division between the sidewalk for pedestrians on the left--a sheet of ice, and the bike lane for cyclists on the right--nicely cleared
Ring 2 showing a clear bike lane and an icy sidewalk

Why isn’t it possible to shovel sidewalks in this city during the winter?

I have been down this road before, and written about this before. My pet peeve and one of the reasons I hate winter in this city. Normally I don’t mind winter and snow; I like the seasons and would probably miss winter if I moved to a warmer climate where there was no winter. But still I have to ask, why can’t this city take responsibility for clearing the sidewalks of snow during a snowy winter like this one? It’s not like we have this amount of snow all the time. So what’s the problem?

The municipality of Oslo has the responsibility for clearing the main roads (think highways and access roads to highways), and they do a good job of it. But it’s never clear whose responsibility it is to clear the sidewalks, and I see that this gets discussed ad nauseam each winter when there is a lot of snow, like this one. Some sidewalks are cleared, others are not. The reasons for this are never explained. I would think that the owners of co-op apartment complexes, of which there are a myriad of in this city, could arrange for snow removal, and by that, I mean continual snow removal. It doesn’t help to remove it once, throw down some gravel, and that’s the end of it. What happens is that it snows heavily with accumulation, some sidewalk snow gets removed but not all, then the temperatures get warmer and much of the snow turns to slush (at which point I would remove it but that doesn’t happen here), and then it gets colder and the slush turns to uneven ice that is difficult to walk on, even with gravel spread here and there. Old people don’t stand a chance in terms of getting out to shop or to run other errands. There has been a record number of broken arms and legs this year from all of the falls resulting from slipping on the ice, and it’s not just older people who dominate the statistics, it’s younger people as well. So that should tell you something. No one seems to care about what this costs society in terms of lost work days; if you are laid up with a broken leg or cannot use your good arm at work, then you are out on sick leave. To me, it would be more cost-effective to clear the sidewalks, and to make and enforce laws stating clearly who has the responsibility to do so. Fines should be heavy for all those who do not follow the law.

But the ridiculousness does not end here. The Green party in this country has been pushing for bike lanes on all the main roads, and they have gotten their way in this city. While I am a bicyclist and have been since I was a child, I resent the hard-handed approach to the way biking is forced down our throats now. Everyone should bike, year-round, according to the Green party. And here’s the kicker. Like the main roads, the bike lanes are also cleared of snow by the municipality. It’s a priority that they are cleared, while the sidewalks that parallel them are packed with snow and ice. Go figure. Walking is every bit as healthy for you as biking is. But clearing the sidewalks is not a priority, not even the sidewalks that lead to large city hospitals or in front of the entrances to different buildings at the city hospitals. Never mind the patients who are brought in by ambulance; what about the patient's family members who have to navigate these sidewalks on their way to visit? Or wouldn't you think that hospitals, of all places, would respect their employees enough to shovel the sidewalks? Snow removal is also null at the tube stations, where ice accumulates at the edge of the platforms, making it tricky business to board the trains. Ditto for the tram stations. I keep waiting for the news to announce that someone has slipped off the platforms in front of or under the trains. It amazes me that this nonsense about who has responsibility for what goes on year after year, and that nothing gets done about it.

So what do I see since the bike lanes are cleared and not the sidewalks? Pedestrians are walking in the bike lanes, a clear hazard to both pedestrians and bicyclists. Bicyclists are skidding on patches of ice here and there where the bike lanes are a bit icy, despite the bikes being outfitted with studded tires. I watched a female bicyclist last week skid in the bike lane, fall off her bike, and land smack in the middle of the main road. If there had been a bus or car driving on the main road at that time, she would have been immediately run over and crushed. I would have had zero chance to help her. This is idiotic to me. It can be difficult enough to drive a car on the main roads during winter-time; you can always run into a patch of ice or snow that suddenly makes driving difficult. Studded tires for cars are now discouraged (you must pay a fee to the municipality each time you drive a car with studded tires) due to the pollution they cause--dust from churning up the asphalt in addition to the fact that they destroy the asphalt roads. But studded tires for bikes are encouraged. Don't they churn up the asphalt as well? Go figure. I don’t see the point of pushing and prioritizing winter biking, but this is my opinion. I respect that others would want to do it, but as far as I’m concerned, they risk their lives. My major point with this post is that it would be so great to be able to walk outdoors during the winter in a big city without risking falling and breaking an arm, leg or hip. I wonder why prioritizing clearing the sidewalks is too much to ask.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Grace and Frankie—why I really like this show

I didn’t start watching Grace and Frankie on Netflix until recently. I have definitely noticed it and even wondered about it, since it’s gotten mostly good reviews from the critics. But a few weeks ago, I sat down and watched the first episode, and from then on I was hooked. For starters, it is truly an adult comedy series, as in not for children, and I welcome that in a youth-focused culture and media. I like shows with younger people and I watch a lot of them, so that’s not a problem. But there has been a real lack of intelligently-written shows for older adults. One of the creators/writers is Marta Kaufman, who was one of the two writers on Friends, a show that I’ve also been re-watching recently. The wonderful timing and delivery of lines on Friends made it the excellent show it was, in addition to excellent acting. The acting on Grace and Frankie is also top-notch; Jane Fonda (Grace), Lily Tomlin (Frankie), Martin Sheen (Robert) and Sam Waterston (Sol) are simply wonderful. After about five episodes in, it felt like they lived in my neighborhood and that I was running into them every day. The writing is intelligent and natural. This is how adults talk and interact, among themselves and with their grown children who have their own lives and problems. There is cursing, yelling, love and sex and everything in between. There is also pot smoking and dabbling in alternative highs courtesy of Frankie who is an aging hippie, artist, and life lover. I’m enjoying watching her interact with Grace who is her polar opposite—a private and reserved former career woman (now retired), who worries about getting older and about lack of order. It’s entirely plausible that this is how women who have been married for forty years might react to finding out that their husbands (law firm partners for many years) are gay and want to marry each other. So divorces ensue, and all parties try their best to be civilized about the upheaval in all their lives. What’s nice about the show is that there are no pat answers—love and life are messy. Getting older is difficult. Wanting to live out your life with someone you love may hurt someone else you love or thought you would love for the rest of your life. The adults apologize a lot for hurting each other; Sam Waterston’s character Sol seems especially conflicted by his need to change his life. He loves Robert but doesn’t want to hurt his ex-wife Frankie. And yet he does, time and again. Frankie is learning how to establish boundaries for how to deal with Sol going forward. Grace seems to have accepted that she and Robert were never really that close and she acknowledges her part in that; their relationship seemed to be cold and rote, whereas Sol and Frankie’s relationship seemed to be warm and vibrant. What’s interesting is that you don’t end up rooting for any one character. I like them all; each of them has their quirks, annoying habits, ways of talking, and ways of interacting, that are by turns funny, touching and memorable. I’ve already finished season 1 and am well into season 2. It’s a welcome change from all of the murder and crime series that leave you with very little other than strangely-concocted plots, sexually-perverted criminals, and weak conclusions--in other words, nothing memorable. Grace and Frankie is a show I will remember down the road. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Remembering my brother

It is three years ago today that my brother Raymond passed away. He is always in my thoughts. I hope his children remember what a great dad he was to them. I remember how close he and I were as teenagers and young adults, and how Manhattan was 'our' place where we met for lunch and dinner when I was in town. When we were in our twenties, we would get together with friends and all go dancing. Those were fun times and great memories. I will always remember his uncanny ability for imitating Mel Blanc, who did the voices of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Ray could do their voices as good as Mel Blanc. And I will remember the triathlons and interest in biking (my interest as well) that kept him fit and happy in his twenties. Our lives took separate paths once we both married, but we remained close and shared our thoughts on life, love and work. Whenever I see him in my mind's eye, it is as the vibrant and positive person he always was. So this poem is for him today.........

Do not stand at my grave and weep    by Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge

I have been doing this Reading Challenge for several years now. This year my goal is to read twenty books, and so far I'm on track toward accomplishing that goal. I've read five books so far. If you want to keep track of my progress and see what books I'm reading, check out the widget on the right lower-hand side of the blog, under the Follow by Email widget.

If you read some of the same books, let me know and we can discuss our reactions here on this blog. I love to read and Goodreads is a great place to meet other readers and writers. Happy reading!

Warning signs

I just finished reading The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, a taut thriller about a young woman--Vanessa, her ex-husband Richard, and his new love--Emma. The story that unfolds is not at all what you might think it to be—the jealous ex-wife who makes life difficult for her ex and his new love. Rather, Vanessa tries to save Emma from making the same mistake she did. There are lots of reasons for that. The major reason is that Richard is a control freak (as is revealed gradually during the course of the story) with very disturbing character traits. I’d recommend reading the book, not only because it is a decent thriller and a page-turner filled with ‘palpable tension’, but because it brings up uncomfortable issues to which women should pay attention. Those issues should serve as major warning signs when deciding about the future of any romantic relationship.

Whenever I watch rom-com films, I am always surprised by the ‘couple stupidity’ that gets presented as part and parcel of modern relationships. For example, a man and a woman meet, he has his cushy job on Wall Street and is the wealthy bachelor, she is also a professional woman (journalist, artist, or photographer) with less money than he has. One assumes that the women being portrayed have a modicum of intelligence, such that things like the size of engagement rings and having a big house in the suburbs wouldn’t really matter all that much to them, especially in the 2010s. But in Hollywood films, they still do. And the women’s friends ooh and ah over the large diamond ring, or think it’s totally ok that the man purchases a house for him and his fiancé without consulting her. The fiancé has had no say in the matter, but her reaction (and her friends’ reactions) are always the same—oh how wonderful, generous, and thoughtful her soon-to-be husband is. And so on. I don’t know any couples like this in real life. None.

In real life, every woman I know who is married (and still married) went to look at the house/co-op/townhouse she and her husband eventually purchased--together with their husbands. The husbands did not purchase their homes without the wives present. Had any potential husband done this, I would have thought he was disrespectful of my wishes and feelings. I would have been angry about it and he would have heard about it in no uncertain terms. There is nothing about that type of ‘surprise’ that appeals to me in the least. I want to see for myself the house I might want to live in; I don’t want anyone making that decision for me. I want the decision to be a mutual one that is discussed mutually and respectfully.

So this type of behavior in a potential husband should ring many warning bells. If he doesn’t respect and value your opinion enough to go house-hunting together with you, he’s not worth marrying. Any man that insists that you wear your hair a certain way because he wants it that way, is also a man to avoid. Any man that solely uses his nickname for you that you do not like (e.g. in the book, Richard called Vanessa Nellie because she was nervous—think, nervous Nellie), is a man to avoid. Any situation where you have no say in what transpires, no control over your present and future life, is a situation to avoid like the plague. Any man who assumes that you will give up your career once you’re married is a man to avoid, no matter how rich or powerful he is or how well he can take care of you. Much better to be able to take care of yourself, and any chance I get, I tell young women that. Be independent and don’t base your financial security on your husband’s wealth or earning ability. Because somewhere down the road, you never know if he will decide that he wants a new life partner, and then you’re out, hoping for a decent divorce settlement from him. Any man who is unfriendly to your friends, or does not want you to see your closest friends once you’re married, is not worth marrying. Any man who buys you a dog or cat to keep you company, only to take it away from you at a later point (and lie about it—saying it ran away) because he didn’t like that you got too attached to it, is a man to run from. I mean, run, and never look back. None of these behaviors is love; none of these behaviors is indicative that you are loved and respected. These types of men are psychopaths—charming and abusive liars without an ounce of empathy for those whose lives they destroy. Why women would ever have children with these kinds of men is a wonder in itself.

But young women continue to marry the Richards of this world. I have empathy for these women, because it’s not always easy to navigate the murky world of love and romance, and we all make mistakes. I have made them too, because I believed that some men were worth trusting and believing in. How wrong I was. Many women believe men who are overly-romantic and attentive, who call at all hours under the pretense that they are worried about them, truly love them. Many women believe men who tell them that they hope that these women can save them from themselves. But there are two old sayings that are applicable here: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”, and “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. I would much rather have my independence and freedom to control my own life and my decisions; I do not want to give the reigns to a man so that he can control me and what I do. I would much rather have one phone call a day from a caring husband rather than ten calls that to outsiders might signal caring, but that are really disguised attempts at stalking, control and lack of trust on the husband’s part.

There might be some women who are content with such constricted lives, but by and large, if one person has nearly complete control over how another person lives her or his life, it’s a situation waiting to explode at a later point. It takes a long time to understand how one might want to live one’s life, and how to deal with the opposite sex, and how to tackle all of the situations that arise during the romantic phase of one’s relationship. Navigating those choppy waters requires common sense, intelligence, and the support of good friends and family. Luckily, most of us have that support, and do not wish to discard it for the Richards of this world.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Obstacles and opportunities

I had hoped to start off the new year being effective and productive at work. And I was for the first two weeks or so. They were shaping up to be representative of what I might expect from the rest of 2018. And then, in one fell sweep, it all ended. To be exact, on Friday, January 12th, the IT company that is responsible for all data management at our hospital informed us that they were under continual attack by hackers. Very sophisticated hackers who had gained administrative access to many of the servers where sensitive data is stored. The situation is so serious that it has become a criminal case, with federal authorities called in to investigate. Since that day, those of us (mostly researchers) who have always had access to the research network (internet and email), have been shut out of both. Emails cannot be sent or received. We have no access to the hospital intranet or to any of the administrative programs that are necessary for daily functioning. Our use of internet is blocked; we cannot get online at all. We cannot print any files on the network printers. For those researchers who spend most of their day working in the lab, it's probably not the end of the world. For those of us whose projects require constant interaction with the internet (writing and online research), it's been a crisis. I fall into the latter category as do many senior scientists and postdocs. It remains unclear when the situation will return to normal.

It's got me thinking about the obstacles that are placed before us in our daily lives. I've been pretty impatient and ticked-off thinking about all the time that's been wasted not being able to work on some of the priority projects for which I'm responsible. It riles me that we don't get more updates about the situation from hospital leaders and that there is no plan B, no backup plan, for those of us who are affected. There is no backup plan. We just have to wait it out; wait until the obstacle no longer blocks the road in front of us.

I was pretty annoyed today about the whole situation. I went to work briefly, found out that nothing was working (situation unchanged), and then went home to work instead. At least I can work from home. I have that opportunity. I have a functioning internet and email system at home, likewise a printer to which I can connect. I am grateful for that. I'm also grateful for the fact that working at home gives me the opportunity to multi-task. I can be working on several things simultaneously (some work-related, some not), and that is a good thing. It appeals to my need for effectiveness and desire for productivity. I need to feel that I've gotten something done each day. Working at home calms me down and gives me a sense of purpose. So perhaps this is all a blessing in disguise. I like to work at home, and perhaps I can begin to work at home more than one day a week. That would be a wonderful opportunity--an opportunity that evolved from an obstacle.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Reminders of how difficult it is to be a Christian

When we hear that it is enough to be anti-abortion to be a Christian, this is my response. Yes, pro-life is the Christian way, the protection of embryos is the Christian way, but pro-life, the Christian life, encompasses a wide range of behaviors, starting with the embryo and ending with the elderly, the sick, and the dying. Lest we forget Christ's preaching on what it means to be Christian.

Matthew 25:31-46 New International Version

The Sheep and the Goats

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


This message spells out for us in no uncertain terms what Christ expects from us. There is no Christian argument that can justify white supremacy, racism, or the exclusion of others based on race, income, or gender. No matter the circumstances, we as Christians are called to help others, to include others, to think of others, to put ourselves in the shoes of others. It's hard. It's very hard. Sometimes it seems like an impossible task. We tell ourselves, we work hard for a living. Why should we give our hard-earned money away to the homeless or the unemployed, or those who seem to be lazy? There is some validity to the argument, because some people are lazy and don't want to work. How would Christ have responded? Would he have tried to convince the lazy to work, to contribute to society, at the same time that he said to us, continue to feed and clothe the poor anyway? I think he would have. Why should we visit the sick, the elderly, or the housebound or contact them regularly? We don't have the time to do that. We convince ourselves that a phone call twice a year is what we can manage. There is some validity to the argument, because we often don't have much free time at our disposal. I think Christ would have wanted us to dig deep and find the time. Why should we include other people in our social circle, or reach out to the new employee or the immigrant from a war-torn land? Why should we waste our time trying to understand that migrants and refugees are fleeing from war to a better life? There is some validity to the argument. Countries do need to take care of their own first before they can take care of migrants and refugees. But often it's easier to say that they're coming to our rich countries to take advantage of our wealth and benefits. That's what I sometimes hear in Norway, from well-educated and well-fed people. And then I think, you don't want to share any of your wealth, much of it based on a natural resource called oil. That's not right. I think Christ would have wanted us to dig deep and find the empathy and compassion needed to put ourselves in their shoes.

I don't think Christ worries too much about our bottom lines, about our profit margins, about our pension plans, about our lack of free time. I think he is more concerned that we are charitable toward others, despite the cost to ourselves. We cannot have our cake and eat it too. We cannot judge harshly the unfortunate as lazy and freeloaders and at the same time call ourselves Christian. It doesn't work that way, and it's a message that I understood already as a teenager. I understood that it was going to be very difficult to be a Christian. Because it means going against the norm, against the prevailing trends of xenophobia, against the fear of losing our material wealth. It means moving ourselves out of our comfort zones. Christ is challenging us to think about our fears. What is it we fear? Do we fear being homeless, sick, mentally ill, terminally ill, old, unemployed? Yes, we do, and it's normal to feel that way. All these things involve loss of prestige, loss of face, loss of our pride, loss of our easy life, and so on. It means we cannot always have things the way we want them. We may not be able to take that vacation abroad this year, or buy the new car, or the big house, or send our children to expensive schools. We often learn the hard way. Someone we love becomes sick or dies. Children commit suicide or overdose on drugs. Family members become mentally ill and difficult. We want to run from the problems, we want to have our comfortable lives back. But what if we can't? What if the problems are life-long? What if someone we love becomes disabled and can no longer take good care of themselves? What do we do? I think we're allowed to be angry, distraught, irritated, or sad about the turn of events, about the bad luck, about the bad karma. We're not allowed to turn our backs on those who need us. Mother Teresa said the same thing. Charity begins at home. But we have to acknowledge those outside our family who might need our help too. We cannot close our eyes to the suffering in the world. And there is a lot of suffering. Objectively, when I look at what migrants and refugees want, it's a better life for themselves and their children. Is that so wrong? They just happened to be born in the wrong part of the world. A toss of the dice, and perhaps we could have ended up like them. Who knows?

That is why, as a Christian and an American, I don't want to see us close our doors to immigrants and those who dream about finding a better life in America. That is what makes our country great. One of my friends on Facebook recently posted the poem that stands at the base of the Statue of Liberty--a beautiful poem and a Christian message if ever there was one:

The New Colossus--by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Three articles absolutely worth reading

I stumbled upon these articles today, written by the New York Post columnist Maureen Callahan. I'm glad I did, as I think they're excellent. Her writing is spot on and pithy; she faces her topics head-on and doesn't relent in her treatment of them. Good for her. We need more writers like her. I love her piece Fashion is dead and there's no coming back. It's true, and no one will miss it. And her article about why Oprah would be a bad choice for a future president. Maureen Callahan deserves kudos for telling it like it is.

The government shutdown

The U.S. federal government officially shut down as of early this morning. This has happened before, e.g. back in 2013 under President Obama, but it is interesting to listen to the recriminations from both sides this time. Not unexpected in any case. It's just more proof that America is a deeply-split country at present (it was under Obama also and has just gotten worse), and it's not likely to change any time soon. We need a new leader (president), one that can unite both parties, or at least appeal to their compromise instinct. Because the compromise instinct exists on both sides. Leaders in both parties need to find the common ground and get rid of the rhetoric. They need to stop blaming each other and get on with the business of governing. We need to get back to a time when people talked to each other and really listened to each other. We need more Lincolns and less Trumps. We don't need another Civil War. We need more focus on respect for the other side. We need more politicians who 'agree to disagree' for the sake of their nation. We need more politicians who truly love their country. We don't need politicians who are only interested in ripping those in the opposing party to shreds. We don't need more politicians who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the American taxpayers. There seems to be little in the way of strong moral and ethical focus in many politicians these days. 

Mostly, we need a president who appeals to the best nature in people. The current president does not. He appeals to the base instincts in us, those instincts that would have us hate rather than love or try to love, those instincts that would have us exclude rather than include others, those instincts that compel us to be selfish, narcissistic, self-involved, arrogant, proud, superficial, lazy, and ultimately unintelligent while screaming 'I know it all'. This is the complete opposite of how we were raised as Christians. I have no use for priests and clerics who praise Trump for his pro-life stance while ignoring his support for white supremacy, racism, poor business ethics, greed, lack of respect for women, and other such issues. He is no role model in any of those areas, and no role model for children. And yet, he is held up as a good role model on church pulpits across America because he is (claims to be) anti-abortion. I'm sorry to say that those who promote him are at best, misinformed. His philosophies and way of living bear little resemblance to the Christianity we were taught to practice.

In any case, a Facebook member (Nick Velander) posted the following statements made by Trump back when the government shut down under Obama. Can you feel the hypocrisy in these quotes? Can you feel the 'do as I say not as I do'? Aren't we waiting for Trump to say these quotes are 'false news'? Because if he says they are, the Trumpers will believe it. We are living in strange times. I have come to believe that we are moving toward dangerous times, and I take nothing for granted anymore. 

"Obama's complaints about Republicans stopping his agenda are BS since he had full control for two years. He can never take responsibility." - Sept. 26, 2012 - Donald Trump - Twitter

"Does any Republican have the ability to negotiate?" - Jan 2, 2013 - Donald Trump - Twitter

"Just shows that you can have all the cards and lose if you don’t 
know what you’re doing." - January 3, 2013 - Donald Trump - Twitter

"FACT – the reason why Americans have to worry about a government shutdown is because Obama refuses to pass a budget." - Aug 9, 2013 01:33:39 PM - Donald Trump

"My sense is that people are far angrier at the President than they are at Congress re the shutdown—an interesting turn!" 2:05 PM - 7 Oct 2013 - Donald Trump - Twitter

"Congress must pass a budget and hold Obama to it. No more continuing resolutions and no more excuses. Republicans soon hold both houses." 12:00 PM - 3 Dec 2014 - Donald Trump - Twitter

Monday, January 15, 2018

The old films and strong roles for women

I continue to buy the classic old films of my parents’ generation, i.e., films from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. I am enjoying watching them, and I must say that the roles written for women in the 1940s and 1950s often had real substance. These roles showed women as owners of companies, business leaders and managers—in other words—career women—in short, that they could be married and have children, and be career women at the same time. They could also play hussies, whores, mean-spirited women, ruthless business women, but they did not have to take off their clothes to prove anything to anyone. Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Gene Tierney; Katherine Hepburn; these women were not taking off their clothes for the movies in which they starred. The explanation is likely that the Motion Picture Production Code at that time in society prohibited nudity, rape, gory violence, erotic sex scenes, etc. This Code was the set of industry moral guidelines that was applied to most United States motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968. Prior to that time, there were a fair amount of films made that tested the limits of decency. The Production Code, which was minimally enforced during the 1960s, was replaced by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) film rating system in 1968. I started to go to the movies in the 1970s when I was a teenager, and as I have written about before, there was not all that much censorship of nudity and violence in the films we could see at that time. Pretty much anything ‘went’. I remember the first time I saw nudity onscreen; it was in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972). I was sixteen at the time, old enough to get into the film without parental guidance. It was a bit shocking as I remember, and even years later, I find the film quite lurid. It is not one of the Hitchcock films that comes to mind when I think of the repertoire of excellent films that have made him famous.

But back to the films of the 1940s and 1950s; I have to say I find them refreshing for their lack of nudity and lack of graphic violence. The subject matter could be quite grim—murder, betrayal, illicit love affairs, psychopathy, mental illness, terminal illness, etc.—but it all seemed more stylized, not down and dirty. It may be that this is a false representation of such subject matter, but in some senses I prefer it because it allowed for more concentration on character development and the psychological aspects of the characters involved. I think of films like Dark Victory (1939), Now, Voyager (1942), Mr. Skeffington (1944), Laura (1944), Mildred Pierce (1945), Leave Her to Heaven (1945), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), Adam’s Rib (1949), The Night of the Hunter (1955), and Lust for Life (1956), to name a few. Some of these are noir films, i.e., ‘stylish Hollywood crime dramas’, especially those that ‘emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations’ (from Wikipedia). I prefer these kinds of films to the tawdry and explicit ones that came later. I guess I realize as I get older that I don’t want to see murder in all its gory details; it’s enough to see that someone shoots another person without all the blood and gore. Nowadays, there can be twenty shootings in a criminal drama and at some point you become inured to the blood and gore, which is not a good thing. I can recommend the above-mentioned films as excellent examples of film-making and cinematography. Many are also wonderful examples of films with strong solid roles for women, e.g. Mr. Skeffington (Bette Davis), Laura (Gene Tierney), Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford), Leave Her to Heaven (Gene Tierney), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck), and Adam’s Rib (Katherine Hepburn). I’ve yet to see some of Barbara Stanwyck’s other films; the same is true for Katherine Hepburn and Joan Crawford. I’m looking forward to doing so.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The garden in winter

I took a trip to the garden yesterday. It was mild weather, with temperatures hovering around the freezing point. We've had some snow during the past few weeks, so I wanted to see how the greenhouse was doing. I don't want too much snow to accumulate on the top of the greenhouse, because I'm not sure how much weight the polycarbonate panels can tolerate. So I did sweep the snow off the top of the greenhouse. But my worrying about the snow accumulation was also a great excuse to be in my garden again. And the garden has a special beauty in winter. It's peaceful in a different way than in the summertime. There was no one else there except for me; I could tell because there were no other footprints in the snow besides mine. But there were a lot of birds, chirping happily in the bare trees. I guess they manage to find the food they need to survive; I did hang up a couple of seed balls for them a few weeks ago, and they were gone yesterday, so I assume that the birds ate them. I take care of the birds during the winter. As I've written about before, the pigeons, magpies, sparrows, and sometimes even the seagulls pay us daily visits when it's cold and miserable out. They always get seeds and some bread from us each day.

I'll most likely be taking another trip to the garden on Tuesday in order to brush more snow off the top of the greenhouse. The weather people are predicting about ten inches of snow for Oslo, starting tomorrow and continuing into Tuesday. And then it's supposed to get cold again. We've had a lot of snow this winter, much more than I can remember from previous years. I don't mind it so much this year, because it's pretty and creates a peace that is nice to experience. Walking outdoors at night is also a nice experience--pretty and quiet. So winter has its charms.

I'm including some photos of the garden in winter in this post. Enjoy.......

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Peaceful winter scenes

I took a lot of photos during the month of December because there were a lot of cold clear days and nights, and that always makes for crisp clear photos. We've also had some snowfalls that end up making the nighttime brighter--amazing how the snow creates light in the darkness. In any case, I find these winter scenes very peaceful and I wanted to share them with you.

taken on New Year's Eve right after midnight

a lovely winter morning sky with smoke curling upwards toward the clouds

Full moon from early December 2017

Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Last Gasps of the Dinosaurs

I was planning to write another post about Trump and his minions a couple of days ago, but in the meantime, Bannon turned around and APOLOGIZED for his inflammatory comments about Trump and his family. So now I’ve got to comment on this. I mean, who writes this stuff? It’s better over-the-top drama than most of what you’ll find in the theater these days, better than the worst soap opera out there. It’s bromance, folks—bromance between Trump and Bannon. They’ve had a tiff and they’ll be making up soon. Bannon has already held out the olive branch. Now Trump just needs to take it. Because you understand what happened here. Bannon, like a jilted lover, decided to take a little revenge on Trump, to make him pay for how he badly he treated him. We’re talking pride here—the old male dinosaur wounded pride. Remember the old expression ‘Hell has no fury like a woman scorned’? Methinks this expression can now be applied to men too; in fact, it always could be, because men can be amazingly vengeful when they want to be. Bannon’s fury has now abated. He got what he wanted—the attention he seeks, all eyes on him. His fifteen extra minutes of fame. And in addition, the entire country is about to make Michael Wolff a millionaire many times over. Maybe Wolff will cut him in on some of the profits. I’m guessing Trump and Bannon will kiss and make up, and then we’ll be subject to more of Trump’s tweets talking about what a great guy Bannon is. And that the media reports of his having said that Bannon had ‘lost his mind’ are more evidence of fake news. Wait and see.

It’s just that I, like so many other Americans, want to be spared this farcical circus. I literally cringe every time I see either one of them on TV. I cringe when I realize this is what we present to the world. The lack of intelligence, civility, logic, rationality, and strategic thinking is glaring. GLARING. As in, sun-blinding. You can’t find the shadows, can’t find cover, can’t find a safe place to protect yourself from it. You can’t escape them and the old dinosaur chaos they represent. Everywhere you turn, the old dinosaurs are there, lumbering and lurching forward, crushing everything in their path on their way to oblivion. Because that’s where they’re headed. I just wish they'd get there already. I’m hoping that #Metoo is the huge comet that takes out most of them. It’s already a societal force to be reckoned with, having destroyed a good number of the old dinosaurs’ careers. Will we miss them? The answer is a resounding NO.

The last gasps of the dinosaurs. I feel sorry for the real ones, but not for these old men. They’ve ruined lives, careers, dreams, ambitions. They ruin people. They use them up and spit them out. But they’re sinking into the mire that will trap them for posterity. I can hear them gasping for breath—the bloated, overfed, pompous, arrogant, infamous, small-brained creatures—and they deserve all of the vengeance that society will wreak upon them. I just hope that the non-dinosaurs will be spared. It would be terrible to have to share posterity with them mired in the same mud.