Glasgow scrapyard

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What is more random than a Glasgow car scrapyard fire that burned for 17 hours and knocked out power for loads of people? Lots of things; I am feeling random now.

When I think of the dynamics of Glasgow, and the deep, protective, abiding love I feel for it, I am (as usual) pulled in two directions. In one direction, I want to defend all the naysayers who talk shit about this fine city, citing its reputation as ‘murder capital of Europe‘ and the ‘Glasgow smile’ and ‘love’ of knives. But at the same time, in the complete opposite direction, I want to protect it from hordes of people suddenly turning up. I felt the same way about Seattle – preferring to proffer eyewitness testimony supporting its reputation as a dreary, rain-soaked place 362 days a year (not true, but in true Washingtonian fashion, I always wanted to keep everyone else out; western Washington’s beauty and charms were, seemingly, a well-kept secret. Past tense). I tend to like the more livable, industrial cities: Glasgow over Edinburgh (which is, according to some, “England #2”), Gothenburg over Stockholm (see the hard-G pattern there?). It’s not that Edinburgh and Stockholm are not the loveliest of places, but in some way, they feel to me like they lack a soul.

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Smoke rising in the distance; Kibble Palace, Glasgow Botanic Gardens

This week there was a big fire at a scrapyard in Govan (in Glasgow). See images. Even though I post these pictures of “Glasgow on fire” (haha), well, the city certainly is not.

thursday

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Now I have been invited to see Lloyd Cole in Stockholm, and that makes me laugh far harder and longer than it should. I won’t be going for it, but it’s awfully funny for a few reasons.

I’ve seen The Salesman; I recommend it. But then I feel that way about most of the Iranian films I see. Someone once accused me of ‘trying to look cool’ by citing Iranian films among my favorites. As if that would impress anyone?

The Allure of Regional Pride: Värmland, Sweden

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The Värmland region of Sweden is a place that seems to fill its residents with a considerable amount of regional pride. People who don’t live in or aren’t from Värmland often echo the feeling that Värmland is the most amazing place, that it would be “like a dream” to live there, and that it embodies what many consider to be “the real Sweden”. Sort of smack in the middle of everything, Värmland is mostly rural, its largest city – the virtually unheard-of (outside Sweden) Karlstad (except for IKEA furniture named after the city) is uniquely placed at a near-equidistance from the Nordic holy trinity of Stockholm, Oslo and Gothenburg. Värmland is not known for city life, of course. It’s the landsbygd – truly rural and in many ways untouched. For those who love nature, Värmland is it.

And it seems to me (in my very few years as a Värmlander myself) that Värmlanders (current and former) bond with each other – in a similar way to how people who come from a small town and meet somewhere else, far away, do. Even though Värmland is a big place and coming from the eastern edge is not totally the same as coming from the far west on the border with Norway (life there, which is where I call home, has been affected by an influx of both Norwegians and their massive border shopping centers) people connected to Värmland do seem to consider it home forever – long after they leave to put down permanent roots elsewhere. There is a sense of pride and identification with the place that people from Värmland adopt – and transplants, like me, fiercely take on. I feel protective and proud about Värmland for some really inexplicable reason. Maybe just because living here has given me the kind of inner peace that I did not really imagine ever having. I never felt at home anywhere, but Värmland is home. As exotic and wonderful as my “native stomping grounds” – Hawaii – is, Värmland is home. I spent most of my formative years in the lovely and diverse Seattle and surrounding environs. But Värmland is home. Yes, Sweden is home, but more than that, Värmland is home. When you meet Swedes, they may tell you they came from “some small town but now live in Stockholm” or will introduce themselves using the city they currently live in. But when you meet a Värmlander, it’s almost a guarantee that s/he will self-identify as a Värmlander (if their värmlandska language does not give them away! Even those who have long left Värmland still consider themselves proud Värmlanders – you can take the Värmlander out of Värmland but not Värmland from the Värmlander). The regional identity assumes almost equal importance to the national identity, and I have not noticed this anywhere in Sweden as I have among Värmlanders.

Heading into the long Easter weekend, I drove home and felt a growing sense of relief, contentment and pride once I crossed into Värmland. Happy.

Influential relations: Always take the stairs

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I hate crowds of strangers enough that I decided – on the worst day possible – to give up public transportation in favor of my own two feet. Gothenburg is a completely walkable city, so even though I generally stay somewhere in the city center and work outside of it, it’s not a big deal to walk – even though the mounds of uncleared snow seemed insurmountable this morning. It felt slightly reminiscent of the training montage (minus the grunting!) in Rocky IV when Rocky has to work out in the snow, sawing and carrying logs, running through icy rivers and helping a man with a horse and carriage stuck in snow (?) and stuff. It being the Soviet era, a bunch of the scenes of Dolph Lundgren as machine-like nemesis Ivan Drago are all red, as if he works out in a bright Soviet-red room. Then again, it was the 80s – that’s how it always looked. And it was the 80s, so everyone looks a bit coked out. (Thanks again, Grace Jones, for delivering Dolph Lundgren to the world. Just realizing that I have written about Dolph and Rocky IV too many times already.)

I am not sure why it took me until now to decide this (walking, not comparing my life to scenes from Rocky IV) was a good course of action – a few too many times getting slapped in the arm by overzealous tram riders gesticulating wildly while talking on the phone, a few too many broken-down trams, a few too many long waits (I am a wee bit impatient), a few too many scenes I just don’t want to be party to or relive. And I love walking. And I love the cold. Why not choose the one day of the year that snow falls and really stays to start? Walk!

Walking after midnight – Patsy Cline for SD, my beautiful firewall.

Walking everywhere – and then realizing that I never take elevators anymore if I can avoid them – makes me think of how influential people in our lives can be in the most imperceptible ways. Little things that change how we do things. One ex-boyfriend always walked and never took the elevator, and eventually that shifted my take on how I get around and … how I ascend (haha) in buildings. (It didn’t help my confidence in elevators that the one in our building was always breaking down.) Another ex-boyfriend insisted that I add color to my wardrobe – I resisted, but long after we split up – right up until today (and that split was, what… 15 years ago?) – I still wear colors and never returned to the all-black wardrobe I donned back then.

It’s funny recounting relationships how we are more prone to cite the landmark things – like how someone’s influence changed your whole feeling about love, made you want to be a better version of yourself, turned you against marriage, made you want to have children or even something like suddenly made you realize the merits of living in a big city versus the suburbs. But in reality the impact in day to day life is evident but almost unacknowledged – whether subtly adopting a word or phrase that that person used frequently, or always taking the stairs.

“Naked Girl Falling Down the Stairs” – The Cramps: An apt tune. Always take the stairs, even if you’re a clumsy one like me, likely to fall down. Naked or not. (Check the awesome picture from when I fell flat on my face on one of Stockholm‘s main streets!)

The Cramps – Naked Girl Falling Down The Stairs

Yes, I fell and fell hard! Bruised and cut-up chin

Yes, I fell and fell hard! Bruised and cut-up chin

Overcrowded: Housing Shortages as Hindrance to Economic Productivity

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Outside of Sweden, people won’t likely know that the Swedish real estate market is a nightmare. I read the other day that right now, properties in Sweden’s cities, both the rental and sale market are at an all-time low, making scarcity of living space one of the biggest hindrances to economic productivity and growth for Sweden’s cities. This “bubble” has been written about for years – and the problem has just gotten worse. Some blame rent control (disincentivizing renting out properties) but the problem goes well beyond that. It is not really an open-market system, such as you find in the US or even Norway.

This would not be of the greatest concern to me, really, because I have a house in rural Sweden within commuting distance of Oslo, Norway, where I used to work.(Yeah, you know, I’m a real country girl.)

Trouble is, last year, I started a job in Gothenburg, Sweden. I knew that it would be difficult to find a flat for rent or purchase, but I did not anticipate the near-impossibility of it. The rental market is flat out a joke – there is nothing available. People luck into available flats or get on an eternally long waiting list or buy rental contracts on the black market. The purchase market, at least when I started planning the move, had a reasonable number of properties on the market – somewhat reasonably priced in terms of asking price, but most would end with a final price well above asking. I went through the viewing, bidding and disappointment process more times than I can count – and it finally became too exhausting. I was living in temporary housing all year (short-term apartments, hotels, etc.). At some point, I gave up.

I did not intend for this to become another article advocating for remote work, but in a roundabout way, that’s what it amounts to. The stress and strain of spending outsized amounts of time searching for a place to live that never materializes coupled with the stress and strain of living in temporary housing and learning a new job on top of it really got to me until finally when this year began, I knew I could not continue and had to renegotiate my work conditions.

I am not alone – but at least in my case, when the housing crunch became too untenable, I could make a play for remote work arrangements. Also, I already live in Sweden, so it is not as though I live halfway around the world (although that should not matter). But the idea that potential employees’ mobility is hampered, and that companies may not be able to hire the talent they want simply because they won’t be able to find a place to live is a serious impediment to economic development and growth and an inconvenience (or worse) to employers and employees.

Yet another compelling reason to look at virtual employment options.

Good Good of Random Gum – Year-End Soundtrack 2013

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The Good Goo of Year-End – Queen Bee in the Hornet’s Nest
Random Gum / Year-End 2013

Complete playlist on Spotify.

1. SONIC CONTROL – “Broken Television on a Neukölln Street”
“I’m a broken television on a Neukölln street/that dog over there just pissed on me/my screen is cracked, my transformers are gone/I was state of the art until it all went wrong…” The dogs of corporate life. Thanks, ML and MS

2. Ladytron – “Mirage” …You don’t listen,/You do not exist…
“Happy not to notice/The room retracts the focus/Where you cannot see/Reflections from within”

3. Elton John – “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” …live for each second, without hesitation…
Song is a sad reminder of childhood & early years of music videos. “I simply love you more than I love life itself”

4. John Grant – “Leopard and Lamb” …Like learning how to crawl across a floor that’s covered with glass/Like learning how to look away and never to look back…
“Watch The Simpsons to remember how you’d laugh…”. For Ph. Friendship ending always hurts more than love

5. Ulali – “Mahk Jchi”
This is like being back in college again. Upon reflection, the most awkward, misguided time of my whole life

6. Royal Headache – “Distant and Vague”
One for wandering central Göteborg. And the title/theme… what/who isn’t “distant and vague”?

7. TV-Resistori – “Koputan puuta”
FUNland! ”But Ginsberg, my balls hurt!” Finnish music that sounds almost Japanese. Music for throwing away perfectly good shoes. For Naomi and ML.

8. Pepe Deluxé – “Lucky the Blind vs. Vacuum Cleaning Monster”
Thinking about Lóa, who loves vacuum cleaners.

9. Les Sans Culottes – “Tout va bien
All the French – Aurélien, Bruno, Tristan, Thierry, Valérie – and so on. All the cool people.

10. Cepia – “Ithaca”
Anything Ithaca, as much horror as it might give her, is for Jill.

11. John Grant – “I Hate This Town”
But then again you always made it clear/That you do not care either way/Which begs the question/How can I still claim to love you/You told me time and time again/That you don’t lose you always win/And that to make an effort would just be beneath you”. John Grant – hands down, one of my favorites

12. Throwing Muses – “Mexican Women” …love becomes a foreign substance…
For Martina and her reflections on Mexican women making piñatas that will just be destroyed – the fleeting nature of beauty. “Up yours, Bruno!” Also, I might as well be a man – I open doors for and bring flowers to women friends. What woman wouldn’t want to marry me? Hahaha. Pachanga! Free fika cake!

13. Yo La Tengo – “Nowhere Near” …everyone is here/but you’re nowhere near…
I have always loved this song, but love resurged when it appeared in the final episode of the US version of The Bridge this year.

14. Marianne Faithfull – “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” …at the age of 37, she realized she’d never ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair…
For a variety of reasons, I really dislike the name Lucy (cue up whiny, snotty British accent for starters). I am sure I had heard this song before (Lee Hazlewood version?) and even think I knew it was written by Shel Silverstein, but it appeared in the Dusan Makavejev film Montenegro, which I only saw recently despite its being made in 1980. I had no idea it was set in Stockholm (you’d never guess from the film’s title!), the dubious heroine a resident of posh island “suburb”, Lidingö. In the early 2000s I went to a film festival in Reykjavik at which Makavejev was the guest – they screened two of his weirder films (they’re all weird)… oh memories. For Leifur.

15. The National – “About Today” …you just walked away/and I just watched you…
What more can really be said about The National? “How close am I to losing you?”

16. The Rolling Stones – “Sympathy for the Devil”
Horrifying memories of hordes of Australians on bus trip; a memory of coming home from kindergarten. My dad was playing this, and it is the only time I remember him choosing willingly to play a record on his own. I was a bit scared/very intrigued by this song because of the title and the drum beat.

17. Martha Wainwright – “Matapedia” …I could not slow down/I was not afraid…
Martha doing one of her mother, Kate McGarrigle’s (RIP) songs – really lovely.

18. Kishi Bashi – “I Am the Antichrist to You” …I was always quick to admit defeat…
“And my heart it shook with fear/I’m a coward behind a shield and spear”

19. The Bee-Gees – “Stayin Alive”
A few years ago when Robin Gibb died, I could not bring myself to include a Bee-Gees song on my mix and instead chose “It Was Disco but Now It’s Over…”. Thanks to TV’s Sherlock and its use of “Stayin Alive”, its worming its way into my brain and all the back and forth with people about disco, Tony Manero (the Saturday Night Fever character and title character of eponymous Chilean film) AND learning that the song provides the right tempo for performing CPR, I could hardly not include it. For Elisa S, Krista H, Adrian K

20. Animotion – “Obsession”
Oh, the 80s. Makes me feel old but brings to mind obsessive statements à la “Nobody has driven me crazy like this for such a long time. Never.” For JKL

21. Run DMC/Aerosmith – “Walk This Way”
Thanks to Jill for the reminder of this song, which I like much better now than in the old days. Late-night, loud rain dance praying with love for Annette.

22. Lia Ices – “Little Marriage”
This song was included on another mix but it’s too beautiful not to use again. It inspires such emotion, bringing an emptiness that longs to be filled to the surface. With love for Jane as always.

23. Jean-Louis Murat – “Colin-Maillard” …Tu traverses le miroir/Ton désir ne veut plus patienter…
Another previous inclusion… the sound and the voice fills me with a kind of melancholy.

24. My Bloody Valentine – “Feed Me with Your Kiss”
MBV released their first album in 20+ years but I select a song from an old album. Nostalgia?

25. The Smiths – “A Rush and a Push”
“Let’s talk about poetry.” The seductive power of knowing a poem or two… stealing things from others’ imaginations.

26. OutKast – “Hey Ya!” …don’t try to fight the feeling/cause the thought alone is killing me right now…
To the joy of knowing Jill: “My baby don’t mess around”

27. Lay Low – “Last Time Around”
Something nice from Iceland, thinking of all my friends there (Alfa, Jane, Lóa, and so on…)

28. Iron & Wine – “Jesus the Mexican Boy”
One of the songs in a playlist I made chronicling dogs, dog and pony shows and Mexicans. For Martina.

29. Belle & Sebastian – “Legal Man” …L-O-V-E – it’s coming back, it’s coming back…
One to lose one’s mind dancing to. “Get out of the city/and into the sunshine/get out of the office/and into the springtime…”

30. Serge Gainsbourg – “Les Sucettes” …Elle est au paradis…
For Jean, who taught me so much, and for JKL, who makes plans he will never keep

31. New Order – “Love Vigilantes”
The confusion of mixing up conversations that started about rotten chuck roast and what I thought was “dal” (as in Indian food) but was actually “dal” as in “valley” (Norwegian). I was wondering, “Since when does dal have chuck roast in it?” But the conversation was really referring to Malala from that “dal” (Swat Valley). J Love my vigilante friend, Annette. And, for Naomi – “O blessed be – my favorite dal of all the dals!”

32. The Bee-Gees – “Night Fever”
Taken aback by the rampant popularity of Daft Punk’s latest offer – it’s good, but in light of the backlash against the Bee-Gees and their sound in the late 70s – it is interesting to hear these sounds make a resurgence.

33. Human League – “Don’t You Want Me?”
Neverending back & forth with ML, who never knows what he wants – just knows it’s whatever he doesn’t have

34. Don Dixon – “Praying Mantis”
For Naomi and the happiness of driving around in a different car.

35. Darker My Love – “Talking Words”
Sitting in the autumn-dark parking lot observing OCD-afflicted people check their doors five or six times

36. Lush – “For Love”
Another song that transports me to an exact time, feeling – making me want to run back to the present

37. Camera Obscura – “Anti-Western” …you’re too good looking, I’m always gonna put up a fight…
Anthem to those stunning but ultimately false moments when you believe (stupidly!) that interest is actually real. How eager even the cynic is to believe sometimes. Thanks to Jill as always.

38. Erasure – “Oh L’Amour”
This will always remind me of the late 80s, very late-night phone calls with JBB – alternate realities that allowed for the most complete and unfiltered feeling I can ever remember feeling

39. Cinerama – “Heels” …you crushed him with your heels/and I know exactly how he feels…
For Mathieu. “I don’t really care that you found another lover/cause I know he’ll be gone the moment that you get bored…”

40. Secret Machines – “Atomic Heels” …uncover your eyes/they’re bloodied in love/who’s staring back at yours, honey what have you missed?…

41. Ladytron – “Seventeen” …they only want you when you’re 17, when you’re 21, you’re no fun…
How to feel old…

42. Lana Del Ray – “Blue Jeans (RAC Mix)” …I will love you til the end of time…
Dislike Lana Del Ray but for some reason like this mix – here’s to new cars and departed Greek dentists.

43. Glen Campbell – “Wichita Lineman” …I need you more than want you
For Naomi – another sort of stalker song.

44. The Bee-Gees – “To Love Somebody”
I put the Roberta Flack version of this on the other part of this mix and knew it had sounded familiar but did not put two and two together until I reheard this version in the film 50/50. The Bee-Gees’ music (as done by other artists) is everywhere. It’s got a sad sort of feel – we’ve all been there, but the “you don’t know what it’s like” also sounds like the condescending sorts who rub your being alone in your face, “You just don’t know what it’s like to be in love…”

45. Blondie – “Faces”
I listened to this – and the whole Autoamerican album – over and over when I was five. No wonder I am so fucked. 🙂 “Rapture” does at least reference Subaru! Memories of Thanksgiving with Lóa (2013)

46. Lou Reed – “Satellite of Love”
Rest in peace and bon voyage.

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What does it take to be fearless and loving? Loving people requires a certain risk-taking fearlessness that I have never really embraced. When I say never, I mean never. But kindness – that can substitute.

I take a lot of risks and make a lot of changes but am still fearful of a lot of things. Perhaps I need to focus on these things before running off on another adventure undertaken for the sake of “change”.

Sudden, unexpected loss everywhere this year – there is no time like the present to do what one needs to do to feel healthy and happy. Happiest new year wishes, as arbitrary as that really is.

The American way – a light extinguished

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“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!”

-Emma Lazarus, from “The New Colossus”

I like to ignore the realities of America now that I don’t live there, but it is true that what happens in the US does affect the world.

Brainwashing in the US begins early. Most people don’t think of it that way – and even rather anti-American people I meet in Europe sometimes think I am going too far when I describe the US system as a form of slavery (especially if one compares it to actual slavery, which of course is an entirely different, toxic and horrifying institution/monstrosity). It might be better to call it indentured servitude, with the indenture owed to student loan companies and increasingly inhumane workplaces. People are too brainwashed to know that that is the machine they are a part of – indoctrinated into the idea that they are would-be millionaires (as John Steinbeck said, ““Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires”) or that “anything is possible” if they work hard enough – and taught from an early age to value material goods over anything else, so that, unless they are actually hit by real hardship, an average American thinks he is prospering because he managed to buy … a new Jeep or something.

I often tell the disembodied and soulless story as one in which you are born and are told from the earliest time that you must get an education, so you go to public school (or whatever form you attend) and basically learn how not to think while a lot of nonsense is hammered into your head and creativity is systematically removed – stay in line, be quiet, color inside the lines, do what everyone else is doing, no that is not the right interpretation of this, there is only one right answer and only one way to get there). Then you are told you have to go to college or else you will not get a job. You go into great debt to do so. Naturally after that your hands are tied by the debt, so you take whatever job you can get rather than whatever job will make you happy – but you are also convinced that you will be happy if you buy the aforementioned Jeep. And of course unquestionably America is the greatest country in the world (and if you question it, get out because you’re no patriot!), so it does not matter that you don’t have the money or time to travel to see the world. You have a Jeep you can drive around with since you have cheap oil! And since you are stuck wherever you are anyway paying your student debt, you might as well do what everyone else does. Buy a house. Get married. You might start to question whether you are happy in your job, but you know you won’t find another one easily anyway … and now you have a kid or two, so you need to stay in your job to keep your healthcare. Then you play the tug-of-war with yourself about whether you can be a good parent, whether you have enough money for their daycare, whether one of the parents should leave their job (if there are two parents, of course) until you enroll your own kid into the same system that produced you just the way you are now and the same story repeats. And repeats and repeats.

This story, even if it differs from individual to individual, is somewhat amazing to incredulous Europeans, who actually don’t think of the details and intricacy of how this average American mind is formed/created. They often just imagine that “Americans are dumb” (broad strokes of generalization, of course) but fail to take the whole system into consideration. When I tell this story to the average American, it is equally amazing because the semi-awake one never thinks about the fact that each chain in the link of his life is some spot where he has been further handcuffed into the, shall we say, chain gang? University costs – mostly free in much of Europe – healthcare – largely free in Europe – daycare subsidized by the state – lots of vacation time and maternity/paternity leave … sure, taxes are slightly higher (but honestly not that much) – and most do not feel like they are enslaved by their jobs. You can leave any time without risking health coverage. These too are generalizations, especially in this era of steep austerity cuts and unemployment at unheard of rates in much of mainland Europe (Scandinavia is not quite in the same position).

The general theme here, though, is that there is a tremendous freedom to this and an impetus to then really think. But how could an average American be expected to think with that whole backstory forming and informing his life?

The American lifestyle and system creates a certain kind of constant fear. Fear of losing one’s job, fear of violence, fear of being sued, fear of in any way being out of step with the norm. I thought about this one night as I was driving my long-distance commute back home and saw a guy hitchhiking trying to get from a town called Bengtsfors to Årjäng (none of which will be familiar to or mean anything to anyone reading this). It may not be charitable of me not to have offered a ride since I was driving right through Årjäng. But hitchhiking is dangerous territory. I have no idea if this guy posed any danger, and maybe anywhere in the world, it would be foolish to chance it, but even if it were almost a guarantee that it would have been safe, I still would not have done it. You can take an American out of America but not shake the full American paranoia out of them. I have more than my share of this paranoia, assuming that everyone has bad or dangerous intentions and ulterior motives. Being American has taught me never to trust anything.

Maybe it is crazy and sounds like I am looking for the boogieman around every corner, particularly in the working world. Somewhere in me, I find it fun to search and apply for (and interview for, if called) jobs. It did not start as a fun hobby – it was more out of necessity when I searched like mad to find a job (as was always the case in my earlier life – applying for 100 jobs and getting maybe one interview or something). But eventually when I did not need to worry about it anymore and did not need a job, I decided it was partly fun, a bit of a game and one can always use interview practice (and potentially a free trip somewhere). But it was partly this paranoia showing its face – companies go under, companies downsize, industries change – you need to be ready and out there and know what the bloody hell is going on. Be ye ever ready, right? And I am.

Before the big crash of 2008, I was living in Iceland and actually went on a lot of interview trips around Europe… Dublin, Antwerp, Brussels, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, London, a few times to Helsinki… cannot complain. While it is not always practical, it usually pays off. I have never once been blindsided. If you are paranoid (and/or American) enough, you will always see the writing on the wall and READ IT.

One of my freelance/side “careers” has ended up being job counselor/life coach/resume-and-interview consultant. Not that I ever wanted to do that. Europeans especially need a bit of coaching in this department because they have never experienced the dog-eat-dog American work culture (and I hope they never reach a point that they experience something quite like that). But Europeans are too soft, and there is no doubt that some things in Europe are slowly moving in a more American direction (although I don’t think it will ever go to the extremes). In my last job, there was a huge reorganization a few years ago, and something like one-third of the company was laid off. When this happens, employment laws offer considerable protection, and most decent employers extend protection and assistance beyond what the law requires. Despite the “helping hand” and the clear signs everywhere that change was afoot, those affected by this first reorg (which they euphemistically called “right sizing”) were completely blindsided because they have never been taught (how nice for them) to read the signs of what is coming. I think most aware Americans in a corporate environment are always paying attention to little things because paying just a bit of attention may pay dividends one way or another. Of course Europeans might be told pointblank that change is coming but never imagine that it will have any effect on them. Many of them were devastated in the first round of layoffs, even though they were poised to get at least half a year of pay (even if they got a new job the next day, they would still get the full pay). And the Norwegian economy was not affected much at all by the global economic downturn – so most people found jobs immediately. Their sense of panic was almost cute in its “working world naivete”. Not that I think it is great that I am so on my toes and ready for anything all the time.

It turned out for the best, of course, when I was sort of part of a later “right sizing” process. I was, as always, prepared. It was rather hilarious when my manager called me to give me the “bad news” – kept saying stuff about how I must feel so devastated and would feel it when the shock wore off. But all these strategies and acute situation awareness enabled an automatic prewarning. I was not shocked; I was not surprised. I was ready.

As we know (or should know), life is not defined by work – or should not be. Somehow, this is where American life and “ideals” derail. Increasingly, people work and work and don’t get anywhere and won’t be able to afford (in terms of time or money) some way out of the situation they are in (this is probably already the case, and I am just out of touch). When I consider that people who work in the service industry do not come close to earning living wages, I am appalled. But the system is set up this way – to glorify and maximize corporate profit, to supply consumer demand for impossibly cheaper and cheaper goods sold in stores staffed by people who cannot afford to eat.

Lovely. What a happy Thanksgiving, America.

Cookies someday soon… Happy Anzac-less Australia Day

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Since taking on several new activities and (for the moment) spending a bit more time in the office, I have not been at home with my dear oven and beloved KitchenAid mixer in order to get some serious baking underway. As a result, Australians throughout the office will be devastated to learn that I have not been able to supply much-loved Anzac biscuits for today’s Australia Day event. (But follow the link! You still have time to make them for yourself!) Likewise, my intention to bake caramel cream cookies remains just that, an intention.

Rest assured, I have an overwhelming amount of serious writing to do for work, which means I will spend a week or so holed up in my house behind the keyboard. This always means that the oven will be going at full throttle as well.

Cookies, dear addicts, will return soon. I would like to say “…return to an office near you…” but recognize that this is misleading. Chances are, they will only turn up at the Opera HQ in Oslo. 🙂

This year, in a reversal of fortune, I am so happy not to be in Iceland for the winter! The main road between Reykjavik and Keflavik, which is NEVER closed, was closed due to snow. This means the weather has reached an insane level of inhospitability. Icelanders are hardy, tough folks for whom a normal blizzard is just “a few flakes of snow”… so I cannot even imagine what is going on over there right now.

Last night, in mildly snowy Oslo, I went to see Reggie Watts‘s live musicomedy act at Parkteatret. Hilarious in that uniquely Reggie way. A long time ago, when I lived in Iceland, I used to know Reggie (briefly). This was before his comedy had taken off, and he was mostly known for fronting the band Maktub. We both had Seattle connections and had a lot of phone conversations. I eventually messed the friendship up by being more than a bit flaky (those were difficult times).

Last night when I saw the show, it suddenly dawned on me how much time had passed since then. In many ways it felt like yesterday, but when I really reflected, I realized how much has happened in my life since we were acquainted — so I can only imagine how much had happened and changed for him. (No wonder he seemed to have very little recollection of me. Not that I am particularly memorable.) The temptation to run to Stockholm to see Reggie’s show tonight is palpable. I will be wise, though, and stick with my working and baking plans (it’s the responsible, and incidentally, selfless, plan).

Happy Australia Day, my Aussie friends!