Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself." - Nietzsche

Today was a 'get shit done' day

I FINALLY went to Skatt øst( which literally translates to Tax East) today and applied for a Norwegian ID number. Should have done this back in September but I've been busy/lazy. So now it'll take 4-6 weeks (aka 8 weeks) for this to process. After which I'll finally be able to open a bank account here and not have to pay my rent in cash and worry about pin pads not taking foreign cards (rare but it happens). Another awesome thing is their Visas are both debit/credit cards, and are considered official ID because they put your picture on the back. I'll finally not have to carry my passport to the bar- something that's not even a Norway thing since I don't have any other ID in Canada either.
The tax office is in Grønland so I decided to drop by the big fruit market there where you can by fruit that is almost guaranteed to be fresher (and cheaper) than anything in Norwegian shops. So I bought apples, pears, plums, lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, and some cheap spaghetti.
I had heard the place next door was a bit of a mishmash of random cheaper stuff so I went in there too, and boy it was awesome. A really weird mix of stuff, kinda reminded me of a dollar store but had a selection of nicer pricier stuff too. The general disarray of the store was off-putting since they had shelves lying everywhere and a couple aisles partially blocked with crap but I'm going to assume they're just reorganizing. I bought some school supplies and a couple kitchen things and generally really happy I went there.
Went home after that to drop everything off. Made a frozen pizza for dinner and ate it while watching the new episode of Castle. I truly love Nathan Fillion. After that was done I headed back out to campus and spent an hour in the student library reading about Norwegian stave churches because I'm going to have to write an essay about them soon.
I had considered going back downtown to Oslo City and buying a kettle (I really want my oatmeal and tea) but I didn't want to carry around my laptop. So I dropped crap off and went grocery shopping and did something I had been meaning to do for a while. Recycle my coke bottles.
I drink quite a lot of coke, which is a mistake since it's bad for you and costs SO much here. A six pack of .5L bottles is usually my most expensive purchase. At home we just throw all our bottles into the recycling bin and they get picked up but here you can bring them back to the store and get money for them by feeding them through a cool little machine. I haven't done this since I moved here so I had two bags full. Ended up getting 53kr back. That's almost $10.
Part of the reason I had avoided taking them back was because of the garbage pickers and I didn't want people to think I was one of them. (yeah yeah occasionally I do care what people think of me, now shut up). These are people who wander around Oslo looking through all the garbage bins for empty bottles and cans they can return for money. I know they must be pretty desperate to 1. go through trash and 2. because they can't find many more bottles then what I turned in, meaning they work for less than $10 a day. But I don't really feel sorry for them honestly. Oslo gets a flood of beggars in the summer -they disappear once it's too cold so they obviously have somewhere to go. Real homeless people- I have great sympathy for; migrant beggars- not so much.
Anyway, back to the getting shit done thing- I then cleaned my room. *gasp!* I know! It's a shocker. I swept my floor and wiped down all the counters and organized stuff. Still need to do laundry but I've got another week or two before I run out of clothes.
This post may seem a little stupid to some people. 'Oh wow, you went to an office, went shopping, and then cleaned your room? That's a normal day'. Well yeah, but I'm a little weird. I like going out maybe once a day. I don't like making a bunch of little trips everywhere. I like going, doing what I need to do, and then coming home. Once I'm settled for the day, I'm rooted. If I do something in the evening I like having a plan for it earlier in the day, BUT no earlier than the day before because I don't like being tied down to a social commitment. I wasn't always like this, I remember the days when I was called to party at 1:40 and running to the bar and ordering before last call at 1:50. Now I'd probably say 'wtf is wrong with you, I'm in my pjs and settled for the evening?' Is this maturity? or just being lame? Whatever, it makes me happy.
Anyways, bunch of stuff that I still need to do. Buy a kettle, salt shaker, a fucking pillow (still using the inflatable neck rest). And I'm sure there's a lot more. And that's just in life, TONS more stuff for school.

-Ash the Viking.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Never Let Me Go- Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go is a dystopian type novel located in the English countryside. The story is told by Kathy who is looking back on her life and friendships. This book has a lot in it about memory, how we perceive events as children and have to reevaluate looking back. It's hard to really say anything about this book without including spoilers so I'll just generally say that this book is very frustrating. You wish like you can speak to the characters and shake them or something but you can't. This book isn't horrifying in the horror movie sense but in the implications of the social reality in the novel and in the legitimate criticisms of modern real society that are the inspirations behind them. I didn't enjoy this novel as much as many other classic dystopias but it did what a dystopia is meant to do- make you think. 4/5 rating.
The reason I read the book was because of the movie trailer so shortly after finishing the book I decided to watch the film. The book is of course better, the movie misses a lot of the subtlety. There's less about the attitudes of the regular people, there's a couple hints at it but nothing that really gets the point across and a couple instances where they included scenes from the book but didn't include the stuff leading up to that event or its consequences so it's more difficult to discern its significance.
Trailer here:

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fire Alarms and student living

Currently listening to the delightful ringing of the fire alarm. This is at least the third time in 24 hours that the alarm has gone off. I bet the fire department absolutely hates these student residences. I know the super sensitive alarms are supposed to keep us safe in the event of a real fire alarm but I think it does the opposite. It's very 'boy who cried wolf'. The grand majority of people ignore them knowing that someone just burnt something and set the alarm off. If you do go outside you can tell it's only a very small portion of the hundreds that live in the building. So if there was a real fire most people wouldn't even bother leaving their rooms which increases the likelihood of casualties. I propose much much less sensitive smoke detectors.

Couple other fun things of student living:
Hearing people have sex through the wall. It doesn't bother me since I've heard enough of it through the walls of my old home in Waterloo but it's much less fun because I can't really tease these people about it since I don't know them well enough.

Cleaning of common areas.
This is always always a big issue when you live with a bunch of people. People's levels of cleanliness don't align or perhaps they've simply never had to clean up after themselves and they don't realize how big of a slob they really are. Usually in any grouping there will be one person who takes it upon themselves to write lovely little passive- aggressive notes and leave them about the kitchen. In most housing situations I consider this note writing cowardly and annoying and would rather people actually personally address the person that is causing the problem instead of leaving notes alluding to it. But, in this living space I think it is somewhat understandable because we don't really know everyone.
Just perhaps not to this level:

It's her week to clean the kitchen which is probably the reason for the flurry of notes. Of course the same time I took these pictures there was a pile of three garbage bags waiting to be taken out so while she apparently had time to write and post all these she didn't have time for a 2 minute elevator ride.

Oh Student life. I really cannot wait until I can afford to have my own apartment.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bunch of Book Reviews

So for the past couple of years I've had a goal of reading at least 50 books a year and I'm concerned about reaching that goal this year. I've completed 27/50 due to poor reading performance earlier in the year and only have three months left. That would typically be plenty of time to read 23 books but there's that whole Masters degree thing taking up my pleasure reading time. So I decided to read some children's lit and short reads to pad to numbers a bit.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
A bored girl discovers an alternate world with an alternate mother offering her all the things and adventure her own mother doesn't provide but with clearly she has clearly sinister motives. Interesting concept but I found it frightfully basic and predictable. 3/5

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

A baby escapes an attack on his family by going into a graveyard where he is adopted by its ghostly inhabitants. They raise him with the aid of a mysterious guardian named Silas who is neither living nor dead who provides food and material goods for the child. The child named Nobody or "Bod" learns life lessons from beyond the grave and out in the real world. Much more interesting and touching story than Coraline though the last third of the book seemed rushed. 3.5/5

I know Gaiman has leagues of ravenous fans but he honestly does very little for me. I've read these two books, Anansi Boys, American Gods, and his collaboration with Pratchett Good Omens, and I don't really understand the hype. Good Omens was a fantastic read but I felt I enjoyed the Pratchett touches more than the Gaiman ones. American Gods was interesting to me only because of the high Norse myth involvement, I'm sure if the main people were of any other mythology I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did. With most of his work I love the concept of it and think they contain some marvelous ideas but I don't love the final product- At least not to the extent where I understand the sheer level of cult following he has achieved. 

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Most people read this in elementary school but my teacher in that grade preferred to give us books that were a couple levels of reading comprehension lower then what she should have. This book has been controversial because I'm pretty sure it was the first dystopian novel aimed at children though it is beyond tame compared to current offerings like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins(fantastic series). I wish I had read this first when I was younger, I probably would have been shocked by it. 3/5.

The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore
Moore is always hilarious. I didn't find this book as side-splitting funny as A Dirty Job or Lamb but still quick and easy fun that definitely made me LOL several times. He is simply fantastic at weaving a perfect description of a ridiculous scene. He's also great at writing the POV of a stupid dog. 4/5
"Of course they're depressed, they're rats." Theo said. Gabe glared at him. "Well imagine waking up to that every morning," Theo continued. "'Oh, it's a great day, crap, I'm still a rat. Never mind.'"

Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi
Very different from the rest of these books and a departure from my regular type of reading. This deals with Portia de Rossi's (from Arrested Development fame) struggle with her eating disorder as she constantly feels like she is not skinny or good enough for hollywood. She's constantly striving for approval from her coworkers, wardrobe people, the press, and her family. She got down to an unbelievable 82 pounds before collapsing on set. It was really shocking to see inside the mind of someone with an eating disorder and try and comprehend the all-consuming nature of their relationship with food. While reading about her lowest point in her weight I'm actually currently at the highest weight I've ever been which had interesting effects on how I read the text. It also shocked me that after she crashed Portia swung back up in weight to about what I currently weigh which I have a hard time imagining. The end of the book was very touching as she finally comes to terms with her body and her sexuality. I think she's a great actress and am very glad that she found happiness and love with Ellen and more importantly with herself. Can't wait to see her in the new Arrested Development season and movie that is supposed to happen. 3/5

Tomorrow I think I'm going to start Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

So today is the Canadian thanksgiving and my first holiday away from my family. Thanksgiving is my favourite holiday because all the family is there, food is great (I fricken love turkey), there's no hassle of buying gifts, and no religious pretense.
Technology really does make it easier to span the distance between people as I used Skype to call my brother's house at midnight (6pm their time) and got to video chat with my entire family as they were enjoying some after dinner drinks and dessert. My niece tortured me with a piece of chocolate fudge mousse cake, the brat. They also bragged about the weather considering it was mid-20s and sunny there and about 8 degrees and rainy here.
My mom is super sweet and arranged for a fruit basket to be delivered to me here because I was missing the holiday. I unfortunately missed the delivery on Friday (I ignore the buzzer unless I know why it's ringing) and it should be delivered tomorrow afternoon. I'm quite excited for fruit as I realized yesterday it's been a while since I had any. (tsk tsk, I know) I was also very happy to receive a package from home my mom sent about 7 weeks ago that had a cozy blanket and some winter supplies along with copious amounts of oatmeal, some toiletries, and a couple boxes of the quintessential student food Kraft Dinner.
When it stops raining I'm going to try and see what autumn has done to Oslo, I noticed lots of fallen leaves earlier in the week and I'm sure it looks as lovely here as it does in Canada. Since I don't have any of my own pictures, here's a stolen pic of a Canadian autumn from my friend Amy.

photo cred Amy V