It Ain’t So Bad Here

So it’s not perfect, not by a long shot, but as the author puts it, “a work in progress”, aiming for an ideal goal which, though perhaps not quite entirely reachable, helps guide us towards an increasingly beneficial society which works for, if not absolutely everyone, then at least as many as possible, and leaves if not no-one then at least as few as possible behind.


A crash course in social democracy by Ann Jones

We’re not strangers to praising ourselves and our own ways — as would be the case of most any nation and flavour of government and social structure — but we’re also willing to take that self-praise, and also, perhaps especially, that of our governing powers telling us how wonderful we are, with the appropriate amount of grains of salt.

Outside praise, however, is a measure that enables us to see how we look from the outside. It’s kind of heartwarming, and makes me appreciate what we have even more.

Again, not perfect, but I’m grateful for what we’ve got, for the freedoms, equality, security and benefits that are the cornerstones of the society that I’ve been lucky enough to be born into. I only hope that we possess the collective wisdom to carry on the good work, and keep building and improving on that which we have.

This year is an election year. Vote with your heart AND with your brain.


A Call to Arms: Hello, This is Fear Speaking

For as long as I’ve lived, and long before that, Norway has taken pride in being one of the few nations in the world where police do not carry weapons, specifically firearms. Now, about two weeks ago there was a terrorist scare; no actual attack ever took place, but according to the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) there had been signs that Someone™ was planning to do Something™ in an undisclosed location at an undisclosed time. As a result, there were heightened security measures in all locations that were considered possible terrorist targets and border crossings, which included an increase in visible police among the general public, and contrary to habit they were carrying guns.

The linked articles are in Norwegian, and for the amount of work involved in doing so I have not provided a translation. Sorry.

Whoever the suspected terrorists were, and whatever they had intended to do, at least thus far never surfaced and never happened. Whether this is due to the unexpected presence of an armed police force, or the fact that they had lost the element of surprise, or any other of a multitude of possible reasons, I do not know. I was happy to see that the arising situation was responded to and measures were taken, and though I cannot be sure because I don’t have the insight, I’m under the impression that it was dealt with better than the 2011 bombing in Oslo and massacre at Utøya (executed by a certain despicable native Norwegian individual, who has later received way too much attention to pamper his inflated and misguided ego, and not an Islamic extremist as many first suspected at the time).

But I digress.

After this interval of heightened security, with the presence of armed police among the public, some people, both among the police, politicians and people in general, have expressed a wish to have our police carrying firearms at all times, as part of their everyday appearance and duties.

My immediate response to this is “No!”. And after a great deal of thinking, it’s still “No!”.

It’s my view that to have the [Norwegian] police begin to carry firearms on a daily basis would be to cross a considerable and important barrier — one which has already been crossed in, say, the United States — in the sense that once available, the threshold towards using them will be severely lowered: first as a deterrent with a drawn gun, then with warning shots, moving on to actually firing at the suspect; non-fatal at first to immobilize, and finally with the intent to kill. Even if this escalation doesn’t take place immediately, a general arming of the police still has the potential to drive developments in that precise direction. The response to the police arming up will be an increase in weapon use among criminals, also among those who today do not normally carry guns.

Not to mention that the presence of loaded firearms in public grossly increases the risk of gunshot accidents even long before their active use has reached deadly proportions.

Min oppfatning er at å la politiet bære skytevåpen på daglig basis vil være å krysse en omfattende og viktig barriere — en som forlengst er krysset f.eks i USA — i den betydning at når de først er tilgjengelige, er terskelen for å ta dem i bruk senket betraktelig: først som avskrekkingsmiddel med trukket våpen, senere med varselskudd, videre med skudd rettet mot mistenkte; først ikke-dødelig for å immobilisere, og endelig for å drepe. Om ikke denne eskaleringen finner sted umiddelbart, vil en generell bevæpning av politiet likevel ha potensiale for å drive en utvikling i nettopp den retningen. Svaret på generell bevæpning av politiet vil være en økning av våpenbruk blant kriminelle, også blant de som i dag ikke naturlig bærer våpen.

For ikke å snakke om at tilstedeværelsen av skarpladde skytevåpen øker risikoen for ulykker med vådeskudd selv lenge før eskaleringen av den aktive bruken har nådd dødelig nivå.

If we decide to arm our police due to fear of religious and ideological extremists existing in the world, then those religious and ideological extremists will have won. They will have scared us into giving up the benefits of our way of life and our freedom, precisely the things that they despise us the most for. Yes, I’m aware that I sound like an American patriot saying that, but I believe it is true.

This last one is just an example illustration. For the record: I do not think that these individuals speak for the majority of their religion or ethnicity, any more than I think that Norwegian nationalist extremists such as neo-nazis (I won’t even grant them a capital letter) or Anders Behring Breivik speak for me or Norwegians in general. We all have our share of loud, annoying and dangerous nitwits among us.

May the 17th be with you!

It’s the 17th of May 2014, Constitution Day, and the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Norwegian Constitution at Eidsvoll in 1814.

At risk of seeming slightly sub-par on the patriotism scale, we decided for once (and by for once I mean for the first time) to sleep in and spend the day in quiet, relaxed celebration at home (I basically needed the sleep after a week of late shifts), and watch the parades on TV, rather than rush off in a hurry to see them in person as we usually do.

Norwegian National Day parades are traditionally dominated by children and marching bands. In fact we do take pride in the fact that, aside from the royal guard’s marching band in Oslo, it’s a wholly civilian celebration, pretty much a Children’s Day, with hardly any military elements present. In fact I was commenting on this when, suddenly …

The 501st Legion: Nordic Garrison
in full force in the 2014 Trondheim parade!


Image rudely borrowed from NRK without asking.

Fortunately this was a peaceful occupation, and the presence of stormtroopers was purely ceremonial. It is a good thing that, after their brief invasion of Hoth (Finse), the Galactic Empire found our planet too insignificant and backwards to be worth the bother of taking over permanently.


Image rudely borrowed from NRK without asking.

I would love to join up (even though they’re the bad guys), but unfortunately I know all too well what Princess Leia would have said:

“Aren’t you a little fat for a stormtrooper?”

But wait, there’s more! A group of Japanese game and cartoon-inspired cosplayers had shown up, too. Good sports, and utterly kawaii! It may not be proper Norwegian tradition as such, but it certainly adds a lot of colour to the parade.


Image rudely borrowed from NRK without asking.

As a long time Star Wars fan, and father of two cosplay fans, I wholeheartedly approve of this! 🙂

Related links

Tønsberg — From Hollywood to reality

As a resident of a small and, from a global perspective, relatively anonymous town in Norway (ten out of nine Americans would be unable to place it on a map) it’s always nice to notice international recognition, even if the recognition in question is bordering on unrecognisable, barely noticeable without subtitles, which brings it to the point of being questionable. But hey, that’s entertainment!

Take Tønsberg, for instance. Dating back to 871 A.D. it’s the oldest town in Norway, well rooted in the Viking era. It’s a place of history, and home to some 40,000 people.

 
“Thor” and “Captain America” — Big Movies in Little Tønsberg

Hollywood’s Marvel Universe blockbusters visit Tønsberg not once, but twice, first in in Thor, and second in Captain America. Not only that, but it appears during the first three to four minutes of both movies, and though it only lasts for a minute or two, it sets the foundation for each of the storylines. That’s not at all bad for a place which the average person has barely if ever heard of.


Three minutes and thirty-seven seconds into “Thor”, with brightness increased significantly.
Click here for original pretty dark version.

I can’t help but notice, though, that the filmmakers didn’t bother to do their shots on location, and they cannot possibly have had the faintest idea about Tønsberg except how to spell it. One can only assume that they are blissfully unaware of maps.


Three minutes and forty-four seconds into “Captain America”, also somewhat brightened for detail.
Dark original likewiseways here for your clicking pleasure.

It’s hard to believe that a humble church in Tønsberg was home to the Tesseract, a magical, shiny cube which is not only the most powerful energy source in the world, but also serves as a portal between Asgard and Earth through which both baddies and gods may travel, and nobody knew! Nobody, that is, except for Herr Agent Schmidt from Das Deutsche Matrix, or something, but then it would require the skills and experience of an Elven Sith Lord from Rivendell to unravel the mysteries surrounding this wondrous artifact.


Agent Schmidt finds the Tesseract in a humble church in Tønsberg,
and he’s not taking it to Mount Doom for recycling.

Norway is known for its mountains and fjords, so I can easily understand how someone might be mistaken on this point, but it so happens that although Vestfold county sits along the Oslo Fjord, it is also the flattest county in the entire country, almost comparable to Denmark (which I have every confidence that any Hollywood director worth his salt could easily plant in the middle of the Swiss Alps and get away with it). In other words, the topography of an ever so slightly wrinkled pancake.

You may notice from these screenshots how, with the passing of centuries, the mountains grow progressively shorter. This could conceivably be attributed to natural erosion, but in that case nature has been exceptionally busy. It’s more likely that each production team didn’t have a clue what the other was doing, and that they were of the predisposition that neither continuity nor factual correctness have anything to do with making great movies.


Tønsberg, present day, according to Google Maps. Not a mountain in sight!

Behold modern day Tønsberg, as it appears on Google Earth (for lack of aerial photos in Creative Commons). There are few places flatter than this. There are, however, places elsewhere that resemble the mountainous and fjordious scenery presented in “Thor”.

«If you took the town of Tønsberg, scrunched it up a bit, shook out all the farms and fields, hurled it hundreds of miles across the country and filled it with cruise ships then you’d be wasting your time, because it looks very much as if someone has already done it. Welcome to Geiranger¹


Geiranger, and the Geiranger Fjord (image: wikipedia.org).

Now, if you are going to use a Geiranger-ish location, it puzzles me that it gets named after a place which not only looks nothing like it, but in fact is its exact opposite. I have no idea how Hollywood producers do their thinking or gather their inspiration, or how much margin of error they allow in their not-looking-up-the-basics-about-places-they’re-going-to-pretend-to-use-in-their-movies-at-all, but it’s kind of amusing, which is OK because Hollywood is all about entertainment anyway.


Routes between Tønsberg (south) and Geiranger (north):
The straight and short (red), and the long and winded (blue) routes between them. (image: Google Maps)

The distance between Tønsberg and Geiranger is 360 km (225 miles) as the crow flies (helicopter or hydroplane recommended as Geiranger has no airport), or about 670 km (420 miles) by road. I might add that I have so far visited Geiranger only once, and I was treated to a view that only the thickest of fogs can provide. You don’t see that on any postcards, which is hardly surprising because we couldn’t see anything at all.


Geiranger in rather inconveniently dense fog, approximately the consistency of spun sugar,
taken on our West Coast vacation trip in 2007 A.D.

Which brings us to the final paragraphs. What am I trying to say here? Basically two things:

  1. It’s fun to see your home town featured in a Hollywood blockbuster, and
  2. Don’t expect Hollywood to get even the simplest, most basic facts right, ever 😉

Footnoteses:

  1. A variation of
    “If you took the whole of Norway, scrunched it up a bit, shook out all the moose and reindeer, hurled it ten thousand miles around the world and filled it with birds then you’d be wasting your time, because it looks very much as if someone has already done it. Welcome to New Zealand.”
    Douglas AdamsLast Chance to See (1990).

Related linkses:

Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter

Moments are brief, they arrive unannounced, and if you don’t pay attention they’ll be gone before you even notice them.

So also with this one, which occurred on February 21, a Friday, just before 7 pm,. In a time span of more or less what it takes to shake your head and wonder what just happened, a family of four deer had arrived, hurried past, and disappeared into the dark again. The time stamps of these photos go from 18:54:05 to 18:54:44, an entire little eternity which lasted all of 39 seconds.

Add to that the time it took for me to notice and identify the faint, barely visible shadows at the edge of the forest, and get my camera out of the bag (which I carry with me most of the time for just such occasions), set a high ISO to compensate for the low light, and start shooting, and we’re talking about just under a minute.

All photos © Bjørnar Andre Haveland

Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter

Appearing by the power station, tentatively taking one step after another as they aim to cross the road at the hither side of the field, and continue to the forest on the other side. It was pretty dark, considerably darker than in the pictures, and shadows at that distance tend to lose themselves among other shadows.

At this point they hardly move, checking for signs of danger. Apparently a 6′4″ human with a Nikon for a nose, at 150 meters (164 yards) distant, does not make enough of a presence to disturb them.

Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter

First one is away! Presumably Papa Deer, making the first dash toward the halfway point at the side of the road. Second runner — I’m guessing Mama Deer — followed in the tracks of the first, mere seconds later, and the last two were hot on her heels, wasting no time.

Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter

Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter

Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter

Claiming right of way, and taking it, not at all deterred by the approaching cars. Fortunately the driver of this Volkswagen spotted them from a safe distance and slowed down to a soft halt less than five metres from the animals, who in turn wasted no time getting across.

Five metres, and I was at a hundred and fifty. I did feel a small sting of envy at the driver’s far superior vantage point, with the deer practically under his nose. I certainly hope he appreciated his luck.

Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter

Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter

Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter

Well over on the other side, it was like watching a flock of birds heading for the safety of the trees, and with neither fanfare nor ceremony, less than a minute after I first noticed them, they were gone.

Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter   Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter

Close-up of the hoof-prints where they crossed the road. This is just one of the things that I love about living in the countryside. You don’t get to see this happening in the city.

Camera: Nikon D7000, Lens: Nikkor DX 18–135mm 1:3.5–5.6G ED, ISO: 3600
Shutter: 1/200s, Aperture: 1:5.6, Focal length: 135mm (202mm equivalent)

The photo set on Flickr

Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 1/15 Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 2/15 Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 3/15 Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 4/15 Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 5/15
Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 6/15 Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 7/15 Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 8/15 Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 9/15 Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 10/15
Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 11/15 Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 12/15 Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 13/15 Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 14/15 Four-Deer Wildlife Encounter 15/15

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