Saturday, April 30, 2005

Tuscan trip 5: Florence 1

(Florence, Italy - April 20th, 2005)

After going by train to Florence and walking the short distance from the train station to my hotel through crowded streets, it was necessary to lay down for a while to rest. There were many people in Pisa, but Florence is something else - queueing will probably be an integral part of my stay here.

I didn't do much on my first afternoon in Florence - I headed for the David statue in Piazza della Signorina. It was great, although a tiny voice in my head kept reminding me that it was not the real thing. Then I walked to Galleria d'Accademia, just to be sure where it was for today's visit. No problem there. The distances are so short that I begin to realize why there are people everywhere...

Had a Chinese dinner close to the Accademia - perfectly ok. (And less expensive than in Norway: €10.50 for two spring rolls, sweet&sour with pork (rice included), a Sprite and an espresso. The reason I keep mentioning prices is that I've been warned of the cost here...) I also went to a supermarket to buy some food - so now I'm ready for some long, fine days in Florence!

Tuscan trip 4: Pisa 2

(Pisa, Italy - April 19th, 2005)

McDonald's for breakfast. I just couldn't help it - being hungrily in need of something quick before heading for the streets of Pisa. I'll restart my diet in a week... :-)

I've been walking the streets, photographing the Arno, and seen far too many altar paintings in the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo. Had I been more interested, I should have bought an audio guide, but pre-1400 art is not my favorite. Lots to see, though. A couple of Giottos, even. I preferred the Donatello.

I even bought a Florence guide for kids: looked fresh. "Florence. Just add water" is the title.

Now I got my "piccolo pizza margherita" - my lunch. After that, I'm heading for the train station and Florence.

Tuscan trip 3: Italian traffic

(Pisa, Italy - April 19th, 2005)

In less than 20 hours in Italy, I've seen one man lying in the street (surrounded by helpers) and in another instance a motor bike surrounded by police... I hope this does not reflect the safety of Italian traffic...

Tuscany trip 2: Pope and porn

(Pisa, Italy - April 18th, 2005)

The italians are a pious people - at least some of them. Therefore, I was a little surprised to see calendars and magazines on the pope displayed directly next to porn in the news stands. This picture is from the Central Station in Pisa.

Thanks, Ian McCulloch

The world championship in snooker is going on in Sheffield these days, of course. The final will be between surprise Shaun Murphy and Matthew Stevens. What I'd like to do, however, is to say thanks to Ian McCulloch for his wonderful play in this tournament - and his positive attitude. He made this world championship worth watching... I hope I'll get to see him a lot the next season as well...

I'm 31 % Republican

I am:
"You're probably one of those chicken-littles who thinks maybe we should worry a little bit, occasionally, about the fate of the planet that our lives all depend on."

Are You A Republican?

(I take this as an insult... I'm NOT 31 % Republican... Maybe 10 %, but no more...)

"This is not a public document, so we would not talk about it..."

The Poz Life writes on the unfolding sex scandal involving pope Benedict XVI. Apparently, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger tried to discourage bishops from alerting the police when sexual abuse was discovered.

How immoral can you get? Of course, any child molestor will want to keep the police out of the case, but that's not how society works... I'm happy there is at least a critical press that will try to expose the immorality of the pope.

Adam and Eve

I'll tell you the story of Adam and Eve:

When Adam and Eve were children, they spent most of their time in the garden of Eden. There they played and had fund and had no worries at all. Eden was the creation of Eve's father - he was a very good gardener in his spare time.

It's true that Adam and Eve had no worries at all, but the same cannot be said of Eve's father. As his daughter approached puberty, he was feeling a bit uncertain about her playing in the nude with this neighbour boy. And, even though he had never mentioned the word - so he was quite sure she had no idea what it was - he was afraid they might have sex some day.

One day Adam and Eve were throwing an apple to each other, Eve happened to throw the apple at Adam's dick. Adam screamed out loud, and Eve rushed over to sooth him and to blow on the wound. But no matter how much she cared for it, the swelling only seemed to grow. Eve thought it looked a little like a snake, and was too tempted to resist touching it.

Adam and Eve kept up their research, but one day Eve's father realized what they were doing. He was furious. "Get out of my garden!" he screamed, "and you will find that life is hard work and misery".

Well, they did find that out. They also realized how much they didn't know about sex. After experimenting a little, Adam realized that he was gay and moved in with a neighbourhood carpenter. Eve fell in love with the owner of a nudist resort, where she's always busy spreading the word on nude recreation.

And her father? Well, if he's not dead yet, he's still furious at other people having their own free will - sitting in his living room looking out at an increasingly messy garden, which he doesn't care to keep in order any more...

Friday, April 29, 2005

Tuscany trip 1: Pisa

(Pisa, Italy - April 18th, 2005)

Just think it over: a city where not even the tower is straight...

I loved the first day of my short Tuscany holiday. My plane landed about half past one, and there was a short and ridiculously cheap bus ride to the centre of town. I soon found my "hotel" - just a spare room in a flat, really - and headed to the Tower.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is just one of those monuments you need to see if you have the chance - even though its image is well-known. Whether it's worth €15 to climb the tower is another matter. I did it partly to be able to say "I've climbed the leaning Tower of Pisa" and partly for the sensation of climbing "leaning stairs". That was quite interesting at times. However, I didn't go to the very top (the "voluntary" part), as it didn't feel quite right at the moment. So there I am: I've paid €15 to almost climb to the top of the Tower of Pisa...

I haven't done much else yet. I've seen the Arno, taken something like 90 pictures and seen A LOT of gorgeous Italian men. (But as always: See, don't touch... :-) )

(The diary from my stay in Tuscany in the end of April of 2005 are published in my blog now that I'm back home.)

RTW 15: Moorea

I stayed on Moorea for a week - while going to Papeete for a few trips when I had some work to do at the IUFM. I stayed at the idyllic Linareva - in a bungalow all to myself. There was a friendly staff, bicycles and canoes for loan and mostly perfect. The only problem for a guy without a car was that the distance to the nearest place to eat (except the expensive restaurant on the premises and Daniel's Pizza nextdoors (which was great)) was a bit large. I had to depend on the bus, which was a bit erratic.


I had a job interview while on Moorea as well, and in contrast with the one I had while in Papeete, I actually got the job - and still has it... I had Oslo University College call a telephone booth in Moorea the middle of the night. It was raining cats and dogs and I was wearing a t-shirt, shorts and sandals. I guess I'll never again get away with wearing that for a job interview...

The road passing Linareva.

One of the days I also took a bus to the northern part of the island, and walked from there up to the middle of the islands. Lots of vegetation everywhere, some interesting mareae and a nice view. Here's a picture from that trip:

That's about all I have to say of Moorea. I had a wonderful few days there - mostly in peace and quiet. I'll throw in two more pictures for good measure...

Next stop: Los Angeles...

Previous installments on my trip:
RTW 14: Papeete
RTW 13: Auckland
RTW 12: Rotorua
RTW 11: Napier
RTW 10: Wellington
RTW 9: Arthur's Pass
RTW 8: Christchurch
RTW 7: Queenstown
RTW 6: Dunedin
RTW 5: Sydney
RTW 4: Singapore
RTW 3: Mauritius
RTW 2: Réunion
RTW 1: Johannesburg

Ham-Kam - Aalesund 2-1

Ham-Kam beat Aalesund 2-1 on Sunday - playing very well in the first half and then falling apart in the second, but still getting a deserved win.

After this, Ham-Kam is still 3 points ahead of my expectations. They're now 4th in the Norwegian Tippeligaen.

The next match is Bodø/Glimt away on May 1st. This is a match where I expect Ham-Kam to take all the points. Bodø/Glimt has started the season with three losses, and desperately needs a win.

Runar Berg is one of Bodø/Glimt's most important players.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Tromsø - Ham-Kam 1-0

According to the reports, Tromsø played very well parts of today's match, and beat Ham-Kam 1-0. Of course, Ham-Kam had chances to score, but didn't take them. This means that Ham-Kam is 6th - and still three points ahead of my expectations for this season. Next week, they'll meet Aalesund at home, a match where they should keep all three points (even though Aalesund has had a terrific start of their season, with a draw against Rosenborg and a win at home over Odd.)

Lars Iver Strand

Morten Gamst Pedersen - sold to England last year

Denied to interview gay LOTR actor Ian McKellen writes that NRK, the Norwegian state broadcaster, has decided that their journalist Per Sundnes will not be allowed to interview Lord of the Rings star Ian McKellen as part of a seminar arranged by Oslo Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. The reason is that the seminar is part of "sexual politics" (seksualpolitikk).

It's quite amazing to see that such medieval attitudes are still present at the top of NRK - that anything to do with gays are thought of as controversial.

When confronted with this, Otto Haug denies that "sexual politics" has been used as a reason, and that the reason is that "Oslo Gay & Lesbian Film Festival is an actor (aktør) in society, and in this setting he would have been seen as a part of this actor." Well, who are not "an actor in society"? And why is Oslo Gay & Lesbian Film Festival more controversial than others?

NRK: think again...

(Note: I'm myself a part of the periphery of Oslo Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, although I have no part in arranging this seminar.)

Saturday, April 16, 2005

thinking with my fingers: Schadenfreude

Torill Mortensen: writes in her blog that "If you read Norwegian and are concerned about
- college and university ranking
- statistics
- journalism
- the quality reform

you should read Sven Erik Skarsbø's open letter to Terje Osmundsen (pdf) about the weekly magazine Mandag Morgen and their ranking of Norwegian Colleges and Universities.

Sometimes it feels really good to see incompetence blatantly revealed by people who have taken their time both to find the flaws and check them. Delicious reading on a slightly disillusioned day."

Indeed. "Mandag morgen", a Norwegian newsletter, did a ranking of Norwegian colleges and universities that were so full of errors and bad logic that tearing it apart must have been quite fun work for Skarsbø.

For instance, "Mandag morgen" argues that diversity is important, and goes on to rank colleges having 66 % female staff higher on "diversity" than colleges with 50,3 %. (So a 100 % female staff would give top score on "diversity".)

"Mandag morgen" also gives higher rank to colleges with high student:teacher ratio than others. Most students would think that it would be a good idea to go to a college where there were few students per teacher, but according to "Mandag morgen", this shows "inefficency".

Even given their faulty logic and strange criteria, "Mandag morgen" doesn't manage to calculate the scores correctly.

The whole "study" tells a lot about the state of Norwegian colleges - at least the colleges that have "educated" the people behind this "study".

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Ham-Kam - Vålerenga 3-1

In a strong match today, Ham-Kam beat Vålerenga 3-1. Ham-Kam had a lucky 1-0 lead at the break, but Vålerenga made the 1-1-goal right in the start of the second half. Vålerenga was lucky not to let in more goals in the start of the second half, but after a while, Vålerenga managed to level the field and had chances to take the lead. In the end, however, Ham-Kam made a convincing 3-1 victory.

As I said before the match, this is a match that Vålerenga should win. Already, Ham-Kam is three points ahead of my prognosis (which would lead to an 8th place).

In another match, Rosenborg lost two points by only making a draw against the underdogs Aalesund, so both favourites have done rather badly today.

Gay adoption and "mater est" and others report that Arbeiderpartiet (Labour Party), Norway's largest party, has decided to work for adoption for gays and for the "mater est" rule.

Currently, Norwegians may marry (if they're straight) or have a "civil union" (if they're gay), but the two forms of relationship are not equivalent. Gay couples are not allowed to adopt children (even though even single persons are). The proposal that Arbeiderpartiet now supports (and which was first proposed by SV, the far left party), is to make the laws gender neutral - which means that straights and gays will have the same rights when they marry.

Currently, children born into heterosexual marriages automatically get two parents under the law - according to the "pater est" principle (by which the mother's husband is assumed to be the father unless something else is proved). Children born into gay "marriages" (civil unions) only get one parent (the biological mother). According to this proposal, there will be a "mater est" principle.

These are good news. I only hope that my own party, Venstre (the liberal party) supports these proposals as well.

Norwegian election 2

Okay, we are closing in on the Norwegian parliamentary election - only five months to go... This has happened in the polls since last time.

Current polls give the A+SV+Sp alternative 92 representatives in the parliament, which is a solid majority (the total is 169). The current coalition government gets 42 representativs. Good bye, Kjell Magne Bondevik!

This is the current situation in the polls:
RV 1.3 (+0.6) (0)
SV 15,4 (+1.0) (28)
This party always wins the promises war, but have never before had to try to fulfill them. They may have to this time. There is much talk on whether SV and A will be able to get a majority on their own, without Sp.
A 29.3 (-1.2) (53)
A wants to take over again, but is unable to say much about what they want to do if they win the election - mostly because they know that governing with SV and Sp will mean a strange hybrid of policies that will be highly unappealing to voters. Will probably lose a little more voters on letting labor unions into the top positions of the party again.
V 2.6 (-0.2) (0)
V will lose both of their representatives if the election is as terrible as these polls...
KrF 6.7 (-0.4) (12)
SP 5.9 (+0.1) (11)
It will be interesting to see if Sp will approach the 4 % limit in this election...
H 16.9 (-0.6) (30)
FrP 19.5 (+0.3)(35)
Others 2.6

(The numbers are taken from Bernt Aardal's destilled version of several recent polls.)

The Sorting Hat

You scored 12% Slytherin, 24% Ravenclaw, 48% Gryffindor, and 48% Hufflepuff!
Are you sure that you belong at Hogwarts? You show no defined personal characteristics and therefore no house preference. Perhaps you should seriously consider a lucrative career in dentistry or tax preparation -- or allow the Sorting Hat to redetermine your place at a later date.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 33% on Slytherin
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 33% on Ravenclaw
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 33% on Gryffindor
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Hufflepuff
Link: The Sorting Hat Test written by leeannslytherin on Ok Cupid

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Norway favorites in Eurovision Song Contest (!)

Amazingly, Centrebet holds Norway as favorites to win the Eurovision Song Contest this year (odds 5.50) - with ironic rock group "Wig Wam".

The reason is probably simple: with a song that is something completely different from what people are used to get from the Eurovision Song Contest, it will at least be noticed... And the song is actually on the top of the Norwegian singles chart this week.

Straight guy sold girlfriend to 100 men

VG writes of a straight Swede who is sentenced to ten years in prison for forcing his girlfriend to have sex to more than 100 men. He repeatedly threatened to kill her, forced her to keep a walkie-talkie at all times and listened in to her phone calls. She dared not protest when he took pornographic photos of her and published them on a webpage where he offered her sexual services for pay.

Straight people just don't seem to get a normal, healthy attitude towards sex.

Ham-Kam - Vålerenga

Tomorrow is the first match of the season in the Norwegian soccer league. Ham-Kam will meet Vålerenga, last year's silver medallist (in a series that Rosenborg won by only one single goal). Bookmakers believe that Vålerenga should come second again this year, while Ham-Kam is guessed to be number eight, so this is a match Vålerenga should win. Vålerenga won both matches last year - but still I believe Ham-Kam might surprise us and give Vålerenga a difficult start to this season. Steffen Iversen, one of Norway's best players, is supposed to be injured, which weakens Vålerenga.

Two of Vålerenga's players:

Steffen Iversen (injured).

Ardian Gashi

Gashi and Iversen

Friday, April 08, 2005

Some queer comics...

Ragnar Brynjúlfsson has created some queer comics that are available on his page. Have a look!

You know you need a new PC when... see this window:

News Sentinel | 04/01/2005 | Nude statues must be cloaked

News Sentine writes: "The Venus di Milo had better wear a top, and Michelangelo’s David should put on some pants if they’re going to be seen at a yard art business.

Bartholomew County officials told the business near Interstate 65 that it must move cement copies of the classical statues – and about 10 others – out of public view because they are obscene under Indiana law."

Did I mention that Americans are crazy? I'm going to Florence in a little more than a week, and luckily, these crazy ideas are a thing of the past there...

Jesus might have been homosexual, says the first openly gay bishop

Telegraph writes: "The Rt Rev Gene Robinson, the Bishop of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church of the United States, said that Jesus was an unmarried, 'non-traditional man' who did not uphold family values, 'travelled with a bunch of men' and enjoyed an especially close relationship with one of his disciples."

Traditional Anglicans, enraged by the idea that Jesus might not have been just like them, suggested that the Bishop should be "struck down by thunder and lightning bolts". Interestingly, however, God seems not to have intervened, sparing the lightning bolts for some more important occation.

"Daylight Saving Time" - a lazy idea...

BoiFromTroy writes on the efforts of some American politicians to extend the "daylight savings time" in his article "Congressman vows to change physics". It's Rep. Markey who have said that "The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use." Brilliant!

I've always hated the idea of "Daylight savings time" (or just "sommertid" in Norwegian). The whole thing is lazy politics. The point, which is to change our working habits relative to the sun, so that we get up earlier in the morning, could of course be done by negotiations between employers and employees - once and for all. Instead, billions of watches have to be reset twice a year (and there's lots of trouble for everyone trying to figure out the time difference with places which does not have "DST").

Get rid of it!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Academy Awards (Oscar) winners

Here are all the Academy Awards winners for best picture. Which have you seen? (And which one is your favorite?)

1927/28 (1st) Paramount Famous Lasky -- Wings

1928/29 (2nd) Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer -- The Broadway Melody

1929/30 (3rd) All Quiet on the Western Front -- Universal

1930/31 (4th) Cimarron -- RKO Radio

1931/32 (5th) Grand Hotel -- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

1932/33 (6th) Cavalcade -- Fox

1934 (7th) It Happened One Night -- Columbia

1935 (8th) Mutiny on the Bounty -- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

1936 (9th) The Great Ziegfeld -- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

1937 (10th) The Life of Emile Zola -- Warner Bros.

1938 (11th) You Can't Take It with You -- Columbia

1939 (12th) Gone with the Wind -- Selznick International Pictures

1940 (13th) Rebecca -- Selznick International Pictures

1941 (14th) How Green Was My Valley -- 20th Century-Fox

1942 (15th) Mrs. Miniver -- Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

1943 (16th) Casablanca -- Warner Bros.

1944 (17th) Going My Way -- Paramount

1945 (18th) The Lost Weekend -- Paramount

1946 (19th) The Best Years of Our Lives -- Samuel Goldwyn Productions

1947 (20th) Gentleman's Agreement -- 20th Century-Fox

1948 (21st) Hamlet -- J. Arthur Rank-Two Cities Films

1949 (22nd) All the King's Men -- Robert Rossen Productions

1950 (23rd) All about Eve -- 20th Century-Fox

1951 (24th) An American in Paris -- Arthur Freed, Producer

1952 (25th) The Greatest Show on Earth -- Cecil B. DeMille, Producer

1953 (26th) From Here to Eternity -- Buddy Adler, Producer

1954 (27th) On the Waterfront -- Sam Spiegel, Producer

1955 (28th) Marty -- Harold Hecht, Producer

1956 (29th) Around the World in 80 Days -- Michael Todd, Producer

1957 (30th) The Bridge on the River Kwai -- Sam Spiegel, Producer

1958 (31st) Gigi -- Arthur Freed, Producer

1959 (32nd) Ben-Hur -- Sam Zimbalist, Producer

1960 (33rd) The Apartment -- Billy Wilder, Producer

1961 (34th) West Side Story -- Robert Wise, Producer

1962 (35th) Lawrence of Arabia -- Sam Spiegel, Producer

1963 (36th) Tom Jones -- Tony Richardson, Producer

1964 (37th) My Fair Lady -- Jack L. Warner, Producer

1965 (38th) The Sound of Music -- Robert Wise, Producer

1966 (39th) A Man for All Seasons -- Fred Zinnemann, Producer

1967 (40th) In the Heat of the Night -- Walter Mirisch, Producer

1968 (41st) Oliver! -- John Woolf, Producer

1969 (42nd) Midnight Cowboy -- Jerome Hellman, Producer

1970 (43rd) Patton -- Frank McCarthy, Producer

1971 (44th) The French Connection -- Philip D'Antoni, Producer

1972 (45th) The Godfather -- Albert S. Ruddy, Producer

1973 (46th) The Sting -- Tony Bill, Michael Phillips and Julia Phillips, Producers

1974 (47th) The Godfather Part II -- Francis Ford Coppola, Producer; Gray Frederickson and Fred Roos, Co-Producers

1975 (48th) One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest -- Saul Zaentz and Michael Douglas, Producers

1976 (49th) Rocky -- Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff, Producers

1977 (50th) Annie Hall -- Charles H. Joffe, Producer

1978 (51st) The Deer Hunter -- Barry Spikings, Michael Deeley, Michael Cimino and John Peverall, Producers

1979 (52nd) Kramer vs. Kramer -- Stanley R. Jaffe, Producer

1980 (53rd) Ordinary People -- Ronald L. Schwary, Producer

1981 (54th) Chariots of Fire -- David Puttnam, Producer

1982 (55th) Gandhi -- Richard Attenborough, Producer

1983 (56th) Terms of Endearment -- James L. Brooks, Producer

1984 (57th) Amadeus -- Saul Zaentz, Producer

1985 (58th) Out of Africa -- Sydney Pollack, Producer

1986 (59th) Platoon -- Arnold Kopelson, Producer

1987 (60th) The Last Emperor -- Jeremy Thomas, Producer

1988 (61st) Rain Man -- Mark Johnson, Producer

1989 (62nd) Driving Miss Daisy -- Richard D. Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck, Producers

1990 (63rd) Dances With Wolves -- Jim Wilson and Kevin Costner, Producers

1991 (64th) The Silence of the Lambs -- Edward Saxon, Kenneth Utt and Ron Bozman, Producers

1992 (65th) Unforgiven -- Clint Eastwood, Producer

1993 (66th) Schindler's List -- Steven Spielberg, Gerald R. Molen and Branko Lustig, Producers

1994 (67th) Forrest Gump -- Wendy Finerman, Steve Tisch and Steve Starkey, Producers

1995 (68th) Braveheart -- Mel Gibson, Alan Ladd, Jr. and Bruce Davey, Producers

1996 (69th) The English Patient -- Saul Zaentz, Producer

1997 (70th) Titanic -- James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers

1998 (71st) Shakespeare in Love -- David Parfitt, Donna Gigliotti, Harvey Weinstein, Edward Zwick and Marc Norman, Producers

1999 (72nd) American Beauty -- Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks, Producers

2000 (73rd) Gladiator -- Douglas Wick, David Franzoni and Branko Lustig, Producers

2001 (74th) A Beautiful Mind -- Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, Producers

2002 (75th) Chicago -- Martin Richards, Producer

2003 (76th) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King -- Barrie M. Osborne, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, Producers

2004 (77th) Million Dollar Baby -- Clint Eastwood, Albert S. Ruddy and Tom Rosenberg, Producers

(The list is © Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.)

If I have to choose my favourite among these films (which are hardly the best movies ever made - far from it), I think I'd go for "Sound of Music". I saw it for the first time only last year, and was smiling for most of the film. Partly because it's so silly, but also partly because it's such a positive story with good music...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Ideas for Florence?

I'm going to Florence (Italy) soon. Am I looking forward to it? You bet!

Any good ideas on what I should do there? I know I must go to the Uffizi and to the Galleria Accademia (and I already have tickets), but what other sights are absolute musts?

These are two of the guys I plan to meet while there, by the way: :-)

Willy Sharma revisited

Some time ago I wrote a tiny bit about ex-Idol contestant and basketball player Willy Sharma, who had posed for almost-nude photos for photographer John Andresen.

Either my memory is failing me, or still more photos have been added - at least I don't remember having seen this one before:

In other news, Bærums Verk Jets lost their semi finals to Harstad Vikings, and Harstad Vikings in their turn lost the finals to Asker Aliens. (The ridiculous-sounding names of the teams are the teams' actual names - consisting of one part Norwegian location and one part wanna-be-NBA-addition.)

Movie: The Assassination of Richard Nixon

I've had the great fortune of never experiencing anyone close to me suffering a severe mental illness. This also means that I am able to believe (at least intuitively) in the fundamental rationality of my fellow humans. This is usually a good thing - it's worked well so far.

This may also be why I didn't quite enjoy the movie "The Assassination of Richard Nixon". I do notice that Sean Penn does a good job in the leading role. However, I don't find him altogether convincing - as I have already said, this may be more because I'm not in touch with reality than with the movie being unrealistic.

Another objection I have, is that the film is so utterly predictable. Of course, the director wanted it to be predictable (otherwise, another title would have been chosen), which probably means that the point of the movie is to show human misery in a quite fatalistic way. Although this partly works, it also takes away a little suspense that would have done the movie good...

If you are a fan of Sean Penn or if you love movies that study developing mental illness, this is a movie for you. Otherwise, I won't recommend it. (Even though it has one or two funny scenes as well as all the misery.)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Super IQ

Tickle claims, quite convincingly: "Bjørn, your Super IQ score is 147.

The way you think about things makes you an Intuitive Investigator. This means you have multiple talents and can do anything you set your mind to. You're able to detect numerical patterns easily and are able to grasp the true complexity of the world, both in its details and in a more abstract form. You've got a sharp logical mind and are adept at using words to get even a difficult point across. The combination of all these things makes you truly brilliant."

Sounds reasonable... :-)

Take the test you too!

RTW 14: Papeete

I had a wonderful time on Tahiti and on nearby Moorea (which I will describe in another post). I stayed for about ten days on these two islands combined. On Tahiti, I stayed at a terribly expensive but quite ok hotel in the middle of Papeete, the Hotel Prince Hinoi. It's certainly not worth the price - but is anything on Tahiti?

(Ok, being from Norway myself, I shouldn't complain about the prices. It's just that New Zealand made me used to a whole different kind of prices...)

While on Tahiti, I spent some time on IUFM (teacher education), looking at a few lectures and holding two short guest lectures myself. I'm terrible at French, so I had to speak in English, but that went ok. I also visited a school - that was interesting as well. And I had the pleasure of being shown the island by one of the mathematics guys at the IUFM. We went to the beach (wonderful, even though it started raining cats and dogs after a while), and we went to the Gauguin Museum. (It's the first time I've been to a museum about a painter with no originals, but Gauguin of course sent the originals to Europe. The Munch Museum in Oslo is moving in the same direction - but the security will hopefully improve before it's totally empty...) The museum was ok - as long as you know that it mostly just tells the story about him and not much more.

I also spent some time just walking round the place - visited a church, visited McDonald's (yes, I've been to McDonald's in Europe, Asia, the Americas and Oceania..) and walked around the harbour area, which was quite beautiful at night.

An unpleasant experience on the trip was the first night at Hotel Prince Hinoi. I had applied for a scholarship to take a Ph. D., and the people wanted to have an interview with me at half past twelve in the middle of the day. Norwegian time. Which meant half past twelve in the middle of the night on Tahiti. I was awfully tired from the flight and from walking around Tahiti - and moreover, they asked a lot of questions I didn't have good answers to. My brain simply didn't work very well. Needless to say, I didn't get the scholarship. (A couple of nights later, I had another job interview which went much better - I'll come back to that in another post...)

All in all, Papeete and the rest of Tahiti was not bad - but Moorea was so much better. Anyone going to Tahiti should certainly go on to Moorea! (It's just a short trip by ferry.)

Previous installments on my trip:
RTW 13: Auckland
RTW 12: Rotorua
RTW 11: Napier
RTW 10: Wellington
RTW 9: Arthur's Pass
RTW 8: Christchurch
RTW 7: Queenstown
RTW 6: Dunedin
RTW 5: Sydney
RTW 4: Singapore
RTW 3: Mauritius
RTW 2: Réunion
RTW 1: Johannesburg

Will the next pope be gay?

The chance that the next pope will be gay, is at least 5 %.

My reasons for believing this are simple (some would even say simplistic). First of all, at least 5 % of all people are gay.* Second, there is no reason to believe that gays become catholic priests any less often than others. On the contrary, it seems reasonable that young men seeing there's no chance of living happily ever after with a spouse might find it easier to choose to become priests than heterosexual young men.** Third, there is no reason to believe that gay priests would do any worse in the Catholic church than other priests.

Therefore, as at least 5 % of the cardinals may very well be gay, there is at least a 5 % chance that the next pope will be gay.

How will having yet another gay pope influence the politics of the Catholic church? One might argue that having hidden their sexuality all their lives, the gay cardinals may have developed a strong homophobia. That does not make sense, however, because it's unreasonable to argue that the gay cardinals have hidden their sexuality any more than the straight cardinals have. Their sexuality has just been "disregarded" - even by themselves. Therefore, it may be the case that a gay pope may actually not be homophobic, so that the Catholic church's position on gays may be a little less vitriolic than it was under the last pope.

Another question is of course: if the next pope is gay, will we ever know? The answer to that is probably "no". The sexuality of the pope will not become an issue - just as with the previous pope (I have never seen any comments on whether he was gay or straight). But as with other gay men, the new pope's sexuality may certainly be an influence on the way he sees the world.

* This is a matter of faith, as research gives so many different answers - depending on the methods and on the exact definition of gay. However, 5 % seems to be a reasonable compromise...
** When today's cardinals were young, the choice of being "out and proud" gays were just not there.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The late pope and homosexuality quotes John Paul II on homosexuality: "In his final book, 'Memory and Identity,' the pope criticized homosexual marriages as part of 'a new ideology of evil' that is insidiously threatening society, and called abortion a 'legal extermination.'

The pontiff referred to 'pressures' on the European Parliament to allow gays to marry.

'It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man,' he writes."

It is comic to see one of the world's most powerful men being overwhelmed by fear of the power of love.

And by the way: if human rights are ever at odds with a religious concept of "family" (which is of course something quite different from the loving family most of us grew up in), I'll choose human rights every time...

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The pope has died

The pope has died - Saturday evening local time.

My feelings are mixed. The pope was an important man in the fight against communism. Therefore, I'm saddened by his death. On other topics, his work was less than helpful.

To quote BoiFromTroy:
Which raises the question, if the bible teaches us to "judge not, lest you be judged," what is the punishment for a man who referred to an entire group of people (including many priests) as part of an "ideology of evil"?

Anyway, his life and his sufferings are now over. As there are no gods, no heavens and no hells, the question of what the bible teaches is moot. Let's (as I've said before) hope that the next pope is more consistently good than this one, or at least has less power than this one did.

Teammates fighting writes that two Newcastle players were sent off for fighting with each other during Saturday's match against Aston Villa.

They have probably been told in strong terms that they should not fight with the opposite team, but interpreted the order a bit strangely...

Kieron Dyer

Lee Bowyer (old photo)

The Salvation Army (Frelsesarmeen)

In Norway, there is a faith-based organization helping the poor, which denies full membership to blacks who are married to whites. This organization enjoys the full support of much of Norwegian "officialdom", as well as most of the media. The reason for not confronting their explicitly racist policy is that "they do so much good work for the poor".

I, on the other hand, believe that it should be possible to find non-racist organizations to support instead.

(Note: the above is not entirely correct. A small detail is wrong. In reality, inter-racial relationships are accepted, but same-sex relationships are not.)

My point: remember to help the poor (both at home and abroad)! Support organizations that do such work. But try to find non-racist, non-homophobic organizations if you can.

(That is: please think twice before supporting The Salvation Army (Frelsesarmeen).)

Yoko Ono

I've just been to the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art to see an exhibition on Yoko Ono.

It was interesting. I liked very much the wishing tree standing near the entrance, where the public were asked to write a wish on a note and stick it to the branches provided. This seems to be a version of the things in shinto shrines (I've seen examples of them in Tokyo), but without the explicit reference to religion. The fun part of it is to be able to see the wishes of other people (such as someone wishing for soccer team Vålerenga to beat Ham-Kam (the team I'm a fan of) 7-0 in the opening of the new season (fat chance!)). The more serious part is the idea that by focusing on your wish and writing it down, you may get more aware of it and actually work a little harder at making it come true.

Another part I liked, for much the same reason, was the wall where everyone was asked to write something on their mom. (I just wrote "Mom is the best".) It's touching to see all the love for mothers, and at the same time it's a good thing to express the love of your mother publicly (although anonymously).

Yet another piece I liked was a glass maze. In the centre of the maze, there was a WC. It was quite fun to walk through it, even though I'm not really able to ascribe a more complex meaning to it at the moment...

I got some ethical worries though. Earlier, I had read about the movie "Rape", where Yoko Ono's film crew followed a supposedly randomly selected person for a whole day. In the beginning of the day, the subject of this was flattered, at the end of the day, it was an invation of privacy. If this person was actually only an actor, the ethical worries of course goes away.

The thing in the exhibition that worried me was a movie from a performance some years ago. She was on a stage, letting the audience use scissors to remove pieces of her clothing. Supposedly this was art, but she must have realized that this work of art would not be seen solely as that by everyone in the audience. Therefore, the performance turns as much into a study of the reaction of the audience as a study of her. My worry is how the audience was prepared for being part of a study of their reaction to this quasi-erotic scene. Was the young man who took off the main part of her clothes aware that he would become a part of a piece of art being exhibited in museums years later? Or was he just tantallized by being near female skin?

All in all, however, it was a small but interesting exhibition. And I'll try to remember calling my mom tomorrow... :-)

Zimbabwe ruling party "wins" majority - Apr 1, 2005 notes that Robert Mugabe's ruling party ZANU-PF has "won" the election in Zimbabwe, while "Western countries and the opposition have already declared the electoral process as unfairly tilted in favor of ZANU-PF."

Robert Mugabe knows all the tricks in the book for stealing elections, from harrassing opponents to getting lots of votes from dead people. This time, he seems to have been using a bit fewer than usual - certainly not from a respect of democracy, but simply from less need to use all available cheating methods.

It's been another sad day for Zimbabwe - in a long, long row of sad days. The only silver lining is that Mugabe is 81, and humans seldom last longer than 100...

The only thing to wait for now, is whether Thabo Mbeki's observers will report on what they've seen, or whether they will stay silent to keep the good relations with Zimbabwe. The relations with Zimbabwe's people will certainly be better off by reporting fully.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Americans are crazy writes of the plague of censorship hitting the United States.

One example:
• "In Pilot Point, in northern Texas, police threatened to prosecute an artist who painted a mural on the exterior of his gallery depicting the creation of Eve, whose breasts were bare. To stay out of court or jail, the artist covered Eve's breasts with "Crime Scene" tape. The police said the artwork violated a local law that criminalized the sale or display of hard-core pornography to children."

How long will a country stay "civilized" when stupidity such as this are allowed to rule the police?

(That anyone calls breasts "hard-core pornography", surely suggests that they should get out more...)

(Disclaimer: All reasonable Americans, please do not take offence at the title of this blog post - I don't honestly believe that ALL Americans are crazy. It's just a shame that so many of the crazy ones are elected...)

The pope is on his deathbed

The pope, John Paul II, is close to death according to news reports.

No matter what one might think of him, noone can deny that he has been an important pope. His stance against communism and his support for the Solidarity movement in Poland probably had a great influence on the events in the late 80s. On the other hand, the Holy See's attitudes on condoms have probably greatly worsened the HIV epidemy, especially in Africa.

I wish that his death will be as painless as possible, and that the next pope will be less important.

Sticky membership

It's been strange to see how the Norwegian Church handles their members lately. As the government pays money to the Church and to other faith-based organizations based on their memberships, it is perhaps no surprise that they try to keep their members, but there is a fine line between being just greedy and being ridiculous, and at times they have sadly crossed that line.

The first problem is of course that people become members of the church at birth, even if they're not baptised and even though not both parents are members. If one parent is a member of the church, the child will automatically be as well, even though the other parent is a member of something else.

The main problem, however, has to do with the way the Church's membership records are kept. Some years ago, they created a new database in a way that seems designed to inflate the membership: they started with the whole population and then subtracted everyone they KNEW were not members. This, of course, meant that every single error in the Church's collective recollection was an error in their favor. There are lots of examples of people who cancelled their membership years ago (with proof to show for it), who were still in the lists.

Then there are all the examples of people who have tried to cancel without being successful. One strange quirk is that the Church demands to see a copy of the certificate of baptism when you want to withdraw. In what other organizations do you have to PROVE that you are a member before they agree to remove you from their rolls?

I do have a theory why it is so difficult and takes so much time to get away from the Church. Of course there is a lot of paperwork to be done. First, they have to file the "Cancellation of Reservation Form" for the everlasting place in heaven that you had a reservation for. What is more, they have to file the "Reservation Form" with attachments for your place at the pyres in Hell. (The attachments includes your a summary of your behaviour, which translate into the temperature at which you will be tortured.)

No surprise that it takes quite a long time to "let my people go"...