Storyville: on blogging, serendipity and good conversations

I just realised I've only posted a paltry four posts here this month, mainly because I've been busy elsewhere: writing for print magazines, a bit for the NONA blog and with real life meetings.

I'll blog a bit more about those meetings eventually, but in the meantime I thought I'd share a story that's been sitting on my desktop for, oh, more than a year now (I have plenty of these more or less finished blog posts I keep meaning to finish but somehow never get around to):

Just the other week (well, February 2008 actually) I was sitting on a God-forsakenly early flight to London, thinking hard about work, as I often do, and the passenger sitting next to me kept trying to get a conversation going.

In certain moods, had I been too stressed,  I might have felt he was interfering with my train of thought, but for some reason, I think it was him mentioning that he was going to Northampton where my ex-partner worked for a long while, I started listening and talking back. He was soon telling me that he'd given up on stress after a heart-attack when he was 29 (at which point he decided it was simply not worth the price:-) ), and that one of his sons has died of hospital maltreatment (I know too much about how arbitrary public health care can be) - but also that in the end he'd forced the mayor of the town where it all happened to at least hoist the flags all over town on the day of his son's funeral (good one: made me feel happy for him and grateful for how there are people who stand up and fight, even win small victories, in the face of such devastating tragedies).

Now this might have been a typical Scandinavian conversation, not all national cultures have it in them to bond over such depressing issues, but there you are. And no, this was not a nutter in any way as a Brit might think, quite the contrary, it was simply a brilliant conversation bestowed on me for God knows which reason.

But I felt grateful for the trust, it reminded me of a few things I needed to be reminded of: I took a deep breath when I got off that plane; made sure to afford myself the luxury of sitting down for that pint of coffee and breakfast; savour the moment rather than having it on the go - and pick up the newspapers before I got on the train into town. It also remind myself to get in back in touch with a woman it turned out we both knew (yeah, Norway IS a small country).

My point? Sometimes you miss out on vital things and opportunities by being too obsessed about where you're going.

It might even be that our detours become more valuable than our planned visits or career moves. I met one of my greatest mentors while working in a pub, and one of my most precious memories is sitting with another mentor I'd met by chance in Athens the year before on the top of a hillside at midnight in the Santa Cruz mountains (and yes, there were mountain lions and snakes around, crazy, she thought us protected by a goddess)....This, incidentally, is why blogging this story got held up for so long, I kept thinking of all the wonderful examples and how to fit them all in, but they're hardly why I started writing this in the first place - so let's just get on with it... 

Now, I'm not driving at divine providence or something like that, just that it pays to be open for the opportunity that good things are where you least expected to find them ... and certainly blogging has been one grand serendipitous venture from the very beginning... Which reminds me of this blogging story by Zena el-Kahlilh, pictured below (by me):


Here's to 2009....

A tad late, I know, but 2008 was a trying year for me - I met some great people, was partly given/partly created some brilliant opportunities, had a few adventures, but was also presented with what at times seemed like unnecessary and unsurmountable challenges - so I needed a bit of a break before summing up the year past and welcoming the new one.

What pulled me through the rough patches was, to a large extent, this blog, or rather the funny, irreverent, insightful, thought-provoking comments and links it spurred - in other words: you guys and gals - and all the great friends I'm blessed with. Now, when I suggested in this post that social media can be of great help in turbulent times Adriana, who kicked me into the blogosphere in the first place by setting up this blog for me as a gift in 2005, pointed out that what I really was saying was that people were of great comfort at such times, not social media.

I still think social media makes a huge difference, though perhaps it would have been more precise to say the ambient intimacy social media offers/facilitates is what makes the difference, to use a term coined by Lisa Reichelt (in short, ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn't usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible).

Anyway, I wish you all much joy and success in the year ahead of us. This is what coming from 2008 to 2009 looks like to me right now. The first photo is from a lovely winter day in the forest at Tranby (more here):


This shot is from Corntin Bay, Stavern, today:


And like Duke, pictured below, I'll definently be scouting for new opportunities in 2009, albeit of a slightly different nature than him (I've also got a few interesting projects up my sleeve which I'll return to shortly):


Seasonal greetings and my favourite blog post of the year

Happy Holidays
Originally uploaded by Kristine_Lowe

It's getting to be a Christmas tradition of sorts: working like mad to finish all the stuff that needs to be completed before the holiday all of a sudden is upon me, only to realise too late that I failed, yet again, to send all the Christmas cards I planned to.

This year I only managed to send four, so inspired by my friend Brian, I will take this opportunity to wish you all:

Happy Holidays, Great Celebrations and a Prosperous New Year

As it happens, I read all sorts of great, funny, insightful and thought-provoking blog posts this year, mostly about media, but Brian wrote the post that touched me the most: it made me very grateful to be alive and to get to know all of you, Brian included.

I've been planning for ages to follow it up with a post on "The dog who saved my life and my first encounter with tabloid journalism", I may still manage to get around to that before the year is over, but since the events Brian describes took place on the second day of Christmas 1993, when I'd forgotten to post my Christmas cards,it does play on my mind today: filed as bitter-sweet, sure, but most of all something to be very grateful for - good luck, good friends and excellent writing.

Revealed: my level of geekiness

Gee, I beat Paal Hivand and was only three points behind's Anders Brenna, a long-time programmer and IT-journalist.

Not sure how I did that, my knowledge of Tolkien and Slashdot could hardly be enough. I've always been good at translating abstract or technical issues into simple terms that make sense to the 'uninitiated', but, even though I do accomplish most of what I bend my will and/or focus to, I'm not very techy, or don't consider myself to be (sometimes, especially when my mind is elsewhere, say on deadlines, I consider myself plain stupid). Anyway, here's the quiz: how geeky are you?

65% Geek

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

A dream come true, sort of (or why it’s been a bit quiet here recently)

You know, ten years ago I really fancied glasses. I thought they’d rather suit my personae, or perhaps the persona I wanted to project stronger to those who did not know me.


But my eyesight was much too good, so after testing it for three consecutive years, I gave up and only thought wistfully of glasses every now and then. And since I spend ungodly long hours in front of the computer screen as a net crazy journalist, with small ‘breaks’ doing copy-editing and translation,  I thought my eyes were only a bit tired, in need of more rest or perhaps a pair of reading glasses, as I found them protesting so much at the end of my workdays this spring, my ‘extracurricular web activities’, such as blogging, suffered.


Until I saw the optician a week and a half back and found journalisting (or was it blogging?) has made me really short-sighted. So since I picked up a pair of glasses last Friday, I’ve been adjusting to seeing the world SO much clearer (did I really see that badly?) in-between my usual deadlines. It sure took some getting used to, but I’m just about ready to get back on the blogging track today…  



What punctuation mark am I?

Hmm... no time to blog the things I'd like to blog so far today, but couldn't resist this rather silly little personality test I found over at Diary of a wordsmith:

You Are a Question Mark
You seek knowledge and insight in every form possible. You love learning.
And while you know a lot, you don't act like a know it all. You're open to learning you're wrong.

You ask a lot of questions, collect a lot of data, and always dig deep to find out more.
You're naturally curious and inquisitive. You jump to ask a question when the opportunity arises.

Your friends see you as interesting, insightful, and thought provoking.
(But they're not always up for the intense inquisitions that you love!)

You excel in: Higher education

You get along best with: The Comma

On Causality (and covariance)

Here I was planning to write all these Very Important Posts I had postponed for too long, when I stumbled upon this fabulous cartoon on causality (via Espen Andersen) – very apt for Saturday Morning.

Now, to stay with the deeper questions for a second or two: you may of course ask what the detour from those blog posts I planned to write signifies about my personal epistemology, or in plain talk: am I a scatterbrain, or is the web turning me into one? That's one of the serious things I was planning to blog about, but first this cartoon (translation below):


For those who can't read the text: During a convivial gathering there is talk of the unhygienic aspect of using galoshes. One of those present chips in: "Yes, I've also noticed this. Every time I've woken up with my galoshes on, I've had a headache."

Now, Espen's more serious point is that there's a lot of bogus stuff which passes for causality these days, to which he adds (and I'm paraphrasing him here): 'I mean, we all know that the supposed global temperature increase we're currently experiencing is due to the baby-boom-generation hitting the climacteric age with corresponding hot flushes, right?'

Since I've studied both philosophy and statistics, the latter as part of my politics degree, I found Espen's post particularly funny: always great to see issues academics argue about, with a huge arsenal of technical terms, brought down to a level where it's clear how it impacts on daily life. When I studied game theory I kept promising myself to write one short story for each or the different games to make them more comprehensible (and fun: it was very dull reading), e.g. a love story called "Priscilla's dillema", but alas, never got around to that.

8 things you may not know about me

I was tagged on this meme by Neil Perkin. I've actually done the five-things-you-didn't-know-about-me meme before, so I was kinda contemplating to just add three more to that, but then I thought better of it and decided to do it properly. And since I've seen quite a few new readers come to this blog recently, I'll add a few things that those of you who know me well will be familiar with:

1) I owe my life to a dog. To this date, it's probably the best story of my life: too bad I was on the wrong side of the media's spotlight, but it was certainly an event that came to define me in many ways in – for better and worse.

2) Yes, even for the better. I wouldn't particularly recommend being run over by a car and left to die, but, grim as the story is, it taught me a few valuable life lessons. One of them being that fear is overrated. Well, actually, having read Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear, I have to moderate that: fear can be useful, but the fact that I completely lost all fear for two years after my accident helped me accomplish a great many things, particularly in regards to my career.

3) In one of my inspired moments, when, for once, I had money to spare, I amassed an art collection, too bad most of it is in storage. One of my favourites is here, I've uploaded another picture here:


(Dreameress, by Jöran Flo)

4) I'm crap at selling myself and persistently keep downplaying my achievements. Fortunately, this is to some degree compensated for by the fact that I can be very persuasive when it comes to selling an idea or story I believe in, and that I'm quite adept at stumbling across great stories, people, situations etc...

5) If I ever was a Goth, it was subconscious

6) I once aspired to become an Olympic rider, but gave up on the equestrian scene in my late teens as it wasn't very intellectually stimulating; I didn't have the money to really give it a go and I had a rather brutal meeting with a car which put me out of the game for a while

7) My great grand dad on my mother's side was an opera singer who sang with the likes of Kirsten Flagstad but refused to sing outside the town he grew up in. He died before I was born, but I keep thinking that, while there is still time, I should find time to record a few interviews with those who knew him.

8) I was once a member of the Verdi commission, which was going to spend the same amount of millions to investigate the life and works of Giuseppe Verdi as the Government at the time was going to spend on its Verdi-kommisjon (verdi happens to be the Norwegian word for value, so our "Verdi-commission" was a pun on the Government's "Verdi-commission": the latter was set up to determine what the most important values society were at the time. As it so happens, I also love the music of Giuseppe Verdi).

I tag: Vampus, Hjothen, Cathy, Adam, Feeling Listless, Becky, John Kelly, and the last one I simply can't decide right now - will try to make up my mind soon

Looking back at my 2007


1 January, 2008

End-of-the-year meme about 2007, lifted from Jackie:

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before? Put together a live blogging team, and hey, it was fun, would love to do it again...

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? By and large. The two most important being moving back into journalism full-time - while trying to hedge against the financially volatile existence of being a full-time freelance journalist, I had allowed my business model to get a bit too diverse and I found myself called upon to be an expert in too many different worlds. Besides, as it turned out, my non-media clients were neither more predictable nor better payers than my media clients – and creating space to nurture contemplation and solitude from time to time to recharge my creative batteries.

As for this year's new year resolutions I have a few, but am a bit reluctant to jinx them by talking about them here and now. One is getting more wired though, or rather stop being a lurker in places like Linkedin, Facebook etc - though due to time considerations I'll keep those networks media-related and semi-professional.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? No

4. Did anyone close to you die? Yes, but though it is sad for those left behind, when people grow old, ill and weary of life, death can also be a blessing.

5. What countries did you visit? Would you believe: I lived in England for many years yet never found time to visit Ireland, but finally managed to go there in 2007. It was very different from what I'd imagined: it had an almost Latin/ Mediterranean feel to it. I also spent quality time in various parts of my 2nd home country, England, and gave a presentation in Stockholm. I'd love to travel much more in 2008 though...

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007? More confidence and financial stability. I'm a bit of a change addict, but I'm more and more seeing the value in not going charging into new territory all the time...

7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Sunday 8 April, when my great aunt and first mentor died. Wednesday 8 August: holding the car for an important interview, then jetting off to spend time at my grandmother's deathbed, hoping it was not too late. It wasn't, but I left late in the evening to get some sleep. She died just after midnight, my aunt by her side, but in a way I think that ultimately was for the better: a strong, proud woman, she found it difficult to let her grandchildren to see her so weak. I forget when I was informed of her death, but I got up in a state of limbo and wrote up that interview - but then I'm always like that: it takes time for such events to sink in, and in the meantime I'm quite adept at sorting out practical stuff, writing obits and reading the funeral tributes.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Getting thru April when I feared a late or non-paying, I didn't know which yet, client would bankrupt me, then writing the affair off when it became apparent I'd get less than half of the agreed fee in May, as I felt my focus was better spent on the fun opportunities around me.

9. What was your biggest failure? Realising too late the mistake of taking on that client. As self-employed I try to balance assignments that pay in the short- term against more long-term ones, but realised too late I'd taken on a long-term assignment, that would take me down a road I didn't want to go, at the expense of long-term assignments I loved that would have been much more relevant to my professional aims. But at least I learned a few things about myself and the importance of trusting my gut feeling.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Only the odd spell of flu, and my back went on strike after an intensive workout coupled with two days on a plastic chair in Stockholm and an exasperating 8hr coach journey back to Oslo.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Time on my own, checking into a hotel to write etc, and time with near and dear ones

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration? Those folks who quickly and expertly jumped down on the rail track, arguable not as dangerous in Oslo as in London as the electrical circuits are better insulated, to pull up a junkie who fell off the platform, saving him from being run over by the underground train.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? Telecoms companies, such as Vodaphone and Netcom, who tried their best to shift the blame on me as a customer when they had technical problems, like the two times Netcom's UMTS network was down and the customer representatives wasted my time trying to make me reinstall my PC or change my settings rather than identifying straight away that their entire network was down.

14. Where did most of your money go? Taxes, bills and travel

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Getting back on the lecturing scene, a trend I started late autumn 2006 with Visit Britain International and will continue in 2008; an offer to write a book I didn't find the time to do much with (yet?) and news of another volume of Ethical Space, where I'm a regular contributor, being published as a book in 2008.

16. What song will always remind you of 2007? Blackfield: "End of the world"

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer? Everything's a bit up in the air really, there were many transitions in 2007: it was a year where endings and beginnings, sorrow and joy, financial challenges and professional acclaim seemed to walk hand in hand. As a result I don't know quite how I feel. I'm healthier at the start of 2008 than what I was at the start of 2007 - when I'd oscillated between a punishing work and exercise schedule followed by longish periods of illness where I 'only' worked full-time - though not thinner. As for money, ask my accountant later in the year (ugh, gotta go thru those receipts, invoices and stuff this month).

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Spend more quality time on my own, and more quality time with friends and loved ones, finding time to be more present in the lives of loved ones.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Worrying, procrastinating, chasing late payers.

20. How did you spend Christmas? With my parents and little sister in a small coastal town I've got strong ties to. When I finished work this year I thought to myself that phew, that was a tough year, but hey, I'm still standing. I didn't fully realise how tired I was until I joined my family for the holidays. I was served some brilliant food, went for a good walk or two by the ocean, stared out of the window while trying, and mostly failing, to write, and slept A LOT.

21. Did you fall in love in 2007? No, thank goodness, though I've been blessed with a lot of love in my life, love can be such a demanding task master.

22. What was your favourite TV program? I didn't have a TV until my landlady, and close friend, moved back from the west-country and plugged in my old one, but that didn't change much. I'll try to watch a bit more now that Brennpunkt – an investigative documentary programme I've worked for - is back on the screen, we'll start seeing the results of this documentary experiment and a friend is hitting the screen to present a programme I hope to learn more about later this week...

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I'd rather not waste my energy on negative stuff, the opposite of love is not hate but ignorance. If a person crosses too many bridges he or she shouldn't have, I'd rather forget about him or her (it's very rare that I 'exorcise' people from my life though, I think I can count them on one hand, but then, it's not someting I find it too important to keep stock of)

24. What was the best book you read? I read so many books I forget. "I, Coriander" was one of my big time favourites, even though it's a children's book. The Invitation, I only discovered this year that it's also a book - not only a poem. David Weinberger's latest book was another favourite that I'm still digesting.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? Reassembling my stereo system, which had been in storage at my grandmother's for years.

26. What did you want and get? Improving my business model so I could write about media full-time

27. What did you want and not get? That worktrip to Washington DC

28. What was your favourite film of this year? Foreign Correspondent, Hitchcock – yes, I only discovered it this year

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 31 on autumn equinox and spent a lovely week in London, visiting old territory/spending time in my favourite part of town and catching up with friends. My actual birthday wknd was spent just chilling in a luxury hotel, thanks to a great deal at

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Hmm... past is past, I'd much rather focus on what I can change...

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007? Huh? Perhaps, stick to the tried and tested? I like the classical. For periods of my life I've actively tried to challenge my penchant for wearing black. 2007 was not one of those years.

32. What kept you sane? The gym, unplugging from work by delving into good books or creating room for contemplation and recharging my batteries, quality time and –discussions with friends.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Huh? Can't think of anyone

34. What political issue stirred you the most? I forget, it was only media for me this year. I was going to write a long rant about appalling righteousness of Norwegian health service when faced with evidence of its own failings this summer, but perhaps it was for the better that I didn't.

Then there was Benazir Bhutto's assassination: it felt almost like a physical blow, even though her record is mixed, and, though strictly speaking far away, it was obvious at once it would have global ramifications – it had an immediate effect on commodities like oil and gold, on stock-, bond- and currency markets, on the strategies of US presidential candidates, on the substantial Pakistani immigrant communities in countries like Norway and Britain, and, hopefully it will force a change in the US state department's policy of backing 'benevolent' dictators...

In the words of Matthew d'Ancona 'On the eve of 2008, Pakistan' - or 'Setbackistan' as editorial cartoonist Steve Greenberg dubbed it - 'is quite simply the most important country in the world', though the estranged wife of Bhutto's political foe Imran Khan offered the hopeful sentiment that Benazir Bhutto "may manage to do from her grave what she never managed in life."

35. Who did you miss? 1) John, who believed in me and supported my ambitions when not many others did, but died of lung cancer Christmas 2005. Alison who died of cancer in June 2004: we shared several great adventures, and she was much too young in spirit to end her life at 69. If I have one regret in life it's not spending my last dollars to find a cheap coach fare from L.A. to Santa Cruz to see Alison in 2003, I didn't realise it would be my last chance, though, wise from this mistake, I did have the sense to get the train down to Plymouth to see John when he was on his deathbed.

2) Friends in various parts of the world. Internet has made the world smaller, but I still wish I could slip out my front door and into a pub or cafe in London, Oslo, Amsterdam, San Fransisco, Washington d.c etc without having to find time and money for all that air travel. Perhaps for 2008 I'll have to 1) get myself a better internet connection so I can take full advantage of Second Life and 2) convince friends in faraway places to hook up there...

36. Who was the best new person you met? Hmm, do I have to choose? I met several, mostly by chance, some by design

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007. Choose your battles: you can do everything you put your mind to, but not everything at the same time and be sure the price is worth paying. Nurture peripheral vision. Don't get locked into other people's agendas, don't make other people's priorities your own.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Morcheeba: Over and over Nah, 1998, not quite what I remembered, nothing springs to mind right now...

How John Stuart Mill saved my life

Okay, that's perhaps a slight exaggeration, but without that venerable old philosopher I'd be penniless, dehydrated and miserable today; confined to live on whatever sparse supplies of canned tuna and pasta I have in my cupboard until sometime next week - provided I got paid on time.

But, wonders of all wonders, despite how someone stole all my money yesterday, I woke up this morning to find that I had finally been paid for two John Stuart Mill translations I did a while back (excerpts from "On Liberty" and "On the Subjection of Women") and was no longer penniless.

Not to mention how Mill might have saved my sanity: back when I was offered the unexpected opportunity to immerse myself in his long and winding Victorian sentences, it provided a most welcome change from an incredibly detailistic and demanding trade publication I had foolishly agreed to do some work off my usual beat for (I was nearly pulling my hair off over that one, it didn't even pay well).

Now, I must admit that utilitarianism isn't exactly my (philosophical) cup of tea, but in this instance the school of thought was definitely on my side in more ways than one. Not only did everyone benefit, including the pesky thief, but the quality of my pleasure this morning, when I discovered that I could devote my day to writing rather than chasing money, should be enough to satisfy the cost-benefit analysis' of both Bentham AND Mill (no, the distress last night was not great enough to outweigh the benefits)...

Road Tripping


A close friend has recently been named Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow 2007-2008. She's pulled up her roots from Columbia MO, and is moving from Missouri to Virginia via Toronto. Makes perfect sense to me. I'm kinda envious of her road trip actually, and these words, mostly from one of Tove Jansons' books, struck a cord with me:

“Early one morning in Moomin Valley Snufkin woke up in his tent with the feeling that autumn had come and it was time to break camp.

Breaking camp in this way always comes with a hop, skip, and jump! All of a sudden everything is different, and if you’re going to move, you’re careful to make use of every single minute, you pull up your tent plugs and douse the campfire quickly before anyone can stop you or start asking questions you start running, pulling on your rucksack as you go, and finally you’re on your way and suddenly quite calm, like a solitary tree with every single leaf completely still. Your camp site is an empty rectangle of bleached grass. Later in the morning your friends wake up and say: He’s gone, autumn’s coming.”

I have been very calm and introvert the last few days. I always leave in the same fashion Snufkin did. No clear dates, no clear plans, people don’t really know when I will go, just that the time is getting close.

I always operate with clear dates, just leave it to the last minute – and I'm famous for calling up people on the same day when I just happen to be in London, San Fransisco or similar.

As a freelancer, I find it very hard to plan ahead – never know when I might stumble across a good story or land another cool assignment. Money talks and walks, and – a freelancer from the tender age of 18 – I always come home from my travels with good stories and am very skilful at collecting string. Which reminds me, I haven't been stateside for years: I need an employer with deep pockets, which is a contradiction in terms if you work in the field I do - newspaper with deep pockets, dream on...

Vodaphone Nightmare

I don't know what to say, or do. I've had three weeks now with 'no access' on my UK mobile due to some sort of network problem. I've spent an hour or two on a very expensive foreign line trying to fix it, with no result until today.

Now they tell me it'll be back working within 24 hours, just have to keep trying to switch it on and off (like I've got nothing better to do). I was told it was a general problem for lots of Vodaphone users trying to use their phones abroad, as if that's supposed to cheer me up.

But then, now that they've reset my phone, all my text messages are gone, including a very recent one with the pin to my answering phone they just forced me to reset. For a moment there I thought I hadn't stored the pin anywhere else and was told it couldn't be fixed until I'm back in the UK (funny that, seeing how they just forced me to reset my pin code while I was in Norway). It turned out I did have the pin code written down, but now I'm told I've dialed an incorrect number when I try to dial my UK phone. Christ.

A similar thing happened in May/April, when they reset my phone and just forgot to tell me that resetting it would mean I wouldn't be able to access my answering machine, pin or no pin, until I was back on UK ground. Oh, and they tell me all UK mobile phone companies work this way, I can't tell you how happy THAT makes me feel.

See, I kind of need this phone for work. Not as much in Norway as in the UK, but still: I don't suppose they'll refund my phone bills for all those weeks with no connection, or those loong expensive phone calls trying to fix it...

Update 29/8: come to think of it, I'm only a customer - why would they care?

It was some 10 hours past those promised 24hrs this morning, and still no access. I've had enough of making long useless phone calls from abroad, so emailed Vodaphone before 10am. Approaching 7pm - still no reply (yes, I'm impatient: it's an urgent matter to me, but obviously not to the company) However, I did come across this handy piece of advice over at Tom Watson's blog, perhaps worth considering...

Update 4/9 11am: Still No Connection. Four weeks with no connection tomorrow. I've emailed back and forth with Vodaphone customer service and they've resorted to offering me a blatant lie. Besides, every time I contact Vodpahone it's a different customer service representative answering, offering different versions of the same non-solutions.... Do I laugh or do I cry? I can think of a solution or two, but hate to spend even more time on something like this...

An hour+ later: Okay. Finally go thru to a helpful customer service guy (wow). Spent an hour on an the phone and established it is a Network Problem after all, despite whatever all those other helpdesk folks have wasted my time suggesting about handsets and SIM cards and non-existent bars and what have you. Still No Connection though, which may not be solved until I arrive London later this month...

In Memorandum

I count myself very lucky, privileged even, to have had a great number of fantastic mentors in my life – people who have supported, guided, encouraged and inspired me to realise my dreams and talents. People who have helped me become the person I am today, and whom I always will feel very grateful to have known. One of them, perhaps my first mentor, and probably the first person who encouraged me to make writing my profession, passed away in the wee hours today, after many years spent gradually disappearing into the land of forgetfulness.

I know she felt she had had more than her share of adventures and blessings many years ago, and would have preferred to go much earlier than she did, so my only regret today is that I don't have any exquisite wine or champagne in the house to pour myself a glass and raise a toast for a life well lived, as surely she deserves and would have wished (since it's Easter Sunday, all the shops are closed). So as a substitute for the real thing, here's a symbolic toast from people I know appreciated her spirit (more about this remarkable woman, and our last celebration of her life and achievements, here):


Five things most of you didn't know about me

Adrian tagged me with the "Five things" blog meme this week, but I'm afraid I've been trapped at a travel fair the last few days (for the launch of an annual travel mag I'm involved with) - hence my late reply. It's a bit of a tricky one this: some of my readers know me (a bit too) well, while most hardly know me at all. I've tried to include a bit for each faction:

1) My most 'exotic' dinner company? Her name was Eve, of course. She was a viper snake, a Cobra if I remember correctly, and, no, I can't even blame my ever irresistible curiosity for this one. She was a surprise guest at the dinner of a friend's friend (the owner used her to dance with). Eve slithered around the table to welcome all the guests, but luckily she stopped before she reached my end of the table...

2) I once attended a reception with VIP guests, such as the then president of Costa Rica (99), donned in the hotel's bed sheets (my luggage was lost in transit to San Jose). It was a great icebreaker and alerted a few older American women to my predicament. They generously lent me their multi-coloured garments throughout my stay (the luggage didn't arrive until my last day), but, as my travel companion, who suggested the novel attire in the first place, said: it would perhaps have been more appropriate in Athens

3) As a kid I slipped out of the kindergarten, unnoticed, almost every day: there were so many more interesting things on the other side of the fence, and the stories of how I found the 'treasures' I came back with, flowers that didn't grow in the kindergarten etc, always worked - until one fateful day when I took a handful of girls home to see my kittens, provoking a 2hr search party. Not popular

4) I pretty much grew up on the basketball court as my mother used to play for the national team

5) My grandfather on my father's side, a printer and Milorg man, literally gave his life to the newspaper he served. He died of lead poisoning when my dad was but a child, and I often wonder what he would have thought had he lived to see today's media world

I tag: Daniel, Natalie, Adriana, Solan, and, I'm really curious about this one, David Trads

Why I'm not editing that newsletter today

I know I should, it would make my life easier, but I've just had a crash course in how to procrastinate effectively, and have decided to just head for the gym. Here's an excerpt, but do check out the full post, which tells you how to go about it (via Sonitus):

For me, procrastination is just another tool I use. A way to recharge and get ideas. The important thing is to procrastinate effectively.

An example: Sometimes I have a great idea for a blogpost, but I can’t get it written. I try writing it one way, I try another but I just can’t get it finished. Invariably, I procrastinate. Suddenly while I’m procrastinating, the idea I was missing comes to me and the whole blog post is suddenly clear in my mind. When I next sit down to write it, it takes no time and writing it is a pure pleasure.

I could’ve forced myself to write the blogpost the first time around - if I’d had enough discipline! But it would have been a struggle all the way and the result wouldn’t have been half as good. I can just hear people crying “Well, your blogposts still aren’t half as good” :o) That’s another discussion!

Not bent on self-destruction after all

I don't remember quite how I acquired my penchant for coffee, but I do know how unfulfilled I feel if I don't have at least two cups of the black stuff in the morning, and a few more throughout the day. I have felt at times, especially on tired Sunday mornings when I only started feeling human after the fifth cup, that I was brewing my own undoing by savouring huge amounts of a drink that's been linked to everything from cancer to heart attacks. So I was heartened to read this morning that it's the doom mongers that have been wrong all this time, whereas I have been taking exceptionally good care of my health. Just listen to this: "Coffee is more efficient than fruit and vegetables in preventing the oxidation of DNA, the source of a number of serious illnesses," and "based on current knowledge a heavy consumer can safely continue to indulge."

The last summer of a true hero

Many of you will be familiar with how my dog saved my life. I would not have been here today if Tajo had not intervened and found help after a hit-and-run driver had left me to die next to a deserted forest road almost 13 years ago. Yesterday I had to administer Tajo's death – for three years now his legs have started to give in, and we chose to put him down before he would have been unable to walk altogether.

Tajo died a very happy dog, surrounded by his family, and he kept guarding his flock faithfully to the end - even though it clearly tired him in his old age. Tajo touched many lives and made many fans and friends - as far afield as the US West Coast – so for a limited time we have set up a memorial site for him here. Feel free to leave comments on his site or send me stories and pictures.

Ghosts and statistics – a week in the passing

Monday: Got up at 6am. Damn. Should have been up at 5, but still not too bad. Spend an inordinate time catching up on the news (piles of newspapers waiting for me after a week of travelling, and better take a closer look at the news and websites I've only had time to scan quickly while on the road) and drinking coffee. Rush off to catch my 9am meeting on the other side of town, tropical weather so all my makeup gone before I arrive. Spend the morning in a meeting going through my translation of a drug report. Did you know that the average success rate in residential drug rehabilitation programs is 20%, regardless of type of treatment regime? I didn't, even though I've covered this beat for 11 years and written a thesis on it. It's 1pm and I'm dizzy from all the coffee and lack of breakfast. After lunching over the day's newspaper I sit down to find some hardcore ghosts and haunted mansions, but my head is still spinning on the difference between significance and importance, variations, correlations and all those terms I tried so hard to forget from when I did methods and statistics in Uni. I call a friend who wrote her MA thesis on the sex life of male bona bons (monkeys) to brush up on my statistical terminology, after which I decide that it's simply not the right day to hunt ghosts. So I go home and attempt to proofread and edit the report I've translated, but half way thru I find Gudleiv Forr's opinion piece in Dagbladet which I just have to blog about...

Tuesday: Got up at 7am, still aiming for 5, but obviously not keeping it up as the week progresses (better stop this development while I can). To my delight I find an email from a friend of a dear friend now departed when I open my mailbox. Edit, edit, edit – no chasing ghosts today either – but I do catch a spinning session, and finish the editing – 11pm

Wednesday: Scan the news and blog in the morning, have a quick but tough workout. Once I get into my office I talk to one of Britain's top experts on haunted houses, find some really spooky ghosts and a mansion with some really cool ghostbusting equipment (the manager of this place has never actually encountered a ghost himself though). I learn that 'my book' (an anthology I'm represented in) is indeed 'out' and will be the first in a series of books on communication ethics, each book featuring one of my interviews. As a nice surprise I get an email from a former lecturer of mine who blogs here. Finalise drug report. Meet the big boss of one of my clients for lunch. Log the logs of the log. Been working from 6am to 6pm and attempt to attend a political debate, but need some dinner first. I've been planning for a while to write a story on what I used to think was the best winebar in Europe, so I head there for some food. However, the service turns out to be so bad that I end up leaving under a dark cloud – no review and no political debate – rather, I head home and do some writing.

Thursday? By now I've forgotten all about Thursday: I know it involved a long meeting, a quick but intense workout and lots of following up on loose ends and research requests.

Friday: Get up at 7:30. Do some writing in the morning before I go down town. I pick up a 545 page manuscript I optimistically plan to copy edit over the weekend. Back in the office I talk to some nice people at a haunted house, which unfortunately turns out to be closed during the summer (the winter is their 'high season' for paranormal activities). Besides, all their eight ghosts are friendly ones, nothing scary like in this place on the other side of the mountain. Neither can you see these ghosts; but you can smell and hear them and the three children ghosts like to 'play tricks' on visitors...

Weekend: not much copy editing going on, but some good workouts; I have some fun with my writing and steal a few hours with a good book (too good, I'm reading it for the third time but still I'm struggling to put it down). I try to mow the lawn but I still can't seem to figure out how to start the damn thing which is supposed to do the mowing (it runs on oil, I'm supposed to pull some thingy, but it doesn't have any effect so I give up) – the grass has grown so high that it's becoming rather embarrassing to compare 'our' part of the garden to the impeccable gardens of all our neighbours (better think of another solution but unfortunately I can't really imagine that any of my friends could lend me a better grass cutter, or have one at all). As always the weekend was much too short...

The upcoming week? It'll be a new adventure, though I do know it will involve models, locating a London double-decker for hire, James Bond, zorbing, surfing and some serious copy editing...

The Cat is Back

Last month I wrote about my friend H's close encounter with death and how she miraculously survived a dramatic crash with a mountain wall which left her car completely wrecked. Well, wonders of all wonders, not only did my friend H and the contents of the car all survive in one piece, yesterday Casanova the cat - who ran away after the accident - turned up alive! We've had our power struggles Casanova and I, most notably the first few times I was cat sitting for him and he tried to manipulate me into feeding him all day and get me up in the mornings by banging on my door an meuing from 5am on - it's not for nothing that he's nick-named 'the centre of the world'. However, once we got past the stage of testing each others boundaries we've come to an understanding and I am very glad to see him back. Casanova's return reminded me of my friend Charles' little tune 'The Cat Came Back':
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