Welcome home, Frankie boy!

And what a welcome it is! The weather in Bergen is simply awesome, meaning that this is the time to visit Bergen if you want a quick weekend away. Unlikely, so for my foreign friends I’ve added some pictures for reference. The city is warm, filled with people, the sun shines well into the evening, and.. wait, what? Evening?

Our most fearsome gazebo.

Our most fearsome gazebo.

Somehow coming home is something of a culture shock, strange as it sounds. The first thing you notice is that it stays light through the night. Sun goes down at around eleven and lingers just below the horizon all through the night. Odd, compared to the US where the sun goes down at nine leaving the area pitch black half an hour later.

Nothing like a trip along the pier.

Nothing like a trip along the pier.

And the people, and now I’m bashing my own countrymen a little, aren’t nearly as friendly as I’ve grown used to people being. Some might even call them impolite or rude, so when a tourist asks a simple question it’s not enough to say “I don’t know”, people feel the need to add a reason why it was a stupid question to begin with. Little things, you know. It’s a simple fact about the human condition that everybody have insecurities and want to be accepted one way or another. In the US the way people go about it is to be as friendly to people as they possibly can, hoping people will like them. The Norwegian way is to replace that smile with a scowl, in an attempt to chase away strangers who might otherwise judge them. That’s my impression anyway, feel free to disagree. I won’t judge you.. much.

Can't help but love Bergen this time of year.

Can't help but love Bergen this time of year.

My week so far has been busy busy busy, and the only evening I had time alone was when we went out shopping for a new TV. Ended up with a 46” bad boy, which fits our living room perfectly. Other then that I’ve been meeting up with old friends and hanging around, bringing an attitude-change back with me from the US. Having been on the road for weeks and away from home for months I have gained something of a momentum when it comes to trying new things and getting myself out of the house. It’s a good thing, and anyone can grab a hold and tag along for the ride. I don’t discriminate.

Our downtown is not like other downtowns.

A small mountain town.

As for this blog, it’s done it’s job. The plan was to leave it as a story of my trip, a kind of diary that I can look back at should I ever feel the urge. That is still the plan. However, blogging is kinda fun and I feel I’m slowly getting the hang of it. I need to find a new place to hang out though, WordPress is so-so when it comes to community from what I see. Also I need something to blog about, or maybe I’ll just take that as I go.

We also have parks. I love that bridge..

We also have parks. I love that bridge..

Thanks for following my trip, and I hope you had fun reading it.

Frank. Out.

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Boston crime statistics (and zombies)

With our stay coming to an end, let’s see what we have survived so far. Due to the Boston Police having a presence on twitter, everyone can have their own little readers digest of the recent criminal activity in this beautiful little New England town. Today they posted the numbers for the 1. January – 25. May time period. I just happen to know that we are in district D-4, so this is us: 

Homicides: 3
Rape & attempted: 6
Robbery & attempted: 105
Aggravated assault: 108
Burglary & attempted: 153
Larceny & attempted: 1343
Vehicle Theft & attempted: 83

Total number of crimes: 1801

How about that. Now district D-4 covers the neighborhoods of Back Bay, South End, Lower Roxbury and Fenway area, hardly a large area. How many people living in these areas I couldn’t tell you, but given that it’s one of eleven district stations in the City of Boston and wikipedia lists Boston with just over 600.000 inhabitants, we get an idea. 

Very American I must say.

Just for fun, let’s look at the numbers for Boston as a whole:

Homicides: 22
Rape & attempted: 94
Robbery & attempted: 845
Aggravated assault: 1357
Burglary & attempted: 1145
Larceny & attempted: 5593
Vehicle Theft & attempted: 906

Homicides with a firearm: 18
Non-fatal hits: 89
Firearm related arrests: 274

Total number of crimes: 9961

I’d compare this to Norwegian numbers, but they aren’t nearly as neatly bundled or easily available. My understanding is that these numbers aren’t horrible, and are to be considered low and well within what we should expect in this day and age. I will simply let these numbers hang, as a nice little snap shot of our time in Boston. And for those who thought a zombie apocalypse would be hushed down, think again:

 

First response unit.

False alarm!

Gay rights vs privacy

That's right!There is something strange happening in Norway these days. The organization Fritt Ord (free word) have given their Free Speech award of 2009 to a somewhat strange candidate; the venom spewing gay basher Nina Karin Monsen for her, and I quote, well reflected thoughts. This comes as a result of the new laws on marriage which allow gay people to join hands in the traditional sense of the word. As with all things that tends to catch the public eye this is all over the media, in every channel, in every newspaper and all over the blog sphere. There’s even protests in both Bergen and Oslo today. Every politician wants to air their views on gay marriage and either agree, disagree, or discuss the merits of this award. 

Meanwhile, somewhere in the dark depths of a courtroom in Stavanger, our right to privacy is being signed over to a private law firm leaving nobody none the wiser. The case in question? Will Lyse tele, an ISP, be forced to hand over the identity behind an IP address to Simonsen, the said law firm. The ruling itself is being withheld from the public due to a “fear of evidence destruction”, a nice piece of rhetoric which if you think about it, holds no merit whatsoever. This is the last of a series of baby steps we have seen over the last few months which now opens up for law firms to demand the identity behind an IP adress without going through the police. Sometimes I wish I was a lawyer. 

It’s an interesting day back home, that’s for sure. Here it’s wet and windy, and time to grab a good book and hit Starbucks for a cup of joe.

MIT hacking culture

MIT. Clever. Geeky. Creative.. fun? With an unofficial motto like this, who can resist?

I’m going to let the pictures do the talking on this one, they do a much better job then me. 

 

"In case of zombie attack. Break Glass."

"In case of zombie attack. Break Glass."

 

The statue of John Harvard.

The statue of John Harvard.

 

Some hacks are simply alterations of signs.

Some hacks are simply alterations of signs.

 

Others, a little more elaborate. Yes, that is a police car.

Others, a little more elaborate. Yes, that is a police car.

While some settle for a laugh.

While some settle for a laugh.

The list goes on, here, to be exact. These are all what is commonly known as hacks, clever pranks by MIT students to amuse fellow students and staff alike. The dome is a favorite, but other buildings have been hacked as well, with one even getting a working toilet installed. The rules are simple, don’t destroy anything and don’t get caught.

Tight quarters, broken glass

I broke another glass today. Don’t think I’ve broken a single glass back in Bergen, but here it seems to happen all the time. Something to do with the fact that there’s not a lot of moving space in this studio apartment. Which reminds me, I haven’t posted any pictures of this place yet.

 

The corner where I do all my work.

The corner where I do all my work.

 

Door to the closet.

In the corner, door to the closet.

 

We got a TV in the corner.

We got a TV in the corner.

 

A mirror on the wall. In the end there is our entrance door.

A mirror on the wall. In the end there is our entrance door.

 

Our kitchen, by the entrance.

Our kitchen, by the entrance.

 

This door opens into the bathroom.

This door opens into the bathroom.

 

A quick peak into the bathroom.

A quick peak into the bathroom.

 

Book shelf. Usually a lot messier.

Book shelf. Usually a lot messier.

 

And if you thought something was missing you were right. This thing flips down and becomes our bed.

And if you thought something was missing you were right. This thing flips down and becomes our bed.

 

And that’s all he wrote. Way over due I know, but this is how we live atm and will be living for another two months.

The Food Court

One American phenomenon which I have yet to see replicated anywhere in Europe is the Food Court. This odd meeting place found in so far every shopping mall I’ve visited seems to be unique to the American way of life, though I suspect you’d also find something akin to this in Asia. In all it’s simplicity, most offer every type of fast food known to man, from pastries, burgers and salads to Mexican food and sushi. The setup seems to be universal; a huge open area with fast food outlets lining the walls, filled with tables and chairs in the middle. 

The Food Court at Prudential center, a stark contrast to the otherwise posh place.

The Food Court at Prudential center, a stark contrast to this otherwise overly expensive place.

While you would imagine such a place to be looked down on by the general population, everyone seem to be using these and you will find everything from homies to suits having their lunch here. The primal need for food brings them together and in their eating ritual, they tolerate each others presence. 

Personally I like the concept. A variety of quality junk gathered in one place, mass produced, socially acceptable and with seating readily available. What’s not to like?

Watchmen

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and say that yes, Watchmen is a good movie. Yet at the same time I’m not really sure what to think of it. I find it hard to try and see it from the outside, and I wonder how someone who doesn’t already know the characters and the setting will approach it. The visuals were awesome, the feel of the different characters was just right, the stories are pretty much the same but the Cold War references worked better in the comic. As with everything that crosses from one medium to another the details were lost, but having read the comic, I didn’t really mind. I will of course be picking up a collectors edition at some point that includes the pirate comic book story, but I’m not really in a rush to watch it. 

As for American movie theatres, I still prefer the European setup with numbered seats. That way I can just stumble into the theatre as the last commercial is rolling over the screen instead of having to show up before the movie starts and sit through 30 minutes of commercials to get a good seat.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get some Day/NyQuil.

Medicate Me

Americans seem to have a very odd attitude towards medication. Probably comes from the fact that it has a thriving medical industry compared to other places, which in turn prompts a lot of commercial for new medication hitting the marked. The Scientologists had their anti-drug documentary on display, weaving a conspiracy around psychiatric medication as an industry of death. Personally, I find the average commercial to be much more disturbing simply because of the side effects listed. While a little bee flies around in a nose spray commercial, the woman in the background tells me that “side effects include nosebleeds, headache, infections and organ failure, which in rare cases has been known to cause death”. Come again? I have a cold, and you are trying to sell me something that could kill me? On second thought I think I’ll just ride this one out, but thanks for asking.

However, to keep myself from staying in bed all day I went to get some light painkillers to douse my headache. Heading down to CVS Pharmacy, our local kiosk where we usually go for soda and snacks, I figured aspirin to be a safe and easy choice. Little did I know that I would be faced with a wall of different brands, each one more wonderous, “perfect for me” or well tested then the other. After a while of random browsing, my fever induced brain picked a random brand and suggested I pick up a coke on the way out. If the cold persists maybe I’ll pick up a bottle of NyQuil, I’ve heard from reliable sources that it’s the shit.

An American Idiot

So we met our first American idiot tonight. The female upstairs think she owns the world, and gets to do whatever she wants simply because she’s been living here for two years. She has so far been able to keep in good faith with the person who rent us this apartment, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. And yes, it’s 3:15 and her stereo is blasting Coldplay. 

Hmm.. just as I’m writing this she is now jumping up and down in her room, probably in an effort to annoy us. I think brat is the word I’m looking for here. Kristine, also unable to sleep, is taking the opportunity to inform our landlord about the problem at hand. He’s going to have to figure out a solution, because she stonewalled me and we are definitely not getting anywhere. 

It’s pretty interesting how her main argument seems to be that “I own my apartment, you just rent and that makes me better then you”. And I wonder, have I struck a piece of real American attitude here? It seems pretty consistent with the American stereotype, the one who only plays by the rules when its consistent with his own goals and think himself to be better then everyone else. My next thought is, can I sue someone now?

Starbucks to grind

Conscience keeps more people awake than coffee. The cold is back, and while the snow is a pretty serious indicator I didn’t realize how cold it actually were before I went for a walk looking for some new clothes. I quickly abandoned that idea and figured that, to warm me up, I’d get a taste of the American coffee culture instead. Tim at Starbucks explained that “sadly most Americans like their coffee sweet”, excusing himself and all Americans for the fact that he was now making me a Caramel Macchiato when requested to make their top seller. He offered to make me a cup of real coffee if I didn’t like it. I passed on the offer, walking back out into Newbury Street. I shouldn’t have. 

The coffee itself, if you can call it that, is over the top sweet and with a caramel like foam. Half way through the cup it’s borderlining nauseating, and I figure that enough is enough. While I do at times indulge in sweet hot drinks, calling this coffee is like calling Mac a computer.. both are fashion items for designer yuppies who don’t know the first thing about either.

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