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The Selfish Idealist


When you do things for yourself, do you have to be destructive towards the world? Life can be made fairly good both for you and for the rest of us.

Maybe you'll not only help out, but even give everybody a good laugh from time to time.

Sitting in the shade in good weather is a favourite of mine in the summer.  Sehesteds plass, Oslo, with the offices of two of our biggest publisher's houses on each side of the square.

You don’t fuck with friends

Comment Posted on 28 May, 2020 17:05

You know, Don, Palestine…Israel.

It’s something I have not really followed because the opinions, here in Norway even, have been so extreme and tense. I haven’t had the energy.

But I think you must consider the way Israel was established.

You take a people, whose whole history, in Europe, and probably elsewhere, is so full of violence, intolerance, persecution, in general (maybe there are exceptions, Poland, for instance) – but pogrom is what sums up much of it. 

Nazi Germany built on this fantastic tradition of persecuting the others and, in the end, tried to exterminate the whole people, the Jews.

Other European Fascists did the same.

Then you take this people and give them the right to…well, go back to a place where they had been dominant, but like, a thousand years ago or more.

As you can understand I certainly don’t know the details in this, and I am not going to go into discussions about zionism etc.

Certainly not.

But the Jews…don’t you think they were afraid?

Practically the whole of Europe had been involved in…actually killing them.

More or less the whole lot, if those Fascists had won the war.

I think some of them are still afraid. I mean the Jews.

Which is not very strange, because there has been a war there from the beginning.

Which is not strange, because there were people there already, and…we, they, the UN, took their land.

The country is there, you can’t change that.

But I mean, there were already people there.

Basically a people, the Palestinians.

Others too, I guess, but ok.

They call this, at least some of them do, The disaster.

Some people , acually both Jews and Muslims and maybe non-religious people belonging on either side or elsewhere, try to live in peace down there. Make friendships, organise across those…lines.

I actually even know a few.

But what do you do as a politician, in the middle of something like this?

I would at least…be careful.

It doesn’t exactly seem like that…peace plan of yours…

is careful.

A treaty is the result of discussions between the parties involved. 

They negotiate, if you can make them do that, and in the end they agree on something.

That is a peace treaty.

Even this may work or it may not.

Partially, probably, anyway.

You can’t just make one and say, hey guys, here is what you have to do.

And again, my knowledge is not exactly abundant or whatever you call it, but Netanyahu…

He’s not a negotiator, is he?

Pleasant and tolerant, as politicians go?

To just annex a piece of land which has been in the line of conflict all the time, probably since 48…

Whatever more goes on down there…

What I would do…

At least try to make those attempts of friendship across the barbed wire, mental or physical, try to make those attempts…

go on.

Maybe find some more of such things. Initiatives of friendship, peace, between you & me, cultural events, whatever.

Whatever friendship is…

It is not war.

There is no knowing what can come out of it.

What comes out of war…

in this situation, that seems to me very sure,

is more war.

A tighter conflict.

A spiral.

Other than that, I don’t know.

Street Food

Oslo Posted on 24 May, 2020 00:33

There is a truck standing at Youngstorget right now, together with other food trucks, serving you kebabs and a lot of other Pakistani street food, and this is real food, no worries about that, really good, with meat, not minced meat, and everything well prepared.

They call themselves Ricksha.

I also tried a dessert, a type of waffles with ice cream and pieces of chocolate bars on top. Maybe a little too much chocolate after having had that kebab, which was a lot of food, but the waffle was good, for me something new.

They have a lot of other stuff that I haven’t tried yet, but I’ll check it out.

There are other trucks standing at Youngstorget too, I’ve tried Thai food, at least, and there are other things there to eat if you want to sit by the fountain or on a bench.

Language on the screen

Digital sanity Posted on 09 May, 2020 00:43

Everyone has to adjust, every day, to the language of the computer business.

I’m not talking about machine language, but the lingo that the whole thing produces and uses on the screen, both when it comes to vocabulary, concepts and ways of thinking.

It probably happens in many ways, many different things are hitting us.

Still, my Mac is one piece of metal lying in my lap or sitting at a table, and it very often speaks to me in ways that contradict or even crash ways of thinking I learnt at school.

The world is moving, you say?

I wonder how much is necessary and useful.

We should anyway always discuss how it is moving.

The thing on my table is supposed to ease and enable communication.

But in my opinion, the computer world itself has a lot of trouble communicating with the rest of us, the computer users who belong in other professions.

It seems to have no trouble in finding its way both to our desks and into our minds, but everybody have diffuculties understanding what it says, how it actually works.

Information is closely related to knowledge.

Knowledge has a history.

The history of education, actually, and the history even of other things, other human ways of thinking.

But also through education of all kinds, also theoretical, philosophy, math, sociology, whatever.

Also, of course, one should not forget the knowledge which exists outside of theoretical schooling.

Since everybody actually has the possibility of taking part in today’s discussions, everybody should be enabled to be part of this, through education, whether it is formal or not does not matter.

I know, it’s quite a task, but can you see another way forward?

This means, among other things, that there has to exist a language which relate to and is understood by all groups, and preferrably without destroying both discussions of professional character and the rest. Both insider discussions among professionals and discussions more like pub conversations have always existed, but now they’re suddenly on the same table, the same screen, in the same stream or picture, more or less.

This is also…a challenge.

But the computer guys are putting a number of things in the mist.

They have their own terms, their own ways of thinking.

This is normal for any field.

But not normal…is that one field takes control over communication to the extent that is happening today.

A lot of everyday words are suddenly given completely new meanings, often meanings that has more or less nothing to do with the original meaning or usage.

I have nothing against nerdy humour, but I believe even this insider humour is introduced into the language and the ways of thinking which we all have to relate to.

I find this provoking as long as it creates clouds where there should be clarity.

The whole field has been given too much power, over definitions and other things.

It is not simply a matter of a new field of knowledge entering the scene.

Information is not new, yet suddenly we accept the business’ or computer specialists’ own way of understanding this concept, and in ways that often break old ways of thinking.

It goes into practice too, work life.

Teaching is profoundly affected, at least here in Norway this development is strongly pushed, promoted, by the authorities, the computerization of administration for teachers, homeworks for students and everything else is more and more done through the screen.

It is sort of an advantage right now because it has enabled a special way of home education for students and kids, but in general I feel it is also another of the numerous ways that business life invades every part of society with their own habits and ways of thinking, and in this particular case not to the benefit of those affected.

At least not necessarily so.

I don’t feel that business life in general has the schooling or background necessary to be the backbone of public life, but they take this position to a large extent.

More and more voices, if you just call schools or public offices, make a phone call or write an e-mail, are answered by voices that don’t really belong there, they belong in companies of different sorts.

Maybe there is a conflict between math and natural science on one side and humanities on the other in what I say about language in the computer world. I certainly belong in the humanities.

If this is part of the problem, a balance between them needs to be found, languagewise at least.

There are a lot of other questions which need to be asked, concerning the design of web pages and computer programmes, which also influences the way we think. The visual side of it.

I have said much about this already in the stack of articles about this issue which you can find on this blog, but I think there are still quite a few posts in Norwegian that should be translated.

Another musical approach to math?

Music Posted on 04 May, 2020 01:31

To contradict what I just said about rhythm and math, in this case perhaps the math describes the rhtyhm accurately… I don’t know the genre or genres well enough to say really much, but presence is in any case another important aspect of art…and creativity.

No lack of that.

I totally respect this music as I hope I do with any genre, and I really enjoy dancing to it, even if I sometimes feel like a dinosaur in the company of lambs when I go to a club. I hope I won’t stop, because I wake up the next day with a body feeling like a toddler’s, and my head and soul has had an important experience, too.

Even if the pulse itself, the tempo, is maybe repetitive or unchanging, creativity and variation simply goes on elsewhere, there is no lack of variation. I think younger people than me also sit and listen to it a lot, so far I usually prefer moving to it, but who cares.

Some of this sounds like normal pop music to me, which I’m more used to.

There is a lot more to be said, but I have to listen more and think more.

Basie’s version of math

Music Posted on 04 May, 2020 00:41

For those who think that math deliver the most precise answers to everything…

I would perhaps say that in music, math creates one structure of music, at least in notated music in any style in Western music, since fairly simple fractions make the rhythmic order as seen on the notes.

When you play a piece of written music you need to have this order sort of fastened in your mind to the extent that you can play the rhythm correctly, but you also need to be so sure of it that you can keep the rhythm and at the same time let go of it. If you play it mathematically correct it will most of the times sound to rigid, in this style it will be not with a swing.

You can also analyse music according to a flock of other ideas, put in your own story or stories to a certain extent and see it as symbols of practically anything. In short, you are expected to put your own personality into it when you play it, with whatever ideas that will work to make something interesting and nice out of it.

To actually do this with your fingers and mouth, not only think it, you need that same freedom in relation to the rhythm, so that you can improvise within the given pattern, the given notes. It can become a rubber band which you can’t totally leave, but you can make your own pattern within the music, within the notes.

The result can, if you’re lucky, be something completely new.

Now, if you try to measure the performed rhythm with a technical instrument of some kind, which on the sheet music is written perfect and plain, you will most probably discover a lot of mathematical inaccuracies which is due to the performers’ own way of forming the music.

So what’s left of the concepts of eights, quarter notes etc are perhaps ideas which you can hear and follow very well when you listen, but the accuracy of the sounds, the actual played music, you will need some other concepts than pure numbers to catch.

Every musician and every genre will have their own words for the things that are going on, and no one will ever make a definitive version of a piece because the chore of those concepts, even if the concepts exist (you can hear the rhythm and everything else, right?) – even if they exist, it is not possible to define them completely, or if you manage to do so, they will possible die in your mind and leave you with a disability to play or listen.

Life is not supposed to stop, and the representation of life, the pictures that we make of life, in short…art, are also not supposed to lose their ability to interest us and give us new versions of the truths hidden inside them.

In music that is not notated, the same things go on, only the ideas maybe spread out more and happen in different notes every time it is brought to life through the live playing of music.

The idea itself remains alive and present, but not completely finished in the sense that it cannot be told in another way the next time someone plays.

Especially in Count Basie’s playing with his band you can experience this combination of laziness and energy in attitude and in the relationship to the notes, and you need the security both of your instrument and of the notes to half leave them as you go along, just as if you walked down a path which you know very well, but which you see with fresh eyes as you move forward, and with small detours on the way.

The demolition of the “Y block” and the building of new government quarters in Oslo

Comment Posted on 02 May, 2020 05:15

I have not had the capacity to follow the political and administrative process that lead to the demolition of the Y block, which is happening now.

The Y block, so called because of its shape, was drawn by Norwegian architect Erling Viksjø, the decorations made in cooperation with Pablo Picasso, who did the drawings for the murals.

It is built in roughly the same period as the Berlin Philharmonie, or, considering that all assemblies of buildings are very small in Norway, you could in a way compare it to a tiny bit of Alexanderplatz, a showcase for the government, in our case Social Democratic, not Communist.

Architecture of power is always problematic, at least for a period of time, and I must admit that I don’t love the Y block even if many do. But the building of the new management bunker, sorry, I would use such a name for it, is in my opinion worse.

It gives me an awkward position, but I have signed the petition to stop the demolition, also because of what it gives way to.

Our government is also in a process of being completely changed by neoliberals, and the demolition of this building is of course very much a symbolic action. This is a view from Youngstorget of the planned buildings, home of the Social Democratic Party and the Labour Union, and the normal gathering place for May Day and other demonstrations:

The Y block and neighbouring H block survived the bomb of Anders Behring Breivik without substantial damage, other than windows.

The government has planned to cut loose the Picasso/Nesjar murals and to place them in the new government quarters.

Security is very much an argument for this project, but I find the way of thinking actually dumb, simply consisting of gathering more or less all government offices in one place.

It will of course have all the technical security measures that a socalled modern society can afford.

I care more for the city.

It is under pressure, like most other cities in the world, I believe – from big money and its political representatives. Ours is a small city, with only 650 000 inhabitants in the city itself, excluding surrounding municipalities. We have not much to lose.

An inside view of the Y block:

"Konkylietrappen" filmet fra nederste etasje og opp.

Publisert av Mari Viksjø Grøstad Mandag 9. mars 2020

This is what is coming instead, which for me is maybe the most important reason to stop the plans for the area, in addition to the destruction of art by Picasso, which was made as part of the building.

The price of this building project is not known, but between 2 to 3 billion Euro is an estimate.

As many public building budgets are set too low for obvious political reasons, exceeding the budgets is a normal thing in Norway.

Environmentally, it is of course not sound.

I would very much like you to sign the petition to stop the demolition of the Y block, and please hang on further on as the new government quarters is also a project that should be stopped, in my opinion.

It’s a country, not a company

Comment Posted on 22 Mar, 2020 04:05

This interview with Donald Trump shows pretty much one way business populists misunderstand public welfare systems and other public systems. If you make a rule it must apply to everyone, even the rich if it is basically meant for and basically work for the poor. 

It is impossible to make a perfect system which does exactly what you want it to do with no exceptions. You will normally always miss a little. You have to accept this, or in some cases drop the whole idea of making a rule because it is not possible without violating more important principles of a civilised way of ruling a country.

I know too little about the American system to say very much more, but here in Norway the normal lawbook is in many cases beginning to look like one man one rule – one law for each man or woman, or for each case, ad hoc laws, it ought to be called, because inexperienced politicians and an opinion with sorry…too much to say and also too little knowledge – have made them into a mess.

You have to aim at something with a law, but you will never hit 100%.

Then you don’t have a law, you don’t have a system in the end, you have a small or a big piece of chaos, and you will need a dictator, not a bureaucrat, who simply decide things as he likes instead of really following laws.

And they are emerging, aren’t they?

In a big company, maybe it is possible to think like this as long as you don’t break normal, sane laws in society, but in any public system, you can’t.


Comment Posted on 19 Mar, 2020 00:01



You’re buliding a wall.

You want it to stop immigration from South America. 

Have you considered how your country has treated the…neighbours during the years?

They are neighbours, aren’t they?

Ok, they had their problems from long ago because of, well, Columbus, Cortez…

I’m not an expert on South America, absolutely not, but there have been political events, haven’t there?


Part of it, I think.

I’m more or less old enough to remember something about Chile. There was an election, and there was elected a guy your government didn’t approve of, and there was a coup, and then dictatorship.

Violence, too.

For quite a few years afterwards.

I’m sure there is a lot more to say about this, but I think a fair amount of people in Europe would say it is not altogether wrong to say this.

In your country too.

Just a little while ago, what was actually the thing in Bolivia, Venezuela, those parts?

There were other countries, earlier on, with…connections, to the States.


It’s probably not right to say that the countries in South America have been North American colonies, this word belongs to a different historical period, too. Meaning different times, different ways of dealing with things, also when the dealing was…a little shitty.

But there was always the Warsaw pact countries, and there was the Soviet Union, and there was South America and the USA, and one couldn’t help notice that there were some similarities in the relation between…the big guy, and the guys who were, you know, a little smaller.

You could say, probably, and very generally speaking, that the Communists had trouble with the truth, and you…with money, poverty. 

Well, there were problems with free speech in South America too…and economic problems in Soviet too.

But to keep a pretty fair amount of the people in poverty.

It looks as a problem over there, when you see things from here.

Historically too.

But I mean, why do you think these people come up to you?

Because of greed?

Or because of problems in their own countries, maybe?

Do you think, historically, that your country has a share in making those problems?

It looks like that to me.

I don’t know what you should do with this.

I’m just saying, this is the world, a small part of how I understand it.

This is not a small neighbourhood, either, where you think you know how people think and feel. It is a lot of people and a lot of different cultures.

It doesn’t have to be true in your neighbourhood either, that you know your neighbours. They may think very differently from what you think, from yourself. Make other priorities, have problems that you don’t know of.

Have you ever experienced…poverty?

Been really broke?

Nowhere to go for a loan?

Starvation? I wouldn’t think so.

All those refugees in the world…millions, actually.

Why do they run?

Here, some people talk about the guys who earn money on smuggling them to Europe or to you.

They are the crooks.

As they think, they are the reason things are like this, the reason people fly.

It is not exactly wise thinking.

People like that turn up in a situation.

One thing is general poverty.

I think you, and Europe, can’t totally escape the responsibility for that, either. 

Historically, of course. 

Time has passed.

But England, Spain, Portugal, and also France, Germany, Italy, even, had their go in both economic exploitation, and political…not only domination, the colonies were actual parts of the rulers countries, formally, laws and everything were made outside of India and Africa and the other places. 

The language, habits of administration…it was a huge cultural thing too. I doubt that everything has gone away, even after all the years that have passed.

Those countries, England etc, stayed for a while.

And even if the USA started as a colony, or colonies, you had your go, too, in a way.

Russia did a lot of shitty things, definitely.

And you did.

It’s not about guilt, for me, even if that is an issue too, probably, for those affected.

It’s just about realising what happened.

And what those things can have led to.

And you still haven’t grasped the climate thing, have you?

Carbon dioxide, I think, mostly it’s about that.

Burning fuel.

Pff pff…

It affects the weather, you know.

It does, it’s not a lie or something. This winter we had no winter, here in Oslo.

Some cold days, and yeah, it has been snowing, but so little, I have been walking in normal shoes practically the whole season. Thin jacket. Has been fine.

Oslo has a harder climate than New York, normally, so I’m told, I’ve never been to New York. But snow used to be in the streets from at least mid November until the beginning of March.

At least. Usually it’s a big job removing it from the streets everywhere in Norway, maybe a little less in the southwest, but still.

Well, you know that. of course. You have Alaska and the northern areas.

But even if the Golf stream makes the whole area here livable and nice, so we think, it is usually kind of cold.

But not this winter, really, not here. 

Norway is pretty long, in the north things are probably different.

But that carbon dioxide emission thing…it affects the weather.

I’m not kidding you.

And there are floods sometimes, now, even here, and it used to be not really common.  It doesn’ happen every year, maybe, but water has definitely become an issue. There has always been enough, but now they have to do things to cope with too much of it, much of the time.

And suddenly there were four months with no rain, in the spring and summer.

Also very unusual.

Difficult for the farmers, nice for us…

But we’re not a poor country.

In other parts of he world…this is much more dramatic.

The way the weather is affected by the level of carbon dioxide I cannot explain to you just like that. 

But a meteorologist probably can. There is a connection, even if it is not a simple one.

It’s not like, the temperature rises everywhere, all the time.

It’s more like, the weather becomes generally more extreme. And if you calculate the average temperature on the whole globe, it is actually rising.

And of course, with floods, more than usual, droughts, more than usual, bushfires, more than usual, like Australia…

All those problems we talked about, poverty…

Hey, suddenly it’s not possible, perhaps, for a family, somewhere, to really survive. 

Maybe they lived on the edge already, moneywise.

Many do.

And with political and military interventions also…you do that too, don’t you?

I mean…wars, the climate change, political suppression, I guess those are the most important reasons for the huge amount of refugees.

I still don’t have the kind of overview needed to say exactly what to do.

But at least, having some knowledge about the…situation.

Could be helpful, or what do you think?

Wrong word? Helpful?

It’s not an easy situation, absolutely not.

And I can’t tell you how difficult it is, I don’t have that kind of overview.

But there are, for instance, I don’t know, a little less than 10 000 kids, right now, in addition to grown ups, many more – in one big refugee camp in Greece, and many of them will maybe die because of that virus epidemic.

They are already in a fucking difficult position, pardon my French, but this is another part of the situation.


That’s the name of this refugee camp.

Those kids need help right now, this minute, if possible.

They have been needing it for a long time, but now, this epidemic, in a place like that…

Of course, there are other camps other places in the world.


So why are they there…

Those are just some points, when talking about refugees, and to say really, what’s the thing, maybe add some figures and see how it looks. How many refugees there…and there…and what are the «local» reasons, for all those people to be on the move, etc.

Are you a politician?

This is the situation.

Part of it.

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