The weblog of a traveller

   Jul 11

England I – Traning

I’ll try to jot down a few paragraphs about the Summer institute which marks the beginning of my two years as a teacher. These five weeks are basically all the training we get before stepping up as full-responsibility science and math teachers. Compared to the one year program graduates usually need to follow before they are allowed to teach “for real,” a month and a few days may seem meager. I can assure you they are not. We do not have time for anything besides teaching and learning about teaching.   There is a lot of reflection going on in the breaks. All the conversations are about the same thing. I have explored teaching techniques in my dreams the last two nights. It becomes our lifestyle, our mindframe.

In a crash course you sink or swim. None has sunk yet. We are constantly challenged: –How will you ensure that each pupil has understood the concept and not just copy down your words? -Have you considered how you will move about the classroom? -How would you have disciplined that girl without attacking her self image? Every speaker is eminent and I cannot praise the organizers enough.

The great responsibility and challenge of being responsible for a group of teenagers and making them excel is starting to feel like something that can be done. Engaging, inspired teachers do it every day. I try to keep that feeling when the what-if’s come sneaking up. What if the class is super offensive all the time? What if they just get up and leave? When I was about fourteen I read the Belgariad (the first five openly, then all the sequels in secret as I was for reasons still obscure to me not allowed to read anything more by Eddings). His work taught me a few things (apart from multiplying my vocabulary and raising my English marks by a half grade), one of them was to disregard what-if’s. They are not the sort of preparation that makes you prepared, but rather cousins of the inner critic, products of your insecure mind which anyone who has ever taken a self realization class has expelled to somewhere dark and drafty. Knowing the difference between legitimate concerns and nonconstructive worry is one key to stop stopping yourself.



   Jun 17

I think I am green. Do you agree?

I try to lead a life that is giving back more than it takes from the world around me. One aspect of this is incorporating environmentally friendly practices in my everyday. In a break from preapring my master’s dissertation I made a list, roughly ordered by amount of care spent:

  • Buying organics whenever I can, longing for the time when it will be possible to live off organics alone. Not so much because it is healthier, more because it is better for the soil the stuff’s grown in as well as whatever is downstream of the field.
  • Keeping a strict scheme for new clothing: One in, one out. This is a necessity directed by my closet size, but also makes me think twice about getting new stuff: I’ll have to sacrifice something for it. At the moment I’m one above, which means I need to donate an item.
  • I never ever throw out edible food. Not even the more experimental dishes that didn’t turn out so good, I’ll rather put them in a stew with other things.  The pet bunnies help out a lot here, as long as I have them I can get all the yummy greens I like without worrying if they’ll get old too soon.
  • I don’t eat meat, apart from the occasional fish. Mostly because this is a better way to spend our resources. Improved health and avoiding qualms about livestock welfare issues is more of a bonus. Yes, this is a bit down the list, as I stopped eating meat six years ago and rarely need to think about it anymore.
  • I finally (sorta) fixed my bicycle, after having been a passive bicycle lover for a long time. Burn fat, not oil!
  • Growing my own herbs and veggies, at least I try. Peas, tarragon, chives, and dill grow like a charm, squash, pumpkin and peppers struggle a bit.
  • I make lists of stuff I need, and look for them at flea markets, second hand shops and private sale websites. The majority of my furniture and kitchen stuff is second hand. I also get rid of stuff in the same way.
  • Minimizing transport of water. Not only by not buying bottled water, but also by getting concentrates to which I can add my local tap water. Bar soaps, bar shampoo, solid deodorants, concentrated fruits for drinks. Not-from-concentrate juices may seem fresher, but only because whole oranges were shipped all the way to your regional factory where everything but the juice is discarded. If this process is done on site, the peel and everything that does not belong in the juice can be removed already, transporting only a fraction of the weight for re-hydrating at your local tappery or kitchen.
  • I reduce packaging. If both packaged and loose potatoes are available, I go for the loose ones directly in the shopping tote. Consumer power!
  • Leftover water is used for watering plants, not thrown out.
  • Air drying my clothes: Why spend money on a huge ugly machine that uses electricity to wear on your clothes?
  • Prefer digital over paper subscriptions (on a theoretical basis until I get hold of a good e-reader)


I’ve left out some smaller, no-brainer things like bringing reusable bags to the store and putting on some woolen socks instead of turning up the heat. Still the list does seem pretty long, but I am always searching for ways to make it more significant.

There’s also some significantly green things I do NOT do. For one, I don’t compost. My local authorities seem to think dumping organic waste on landfill is a perfectly acceptable way of dealing with this resource. And I don’t have a garden, so it’s not easy to self-compost. I tried the smaller compost bins, but they fill up quickly and don’t seem to produce sufficient heat for the process to pick up. For two, I have a car. It’s not in use every week, but sometimes there’s just no buses.

When making choices, it is necessary to use your own head and not blindly buy into all recommendations out there. Is the reusable latte glass (lots of energy used in manufacture and washing between each customer) really more energy efficient than the recyclable paper cup? When I fly (which I do rarely, but it takes DAYS to get from Oslo to Aberdeen by train and ferry) I don’t pay for CO2-neutrality because I regard those schemes as half scams, and would rather donate my cash to a charity which I trust. And some choices that brand themselves as green aren’t necessarily really that eco friendly. Take soy milk (imported, heavily processed) versus dairy (quite local, not very processed). But the soy does use less land, so how does it add up overall? When in doubt, I tend to disregard the whole dilemma and pick the cheaper one.

Making my personal footprint on the Earth lighter is something I think about every day. Do you think I succeed? What do you do to tread gently on the Earth? Leave a comment!

   Jun 08

Brave new world

Just a brief shriek of joy to tell the world that the travel of life has come to a new chapter, as the Marmot defended its thesis yesterday and was awarded Master of Molecular Biosciences.

This fact was duly celebrated with an excess of bubbly liquids, grandiloquent foods (we lost count of the number of different dishes), with all my best friends present it became a night I will not forget if I live a hundred years.

My thesis is available here. After a short and spectacular break I will move on to teacherhood through the magnificent trainee program Teach First.

When I was reading Psychology I learned about the Imposter syndrome, a tendency seen in many high-achievers to feel that they are not worthy of their achievements and may be busted as an imposter any time.  At this point I am very thankful to know that this is normal and common because I am feeling it rather strongly.


So this is what it feels like to not have a single worry in this world. I will gladly admit that these two years have been taxing, perhaps more than anything due to the percieved responsibility to spend every waking moment in the lab. With it all so suddenly off of my shoulders, I see a brave new world out there. Having reached my so far ultimate goals, it is time to find new, ambitious goals. If there is one insight to gain from all of this, it must be that setting high goals, ones that you do not even know for sure if you can reach, really is the way to get somewhere.

   May 14

Vi Hart – maths the way it is supposed to be

I would like to point your attention to a modern day hero, a self-appointed mathemusician.

Vi Hart (I think that is her actual name) is a composer and mathematician, who makes short videos explaining math concepts. The videos are playful, associative and very different from regular (boring) math tuition. Brilliantly illustrating maths the way it is supposed to be – intuitive, coherent and useful.


Even those who have been at it for a while should take a look and be reminded why you were fascinated by mathematics in the first place.


I will be using her videos shamelessly in my own math teaching (which might start next week already, as I’ve been asked to step in. Oh yosh, am I ready for this?).

Now, shoosh

   Apr 03

Ode to the sugar snap

Spring is here!

Last summer, I grew my first veggies -sugarsnaps. It was an undivided success. All I did was putting the seeds in the soil close to the fence to give them something to climb on. The rest was done without me parttaking – without any attention at all, super pretty pea plants sprouted and stayed green and glorious throughout summer. Pea plants are actually one of the smartest greens there are; they are the only ones in the plant world that have the ability to utilize the nitrogen in the air (there might be a symbiotic microbe that actually does the trick, it is too long since I did green biology). While nitrogen in the air is plentiful, nitrous compounds in the soil are valuable and often a limiting factor for growth. By keeping some peas, you can replenish the soil for the other plants.

And when fall came, the bunnies snacked on the stems. I have the cutest compost vessels imaginable!

Also, I noticed the sugarsnaps in the stores are among the most exotic vegs in terms of country of origin. The ones I am munching right now are from Guatemala, last week they came from Kenya. What is the point in travelling that far when they grow with vigor in my unattended porch box?

This year there will be twice as many sugarsnaps!

   Mar 25

Carpe Vitae

Great news on the career front: I am hereby a candidate for Teach First Norway. Teach First is, by their own words, addressing educational disadvantage by transforming exceptional graduates into effective, inspirational teachers and leaders. I am humbled to be one of the exceptional graduates.


The program is not easy to sum up in a sentence, but if I were to do it anyway, it would be something like this: Tricking the best science graduates into teaching for two years by offering great career opportunities afterwards. By forcing them into some of the “worst” schools in town, the pupils in challenged schools also get the chance to be taught by inspired, inspiring people. It is a mix of teaching and being taught, leading high school classes while learning how to do it along the way, intensive leadership schooling, qualification as a lector, seminars in all school holidays, bringing the oomph back into the classroom, and all in all, intense, non-stop leadership development. It will doubtlessly be challenging, but your Marmot is up for a challenge.

There might not be much time to murmle.

The whole thing is a collaboration between schooling authorities and one of the biggest employers in business for science graduates up here; Statoil. The conditions are hard to match – so if you are working towards a MSc you really should look into this.

Teach First is the European branch of Teach For America. It is huge in England with a thousand graduates admitted this year, in all fields. In Norway we are 20, all in science. Last year (which was the first year) they were even fewer. It is, in other words, only beginning, but is already widely celebrated (1, 2) -except for a few voices saying it undermines all the years the teacher students have spent learning to teach. These voices belong to teachers or teacher students. Do they fear the competition?

The screening process deserves a few words due to its sheer volume. We have been sending applications to both the Uni that takes care of the teaching tuition, and to Statoil which organizes the selection of candidates and the leadership tuition. We have been interviewed 3 times by 4 different people, taken IQ, language and personality tests, presented the story of our lives in seven minutes, given a lecture to adults acting as 15-year-olds, presented solutions to tricky classroom dilemmas, and more. It took 5 full months from the first application was sent until the call finally came.

Most of the above tests were conducted during an intensive, full-day assessment. The days since the assessment have been a thrill. The initial confident feeling wore off, giving way to doubts and second thoughts –things I should have mentioned, arguments that were clumsily worded.

It feels superb to know what I’ll be doing in the foreseeable future. That I’ll be helping others to pursue their goals, partaking in an important and very meaningful project, giving back.

Also, it will doubtlessly be good to provide for myself after six years on student loans, small part-time jobs and supportive parents.

This has been my goal for months, and those close to me are probably sick of hearing about it by now. Take this as a huge THANK YOU for being the great, caring, extraordinary individuals that you are.


   Mar 12

Announcing Yirdfast – the steadfast craft marmot

Murmeldyr has been crafty lately. I got these woven labels so now I can tag my stuff in real life too!

“Handmade by Yirdfast”


Yirdfast is a Scots word meaning “earthbound” – in a “both feet on the ground” kind of sense. This has become my trademark in the crafting world. I have googled and froogled and web archive’d the name and any and all hits that were not a Scots text talking about some particularily deep-set rock, have been me bouncing around within the World web. I hereby claim it as my own. If you steal my name, I will hunt you down.

Everything made by Yirdfast is based on tradition and natural materials – some things strictly so (no factory involved in any part of the production) and other things more relaxed – but always based in nature.

Commuter’s socks: I spend at least 2 hours a day on public transport, and needle binding is just perfect for that otherwise unproductive time. At a rate of one pair a week, I rapidly accumulate socks. Perhaps I should open a shop…

Hat, ready for felting:

This, I tell you, is the last woolen tablet woven band you’ll see from me in a long time. Wool is just too wooly for these finetuned patterns, I’ll stick to linen for a while.

The mead from Heimspikka has finally been bottled, along with a lovely mountainberry brew. All with good help of Arnfinn’s bottling device (the curious red thing on the bottom left).

   Feb 18

Oil landing in Hvaler

Less than two years ago, the country was shaken by a hundreds-tons heavy oil leak in a vulnerable area. Murmeldyr was there with the WWF oil brigade, the whole situation was devastating (though it was uplifting to see our efforts go a long way).

Last night it happened again. Tragicomically enough, the ship hit right after the coast guide had left -right into a guide lantern! The first reports describe the leak as bigger than Full City, and I can’t help but think; Why do they always hit the reservations? Oh, right, because our coastline is full of unique, vulnerable habitats.

Photo by John Johansen,

The WWF oil brigade has been notified and is waiting for the call.

   Jan 10

Candy the collie was very protective of her favorite tree

I scored a trillion grown-up-points when I commissioned artwork. Here it is on the wall in my home office: 

Whenever I get lost in thought, my eyes move from the screen and over to my perfect tree. I can’t seem to get enough of this picture, tracing the lines over and over again.

Never mind the slight wryness of the frame, it’s handcrafted too.

As with all good things, it is free on the Internet. I have already found it in at least 3 places online with varying degrees of credit (you are welcome to dig for them if you are feeling investigative, Google is your friend). Not sure if I mind – the copies will never come up to the original anyway.

The artist is Laura Siadak and can’t be recommended enough. If your wall needs a piece of feminine, crooked beauty, head to her webpage already.

   Jan 02

Murmeldyr’s skiing trip

My new year’s wish for 2011 is doing one thing every day just because it makes me feel good. This may seem like a selfish wish, but is really a matter of changing my mental habits. It’s a matter of thinking “how can I improve this situation” rather than ignoring the problem until it goes away.

Yesterday, my new year’s wish made me get some time-eating studying out of the way, snug under the blankets with my beloved daylight lamp on max. This definitely made me feel great, and the daylight gave me the energy to clean the house, making me feel even better.

Today, it took me skiing.

Open Café 😀

My local skiing area goes by the scenic name of Black Woods (Svartskog), though the landscape is really very mellow, open and hilly, reminding me more of Southern English countryside than a dark Norwegian forest.

I did call home for some ski preparation expertise, but ended up doing nothing. This turned out to be the perfect prep. Last year’s blue wax gave me perfect skis; fast in the downhills and conveniently sticky uphill.

I was out by 1:30, when only a few tourists and late-sleepers were still out. The low sun set the treetops on fire and created wondrous scenes in the winter landscape.

While I enjoy the social aspect of skiing, solitarily shearing through the landscape is definitely enjoyable too. To those who find cross-country skiing boring or pointless – it is not really about getting around, it is just an excuse to get out in nature. The scenes change faster than they do on foot, and most definitely faster than in the gym.

The trip culminated in the hikers’ café that was crammed with kids. The very friendly guy keeping the place informed me that more tracks are underway on the next snowfall. This calls for further adventure!