The weblog of a traveller

   May 31

Flotilla of Freedom

Today we are all Palestinian. The events of this morning have shaken a whole world. I am of course thinking about the brutal overtaking of the international transport of aid for Gaza, the Flotilla of Freedom as it is dubbed.

When the Flotilla was recruiting, I was thrilled and dreamy-eyed. In another situation I might have registered for enrollment. I’m not sure what exactly it was that fascinated me so deeply. Something about the ocean being the same for all, the perceived freedom inherent in boats – not constricted to roads, they can go wherever there is water, which is the bigger part of the globe. Something about the optimism and yes we can-spirit in the project.

There are a few things one simply isn’t as short-thought as to do – opening fire on a widely publicized, civilian ship loaded with aid certainly is one of them. Even as I can see how it’s one with a provoking message. Countering rocks with fire is one thing, going apeshit on a shipment of aid is plain bad publicity. Maybe the international community will finally get a move on and do something drastic about this jam of a region.

I smell that this may be a turning point in the locked and extraordinarily frustrating situation that is the Middle East. Can the Flotilla bring Freedom in a very real and unexpected sense?

Now this was just a blurb to satisfy an intense urge to communicate this wrack-up. I still intend to keep murmeldyr apolitic, just can’t help it when disaster strikes.

   Apr 29

2 days in a treehouse

Now this post is coming shamefully after the fact, this is simply due to a temporary loss of speech induced by the awesomeness of the place.

When I saw the treetop huts in the hostel catalog I was immediately fascinated, and booked a weekend in easter.

The place is just north of Hamar, but not paying attention to signs and too much relying on GPS lead us some 20 km astray, on the wrong side of the lake, on a road ending in this:

Cute cows

Cute cows

So it was almost dark when we got there. To a fully equipped cabin in the treetops, 8 meters up in larch trees.

Except for the latitude, it looks just like any cabin. It can accommodate up to seven people, so us two had lots of space. Hot water, shower, indoors wc and fridge makes it comfortable, even without electricity.

No worries, the stairs are rock solid.

The car looks small from up there.

8 is a lot of meters

8 is a lot of meters

This cabin is brand new, we were the 4th party to write in the guest book. How neat to be among the first to experience this very unique place.

The host offers a range of nature activities, and we were going to try dogsledding. Because of the unusually mild weather this was not possible, but we had a nice walk in the woods.

Lots and lots of birds, at most we managed to capture six birdies in the same photo! No wonder, with all the classy bird’s houses in the area. If I were a bird I’d live in this!

Guitar house

Guitar house

They all took off when this guy came for the seeds:

A stay in the treetops can be recommended to anyone wanting to take a few days in the deep woods, maybe especially for tourists wanting a taste of Norwegian cabin culture.

The loftroom:

Welcome to the decameter high club!

Welcome to the decameter high club!

   Apr 25


Today was the treasure hunt of the year.

One of the major theatres had its occasional costume sale. Over a thousand people turned up and were let in a hundred at a time. Thanks to early bird Marius we were first in the line, but were run past and down before even reaching the shelves.

An entire hall filled with hoard. Each item marked with the name of the play and the actor that has worn it. Most hand-sewn, well made and all friendly priced. *shriek of enthusiasm*

I’ll get some pics up to show off:

From Phantasma

From Phantasma

Pretty pretty corset -it’s all in the details

Beautiful white silk dress from Which Witch that I have no idea when I’d wear, but couldn’t let go

Serk -gown for wearing underneath during my upcoming viking endeavors -hooray! I was assuming I needed to make one myself (like, where do you get one unless at a theater?) and was not looking forward to it.

Gorgeous little handbags

And the sweetest shoes I have ever seen, much less worn or owned. They are, perfect. Tiny little ash-pink pump sandals that fit like no shoe has fit my feet. When they also were the exact same color as the details on my dress, I had to assume this was no chance event.

The rest of the day I have been staring at my feet a lot, and not for being shy.

An hour in the haze of one-of-a-kinds and people, people and people is exhausting down to the bones, but for these findings it was worth every ache.

Will bring more cash and sharper elbows next time.

   Feb 11

Ancient crafts

Curious things to do with cardboard and paper clips

(Note the interested onlooker under the table)

So, this weave is just a bunch of cardboard pieces with holes in the corners. Make your own with some coasters and a puncher. The whole setup looks like a cobweb to start; however, follow the instructions and beautiful patterns start appearing. The clue is alternating between two directions of turning the plates. How someone was able to come up with this is beyond my comprehension.

Close-up of the result:

Not hard once you get used to which threads go where. Only for all your life never let go of the plates! I did for a split second, and was in the same instant back to cobweb state.

But there is more! I have spent my hour-long commutes needle-binding the past week. I’ve found this technique very bus-friendly as it can be put down any time without worrying about losing a loop -just pull the thread and chuck it in your bag.

This sock I made using a paper clip as some gremlin seems to have borrowed my needle. I feel McGyver-ese.

Finishing another pair, working the clip:

One is still waiting for its colorful top band, I was just too impatient to get something up here. Obviously there is one bigger and one smaller in the pair. For the first one, I was instructed to make it huge, as it will shrink. So I made it huge. Now, “huge” is a pretty loose standard when matching up a pair, so I’ve later stuck to fitting them on while already wearing warm socks. We’ll see if that’s sufficiently huge.

Cutesy wrist warmers (mittens not included):

Both the weave and the needle-binding (not the clip amendment) are over a thousand years old and forgotten by most, still completely functional and in several ways even better than current techniques. I feel lucky to have gotten to learn and utilize them. It is all thanks to my treasured teacher Anette Kvist. This dear lady lives way out by the ocean with her chatty parrot, in a house that’s full of crafts.

There had been a crafting group for some time, but only after Anette joined in did we really get stuff done.

The rest of the crafting group can hardly be called experienced crafters, yet suddenly we all have self-designed wear to show off. That is how inspiring it is to work with Anette. Somehow, she makes us good. Last time I learned needle-binding, I couldn’t quite get the hang of it. With Anette, it’s easy as peas.

What I love about these grand old crafts is their serenity. No fancy nicnac needed, and as such this stuff is quite non-materialist. Imagine the price of a “proper” weave  – not student friendly, I can assure you. Also when knitting, each and every recipe requires a different set of sticks, which alone makes the price of the finished garment touch the price of a fabricated one.

   Dec 11


Ecosia is a new (as of december 2009) eco-friendly search engine. The choice of a search provider may not seem like the biggest one you are making in the course of a day, but imagine the hellofalot of searches you do in a year – even a small difference in, say, energy consumption or investment of revenue becomes substantial when scaled up.

The fact that web search is big business is no secret,  and frankly I’m happier with the profits ending up in a non-profit than with stock brokers.

As far as I have been able to make out, Ecosia’s algorithms are provided by Yahoo and Bing, but the data grinding is powered with renewable energy (like Murmeldyr!) and all profits from the sponsored links go to a WWF program for rainforest protection.

The search page is beautiful, and by hitting “install” you can get it in your search bar (not an annoying separate line, but the search function you probably already have in the header of your browser). I’d say this one is a no-brainer; just simply do it.


And now for the real gem: Search for murmeldyr on Ecosia, and comes up first. (Do the same on Google and it’s on a boring page 40-something) Mind you, I did the search before writing this post.

   Nov 25

The Compulsory Gift

Whether you celebrate the change of seasons or a teenage mum giving birth under possibly unusual circumstances, the gift giving tradition can be a headache.

There’s all sorts of requirements for this ritual exchange of stuff. The present should be personal and unique, sustainable, not too much but not skimpy (though where the line between these goes, you’ve got to find out yourself), and possibly even useful. Pitfalls are many and the danger of overseeing an unspoken rule is overhanging. Much safer skipping the whole thing than risking an unintended “overkill” gift.

A few ideas to save you the sweat:

nice bottlery

nice bottlery

lol candy

lol candy



Tired of dispensable made-in-Chinas, I am hoping for consumable gifts this season. Following the good principle of picking gifts you would like to receive yourself, all season’s presents I’ve fixed or planned so far can be eaten, drunk or used in the bath (except for one gadget that was specifically requested a long time ago).

Taking it one step further, this readily applies to other gift-involving occasions as well. This is one reason why the one thing I’m wishing for my upcoming birthday is a great night out (the other being not wanting to ruin my friends, as I’ve chosen to have the party at a restaurant).

Happy holidays!

   Nov 04

Getting Started

The hardest part of this work might be the timing. Undergrad lab courses have all been tightly time-controlled (do this-then do that-go for lunch-come back just in time for x while y is cooling-etc etc). Now how to plan all this? What to do when your one reaction lasts 2 hours, the other one is booked for whenever the equipment is available and your third cell culture isn’t ready before tomorrow? Start a fourth experiment!

So the people here are juggling all these projects and don’t seem to even need to think about the order of stuffdoing. One stopwatch running in each pocket, they all seem comfortably relaxed while not missing a step. I stand amazed.

There are tons of papers and protocols and names to know and I am glad I skipped the mid-term break to get the week in the lab. The building is intricate (all floors look the same, and just for complicating things further there is a 4-way symmetry within each floor ) so the  few extra days to sort everything out are well spent.

Thankfully, everyone is in the same situation in this respect as the building is new and few know where everything’s at.

Everything about the Cancer Centre is ambitious, so also the street signs. This piece of unintended humor sits right outside the centre. Moss is over 70 km away.

Don't worry, you can bike too!

Walking route to Moss

Don’t worry, you can bike too!

   Oct 24

Master’s Project

It happened ad detours.

The project assignment process was recently reorganized to ensure fairness. Still, in the allotment of projects it seems that making everyone happy/evading complaints is more important than fairness. The result is a ratrace like before where the demanding students choose first, only now covertly and unpredictably. As a qualified and less-noisy candidate I was “relocated” multiple times, until I too knocked the door to say; sorry but this is not what I was expecting. And was offered a brand new, shiny project that had never been mentioned before, at the head cancer centre in Northern Europe. What’s to learn from all this? Sharpen your elbows and doors will open?

So I’ve spent the evening trying to find out what this all is really about, and in addition to a recent article on the mathematics of tanning, found what will be my best friend in the protein world for the foreseeable future:

Curly, colorful cartoon

Curly, colorful cartoon

This little guy is called S100A4 and he is exceedingly uncanny. Although devoted serious amounts of laboratory time, it keeps its purpose and daily duties a secret. Yet somehow; if you have a cancer, you really want to have S100A4 as patients who have it live. Who are you, mysterious molecule?

EDIT: Quite the contrary, the gene turns out to be so strongly correlated with death in cancers that it is postulated as a diagnostic marker. This is why you should not trust Wikipedia.

Both advisors seem very sympathetic. The professor is an accomplished veteran who was happy to host a student who could get some work done, and appreciated my eagerness to get started.

My 2. home for the next good year

My 2. home for the next good year


I am a very blessed person.

   Sep 16

Number 13

As I was skimming through an article while waiting for my friend at a brown-ish cafe today, an elderly man approached me real close, tried to catch my eye and started reciting poetry in a calm, comforting voice. It was a gray, sobering text about the struggles of the working people in a time not as long gone as we like to think. This is what he read:

You ask where No. 13 is,
Our old familiar court.
I’m just the one to show you, Sir;
Though not for jokes or sport.
Right there you see it sprawling.
It’s almost like a fort.

But there are blighted city streets
In countries ’round the world,
Where daily degradation scenes
Are shamelessly unfurled
In hidden holes of poverty,
Into which man is hurled!

A few get it into their heads
And lie right down and die
Because there isn’t sun and air
And food to keep them spry.
But it’s the same in other courts,
So why the hue and cry?

But court 13, which is our home
And haven,we hold dear.
And even grand and beautiful
It often can appear —
At night, when lights are shining in
The windows: bright and clear.

Yes, then the court is full of life —
A castle bright and gay.
For every light is lit and all
The flats are on display.
We breathe as free men only when
We’ve gotten through the day.

On Friday Kalsen often comes
Home tipsy: silly drunk.
He flaunts his wad and entertains
Till busted like a skunk.
He makes his money longshoring —
Just heaving coal and junk.

But Kalsen has a missus and
A flock of kids. He’s sad.
And the last born — puny misfit —
The devil should have had;
For he is so small and scrawny:
A puff of wind — oh, Gad!

But when he went a-sailoring
The world lay at his feet.
And all the lovely women folks
Around that he did meet!
He never then, like now, did have
To shovel muck and shit.

And Kalsen grabs his bosom friend,
A squeaky violin,
And breezes through his repertoire.
The notes come cracked and thin.
But his ears hear only music —
No tearful questionin’.

He revels in those wondrous years —
The distant long ago,
When skies were blue, the oceans too,
And he sailed to and fro!
But that was then — before the days
Did gray and dismal grow.

The court will not go over-board
For Kalsen’s violin.
So many strum guitars and sing,
Or play the mandolin.
And, drinking apple wine, they dance
To the accordion.

At last frying pans are sizzling
With hamburgers and fish
While hungry kids are screaming
And waiting with their dish;
On Friday evening 13 flows
With all that one could wish.

From 13, until late at night,
A constant din we hear
Which, although it is loud and gay,
Has undertones of fear.
The inmates shrink from what’s in store,
When dawn comes lurking near.

But the lights at last extinguished!
And tossing in their beds
Are the bodies, sleeping now, with
So diff’rent hearts and heads.
And through the streets the night wind moans
And cold and sadness sheds.

Then creaking sounds and whisperings!
It’s Olga with a ‘beau’.
She’s working in a factory
But makes so little, so
She profiteers the only way
The likes of her can know.

But some are keeping vigil there;
A young, new crop of men
They dig and keep on digging till
They dig the dream again
That gushingly once issued from
A wise man’s magic pen.

The livelong day the dream perforce
Must burrow like a mole.
Yet to ‘Atlantis’ still they cling; —
They sight a better role
And world than this where others own
Their very heart and soul.

And their young hearts fill with fury:
Study — dispel the mist!
But always — with the golden dreams —
On stubborn facts insist
That point the way straight to the land
Where 13s don’t exist.

Rudolf Nilsen/translation by Gus Rystad

He went on relating how this enlightened poet died tragically in young age. I must admit I was too startled to respond much. Also judging whether it was a drugged luniac talking or just a friendly old chap getting inspired by the sight of a young person hehearsing their curriculum (it was the latter) took some moments, and I must have appeared as though I did not want to be bothered. Which irritates me a bit as I actually love strange encounters like that and would have talked to him if my friend hadn’t come just then.

As part of my mission to make the institute building more interesting, I changed “crop of men” into “a young student”, printed out the three last verses and put it on the message board.

   Sep 05

Welcome to my institute

Welcome to the building where I’ve spent most of my days lately. Oddities abound, and I decided to take you here and show you around before I get so accustomed I do not notice them anymore.

The first thing that meets you inside is this guy and this guy.

The foyer is full of dead animals in the strangest arrangements. Let me show you a few of them:

Crash-landed eagle

A.. gigantic egg with a map on it, rising from the ocean while polar birds watch. Erm, what?

Looks religious, kind of like Venus’ birth.

This one is just a photo, but possibly the scariest of them all (enlarge to see why):

The legend only states “elephant seal.” Not “demonic bloody vampire elephant seal with a rotten hole for an eye.”
Now let me take you to the lunch area. I used to think the food court at UMB was expensive, but at least they had cheap coffee and now I realize that’s what matters. UiO coffee is almost twice the UMB price. And even if you bring your own mug and tea, they charge for the water. Is the food court supposed to be business or welfare? Just asking.

Enormous swan in the lunch area, not behind glass or anything.

Poetry between the swan’s legs (click to enlarge).

Behind the lunch area are some immigrants:

Kangaroo with really huge testicles


Someone stole the racoon dog.

Why would anyone steal a stuffed racoon dog? Wikipedia says the racoon dog is  black listed in Norway as an unwanted species. Maybe it was taken to wherever human illegal immigrants are taken when they “disappear.”

Hatching dinosaurs. They sure did a considerable effort when decorating the building. The result is weird.

In the basement:

Wolves with raincoats

… A German Shepherd? The descriptions say little about what the poor dog did to get stuffed in here. And what on earth is that face doing in the skies??

A narrow hallway is full of birds.

Owls are an ancient symbol of knowledge, guardians of Universities. Let’s stuff them and keep them hidden away in a crammy hallway!

The signs on the bathrooms look like they really struggle to hold it. Obviously I wanted to take just these photos as quick as possible, hence the blur.

Hallways. Miles of them, and they all look exactly like this. The building has a hole in the middle and endless hallways circle around. The way is long and landmarks are few. You may not even know when you’re back where you started. Give me color codes!

The middle. No one is ever there. Look at how gray and sterile it is. Oh, how this space longs to be a garden, lawn, forest, anything but paved. It should be so much more. It’s the institute of biology, dammit!

I just might do something about that.

There will be street art.