Solbakken in May

The last week nature has been rushing to catch up with the delay caused by the very late spring. Here are some glimpses from Solbakken.

Very friendly cat out enjoying the good weather and the green grass.


Sunday Stills – White

This week it’s all about “white” at Sunday Stills.

In Bergen, and along much of the Norwegian south- and west coast you keep seeing old white clapboard houses. Bergen has large neighborhoods dominated by houses like these. The tradition with white painted houses started around 1830. Back then white paint was more expensive than other colors like reds and yellows, so painting your house white was a sign of prosperity. Quite frequently it was only the front of the house that was painted white, one didn’t waste money on the parts that the public couldn’t see.

Looking into the story of white paint this week I also learned that it was Norwegians Peder Farup and Gustav Adolf Jebsen that in 1914 figured out how to commercially produce titanium dioxide whites, a pigment we still use today.

The pictures are both from Sandvikstorget in Bergen, a part of town that is completely dominated by white houses. The Statue is of Madam Felle, who ran a tavern here in the last half of the 1800’s. She’s also famous from a tradition Bergen song called “Kjenner dokker Madam Felle?” The sale of beer is mentioned in it, funnily enough.

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Sunday Stills – Law Enforcement or Emergency Vehicles

I work just a block away from the police station, so I was fairly sure I’d manage to get a picture of a police car or two as long as I made sure to keep my cell phone handily within reach every time I was walking between work and the bus stop.

The first two are of two different police cars. I think the police department is changing designs on the cars, the white one with red and blue stripes has the old design.

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The next photo is an archive shot from March. March and the first half of April was really cold and dry around here. As a result we had a lot of brush fires. The fire just below our house was probably caused by kids playing with fire. Luckily we had no wind so the fire department managed to put it out without much trouble. It was a bit of a show for everyone in the neighbourhood though. Lots of cameras, not only mine.

Brann i Lønborglien


Jamrach’s Menagerie

One of my reading goals last years was to read the winner of the Man Booker Prize. Well, the 2012 winner turned out to be number 2 in a trilogy. I’m sure Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel is excellent, but I’m not interested enough in Henry VIII and company to spend time reading a trilogy about them.

Anyway… While figuring out what to read instead, and chosing The Garden of Evening Mist from the 2012 shortlist, I also glanced at the 2011 shortlist and discovered Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch.

Title: Jamrach’s Menagerie
Author: Carol Birch

Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 295
Originally published: 2011

Genre: Mainstream, Historical
The dice landed on: 6

Nineteenth-century London comes vividly alive in this story a street urchin named Jaffy Brown. After a close call with an escaped tiger, Jaffy goes to work for Mr. Charles Jamrach, the famed importer of exotic animals. As the years pass, Mr. Jamrach recruits Jaffy and another boy named Tim to capture a fabled dragon during the course of an epic three-year whaling expedition in the East Indies. But when a violent storm sinks the ship, Jaffy and Tim are forced to confront their relationship to the natural world and the wildness it contains.

In some ways this feels like reading three different books. The first part takes place during Jaffy’s childhood in the poorer parts of London. You can practically smell and feel the environment he lives in. It’s a hard life, but the description of it all manages to stay light hearted. The second part is his and Tim’s life at sea, from their first insecure and happy steps on deck of the Lysander to seasoned sailors to…. This part is also very physical in many ways. I really liked, and loathed, the whale hunting bit. Carol Birch described it so you could practically see, not to mention smell, the whole thing. The last part is Jaffy’s return to London, and his years after the trip with the Lysander. Again a great shift in the story from the two other settings.

Even though the mood differs in the different parts of the book there are things that stay with you all the way. Carol Birch writes beautiful sentences, and she manages to say a lot without wasting many words. The sensuous quality is also a constant, I always had the feeling that I could see, smell or hear what was going on in the story.

A lot happens in this book, a whole long life really, where we follow Jaffy from an innocent young boy to a seasoned man marked by some very harsh times. Despite this it doesn’t feel rushed, the important bits gets the time they need.

I also read the 2011 winner of the Man Booker Prize, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, but I like this one a lot better.

Sunday Stills – Flowers and Wildflowers

Spring is here, but haven’t got much done yet. We’re almost a month late and flowers that we usually see in late March or early April are getting their business done now. The pictures here are from a walk yesterday. There wasn’t many flowers around, and certainly no wild flowers, but we found a few domesticated ones. I trust that some of the others participating in Sunday Still lives in places with more flowers. Check them out.

Crocus, and in the back some tulips leaves.

Spring snowflakes, leucojum vernum, in someones garden. Late, but pretty.


Days of Blood and Starlight

I read The Daughter of Smoke and Bone last year, and was quite sure I would read the rest of the trilogy as it came out. Days of Blood and Starlight is book #2.

Title: Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2)
Author: Laini Taylor

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 517
Originally published: 2012

Genre: Fantasy, YA
The dice landed on: 5+

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living – one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in the killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was a like a jewel-box without a jewel – a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.

DaysofBloodandStarlightSometimes the middle book of a trilogy feels like a detour, not really pushing the main story forward much. Not so here…

Last year I read “The Daughter of Smoke and Bone” and liked it a lot. So I was really looking forward to reading this book. As always when you’re about to read the sequel to a loved book you worry that you might not like it as much as the first one, but I’m happy to report that Laini Taylor made sure I needn’t have worried.

The dream Akiva and Karou had, has not come to pass. There’s a full on genocide going on in the world of Eratz as the seraphim kill every chimaera they can get their hands on. But some of the chimaeras are fighting back, and not every seraph is following orders.

So this is a much darker book than the first one, and I think that’s good. Laini Taylor shows us how ugly wars are, not benefiting anyone except the few beings who truly wants them and has the power of command, and in the end not even them. There’s a lot of blood in this book and several starry nights, but as a reading of the lyrics to “Starry, starry night” will show you, a starry night is no guarantee of happiness and peace.

There’s still hope in this story, and more of it as the story goes on and more and more beings are starting to doubt the war.

I found the first book a little too romantic. This one has a lot less romance, and I think that’s a point in its favor. It’s not that people have stopped loving, but that everything feels more realistic than the starry eyed romance in the first book. There’s a little of it, but Zuzana and Mik are such a lovable couple that I can’t resent it. And, there’s more to them than bubbly love too.

Laini Taylor has given us an excellent middle to what is looking like an outstanding fantasy trilogy.  I’m looking forward to the conclusion, which seems to involve the seraphim, the chimaera, Earth and another tribe of seraphim that so far has refused to become involved in the war.

I gave it a 5+ because it took a bit of time to get going.  The last half deserved a 6+.

Changing feed-reader

By Blog-Blond, shared under CC BY-NC-ND 2.5

By Blog-Blond, shared under CC BY-NC-ND 2.5

In the middle of March I got the news that Google Reader was going away. Like a lot of other users I wasn’t happy about it, I had over 300 feeds running on that thing.

I had a few demands for my new feed reader:

  • Web-based is a must as I read on several different computers, sometimes hotel computers that I don’t have any admin-access on. I don’t want to download anything.
  • The reader must let me organize my feeds into folders, and let me decide the order they come in.
  • Different layouts on different feeds.
  • It must show clearly if a feed has unread items, preferably I’d like feeds with no unread items to stay hidden.
  • Must import/export OPML-files for easy backup and easy migration.
  • Easy sharing to Facebook, and preferably Google+
  • Choices like “read later”, “keep as unread”, “read only….last 2 days/older than…and others”.
  • Keyboard shortcuts

After a few days of trying different choices I ended up on Bloglines for the time being. Here are my experiences while trying to find out what to use:

+different layouts for different feeds. Can choose between Reader and Widget-setting. Supports Norwegian. I love the thumbshots option that I use for flickr-groups and other photo-heavy stuff. Choice between hiding or showing read posts. Like the “read later” function. Easy organizing functions, folders that you can open and close. Some keyboard shortcuts, but not quite as good as Google Reader.
– doesn’t update quite as often as I was used to with Google Reader. Shows all feeds in the left hand menu when the folder is open, not only the ones with unread posts. Would like a choice here. There’s a few feeds it seems to struggle with. I’m not thrilled with the way it scrolls posts in the expanded view, which is my preferred setting for most feeds, but it’s not too bad.

Bloglines:  Powered by Netvibes, and looks much the same. But, accepted the feeds that Netvibes struggle with, so that is a big plus and the main reason I ended up there instead of Netvibes.

The Old Reader: works fine with much the same +/- as Netvibes/Bloglines. But, doesn’t have the thumbshots-view option that I fell in love with on Bloglines.

Blogloving: Looks nice, but some of my feeds it just wouldn’t accept. Can’t have that.
+ accepted all my feeds.
– Huge minus for no organizing system. With 300+ feeds that’s a no go.

+ Lots of people seem to like it.
– Things that I find really important are still only “suggestions” in the Feedly system: “Make feedly available as full web service (no plugin or extension)”, -“Hide folders that have 0 unread items”, “Let me hide read articles”, “Keyboard Shortcuts like Google Reader”, “OPML-import/export”, “Sort folder contents”.

Digg: Will keep an eye on it. They claim to be developing something good.

I Solbakken

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