I'm an aspiring marine biologist from Norway, doing my PhD work on kelp forest ecology. I'm particularly interested in the effects of environmental changes on the sugar kelp, Saccharina latissima.
I'm also one half of the super cool money-pit-but-SO-worth-it company Marinbiologene DA. Marianne Olsen is the other half. Together we're trying to establish an independent platform for communicating marine biology (in Norway). This is fun work in slow progress.
I write mystery and graphic novels nobody is EVER going to read. I love reading, drawing, writing and watching old films and cancelled TV-shows (huge fan of Firefly - screw FOX). Do sometimes pick up a tuba, a trumpet or a guitar and don't go a day without singing and dancing - at least whilst showering.
It's absolutely necessary to have other mind consuming activities to
keep your sanity whilst doing scientific work. That's my opinion.
I went to California. You know how it's really really hard to shut up about things that get you excited? Yep, this is going to be really really hard to keep short, but I'll try. The Monterey Bay Aquarium was f***** amazing!
Monterey Aquarium, Open Sea Tank. (Photo: Guri S. Andersen)
Fish tank reflections
Remembering the experience, one particular episode brings a crazy happy smile to my face. A tall guy in his 40's stood with his daughter (about six years old or so) in front of the kelp forest tank. As she pointed at animals and algae in awe, he patiently answered her questions and discussed the information displayed on boards around the tank. When she pointed at a sea urchin, he asked what she thought the «purpose of those spiny things on top of it were»! SO pedagogic I almost went over to hug him. (- Yes, I'm getting soft... like creepy gooey soft...) As a shark passed in front of them, the little girl clung to his thigh. He smiled and held her hand as they watched the elegant creature glide by in silence. That moment of connection in curiosity and awe between generations was truly amazing to observe.
Kelp Forest Tank (Photo: GSA)
Lady and anemones (GSA)
Jelly Tank (Photo: GSA)
From thereon, I started noticing people as well as the under-water displays. The faces of the different people gathering around the fish tanks, the tide pools, the informative posters and the interactive screens fascinated me. A woman in her 60's stood a long time just staring at some strawberry anemones, smiling. A man, also in his 60's went absolutely bananas with his digital compact camera pixellating all sorts of colorful fish. A group of teenage boys stood close to a huge tank where turtles and hammerhead sharks swam by. The boys stood in complete silence, reaching for the animals and exchanged smiles at the mere glimpse of contact. A couple of kids put their heads together by an interactive digital plankton display and were super-excited by the myriads of weird creatures. They were pointing, laughing and wondering about the different forms. I swear, I have never before seen anyone look so excited about those things, - not even in a bio lab.
"In one drop of water..." (Photo:Guri S Andersen)
We protect what we love
It seems to me like the Monterey Bay Aquarium makes it easy for the general public (and not only for two excited marine biologists from Norway) to really invest emotionally and intellectually in the exploration of marine life. To quote the legendary Jacques-Yves Cousteau: «People protect what they love».
What impressed me the most, was the way the Aquarium presented information about serious environmental issues while remaining positive and hopeful in talking about the future. The question «What can we as consumers do to help?» was always the main focus and answered with great enthusiasm. This constructive and encouraging approach left me, and I am sure many others, with the feeling that what I choose to do, actually makes a difference.
A really short list of good things that's easily done:
Eat sustainably, and spread the word about sustainable food guides (see below).
Don't be afraid to ask where the seafood you're planning on buying was harvested. In Norway for instance, cod from Barentshavet is harvested sustainably, while cod from the North Sea is not. Keep in mind that the «sustainability» of a product also varies with your location. Transportation of fresh food from one corner of the world to another is seldom environmentally friendly...
Avoid excessive use of plastic bags, recycle and be really cautious about where you throw items that may cause harm to animals.
Marianne gets it, do you? ;-)
If you're in America I highly recommend that check out Seafood Watch. The Seafood Watch program provides an app that helps you choose your seafood dinner well (iPhone and Android).
If in Norway, check out WWFs guide, and the blog posts listed below as well as this mobile phone site.
(For comments (I appreciate it): "Feeders", please visit my blog. If you're already visiting, click the "view comments" link below.
List of blog posts (in Norwegian) about sustainable seafood and how to choose:
Hvordan velge riktig sjømat 04 Mai 2011 Sommeren er på full fart inn i stua og kjøkkenet, og vi i Marinbiologene gleder oss over det. Med sommeren kommer også lange kvelder med deilig sjømat og god vin. Sjømat er godt, sunt og ofte ...
Miljømerking: Marinbiologenes guide til sjømatguider - del 2 20 Mai 2011 I del to av vår guide til sjømatguider skal vi se nærmere på miljømerking av sjømat. Produkter som er sertifisert og godkjent av et miljømerke skal oppfylle bestemte krav og kriterier i forhold til miljøvennlig og bærekraftig ...
Marinbiologenes guide til sjømatguider - del 1 09 Mai 2011 Her skal du få en kjapp introduksjon til noen nettsider med informasjon om vanlig norsk sjømat. ... Guiden viser til MSC sertifiseringen av sjømat og anbefaler at man ser etter deres symbol når man skal kjøpe fisk og skalldyr.
Compiling all my work into a thesis? After spending so much time doing research, getting an overview, reading the relevant literature and punching away on papers (over and over until every co-author, referee and editor is near satisfied) - You think it would be easy, right?... Far from it, man. You are going to need coping mechanisms.
Here is my top 10 list of mechanisms that keep my head in a fairly sane and happy place:
Reading Frank Miller graphic novels - Sin City series at the moment. The artwork is amazing!
Geeking out over two TV-shows. For me Castle (ABC) and Game of Thrones (HBO) does it. (I need to keep the list short.)
Trusting myself above most. It took me a LONG time to get to this point, and I'm still working on it. The fact is, most times no-one knows the shit you've been working on as well as you do.
When in doubt, asking myself "What would Yoda tell me to do?" - And then get on with it.
Planning a day ahead. Before finishing for the day I make a realistic list of things I want to get done the next day. (Making a super-hero list is really just setting myself up for failure - and that really kills my thunder.) I start every day by doing the thing I dread the most. A friend of mine, Benedicte, taught me this trick after reading a book called "Eat that Frog". I've finally ordered a copy myself.
I've stopped expecting great advice from incompetent people. Hoping for an "awakening" is really a waste of time.
Writing outlines before writing papers (or essays or theses). I didn't use to bother before even though I knew I should. After making it a part of my writing routine, my communicating got FAR FAR more efficient. It helps me to keep my mind organized and most importantly, it keeps me focused on the "story" I want to get across.
Writing a mystery novel with a marine biology backdrop that lets me kick asses I'm not supposed to in real life ;-)
Please feel free to add your own tips in the comment field, or promote your own PhD coping blog/website by a description and a link.
(For comments (I appreciate it): "Feeders", please visit my blog. If you're already visiting, click the "view comments" link below.)
Quick update on my progress with the project funds and the department of Biology at UiO. I'm basically stuck. Although, my case has been poorly handled by the department, the legal advisor from the union doubted that legal action would get me anywhere. Overhead cost can be a high maintenance bitch that leaves you with - nothing. (Yes, I'm a girl too.)
My advise to other PhD-students: Take control of project funds, bitch about it if your supervisor either forgets to or won't let you in on your projects economy - and be sure to spend it all while you still can.
I'm going to have a talk with somebody on the department board about how PhD students are treated in cases like mine. Still angry, but too busy to let it consume much of my energy right now.
(For comments (I appreciate it): "Feeders", please visit my blog. If you're already visiting, click the "view comments" link below.)
The present post is a follow-up on this post dated February 17th. In short, the department of Biology at my University drained and closed my PhD project account without noticing me or the project leader.
I contacted the economics office and the head of the department, asking what the f*** is going on with our project account...
The head of the department kindly told me that this was normal for projects exceeding their "deadline", and that I could rest assured that my status as "PhD student" would not be evoked in another couple of years... Yeah, well...
The economics office, on the other hand, answered by spewing out a lot of terms and figures. At the very end, finally telling me that we could have applied for keeping the account (and the means left) for another year... Now, I'm pretty sure the department has an obligation to inform all parties of this fact. To my knowledge, we have received no such notice.
I've replied to the office with cc to my supervisor (who maybe should have known this!!?) and the head of the department, asking them if notice is not required by law before project accounts are drained and closed. I sent the first e-mail February 24th, the second was sent last Thursday, and the third today. I have still not received an answer.
Law is really not my territory, but the lack of response makes me feel like I'm asking the right questions. If I do not receive an answer within a week I WILL take this to the union and ask for legal advice.
What do you think I should do?
(For comments (I appreciate it): "Feeders", please visit my blog. If you're already visiting, click the "view comments" link below.)
Yesterday I heard from a colleague that all the money on my PhD project account (ca. 10 000 USD) had been withdrawn. I sent an e-mail to my supervisor and was told that "Yeah, it's true. That's the way things are now. "Old" projects are drained to pay for overhead." Overhead?!! I do not use any of the F***** University facilities and I am not employed there anymore! Can anyone explain how this is right, because I sure as hell do not understand it!?
Ok, I'll write through this in a hurry and leave moderations for later. I am just so very very angry right now, and the few reactions I've gotten from other PhD students leaves me to believe that I'm not alone in this mess.
A while back I applied for a personal grant from a fund that supports young scientists studying Arctic marine botany. I spent some time doing research and developing a solid plan for both field and laboratory work. My application was approved and I was granted 60.000 NOK (close to 10 500 USD). YAY!!
I was out of the country when I received the message, and my supervisor handled the communication with our department at the University. My supervisor and the head of the economics office discussed whether the grant should be placed at my personal account or at our project account at the University. They arrived at the conclusion that the personal account was best avoided, largely because of personal taxes. Fuelling the account at the University and spending some on salary would mean that a certain amount had do be paid to the Biology department (30% I think?) as "overhead", but it would still leave more money than if I had to pay taxes. And, it would be easier to use the money on the facilities at the University... So far so good.
Now, we had a hard time with field and mesocosm studies going out of wack (- which sometimes, well, it just happens...), and trying to do most of the labour myself got really hard. I asked my supervisor if we could spend some of our project money to hire some students to help out with the routine work but was told that "we would be better off saving it".
Shortly after I got sick - go figure, and was on leave for three months. In addition to that, the problems on our project grew, leading to a serious delay. In short, I was scheduled to finish my PhD about a year ago, but I'm still pounding a way...
Had we spent the money on labour OR had I put the fund money into my personal account one year ago there would have been nothing left to drain... I can't help but feel like PhD students are getting screwed by their own departments. From my point of view it looks pretty damn ugly.
I'm currently employed at a national research institute, where I am luckily able to continue my work at least some of the time. Not everybody has got that opportunity!
As I said - I wrote this in a rant and will probably do a couple of follow-ups as I learn more of what this mess is really all about.
Mixed Effects Models and Extensions in Ecology with R
Thank you, Zuur and guys for this awesome PhD-saver!
Struggling with ecological datasets that do not seem suited for any of the frekkin statistical methods you learned from you worn out supervisor or at the basic statistics course at your department? Well, I've got a hot tip for you: Read this cookbook and feel the load fly away from your burdened shoulders.
I'm not saying that it's a downright miracle cure for poor experimental designs and mishaps, but I assure you it feels pretty damn close.
I do love vegetables and sizzling hot shots when they come wrapped up in great ideas. Barton Seaver wants to restore our relationship with the ocean, the land, and with each other through dinner. In his first book, For Cod and Country, Seaver introduces an entirely new kind of casual cooking featuring seafood that hasn’t been overfished or harvested using destructive methods. I became aware of this guy through the TED network a while ago:
It's been a while since my last post now. I've been quite busy at work trying to squeeze out a PhD... Man, its hard! Got some nasty feedback from a moody editor that put me off a bit, but now I'm back in the saddle and ready to go at it again. Feeling quite confident... at least some of the time... :)
Aside from my attempts(!) to write manuscripts for scientific papers, I've been engaged in blogging at marinbiobloggen (in Norwegian). Lots of exciting material. I've come to worry a great deal about the Norwegian management of marine resources. Therefore, my next posts will deal with some of these issues. Hopefully, I'll be able to present them in a more global perspective than is done at marinbiobloggen.
Yesterday a historical event of great importance not only to marine scientists, but to the global community, took place in London. 2700 scientists from 80 countries met to discuss knowledge that has accumulated through a decade of marine research. The project was initiated 10 years ago and is called Census of Marine Life. This is probably one of the most extensive projects undertaken in the history of science. Check it out on http://www.coml.org/
Be sure to drop by the picture and video galleries!
Check out John Delaneys' talk about building an underwater network of high-def cameras and sensors that will turn our ocean into a global interactive lab -- at TED.com. I get goose bumps thinking about the vast possibilities in monitoring the world below the ocean surface.
ShareThis Currently on-board a ship heading for Oslo leaving Copenhagen and Roskilde for a while.
I do feel kind of sad leaving Roskilde this time. Everything hasn't exactly turned out as planned, but we got some quite interesting results I think. I'll feed some of these into the Roskilde Science page in due time. Right now I'm just enjoying sailing home spending time with my new friend Hoptimist. Morten got him for me as a farewell present. I suspect he knows that I'm going to need some cheering up while processing all our data and trying to get together something resembling a PhD-thesis ;) Morten has been tremendous!!! What a supervisor!!! :)
Hoptimist leaving Copenhagen
Guri & Hoptimist engaging in meaningful bar conversation whilst enjoying the sun set.
I would like to share this important work by Brian Skerry with you. This kind of documentation of what is going on under the surface is extremely powerful. Both beautiful and horrific situations and stories are told by breathtaking pictures. Please watch it and think about what you can do to protect the oceans. I would suggest a visit to WWF online and checking out the sustainable seafood guide ;)
ShareThis Project expanded! We decided (that is Morten did - and for that I am grateful) to run PI-curves at 5 and 25C as well. That means we've got results from five temperatures. The kelps grown at 20 C for three weeks are still alive, but the general impression is that they are more perforated and fragile than the rest.
ShareThis I've gotten some feedback telling me that the comment form on my blog didn't work properly... well, that's finally dealt with. Feel free to once again participate at KelpRmy! I look forward to hearing from YOU ;)
I actually wrote this while finishing my master thesis the summer of 2007. Being stuck in the lab trying to get some results at the end of my fellowship as a PhD student at UiO, it reappeared quite vividly in my mind.
Before reading this, you've got to know a couple of things. First, I'm a nerdy marine botanist. Second, when my mind starts to wander it quite often does so in verses - for some reason. You should also know that quite a few Norwegians struggle attempting to pronounce LOW correctly. It usually comes out as LOVE. At least coming from the mouth of the lecturer at the course Light Climate and Primary production in Arctic environments - incredibly amusing when you're hyped on coffee and to little sleep due to Arctic midnight sun and attending a master/graduate course spanning four intense and exciting weeks at Svalbard... And especially with the backdrop of your lecturer explaining the reaction centres of the photosynthetic apparatus (RCs) by referring to Monty Pythons sketch on "the machine that goes BING"... Oh, man... priceless. If you want to know more about light and marine "compensation" levels (E~1%**), THIS is a great place to start. Anyhows and anyways... here it goes:
Photonblues revisited by: kelpRmy
I'm staring out the window where I see the mocking sun. Throwing all those photons at me, but hitting me with none. There is this wall between us, this fucking drag of a thing. It's called a shitload of work and keeps my machine from going "BING"! My RCs are all open, you know they're ready for some love... But these love-light conditions, man are really way below (E 1% **) Well, as you can tell from hearing this, i'm doing rather swell. Excuse me while I ask my ambitious self, to go take a vacatin - IN HELL!!
Tomorrow I'm taking the night off to go see a movie. Obviously needed :)
Woah, these algae really puzzles me. The PI-curves run at different temperatures (10, 15 and 20 C) before acclimatisation (10 C kelp) are incredibly similar - huge surprise! The first thorough analyses and views of the data with proper calibrations performed on them shows almost no difference in respiratory rates!! What the fuck!? One would think...
I've been posting quite a few TED talks lately... I will try to spread it out more evenly in the future. This time though, I just HAD to post two in a row. The reason is that this brilliant talk by Enric Sala follows up on Jeremy Jacksons kind of pessimistic attitude with a more hopeful approach. He shares quite new insight, which I am sure applies to our northern systems as well. This is a path and a way of thinking we really need to explore more extensively in the future.
I've heard this talk before. What came across as the most important message to me is how we need to realise the synergistic effects created by our fuckups and that we have to face these issues right now!
This past week has been slow and easy. I suppose I should be more stressed out by the fact that I'm at the end of my fellowship. But there is no help in worrying, -certainly not at this point. I'm going at it at a steady pace and plan to put in some extra effort when I return to RUC. These past days I've been doing the things that I missed the most. Hugging Lars, walking Birk and fucking up my computers. I've been through a traumatic upgrading of Ubuntu both at work and at home. At work it led to difficulties connecting to internet. At home I managed to fuck up GRUB, but got rescued by the Ubuntu Live CD. NOTE TO SELF: I should NOT mess around with computer stuff I know absolutely nothing about...
My netbook works great though :) - upgraded without any hickups! Ubuntu 10.4 seems great!
By the way... I use Zotero reference manager and Open Office. With the new Firefox 3.6 I banged my head against the screen for a couple of hours (-especially since I've been confident [stupid] enough to install 64-bits system) before I found THIS and got the sun java plugin to work again. This is a life saver. Best HOWTO ever!!
These are the two chambers we use. The oxygen electrodes are the rods you see coming out on the right side of the chambers... The temperature in the surrounding water is kept stable by a heater with a thermostat (the grey box), and a cooler (not visible). We regulate light intensities by shadowing with decreasing layers of black nets (above the chambers) until full light.
These past days have been really hectic. We've had our share of problems. Yesterday, one of the thermostats supposed to govern one of the 10 C batches started whining - really high pitched tone. I turned both the cooler and the thermostat off and went home, being as the culture room itself holds about 10 C. I spent the night in agony, really wondering why the fuck I bother doing this. On top of that frustration the lighting in the culture room was off today, and we discovered even more problems...
The grain of salt rule applies here as well... You can tell he's not a scientist, but... scientists should learn from him and his high pitched voice. This is a journalist that knows how to get the message through. I LIKE him!
Now, my supervisors are not really familiar with LaTeX, which makes it hard to collaborate on these documents. However, writing documents in LibreOffice Writer and then converting them to tex-files which can be linked together and compiled into one “thesis document” proved quite easy. I just installed Writer2LaTeX. Here is how I got it to work with LibreOffice (in Ubuntu):
So, I had this disk image of a game I used to play before I converted to Linux. The image was burned using Nero. To be able to install the game under wine in Ubuntu I converted it to an iso-image following these steps:
Got this Polar pulse watch (RS800CX) a while back. With it came the ProTraniner 5 software – not particularly “Linux-friendly” I’m afraid… However, it works fine under wine. To download the data from the watch and sync it with my ProTrainer diary, I had to get the IrDA USB-dongle working. After browsing through various how-to threads, gathering bits and pieces from here and there, I got it working! Since I wasn’t able to find an easy guide out there, I decided to write one myself:
Install Polar ProTrainer 5 under wine.
If you don’t have wine, install by opening the Ubuntu Software Center. Search for wine and winetricks and install them.
Insert the ProTrainer5 installation disk.
Run the ProTrainer5 installation under wine.
Open the program and try connecting your gear (the watch). I use an USB irDA dongle.
Get the IrDA dongle working in Ubuntu
This one has been a bit tricky, but following a couple of Ubuntu threads I landed on this approach
Install irda-utils to be able to manage and handle infrared devices. Either find it and install it via the Ubuntu Software Center or open a terminal window and type sudo apt-get install irda-utils # please be careful, as you are now root
Find out what module is used to drive your IrDA adapter (the USB adapter) by opening a terminal window and typing lsmod | grep irda
In my case it’s mcs7780
Edit the irda-utils.conf file by opening a terminal window and typing sudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/irda-utils.conf # please be careful, as you are now root
and add mcs7780 (mcs7780 in my case) at the end, after #alias irda0
Edit the irda-utils.conf file by opening a terminal window and typing sudo gedit /etc/default/irda-utils # please be careful, as you are now root
and change the following options: ENABLE="true"
Problems with the IrDA?
If you’ve disconnected the dongle, and the IrDA doesn’t work when you reconnect it (*red flashes*), you’ll probably get there by opening a terminal window and typing sudo irattach irda0 -s
You should now be able to connect your watch and sync it with the Polar ProTrainer5 software. Get out there, get your heart racing, and have fun!
Move the file from the Downloads folder (or whatever folder you put it in) to the usr/local/bin folder:
Open a terminal window and type: cd Downloads
sudo mv cups2priss_init /usr/local/bin/
Change directory by typing: cd /usr/local/bin/
Make the file executable to all users by typing: sudo chmod a+rx cups2priss_init
Run sudo cups2priss_init -R
You’ll now be able to access the UiO printers. A list of the different printers can be found here.
Navigate to the folder where the file you want to print is located:
eg. /Documents/Out cd Documents/Out/
To see the files listed in the folder, type dir
Print file (file.pdf) by typing either lpr.cups -P[printername] file.pdf
or if you don’t have lpr.cups lpr -P[printername] file.pdf
Soo, if you want to use the printer called printer3, type lpr -Pprinter3 file.pdf
Hopefully you’re all set now. Think of the environment before you go bananas, though ;-)
Here's a treat in the hot Norwegian summer. It can happen, sometimes we actually have days above 20 degrees!
This soup is Guri's invention. Blue mussels with muscles.
The recipe is simple, and the ingredients are sustainable. You can eat as much blue mussels as you wish. Just be aware of the algae toxins if you collect the mussels by your self.
Blue mussels with muscles
- 1 kg blue mussels
As you've probably figured out, there are two ingredients we love above most - namely, cream and butter. There is nothing like the smell of butter sissling away in a hot pan or the the feel of luscious creamed stuff on the tongue.
A couple of days ago we went hunting in the local forest. We went hunting for mushrooms. Not far from the tracks we found great spots where chanterelles,
1/2 dl raisins
Salad - mix whatever sorts you can get your hands on
1 dl bean sprouts
1 dl pumpkin seeds
juice from 1/2 lime
1 tbls good quality balsamico
Chop it and mix it.
Works great as a side dish to lamb roast and Hellbay Forest Creamed Mushrooms
So... here is the backdrop for the menu tonight. We bought a bottle of quite expensive barolo red wine. Oh, joy... what a feast we were going to have! Back home, all snuggled up in the sofa with pillows and blankets, a movie and what not it turned out to be a BIG disappointment! The wine had turned on us. Acid. Yiack!
Turning the disappointment to our advantage, we went trough our fridge in
Yesterdays lamb was waaay too much for two people to consume for dinner. Fortunately, roast leftovers are one of my absolute favourite dishes. At least when served as we did tonight. Although we both love cooking, it's nice to get a great tasting meal with minimum effort. All we had to do was;
heat the oven to about 200 C,slice three medium sized potatoes (...we're talking really thin slices!)
Aaahh... Easter dinner as it should be. Lamb is normally stretching our budget a bit, but come Easter and soon to come birthday (when I'll be in Denmark, away from Lars and our dog :( ... ) today we decided to jump into our fancy pants and get crazy. Lamb roast is on the menu. Side dishes will be celery root purée and baked vegetables. - Dig it!
Here is what you'll need:LAMB:1 - 1 1/2 kg lamb (we
I'll be having dinner alone today. I'll use today to make a very healthy dish that most people don't like, or more correct, think they don't like. You should give it a try!
It has been a belief among people that the oceans are so large that we are unable to empty them, but later management and science has proven this conviction to be wrong. Many resources are depleted, and marine fisheries also
Most people eat to live, but some of us, at least some days, live to eat. Today is one of the days. Dinner today is served in two dishes. First comes the Full-bodied hellbay forest onion soup. This is a full dish for two persons. As a starter, you better halve the recipe.
One red onionOne regular onionFour Shallots1/2 liter water1/2 cube bullion1 laurel leaf1 ts dried estragon2 tbls white wine
For a second dish of today's dinner we made a Mackerel salad. It's really simple in composition, but tastes great after the sweet and heavy taste of onions. Here's what you'll need:
Whole grain pasta (about four handfuls) 1 smoked mackerel with pepper 1/4 yellow pepper2 tomatoes (try to get some sweet, ripe ones)1 avocado1 shallot pine nuts3 cloves of garlic1 limereally good olive oilsalt
We are both quite into coarse bread. This is a recipe that I have experimented with a bit. It is very simple, perhaps the coarsest bread I've ever made successfully. It must be made in two operations, because it is a sourdough.First day you simply blend 1 liter of coarse ground whole rye flour...Read all...
Taking a stroll in the ruins of Pompeii was… I don’t know… using a little bit of imagination, it felt kind of like taking a time travel about 2000 years back in time. We walked the streets, checked out local brothels and bakeries and enjoyed the sun shine on marble stones embedded in the streets. The bright white stones also reflect the moonlight, making it easy to follow the main roads in night-time. It must still be a beautiful sight, like watching the reflection of a sparkly night sky.
As we walked through the city, we noticed that wheels from horse carriages that used to fill the streets had left permanent marks in them. We were taken away by mosaic floors with the warning “be aware of the dog” (in latin) and amazingly well preserved frescos depicting sexual activity. The guide told us that 32 bakeries and 24 brothels were discovered in the excavations of Pompeii (roughly 35% of the city is still covered, though). Lars comment was: “Jaha, så det var tydeligvis såvidt litt viktigere med brød enn med morrabrød…” I won’t even try to translate that one…
After the eruption of a volcano close by the Vesuvius (Vesuvius was evidently formed during this eruption), the city of Pompeii was completely covered by volcanic stone and ashes. Along with the buildings, about 2000 of the 20-30 000 people residing there, cats, dogs and other animals were buried alive. They all had roughly three days to get out, but for some reason they didn’t. The cavities and the bones left after the decay of the bodies were so well preserved, that complete plaster casts were made at the discovery. Seeing the shape of humans, like 2000 year old echoes of their dying moments, made a profound impression somewhere in me.
The echo of a teenage boy:
The site was discovered by accident in 1749 (read more here) and is really well worth the three hour drive from Rome. I’ll add a picture gallery in a short while…
(2/2) The visit to Pantheon was downright magnificent. Be sure to drop by if you visit Rome. In need of unwinding after a full day of grandeur, we relaxed at a café called Bar del Fico, where old men were playing chess beneath a tall fig tree. Nice :-)
(1/2) To get to the Pantheon we walked a route leading us by the Castel Sant’ Angelo which originally was built to hold the remains of the emperor Hadrian in 139 AD. It now appears as a fortified bastion which among other things served as the popes retreat site way back when (the mid-16th century I think)… We went through a bunch of charming alleys to get to the Piazza Navona and shortly thereafter, the Pantheon…
Headed down to the Pantheon which was amazing. The dome is the largest arched construction of its kind, concrete that is, in the world. With a diameter of 43.3 m it’s even bigger than the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica. In other words… it’s pretty frekkin impressive! The structure as seen today was completed between 118 and 125 A.D., during the reign of Hadrian.
We relaxed at several cafés and did some window shopping in the sun. Got my eyes set on two pairs of Italian shoes, a belt and a purse. Probably not going to be able to leave them behind ;-) A perfect day. Booked a guided tour in the Vatican city for tomorrow. Really looking forward to that!
Our second day in Rome is a Monday. Sleeping a while, and a later breakfast than usual. This is the whole point with this trip. Take it easy, but still discover the eternal city. After all, the city is eternal, and I guess it will still be around for the next ten days.
Today we have had cappuccino, some foccachia/pannini thing for lunch, and chestnuts and beer for second lunch. Guri and I were crazy, and enjoyed a Peroni beer each in the Piazza San Pietro. We had dinner in a restaurant that gave a poor first impression. Luckily, the food totally outclassed our expectations. Even the service was good, in a nice and clumsy Italian way (as compared to the Norwegian stiff service style). A nice day.
We spent the daylight hours walking to the St Peters Square and relaxing in the sun. A lot of impressions and enjoying Berninis work (read about him here if you want) resulted in a heap-load of pictures… I won’t be boring you with too many - google will give you plenty that are better than mine if you are interested - and I bet Lars will post some too ;-)
Had to include the one showing of the saints in an arch… During Johannes Paulus II (or Karol Wojtyla) more people were given status as saints than during the 17 popes that went before him - IN ALL! Now, there’s one guy that knew his PR…!
Well, I choose to look at it this way. We are improving… Dead tired, uncaffeinated, scruffy and smelly we managed to get to the gate just in time for the final call… gahh.
Now, we are settled in a nice contemporary hotel close to the heart of the ancient city Rome.
After a good two hour sleep we had pizza and beer at a pizzeria in the neighborhood. Pictures from Fellinis La Dolce Vita hanging on maroon brick walls and tables covered by those red and white cloths we all know from the movies may be cheap tricks to set the mood… I don’t know and I don’t care - It works and I just love it
Finally, we felt fit to explore the first chunks of the eternal city. We took a night stroll towards the Piazza del Popolo, headed down the Via del Babuino to Piazza di Spagna, before stopping by the mausoleum of emperor Augustus and heading home to the Twentyone Hotel at via Cola di Rienzo. I’m pretty sure I could do the same stroll every single of the ten remaining days we’re going to spend here and still get excited.
At the pizzeria I was smitten, but now I find myself irretrievably falling in love.
The pictures below are sampled from this album. Feel free to visit :-)
In San Francisco we were picked up by Guri’s sister and her sisters boyfriend. We were told that the great weather just had arrived as well and that the famous San Fran fog, called Karl, hadn’t shown up to greet us. (Maybe next time Karl?). And from here on, my dear reader, begins a food adventure you must yourself embark upon.
We had the world best tacos at Tacolicious (http://tacolicioussf.com) - kudos to the chefs for only serving sustainable fish. We had icecreams from heaven at Smitten (http://www.yelp.no/biz/smitten-ice-cream-san-francisco). And let me just say that shopping for beer in Norway at the grocery store has become a laughing matter. We had a great time eating raw Oysters at a secluded (and I’m sorry to say secret) place. And before heading into the Redwood forests we ate at Plow - I’ll remember those pancakes for ever. http://www.eatatplow.com/
Thank you so much Marte and Van for showing us such a great time, we forgive you for trying to kill us in that hill - it was all worth it!
We left The Beaver State (nickname for Oregon) and Eugene in a long aluminum tank (Yay, Amtrak!) on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Eugene sent us on our way with a hangover (I’ll surely will remember for ever) and a great vegan lunch in our stomachs. We were heading for the Bear State and the great city of San Francisco. This meant a 15 hour ride trough dense evergreen forests (I think it was pine - looked like pine, tall as hell), darkness, sunrise, wetlands, salt refineries, ghost towns (people had to leave their homes when the wetlands were claimed by the state) and fields of berries and artichoke. Did you know Marilyn Monroe won the title “Miss California Artichoke Queen” in 1947?
The train engineer, which also served as a great guide, told us about it all. We arrived in sunny San Francisco the next morning, a little wiser.
Eugene, Oregon. AKA The Party Town for Party Grrrls
Leaving Portland we were faced with two choices. Either heading for the comfort of the ocean mist at the west coast, or continuing our exploration of the Willamette Valley.
Bewildered so far away from an ocean bed, bewitched by American books and brews, our best bet became the not so bolting bus down the beautiful valley to Eugene. The city of… uhm… well, the birthplace of Nike actually.
An old man at the info center in Portland told us that Eugene was the “party town for party girls”… Standing in Eugene 24 hours later, with the dirt and gravel of this small town beneath our feet, watching the heat rise from the dusty road in front of us - I’d say we had our doubts… I swear I could hear a banjo playing somewhere in the background and a small part of me really expected to see Clint Eastwood driving one of the many trucks passing by…
We went out for dinner at a pizza place, figuring we would tuck in early and be ready for the looong train-ride down to San Francisco. Oh man, did we figure wrong! A couple of drinks, a bottle of wine, a couple of beers and a double whiskey later (“…the schmmokiest whone ya gahht, thank yah… *wink-wink*”) we found ourselves in the lively company of a granny groupie (yeah, she called herself that) and a couple of dudes and dudettes at a concert. A band of bluegrass brothers called the Conjugal Visitors blew us away with music that just made it impossible not to stomp, slap thigh and howl out loud. It was… rad.
The old man obviously knew what he was talking about. That night, Eugene really was the party town for these two Norwegian party girls. Thank you, Eugene!
After a couple of days in Seattle we took the oh so cheap and great Bolt bus to the city of roses Portland, Oregon.
We almost died in the Indian summer sun looking for our hotel, which was not as close to downtown as it looked on the map. But the first half of the walk along the river Willamette was nice (much to do with that we didn’t know how far we had to go yet). The National Geographic vessel Sea Lion had docked by an old harbor and we dreamed about going for an expedition. - But we didn’t. We had our own expedition to tend to: Portland.
Portland wants to be as environmentally friendly as possible. You see it in the way they encourage you to recycle and be conscious about your effect on the environment with your everyday activities. We went to the café Laughing Planet ( read more here: http://laughingplanetcafe.com/about/history/) and actually felt good about having a “junk food” meal. Portland also has great beer (micro brewery is big on the west coast) and great shopping (we went through hell trying not to buy anything, our backpacks were already heavy enough).
But three great things about Portland: 1. Powell’s bookstore (http://www.powells.com) 2. Jogging along the river side, looking at the birds and the tame, friendly squirrels 3. Window shopping (painful, but good) down the NW 23 Avenue
As the sun set, we decided to take a walk along the waterfront. It is amazingly beautiful. The mountains, forests and the Pacific Ocean are all there, at your doorstep, within reach and providing both resources and recreation. A giant sculpture of a blue water drop is placed at the harbour to symbolize the significance of water in supporting life on Earth.
As kind of a spur of the moment thing, the two marine biologists headed for Vancouver, Canada yesterday. Arriving the city (Bolt Bus 10 dollars – cheap!) they immediately noticed a globe of glass glimmering in the sun. Exited to discover that it was the Telus World of Science building, the geeks decided to add it to their list of places to see and things to do…
The hight of our “Ultimate Experience” was the Hubble movie. With Leonardo DiCaprio as guide and the eye of the Hubble telescope as our vessel we travelled and marvelled at space and time for a while. I loved the way the beautiful pictures were wrapped in scientific facts. They could have eased up on the “We had to explore the universe to realize how unique our own home is - and to take care of it” kind of talk, though. The exhibit called “Sustainability”, where we were shown how much oil is used, how much water is consumed and polluted and how much non-recyclable waste is produced every year gave a hollowness to DiCaprio’s words that felt uncomfortable. Are we really taking care of Earth? In hindsight I feel like the Hubble movie was really more about finding a new home… to screw up… Lots of beautiful pictures and amazing facts made it worthwhile though.
As for the rest of the experience - Science shmience, man… It felt more like a giant playground for kids. Although we totally endorse the effort to stimulate kids curiosity through play, we were disappointed to find very little brain exercise for grownups.
Seattle by night is just as exciting. If you need tips on where to take your girlfriend/boyfriend out for a romantic evening in this city - ask us. For some reason we had quite a number of those “Oh, this would have been so romantic if only…” moments.
Our top six moments were: 1) The ferris wheel stopping at the point where we had the most spectacular view of the space needle and the city at night. 2) Taking a stroll along the Post Alley and dining at a cosy Italian restaurant called the Pink Door. 3) Walking along the waterfront at sunset. 4) Walking through the cave-like tropical fish section of the Seattle aquarium and suddenly realizing we were alone in there…! 5) Spending time at the top of the space needle at closing time. 6) Experiencing the buzz of the Pike Place Market and talking to the shop keepers.
Two marine biologist on an adventure on the West Coast of America, seeking what every advent(o)urers do: A great adventure!
(Photos will appear in a separate post)
The first stop on the pacific north coast is Seattle. They arrive Seattle downtown after dark, smell a scent of urine in the evening air, see the drug addicts and the alcoholics and the ones speaking to themselves. The marine biologist try to look like they know where they’re going, which seems to work, even when they pass the same corner for the forth time. And right in the middle of this dodgy place they have booked a room where they will stay for three days.
The next morning, the sun brights up the city and all the dark shadows are gone. They live next to the famous Pike Place public market and have a great view of the Elliott Bay. In the morning, the smell of urine is replaced by the smell of sea, fresh coffee, flowers, sea food and vegetables. From then on Seattle becomes a romantic place. The dark alleys wasn’t that dark after all, they were romantic alleys where you go for a great dinner with your boyfriend. Unfortunately Guri had left her boyfriend at home. But, luckily Seattle willingly shares its love for art, science, food, beer and rock n’ roll. A great city to start of a great adventure for sure!