Mere morals: A tidbit

Old Tjikko is the world’s oldest clonal Norway Spruce (Picea abies) with a root system about 9 550 years old. It is located close to the Norwegian border, but in Sweden, on Fulufjället Mountain, in Dalarna province in Sweden. Photo: Lief Kullman, the physical geographer who discovered the tree and named it after his late dog.

Except for a few trees that have existed for a millennium or more, hydrazoans that can regress to a larval state and regrow into adults multiple times, and single-celled organisms that replicate through cell division, most living organisms are young. Some live days or weeks, others a single year, still others decades, and a few a century or more.

My mother celebrated her 103rd birthday this past week, but what I notice is her lack of friends, something she has commented on since before she was 90. They have all died off. The last one lived to 102.

Reflecting on this I have decided that it makes most sense to seek out friendships with younger, rather than older, people. If people were 30 years younger, then when I reach 90, they will still be a youthful 60 (or less). Hopefully, most of them will still be alive.

This means that I am prioritizing friendships with people who are born in 1975 or later. Yet, I do not intend to be fanatical. If I find someone interesting born in, say 1947, or earlier, I will also offer them friendship.

For various reasons, some people choose to have pets (companion animals). Are these creatures substitutes for friends? In many cases it appears so. I feel absolutely no need to complicate my life co-habitating with a cat or dog or even a Guinea pig, and especially not a younger woman.

Data: The world’s oldest individual from a clonal tree is Old Tjikko, about 9 550-year-old. This Norway spruce located the in Fulufjället Mountains in Sweden, according to Leif Kullman, Umeå University. Old Tjikko is suspected to be the only living trunk of an ancient clonal colony.

The tree’s age was revealed by carbon-14 dating its root system. Four generations of spruce remains were found at the site, all with the same genetics. Spruce trees can multiply by cloning, so while the individual trunk is younger, the organism has existed for at least 9 550 years. There is a cluster of about 20 spruce trees in these Swedish mountains estimated to be over 8 000 years old.

The oldest known living animal is a nematode, recovered in 2015 near the Alazeya River, in Siberia, Russia, and revived. It was dated at approximately 41 700 years old – making it more than four times older than Old Tjikko.

Note: This post differs from some other tidbits. It was written 2019-10-30.

A tidbit is can be defined as: 1: a choice morsel of food. This usage dates from about 1640; 2: a choice or pleasing bit (as of information). In this weblog, most tidbits will refer to shorter draft posts, that have been awaiting editing and expansion for at least six (6) months. Today, I am flaunting these rules, and exposing myself once again as a rebel.


One of the major aspects of volunteering is that it should contribute positively to the world. (Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash)

Volunteer activities, such as membership on a board, should, ideally, last five years. During the first year, one is relatively clueless, and contributes little productive. There is a steep, year long learning curve. During the second and third years, one is into an energetic, innovative period. One experiments. Some things actually work in this period, while others fail. The fourth and fifth years represent an optimal period of activity, and leadership. One is actually able to mentor others. Beyond these years, one’s activity level gradually sinks, as one becoming tired of everything, and the activity becomes habitual. It is time to get out and do something new.

It is necessary to create a system so that volunteers can easily scale their commitment. This includes creating a visible exit strategy, that is always available. Commitments need to be at low intervals OR one can commit to a limited period for more intensive activity. This should increase the number of people involved, even if it does result a more arbitrary attendance.

Every activity should have six characteristics. It should be fun, meaningful, an opportunity to learn something new, social, an opportunity to eat food together, and end up with a feeling of mastery. It should also avoid emulating other parts of the regular daily/ weekly/ seasonal/ annual rhythm, especially school, family, sports and other commitment-focused cultural activities.

This entire blog is based on material sent to me by Alasdair McLellan. Thank you, Alasdair.


Alfred Coffee Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills, California, United States of America. (Photo by Devin Avery on Unsplash)

Determining priorities is always difficult. It is much easier if someone else decides, such as a boss or a spouse. When one actually makes a choice one also has to take responsibility for it and its consequences.

The antithesis of a priority is a distraction. Some distractions may be harmless fun, other may have serious consequences that could lead to regret. Yet, sometimes it is difficult to distinguish a distraction from a priority, because they can look alike. Said another way, one person’s priority, can be another person’s distraction.

There are different forums for priorities, that vary with age. Somewhere in the distant past boatbuilding and photography were priorities, as was reading. This was followed by a phase where activism, and dating young women had priority. Later, in adulthood, priorities shifted to work (where bosses have some influence) and family (ditto spouse). With retirement, and children well into adulthood, new priorities emerge.

Recently I have realized that I have been distracted by something that I thought was a priority.  Now I am working on adjusting my priorities, once again.

On 2017-10-21 I attended bicentennial celebrations of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh (1817 – 1892) in New Westminster, Canada, where I grew up, and where I became a Baha’i. It also inspired me to do something similar, but on a smaller scale, for the bicentennial celebration of the birth of the Báb (1819 – 1850) to be held 2019-10-29/30 in Inderøy, Norway.

This reappraisal of priorities, is encouraging me to work on the bicentennial project. Other priorities include a house renovation process, where I am reconfiguring a house, making it habitable for a couple of old people. While physically tiring, it has other rewards, not the least of which is exercise, important for a longer and healthier life.

Lots of priorities only involve a few minutes a day, each. These include daily prayers and meditations. Some, such as reading and writing, may involve a bit more time. Others do not involve any time at all, such as showing compassion and kindness.

Norwegian Culture in 16 words

Trøndelag patriots claim Trøndelag is a miniturized version of Norway. Nature and technology, with lots of space. Here, Trondheim’s Fjord, the Fosen Peninsula and Skarnsund Bridge as seen from Inderøy, in January.

Welcome to a Norwenglish lesson, designed to help you learn a few Norwegian words, and some aspects of the Norwegian culture.


  1. Personnummer (identification number) This 11 digit number is the equivalent of an American Social Security number or Canadian SIN. It provides the owner’s date of birth in clear text in the first six digits, but cannot distinguish the century. It also codes for binary gender in the ninth digit – odd numbers for males, even numbers for females. Not particular appropriate in a society where people face age and sex discrimination.
  2. Folkeregister (population register) This is a database that tells where every resident lives. One of the newer iterations of this was to encode street addresses, so that emergency services could find their way to every building in the country. From the start of a street, odd numbers are on the right hand side, even numbers on the left. Our house number, 82, indicates that our driveway starts somewhere between 820 and 840 meters from the start of the road, on the left hand side.


  1. Hus (house) also referred to as an enebolig (single family dwelling) is the standard occupancy unit for families. Apartments are far less common than in Sweden, for example.
  2. Hybel (dorm room) takes what would be storage space in a house and transforms it into rental accommodation, typically for students. In addition to providing a place to live, it also gives the house owner a number of tax advantages.
  3. Garasje (garage) is a building used to store anything and everything, with the exception of a car. Building a garage is a side effect of renting out dorms.
  4. Bil (car) is a public display of outdoorsmanship, rather than wealth. While Norwegians are increasingly becoming more European, and buying more SUVs, they have for many decades prioritized station wagons, where other nationalities would choose sedans, or at least hatchbacks. In an idealized world, a car is used to transport people to the mountains or the seashore – for recreational purposes. Unfortunately, in the real world, it is most often used to commute. The word bil itself shows how many Norwegian words are created. In this case take automobil, discard the front, and use the tail of the word. In contrast, Germans use the front, Auto.
  5. Tilhenger (trailer) has two related meanings. Literally, it means follower, sometimes translated as believer. However, it also refers to a poor person’s pickup truck. Most cars are equipped with a krok (literally hook but implying hitch or tow bar). These are used for trips to the local recycling center as well as visits to Ikea. One would never dream of buying a car, without knowing the mass of trailer it is allowed to pull. Ordinary mortals are allowed to pull 700 kg, but with a special license higher weights are permitted. We have a trailer with a weight limit of 2 000 kg, but our Mazda 5 is only allowed to pull 1 200 kg. The trailer weights almost 400 kg, so we can take 800 kg of junk to the dump at a time.
  6. Båt (boat) today usually refers to something made of fiberglass, powered by a 9.9 hp outboard motor. Fishing is the common excuse used by people to explain their presence on the water. People born in 1980 or later, need to have a boat operator certificate. Those born before are grandparented in.
  7. Naust (boathouse) comes from an age before boat trailers became common. It is a building at the edge of the shore used to house boats, fishing equipment and all things nautical. Nausts don’t like to be alone, so there are often several of them in a line. Like a garage it has an alternative use as a bar and dance floor used specifically on Sakthans (Saint John’s Eve). Celebrations start at sunset on 23 June. This closely coincides with the Midsummer solstice. In addition, the celebration features burning of pyres, the higher the fire, the better.
  8. Ski (skis) are wooden sticks used to propell a person across the countryside during the winter. Purists will only reluctantly admit alpine (or downhill) skiing, favouring a Nordic (or cross-country) variety, or ski jumping or the biathon which combines cross-country skiing with rifle shooting. Many of the best competition skiers come from Trøndelag, including Inderøy.
  9. Hytte (cabin) is home away from home. If this is to be used at Easter (or during the winter) it should be located in a mountainous area. If it is to be used during the summer, it should be located by the sea. Increasingly, people are finding it more convenient to rent an apartment in the mountains for a week, or to buy a boat with live-aboard accommodation. Since we live in a hyttefelt (cabin community) we feel no need for an extra cabin.
  10. Julebord (Christmas party) is one of those obligatory events featuring excessive amounts of traditional Christmas foods, that vary according to the region, and – optionally – excessive amounts of almost anything else. Foreigners are never quite sure if jul (pronounced yule) is a Christian or a pagan celebration, for it seems to accommodate liberal amounts of both.


  1. Postkontor (post offices) have closed down, but reopened as post-i-butikk (post-in-the-shop), moving to a large grocery store in each area previously served by a post office. Hours have expanded to match that of the shops, which for us means from 7:00 to 22:00 (10 pm) Monday to Friday ; 9:00 to 21:00 (9 pm) on Saturday; closed on Sunday. This is where we come to pick up most on-line purchases, although if we were willing to pay more, some can be delivered to the door. Yes, we still have mail delivery, but this has been reduced to five days a week.
  2. Bank (bank) size and services are being reduced. First, the bank bok (bank book) was eliminated. Kontanter (cash) is seldom required any more. Bankkort (debit and credit cards) are used in stores and for on-line purchases. While there was a period when a minibank (ATM/ cash machine) was to be found outside any bank, these have been reduced in number. Most food stores offer cash back when making purchases, since each and every bank card has approved picture ID on its reverse. Sjekk (cheque/ check) was a payment system that was in use when we first moved to Norway. The last check we wrote in Norway was in 1992. We have two 10 kroner mynt (coins) in the car to use at stores that require a coin to be inserted in order to use a handelvogn (shopping buggy). We only shop at one store now, that has this prehistoric condition. In addition, there is Vipps which is cell-phone based payment system.
  3. Fasttelefon (landline) is dying fast. When we first moved to Norway in 1980 there was a ten year waiting list to receive one. When we moved to Bodø in 1985, we were able to get one installed in two weeks. The number of landlines reached a peak of about 2 million in 2001. Since then numbers have deteriorated to 200 000. Last month the telephone company announced that they would no longer repair service to the remaining phones, and said the last ones would be eliminated in 2023. This anouncement was met with outrage. We have not had a landline since the beginning of 2019.
  4. Fjernsyn (television, literally distant vision) is doomed. Nobody under the age of 40, some would say 50, watches programs according to a television schedule. That is performed as a matter of public service to the elderly. Most of the population stream programs at their convenience. The exception, of course, is sports.

Munsee Lenape

Members of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, New Jersey in 2015 (Photo:

To the best of my knowledge, my First Nations heritage can be traced to the Lenape (Lunaapeew) People of the Delaware Nation at Moraviantown. The community is located on the southern shores of the Thames River, near the small town of Thamesville. The 13 km² Moravian 47 reserve (Munsee: Náahii, literally ‘downstream’) is in Chatham-Kent municipality, Ontario. First Nation membership totals over 1,000 people, with 457 living on the reserve, and 587 living off it. People such as myself are not included because we have far too little DNA (1 – 2%)!

Lenapehoking is a term for the lands historically inhabited by the Lenape in what is now the Mid-Atlantic United States. New York City, Newark, Trenton, Princeton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Delaware, Atlantic City, the Jersey Shore, Pine Barrens, the Sourland Mountains, the Delaware Valley, Poconos, and parts of the Catskills and numerous other areas are in Lenapehoking today. The Lenape have occupied parts of what is now New Jersey for 10 000 years (since 8 000 BC).

The Munsee were the Wolf clan of the Lenape, occupying the area where present-day Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York meet. The first recorded European contact occurred in 1524, when Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed into what is now New York Harbor. The Munsee were quickly devastated by European diseases such as smallpox and influenza, and those who survived were forced inland.

Some of the Munsee were converting to Christianity through the efforts of Moravian missionaries. In 1772, David Zeisberger led them to Gnadenhütten, in Ohio Country, which he hoped would isolate them from the hostilities of the approaching American Revolution, and free them from European settlers in the east. The mission villages were separate from both European settlers and from other native people. The Munsee were pacifists, although they had some weapons for hunting purposes.

However, on 1782-03-07, a force of Pennsylvania militiamen, in search of Indians who had been raiding settlements in western Pennsylvania, happened upon a group of Christian Munsee and rounded them up in the village of Gnadenhütten. Although the Munsee truthfully pleaded their innocence, the militia took a vote and decided to massacre them all. Ninety-six innocent Munsee men, women and children spent the night in song and prayer knowing they would be slaughtered the following morning 1782-03-08. The surviving Christian Munsee left that area later, led by Moravian missionary David Zeisberger.

A new community was then established at Fairfield along the Thames River. There they lived in relative peace for twenty years, supporting themselves with their farming and industry, until American soldiers burned their village to the ground during the War of 1812 Battle of the Thames. The battle is well known historically as a victory for American General (and later President) William Henry Harrison, and for the death of the Shawnee chief, Tecumseh. The Munsee fled into the wilderness for safe haven until hostilities had ceased, then returned to build a new Fairfield across the Thames River to the south, which is now known as Moraviantown.

Among many Algonquian peoples along the East Coast, the Lenape were considered the grandfathers from whom other Algonquian-speaking peoples originated.

The Lenape have a matrilineal clan system, where children belong to their mother’s clan, from which they gain social status and identity. The mother’s eldest brother was more significant as a mentor to the male children than was their father, who was generally of another clan. Hereditary leadership passed through the maternal line, and women elders could remove leaders of whom they disapproved. Agricultural land was managed by women and allotted according to the subsistence needs of their extended families. Families were matrilocal; newlywed couples would live with the bride’s family, where her mother and sisters could also assist her with her growing family.

The Lenape assigned land of their common territory to a particular clan for hunting, fishing, and cultivation. There was no individual private ownership of land although women often had rights to plots for farming. Clans lived in fixed settlements, using the surrounding areas for communal hunting and planting until the land was exhausted. In a practice known as agricultural shifting, the group then moved to found a new settlement within their territory.

Companion planting was also practiced. Here, women cultivated many varieties of the Three Sisters: maize, beans, and squash. Tobacco was also farmed by the men. Fish such as sturgeon, pike and a variety of shellfish such as clams, oysters, lobsters and scallops were an important part of their food supply. The Lenape men also provided meat from deer (venison), black bear and smaller game like squirrel, rabbit, wild turkey and duck. The Lenape food also included nuts, vegetables, mushrooms and fruits (plums, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries).

The people were primarily sedentary living in longhouses in villages that were heavily fortified with palisades due to attacks by the Mohawks. They moved seasonally to summer campsites for particular purposes such as fishing or hunting. Here they built wigwams with wooden frames that were covered with woven mats, sheets of birchbark and animal skins. Ropes were wrapped around the wigwam to hold the birch bark in place. During the 17th-century, European settlers and traders from colonies of New Netherland and New Sweden traded with the Lenape for agricultural products, mainly maize, in exchange for iron tools.

The Lenape built canoes made from birch bark over a wooden frame. These canoes were broad enough to float in shallow streams, strong enough to shoot dangerous rapids, and light enough for one man to easily carry a canoe on his back. The Lenape also built heavier dugout canoes.

Gene Sharp

This weblog post is not being written for residents of democratic countries, where respect and prosperity for all, are guiding ideals. Rather it is written to give hope to those who either live under a dictatorship, or imagine that they soon could be living under one, or more generally, live in countries where large segments of the population live undignified and impoverished lives.

Gene Sharp, in his office at The Albert Einstein Institution, co-located in his house in East Boston. The equipment on his desk indicate that he was a member of the Apple tribe. Photo: Héctor Darío Reyes, 2014

Gene Sharp (1928 – 2018) was born in North Baltimore, Ohio. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences in 1949 and a Master of Arts in Sociology in 1951 from Ohio State University. He chose imprisonment for nine months between 1953–54 to protest Korean War conscription, and discussed this decision in letters to Albert Einstein. Einstein later wrote a foreword to Sharp’s first book, Gandhi Wields the Weapon of Moral Power: Three Case Histories. He then worked as factory labourer, guide to a blind social worker, and secretary to the American pacifist, A. J. Muste. Between 1955 and 1958 he was Assistant Editor of Peace News in London, a weekly pacifist newspaper. From here, he helped organize the 1958 Aldermaston anti-nuclear weapons march and demonstration.


While the English language is renowned for its variety, it continually imports new terms to augment denotations that prove to be inadequate. Such is the case with the phrase passive resistance. Mahatma Ghandi (1869-1948) dismissed that phrase because it “is different from satyagraha in three essentials: Satyagraha is a weapon of the strong; it admits of no violence under any circumstance whatsoever; and it ever insists upon truth.”

Sharp spent two periods living in Oslo, Norway. The first was between 1958 and 1960 when he was engaged as a Research Fellow, at the Institute for Social Research. He studied and researched Mohandas Gandhi’s Satyagraha Norms, under Professor Arne Næss, and with Johan Galtung.

Between 1964 and 1965, immediately after he had undertaken doctoral studies at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford (but before being awarded a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1968), he combined work as an Assistant Lecturer at the Institute for Philosophy and the History of Ideas, University of Oslo, Norway (part-time) with a role as Fellow for the American Scandinavian Foundation.

After 1968, Sharp spent most of his life working in the Boston area, and living in East Boston. He had academic positions at Harvard, University of Massachusetts Boston, Tufts University, Brandeis University, Southeastern Massachusetts University (now University of Massachusetts Dartmouth). From 1983, he was affiliated with the Albert Einstein Institution, until his death in 2018.

An aside: In 2020, I hope to present many of the keywords used by Chomsky, Galtung, Ghandi, Muste, Næss, Sharp, Thoreau and Zinn, with respect to Satyagraha in the weblog:

Sharp’s 1973 book, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, was based on his 1968 doctoral thesis. This book is a practical political analysis of nonviolent action as a means to apply power in a conflict. One key to understanding Sharp is that he regards power as a non-intrinsic quality of people in power. He says that their power is not monolithic. In the past, kings were notorious for asserting their divine right to rule.

Political power is dependent on the obedience of the state’s subjects, normally its citizens and other residents. If subjects won’t obey orders, then rulers don’t have power. This insight comes from Étienne de La Boétie (1530–1563). Sharp cites his work frequently in both The Politics of Nonviolent Action and From Dictatorship to Democracy.

Sharp contends that all effective power structures have systems to encourage or extract obedience. States are particularly complex, devious and effective in keeping subjects obedient. Mechanisms include institutions (police, courts, regulatory agencies), but also include more subtile, cultural dimensions. These institutions with a system of sanctions (imprisonment, fines, ostracism) and rewards (titles, wealth, fame) which influence and encourage obedience.


Sharp’s writings on Civilian-Based Defense were used by the Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian governments during their separation from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Sharp’s 1993 handbook From Dictatorship to Democracy has been translated into at least 31 other languages. The book served as a basis for: the Serbian Otpor! (Resistance!) 1998 to 2004; The Rose Revolution in Georgia supported by the Kmara civic resistance movement in November 2003; The Orange Revolution followed the disputed second round of the Ukrainian presidential election in 2004 involved Pora! (It’s time! ) a Ukrainian civic youth organization and political party; The Tulip/ (sometimes Pink) Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, a more violent protest than its predecessors, that was supported by the KelKel youth resistance movement following the disputed Kyrgyz parliamentary election in 2005; the Jeans revolution in Belarus involving the student group Zubr in March 2006; and, the Saffron revolution in Myanmar (Burma) in August/ September 2007.

In general, if subjects identify and understand the working of political forces, they can gain a window of opportunity to cause significant change in a state. However, this also applies to other power players in society, not just national politicians or dictators.

Big Music and Big Movies have concentrated their efforts on promoting superstars, to the detriment of equally talented, but less visible people. Many of these superstars have behaved immorally, and treated almost everyone in their presence with derision. Fortunately the #MeToo movement has caught up with both these industries, with Michael Jackson as the latest person to come under scrutiny. In a two-part, four-hour exposé, Leaving Neverland, Wade Robson and James Safechuck allege that they were abused as children by Jackson.

The time has come for people to stop being fans, and to start becoming connoisseurs. One can no longer just play music because it sounds good. An entire set of ethical considerations has to be fulfilled, before sound should be allowed to stream from a loudspeaker.


Not everyone agrees with Gene Sharp.

Egyptian writer/ activist, Karim Alrawi, finds Gene Sharp’s writings more about regime change than revolution. According to Alrawi, revolution has an ethical and material dimension that Sharp deliberately avoids.

Sharp has been accused of having strong links with a variety of US institutions including the CIA, the Pentagon and Republican-related institutions. He has consistently denied these claims, and received support from Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and others in 2008, “Rather than being a tool of imperialism, Dr. Sharp’s research and writings have inspired generations of progressive peace, labor, feminist, human rights, environmental, and social justice activists in the United States and around the world.”

The Charm of Namsos

Correction: The photo of the Harbour transportation centre claimed that a catamaran runs between Namsos and Trondheim, almost at the southern end of the map. This is not true. The catamaran runs between Namsos and Rørvik, further north.

Namsos is a municipality in Trøndelag county, Norway. It is part of the Namdalen region. It occupies 779 square-kilometres (301 square miles) and has a population of 13,051. The town is located on a small bay, about 24 kilometers (15 miles) from the sea, near the head of Namsenfjorden and at the mouth of the Namsen River, one of the richest salmon rivers in Europe. The municipality also includes the islands of Otterøya and Hoddøya and the south-western half of Elvalandet island.

Patricia and I decided to play hooky on Wednesday, 2019-02-20 and drove off to Namsos for the day. For those unfamiliar with our dialect, playing hooky is skipping school. At our age, no one actually cares what we do, as long as we are civil and law abiding. We contributed to the local economy by buying two books and lunch.

The above map is a bit out of date, since Nord-Trøndelag and Sør-Trøndelag amalgamated 2018-01-01. However, the map shows Namsos almost directly North of Steinkjer.
The coat of arms for Namsos dates from 1961. It shows a golden moose head on a red background. The moose was chosen as a symbol, since Namsos is the capital of the forest-rich Namdalen region, and the moose is the “king of the forest”.

The climate in Namsos is generally maritime. The average temperature in January is −2.4 °C (27.7 °F), in July it is 13.3 °C (55.9 °F). The mean annual temperature is 5 °C (41 °F) and the annual precipitation is 1 340 millimetres (53 inches).

The shopping centre in Namsos. A mishmash of styles, architectural and otherwise.
From the Himmel & Hav (Sky & Sea) Restaurant. Parking/ mooring is available for your boat, if you would prefer to use it shopping, rather than your car.

The Harbour transportation center. Express catamarans travel between Namsos and Rørvik.
Not everyone drives a car in Namsos. John Deere tractors are sold by Felleskjøpet (the Farmers’ Co-operative).
A typical Norwegian bus.
There is not much life at this square in February. The bust is that of Norwegian author Olav Duun (1876 – 1939). From 1907-38 he published 25 novels, four short story collections (he called them “sagas”) and two children’s books. Most incorporate local dialects of peasants, fishermen and farmers. Psychological and spiritual characteristics of rural life, family traditions, and awareness of those who have lived before dominate his books. His most notable work is the six volume, The People of Juvik, about four generations of peasant landowners. In English this work was published as: The Trough of the Waves (1930), The Blind Man (1931), The Big Wedding (1932), Odin in Fairyland (1932), Odin Grows Up (1934) and Storm (1935). The upper secondary school in Namsos also bears his name.
Four sparks sitting outside a sporting goods store awaiting owners. A spark consisting of a chair mounted on a pair of flexible metal runners that extend backward to about twice the chair’s length. The sled is propelled by kicking (“sparka” or “sparke” in the Scandinavian languages) the ground by foot. They are in common use in Sweden, Norway and Finland, especially where roads are not sanded or salted. They are also excellent means of travel over frozen lakes to go ice fishing or just to explore a lake. The first definite record of a spark was in a newspaper in northern Sweden around 1870. In that era stiff, heavy wooden runners were used. In 1909 the design of the modern spark, with flexible metal runners was introduced by the Swedish factory Orsasparken, This quickly became the standard in Sweden, Finland and Norway.

Many Thanks to Wikipedia for providing detailed information.

Lotta Hitschmanova

Lotta Hitschmanova, CC (1909-11-28 – 1990-08-01) was a Canadian humanitarian. In 1945, she founded the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada, an international development organization that began as a small group of aid workers sending supplies to war-torn Europe for relief and reconstruction.

Lotta Hitschmanova
(1909 – 1990)

She was born in Prague, where she earned a Ph. D. She worked as a journalist, and was an outspoken critic of the Nazis. Both of her parents died in the Holocaust, while she had to flee Czechoslovakia in 1938. For four years she wandered over Europe, eventually finding her way to Marseilles, where she helped refugee support groups.

In 1942, after a 46-day voyage on a converted banana boat, she arrived penniless in Montreal “with an unpronounceable name” as she said, and feeling completely lost. Three years later, she founded the Unitarian Service Committee (USC Canada). Her mission from the mid-1940s into the 1980s, was to educate and mobilize Canadians. “I experienced personally how much it hurts to be hungry. To be a refugee, to be without a home, to be without country, to be without friends. And this is something dreadful; you have no more roots, you have no one to turn to.”

Her work took her first back to post-war Europe, and then to Africa and Asia, to conflict zones and newly-independent nations, where the need was greatest. She urged Canadians to become aware of the living conditions of people living far away, and calling upon them to take action and help: “Charity begins at home…and then it goes on to embrace next door neighbours and all those who need help.”

Yet, Lotta’s influence went well beyond her work with USC Canada. Her educational efforts over four decades, provided a foundation for the Canadian public’s ongoing support for international humanitarian aid and development assistance. I remember listening to her talk about her work, and admiring her unique army nurse uniform, complete with military-style hat. She spoke with a thick Czech accent, but it never detracted from her message.

Each year she travelled to poor and strife-torn towns and villages of the world, in need of Canadian assistance to recover from drought, war, disease and poverty. Her message was sincere, and received as such by many thousands of Canadians. People from all faiths and occupations responded by becoming lifelong supporters. USC’s address 56 Sparks Street, Ottawa became the most recognizable address in Canada.

Nova Scotia author Joan Baxter wrote: “It was Lotta Hitschmanova who shaped my values as a Canadian, and the type of Canada I believe in. She helped give us our identity.”

I am neither the first person, nor the last who was moved by Lotta. The CC after Lotta’s name refers to her merit as a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest grade after that of the Monarch and the Governor General, given her in 1980. She has received numerous other awards and honours from countries and organizations on four continents.

In 2007, the Canadian Museum of History included her as one of the founders in its Canadian Personalities Hall. In 2013, when the Museum conducted a poll, she received the most votes as the person who had shaped Canada’s history most, ahead of Tommy Douglas, Terry Fox and Pierre Trudeau.

Her greatest legacy remains is the deep, emotional reverberation of her values in the memory by hundreds of thousands of Canadians. Her background as an articulate refugee impacted and enriched Canadian society. Today, Canadians – especially – are awaiting the next Lotta Hitschmanova, who may be arriving soon in Canada. Let us welcome each and every one.

In Vancouver, folk singer Vera Johnson (1920 – 2007) commented for decades on political events starting in 1949. Her humorous, original songs spanned every conceivable forbidden topic: censorship, divorce, family life, liberation, politics, religion and sex. Her most famous song, The Fountain, described the Vancouver hippie protests of 1968. She also attended the Vancouver Unitarian Church, although in periods of her life she also lived in Penticton BC, Stratford Ontario, as well as in Britain and Mexico.

Johnson writes, [While in Ottawa for a singing engagement at the beginning of September 1968] “I wrote Nagamma and, next morning, went into Lotta’s office and sang it for her. She cried. I cried. She phoned CBC. They didn’t cry but made an appointment for me to record it at 1:30. Then Lotta used it as the theme song for [her next] campaign.

I have tried to find Nagamma on YouTube, without success. In fact, I have been unable to find anything sung by Johnson, anywhere. She was a generous person. Royalties for Nagamma, went to the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada. For The Fountain they were given to the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. That’s What I Believe royalties went to the Unitarian Church of Vancouver. We’re Gonna Make His Dream Come True, went to the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, Martin Luther King’s organization. For Pierre Trudeau, they went to UNICEF.

Lotta is one of many Unitarians who have influenced my life positively. Others include: Tim Berners-Lee (born 1955) – inventor of the World Wide Web; Ray Bradbury (1920–2012) – author; Brock Chisholm (1896–1971) – director, World Health Organization; Charles Darwin (1809–1882) – English naturalist and biologist; Charles Dickens (1812–1870) – English novelist; Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983) – inventor, engineer; Ashley Montagu (1905–1999) – anthropologist and social biologist; Isaac Newton (1642-1726) – English physicist and mathematician; Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007) – writer; Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) – architect; and, N. C. Wyeth (1882–1945) – illustrator and painter.

For more information on Lotta and USC-Canada, visit:

Workshop Activism

Artwork from Makerspace Nanaimo celebrating Canada Day, 2018-07-01. Nanaimo was my father’s home town, on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. For more information about it, visit:

Dear everyone,

This is a letter to potential partners regarding a maker’s workshop. It is not an official request, but loose thoughts from an individual. Not everything I do is commercially profitable. I am grateful that I am in a financial situation as a pensioner, where I can prioritize socially beneficial activities. Many – but not all – who read this are probably in a similar situation. But my life is too short, my brain too small and my hands too few to do everything I want.

I have just read Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson’s book, Empty Planet (2019), which explains one of the greatest challenges mankind faces in the future, a rapid population decline, in the second half of this century. In Norway, fertility is now slightly above 1.6 compared to 2.1 which is necessary to maintain the population. With the exception of Africa, almost the whole world is now below this limit, or will soon reach this limit. The authors believe that it is possible that in the year 2100, the US and China’s population could be about the same, 600 million each, with the US population increasing by immigration. Despite the freeing of child production, fertility in China is only 1.2. China does not want immigration, but are not alone in this. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has provided “slave laws” that impose increased overtime on workers, and has also promised women who give birth to 4 (or more) children, tax exemptions for the rest of their lives, along with some other benefits. He also refuses to accept immigrants, but focuses on domestic production. It will probably not help to bring up the birth rate. Women are too wise to fall for it. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s New Year’s speech did not generate much enthusiasm either.

I am committed to removing useless work, including driving. A lot of construction work consists of old fashioned methods, which are used only because of traditions. Working methods that promote low energy, environmentally friendly products and minimal use of labor must be used. I want more robotics, which can also relieve people from boring work tasks.

It will be impossible to launch every single project I have proposed. However, I would like to share some of the project proposals. To a couple of them, I add links to current material, including YouTubes video of short duration. What I would like to know is which of these YOU would like to work with and in which priority order. Are there other projects you could suggest that you would prioritize? What role do you want in these or other projects.

1. The Norwegian Society for Nature Conservation Inderøy has been granted some money to build an up to 15 square meter geodesic dome to grow vegetables using hydroponics. Part of the thinking is to try it as a method for producing “near” food. The dome could be built with reused impregnated wood, and recycled glass. The facility could be controlled with microprocessors, Arduino or Raspberry Pi.

2. Monitoring of the environment has also been discussed at the local group of Norwegian Society for Nature Conservation. This could involve the construction of drones and underwater robots (ROVs) for monitoring sea and land areas. Equipped with camera and/ or different sensors. See:

3. Smart house. Well the houses are not so intelligent, but this project is about using control technology and similar methods to control the house conditions, including light and heat. As usual, I am concerned about open source software such as Home Assistant, cheap microcontrollers, LED lights, and more. See:

4. Robotics are important to relieve people from work. Self-propelled cars (and tractors) are part of this. At the same time, with an aging population, there is a need for machines that can help people with their chores. I am interested in initiating training in robotics with an emphasis on mechatronics, ie the interdisciplinary engineering field that combines mechanics, electronics, computer technology, regulation technology, and systems engineering design in the development and production of useful new products.

5. As any reader can see, most of the activities here have a male orientation. I regret that, but for my own defense I would also like to have women participate. In addition, I would also like to encourage other activities, especially those that women would like to participate in. Despite this, I feel that women can also benefit from gender-separated education, especially in technical areas that have a male feel – mechanics, electronics , programming. I would like to know female views here, especially. Also think that here women can have more nuanced understanding in areas that concern clothes and food.

6. Other locations. The workshop at the municipal centre (Straumen) has been granted money from the Gjensidige Foundation. If workshop activities are to replace TV viewing as Norway’s national sport, then several workshops must be put into use. These workshops should be located everywhere in the municipality, preferably a stort distance from where you live! It should be possible to find suitable locations.

7. Machines. There will be a need for new types of machines over time. The workshop is intended for training and production with a limited range of materials, with a limited range of machines. Construction of, for example, geodesic domes must take place elsewhere and use other types of machines. These machines could be purchased used then repaired and deployed.

The Service Network

“The Service Network consists of people with complimentary skills looking for ways to serve society. We particularly target gaps and can aid other organizations where their skills are insufficient. Our competence range from social networking and marketing to metalworking and wireless technologies.”

This week, I have devoted much of my time to compiling a list of equipment for a workshop. This is by no means an individual activity, where one can impose one’s beliefs and opinions on others. Rather, it is a time to listen to (and reflect on) the un-articulated needs of a diverse group of people, and to mesh them into a harmonious whole. I am particularly concerned about the needs of children. Far too often they are distracted into playing games and using toys. Yes, these activities are important, but there are times when they should be treated as adults-in-training, as people who can make a significant contribution to the betterment of the world.

Of course, I am also concerned about the needs of the weaker gender, that one that has a shorter life-span, more debilitating disease, more undiagnosed mental health issues and a reduced ability to speak face-to-face. They need a place to work, and an opportunity to speak shoulder-to-shoulder.

That said, the needs of the stronger gender also need to be addressed. In the past, they have often been denied access to workshops and to technical education. Given the opportunity during the second world war, they excelled brilliantly, until the end of the war forced them out of the workshop and into the bedroom, so they could become the mothers of the boomer generation.

Immigrants have a special place in a workshop, for it is by working and contributing to a society, that people start to understand how society functions, in the real world. A workshop offers an opportunity for the lives of the immigrant, as well as the native populations to intertwine, and for both groups to become integrated.

Verksted aktivisme… på norsk

Kjære alle sammen,

Dette er et brev til mulige samarbeidspartnere når det gjelder et maker-verksted. Dette er ikke en offisiell henvisning, men løse tanker som privatperson. Ikke alt jeg driver med er bedriftsøkonomisk lønnsom. Jeg er takknemlig for at jeg er i en økonomisk situasjon som pensjonist, der jeg kan prioritere samfunnsnyttige aktiviteter. Mange – men ikke alle – som leser denne er sannsynligvis i en lignende situasjon. Men mitt liv er for kort, min hjerne for liten og mine hender for få til å gjennomføre alt som jeg har lyst til å gjennomføre.

Jeg har nettopp lest Darrell Bricker og John Ibbitsons bok, Empty Planet (2019), som forklarer en av de største utfordringer menneskeheten står overfor i fremtiden, en rask befolkningsnedgang, i den andre halvdel av dette århundre. I Norge er fertilitet nå litt over 1,6 sammenlignet med 2,1 som er nødvendig til å opprettholde befolkningen. Med unntak av Afrika, er nesten hele verdenen nå under denne grensen, eller vil nå denne grensen snart. Forfatterne mener at det er mulig at i år 2100 kan USAs og Kinas befolkning være ca. det samme, omkring 600 millioner hver, der USAs befolkning økes ved hjelp av innvandring. Til tross for fri slep av barneproduksjon, er fertilitet i Kina kun 1,2. De vil heller ikke ha innvandring, men er ikke alene om dette. Ungarns statsminister Viktor Orban, har sørget for “slave-lover” som påtvinger arbeidstakere økt overtidsinnsats, og har også lovet kvinner som føder 4 (eller flere) barn, skattefritak resten av livet, sammen med en del andre goder. Han også nekter å ta imot innvandrere, men satser på hjemlig produksjon. Det vil trolig ikke nytte til å få opp fødselstallet. Kvinner er for klok til å falle for det. Statsminister Erna Solbergs nyttårstale har heller ikke nøstet begeistring.

Jeg er opptatt av å fjerne unyttig arbeid, herunder kjøring. Mye byggearbeid består av avleggs metoder, som brukes kun på grunn av tradisjoner. Arbeidsmetoder som fremmer lav-energi, miljøvennlig produkter, og minimal bruk av arbeidskraft må benyttes. Jeg er også opptatt av robotikk, som kan også avlaste mennesker fra kjedelige arbeidsoppgaver.

Det er slik at jeg kan ikke bare sette i gang hver eneste prosjekt som jeg kommer bort i. Jeg vil gjerne dele noen av prosjektforslagene. Til et par av dem, legger jeg ved lenker til aktuelle stoff, herunder YouTube video av kort varighet. Det som jeg vil gjerne vite, er hvilke av disse kunne DU tenke deg å jobbe med, og i hvilken prioritert rekkefølge. Er det andre prosjekter du kunne foreslå som du ville prioritere? Hvilken rolle vil du ha i disse eller i andre prosjekter?

1. Naturvernforbundet avdeling Inderøy har fått innvilget litt penger til å bygge en inntil 15 kvadratmeter geodetisk kuppel til å dyrke plantevekster med et hydroponisk anlegg. En del av tankegangen er å prove det som en metode for produksjon av kortreist mat. Kuppelen kunne bygges med gjenbrukt impregnert treverk, og gjenvunnet glass. Anlegget kunne styres med mikroprosessorer, gjerne av type Arduino eller Raspberry Pi.

2. Også på Naturvernforbundet lokalt, har man drøftet overvåking av miljøet. Dette kunne gjerne kreve bygging av luftroboter (droner) og undervannsroboter (ROV = remotely operated vehicles) til overvåking av hav- og landområder. Utstyrt med kamera og/eller ulike sensorer. Se:

3. Smarthus. Vel husene er ikke så intelligente, men det gjelder å bruke reguleringsteknikk og lignende metoder til å styre husets tilstander, herunder lys og varme. Som vanlig er jeg opptatt av åpenkilde programvarer som Home Assistent, billige mikrokontrollere, LED-lys, med mere. Se:

4. Robotikk er viktig til å avlaste mennesker fra arbeid. Selvkjørende biler (og traktorer) er en del av dette. Samtidig, med en aldrende befolkning er det behov for maskiner som kan hjelpe folk med sine gjøremål. Jeg er interessert i å igangsette opplæring innenfor robotikk med vekt på mekatronikk dvs den tverrfaglige disiplin innen ingeniørfag som kombinerer mekanikk, elektronikk, datateknikk, reguleringsteknikk, og systems engineering design i utvikling og produksjon av nyttige nye produkter.

5. Som enhver leser kan skue, så er de fleste aktiviteter overfor preget litt for mye av interesser som er mer vanlig i mannfolk. Det beklager jeg, men til min egen forsvar vil jeg gjerne også ha med kvinner. I tillegg vil jeg gjerne også prioritere aktiviteter som kvinner kunne gjerne glede seg til å delta i. Til tross for dette, så føler jeg at kvinner kan også ha fordeler av kjønnsdelte undervisning, spesielt i tekniske områder som har en mannlig preg – mekanikk, elektronikk, programmering. Jeg vil gjerne få vite kvinnelig synspunkter her, spesielt. Tenker også at her kan kvinner ha mer nyanserte forståelse i områder som gjelder klær og mat.

6. Andre lokaliteter. Verkstedet på Straumen har fått innvilget penger fra Gjensidige Stiftelsen. Om verkstedaktiviteter skal erstatte TV-titting som Norges nasjonalsport, så må flere verksted tas i bruk. Disse verkstedene bør lokaliseres overalt i kommunen, gjerne i gang avstand av der du bor! Det bør være mulig å finne frem til egnete lokaliteter.

7. Maskiner. Det blir behov for nye typer av maskiner etter hvert. Verkstedet er tiltenkt brukt til opplæring og produksjon fra et begrenset utvalg av materialer, med et begrenset utvalg av maskiner. Bygging av, for eksempel, geodetisk kupler må foregå andre steder, og bruke andre typer av maskiner. Disse maskiner må anskaffes gjerne brukt, istandsettes og utplasseres.

Det tjeneste nettverket

“Det tjeneste nettverket består av folk med utfyllende ferdigheter som ser etter måter å tjene samfunnet på. Vi retter oss spesielt mot hull og kan hjelpe andre organisasjoner der deres ferdigheter er utilstrekkelige. Vår kompetanse spenner fra sosiale nettverk og markedsføring til metallbearbeiding og trådløse teknologier.”

I denne uken har jeg viet mye tid til å lage en liste over utstyr til et verksted. Dette er på ingen måte en individuell aktivitet, der man kan pålegge sin tro og meninger om andre. Det er snarere en tid å lytte til (og reflektere over) de uforutsette behovene til en mangfoldig gruppe mennesker, og å samle dem inn i en harmonisk helhet. Jeg er spesielt bekymret for barns behov. Altfor ofte blir de distrahert i å spille spill og bruke leker. Ja, disse aktivitetene er viktige, men det er tider når de skal behandles som voksne-under-opplæring, som folk som kan gi et betydelig bidrag til verdens forbedring.

Selvfølgelig er jeg også opptatt av behovet for det svakere kjønn, den som har en kortere levetid, mer svekkende sykdom, mer udiagnostiserte psykiske problemer og en redusert evne til å snakke ansikt til ansikt. De trenger et sted å jobbe, og en mulighet til å snakke skulder til skulder.

Når det er sagt, må behovet for det sterkere kjønn også tas opp. Tidligere har de ofte blitt nektet tilgang til verksteder og teknisk utdanning. Gitt muligheten under andre verdenskrig, utmerket de seg briljant, til krigens ende tvang dem ut av verkstedet og inn i soverommet, slik at de kunne bli mødrene til boomergenerasjonen.

Innvandrere har en spesiell stilling på et verksted. Når man arbeider og bidrar til et samfunn, så begynner folk å forstå hvordan samfunnet fungerer, i den virkelige verden. Et verksted gir en mulighet for innvandrere, så vel som den innfødte befolkningen til å blande seg, og for begge grupper å bli integrert.

A Dedicated Scandophile: Friends

Of all the assorted -philes in the world, the one that describes me best is Scandophile, someone who appreciates the nuances of Scandinavian culture. In this post, I list a number of friends of Scandinavian origin, who I met in New Westminster to the end of 1972.

I tell people that i grew up in a Norwegian ghetto in New Westminster, on the banks of the Fraser River. Before the fishing fleet was relocated across the river to Surrey and Delta, many fishermen of Norwegian origins lived in New Westminster. With the fleet relocation, many moved to larger, but less expensive, houses across the river.

One of my strongest childhood memories is lying on a polar bear rug at the home of Brian Ottosen. He moved across the river to Delta, and it was more difficult to keep up contact. With origins in Sunnmøre in the west of Norway, his father ran a salmon cannery.

I have only to touch my forehead to be reminded of another childhood friend, Ralph Sather. His father was a boat builder, not from the Norwegian coast but from Lunner, near Oslo. Many years ago now, I visited Ralph’s aging mother (who came from Halden), shortly before she died, and had a conversation with her in Norwegian. She spoke a very formal language, very distant from what is spoken today.

Perhaps my closest friend of Norwegian origin was Arnold Bårdsen, a salmon fisherman who refused to eat fish. His parents had come from Harstad. In economically good years he would spend lavishly. He drove a Ford Thunderbird, and owned the largest and loudest high fidelity systems I have ever experienced.

During my junior high school years, one of my best friends was of Icelandic origins, Steve Scheving, older brother of Doug Scheving, who was a good friend of my sister. Steve became a city planner for the city of New Westminster. Steve’s major interest was military history, but a form of history that put great emphasis on numerical values. Doug’s major interest was gold. Both Scheving children were born in Manitoba, but only arrived in New Westminster when I started at junior high.

In 1972, I became good friends Clarence (Olaf) Olafsson, who was born in Winnipeg. After serving in the Canadian Army in Europe, at the end of World War 2, he became a language teacher. I met him hosting firesides celebrating the Baha’i Faith, in New Westminster. One project we worked on together was building the Upset, a Sabot dinghy.

I didn’t have any friends of Danish or Finnish origins, but one with Swedish roots, Rick Ericson, whose father owned and operated two laundromats in north Burnaby. I was always surprised how much income these two locations generated. Rick was probably my best friend during my last two years of secondary school. He lived beyond McBride Blvd, first in Sapperton, then in Massey Heights, which was being developed at the time. He studied education at UBC.