Randomness vs destiny

A year ago I was boondocking around Stavanger and during one of the evenings I met a German couple who was travelling around, and we shared a nice evening of talks and wine. As the evening progressed we ended up talking about God vs atheism. The man was an atheist while the woman was undecided, but moved towards there being something. Now you may think that in such a discussion, the conversation was about whether or not there is a God. Actually, that’s not the fundamental issue. It’s this: is everything that happens just random or is it “intelligent design”?

I found the guys answer to be refreshing. He found great solace in everything being random. It meant that very few things actually mattered, while at the same time it gave him a great feeling of control because it meant he could control his own destiny.

A couple of years ago, I gave up my faith in God. Except, it wasn’t so much that I stopped believing in God. I stopped believing in things happening for a reason, that there is some kind of destiny that I’m supposed to work towards. I found that reality didn’t match up to this “destiny” crap. Believing in karma and a God, gave life a kind of magical quality. Obstacles were opportunities to learn and grow (and still is, though), but everything took on a deeper meaning. As if I was progressing towards something.

So when I gave up this belief, life became so very mundane. So very boring and uninspiring. It felt like someone had ripped the ground beneath me and everything was shaking. Life was suddenly unpredictive, cruel and I was helpless and hopeless against it. I was just a bug caught in a windshield with so very little control.

Humans are by nature pattern seeking, and our belief in God reflects that, I think. For some unknown reason, the belief in God has been a genetic quality passed down through the generations. May be because humans are very much turned towards generating meaning in our lives?

And that’s the rub. Unlike the German, I couldn’t find any solace in randomness. Not believing in anything has been a negative experience, and just doesn’t work for me. I have tried now for a couple of years, and it …. just… doesn’t…. work.

There is something within me that needs to believe there is a reason for some things to happen, beyond that humans creates reasons and systems. So me deciding to believe in astrology, is my first step towards believing in something again. Some destiny, creating some magic in life again.

I don’t know if I will find my way back to my faith, but I know I have taken one important step towards it. And I am still wondering if it even matters.

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Life is in the transitions

In the US there is a notion of mentors. Apparently, these are people in your professional field you contact for coffee or lunch, and they give advice and help to move you further up the status ladder. I have never heard about such cases here in Norway (or I’m just not running in the right circles). So whenever I need to understand something, I pick up a book on the subject. Books are my mentors, and believe me: there’s a LOT of things I need to understand. But sometimes finding books on what I need to learn is difficult. I keep searching, beginning on books, but no. They didn’t do anything for me.

Then – it happens. I found “Life is in the transitions: Mastering change at any age” by Bruce Feller. I found the one book that explains what I needed to know and it’s like my life naturally course-correct because I have understood what I needed to move forward.

My loss of meaning have been a true life crisis. It followed suit after I stopped working, moved to a place without family and friends, lost my religious faith, and some other personal stuff. In the book, they have called such events nice sciency words like car-crash pileup, monster curveballs and lifequakes. It’s when your life gets disrupted on a larger scale with several massive reorientations happen at the same time. I used to call it midlife-crisis, but after reading the book I now know better. If you ever hear me use that word again and mean it in a serious way: please verbally kick me.

I have had to (and are still in the process) of completely rebuilding my life. Those kinds of actions take a long time because it usually mean you rebuild yourself in the process. Who am I? What do I want? How do I want to act in life? What kind of activities do I need to engage in? What areas in my life makes me miserable, because that’s where I need to put in effort?

These kinds of reorientations takes years and years to figure out and I’m happy to know I’m not alone in being out of sorts for such a long period of times. I am relieved to know that one symptom of going through a massive lifequake is loss of meaning. It’s a natural consequence of a life upended. I had no idea that loss of meaning is normal, I thought I was an anomaly.

The author of the book lists seven points that people use to move through transitions, where one can employ several of them.

One of those points is: “Create it: Try new things”. Sometimes there is some happy coincidences. I have always loved creativity, but my kind of creativity is usually connected to intellectual pursuits. So when Udemy had a sale on courses I jumped on something that I have had an interest in for a long time:

I have begun to learn Astrology…..
It’s frivolous and ridiculous…. and I kinda love it.
It’s frivolous and ridiculous…. and I kinda believe in it.

Yeah… it’s an interest of mine and it’s something I’m running with right now. It makes no sense, and I’m having so much fun doing it. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit out loud, but I will still keep doing it. I guess it will fit in nicely with my diploma in Aromatherapy and Master of IT degree.

Astrology is not a science, it’s an art form. So I’m just practicing my art. And its an art form that requires me to have printed out the ephemeris tables and I just find it so above cool to have on my desktop. It gives that sciency feeling, you know…. 😉

And that is the point; sometimes life takes me on this ridiculous paths and I have no idea why it happens. It makes no sense to me. Moving to Karmøy has been one of those experiences where I completely don’t understand what I’m doing here. Seriously, what am I doing here?

The answer: Growing roots it seems. Me… settling down. No wonder I need Astrology to balance out my fire. But when you are in the beginning, middle or even the aftermath of a lifequake it’s impossible to make sense of it. You can only make sense of it after you have navigated yourself through it… or you have a book that explains everything you are going through and all the steps necessary. Btw, this would be the point “Tell it: Compose a Fresh Story”.

And I have decided that is what my move to Karmøy is about: I’m in the beginning of my life story where I’m growing roots.

“Everybody agrees that a story begins with some breach in the expected state of things,” write Jerome Bruner, the pioneer of narrative psychology. “Something goes awry, otherwise there’s nothing to tell about. The story is the tool to resolve this breach.

From Life is in the transitions

This book made me define why I’m in Karmøy. I have thought of my stay here as me wasting my life, but making my son happy. Redefining that statement into me growing roots give my life in this place purpose – meaning. Exactly what I am in need of. It creates a story where my life is exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’m doing what I am supposed to be doing. I have redefined my choice to move here from mistake to purpose. I changed my narrative. What a gift that book gave me.

A problem shared is a problem halved.
From Life is in the transitions

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No TV Month revised

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
— Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

So I decided to go a month without tv this July. It has gone surprisingly well. I have only broken it once, and it was a deliberate break where I had takeaway. Then I went back to no TV, no problem. I begun reading more, but a disturbing trend revealed itself; TV wasn’t really my problem. My phone is. The way I uses it for entertainment.

Life reflected

I quit netflix, youtube and plex. Instead I used more time on my phone. It was a mixed pleasure. Scrolling and interacting on apps on my phone is entertaining – but it also had some other effects. I got into a bad mood if I used it too much. I got addicted to notifications and attention (or may be the addiction just became more obvious). Surprisingly though, according to the screen time summary I receive every monday, my phone consumption actually went down though it felt like I was replacing tv with phone use. But apparantly, feelings are not to be trusted. No surprise there.

So in a move that is so very me – I am now redefining the no tv month. I have figured out that no tv doesn’t really work for me to bring on change. So when something doesn’t work as intended, I have to do a slight change in direction. Except I really don’t want to make this change. It scares me.

I have to make a plan on how to deal with my phone and the apps on it. This turned out to be really difficult.

So the first thing I did was to delete apps, categorize the ones I kept into an optional folder, and for those addictive ones I bookmarked them on my computer (…. except snapchat…. that one is going to bite me in the ass eventually). The whole point is to make my phone into a primarily talk and text phone. I want to remove the compulsive checking.

These last two weeks I have been reading more, and so I’m reading Cal Newports book, Digital minimalism, to figure out how to approach my phone problem. In it he suggests 30 days complete detox. That is out of the question for me, but I do want the changes to be permanent. Very simply because this is the way I operate in the world. I make a change, see how it works, adjust, see how that works and keep on adjusting until I’m content. The problem with this approach is that its an never-ending cycle of change. There’s always something to improve or I fall back on bad habits. It seems to be a personal failing of mine. Oh well.

How about about the no tv altogether? It’s still on…. kinda. Whatever strategy I’m employing now also extend to tv, but with some changes. I will continue with not watching tv most days. But I found that I have off days (and they are more regular than I was aware of). Days where I have little energy, sick or just need to stay on the couch and watch tv. I have days with takeaway where tv is part of the enjoyment (but regular dinner in front of the tv is out).

TV will no longer fill the boring spaces in my life. Instead it will be added as special enjoyment. Which is a bit of a problem as my list of series and films to watch are already getting too long.

But so far the only change to the no tv challenge was me reading a bit more, blogging on it and being a bit more active on social media. After two weeks, this is not good enough. I need to go deeper. But my last and probably most important goal is simply “Have fun!”. Any suggestions?

It’s not at all important to get it right the first time. It’s vitally important to get it right the last time.
— Andrew Hunt and David Thomas

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The discomfort of humanity in our idols

When I first saw the documentary “Leaving Neverland“, there was no uncertainty in me on wether Michael Jackson had sexually abused children. After that, whenever his music comes on the radio I change station. If I hear the words “Heal the world, make it a better place”; it elicits a very uncomfortable feeling in me. His music was a front screen, an image to hide his evil intentions. If I have a criticism to “Leaving Neverland”, its that it doesn’t explain the psychological workings sexual abuse plays out long term in victims, both as children and later as grown adults.

Now J.K. Rowling is under heavy critisism for her views on trans people. When I read that piece I didn’t really understand why she was critized so heavily. Truth is, I have no understanding of the complexity of these issues because I don’t have any vested interest in it. Then I read another piece in a norwegian site that made me understand a bit more what the problems were.

I have also followed the controversies regarding Woody Allen and the Farrow clan. What all of these have in common is that they are well known creators with much loved artworks; whether it be music, books or films. Wether the allegations made are true or not, we still make some judgement on them. We begin to wonder: “How are we to relate to these artworks now?”

One method is to decide to seperate the creator from the artwork. This mean we can still listen to Michael Jacksons music and not like his actions privately. We have the other method: rejecting his music completely as a protest.

What I really liked about the norwegien piece was that it put Rowlings bookst hrough the lens of stereotyping and specific paragraphs gets pointed to. This is nothing new; Take Huckleberry Finn where the N** word has been censored out because it isn’t politically accepted.

So should artwork like books be censored? Should we drop the creations, should we leave it intact and use it to better understand the context it was written in or should it be rewritten (and what is lost in the process)?

And how should we view these beloved creators like Rowling that have been just that – beloved?

Because their humanity is bleeding out in front of us. Their failings, misgivings. Their imperfections. Their humanity.

Even if you disagree with Rowling, she wrote a long piece which shows that she obviously cares. However well intentioned a person can be, they can still do damage. Which is the very definition of just being alive. To exist. To create and publish is an act of courage in Rowlings case – which sometimes fails. In case of living people, we have to leave room for mistakes and growth, yet let our voices be heard.

Harry Potter is an inspired piece. So where does this inspiration come from? Would that inspiration have been allowed to bloom if an author have to consider everything from a political correct point? Being inspired to create usually comes from many unrelating sources that somehow comes together into being and decide to manifest into this world.

Truth is that our heroes may be terribly disappointing if we met them in real life, because they will be so very different from our imagination of them.

So to quote Jack Gilbert: “To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.”

I’m going to end it with these paragraphs from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert:

But I will never forget what the real Jack Gilbert told somebody else – an actual flesh-and-blood person, a shy University of Tennessee student. This young woman recounted to me that one afternoon, after his poetry class, Jack had taken her aside. He complimented her work, then asked what she wanted to do with her life. Hesitantly, she admitted that perhaps she wanted to be a writer.

He smiled at the girl with infinite compassion and asked, “Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes”

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Man’s (well, mine) search for meaning

I have for over a year now had the dreaded title “ufør” here in Norway. It’s a terrible title – ufør is the equivalent of the word “disabled” in english. Which means there’s a whole species of people who has to answer they are disabled whenever the talk goes into “So, what do you do?” As a disabled person, I can say that the answer gets even worse whenever I go into depth of what being disabled means to me. It means I am without meaning. No goals that define me, nothing I work towards that provides said meaning. If the word “ufør” had an indian name, it would be something like: “Those of low hope”.

Not working ripped away a big part of my identity; which was work. I loved working, I loved IT. I still love IT, I just have difficulty to keep myself updated when I don’t have some clear goals to work towards.

Becoming ufør has been a blessing and a curse at the same time. A blessing because I’m financially secured for the rest of my life, a big curse because I’m not created to do nothing. Who am I when I’m not working and creating something? What value do I have when I have no impact on anything?

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.
Friedrich Nietzsche

My “why” has become lost and I haven’t been able to find it again. It’s a terrible way to live – I am a person who needs many why’s and the ones I have is not enough. On my desk I have a picture of a road with the text “follow your curiosity”. Why aren’t I even able to do that?

I decided that this month will be a no TV month, and since this is my first personal post in forever, it seems like its working. I’m also considering/beginning to seriously limit my phone use. My friend Kristina wanted to stop eating dairy, gluten and sugar, so heck. With no tv in place, why not make my life utterly miserable until I either break through or break down? And I know myself – I never break down enough because I always end up breaking through for the simple reason that I live and breath and just doesn’t know how to stop doing those things while improving. It’s a compulsion. Like ocd that just keeps on trying to find different ways to improve my life until something clicks in place.

And yet – for some years now I have not been able to create meaning in my life. It’s the classic midlife crisis trap where one have to reinvent parts of oneself. Except of course, the real juice is in the process of doing and not the attainment of the goal.

So there it is. By choosing away TV for a month, I am in the process part by removing something in the hopes something else will grow in its place. Gotta love the frustration, right?

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Setting up piHole in Docker Swarm

At home I have set up three raspberry pi’s in a Docker cluster. You know, just for the fun of it and to keep learning new things. Because how could I ever love doing IT stuff if I didn’t set myself up for failure at every point?

I wanted to try out piHole at home using docker, which was easy enough. Just install the pi’s and make sure that they have their own dns (using googles 8.8.8.8) setup without looping back to the piHole docker container.

Running a standalone container was easy enough, but I wanted high-availability. If one server went down, another one would take up the slack which is where docker swarm comes into play. But as these things usually play out; I had trouble getting the piHole to start in the swarm. It wasn’t until I stumbled across this error report that I got it working. Yeah, I can’t take the credit for figuring this problem out, I’m just winging it until I make it. So it may be that this problem is solved in the future, but for now (march 2020) it matters.

docker-stack.yml:

version: "3"
services:

  pihole:
    image: pihole/pihole:latest
    deploy:
      replicas: 3
      restart_policy:
        condition: on-failure
        max_attempts: 3
    volumes:
      - "/my/host/docker/config/pihole/etc-pihole:/etc/pihole"
      - "/my/host/docker/config/pihole/etc-dnsmasq.d:/etc/dnsmasq.d"
    ports:
      - "53:53/tcp"
      - "53:53/udp"
      - "67:67/udp"
      - "80:80/tcp"
      - "443:443/tcp"
    environment:
      - TZ='Europe/Oslo'
      - WEBPASSWORD="thats_just_personal_you_know"
      - FTL_CMD=debug
      - DNSMASQ_LISTENING=all
    dns:
      - 127.0.0.1
      - 1.1.1.1

If you try to try the “cap-add” option, you get a message that it has been deprecated and is therefore ignored. The solution is to add these two options in the environment:

  • FTL_CMD=debug
  • DNSMASQ_LISTENING=all

Yeah, I can’t even pretend to understand why these options work, but they do. I love that there are so many smarter people than me out there.

Remember to set at least two ip’s in your routers dns or the whole point of running piHole in swarm is lost.

All that needs to be done now is to run the thing:

$ docker stack deploy -c docker-stack.yml pihole
Creating network pihole_default
Creating service pihole_pihole

To check that it works, go to: http://your.ip/admin/ and you should get the pihole admin gui up. Tip: There are probably some sites you want to whitelist.

Dockers ingress routing mesh enables each node in the swarm to accept connections from any service in the swarm. The translation of this is that you can use any ip address of docker nodes to access the admin gui.

So I wanted to test this out, since taking piHole down means I don’t have internet access. I like having internet access – and I don’t want to piss my son off more than taking away all the lovely game commercials he so loves to click on.

This can easily be tested with the dig command.

I have one manager (192.168.1.113) and two workers (…117 & 119). When all nodes are up and working, all requests goes to 113. Notice how I query 119 and the request ends up with the manager (113).

$ dig 192.168.1.119 vg.no

; <<>> DiG 9.11.5-P4-5.1-Raspbian <<>> 192.168.1.119 vg.no
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NXDOMAIN, id: 56378
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1

;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 4096
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;192.168.1.119.			IN	A

;; Query time: 13 msec
;; SERVER: 192.168.1.113#53(192.168.1.113)
;; WHEN: Tue Mar 17 16:01:00 CET 2020
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 42

;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 13178
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 2, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1

;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 4096
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;vg.no.				IN	A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
vg.no.			216	IN	A	195.88.54.16
vg.no.			216	IN	A	195.88.55.16

;; Query time: 14 msec
;; SERVER: 192.168.1.113#53(192.168.1.113)
;; WHEN: Tue Mar 17 16:01:00 CET 2020
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 66

So when the manager was taken offline, it still worked as expected and the query went to 117:

$ dig 192.168.1.119 vg.no

; <<>> DiG 9.11.5-P4-5.1-Raspbian <<>> 192.168.1.119 vg.no
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NXDOMAIN, id: 26125
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1

;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 4096
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;192.168.1.119.			IN	A

;; Query time: 131 msec
;; SERVER: 192.168.1.117#53(192.168.1.117)
;; WHEN: Tue Mar 17 16:01:09 CET 2020
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 42

;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 62281
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 2, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1

;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 4096
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;vg.no.				IN	A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
vg.no.			206	IN	A	195.88.54.16
vg.no.			206	IN	A	195.88.55.16

;; Query time: 36 msec
;; SERVER: 192.168.1.117#53(192.168.1.117)
;; WHEN: Tue Mar 17 16:01:10 CET 2020
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 66

So yeah. I now got piHole running in a swarm without any downtime if a node goes down and I can now update the services without downtime. Yeah, I like this setup 🙂

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Emacs: Setting up MobileOrg and dropbox

Setting up MobileOrg on my iPhone was a little bit of fiddle, so I wanted to share the little tidbit I didn’t find when googling my mistakes.

The steps to follow is outlined in the MobileOrg manual: https://mobileorg.github.io/documentation

When setting up MobileOrg (in init.el) – don’t change the “org-mobile-directory” to something else than Apps/MobileOrg (the dropbox path can be different though):
(setq org-mobile-directory “~/Applications/dropbox/Apps/MobileOrg”)
The manual even states so:

  • upon successful login, a new folder, ~/Dropbox/Apps/MobileOrg will automatically be created.
  • You should edit your Org mode configuration to contain something like this:
;; Set to the location of your Org files on your local system
(setq org-directory "~/org")
;; Set to the name of the file where new notes will be stored
(setq org-mobile-inbox-for-pull "~/org/flagged.org")
;; Set to <your Dropbox root directory>/MobileOrg.
(setq org-mobile-directory "~/Dropbox/Apps/MobileOrg")

Link: https://mobileorg.github.io/documentation/#browsing-your-org-files

I tried setting the org-mobile-directory to something else, which resulted in successful sync but empty list of files. It seems like despite the possibility to change the org-mobile-directory, the iPhone app expects it to be that folder. Which also means: don’t change the value of “Index File” in the iPhone settings. The iPhone app knows where to look for the index.org file.

If you want to sync whole directories, just state them like this:

(setq org-mobile-files (quote (“~/ownCloud/emacs/”
“~/ownCloud/emacs/journal”
“~/ownCloud/emacs/knowledgebase”)))

 

Happy org-moding!

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Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.

The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien

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Plex – a network error occurred

I have a private virtual server setup with linux, plex, amazon cloud drive and encryption. I use the samsung plex app for viewing, and I have for some time now encountered the error “a network error occurred”. I tried to increase the memory and cpu of my server to no avail. I manually specified cache properties in the samsung plex app. It wasn’t until it occurred to me that those problems began occuring after I switched to rclone mount instead of acdcli mount.

After I switched to acdcli – the videos I had problems with before began working again. What a relief!

Then I did some more searching, and lo and behold: I found somebody who had looked into the best rclone and plex settings. And things began working again 😀

acdcli is good, but the database has a tendency to break easily – especially in conjunction with rclone sync. So I stay with rclone for now.

 

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Joylent doesn’t fix bad habits

IMG_0105I’ve been trying on Joylent for about two weeks now, and I see a change of habits already. What makes you sure a habit will stay or not?
Answer: It’s easier than the previous habit.

My food habits weren’t really working for me, so I knew that something like Joylent could help me. What are my bad habits?
I skipped breakfast and only ate something at 10am or something. The way I usually remembered it was time to eat was because my mood changed and I became irritable – and peckish.

Since eating too little for breakfast/lunch, I usually crash around 2pm, starved, irritable and no energy left.

Then comes evening and I get a little bit hungry. But since I don’t like making any food, candy and chips is the easy option more often than I like to admit.

Yes, I was struggling.

So what changed?
I begun consuming joylent like I usually did. Took some joylent long time after getting up and I noticed I was getting irritable. Crashed around 2pm, but then I usually was busy so didn’t bother getting joylent and continued doing whatever I was doing. Got hungry in the evening, tried to change my habit there with a bit of joylent – partly successful.

The biggest change happened when I realized that how often I ate was a problem. I’m never hungry in the morning – actually, I was never hungry ever. Just ravishingly irritable when too long time had passed.

So I started having a cup of Joylent in the morning, and what a change that made. I got hungry again around 10 – 11am, but this time I wasn’t irritable. Just this little change made me feel hunger again – as in healthy, glorious hunger.

The biggest trouble with Joylent is that it’s sweet. It’s mildly sweet, but still sweet, sweet, sweet. When most of your meals are sweet, you kind of get grossed out about all that sweetness. I started craving saltiness. Then something wonderful happened. I started to enjoy food again. I began to dream about salty and savory dinners I could make.

If I feel hungry/peckish in the evening – a cheese sandwich is so amazingly savory. Who needs chips when you crave a cheese sandwich with avakado, dressing and vegetarian cold cuts? Joylent doesn’t fix any bad habits and cravings for chips and candy, but it makes it easier to choose something different.

Food has become a pleasure now, something I appreciate and enjoy when I create and eat it. Joylent is there for convenience and I have at least one joylent meal a day. The rest of the time I’m appreciating food again. What a relief it is!

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Joy in Joylent?

IMG_1052The complete meal replacement is having a revival with the start of soylent. The spin is that one can replace one’s whole food chain with a powder that makes you feel full and provides you with all the things the body needs. In theory you should be able to only live off this powdery shake. Protein shakes is nothing new, but most of these powders are targeted to either body builders or people who want to loose weight.

Soylent began as a crowdfunding project that very quickly achieved the necessary funding, and began shipping it’s wares in late 2014. Soylent believes in outsourcing and the first recipe for soylent was made public. They have a thriving forum and DIY community where people create their own powder meal replacement. Joylent is a derivative of the diy community which ships to… most of the world it seems. Soylent only ships within US.

When I first heard of Soylent, I was quickly sold because food is for me a hassle I neither like or want/need. The thought of just have some powder, add water, drink and live happily ever after was really a fairytale. No more figuring what to eat, what to buy, prepare, do the dishes. All I needed was to measure, add water, drink and clean the glass afterwards.

So in the end I decided to purchase Joylent which ships to Norway. Of course, the mixer broke when I purchased so it took over three weeks before the powder arrived at my door. Though, my joy was great when I saw the delivery truck outside my window with a package that had large letters that stated Joylent.

I’m a bit particular about powder drinks. I had tried a diy hackerschool recipe which didn’t work at all. I was gagging my way through it. It doesn’t taste that great, and the milkshake thickness consistency was not to my liking. I can only stomach it when I create a smoothie and put a couple of tablespoons of it in, but on the bright side I become full afterwards.

Before receiving Joylent I was prepared to gag myself through a meal, and that was exactly what happened. J/Soylent is often described as a pancake batter, and when you think of it; Would you drink pancake batter?

I had to spend some time and trials before I figured out how to stomach this powder. I found out that creating one meal at the time was best. I divided the powder into 1/5 which is a bit over 400 kcalories and is 2 dl of powder. That seemed like a great meal to me. When I used 4 dl of water I also got a watery consistency even after hours letting it sit in the fridge. I add an ice cube in the glass, pour joylent and use a straw to drink it. I have now come to  a place where I can drink it quickly without gagging at all.

Joylent comes in many flavors like strawberry, banana, vanilla and chocolate. The flavours are bland and doesn’t really register much with me. I’ve heard that it can be delicious by adding coffee, so I have to try that out. The blandness of Joylent is actually great, because it allows for experiments to figure out what works for you.

I received Joylent four days ago, and have consumed it as breakfast/lunch/evening since. I have a son, so going full on Joylent will never happen and I don’t feed my kid Joylent. I prepare dinner for him after kindergarten and all the other necessary meals. The great thing about Joylent is that creating dinner has suddenly become very easy because the kitchen now is clean and ready. Eating Joylent allows me to focus on only creating one proper dinner and it’s easy. Time is much less of an issue.

My energy levels are a bit up and I don’t crash in the afternoon (and especially before said dinner). But my biggest issue is not resolved, I’m hungry!

The whole point of this powdery thing is that it’s supposed to make you feel full, but I’m having the opposite experience. I drink and afterwards my stomach is still a little bit hungry. Not so much hunger I need to eat, but it’s there. Then a couple of hours later, I’m hungry as I want to eat. The trouble is that I don’t want to eat too much Joylent because I see my weight is increasing (when I wanted the opposite effect) and especially in the evening this hunger makes me go for chips when Joylent doesn’t take away the hunger.

I read in the forum that this is because the stomach is getting used to the lower volume of food, which sounds logical. The body is getting the nutrients it needs because I don’t crash and my energy levels have slightly increased. But I’m still hungry.

The whole point of a complete meal replacement is to make you feel full with as little hassle as possible. So far I’m not experiencing it, but I will just have to see. I love how easy eating has become, so I will not give it up anyway. I just need to adjust.

So I guess this is to be continued.

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The dying breed of libraries

NightBookmobile1

I used to think that libraries were dying. In a world slowly governed by ebooks, physical books are a dying breed (exception being cookbooks and specialist literature).

Now I’m sitting in a library. Not because of the books, but because of the silent study room. I crave silence and alone time in my world, so I escape home to find it elsewhere. I have been to a cafe, and when that got too crowded I came here – to the library. It is what I needed. Silence, that wonderful silence filled with space for my thoughts and creativity. I let myself be bathed in silence. The silence is only being broken by my tapping on the keyboard. Can I tap on the keyboard more silently, I wonder?

Silence on a Saturday – what a privilege! And in a library no less. I now understand that libraries fill an important function. The library is usually filled with students, or people borrowing the computers here. Even in the evenings when the library is closed, I see many foreigners outside with their computers talking to friends or relatives using skype. There is free wireless internet here, you see.

So I like the library – but I will never give up on ebooks. I love reading ebooks on my kindle and having a world of books available in just a few seconds with no heavy books to drag around.

But I do love the service the libraries provide.

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Finding beauty in daily life

Every december these hearts are set up in the centre of Stavanger, and lighted. They mark that Christmas is upon us, and are really what gives me the christmas mood. Unfortunately, they have not been lighted this year.

Being sick for weeks makes for a very grumpy me. There is no time for being alone, replenish the energy stores and life sucks. Now that I have been well for some days, I have been desperate for getting out to cafe’s, stores, everything that is outside of home and those walls that have been my prison for weeks.

I longed for beauty in my life, things that made me happy, things that made me feel that there still were some magic to my life. Finding beauty doesn’t come automatically. Most advice about finding beauty is all about “looking within”, changing your approach and attitude. Well, there is some truth to it, but forget that bullshit. Why?

If you have trouble seeing beauty in your life, it’s because you’re not happy. Something is off, and getting back on track requires more than “thinking” yourself healthy again. If you need to find beauty in your life, you really only need one step:

1. Do something that gives you joy.

Yes, there is only one requirement and it requires action on your part. If you are so far gone that you are unable to feel joy from some action it probably means you are dealing with a depression, and then do something that used to give you joy until you begin feeling it again.

My rule right now is to find something that gives me joy every day. Today that is to go to the cinema to see the last Twilight film. It has terrible actors, terrible dialogs, but a good story and there’s vampires. So I’m sold.

There is beauty in books as well. I really want a book with pictures of krishna deities, but it’s too expensive. Would have loved it, though. A good story has beauty in it.

 

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The theme of life

Happiness research is the new drug where you practically hit walls with well-meant advice about how to live a happy, prosperous life.  I’m done with all things happiness related now. Why? Well, I have figured it out. It’s not about the word happy which makes you think you are either happy or not (what a ridiculous idea), not even about living an interesting life (though it’s a good track to follow). The first step is about reaching a level of contentment.

Contentment about work and where you want to be. Contentment with finding the boyfriend that treats you like you want and need. Contentment with fulfilling any family dream. Contentment with friends and level of activities in your life. Contentment with who you are, your personality. Contentment in dealing with other peoples troubles with you. Living according to your values.

That’s what happiness research is about. No wonder people get confused considering how widespread our happiness goals can be.

What comes after that? Refinement. You might be overall happy about your life, but there’s always things that needs to be refined. There’s always some hitch on the road to make sure you don’t get stuck in evolving as a human being, like weighing too much.

I’ve always had projects where there’s something to work on: taking better care of myself (by first having a break down), figuring what kind of work I should be doing (I changed from being a programmer to system administrator), finding the correct mate for myself (by breaking up with one relationship, moving to another city and job, selling the old house). I have pretty much turned my life completely around the last four years and dealt with whatever issue I need to deal with. One large issue at a time.

What’s my next issue?

Follow the goal of life. This one is really a large undertaking for the rest of my life and some lifes after that. The end-game.

bhayam dvitiyabhinivesatah syad
isad apetasya viparyayo ‘smrtih
tan-mayayato budha abhajet tam
bhaktyaikayesam guru-devatatma
(Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.2.37)

[Fear arises when a living entity misidentifies himself with the material body because of absorption in the external, illusory energy of the Lord. When the living entity thus turns away from the Supreme Lord, he also forgets his own constitutional position as a servant of the Lord. This bewildering, fearful condition is affected by the potency for illusion, called maya. Therefore, an intelligent person should engage unflinchingly in the unalloyed devotional service of the Lord, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master whom he should accept as his worshipful deity and as his very life and soul.]

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Was Jadurani re-initiated?

One of the questions that comes now and then is why Jadurani received the name Syamarani by Srila Narayana Maharaja.

This is answered by Naryana Maharaja himself in the book “Walking with a saint” on page 4 which contains transcripts of morning walks and conversations he had with people in 2008.

Narayana Maharaja: Some ISCKON devotees preach that “Narayana Maharaja gives harinama and diksa initiation to the disciples of Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja, and that is why he changed the name of Jadurani to Syamarani.”

Brajanath dasa: They call this re-initiation.

Narayana Maharaja: I never do this. Out of affection, I gave her this name. I cannot address her as Jadurani. I can address her as Syamarani. Srila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja inspired me to give her this nickname. When she first came to him, he wanted her to understand Krishna’s Goodhood. He therefore gave her the name Jadurani, which is in relation to Krishna in Dvaraka. Now he wants her to further her understanding of Krishna in Vrndavana, so he inspired me to give her the name Syamarani.

So the name Syamarani is a nickname. Syamarani had already received diksa from a pure devotee, Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (whith the emphasis on pure). There is no need to be re-initated then, to do so would be breaking vaishnava etiquette. Narayana Maharaja became a siksa guru to Syamarani, she received instructions and further deepening of her sadhana by associating with Narayana Maharaja.

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Day 4: Say no to your poison

poison

Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fakeisthenewreal/ (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

This was the day to clean out the cupboards of a certain food you can’t resist. You just can’t stop eating when you have it around.

I struggled with this one, because there weren’t anything that I couldn’t say no too. I thought of coca cola, which we only purchase during the weekend now. Sometimes we don’t even finish up the bottle we have bought.

I thought of candy. Whenever I have it and I don’t eat it up the first day, I finish it the second day. That one is addictive – but I don’t purchase candy often. Every other weekend. I don’t have it around the house – because I eat it up. So what is there to clean up? What is there to say no to?

Because I’m not on a diet. I will not resist something I want. If I want something – I will have it. Period.

So I never quite got the hang of this one. Kathy Freston suggest crowding out those cravings with healthier options and provides recipes for chocolate mousse etc. It does seem like a good idea, and I have tried making several recipes of chocolate mousse (how do you make silken tofu creamy?), one with a bit of luck and lots of chocolate. The vegan version of caramell pudding, wasn’t eatable. Those recipes wasn’t one of those Kathy Freston comes with, though. I haven’t tried any of those yet. Now, what about those cravings?

I may only be on day four in this blog, but I have finished the 30 days in the book – at least in reading it. When I started eating a huge breakfast (and lunch), the cravings was/is gone. What I’m left with is the mental craving. The body is full and satisfied, it’s more the mental satisfaction I get of going to cafe alone, relaxing with a mocca and having a warm cup between my hands. And I always want something in the evenings, for relaxation and destressing.

Whenever I get the real cravings, it’s because I’m hungry. Whenever I relax with chips and candy, it’s the weekend and I’m to watch a movie or something while Simon is sleeping. It’s a dedicated splurge time. If I don’t eat it up that day, I finish it the next day because it taste so good. So I guess what I have to learn is to not purchase too much candy.

From the book:

There’s a reason you can’t resist certain foods even though you know they’re no good for you and even though you have an intense desire to lose weight…. Sugar and fat stimulate the brain’s reward centers through the neurotransmitter dopamine, exactly like other addictive drugs do. When we eat fatty or sugary foods, we are flooded with that feel-good brain chemical…

Once we ingest the fatty or sweet good, our bodies say “Ahhhh,” by releasing opiate-like substances into out bloodstream…. The problem is that, just like drugs, we develop a tolerance and need more and more to get to that pleasant place.

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Capturing the city spirit

I’m on vacation in Oslo, the city I have lived in for 12 years or so. It’s the typical cliche: I didn’t know how much I loved this city until I moved to Stavanger. I knew I loved the openness of this city, it’s wide streets and large buildings. Rooms opened by squares and small parks. But what makes Oslo, Oslo? As I wandered the streets and I encountered things that spoke to me – this is Oslo. It was art, art placed around the city. Some very public, some you have to notice. I like art that I find beautiful, that enhances my world. I didn’t even look for it, it came as I wandered and just kept my eyes open.

Ibsen is a famous Norwegian author, and I was walking towards the Ibsen museum when I found myself walking on quotes, shining in silver light. I was walking on the written word in the pavement. Beautiful words, wisdom, words that I somehow found applicable to my own life.

Translation: “I can’t!” or “I don’t know how!”

 

Translation: “I can’t stand it”

Translation: “with all these ties and considerations anymore…”

 

Translation: “I have to work myself”

Translation: “out to freedom”

I especially liked that a garbage truck arrived in the picture when the quote contains the words work and freedom.

Art comes in many forms, and it tells something of the society it’s part of.

Every Norwegian expat longs for Norwegian Milk chocolate from Freia (and salty licorice).

What I always notice in Oslo is the buildings. There are those but ugly buildings that I pass and don’t pay any notice. Then, there’s details, colors and you see the love in how the buildings are taken care of.

The colors of these three buildings works so perfectly next to each other.

This building is chock full of details, but they probably doesn’t come forward in this picture.

Then you have the beautiful building with TGI Fridays on Oslo’s main street. The colors of the building is the same as in the logo.

Frognerparken is the typical place for tourist to go because it’s a park with statues of naked people. It is also a place where the natives go to relax, work on their tan, barbeque and be with friends. It’s used a the way New Yorkers use Central Park.

I usually find (naked) people to be a boring subject, but I love everything where life comes forward.

Nobody will ever be able to juggle four babies like this guy, but this is how I feel most of the time dealing with work, my son and boyfriend and everything else that crops up. A combination of playing and drowning.

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I am a little piece of Norway

That’s what it says on the bag – I am a little piece of Norway. Any Norwegian know what this bag is about: Milk chocolate from Freia. It was the best chocolate, could easily be compared to the quality of swiss chocolate.

That was until 1993 when Kraft Food purchased Freia and they started tampering with the recipe. Now, the milk chocolate doesn’t taste the same and they have changed the ingredients using cheaper ones.

Now that I have become a vegan, I don’t eat milk chocolate anymore. Only vegan chocolate.

But I really love this bag. It has colors. Bright, shiny colors.

It’s the bestest bag I have. It’s a little piece of my upbringing.

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Day 3: Eat an apple

Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/people/astronomyblog/ License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Easy one, right? Not if you’re on a vacation, which I am. If I had been working, this would have been easy. Now that I’m on vacation – not so much. I have may be eaten that apple 4 – 5 times in three weeks or more. At some point I thought that if I kept that apple close to the sofa where I would always see it, I would eat it. I didn’t.

Yesterday I had a driving lesson (I’m working towards getting my drivers license). He looked at me and said: “You have never done a wrong thing your whole life”. He had me pegged down. Even if I were Eve in Paradise, I might not have touched that apple.

I never get hungry enough. Now when I’m not working, having a large breakfast and lunch keeps me satisfied for a long time.

Again, when I go back to work this one will be easy. In the meantime, I’m happy with my meals and eating habits for the moment. This just will rest for a couple of weeks more.

From the book:

“We’ve all heard the old adage ‘An apple a day keep the doctor away.’ A major review published in 2008 out of the German Cancer Research Center found that indeed, compared with those who eat less than an apple a day, those who eat one or more had less risk of oral cancer, cancer of the voice box, breast cancer, and colon, kidney, and ovarian cancer as well. (…)

Apples are a rich source of a particularly powerful type of fiber called pectin. It’s what’s used as a gelling agent to make jams and jellies, and in our stomach it can delay stomach emptying through a similar mechanism. (…)

The feeling of hunger is very much influenced by hormonal signals, and the hormone ghrelin particularly. I think of ghrelin like the hunger gremlin; it pushes and grumbles for more food. Researchers found that when study participants chewed more, their ghrelin levels were reliably lower after meals. So, the longer food is chewed, the less ghrelin is released, and the longer you feel satiated.

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Day 2: Have a hearty breakfast

Tofu scramble with beans in chili sauce

When I started reading “The lean” I googled if others had tried to follow this book – more importantly, did it work? Did people loose weight, feel more energetic, happier? I only found one blog by Jenni Dunning who wrote about it. She managed to get to day 9 and then there’s silence and no words about weight loss. So does this plan suggested in this book work? Well, the vote is still out. The book contains 30 suggestions, and I’m not so sure I will be able to get to Day 9 myself, come to think of it.

The task of the day is then:

  1. Drink enough water
  2. Eat a hearty breakfast

Yes, I have to follow the previous days suggestions as well. I really liked this one because I don’t eat enough. Whenever I have lost weight I have followed the same path: Eat more, more often. Considering I had been constantly hungry for the last week, I decided to eat 3 slices of bread, tofu scramble and tomato beans. Loved it! For lunch I ate a bowl of oatmeal with an apple. Now, these meals contain so much nutrition it lasted a whole day. I only got a bit hungry in the evening, and didn’t bother with dinner some days.

This glorious situation only lasted for a little while, my body got used to a big breakfast and eating the same thing every day got a bit uninteresting. But still, more than two weeks later I eat the same big breakfast, and my body likes it. I’m not uncomfortably hungry any more and the breakfast lasts longer than two hours.

From the book:

Doesn’t skipping breakfast cut down on calories? Short answer? No. You actually need the calories first thing in the morning to jump-start your metabolism. Skipping them will do you no good, as you will only be hungrier and eat more later. (…)

When you eat whole grains, the fiber causes your food to be digested and absorbed into your bloodstream slowly. This helps you to keep your blood sugar in a normal range without getting too high or too low, thus no wild cravings. (…)

If you drink a glass of water every time before you eat, you’ll feel full quicker because some of your stomach volume is taken up by calorie-free water. Well, you can think of fiber as water in food form. Health benefits without any calories.

A note on eggs:

Did you know that one egg has as much cholesterol as an 8-ounce steak? One egg has more cholesterol than a double Quarter Pounder with cheese, and eating one or more per day ups your risk of type 2 diabetes by 77 per cent for women and 58 per cent for men (this from a 2008 study of more than 57,000 people). (…)

A new National Institute of Health-sponsored study appeared in September of 2011, reporting that men who eat 2.5 eggs or more per week have an 81 per cent higher chance of developing lethal prostate cancer.

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