Bryggen, Bergen, Norway

We arrived at our hotel in Bryggen Saturday 12/28 at 5:30, right on time.  “It was a dark and story  night”. The express bus was waiting for us right outside the airport’s main entrance. Frank, our driver,  whisked us off to the town of Bergen.  On the trip we saw a surprising number of Tesla Model S cars going past.

Connections to Norway were less than perfect. The overnight flight from SFO to Paris was dreadful.  I did “upgrade” our seats, though that only meant Ellen and I were sitting together.  I have never had so little leg room, even on a domestic flight.  What has Air France done?  Never again, I will not fly Air France. Period.  On the bright side the flight from Paris to Bergen was pleasant with enough leg room that I slept the entire two hours!

The day before Christmas, we had John, my nephew, and his 9 year old son, Gavin, over for dinner.  Gavin was sick though he assured us he was “not contagious”.  WRONG!  We came down the a heavy cold that matured on our Paris flight compounding an already poor experience.

Let’s return to Frank for a moment.  As we boarded the bus, my credit cards would not work in his machine.  Not one card.  We tried Ellen’s as well.  Everything failed. Now what do  we do?  Frank smiled and said, get on and we’ll settle up later.  Cool.  Our hotel was near the last bus stop.  At the Bryggen stop, Frank patiently reset his machine as we tried a few credit cards.  The first attempt failed,, but the second went through!  We chatted with Frank about Norway for a bit.  Norway is a rich country based primarily on oil and fishing. 

Our hotel, the Radisson Blu, was located directly at the bus stop. It could not have been more convenient.  Our room was modest but with a remarkably comfortable bed, his and her feather down comforters, and a wonderful shower.  This would have been most enjoyable, but for Gavin’s Christmas gift.  We had a meal in the bar/social club: fish soup for Ellen and fish and chips for me. I had a 7 Fjell beer that was fantastic.   Fjelll is pronounced similarly to fjord.  J becomes I.  We slept fitfully hacking and coughing through the night.

The next morning, 12/29, was a Sunday.  As in Boston in the “old days”, everything closes on Sundays in Norway.  We walked the old town of Bryggen, found a drug store to replenish some supplies, and bought a warm knit cap for me.  We took a taxi to the Hurtigruten Terminal to check our bags.  Baggage check-in starts at 1 PM, check-in at 3 PM, and staterooms are available at 6 PM.   Checking our bags we made two mistakes: Ellen failed to check “her” coat (actually the coat that Cynthia lent her) and I had taken my documents our of my backpack and now had to carry them around with me. The lockers at the terminal take three 10 KRON coins.  I had dollars. What to do. Paula, a woman from Madrid arrived at the lockers and she too didn’t have coins.  We chose to share a locker, found a cab driver who gave us change, and Ellen/Cyn’s jacket problem was solved. Our documents went in Ellen’s purse.

Paula intended to walk around from the terminal.  Having never been in Bryggen, we thought we’d take a taxi back.  Imagine our surprise as a tesla cab drove up to the terminal. Yes, I can take you to Bryggen.  We met Sion, who said a single charge overnight is sufficient to run his cab the entire day.  There are very few superchargers  in Norway, though there is one that he uses if he pulls a double shift.  Taxis are everywhere in Bergen.

Walking we happened across the most fascinating fish market I’ve ever seen.  Live king crab was everywhere, many varieties of fish fillets, shellfish, some I have not seen available elsewhere.  Inside there was not even a hint of seafood smell.  It was clean and smelled clean.  There was a bar on one side of the market and a restaurant bay-side.  “This is where we’ll have lunch”, I said.

We passed an Italian restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, a taqueria, a very eclectic group of mostly closed restaurants.  Ellen wanted soup for lunch.  The Italian place featured “zuppa”.  No seafood for me.  I had a pizza that was barely ok.  Ellen’s soup was good, but not nearly as tasty as at the Radisson Blu.

To get back to the cruise terminal, I suggested we go back to the taxi spot where Sion dropped us off.  We should have not problem having one stop.  Ellen was not convinced and hid from the rain in a doorway.  Within five minutes we had our ride back to the terminal.   Checking went smoothly, we were aboard and in our diminutive cabin shortly after 6pm.

It really truly sucks to be sick while travelling.  It sucks so much more if you travel in the dead of winter to a cold climate.  Norway certainly qualifies.  Even so, the Norwegians and Norway have surprised my with their warmth and beauty.

What? No Photos?  You have Apple’s HIEC, coupled with Microsoft’s fee for the codec, coupled with international internet connectivity.

OMG an addictive multiplayer game

 

gameplay

I am not a “gamer”.  I enjoy the challenge of mastering a first person shooter game.  That can take days or months. Often I’d be at it practically all day and night for a while.  Eventually I’ll feel proficient and put the game down for a while: months or more typically years.  That’s me, work hard to “master” something then move on.  I’ve always played against a friend or family member one-on-one or played with a number of bots.

Battlefield V feels different.  It has the draw of the first person shooter game (FPS), but much more.  I’ve started playing battlefield games with 16-32 other players and “graduated” to 64 other players.  No two games are similar. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this “game” is the teamwork the framework encourages, perhaps even requires.  To be effective a squad of 4 players must work together.  All players can resuscitate  a downed comrade before he/she bleeds out.  A medic does this much faster.  To keep the squad functional, the medic needs to stay close to the group.  Resuscitation is extremely well done.  There is some significant interaction between the avatars of the two players.  The first time I recovered, I felt a bond with my savior.  It was palpable.

Then too the avatars cover racial and gender. Without knowing it, the first time I selected the medic class I spawned as a woman.  What a surprise when my avatar spoke.  This game can help break down boundaries between races and sex as people work together toward a common goal.

The goal is not to shoot anything that moves.  The goal is to capture and keep objectives.  This does necessitate extreme mayhem.  However the game is goal oriented and focused on team play (even team building).  Playing with headphones and a mic makes squad communication so much easier.

I played one game where the squad leader was on top of things and gave orders as to what objective we should go after.  Each battlefield (map) has a varying number of objective sites.  It is up to the squad or squads to chose what to attack and how to advance against the opposing force.  It is not simply a game of shoot ‘em up; but rather a game of strategy and reflexes.

As game play continues over time, players level up and acquire new weaponry and rank.   The game includes vehicles, air planes, and I think naval vessels.  Driving a tank is pretty straight forward, though anti tank weapons abound.  The life of a tanker is short, the machine gunner’s life is still shorter.

With more than a passing familiarity with flight simulators and knowing how to fly a plane, I thought I’d give flight a try. That will take much more practice.  I think I’ll need to reverse the standard up/down controls.  I pull up on the stick and head toward the ground.  For now I’ll focus on the infantry with the occasional tank.

This game is unadulterated fun and extremely addictive. It is huge in scope with the promise of significant expansion over time.  I read that the game is “half done”.  Great, well maybe. I’m retired and have lots of time to burn, though my wife will have something to say about it.  At least with headphones she doesn’t hear the sound of battle: no explosions or rattle of small arms fire.

statistics

All player statistics are stored on a website.  The stats are public and extremely thorough.  You can check out where you stand relative to your friends and the best of the best.  I’m close to the bottom for now.  When playing I often hear “Too Slow!” as I get shot up.

The game plays in 4K making the terrain and avatars quite life-like.  The game is well done.  I’ve read some griping from players who are upset that women avatars are available, or that the game is focused more on team play.  There’s always someone not happy with change.

Code P3131, Nissan Leaf

Last April I had my leaf’s TCU updated to 3G for $199.  A bit much for what should be a standard feature in the leaf.  Nissan discontinued support for the 2g band.  The upgrade restored smart phone connectivity to the car.  Great.

Last month the 12 volt battery died and I had AAA give me a jump start.  I drove around for a while putting some charge back into the battery.  The next day the battery was dead.  Another AAA fellow came by and noticed that I had a AAA battery I had installed last September!  I had entirely forgotten.  So TCU went in in April, battery failed and was replaced in September, and that battery failed in November!

The AAA guy asked if I had paperwork for the battery.  It was under warranty and I’d get a new battery free of charge with the paperwork.  Normally I file away everything car and house related. I couldn’t find the paperwork.  I looked and looked.  Finally the AAA guy said he couldn’t in good conscience sell me another battery.  He created paperwork to cover the purchase in September, then installed a new battery under warranty.  (He clearly didn’t have to do this.  I doubt most service people would.)  He suggested I have the car’s parasitic current draw checked out.  Something was killing the battery.

Yesterday I dropped the car off at the dealer.  They would charge $175 to diagnose the problem and take it from there. Later in the day I got a call saying there was a service bulletin out on this problem TSBNTB18-045B.  The solution was to reprogram the TCU.  Apparently a shutoff timeout had not been set correctly. 

The best news: there was no charge. 

A Star Is Born

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Looking to get out for a bit, Chanda suggested we see “A Star Is Born” in a local theater.

It is a remake of the original film staring Barbara Streisand.  Streisand gave the film her blessing https://forward.com/schmooze/411111/barbra-streisand-gives-lady-gagas-a-star-is-born-performance-her-blessing/

“No problem, let’s go”, I said knowing nothing about the film.  I wasn’t particularly happy with “American Sniper” and  Bradley Cooper’s statements about it.  More jingoistic BS IMO.  So it was with some misgivings that we headed off to see this film.  Aside from knowing Cooper performed in it, I knew nothing.

My first reaction once the film began, aside from getting teary-eyed with the music, was, “WOW, who did they get to play Lady GaGa.  She looks so much like her and she can sing.”  It slowly dawned on me that it was, in fact, Lady GaGa who was in the film.  She was fantastic.  The film was a tour de force and left me emotionally drained and wondering how much of the film is autobiographical for Gaga  It also affirmed my respect for Lady Gaga as a musician and performer.  Wow can she act.  Bradley Cooper was great as well.  I very highly recommend this film.

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I also thought about how difficult it must be for couples who grow in different ways to keep it together. For instance, how does a country/blues player deal with an avant garde  performer.  The differences must surely swamp the similarities.

We also saw “Widows” the day before.  That too was a powerful movie with one twist I had not even considered.  If you like dark shoot ‘em up films, this one’s for you.  It is a slow burn that develops characters slowly, though you wouldn’t know it from the opening scene.  That was unexpected and perhaps more realistic than most.

https://youtu.be/nN2yBBSRC78

We had planned to go to Joshua Tree this weekend.  Planning beyond our control messed that up.  We’re enjoying a slow weekend in San Diego and returning home soon(ish).

back in the saddle

2.5 months away from stationary cycling, it’s time to get back into shape (or getting into getting into shape).  That’s a long while to be away from anything.  Have I forgotten how?

This morning was day four on the Peloton, a 60 minute heart rate endurance ride.  Boy do my hamstrings feel it.   My power output has dropped by 10% to 20% depending on the ride.  I had hoped to take the power zone endurance ride at 9:30.  I’m not feeling it just now.

What fun it was holding my spot on the leader board and moving past the next ahead of me now and then.  This is great cardio exercise and good for leg muscle tone as well.  Christine’s song list was the perfect motivation in the moment.  As usual, once the class was over, I couldn’t remember a single song that went by.  I remember my effort and the people on the leaderboard ahead and behind.  For any song, I’d match my cadence with the song’s beat and focus on maintaining a relaxed even pedal stroke and even breaths; very much like meditation.  Clear the mind, be in the moment.

It is a remarkable way to start the day.

Happy Halloween!

We’ve had over 300 ghosts and goblins at our door.  The street is like a huge party with the young and very young going door to door in costume.  It’s been lots of fun, though we are doomed; we will run out of goodies. This happened last year and we prepared this year.  “We have so much we cannot possibly run out this year!”, sure….

The trick-or-treaters this year remind me of my neighborhood around the time I outgrew going door to door. The sidewalks are full.  Our porch was full a few times tonight.

We have a hanging skeleton in a black robe that shakes its head and flashes its bright red eyes saying, “There’s something spooky out tonight, and I think it’s YOU!  HA ha ha ha ha ha ha”  Or “Did you come for a treat or do you want a trick?  HA ha ha ha ha ha”  Or “Yet another creature of the night approaches! Ha ha ha ha”.  It’s laughter is diabolical.  It scared more than one child right off the deck.  I get a kick out of the few who say, “I remember him from last year”  or the one little boy who as fascinated by it.  He stood and watch as I pulled on the robs and got the skeleton to speak again and again.  He walked up to the door and pulled on the robe himself.  Even when mom put him to carry him off, he was still staring at the skeleton in awe.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha. We have a “speaking” bat with flashing teeth and eyes, and a small “haunted house” that provides background scary sounds.  They’re quick to setup and remarkable for their impact.

FINALLY: Qanon subreddits banned

From CNN News

Reddit banned its largest community focused on the fringe conspiracy theory Qanon on Wednesday, claiming the subreddit was cut off “due to repeated violations of the terms of our content policy.”

The community, called /r/GreatAwakening, had more than 71,000 subscribers making over 10,000 comments on average per day before it was banned. A backup subreddit, /r/the_greatawakening, was also banned, along with 17 other Qanon focused communities, including r/BiblicalQ and r/Quincels.

The subreddit, which is a term for the common interest groups that make up Reddit, has been host to a stream of violent threats based on the conspiracy theory — despite repeated calls from the community’s moderators urging them to stop, particularly in recent weeks. Qanon devotees falsely believe that President Donald Trump is secretly waging a war with special counsel Robert Mueller to take down a global pedophile ring led by Hollywood celebrities and the Democratic Party, most notably Hillary Clinton.

Threats to kill Clinton pervaded GreatAwakening earlier this month when users were incensed by a Qanon-based theory that she was somehow causing military planes to fall out of the sky. GreatAwakening members implored the community to “kill all enemies”

Reddit was key to Qanon’s emergence from the fringe corners of the internet and into more mainstream conspiracy and far-right media circles. An investigation by NBC Newsfound that moderators moved Qanon posts from 8chan, a hard-to-navigate internet message board used mostly by trolls and younger people, to Reddit, making it accessible to a larger, older, and less internet savvy audience of conspiracy theorists. From there, Qanon crept to Facebook, where it continued to grow.

A spokesman for Reddit confirmed the banning in a statement to NBC News.

“As of September 12, r/greatawakening has been banned due to repeated violations of the terms of our content policy,” the spokesperson said. “We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting content that incites violence, disseminates personal information, or harasses will get users and communities banned from Reddit.”

In March, Reddit shut down the original Qanon subreddit, /r/CBTS_stream, for the same reason, after it was found to be “encouraging or inciting violence and posting personal and confidential information.” Reddit also banned its moderators from the site. The group had more than 20,000 subscribers at the time.

The Reddit ban will hamper the Qanon theory’s spread and splinter its followers, but it is not a death knell for the theory’s faithful community. Tens of thousands of users congregate on Twitter and in closed Facebook groups dedicated to QAnon. One of the most popular, named “QAnon Follow The White Rabbit” has more than 51,000 members. Thousands of others gather on Discord, a gaming-focused chat service that hosts channels like QNN, Q Central, and Patriot’s Soapbox, the chatroom for a 24-hour livestreamed YouTube channel for the dissemination and discussion of Qanon topics.

In August, as media coverage of Qanon increased, several of the largest Qanon Facebook groups changed their names, fearing the platform would ban them. When no action was taken, the groups reverted to their original names.

Reddit ramped up enforcement against racist, sexist and anti-Semitic subreddits earlier this week. The site pulled down the community r/MillionDollarExtreme on Monday, along with ironic offshoot communities like r/BillionShekelExtreme. The community, named after a quickly cancelled sketch show on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim from 2016, was filled with racist and antisemitic posts at the time of its banning.

Last October, Reddit banned a community devoted to Pizzagate, a smaller conspiracy theory that also alleged Clinton was running a child sex ring out of the basement of a pizza shop that had no basement. Qanon’s basic tenets hinge largely on the belief that the Pizzagate conspiracy was real all along.

Qanon believers have grown increasingly restless in recent weeks as several prophecies of “Q,” the purported government leaker sharing secrets to Qanon followers on 4chan, were proven wrong.

GreatAwakening users began to waver in their support when former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight felony counts as part of Mueller’s Russia probe, and the president’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felony charges. Q had repeatedly led posters to believe Mueller, Manafort and Cohen were working in tandem to catch the alleged child sex ring.

“Q” posted on 8chan shortly after Reddit’s action, aligning the ban with Alex Jones, who along with his website Infowars were recently removed from Facebook, Google, Twitter and Apple.

On its last day, r/GreatAwakening users had reverted to rote conspiracy talking points from years’ past — claiming 9/11 was an inside job, and that the Anthrax investigation was covered up by Mueller.

It is unclear precisely which post or comment was the final straw for Reddit’s ban.

Quora, in answer to “What was the last thing a Trump supporter said to you?”

I was in a work crew yesterday with two very enthusiastic Trump followers. One was haranguing the crew with some vital information he heard earlier on a talk show: apparently the talk show host had found out that Obama ordered the 9/11 attacks, and had covered up the whole thing afterwards. And the fake-news liberal press was covering it up. I mentioned that in September 2001 GW Bush was president, and that Obama was pretty much unknown. “OK, it must have been Al Gore then”. Uh, no, he was not part of the Bush cabinet. An angry silence followed.

 

I replied:  “Ha ha ha, Funny! But then again not funny at all.