onsdag 11. desember 2013

Min Beste Kokos Vanilje Langepannekake

for en stor langepanne c 40cm x 33cm , kake 3cm tjukk.

8stk store egg 
250 g smør , smeltet
50ml melk
250 g kokosmasse 
400 g hvetemel 
550 g sukker (melis er best) 
6 ts bakepulver 
8  ts malt kanel
Vanilje stang eller smakvæske 6 dråper 
4 ts citronsaft
250 g smør 
450 g melis 
2 ts vanilje smak 
2-3 ss melk
1x egg plomme
2 xegg  hvit 
2 ts citronsaft

kakepynt etter smak: Skotske / Norske Favourite er rosa kokos
ca 8 dråpe rød konditorfarge 
2 dl kokosmasse 

Fremgangsmåte kake:  oven på 180´C vanleg oven, 170 ´c vifte ovn. 
Smelt smør og la det kjøle ned litt slikt det ikke kokker eggene når de blandes. Pisk egene, og så tilsetter flytttende lunken smør, melken og vanlije dråper og pisk blandingen opp in en mellomstor skål. Tilsetter 200g av sukkeren (best med melis) og pisk det inn 30 sekunder med elekrtisk pisk.

 Så måler ut mel og resten av sukkeren i en større skål og hel in våte ingrediensene du har pisket. Pisk i 2 minutter electrisk og så tilsetter bakepulver og pisk 30 sekunder, så tilsetter kokosmasse pisk på lav fart til og med alt err blandet.

 Når ovnen er på temperaturen, pisk inn citronsaften jevnt gjennom blanding og hel ut på bakerpapir lagt inn på langepanne. Sprer ut jevnt og legg opp i ovnen for 25-35 minutter, til og med det er hevet opp mye og er brun og halbv sprøtt på toppen. Prøv med en trepinne for å se at ingen av kaken klister på pinnen. 

  og stek kaken midt i ovnen, anbefales uten vift på hvis mulig ellers blir kakeskorp for tørt og sprøtt før kaken er bakte..

Skil egg plommene fra hvitene. Smelt smøren over lavt varme. Bland lunken smør med egg plommene og tilsetter melisen gradvis under pisking. Tilsetter melk til og med det har litt tjukkhet men ikke fjelltopp. Da pisk inn egghvitene og smaksdråper og pisk hard på 1-2 minutter 

Ta opp i kjøleskapet til og med kaken er kjølet ned sjøl og da smør over jevnt og tilsetter pynen.
Langpanne: 25 x 35 cm

mandag 11. november 2013

The New Blue-Blue Money Shuffle...Taking from The Poor and how NAV will end up with the Bill.

Now we see the true colours of the blue-blue government, who like in the UK are trying to appease the small business owners and blue meanies in Norway.

On the other hand they have a largely socialist agenda- opening up the state pension fund to pay for infrastructure and allowing more money per head to those most vunerable in society.

However the first thing to note is that they are open for more temporary workers and they have now removed a subsidy which allowed people on lower incomes to own their own home. These will both lead to more people being dependent on state money and a culture where working is less attractive than being on social benefits.

The national "house bank" is a state initiative to underwrite higher risk, lower interest loans for people like us in fact, who want to get on the property market but are exposed to temporary contracts and a lack of capital. Removing the low interest will directly lead to repossessions and will make borderline people with health issues see that work does not lend itself and going on social security sickness benefits is more attractive. It is laughably easy in norway to get onto "trygd" benefits and that I have not heard one ioata on in the new budget: originally the Frp party campaigned that these people should be out shovelling snow, but of course that takes beaurocracy. In fact that is an area for immediate cut- support for getting people into work.

Allegedly to counter balance getting people into work, the pale-blue-rinse-quite-socialist-spender government now will allow employers to have more freedom to employ people on (endless) temporary contracts. The finance minister claims that this will allow people who have been out of working life to get a foot hold. In effect it will mean that more people join the queue at NAV, the health, social security and work agency,  when it suits all employers.

Excluding layabouts who have "social angst" and the type of bad backs which allows them to go mysteriously on holiday to Tenerife each year, but not work a day in ten years, then Norway has extrememly low unemployment despite having the highest unemployment benefits in Europe. The fact is there is a working culture here and it is relatively easy to both get work and to get a permanent contract, which leads to consumer-confidence and personal security and home ownership.

Opening up for more temporary employment will mean a much bigger bill for NAV within four years, and a grey area like in the UK where people are fully dependent on state income to top up uncertain and part time work. It will not affect the types of jobs where there is a large element of training or a prerequiste for education - on the one hand employers will want longer term contracts and committment from employees, while on the other employees will seek out companies with permanent contracts and avoid temping once they have enough experience.

By in large the benefits of this new loosening up will be in the service industry, and for some business cultural reason, most ironically, in the same financial industry which now denies mortgages to people on temporary contracts.  I already experience the customer service level in private shops and restaurants to be on a par with the former eastern europe, and having people on temporary, seasonal contracts will lead to these positions being more social dumping with surly, untrained and unmotivated staff turning up with the lights on but no interest.

On the other hand it will also lead to more criminality as those in the border line areas of in and out of work begin to see that there is a more steady income to be attained from selling drugs, smuggling, VAT evasion , and fencing dubious sourced items.

My last employer had a policy of trying to have 20% of staff on contract. This prove completely impractical at every level in the organisation- in those positions requiring engineering skills, they got mediocre engineers or those who abused the job as a temporary short term income for a couple of months- hardly time to settle into the job. On the side of administration too, they could get qualified people, but when the temporary position was a required head count and desired to be permanent, they had found that they could not retain staff- they had spent time and effort looking for permanent positions elsewhere and did not even bother to negotiate, they just left.

For me I was more used to contracts and a fair deal of job insecurity and the poor employment protection in the UK. However with the cost of living here I have found that now I am only interested in  permanent positions and I am prepared to come down in pay to be able to work within a short commute to reduce costs and increase time with the family. A temporary job now, as I ended a contract which I made into a contract from a permanent job actually, would be that for me too- zero loyalty although I would use a job offer externally to squeeze a permanent position out of the employer!

Another effect is that when a couple have children, it is the partner in temporary employment who is most likely to take sick leave on behalf of the children.

It is already quite easy to employ people temporarily, but there is a border where you must give them a "permanent " contract which gives workers here as good employment rights as workers who are members of unions in Germany for example. So what this means is being able to employ people on successive temp contracts and lay them off when you have a hole in your cash flow or want to pay more profits out. There has been a counter balance in the employer paying some more redundancy but I have not looked into the details of this, and it may be that when a contract ends then there is of course no need for them to pay up: it is the state who will, as in the UK, end up giving out massive hidden subsidies to the type of industries who should stand on their own feet and develop quality service. This will go over into public health provision of course, where private companies and cash restricted departments will do the same to try and save in money when they can stretch a lower level of resources over a period with financial motivation in front of patient need. The state will pick up the tab.

The Frp and Høyre parties (progress party and right of the house pale blue tory party)  have many members who are the bourgeois - they own or manage SME sector businesses. An expansion of temporary employment will actually hurt the SME sector in Norway because it will make it easier for people to get into the larger companies in Norway in the oil, petrochemical and service industries where training abounds and also they are then in-the-door for permanent positions or when their position becomes a necessary one. Larger employers see employees as valued resources here, not a commodity of which a large percent can be brushed away easily to improve the free-cash-flow for a quarter. Being able to offer temporary contracts is far more attractive to the SME sector because they have less cash reserves and more obvious peaks and troughs in their turn-over to cost gearing. However they will find that they will struggle more to recruit properly qualified and experienced people who are not attracted to the insecurity of temping.

In trying then to "solve" a small problem of low level unemployment in general -  and this being here the actual issues of disaffected youth and immigrants of a non western back ground -  the new government will introduce more of a dynamic to place more otherwise productive people into state dependency on an on-off basis, while also presenting the SME sector with fewer good candidates. In reducing the investment in getting these two groups above into training and higher value work, they just create an administrative merry-go-round for NAV for them and for other non qualified staff who previously enjoyed job security and payed taxes year-in-year out, rather than collecting benefits on a frequent periodic basis. 

The longer term damage of a temp-contract-society is clear in the UK: more people dependent on the state in hidden figures, less people having access to owning their own homes, more being made homeless because they do not have a steady income, more choosing sick benefits over trying to work, and people staying longer on unemployment benefits while waiting for a permanent job.

Capitalism doesn't care: the blue-blue like to be able to say that they are getting more people into work, as they do in the uk, but they are shifting subsidy and public spending away from improving quality and efficiency through loyal, motivated and highly trained staff over to paying for all the down time and insecurity which follows an expanded part time and temp sector in the economy. That the  bill on this social insecurity shifts from other forms of state investment in people,  and most likely goes up within this government's first term,  capital will just call for cut backs and these will once again affect the non unionised, poorest section of society worst.

The danger is , as with the retail finance sector in oslo, that the level playing field becomes unbalanced and more sectors see the balance sheet short term benefits of employing larger proportions of their staff on temporary contracts. Also with a potential raft of privatistaions, this may lead to as in the UK, an erosion of quality of provision at the point of delivery where on the ground workers are no longer qualified, experienced or motivated in those areas. A culture where people grab temporary work from better paid temp jobs when they end, and misuse the lower end job for temp income with little or no motivation.

It becomes an anti-culture for business and particularly those involved in annual state contracts in newly privatised services- they will never want to employ people permanently until they have a virtual monopoly on provision.

In the UK we have a bigger service sector and on the one hand that soaks up unqualified school leavers, while on the other hand it becomes a kind of soft landing for many graduates and University drop outs who were under achievers and worked part time during their study.

The Scandinavian model of good wages, home ownership, medium high taxes and high permanent employment has been eroded in Sweden and Denmark, where unemployment is far higher than in Norway or Finland.

fredag 11. oktober 2013

Living in Norway and Mid Life Early ?

While in a conversation with a GP actually, I was confronted with a fact of life- we get older, we get 2.4 kids and we get antisocial. Don't blame it on Norway.

You have to take a balanced view: you , like me are probably an ex-pat and statistics would say that you moved to Norway due to your better half and started a family.

So here you have to take that big change in life, parenthood, against emigration.

On the other side though, Norway is a bet special- Norwegians are good, polite hosts but they are not on average at all out going and sociable to strangers. If you can imagine moving to Fife, Aberdeenshire or some English county where people are inverted snobs, xenophobes and well-to-do snobs then that is the kind of atmosphere.

As I blogged before, Norway has never been big on immigrants: they had no empire and they were more used to sending their people out to the USA or to sea. So they just aren't used to it, and have all these displaced  peoples, generally Muslim  to cope with, which when young Somali males are in the picture, are viewed with more than a pinch of skepticism and outright "send them back".

However let us not play the racist card for you and I from developed countries with a native spouse. Here we fall into that which many Norwegians encounter- big city anonymity and non chalence, and small town clanism.  If you throw into that the  quite healthy extended family orientation of most people here, then you start to see that social lives plus the old 2.4,  have fallen into ever-decreasing-circles for the natives.

On the other hand to come back into the imbalance that you can feel about your new social life and lack of it, then as an immigrant you have a few more barriers: you have the language and it subtleties and the different forms of conversation.

Generally I find conversations to be pretty banal round my kids parents and I feel antipathy from several other parents towards me and partly my whole family unfortunately. I just can't get into the rythm of them down here because I don't get the point: I understand the words, but I dont get the tone and the whole point. To be frank I was never any good at small talk and prefer waffeling on and debating bigger topics or interesting stuff, which outside hobbies, have fallen away.

 So when you are approaching those parent gatherings or any social event, your new ways into a social life may well be people who are a lot more shy than you are used to, but at least they are not little snobs who can be quite intent and even a little aggressive at blocking you as an immigrant out of the social circle. You are looking to glide in very slowly often or grasp the chance when you meet someone nice and welcoming.

How do you address all this and build a social life?

Well you have to target your energies - decide who in the family and parents - circle at school / barnehage you like and have something in common with, or just feel comfortable with their conversation. Don't rush things, but don't refuse invitations ever!

Your other source of new friends will be through hobbies: your own and your children's. This is my source of chums and chat. Even there it is a little strained.
Take up new hobbies or join clubs which your previous individual efforts fit into, like photography.

Hobby clubs have a kind of commonality of objective conversation which has its own natural ice breakers and ways to get into the chat circle. Clubs and especially hobby clubs are very collective in nature here, they often talk of "we" and there is a natural belonging if you share interests. Sports clubs and activities are also good, golf and 5-a-side being two big in-ways for 30 something males at least. I have a personal reference from the helm of a 8 man boat I raced on, who says I came in very comfortably and was not flashy despite my longer experience.

It is important not to be flashy. Also one sport in particular is problematic- male football. Our local team had a first to third level team. A couple of outsiders, one half english, the other from the next district, played in what they presumed was the main team as there were always enough at training to have at least five a side and turn out a full team if they needed to. These two guys were pretty good at football- and they saw a group of about 5 or 6 players training together with the best coach and asked who they were? Oh, they are the first team. The next time they turned up they asked the firsts coach if they could come up to the team, to which the blunt reply from a trainer with 6 to 8 players was, "No, the team is full". That my friends is typical small town Norway! It may have taken them years to get invited to train a little and sit on the bench for the first team, who then drew on their favoured mates in the second to make up the first 11.

It is all a very painful boring catch a monkey with some people and some social circles you then come into: the best advice is that Norwegians do not like expectations (apart from North Norway folk who are virtually in another universe and often super sociable and welcoming) - the usual expectations you may have from North America or the EU in general must be forgotten- do not expect dinner party invitations and trips to their cabins as an opening gambit with the vast majority. Expect to take some time to come even into the circle of conversation!

The very big plus side is that it is very true that once you make a friend in Norway, you make a very good friend - mi casa, su casa. Then it can be a bit too much and difficult to reciprocate! Cabins, boats, hunting.....

This is though a culture clash to some extent: I think average UK, US, Canada, Antipodean, French, Dutch, Spanish and Italiens are far more used to having a wider circle of friends, and having a more fluent relationship to new acquaintances and how new friendships develop and old fall away. Also for better or for worst, our circle of friends have become more important than our extended family and we spend more time with them outside work than we do with our parents.

As a Londoner said to me he misses "the banter...they have no banter!" and this is the other down side for most of Norway- it is hard to strike up a friendly conversation with a stranger in a bar or cafe, and often hard at the school / sports / barnehage events it can be a bit frustrating. I once turned up in a kilt at an Oslo barnehage coffee party and not one person bothered to comment on me being Scottish or struck up a conversation.

More on this: you will find that Norwegians like Jews, are exclusive- they are not evangelical about themselves, their country, their opinions like many more extravert national temperaments  are. They will quickly form little social circles at these social parents gatherings based on old school alliances or some connection, and then physically fill an area or a table and exclude other people.  They do this to their own!

In Oslo and the other big cities, it is worth just trying to break in with a firm introduction and a smile. I am very much a once-bitten, twice-shy person on this but I shouldn't be really. I am the type of person who visually some people take an instant dislike to, and I cannot get along with very domineering personalities, or on the other end of the scale, shy types who cannot make or carry on conversation.

However I recommend sticking your neck in when you live in a big city, and just seeing how it goes- who takes up on you. Apply this to all social circles you come into, even family, and then if you find a circle is very closed then think about exiting stage left and working on just one or two individuals slowly to come in.


It is very frustrating for many of us in this stage of life, to move in your late twenties to early forties to Norway because it is not a very sociable country on average. Patience then, and a huge dose of humility are your greatest tools, plus having sensitive, tuned social antenna to pick up on the queues- the buying signals and the flow of the conversation into an acquaintancy and then into a new friendship.

Find people who do not block you socially - they may be a lot more shy than you are used to, and don't seek to convert enemies! In Oslo you will come upon a lot of outright snobs in any middle class area, who are often pretty right wing and anti immigration entirely!

Join clubs and try to find the pace of conversation and ask pertinent questions or make nice observations. Make these, wait for a response- qualifying things is bad because it takes Norwegians a while to think- hey an immigrant is talking, did we understand them right, should we be friendly to them or skeptical?

Most of all grasp invitations while not building up your own expectations.  I would recommend keeping the conversation objective on common ground rather than presenting your own personal dilemas and political view on the world, but you know yourself best.

Remember once you have a good friend, or a family you mesh with, nurture things and be a little imaginative with your counter invitations. Don't overload them though, keep it a couple of times a month.

This all sounds like bending your outgoing personality to fit into a bloody convent, but in fact the new positive friends and acquaintances could be pleasantly surprised by an open door policy, or a couple of invitations per month or chances to do other things together as a family or sports training etc for the spouses.

mandag 30. september 2013

Getting Into the Larger Companies in Norway as an Immigrant

I am just ending a contact at a medium sized company and am in the process of interviews and so on to get into hopefull a larger company.

As a foreigner the large employers usually offer most international opportunities where your native language could be of use, especially English,  or if you are otherwise very proficient in English this is a large plus point. However these large employers seem to present barriers by their size and beaurocratic registration and application processes.

Norway is quite peculiar in the EU for having a few huge employers and then having many small companies- a kind of biploar national spread of companies. On the one hand you have of course then Statoil (including Hyrdo's oil production), Aker, El Chem and of course the NHS and otherwise the state here. Under this is a layer of fast growing companies, like National Oil Well-Varco (NOV), who established in Norway to supply these large drilling and production firms with equipment and services and have been able to grow internationally as Norwegian entities, based on advanced engineering that by in large, the Texans couldn't be bothered investing in before.

On the otherside of the coin are a myriad of small companies, biased by one-man-bands who often take early pension and then hire themselves into the self same very large employers at a high hourly rate. Outside retail there are very few medium sized businesses, but they are there to be found and the best source is the Gazelle listings for your local area. ( gaseller as norsk key word).

SME's Versus Larger Employees

Working for sub 20 employee companies has its' charms in terms of team and family feel, or the reverse in being established and possibly sceptical on average to immigration. You are most of all though at the mercy of the owner-director and often foriegners are seen as a resource to be exploited in terms of overtime, holiday allocation, scope of tasks and most of all, economic expendability. I have worked in small companies below 20-30 employees and I do not personally recommend planning your career around them, unless you see a very good fit where your skills are worth more to them than their company are to you.

 Large employers on the other hand, offer larger opportunities to you as a foreigner, in terms of getting a foot in the door for other jobs, promotion, training and financial or project responsibility. Norwegians know this only too well, and many graduates will only apply to the top handful of  companies in their skill area.

Applying to the Mega Companies In Norway

How do you then apply to these megalyths ? They seem to be very impersonal. They often advertise in English, but then at some point the communication goes over to Norwegian- have you made a mistake?

Firstly there is a very big difference between being an experienced international project manager, a qualified engineer, a global sales person,  or a hot IT worker and being a general administration worker or at first job trainee level.  In the latter, the daily language will have to be Norwegian and that means written and oral.

For non technical jobs, my advice is to always apply in Norwegian unless it states expressly that you should apply in English. Further to this get your CV and letter checked by a native speaker, and also get some practice in interview conversation and follow up communications.

Getting in the door though even with good Norwegian seems an issue, a great big brick wall infront of you: My advice is to not think of these companies as huge megalyths, but see the people: you are being recruited most often to a specific team which works pretty much like an SME. As a foreigner it always makes the difference if you contact the person named in the advert. If they are personnel it is best to be positive and speak generally about your intereset, breifly about your suitability and then ask if it is possible to speak to the manager for the position. This shows positivity and it is the way Norwegians often make open applications or network their way to jobs. You have to practice at this or be very comfortable with your language.

I would say that in general e-mail communications outside the actual application are interpreted negatively: that is just my opinion based on my experiences. It can though be worth using e-mail to request a telephone conversation.

This approach, using the phone,  has secured me nearly all my jobs here and was completely necessary.Why? Because they want to work with people who can speak Norwegian in those positions! Also it shows interest and motivation, and actually very few people bother to phone up at all. I have also been down to the last few at 2nd interview level,  at both Statoil and Aker for positions with more than 60 applicants.

Another thing is to keep on applying and apply for related positions in these larger employers. As long as you are qualified a and /or experienced for the positions, apply and keep on applying. My application for three or four positions at one company actually lead to me getting the best possible one!

Open applications are worth while but only in the right context: you need to use networking to establish who may be a manager to talk to. "On File" as an immigrant outside engineering and IT, means in the bin in my opinion. You need to make a targetted approach, kind of a courting and sniffing out if they are recruiting in your area. The key here is to define need, and strike before they contact the recruitment companies or advertise the job.

Bemanning and Rectuitment Companies as A Route In

One way into large companies is through rectuiters and bemanners. Beware though, because large companies often want to have a percentage of temp staff who can be cut back given a bad quarterly result. Companies I have worked in recently had a policy of having 10-20% of their pay roll hired in. The new laws make it harder to avoid permanency, but they dont care especially with immigrants. You can like a freind of mine who was very competent in document control, be locked in actually to being a temp, by the mutual interest of personnel dept and bemanner with monthly fee,  and held out from the permanent position whereas they actually recruit a poorer candidate!  Here she was in a position of stregnth and should have moved to direct, but actually she sought a new education which she got a place in suddenly in the summer.

How do you address the bemanning situation? Well it is a win-win if you get training and experience which makes you more attractive in the job market or internally a valuable resource. You may be a temp for someone with quite a lot of responsibility or be able to develope the role and get recognised in the company and therefore rectuited. There are positive here if you also are still learning the language and need to use it daily in the workplace, or are just trying to get a first foothold into semi skilled work.

However to continue at your own level or go down, I would try and turn a bemmaning opportunity into a direct hire with a recruitment consultancy fee. Another way is to avoid  the middle man altogether, identifying the employer from a short conversation with the recruiter,  and contacting them directly with an "open" application as a pure coincidence.

Your Local Job Market

I still haven't been able to crack my local job market, large or small. I even did a work-fair / work-experience for 9 months to get in to the right type of job in a local company, which did me a world of good, but in fact this is a typical issue for government funding - it should have been a temporary position! If I had not come with a state cheque book they would have hired me. I then am faced with a nasty winter commute of often over an hour when it is snowing on twisty roads, in fact the worst section of the trunk road in this region!
What i do hear works with SMEs in your local market is shoe leather: turning up at the door with your CV is seen as a very positive thing and quite often you will be in a conversation with the manager in a position to employ you.

Be Dynamic? Speaking to your Hosts....

These type of dynamic go getter job skills are necessary to get employed, this may seem a bit unfortunate for the shy type. On the other hand, the shy type may get a kinder reception at a company and be right for the position in the long term, you never know!

I see what ever that language skills are often a must, yet you should resort to English if you are strong in that when you are out of your water, always. One issue I have is that I have polished my CV and application letters and take the application process with a lot of fore thought and concentration, and in fact my Norsk language on a day to day basis is not as good as it is under the recruitment phase.

Modesty in norway is a good thing an part of the culture, to a frustrating extent, but know that you will quite likely never be even 90% as comprehendable as a norwegian and also that some are a little strange and "fall off" in conversations when the grammar wains. You have to be aware of this, This is a bad habit I find here anyway between norwegians- in presentations and talks I think I often have a bigger take out that the average norwegian because I am so focused on understanding!

torsdag 5. september 2013

British Perspective on Norwegian Election 2014 (Storting , Valget 2014)

Rather than going straight to the recycling bin with the election magazine from FrP (progress party, "far " right here in Norway) I decided to read it.

I have met quite a lot of Frp members here and they are a little split into two camps: small business bourgeois types and generally anyone who doesn't like taxes and tolls on roads as a way of financing an egalitarian society.

In Britain then they correspond to a far earlier epoch, the post war middle middle class who were fed up with rationing and high taxation. That is where the 'Grocer's Daughter' and her hand bag home economics came from, Magaret Thatcher, the witch whose policies allowed British industry to close down or move to China.

In the last election FrP had an aggressive agenda and both them and the conservative Høyre rattled sabres about working conditions being unsustainable and damaging business. Oil barell prives went up and we got guaranteed summer holiday of three weeks. The right were pandering to their pay masters in business and the population returned the red-greens with a sustained majority.

Now the blue side of the house have not just tamed their message, they have returned with a liberal and largely socialist agenda.  Spend more money! Build infrastructure!

This is a bit of an ananthema for uk conservatives. We had almost twenty years of save and cut back, which was a bit illusionary because public spending shifted to infrastructure mostly in tory counties, metrics beaurocracy in the nhs and education and paying the dole for people trapped in industrial ghost towns.

The norsk labour party has rendered the old style blue rinse parties, with the strings pulled only by the bourgieos, unelectable because the economy can support the liberal labour laws. People here know there is no excuse for lower pay, short term contracts and the bosses determining your workng hours. There is little need to pander to businesses in the uk either but that is where the balance of power lies. Now enter new whiter than white blue parties with a personal liberalising message of road building, choice of school and legal jet ski driving.

They will face legal and interrnational resistance to forcing the oil fund, the state pension investment fund, into investing in road projects which will be motorist toll free. They will have resistance to privatisation in the nhs here. They will face large problems with free school choice and the general grading of primary school kids, mainly because the two a large new beaurocratic load and benefit only a minority while actually threatening average quality of schooling by being devisive, leading to dump schools and stigmatisation for pupils and teaching staff. With norwegians hate of commuting, it is only the few right wing parents who will choose this to begin
Now they open the door for a wider working class support as people percieve they have more money in their pockets and team leader and lower management start to be lured into the benefits for them of privatisation.  So it really isnt the first blue governemnet anyone has to worry about, apart from the economists. It is the second possible term which would really make negative changes to the workers lot .

torsdag 29. august 2013

Norwegian General Election Looms but not in A Threatening Way

It is the Norwegian general election in a little over two weeks time, and I'd say that it is no thriller and most people are switching off the candidates debates.

One good thing is that the election is centered on the issues, and not really the failings of the current, two term regime. The issues are really only the things which government tickle now: roads, rail a little education, privatisation round the fringes of health care.

The fact is that the failed right wing government of the early naughties have left a worse legacy, of failed privatisations like the rail network maintenance, and in the after math of an ineffective government riddled with internal power struggle,  the Labour movement left to accelerate road building and address infrastructure for schools and hospitals.

Now the labour lead, green-red government will leave a lasting legacy- people may want better roads and a little less tax, but they are not prepared to work harder for it. The main topics on the lips of the opposition are all about MORE public spending, an anathema for the right wing in most EU countries and particularly England. More on roads in particular, and more to pensioners. Less to immigrants and less to assylum seekers - these are the current scape goat and easy target given the state has a duty of provision for them, and the usual comparison is to the mimimum pensioner- but who dares actually pay for people who were largely economically inactive through much of their lives ?

While on pensions then , the state pension fund aka the Oil Fund is one of the best managed fund portfolios in the world, managed by state appointed economists incidentally who show the caution and objectivity clearing lacking in most derivative  traders and fund managers in the period 2005 to 2008!

Labour here have a very conservative policy on the oil fund- and incidentally are legally constrained by national and international laws in how much can be spent on public projects. In effect it acts as a private bank in a PFI type of way. The more thatcherite Fremskritt party want to unlock this fund for infrastructural renewal, with the key being a dual carriage way from Oslo to Stavanger - a patchy set up so far. This of course with as few new toll stations as possible if not completely free. So basically a Keynsian policy but one in a country where road projects are by virtue of topology and labour costs, amongst the most expensive.

The right are not keen on rail or any talk of rail, and that is clearly because they made a pigs ear of privatisation. They monopolised the management and lost droves of skilled workers in the cut backs which followed. Subsequent funding has been squandered on an Oslo-centric management black hole of strategic analysis  planning and project management  without any budget to manage anything in particular. The company has soaked up hundreds of millions of euros into this money pit and into an artificial internal inflation as they compete for engineering skills with the oil industry and the continuing Oslo property boom.

Also road projects are a mess here: the E18 in particular- a garing gap right passed Oslos second (or third) Airport near Sandefjord, which is there due to quarrels amongst right wing ruled councils - the stretches south and west of this were way over budget and again, disjointed- the ones which came in on budget prove to have scimped on materials - road surface on the new route Grimstad to Kristiansand, and tunneling north of Sandefjord. Foriegn competitors have had their fingers burned off with the main contractor from Germany on the Grimstad west stretch going under due to penalties and outright law breaking from sub suppliers.

I sit an listen to Radio Scotland about the A9 ironically enough. The A9 is topologically not unlike the E39 K'sand to Stavanger. It has the much hated and quoted as dangerous, partial dual carriageway. It has slush and snow in the winter, and storms over the summits. It has a lot of crashes: mostly caused by excessive speed and dodgey overtaking. What it replaced, as with the E39 as it is today, was a horrendous string of mixed quality road. The costs of making it all dual carriageway are too big for anyone to swallow.

Swallow must some people: the Skye bridge was a thatcher scheme to connect Skye-the-Brand to the mainland in a successful PFI which was soon voted away and paid off from the government purse. Kristiansand - Stavanger will be hugely expensive and with the very low speed limits relative to the rest of Europe, save less than an hour for cars but maybe around an hour for lorries. It will be safer, but so would "A" road upgrading and safer crawler lanes which continue over summits with speed cameras strategically placed.

Having been on the road around "peak" times in the morning,  afternoon  and early evening I hardly think the E39 warrants dual carriageway status given the volume of traffic I saw. However someone will counter argue that with stats' no doubt, and of course K'sand, Adger and West Fold all have major oil equipment manufacturers, who are just begining to see the life-cycle servicing turn over coming in the door. This is highly profitable business and is time related so Norway can compete in terms of capacity and costs as we go beyond 2020.

The Green Red got stung on thinking big: the CO2 being pumped back into the depleted oil reservoirs was a failure of politics, and the visionary deep tunnel super fast train was also a waste of feasbility study cash. Investment in motor-rail between all the major cities? Well you can move your car, but not at the same time you do. Also freight has gone over to rail but the private rail companies are very pleased to be at 100% capactiy and don't want to or cannot invest in more rolling stock.

Anyways, road is the big thing in this election while in fact the big fight ahead will be privatisation of health services and the suprises that a likely double term right wing government could bring with them in terms of labour laws.

Whatever else happens, the new blue-blue government  will vote for a big rise in MPs salaries, cut the tax for their super rich and bourgoise funders, and then also cut tax for ordinary middle income first standard deviation below average folk: and promptly take it back off them in allowing for private inflation in public provision like pre school, MIRAS, minimum payment for doctors etc.

I am for dual carriageway Oslo- Kristiansand and a mixed A class road on the E39 westwards from there

tirsdag 11. juni 2013

Norsk Labour Party Bows Out

The "red green" reign over Norway is bowing out this year almost without doubt. Like most two termers of any political shade, their custodial term picks up enough bugs along the way as to lead the public to want something else.

From another stand point however, the last 8 years have reversed some attitudes that poorer labour conditions are a necessary evil for us all to have jobs: the reverse is true, good labour conditions makes for higher standard of living, higher employment as people move up the socio-economic ladder with high average wages relative to house prices.

And there have been failures. The latest is the railway budget: they have indeed vastly increased the budget in the last 7 years, but 1.2 Bn NOK have been sucked up into central administration and planning. You can't avoid the fact though that it was the failed Bondevik government which privatised the maintenance sector, which then disastrously cut out quality, delivery end labour which they never won back.

Now however, the "jernbanverket" have become an Oslo parasite of project management and quality and safety strategy. Just like much of the centralised Oslo beaurocracies, private or public, the rest of Norway delivers while the parasitic pontificators in Oslo plan and strategise. All the place-men and women-who-lunch on their million krone a year (about the london equivalent of 90£K) to theorise and write reports and go to endless meetings, but never actually achieve very much.

Labour here also had a series of failed projects due to this Oslo theoretical "richest country on earth" approach. Firstly the gas plant at Mongstad: pumping CO2 back into the oil wells under pressure in sea water where it may become lime stone one day. However the R&D write off evapourated - they were very naive to think they could get away with this in the european electricity grid and global carbon-trading.

The next and most blatant fail for a "Green" government was the lunatic plan to have deep underground 300km/h trains between the major southern half cities. SO while the railway around Oslo resembles something by in large from 1973 on many commuter routes, and even longer back in time as you trundle down to the towns either side of the "oslo fjord", they aimed high, and came crashing back to earth twice - first when the tunneling costs and geological survey costs showed themselves to be many time higher than "guestimates" in the national plan

Crazy idea, more crazy than the "ferry free" journey with four lanes to Stavanger. Okay it makes things faster but there just isn't the volume of traffic North of Bergen for bridges over the finer fjords there, and between Kristiansand and Stavanger the population is sparse, and a lot of freight goes straight to international shipping or supply vessels from both harbours.

However, that said the FRP  (semi thatcherite, populist "progress" party)  they do have a good point, in linking many communities closer together, reducing delivery times, opening up labour markets, expanding the commuter zones and boosting rural and small town property markets. They could probably achieve as much by decentralising Oslo beaurocracy and encouraging major companies to open regional head quarters in mid and north norway as the oil exploration moves north.

It is ironic then that the slowest and most ridiculous gap in  Norway's limited Motorway network is passed a site well known to visitors by air, Torp Sandefjord airport. Some miles north, the motorway abruptly becomes a rather silly extra wide A road with lots of yokal traffic including the odd tractor. Then a while later, hey presto, the new section past Sandefjord to Larvik and another new section west of there opens before localy political arguements were a memory and turf wad broken north and south of Torp to make for joined up writing, All held up by arguements between right wing local councils and the state road directorate.  Finally there will be four lanes from Oslo to Larvik within the next year or so.

Back to Labour's failures here: the Utøya massacre has I think managed to go full circle and reflect badly on the labour movement: the core support is with working class and middle class public sector service employees. Labour now looks like a shambles of minority pandering: immigrants and homosexuals.

Finally we come to the root of both Norwegian Socialist attitudes and also a good deal of enterprise here. People are now a bit fed up that the rich get a fair bit more than they can : "you are getting something I am not" is the root of popular vote for the red-greens here. However that has run its course with most people actually not wanting to go down to a 35 hour week, or have any more holiday!  Just this last week the policy of national intervention on development in the "beach zone", somethign I by in large agree with, has revealed the truth behind the apparent egalitarianism in Norway: now you have to be pretty rich to afford a plot or to redevelope a prime site, or to pay a lawyer to get you out of the "Owner-occupier-convenant" (I am such a fan of as a Scot from the west, where white settlers and holiday home buyers are a plague driving depopulation and demands on the local health services when the old buggers retire without a family within 500 miles!) Two of my pals have been grumbling about access to buy plots: they have had it good and want a piece of the beach: the trouble is of course, that in south-land Norway there are a million locals and then there a couple million more who may look over the fence if plot prices were within second mortgage reach.

The beach, even privately owned, outwith 50 m of a house or established dock is actually free for access to all, so privatising the beach will of course lead to MORE exclusivity and the usual market of speculators and quick-buckers who will drive up prices.

However, the government has held back for a decade effectively, rampant development along the desirable stretches, and it will probably be replaced by some form of planning application and possibly actually more restrictions and awareness on the most accessible areas.

Failure however has to be measured against the quiet legacies of governments. The green reds have as I said, extended the belief that everyone should share and that labour conditions should improve over time, even if that is slowly. They teach us that you can have a successful economy based on not just national resources but global economic investment and ROI with Statoil and Hydro and the shipping lines, Aker Solutions, Ullsteinvik and so on being world leaders. You can have a socialist -capatilist paradise, it comes with some side effects, but many other countries HAVE as much wealth and economic activity per capita, it is just they do not believe in distribution of wealth: rather the rat-race and the american fake dream.

The leftist governance of the last 7 years or so, leaves another strong part of this legacy, much as the Thatcher years change the centre of gravity in English politics inextricably, so has the "wet" conservative governments before and the strong labour movement moved the ball into their side of the field. Now the population want to play with the ball in the right side of the field, and wo-betied them because new labour laws on longer hours and less pay are waiting in the wings, dressed up as "Postive privatisation" - privatise the management classes in Oslo first is my response.

However the greatest achievement in  last seven or eight years for Jens Stoltenberg is to have made the conservative party "Høyere" into a pussified centre right party, mostly to the left of the UK and German leftist parties who  have been dragged into the right side of the pitch by this centre of gravity effect. A cautious, boring Erna Solberg will reign for one or two terms and continue building the roads Jens started and generally not interfere with labour laws very much and rather concentrate on giving people a feeling of freedom, and probably making some parts of the health service more effective by privatisation, and maybe sorting out the rail maitenance structure maybe just maybe and all in a shade of political pink which Jens will be proud off.

onsdag 8. mai 2013

The Awkward New Job For Wanderers-In..

I have likened Norway's people to a tropical reef where the colourful masses swim around in a veritable paradis, while the sharks hover actually overhead.

The sharks are bosses and companies with sharp practices, and politicians who want ever more money from middle earners to the state.

Once you land a decent job offer, you should then look out for the sharks. I fully recommend a stepping stone job, but get a permanent one otherwise you will be kind of back to square one in terms of negotiating pay and responsibilities.  It makes more than sense here to look a gift horse in the mouth from the priviledged position of a safe job because the other side of the 3 months notice is that a lot of monkeys can queu up to be thrown off the backs of your prospective colleagues.

Two things you have to swallow are then probably being a bit over qualified for the work you are given and also having some monkeys-off-the-back. In my case of late I really had to jump in because of the pay and the location...and sod them if they want me to do mindless admin on a manager's salary! However here comes the next thing to swallow:

A lesson which can apply to the UK, depending on the situation: in your first six months expect to have those monkeys to carry! And get on with it: bear them out the office of the boss and then beat them up and get on top of the bastards! However don't let your position be one big pile of monkeys!

This is where you want to "pirk" ie nit-pick when a job offer comes or you know you are in poll position: it is seen as constructive actually as long as you can be careful about how much of a job-snob you are on doing some tasks. I didn't do this and really I am now having to swallow more than I care to and start pushing back on the wrong end of my trial period!

There are also other issues like holidays and dont forget holiday pay: companies do not pay you in June, it is your last years holiday pay which is free-d up from where-ever you earned that.

The thing to be upon is that you need to put your back into it and be positive and "Be the best damn garbage man" as Ali once said. Then you gain respect and those monkeys will soon be yours to cast off, or turn into a systemised success to shine infront of higher management.

lørdag 13. april 2013

Managing Expectations or Being Managed by Them in Norway..

This is a kind of appendix to my "Norwegian social highway code"

I feel I have had to reluctantly change myself when living here, to tone myself down and to adapt to circumstances.

However, here's the crunch: I have been here a while, so would not that decade lived in the UK have taught me - an impulsive, boyish, egalitarian rebel - that the "grown up" western world of family life is just a road of conservative, conformist boredom?

I have toned myself down and taken some exercises in concentration and social etiquette which I needed to do regardless of culture and geography. In fact living here has been positive because work and social life highlighted my distract-ability, impatience and most of all my high expectations and presumptions placed on work and new friendship.

Moving to another country can amplify your abilities, but also it can greatly amplify your social foibles and emotional problems.

I noticed that my concentration was off mark, and that my ability to summarise data was shot. In fact it was a new type of analysis , kind of manual judgemental regression analysis and report writing for a pair of pedantic twats who were terrible at report writing themselves that put me on the road to some calamatous self discovery here. I think at home I would have ploughed on and maybe really done myself some financial and emotional damage!

So I went to my GP and then a local (no good) shrink about concentration problems and social anxiety: I should have thrived in two or three jobs here but I was held back by some critical stumbling blocks. On the social side I said I struggled to make friends in Norway outside our original fortuitous social circles which we moved away from for work. The GP or Shrink or both of them replied that really some of this lack of social life, was the function of becoming  a middle aged father of two.

Locally here, it is the sticks and people are tight. They really do look at you with quite a nasty look sometimes because they know you are an outsider and they want to show they don't approve. The place has always been a bit messed up because there were some closed-shops for work and social life. That is evaporating, but the white trash families who have scraped by resent that incomers come to the town with of course, better qualifications and prospects.

That is however, a way to just describe any town like where I live, a charming coast town with some industry and a heavy, affluent tourist influence in July. ( bit like the 'Hamptons or Cornwall perhaps) . I was giving up here socially after a few false starts when I got a job two hours away in a bigger smoke, and never really looked back.

In the bigger town in the bigger company, I found that I could get a decent social contact with nearly everyone I work with, and pick up a few of those necessary acquaintances, some of whom then go on to be good pals probably.

I found my past life in a more academic infiltrated industry, seems now a weird place, and my past life in sales and marketing was weirder. People weren't real there. Here they are real.

Norwegians do take their distance, but the best thing to do is to keep your pride and keep your own bit of distance. Feel which way the wind is blowing: avoid some conversations: pose personal or career history questions back in their faces in relaxed situations, to judge if they are inquisitive or genuinely are seeking a dialogue with you.

Most of all I would say down size your expectations and under communicate expectations of "escalation" to a dinner party etc. Take it slower. It is really one thing which is different here over many countries or cities or company cultures: you can't slide in and you certainly can't elbow your way into social circles or into private friendships. You have to stalk and be under stated. You pretty much well have to be the nice, undemanding person who eventually once you are known gets invited to something involving alcohol and sociability out of curiousity or plain pity.

 "Snowballing" social contacts is a big no-no here too: you can find that you burn your main bridge into a social circle if you become pals with one of their long standing friends or members in the circle, and find that to be awkward with your original, probably nearer first point of contact. Worse, you can get locked out  by that contact.

If you move in with any expectations and push to come in, then those expectations will manage you OUT of that situation. It is all very annoyingly, softly-softly-catch-a-monkey here i Norway

One big plus side of this for me is that I place a much higher value on shy people. I used to be uneasy around shy people, and find them irritating and boring. Shy girls I found dull and slow and difficult to read signals in. My friends were often brash, arrogant types when I was young. I grew out of them all by the age of 25. So unlike most people with my back ground, I have no real "ol' buddies".  Now I have learned to come in slowly to everyone, and it has enormous dividends with shy people. Usually shy people are plenty interesting, and a vaneer of unfriendliness is pure nerves with some girls in particular.  So thank you Norway, you have turned several aspects of my life around.

A final word on perspective and comparing like with like for new immigrants here: Many, many people who move here are like me, move to a Norsk spouse when pregnant or heading that way. Also many who are asylum seekers or the current Portugeuse / Spanish economic refugees come with families in fact: they can move and NEED to move to feed their families and have something of that middle class lifestyle their education promised them. So you have kids and you are over 30. Read paragraphs above and then downsize your expectations of sociability as you would have done back home: you are a parent, so are many other people your age. It fucks up your social life big time.

fredag 5. april 2013

Skis 2014 ?

The season is over, the "lysløype" closed for business. Wrap a heavy cloth on the bell's clapper and keep the dog still and quiet with a bone. My red wax and clister are no more.

This year I had guessed that sports (training) skis would be my next move. I ponder on a nanotech future with two pairs of light, sports skis for "blue" and "red" conditions and no more waxing, ever. I think of buying a pair of Zero rubbing skis from a  racer dissatisfied with them, and tweaking them to work in our usual -6'c to plus 2 we tend to get. But then it comes down to next autumns slightly over priced ski-packages with dubious boots.

However the wise money, if I get a 2013 bonus payment, would not be on any of the above and here is why.

This season has been hard- rock hard! We had a mild period followed by snow in time for Christmas. More gradual snow came, but horror of horrors, there was a mild period which thawed the stuff back, not once but twice. So things got icey in January and early february. On the high mountain sides the mild whisked through, depositing only more snow and temperatures never over plus one or so.  Just when we thought it was all over we got 75cm of new snow, wet at sea level but even at 50m up it was very doable and lay on top of icey ground like a natural laid on super cooled ice rink.

Some areas had blow off an drifting making for incredibly awkward waxing: new snow, filled spor and then suddenly onto old snow and outright ice!

I discovered that my kick was not doing so well on weight transfer and glide so that actually is kind of the first thing against skinny-skis. I have not got my weight right on broader tour skis yet. But lighter skis may be an advantage....??

Icey conditions and old, corn snow perpetuated over many weeks until last night it became just a big old trail of birch flavoured slush puppy. And I found the UK anchoring technique involuntarily and on a couple of bail-outs due to complete lack of control!

So after this season and the last, and many before that I am the type who doesnt want to travel far for skiing, and want to tackle hilly courses and use the piste (skating side/middle lane) because it is really rewarding to downhill out the spor.

So having had a few "plough negative" situations too many this year, given I have been at this lark a while, i think that in fact steel edges are on the menu for next season.

You can now get really skinny steel edge skis which seem to be less than 5 cm broad. Maybe they dont do my legnth. But then there are plenty other "fell ski" which are light and have a more standrad XC pre-tension in the arch (rather than the longer classic mountain ski arch)

I see with steel edges I can perfect my technique a bit more and most importanly gain confidence. Also I can try telemarking, which I have only pulled off a couple of times on standard XC plastic edge skis. Then if I decide to opt for lighter skis, I have a pair of Fjell skis and icey-dicey course skis and just a pair for teaching the kids how to plough and towing their sledges.

tirsdag 2. april 2013

Th Joy of Ski...part IV

This has been a really, really long and fantastic season for XC skiing.

Hard to Fair Going...

I remember a lot of it as frustrating too, because of often very hard conditions caused by the post Juletide thaw back. This happened two or three times this winter, but now the spring weather creates almost ideal conditions for daytime skiing to 6pm.

Each night the darkest woods are down to minus 6 and in the day the strong sun just softens the top without melting too much of the 75 cm base there is on many trails even just above sea level!

Season's Wrongs, Season's Rights...

This season, which started in December, I tried to concentrate on having a kicking style with a nice high rise on the kick. However this seems wrong for many reasons: it had messed up my weight transfer and basically I was unloading too early to exaggerate my kick and therefore not getting enough forward propulsion AND breaking the glide ski onto the snow.

I survived this in the hard stuff, and maybe the load transfer is a little different.

Right at the end of the season I am back at digging my toes in a little: an effort to hold more weight on the kick leg to get more traction. With the fitness from the earlier season, about 40km on good weeks, this paid off on both hard and then slushy conditions.

Next season my aim is then to talk to an expert like our local acquaintance and former youth coach at a top Oslo area club. Weight transfer clearly alters over conditions as does the legnth of stride and height of kick, but I want to have basically a couple of gears and a long distance tempo in my bag for doing a trip of 40km once a week, with the total being up at about 60-80 km per week.

Waxes and Wanes....

This year I have learnt more about waxing: how the recommended kick zone is not necessarily what should be waxed : leaving more un-waxed or even with glider an inch or so under the heel can be better for glide with no real expense to the kick in soft conditions or when you need to use soft wax or clister in harder conditions.

I have concentrated on using the pyramid!": or having "more in the pocket" ie laying layers in over to the mid sole. This has meant that on good conditions I can get two trips or more out of a single application of say, Lilac V50. In the very hard conditions which have been prevailing, then I at least have a little reserve until I get a view to stop at and re-wax or I am able to get home on the downhill or with a gentle warm down which is okay for the reduced kick adhesion!

Avoiding waxing under the heel or the last 3 cm, is also good for various conditions: it wears off here often anyway on the hard, and in soft , as a heavy guy I find I get better glide and can get an instant speed boost by rocking onto my heels when I am in fast gliding mode or at the start of a downhill.

I also combined the use of just using softer waxes on the inner 30cm or so, with the 3 cm under the heel and 12cm on the front of the kick zone being only an extra layer of green on top of the two base layers of green. This was less claddy, and a bit better glide. However : how long this area is, or what condition to use this is something to sort out next year: suggestion is for new snow or very good quality  soft tracks with fine corned old snow.

Scale Creatures....

I looked at my daughter's waxless, scale-patterned skis and I think the pattern extends too  long on the ski.  I had thought about this and the "pocket" a lot recently, and I was using this weekend a 10 year old pair of "waxless" which are so worn they need waxing , but retain a bit of pattern which helps KEEP THE WAX on the ski behind the scale and gave very good kick compared to clister. I have been over some very hard conditions with this, using first lilac v50 ( my do-it all in old snow faithful for the lower level skiing we do here, under 500m altitude ) then using red. In yesterdays typical easter conditions, it was a slushy porridge in the best sun traps, old transformed, coarse grained someplaces and ice in others. Nasty. I did reapply but only used one layer in the first place, and this lasted anyway as long as clister of my companion on normal skis!  Good kick and good enough glide.

Which gave me an Idea.....

Given the trend to "rubbed" or specially textured, skis for end of season I think there is a case for a much shorter patterned "pocket" : the idea being that it works well on its own in some conditions, probably slush and very cold new snow, while you use it with a bit of wax for hard stuff and you then wax with a hard wax forward of the "pocket" (ie the most raised part of the kick zone under the sole of the shoe which is in least contact with the snow under gliding). Hard wax always gives some adhesion, and usually resists clumping in new snow conditions, but applied along the whole ski, I find that "blue" gives up for me on hard stuff at -6'c and in soft or new at -4'c : I get poorer kick.

Waxless Revisited: Combining Various Existing Technologies on the One Ski!

Ideally then a wax free ski could be developed such: a pocket with a traditional fish-scale texture and then forward and back end kick zone which is in a nanotech particle based composite, suitable for some texturing on the work bench and which either lasts "life time" comparable to today's waxless skis or is renewable at service point. In addition, some form of nanotech or conposite-random-microfibre "zero" like tech could be incorporated into the scale textured area. This should be something which is "adiabatic" in that it both enhances ice crystal adhesion while also being liquid water repellent. Strange stuff, but water has very unique qualities : expanding rather than contracting as it freezes, melting under pressure, existing in three phases under negative pressure etc.

I imagine a future where you maybe have an old pair of old fashioned training skis for waxing for very special conditions or for a longer tour : you then have a pair of low temperature light textured, nanotech skis, and a "zero plus" set which cover both wet, hard and new snow at various temperatures. For touring you would have a single set of skis to which you vary the glider area by waxing and cleaning, and you then use different grades of simple one spray and wipe hydrophobic treatments for varying conditions on to the above type of nano-.and textured kick zone.

Fischer have for many years offered a top carbon racing ski in a (once patented) scale pattern for use around zero or know difficult like mild snow onto very cold surfaces or the converse. The pattern is pretty much the whole kick zone if I remember, but it is quite a light pattern with the ski having a lot of pre-tension. Other manufacturers don't seem to bother,  at least actively marketing, a quality racing / training ski with waxless surface. Waxless is like "sailing on a jib, when a genoa is of course a faster sail" according to a ski-boat compatriot of mine. This need not be the case because for the amateur, time spent with good kick and a slight compromise on glide is better than time out due to wrong wax or as in this winter, very high abrasion on waxes which have enough adhesion for hard spore.

Experimenting 2014

Next season I will try to get hold of a lightly used set of training waxless or light-tour waxless and sand off the pattern as much as I dare, (hopefully there is enough base to get them smooth: ) on the front 10cm and back 3cm of the kick zone. Then I apply a good two layers of green over these rubbed areas and see how it goes , for harder and softer conditions I would then add a soft wax or clister "in the pocket". The aim of this:

1) reduce time in waxing. Wax on the fly when you get out in the spore. It is just a fine tune in the pocket area!
2) make up for incorrect waxing or very hard conditions as the tour progresses
3) make re-waxing easier! less to area to apply to and if you were too soft, less to then take off from a and re-apply!
4) avoid waxing (after "green" or "blue" base wax is on the ends of the kick zone) , in good conditions for many weeks.

torsdag 28. mars 2013

Being an Invandere: Managing Expectations

Yes, a follow up to my tool kit in the last blogg:

What should you expect of Norway and what do Norwegians, especially employers expect of you?

I'd say 1) Lower your expectations and take it a little easy on these 2) Put in a heck of a lot more effort than you may think you need to, seeing this is only superficially similar as a western country with high education level!

Norwegians are skeptical to immigration on average and see "Invaders /wanderers in" as a migratory workforce by in large which is expendable: the breathing part of the economy which should be sent home if there is  a down turn.

Employers looking for skilled people are more positive, but mainly because they don't want to pay engineers all a million kroner a year starting pay, which they would have to in order to get enough noggies to graduate with those skills and even stay in engineering functions rather than drifting into administration!

Being married to a Noggie is not much help. On Askøy and Sotra in westland, it is often said " huh, English? He wont last. Not enough pubs here"

Firstly like France and Germany, Norwegians don't really tolerate mediocre use of their language. Some don't even tolerate people with different regional dialects! In either situation, some will drift of and become irritated rather than listening to you. Speak english and be very succinct and modest.

Languages school at night classes will be tough along side a job. If you get supported to do day school then put your back into it like it was a full time job! TOugh but worth it and if you are going to get up near average pay in non engineering jobs, then you must be fluent........

......if you are not coming to work on a tour from a central office in another country of course. Then they have to put up with you!

The next tough thing may be the social highway code being very reserved and certainly not Celtic of Mediterranean. If you build up expectations of friendship and even a little, then you will be shunned. It is the way here on average at least. Perhaps in North Norway people take you in more I dont know.

The best social way in is with a key person who speaks english and you have some commonality with, not least a sense of humour! Probably someone who studied abroad. DOnt expect your Norsk spouse to be any real help further than their family and a couple of pals. For example asking people around for dinner may hardly ever be reciprocated. People will communicate they would like to but have been busy, or ask you for a coffee instead thus cutting the visit commitment to just an hour.

Also remember that a lot of noggies are pretty darn DULL! and not worth the effort of coming in on! many lives go in a round of the public holidays as an annual perpetual clock like ground hog day carbon copies year in year out:  trips to cabin only with near family, visits to grand parents, endless training on skis and bikes without much socialibility, and only having a very small group of long established friends. it is closed, it is boring and only superficially interesting to a foreigner.

You can arrange your own cabin trips, ski lessons, travel to your own cultural or religious happenings abroad,  join a sports club which has a group which is at your level and so on, without laying any expectation on people you meet at work or through other people.

It may take years literally to be accepted as a "friend" but then you may well find you have made a very, very good friend who will open their door for you and include you in cabin tours, dinners etc.

Work is going to be tough too: the market is different , much more oriented aroudn th north sea of course and large petrochemical production. Houses are wood here so joiners are favoured over brickies.

It is worht as I have done, taking a new career direction whcih takes you up to average apay for the private sector after a couple of years ( around 380-000 to 450 000 NOK for the private sector and more in offshore positions of course. 185 kr per hour to 250 kr per hour app.)

New career direction means starting at the bottom in terms of maybe even like me, doing an internship. Thus you learn the day to day language and operations and the workplace culture while probably going on "day money" ie dole or some grant or other. This is low risk ,win win and if you don't like it you can have a look at other types of jobs.

Noggie employers are a bit simple when it comes to rectruiting experienced folk: you should be doing or have done the job you are applying ! It is good then to take a temp position just to get the right job title even if it is sonething you can master. English speaking companies are only so much of a help, the spoken word will be norsk.

So moving here is not like moving to many other countries but much the same in some ways!

Manage down your expectations of career and social life and put in a lot of effort on the work side and of course at language school, and then the social side will pick up.

Cultural Do's and Don'ts for New Jobs in Norway

For immigrants, those who "wander in" or are "invaders" as the word "innvandere" suggests, getting permanent contracts can be tough. 

Immigrants are generally seen as a commodity or at best if you are highly skilled, an excellent stop-gap measure for a position, such as covering maternity leave. So you are whatever your background, expendable.  That is a very, very common attitude amongst employers.

To move out of this general stream of being considered "temp", takes time in terms of language skills and cultural adjustment but more importantly a lot of effort. Effort is up to yourself but the cultural fine tuning is actually a very critical part of unlocking access to better jobs and permanent contracts: Here are my tips

1) If you are in a temp positions, use as much effort as you can to get another job offer elsewhere. Otherwise you are a temp-head-count and companies want to keep you as such! This applies equally to Norwgians in fact, but they often find it easier to get other work which is permanent. A "maybe-maybe, see what happens" is usually just as I write, you are a head count which the companies wants to keep expendable and if you put up with it, you will continue as a temp.

Consider negotiating an 80% position if it is a temp one, such that you can use the other day to find a permanent job. In the long run it will be worth going down 20% in pay.

Temping is really only any good for you in the long term if you gain new skills, or work for a medium to large company with good, recognised quality systems or a leading brand name in the sector. See more on this type of issue below

2) don't be a trouble maker. With respect of the above, it is very hard to try and negotiate or use tactical means you may be use to in other countries like the UK or USA, you cannot threaten to leave at a critical point in a project delivery for example. The real option is to have another job offer, even if you dont intend to go really. Then they know that you are not happy and have taken a practical way to solving the issue.

When you are in the trial period for a permanent, most often 6 months, then also you must avoid making trouble. Trial periods are used by some companies to "suck it and see" if they actually need the position in the first place. This is a little biased against immigrants but applies it must be said to naive norgies også.

3) Always talk directly with your prospective manager or director in the application phase. This moves you WAY up the queue because most noggies cant be bothered whereas a lot of employers place a lot of value on contact. It is very easier to gauge also the managers interest: if the position is really filled already or if they are a little racist, or in fact if they expect a far better qualified candidate with a recognised norsk education (NTNU, BI, NHH etc)

4) never talk badly about where you are at the moment or where you have just come from either at interview or in the first six months. Talk positively.

Norgie' bosses and people around you expect a certain boring stability and contentedness with life and view past experiences quite judgementally of YOUR ability to fit into a job socially and in terms of performance rather than accepting that you had a genuinely bad experience.

This is what psychologists call the "fundamental attribution error" :simply , you see your environment as a source for reasons why things go good or bad, whereas other people see first YOU as the source of positive and particlarily negative experiences.

In Norway they had town night watchmen from the late middle ages. Usually a sturdy man, who stood at the gates to a town or rustled about in the streets of a village like a town crier with a long imposing stave with a spiked maice head on it.( today it is a ceremonial and tourist guide position ) When someone new wandered to the gates or streets, they were challenged as to "and where have you just come from"?  followed by " and how was it there ?" . If they replied " oh it was terrible there, people were cruel and there was little work and I struggled to feed myself" Then the watchman would answer " Well I am sorry you will find only more of the same in this small town, I suggest you pass along to the next town where you may find better conditions"

Norgie' bosses expect that people have it pretty good here and nothing much to complain about! The culture for moaning you find in some offices is little evident, and if you find yourself in such an office then they are either a bunch of cynics or you actually have landed in a crappy employer!

When you are chagning jobs and looking for promotion, talking up the positive aspects of your current work place, and the positive social aspects is really good and makes the new employer think about making a really tantalising offer to secure you! This has just happened with me, much higher pay in the new job I have taken! Hurray!

5) "Prøveperioden" : The six months on trial.

i) fit in, keep your head down : A trial it can be. Here you are in the spotlight often. Can you do the job? Well that is often the least of the focus. HOW you do the job, how willing you are to tackle things is very important. Also how you fit in socially with your critical employees around you.

Just a few small black marks can be enough for you to be put under a big question mark for permanency.

They say you have to "swallow a few camels" and have "ice in your stomach" here which is very true in the trial period. Keeping a low profile while maintaining enough engagement in your work is good. Be keen, but be precise and not over keen. Go over and over critical tasks and follow up on what is happening with those you have placed in others hands for actions: do this without being pushy, just methodical.

ii) don't show any miscontent in the first six months. Unless there is some form for very poor and unfair dealing and you are entering into tasks which were not explained to you. This can be why it is good to work a couple of months thorugh a temp bureaux in a new type of job so that you learn the trip-wires and monkeys-thrown-off-others-backs to avoid in the trial period for a permanent position. Be a nice litte boy or girl. Dress like others at work, avoid taking too much sick leave, accept tasks with positivyt and be assertive in what the task and objectives are without seeming to be sceptical.

Later on you can cast monkeys off your own back. Also you are of course somewhat free to do the next

iv) If the job is not very demanding, worm your way in very slowly to new tasks and project responsibility or rather engagement. Be careful. Softly softly catch a monkey! take it slowly and do v:

v) Dont take too much initiative or come to bosses with fait-accomplis. Norwegians use a lot of "Kanskje" and open questioning to establish situations, opportunities and problems (challenges) : they are a bit snake like in asking because they know that bosses can be teflon in answering if they feel pressed into a corner.

vi) Initiative should be however be orientated around finding solutions to problems or new, small solutions and  opportunities and taking them to the boss to air them: explain them, and let the boss come back with comments: use of a pause instead of a leading question so the boss has time to digest it and sees that there is no pressure here: it is a conversation and a suggestion, not a fait-accomplis!

Also in terms of initiative, judge your position and its sphere of operation and influence: if the company or department is very established you probably want to back down your eagerness and ambition for responsibility in the 6 months and actually the first year.

If however there is a lot of work, a lot of challenges and you know 100% you can contribute and you can tackle the norsk language vocabulary for the area,  or better still English is the lead language then you can indeed strethc your neck out.

Initiative in asking for more work volume is good BUT ONLY after you do as I say above: be double sure you have quality control on your own work and admin, have traceability and can answer things on the spot or refer to a way you will. Then you can ask for more work, but it can be better to go through things more and do the next thing :

vi) Make social contact via work tasks, avoid e-mail to people you havent met first or at least spoken to in the firm and externally. This is very important: it is norwegian sensible culture: if something is important then it needs to be discussed face to face. E-mails go unread without this, and I think that is healthy. Also it breaks down the "immigrant barrier" which is important. Face to face, press the flesh.

Remember softly softly! If you are dealing with a key person in another department, ask how they are to deal with from your co-workers. The same with suppliers and customers. Come with a subtle approach and be modest.

vii) remember Jantes law: be modest, be small a litte false modesty and soft language goes a long way. Dont blow your trumpet , use reverse psychology. You often should avoid stating what you have responsibility for in general or your level in the chain, but rahter talk in the third person and about the company in getting something done.

I find this a bit irritating, but this one point alone in terms of culture and langauge is a huge key in the lock of Norway and in fact it has helped me with my own self esteem and awareness: I think I was a bit of a pushy type who demanded things and grabbed responsibility withouth maybe being granted the  authority to do so!

Last year I found myself a little out on a wing, my boss left and the new boss was very much of the strategy type - ie a bit distant: He played very softly softly in his first two months. I carried on with my projects without involving him much, or when I did it was a it faite-accomplis, or I need a decision now! This lead to a great deal of uncertainty of the level of  responsibility my first boss had given me and because I flew alone I lost a great deal of my responsibilty when the department employed new staff, who were very much more experienced than me. However I took it on the chin and sorted out very much what I had in front of me and some contract manufacturers wanted me BACK in the driving seat because I took responsibility, came to practical solutions and made things happen. The Divisional director heard good things about me from two key contractors.

I should have built up more of a profile with my new boss, and involved him more in my decision making. I ended up being a bit stunted for promotion because of that, and had taken less money that i really need to live off, so just put this all down to learnign and moved companies  with my new learning of both applications and the culture of modesty but confidence here!

vii) I'd say a s a follow up to the last job: involve your boss and your coworkers / key facilitators around you in a social dialogue which shows your competence without you needing to say it, shows your engagement and involves them in your work so you can judge how much initiative to take, or be given more freedom to act.

I think also involving your departmental director on occaision is good, but be very careful here. Happy camper, sorted out a problem with help of key facilitators and involcement of your boss is the safe approach! Took grand initiative, trod on toes, got it fixed in brilliant fashion is a really no-no.

Charming bosses above your own line manager is often a way women get on and being in the sports team with them is often used by men to get on!

iiX) Social expectations: if you go into a work place or any social group in norway, then dont come with expectations on being pals with everyone and somehow being really matey with someone you have a lot in common with. Norwegians are very stand off with that personal barrier to being IN with them a s a pal or being in their social circle. The best approach is to join in sports activities where you are on a level playing field ( ie probably NOT cross country skiing) and make sure you go on company nights out if they suit you and you feel like being sociable, but relaxed. Finding one pal who is a bit more extrovert and has good social circles is a good start but it can be that others in the circle dont like it! Shit I know, but making new friends is hard in Norway: not so hard if you are Norsk, but still relatively tough for them if they move to either a large city or the converse,  a small inbred community like the one I have to put up with right now!

onsdag 27. mars 2013

XC Waxing tips Part II

I happened to be in Kristiansand area and was recommended this tour area in Søgne parish, at Årstøl. Quite fantastic because it is up at a suprising altitude given it is probably less than ten klicks from the sea: 200m up!

It is a real pearl and probably a bit of a closely gaurded "open" secret for the ski club in Søgne, who could put up a sign with a bank account for contributions and corporates sponsorship.

Last week it was 15 km , 3 times round the longest loop there in new snow and wind, with most of the ski tracks filled in with new snow making it heavy going and pretty impossible for waxing. It was taken as stamina training, being more akin to 25km in effort. Waxless skis beckoned on the last round as the skis both cladded up then lost grip in the harder spores.

However last night the effects of spring and a strong sun meant for hard and often icey spor.

How to wax? Well my principle for late season is to avoid the mess of clister and opt for combination of layers and areas of different waxed in the kick zone.

First, I swear by green spray on base. Two layers, spread while fluidm, cooled below zero,  and corked and cooled again between applications. Entire kick zone.

Then I did something a little different. i took about 10cm in and applied there and backwards a layer of purple V45 swix. This I pyramided on thursdays new snow, with very thin layers cooled after corking before the next layer. 4 layers, 2 about 50cm as said with green "tips" and then 2 in the mid sole. Worked good, some still on later.

next time the same v45 with a special v50 round zero in the "pocket" ie under the sole, in two layers the last one only 12cm long.

This survived the punishment of 11km on hard and icey stuff, but to get a little more kick on the short hills which are 50:50 to fishbone or jog over, and this wored a treat with a new application, just in the pocket of the stickier V45 special lillac.

One other tip I got then from a fellow skier last night was to also NOT wax to the heal. Instead take almost 6cm in with glider instead! Well wax manufactureres wouldnt like us all using 10% less of the three waxes because glider for most is one type and once a year!

 So that tip doesnt appear on their web sites. You get better glide and less cladding at very little cost to someone with good kick, especially if you use the "pocket" technique where the thickest and maybe the softer of the days layer is just in the "pocket" where cladding is not a big issue down hill.

On the heel or infront of the toes ,cladding is bad news for that horrible face over as you duck into crouch for a down hill and realise you have tennis balls of snow on your skis still. In the pocket the contact is made at maximum pressure on the snow when the compression of the crystals needs to be matched by a softer wax for the temporary adhesion and adsorption we seek.

That is my tip!

MORE OVER: I wonder if the future of skis includes a partial patterned waxless , with the fish scale ONLY under the soul, and then a nanotech base layer either side of this in the kick zone replacing green base waxes and working in itself in the coldest conditions. You then apply a days wax in two lays either side of the "pocket" waxfree for milder days ( -7c and up over) and you then have a reserve of waxless for getting you home if your other wax wanes or is wrong for the conditions.

mandag 18. mars 2013

View From A Not So Far .....

I wonder how things in the UK are for ordinary people since the greatest economic recession since the 1930s began?

A lot of people are sitting on negative equity or potential for that if the economy really did start to unravel itself when public spending starts to take its toll on the lack of growth.

Perhaps the UK is getting used to "de-growth" now: there is uncannily low unemployment according to the government, but of course the true figure is always higher with black spots having very high levels of young unemployed folk and older be-lingering benefit cheat pro's.

 The UK economy is truly quite transformed by the size of the service economy, which was at some point a few years ago straining with lack of staff. Perhaps all the keynsian money sloshing around and the trickle down from the traders is floating it all, but for the traditional conservative economists, recession into "de growth" is a panic because growth of the general economy is a very central mantra for them.

In Norway we were pretty drastically affected by the recession: basically all jobs outside oil or those linked into oil dried up over night. Companies froze up and many could not survive without credit injections. We had moved just at the wrong time in many ways, out to the sticks with little oil related industries. But when new rig and field development picked up, I was able to get into the game and have never looked back, especially because in fact you meet the nicest, funniest, most charming people in oil companies.....driving Leaf El'bils while planning the pumping of masses of crude by most effective means!