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.