kottke.org posts about Norway
Situated on the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, Longyearbyen is only 600 miles south of the North Pole and has a population of more than 2000, which makes it the northernmost town in the world. It is also home to a Toyota dealership, but people use snowmobiles to get around most of the time.
Better out than in. That's the unofficial motto of the Norwegian Correctional Service. And they seem to mean it. In Norway, there is no death penalty and there are no life sentences. NYT Magazine's Jessica Benko visited Norway's Halden Prison and experienced what she described as its radical humaneness:
Its modern, cheerful and well-appointed facilities, the relative freedom of movement it offers, its quiet and peaceful atmosphere -- these qualities are so out of sync with the forms of imprisonment found in the United States that you could be forgiven for doubting whether Halden is a prison at all. It is, of course, but it is also something more: the physical expression of an entire national philosophy about the relative merits of punishment and forgiveness.
Even the food was good.
The best meal I had in Norway -- spicy lasagna, garlic bread and a salad with sun-dried tomatoes -- was made by an inmate who had spent almost half of his 40 years in prison.
This is the design that Norway has chosen for their banknotes starting in 2017:
From now on, I'm paying for everything with kroner. (via co.design)
Slow television is the uninterrupted broadcast of an ordinary event from start to finish. Early efforts included burning Yule logs on TV around Christmas and driver's views of complete British rail journeys (not to mention Andy Warhol and the pitch drop experiment), but Norwegian public television has revived the format in recent years. The first broadcast was of a 7-hour train trip from Bergen to Oslo, which was watched at some point by ~20% of Norway's population. You can watch the entire thing on YouTube:
Not content with that, in 2011 an entire ship voyage was broadcast for 134 continuous hours. The entire voyage is available for viewing, but you can watch a 37-minute time lapse of the whole thing if you can't spare the 5½ days:
As the show progressed and the ratings climbed (half of the Norwegian population tuned in at some point), the show became an interactive event, with people meeting the ship along to coast in order to appear as extras in the cast. Some even followed in smaller boats, filming as they went along in the ship's wake.
Other shows included 12 hours about firewood (including 8 uninterrupted hours of a burning fireplace), 18 hours of salmon swimming upstream (which some felt was too short), 100 hours of Magnus Carlsen playing chess, a 30-hour interview with a noted author, and several continuous hours of sweater production, from shearing to knitting.
Shows currently in the planning stages include A Day in the Life of a Snail and "a 24-hour-long program following construction workers building a digital-style clock out of wood, shuffling planks to match each passing minute". The slow TV concept might soon be coming to American TV as well.
P.S. Does this 10-hour video of Tyrion Lannister slapping Joffrey count as slow TV? Either way, it's great.
A truck carrying 27 tons of brunost, a Norwegian brown cheese, caught fire in a tunnel in Narvik on Thursday and burned with gooey rage until Monday. Closed during the fire, because who likes driving through tunnels of flame, the tunnel will take about a week to repair.
"This high concentration of fat and sugar is almost like petrol if it gets hot enough," said Viggo Berg, a policeman.
Brown cheese is made from whey, contains up to 30 percent fat and has a caramel taste.
"I didn't know that brown cheese burns so well," said Kjell Bjoern Vinje at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
He added that in his 15 years in the administration, this was the first time cheese had caught fire on Norwegian roads.
Note: Illustration by Chris Piascik...prints & more are available.
The FT has a profile of Farouk al-Kasim, an Iraqi who immigrated to Norway as a young man and helped the country set up their sizeable oil concern. His biggest contribution was helping Norway cope with the discovery of oil.
Poor countries dream of finding oil like poor people fantasise about winning the lottery. But the dream often turns into a nightmare as new oil exporters realise that their treasure brings more trouble than help. Juan Pablo Perez Alfonso, one time Venezuelan oil minister, likened oil to "the devil's excrement". Sheikh Ahmed Yamani, his Saudi Arabian counterpart, reportedly said: "I wish we had found water."
Oil expertise was so scarce in the Nordic country when al-Kasim arrived that an innocent query at the Ministry of Industry turned into a job that paid him more than Norway's prime minister. (via gulfstream)
Heading into dinner last night, I believed with certainty that Finland was one of the Scandinavian countries. I rebuffed Mr. Jones' attempts to disabuse me of that notion before dessert arrived, but it wasn't until this morning that I checked into the matter and found that he may be correct.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune investigated the issue back in January, finding that there's some controversy, even among the staff at the Finnish Embassy in Washington D.C.:
I called the Finnish Embassy in Washington, D.C., where press aide Mari Poyhtari started by saying Finland is part of Scandinavia, but then someone in the background disagreed and she corrected herself. The most accurate term is Fenno-Scandinavia or the Nordic countries, Poyhtari said. But, she admitted, "We always say we're part of Scandinavia."
The Wikipedia page on Scandinavia, the result of a vigorous discussion on the topic, indicates that there are several possible arrangements of Scandinavian countries, depending on the grouping criteria used and who you're talking to.
- Geographically, the Scandinavian peninsula includes mainland Norway, Sweden, and part of Finland.
- In the region, the common definition includes Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.
- Outside of the region, the term often includes not only Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland but also Iceland, a grouping commonly called the Nordic countries.
- Linguistically speaking (pardon the pun), the Finnish language is unrelated to Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish, which is an argument for the cultural exclusion of Finland from Scandinavia.
So there you go, clear as mud. Probably best to avoid the issue altogether in the future by using the term Nordic instead of Scandinavian. All look same anyway.
Update: Underbelly notes that this "issue is in no way limited to Scandinavians":
It's the kind of muddiness you just have to expect when you consider any culture. Was Cleopatra an Egyptian? Are the Tasmanians British? What did the Byzanatines have in mind when they described themselves as "The Romans" while fighting wars against, well, Rome?