Thursday, January 29, 2009

Me, Snowmobiler

I hereby proudly announce that I have passed the final exam in my military snowmobile course. Belting around in the mountains for a week now, I am thankful to be finished; yet I guess this has been one of those weeks I will long to experience once again in the future.

Snowmobiling is truly fun. You can get almost anywhere, through woods, up steep hills, and you can get there fast. At the same time, you get in touch with nature, as branches smashes into your helmet, or you suddenly find yourself buried in snow. We even met a curious reindeer herd on one of our trips.

However, snowmobiling is for the most part illegal in Norway. There are a few groomed trails, and if you request it, you could happen to receive permission to snowmobile from the road to your ridiculously desolate cabin. But apart from that, civilians are not allowed to snowmobile, not on-road nor off-road. Sámi and the military, however, may use snowmobiles.

There is of course a reason for these strict regulations on snowmobiling. It is quite obvious for anyone who has snowmobiled; on the road, you have very poor control over the vehicle, and in nature, the snowmobile is merciless with everything from medium sized trees and down. The snowmomonster may well weigh over 300 kg, excluding the driver and his baggage.

The dangers of snowmobiling are also obvious; but with proper instruction and training, such as the course I had, this should be no problem. However, I was actually left alone on a mountain with engine trouble for more than half an hour at one point. With no cell phone signal and several degrees below freezing, the situation could have been very serious if, for instance, a snowstorm had occurred, reducing tracks, sight and body temperature. It didn’t feel very frightening at the time, but as we later were forced to meditate on the matter more seriously, we learned to watch out for each other.

I took this photo alone on the mountain with my cell phone. I eventually left the dead snowmobile behind, brought my helmet and started to walk towards our camp. I was careful to show which way I was headed, with arrows and deep footsteps in the snow. But luckily, I found them looking for me when I was halfway there. I got my helmet on, and was a passenger on our way back to the snowmobile. No need for the creative arrows!

All in all, it has been a great week. I’m looking forward to be a snowmobiling warrior in my future service for our kingdom.

Read More:
How Stuff Works: How Snowmobiles Work
Snowmobilers: Safe Riders

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Please repeat that!

I found this absolutely amazing scentence today!

"The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."
Dr Judith Butler

I'm looking forward to become that good in English.

I found the quote while watching this TED talk:
Steven Pinker: Chalking it up to the blank slate

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Perfidy and Max Manus

I saw a movie recently. A very recommendable one: Max Manus. The Norwegian movie is about the hero Max Manus in the Norwegian underground resistance movement during World War II. We follow Manus and his friends from the start in 1940, through different sabotage operations and emotional stress in the war against Germany, till the end of the war in 1945.

The movie is very trustworthy, as it is a true story. The acting is great, especially by Norwegian standards, and the script is brilliant. The movie is thrilling, and has also its humoristic moments. The film makes me proud to be a Norwegian; but I assume that every freedom-loving man that watches this masterpiece would be proud of Manus, despite his obvious shortcoming in certain areas.

But what struck me as I saw this movie, were the many obvious violations against the Geneva Conventions that Manus and his friends committed. This is a man we hold, and I think we ought to hold, as a great hero in the war for freedom, yet an undisputable war criminal.

For instance, Manus did not wear a uniform during his warfare, even though he was a lieutenant in the Norwegian Independent Company 1 (Norisen), a special operations (SOE) group in the British Army. This would be a clear violation of the distinction principle in the Geneva Conventions.

The Principle of Distinction states that “The parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between civilians and combatants.” This principle is made to protect the civilians in a zone of war. “Attacks may only be directed against combatants. Attacks must not be directed against civilians.”

The principle presupposes that the enemy does not use civilian clothing as camouflage. If the enemy looks exactly like the civilians, you would not know the difference, and the Principle of Distinction would be almost meaningless. The Geneva Conventions gives civilians a protected status. The civilian clothing should give the same protection as a white flag or a red cross; and any misuse of these symbols is considered perfidy. In that sense, Max Manus was treacherous.

However, when we consider Manus a hero, we may not have completely forgotten that he broke the conventions; we rather find, as he did, that the goal sanctifies the means (I can’t really believe I just wrote that – it is more likely that I meant “the goal is worth the consequences” or something). He thought that it was more important to fight for freedom in the most efficient manner, than it was to honour the laws of war. The laws of war, made to reduce unnecessary sufferings, are all great, but not greater than freedom. Lasting freedom is more important than temporary sufferings of the people.

The Max Manus film is released to DVD in June 2009, and can be pre-ordered in Norway from

Read more:
IMDB: Max Manus (2008)
Wikipedia: Max Manus
Wikipedia: Perfidy
Cambridge University Press: The Principle of Distinction
Red Cross: International Humanitarian Law

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Undelicious Day

I suspect that I might have been a little grumpy today. It certainly hasn’t been one of those happy, unworried days that Fridays usually are. The first thing I did today was to grunt at a friend that simply asked me whether I had done my job properly or not. Of course I had done my work properly! But how could he have known? He just wanted to remind me of an easy forgettable detail. And I grunted at him.

Throughout the day, my mood gradually got worse. This was partly due to the many contradictory orders and miscommunication between those in possession to give such. We ended up with two hours of boring emptiness followed by two presentations at the same time. Of course, the two presentations couldn’t actually be held at the same time, so we had a lot of stress going through the second one within schedule.

At lunch, the confusion reached its climax when nobody knew what was going on, and those few who knew were so tired and frustrated that they told everybody to do some shit work. Which they probably thought was important. But I was not in the mood to do any of it, and people were of course irritated by my unengaged attitude towards the task, which I very correctly predicted to be unnecessary.

I was also, for a brief moment today, led to believe that I was to get some new and sparkling equipment. But this fresh excitement lasted no longer than the time it took me to put on my jacket; I was suddenly not to get it. Darned.

At dinner, I had anticipated Greek Moussaka, but were let down by cakes of minced fish, potatoes and cabbage stew. I hate fish cakes. I am neither specially fond of potatoes or cabbage stew. Actually, I established the fact that cabbage stew is undelicious today.

Now the weekend has come, and I am spreading the disease of unhappiness. I certainly need a better mood. I cannot be a Warrior of Agape when I feel like this. Please forgive me.

Read more:
wikiHow: How to Cook Greek Moussaka
wikiHow: How to Be Happy

Monday, January 19, 2009

Fix a Leadership

Leadership is a tricky discipline. You have to do it right from the beginning, and every mistake will be remembered. It takes considerable time and energy to rebuild broken trust and lost authority; you always have to be aware of how you act, and what your actions might communicate to those you lead. No wonder not everybody gets it right. My question is: how can we “fix” a leadership that has gone wrong?

It is a commonly accepted truth that a stable and long-running leadership is necessary for a stable and enduring success. Top soccer clubs like Manchester United and Arsenal have had the same managers for centuries, providing a safe training and working environment for the players. The results speak for themselves. Clubs that frequently replace their managers, have far more random results in the series.

Leadership is difficultBut these are examples of good leaders. A crappy manager would of course be replaced much earlier, due to the dreadful results. Therefore, a team with a crappy leader might experience a drastic improvement in performance when the leader is replaced.

But sometimes replacement is not an option. Sometimes, it suddenly goes wrong, everyone become angry and frustrated, and for some reason people are stuck with each other for an unbearable amount of time. Sometimes, one must try to fix it.

I reason it is best to begin with the leader. Although the behaving and mood of the group is as important in the relationship between the two, a group is far more difficult to change than a singe individual. If the failed leadership has resulted in mutual contempt, it is important to work against this. These are my suggestions:

• The leader should express abundant appreciation of the work of the group, even though he does not really feel that way
• The leader should make time to have casual conversations with individuals and smaller fractions within the group. I believe this would cause both the leader and the group to become more respectful of each other.
• The leader should actively show interest in details and smaller decisions made by individuals in his group, but without trying to control them.

If you have something to add to this list, please do so.

I certainly hope that a failed leadership can be healed. I do believe that it will take time. And being an agape warrior, I pray that we eventually can turn the hatred into friendship and mutual respect.

Read more: Leadership Tips
Art of 9 Surefire Ways to Be a Bad Leader

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mediocre Moral in the Middle East

Israel is just about to end a three-week offensive on Gaza. The Palestinians have suffered severe casualties, both militants and civilians, while Israel have only had a few losses. Internationally, Israel has harvested heavy criticism from nations, organisations and the media, as well as hatred from individuals.

For example, in Oslo, Norway, there was a youth rebellion during an otherwise peaceful demonstration. These youth were throwing rocks at McDonalds and shooting fireworks at the police, and they tried to approach the Israeli embassy. They were all full of hate and anger towards Israel; and considering the reports of young children being killed and schools being blown up, maybe they ought to be.

Most people agree that killing civilians is bad. And that killing civilians on purpose is evil. Israel most certainly has done some bad things. But if we trust Israel’s prime minister Ehud Olmert, what they’ve done at least is not evil.

In an armed conflict, the international laws of war are supposed to be held. This is of course difficult, as it is tempting to gain an advantage breaking them. For example, in the 2003 war in Iraq, Iraqi troops waved a white flag and then opened fire on the U.S. soldiers who approached to negotiate. However, breaking the laws of war is only an advantage as long as the enemy honours the same law. For instance, if we use the Red Cross symbol to hide our weapons and forces, the enemy will loose its respect for the Red Cross symbol, and may, naturally, also attack the real Red Cross in our area.

Bombed school in GazaWhen Hamas does not honour these laws of war, Israel is faced with an impossible situation. Morally, who is the less evil; those who bomb the schools, or those who made the school a target?

Read more:
BBC: Bomb blast at Palestinian school
BBC: Olmert declares ceasefire