Friday, July 07, 2006

If this is a Blog what is a Photoblog

Blog - A weblog, which is usually shortened to blog, is a website where regular entries are made (such as in a journal or diary) and presented in reverse chronological order. Blogs often offer commentary or news on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic.
Photoblog - A photography blog, picture log or simply a photoblog, is a web application which contains periodic posts containing user-taken photographs on a common webpage. These posts are often but not necessarily in reverse chronological order, from the date when the photograph was taken.

I started this blog to kill the time when we are resident in Oslo. No decent TV or the toys I play with at home. I started to explore the possibility of starting a Blog to record my thoughts about Torshov, Oslo, Norway and anything else that came to mind. I really wanted to start a Photoblog but I could not get the Blog to look the way I wanted it so I thought in the meantime I would start Torshovblog. As you may have noted the blog is hosted by Blogger. A fantastically easy to use blog publisher provided by Google. The only downside as far as I am concerned is it is not a very good basis for a photoblog. Although it is very easy to upload photographs to Blogger. I compose the text in a text editor because I need a spell checker! I use a freeware programme called Text Pad but you could use Notepad, Wordpad or even Word. I just cut and paste the text into Blogger.

Whilst exploring photoblogs I came across another disincentive to going down that route. I came across a photoblog by a David Nightingale who just happens to live in Blackpool. I looked at Davids photoblog only to discover that the photographs I had in mind to publish on my blog, David had already published them, mainly shots taken in and around Blackpool and the Fylde coast. Not only that but his were significantly better than mine. I was utterly dejected. To make matters worse Chromasia had just been voted number one photoblog on the Internet and was receiving in excess of 3000 hits a day. Plus he obviously had a band of very dedicated fans who not only regularly viewed his site but many of them posted comments about his work on the blog. Was I to risk the accusation of plagiarism. Well no I wasn't. David's fans had already seen off a couple of other sites who had endeavoured to copy Chromasia's style. So I chickened out. It has to be said that even without plagiarism to emulate David's photoblog would be no mean feat. In the time I have been viewing Chromasia I don't think there has been a day when he has not published an image. And when you read his blog and see what obstacles he has had to overcome in achieving that amazing feat. It is unlikely that I could aspire to posting a photograph a day. And it is not just the daily posting David closely monitors the comments on his images and provides a constant stream of feedback both technical and intellectual. You just have to admire his dedication and commitment. However I live in hope and I am busily working away in the background trying to get to grip with the complexities of Pixelpost in the hope that I will eventually get my photoblog up and running.

UPDATE - 15th August 2006: I now have a rudimentary Photoblog up and running at Digiphotology. I ended up using Pixelpost which proved quite simple to setup once I got my head into gear. I don't think it is as potentially sophisticated as Movabletype but one step at a time.

If you are remotely interested in photography you really should have a look at Chromasia. I will be superprised if you don't become a regular viewer. If you are interested in Photoblogging the Internet is teaming with information, tools and advice. A quick Google will show up tons of stuff. Here are just a few links of interest.
Photoblogging with Blogger
Introduction to Photoblogs and Moblogs
PhotoFriday - a weekly photo challenge
Photobloggies - annual awards
Photoblog Magazine

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Life Drawing at the Little Red House

Well one thing I did not expect to be doing whilst here in Oslo was to take part in a Life Drawing class. No not as the model! We were taking a walk down the river walk from Torshov to Grunerlakka and stopped at the little red house. A traditional Norwegian wooden house that is now a cafe and art gallery of sorts. We were perusing the work on display when Mare (Marie), the lady or more correctly an aging hippie chick (OK old bird) who runs the place, started chatting. When she found out I was a frustrated artist she suggested that I should come along to her Life Drawing class the following evening. Well would you ever!

It turns out the Red House has an interesting history. It is situated on the Akerselve river just below the Beyerbroa bridge in an area known as the "Molle". So named because of the many mills that once lined both banks of the river. Some still remain down one side and now house a mix of trendy businesses and eateries. This is an area where the river drops very steeply providing the motive power for many water wheels initially and electricity turbines later. On the bridge is a beautiful statue by Ellen Jacobsen depicting 4 "mill girls" in memory of the incredibly young women who lost their lives working in what were mainly spinning mills. It turns out the little Red House was the kindergarden where these girls could leave their babies whilst they slaved in the mills. What is now the main room of the cafe/gallery was in those days lined with built in cribs for the babies.

But back to the Life Class. I duly turned up at 6.00 pm on Tuesday evening, In fear and trepidation I might add. Convinced I had bitten off more than I could chew and was about to make a complete arse (f you will pardon the figurative term) of myself. It turned out that this was to be a very select class just four of us and the model, Silvee, a mature lady of some 66 years, I was advised, with a very artistic body. That is the best way I can describe it. My other three colleagues were, Mare the organiser, no mean artist and two other ladies with unpronounceable Norwegian names.

I can only assume Mare was making more money than she was declaring to the taxman as she was drawing directly onto stretched canvases and she must have used half a dozen in the space of 2 hours. I had just an A4 sketch pad. A bit of a come down from my usual A1 size paper. At least I could use that as an excuse for my artistic short comings. It turned out that Silvee was an actress and long time artists model. She was currently taking the lead role in one of Ibsens many plays which are currently playing in Oslo. She proved to be a very good model, striking very interesting poses which changed every 10 to twenty minutes. Fast work was essential. I used a mix of pencil, charcoal and my trusty Pentel brush pen which on this occasion proved to be the weapon of choice. The brush pen created considerable interest with the others who were not familiar with it. Two hours passed very quickly. Just a pity I am going home before the next session. Never mind it was an unexpected and enjoyable diversion.

Some of the results of my Life Class



Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Akerselva River Walk Photos

On Sunday we explored a new section of the Akerselva river walk that I blogged previously. We took the tram to Kjelsas and walked down to Sagene. Kjelsas is almost the confluence of the river, at this point the river broadens out into a series of small lakes and is a popular picnic area with beautiful wooded surroundings and access for swimming and boating. The walk is a bit confused at the start and not very well signposted. The path follows a couple of underpasses under the railway and main road and ends up crossing a supermarket car park with no real guidence. However we managed. The route is gently down hill and follows the river quite closely. The route passes through a mixture of countryside and what where industrial areas but which are now mainly hitech, media and computer businesses including Microsoft Norway. There is a convenient watering hole along the way where they have built the new Oslo University Business School. A good selection of bars, cafes and shops surround a pleasant plaza on the banks of the river.

For more photographs visit

River walk statue
River walk sculpture

Weir Nydalen

Monday, July 03, 2006

Eggs is Eggs!

It started when I tried the Atkins diet, my quest for very large eggs that taste like eggs. The mainstay of my diet was 2 boiled eggs for breakfast. I have to say it has been a sad and weary search. As someone who spent the best part of my working life associated with the British Poultry industry I find it really sad to have to report that British eggs are CRAP. They are invariably stale regardless of where you buy them from. The shell quality is abysmal, invariably thin, porous, rough, and frequently misshapen. And as for taste well they don't or if they do it is usually of something not very nice. Then there is the current grading (size) standard. I like my eggs EXTRA LARGE. But they are very difficult to find in most egg outlets. One of the reasons is the strange weight grading ranges currently applied to eggs and the other is the mean way in which they are applied. Due to a quirk in the egg grading regulations an extra large egg can be the same size as a large egg. Eggs are graded as small, medium, large and very large. The weight ranges for the grades are as follows:-

Very Large - 73g +over
Large - 63 - 73g
Medium - 53 - 63g
Small - 53g +under

It does not take a genius to notice that a 73g egg could be both a "very large" or "large" now if you were an egg seller how would you distribute your eggs. Well I can tell you on a limited survey of eggs from Somerfields and Booths you get very few 73g eggs in the "large" category and you get few eggs much larger than 73g in the "very large" size. Now where do all the eggs larger than say 75g go? Well I know you can buy super large eggs at some farm shops but it does naff me off that in the average supermarket a very large egg is hardly any larger than a large egg and "Extra Large" eggs are rarely seen.

But size is not everything or so I am told! Flavour is probably more important when it comes to enjoying your chucky egg and toasty soldiers or is it shoulders? Say that fast!! As I have already said I have tried a variety of sources and have yet to find an egg that tastes like an egg should. Yet when we visit Spain, Tenerife, France or Norway the egg quality seems so much superior. I have just had 2 eggs for my breakfast purchased yesterday at the local supermarket. They were delicious, they actually had a flavour. A rich creamy yolky flavour which is hard to describe but you recognise it when you taste it. It goes with toast like strawberries go with cream.

The first thing of note about Norwegian eggs is they are WHITE, you don't get white eggs in the UK anymore, well not from commercial layers anyway. The British abandoned white eggs in the 70's when the poultry industry marketing hype convinced the gullible British housewife that brown eggs were better than white! White were considered to be "factory" eggs whilst brown were "farmyard" eggs, bollocks of course. They even charged a premium for brown eggs. A triumph of marketing over common sense or should tat be "bullshit baffles brains". Egg colour is genetic and does not have any relationship to quality. The other interesting thing about Norwegian eggs is they have really dark yellow yolks, like eggs should! When it comes to judging quality or flavour yolk colour can be a bit deceptive. Yolk colour is almost entirely related to diet. Commercial layer rations are constructed in such a way that the colour of the yolk can be pre-determined within very narrow limits and can be selected off a chart much like paint. Once upon a time this colour was derived from natural sources such as maize or grass. This is why true free range hens tend to produce yolks with dark yellow yolks. These days artificial colourants are used. There are three different agents used to tinker with the colour of egg yolk - canthaxanthin (E161g), citranaxanthin (E161i) and beta apo81 carotenal (E160). Lion quality mark guidelines - set up by the Egg Information Service for its members - do not permit the use of E161g. But the remaining 30% of British egg producers are at liberty to use this colourant.

So where do I get VERY LARGE eggs, with nice yellow yolks and bags of flavour without having to move to Norway, Spain, Tenerife or France? I don't mind if they are brown or white or any shades in between as long as they taste like eggs. Being fresh would be a bonus. Although, having said that an egg can be too fresh. If you are into hard boiled eggs they need to be at least 7 days old. If they are any fresher it is almost impossible to remove the shells without taking the white as well. Oh and another bit of trivia, in Torshov they sell eggs in 4's aint that quaint!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Dreaded Disposable Grill

Barbecuing is a popular Norwegian summer activity, nay obsession. As soon as the sun shows itself everyone in Norway charges out to buy a disposable grill (engangsgrill), some meat, sausages or fish at a supermarket and go to a park or one of Oslo's many delightful islands.

The downside of this activity is the air is pervaded by the stench of smoldering cardboard and paraffin which wafts along on the summer breeze. It is bad enough suffering the pong when you are out and about but it is utterly sick making if you have your window open to relieve the particularly stifling heat that we are currently enjoying. This weekend there has been no escape.

You wouldn't mind if these phonebook size aluminium foil contraptions did a good job. We tried them on one of our first trips to Oslo. The results were sad to say the least. Even if you follow the principles of good barbecuing and leave the charcoal to heat up for about 30 - 40 mins, the food still tastes of paraffin. That's assuming the food is cooked before the thing goes out altogether. Most Norwegians seem to stick a match in and chuck the bangers on straight away....ugh! Mind you most of them are cooking frankfurters so you would hardly notice the taste of paraffin and burnt paper. You do however see the odd food poisoning addict trying to cook chicken! Another downside is the multitude of little brown patches all over the Parks, where the grass has been scorched to death. It looks like a bitch on heat has been piddling everywhere!

In the popular picnic areas there are special bins for the disposal of these lethal devices. Despite this it is not unusual to find the distorted and charred remains of plastic litter bins all over the place. The other danger associated with this anti-social device is the ingenious and lethal wire frame provided to raise them off the ground (to stop you burning the grass) they are often left lying around in the grass waiting for the unwary to step into one and go base over apex! As I discovered to my cost on one occasion sh........t!!!

Allegedly Norwegians of a certain age, even wear a "barbecue suit" while performing this activity. A barbecue suit being a colourful tracksuit that is very comfortable and does not tighten when you bend down to check on the sausages. Married couples tend to choose matching tracksuits. I have to confess I have not noticed this strange behaviour myself but I shall keep my eyes peeled.

Lets hope the "engangsgrill" never catches on in the UK.