Saturday 4 March 2000

Stone and ice

Pic of the day: I took a walk, but the cold did not inspire me to keep walking for long. The freezing cold wind bit the exposed skin of my face and hands. Even the water usually streaming down the sheer cliffs was frozen to ice, caught in the middle of its fall.

In other news

I have kept the EntryPoint (son of Pointcast) program on my machine so far. I have selected content that is likely to interest me, such as science and health and international news. And sometimes there is really interesting stuff. Like the thing about vitamin C and arteriosclerosis.

While chewing on a box of vitamin C pills, I came upon a story about some researchers who had studied the effect of vitamin C on the arteries in the neck. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a necessary element in food, and is found naturally foremost in fruit, though some vegetables are rich in vitamin C too. Notably potatoes,[1] but sadly 80% of the vitamin C is destroyed in cooking. Enough of that. Due to the many positive effects of this antioxidant, many people have started to take 10-100 times the recommended daily allowance of 200 mg (0,2 gram). It is thought that higher doses help protect against some virus infections, and reduce ageing inside the cells. So it is no surprise that researchers wanted to see how it affected the hardening of arteries. The surprise was the result.

The people who had eaten "megadoses" of vitamin C had thicker and harder artery walls after 18 months, compared to those who just ate naturally. This is bad. Hardening of artery walls is a precursor for infarct and stroke. It seems that too much of a good thing is not always wonderful after all.

In even more recent news, I just read that the risk of heart infarct is five times higher in the hour after you smoke a joint of cannabis. This is twice the risk level of sex. Uh-oh. I am not going to combine the two any time soon. (Except possibly in my dreams ... a little known fact is that a very large number of heart infarcts happen late in the morning, when we spend most of our time in dream sleep.)


In other EntryPoint news, I learn that The Cure are going to stop making records. (Not that they have been exactly hyperactive recently, but this one is supposed to be their last.) Those of you who don't know The Cure will probably not despair, but their countless fans may take it hard. I must admit that I dislike much of their music and the dark, goth-like image often projected. On the bright side, they have made some incredibly beautiful tunes, such as Just like Heaven and of course Friday I'm in love which I played as recently as yesterday.


Speaking of incredibly beautiful tunes, I've been humming on some piece of classic this evening, and I am entirely unable to remember which concerto or whatever it is from. I know that I have heard it on a cassette with James Last, Classics up to date vol 2. I even have the cassette, and am playing through it right now, but the cover is long gone, disappeared into the swirling maelstrom of the Chaos Node. So even if I find the melody, I will not find its name. That bites, because the cassette is old and worn and I don't really use those anymore. I'd like to be able to carry the melody with me on a minidisk.

While the name is gone, I still remember what I was writing when I used to play it, over and over again. I have this habit of playing music to charge up before I write fiction. This music I played while writing my Stiorninga Saga, a novel set in a world where mythical entities break into our world because of a rift in time created by time travel. (Hey, it is hard to be original, but it sure was an attempt.) The first was a kind of love story, where the son of the old Norse anti-god Surtr arrives in our time (actually, the near past) and falls in love with a mortal woman. Surtr, giant-king of fiery Muspellheim, is the character who in Norse mythology is destined to finally destroy the world by fire at the end of Ragnarok. In my story he is a tragic character, driven by jealousy. And in the second story, a young man of the next generation is corrupted by power but saved by a woman's love. *Blech. Blech. Blech.* Well, enough of that ... it's just funny how it all comes back to me on the wings of a nameless melody.

Ah, but I was a much less cynical person then than I am now. It isn't sex that destroys innocence, and the hope of love. It is knowledge. Mostly psychology, I guess.


Speaking of some of the above, I see that the volcano Hekla on Iceland is still burning bright, and is expected to do so for some weeks. I have not been there myself - in fact, I have never been outside Norway - but I hear that the volcanic landscape up there is rather conductive to mythology. It is no wonder that people thought the boiling springs and pits of brimstone were the work of chaotic entities: First the fire giants, later demons.

The guy who started the first Norse settlement on Iceland, Ingolfr Arnarson, is said to have come from the same rural village where I was born and grew up, Rivedal in the Dalsfjord of Fjordane. In fact, a stone supposedly raised by him stood on the farm where my grandfather came from, and where my relatives still live. A large statue of the first landnámsmann (land-taker) stands near the road through the village, and another on Iceland. Icelanders used to come and visit now and again, but I never visited Iceland, though I have thought of it now and again. Rarely ever do I travel anywhere, though, if not for a good reason. Just looking around is not among those.

And so lost in my own little world have I become now, that it took an EntryPoint headline to tell me of the rise of Hekla. Oh well. The program is free and warmly recommended.

[1] (Actually potatoes do not contain all that much vitamin C per kilo, but people who eat potatoes tend to eat lots of them. Norwegian health improved noticeably after potatoes became common here. The resulting population growth was largely exported to the USA, where lots of people of Norwegian descent still live. Some of them may eventually read this, thanks to the potato.)

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