Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jef says something with a lot of consonants in a row

I've always envied people who could identify with their heritage, even while recognizing that, taken to its logical extreme near anyone else who's doing the same, that sort of thing can get unproductive and violent.

I don't deal a lot with my ancestry. It's not my nature to dwell on the past, and that's where all my ancestors seem to be. But once in a while I do pay attention, mostly to sort through my genetic code (forgive the flowery language, but to "pick through my genes" has a vaguely vulgar tone to it) hoping that somewhere I can find the aerobic capacity that gave Norway so many great cross country skiers and, currently, a world champion road cyclist.

I don't know if I have good Nordic erythrocytes or not, and I'm not sure I'd be flattered if I did know. Either my endurance genes got watered down by my German and Welsh ancestors, or my desire to overcome pain was diluted with something a little more interesting distilled by my Scottish ancestors.

But now I see that if I'm in a mood to complain about my Norwegian ancestors, I can start with the ones who got on a boat to the United States. Because the United Nations just released their 2010 list of best and worst countries to live in, and Norway is at the top of the list - for the eighth time since 2001.

I'm not really too pissed at Great-great-grandpa Stafford anyway, given that the United States came in fourth. And three places can't provide a whole lot of difference, especially when it's not clear that I'd be able to draw cartoons for a living in Norway or find good espresso. Plus I'd get my butt kicked in ski races by everyone whose people didn't run off and mingle with the people who gave the world (or at least me) Prince Charles' ears.

So you know, Australia and New Zealand were second and third, and Ireland rounded out the top five.

Ireland? Only fifth? A good friend just spent a year's sabbatical in Ireland and described the country this way: "It's a place where arguing is considered conversation, beer is considered food and bicycles are considered transportation." How any country managed to place ahead of that, I don't know. So maybe the list isn't so reliable after all.

And maybe, in spite of all the griping we heard during election season, we don't have it so bad ourselves. I mean, maybe I can't sprint on a bike like Thor Hushovd or ski like … um … okay, I can't name any of those great Nordic skiers, so maybe aerobic invincibility is an overrated route to immortality. But I can spend the weekend pouting just a little bit because I've got friends racing the New York Marathon and The Iceman Cometh mountain-bike race. And if that's the worst I have it, I don't need to go to Scandinavia to be happy.

Although if I did, I'd be sure to bring enough money for a Team Norway cycling jersey. I don't need any United Nations to tell me that's one of the five best.